Hawkwind’s Dave Brock, 69, tells TIM HUGHES why he’ll be pumping out pyschedic rock until he drops.
IT is 40 years since Hawkwind switched on the world to the new mind-bending sound of space rock.
In doing so, they laid the foundations for everything from thrash metal and punk to shoegaze and electro.
Since then they have ploughed an acid-tinged furrow, rocking the establishment, supporting anarchic free festivals, and turning out 26 studio and 11 live albums. Astral pioneers, they have also displayed a prodigious appetite for space travel of their own... if you get my drift.
But any suggestion that the man who describes himself as “the captain of the ship” is about to take it easy are quickly dispelled. Dave Brock, 69, is a dynamo; and, as he admits, can’t leave it alone.
I caught up with the guitarist and synth-master while he loaded up his truck at home in snow bound Devon, at the start of yet another UK tour, which, on Thursday, reaches Oxford.
“I just live by the day,” he says. But, then, if you enjoy doing something, there’s no point in stopping.
“I’m still playing space rock,” he goes on. “That’s our niche: psychedelic rock with electronic noises, tuneful songs, heavy riffs and weirdness thrown in.”
Many of those songs – such as Spirit of the Age, Urban Guerrilla, Motorhead and, their biggest hit Silver Machine, roll along on waves of droning guitars, spacey effects and sci-fi references.
“We keep busy,” says Dave. “We get a bit of money – though we don’t live a high life – and we have fun. We are artists – and I don’t know what I’d do if I gave it up.
“Lemmy says he wants to die on stage – which I can understand.”
Lemmy, aka Ian Fraser Kilmister, is one of Hawkwind’s best-known alumni, forming Motorhead, after being booted out of the band.
Having raised the subject of his former gravel-voiced bassist, I ask about that split – the result of an arrest at the Canadian border for cocaine possession (he was later released without charge on a technicality, because the substance turned out to be amphetamine).
“It was a bad decision to throw Lemmy out of the band,” he says sadly.
“He had been told not to take any drugs across the border, and things did look bleak for him. The band had a meeting, voted against him, and I had to tell him he was sacked. Over five years we’d become good mates. But he did bounce back.
“The knives were out, though, because, shortly after, they tried to sack me!”
He remained at the helm, however, where he has been; the only constant member of a band, which, he estimates, has had up to 50 members.
So how has former busker Brock changed since that first gig in 1969?
“I hope I’ve got a bit wiser and more philosophical,” he says.
“We also used to get stoned on stage, but have stopped that. Mind you, that’s more to do with the smoking ban.”
Never ones to shy away from controversy, Hawkwind were the darlings of the free festival scene and their sets at the Stonehenge Festival acquired legendary status.
“There was so much creativity,” he recalls. “There was a really nice community of people involved. It would be nice if it happened again at Stonehenge, but I doubt it will.”
While a classic band, Hawkwind have stayed fresh. Thursday’s show will feature dancers, stilt walkers and projections – making it as much a visual as aural spectacle. “It’s a bit of escapism,” says Dave.
So, after four decades of rocking, what is he most proud of? “I’ve done loads of things good and bad,” he ponders. “But the thing I’m most proud of is looking after my mum and dad. Even when I was on tour, I’d send someone round to check on them. My mum lived to 94 and my dad to 100.”
Even though they didn’t quite understand his chosen career. “My mum used to say ‘David I really think you ought to stop playing in that band and get a proper job!’ “It’s been great though. I am basically going round the world with my mates – it’s just like a big holiday.”
* Hawkwind play the Oxford O2 Academy on Thursday. Tickets are £20.