Tim Hughes talks to acid-rock legend Dave Brock about life with Hawkwind as the band bring a ’70s sci-fi classic to life

Space-rocker, astral explorer and sonic pioneer, Dave Brock is one of rock’s great survivors. Intelligent, well-read and erudite, Brock is the driving force behind one of the longest-running rock bands of all time — Hawkwind.

Born out of the acid-drenched summer of love, Hawkwind have expounded a turbo-charged version of the hippie ideal since the late ’60s — with songs based on myth, fantasy Dark Age legend and an imagined galactic future, inspired by ancient tales and modern sci-fi. Their ground-breaking sound has gone on to inspire generations of electro, drone-rock, ambient, grunge and metal bands.

But when I caught up with him, the self-confessed former space traveller was brandishing not a synth or electric guitar, but a chainsaw. “We got hit hard,” he tells me, taking a break from clearing fallen trees at his Devon farm.

“It was really bad. It sounded like a jet aircraft. We have lost quite a few trees — a lovely old willow, a cherry and some poplars.”

Aged 72, the hard-partying Brock is now tempering his space rocking night job with a spot of farming. “I get up at 7am,” he tells me with relish. “When you get older you go to bed at 11pm.”

The storm hit as members of Hawkwind began convening at the farm — dubbed Studio Devon by Brock — in readiness for a tour which sees the band explore one of the most colourful periods in their history.

Inspired by the number of bands touring classic albums, they have decided to play their seminal 1975 album Warrior on the Edge of Time.

The record, loosely based on the book Eternal Champion by the band’s muse, the sci-fi and fantasy author Michael Moorcock, follows a typically ‘Hawkwind’ theme of mystical quest.

It was recorded during a period of change for the band — following the temporary quitting of writer Robert Calvert and departure of Michael ‘Dik Mik’ Davies and replacement sound engineer Del Dettmar (the late Huw Lloyd Langton, known to Oxford music lovers for his regular trip to the city’s Elder Stubbs Festival, had left a few years earlier). It was also the last record to feature the talents of bass player Lemmy Kilmister. Shortly after its release, Lemmy was jailed after trying to cross the US/Canadian border with a quantity of amphetamine powder that the police had assumed was cocaine.

He was consequently sacked by the band, and went on to form his own group Motorhead — named after his last Hawkwind song. The band is still going strong. “We don’t normally do things like this,” says Dave. “It has become common for other bands to play their albums live but not us.”

He admits the idea actually came from their manager, Kris Tait — a former dancer with the band. “We were going to do a tour and Kris said ‘why not do the whole Warrior show and make it into a storyline?’.

“Some of those numbers I dislike, but I did what I was told to do, and halfway through our set we now launch into The Warrior story — then add a couple of new numbers.”

So is it an album he is proud of? “Not really,” he says with disarming honesty. “It just marked the end of an era, the start of something else.”

So what can we expect from the show? “It’s like painting pictures with sounds,“ he says. “It’s got a storyline to it, and there’s a big sword... a proper job! And a light show and dancers — one of whom, Laura, is the warrior woman. I like the idea of the warrior being a woman instead of a man.”

The album is a synth classic, with track titles like Spiral Galaxy 28948, Dying Seas, Opa-Loka and The Golden Void titles capturing its mystical essence. Opener Assault and Battery quotes Longfellow’s Psalm of Life, while The Wizard Blew His Horn, Standing at the Edge and Warriors are Moorcock poems set to music.

“I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s based on mysticism, traditional legend and good old British myth,” says Dave. “People will be able to follow the story easily.

“There’s a love of legends in Britain going back thousands of years. There are wonderful poems, like Beowulf, and tales of victorious deeds and mystical trees. I’ve always been curious and Hawkwind is about rock and roll mixed up with ancient legend and a bit of science fiction.”

So, what does he see as the band’s mission? The answer comes as a surprise. “To try and save wildlife,” he says, turning serious. “There are too many humans on this planet and some terrifying things going on. People are sticking needles in bears to extract bile, dogs skinned alive in China, and wildlife is machine gunned in Africa.

“But we also want to sell as many Hawkwind records as we can as it means we can do more things. We are all getting on a bit and find it hard going, with aches and pains. There are good days and bad days but I follow a strict Vegetarian diet and am busy. We will have a new album and show in the new year — which I hope will be even more spectacular.”

And is he still partial to a little (cough) psychedelic indulgence? “Enlightening ourselves with meditation, you mean?” he laughs.

“Not any more... I couldn’t really do that. Though we do like a smoke.”

With reports that the band have healed their rift with Lemmy, is there any chance the Motorhead star might join them on stage?

“He’s got his own band and I’ve got this one,” he says. “But we have played at festivals together -— and he’s often come and done [1973’s number three hit] Silver Machine with us. We can’t do it all the time though. After all, he’s quite happy where he is.”

Hawkwind – Warrior On The Edge Of Time

  • O2 Academy, Oxford
  • Monday, doors 7pm
  • Tickets: £20 ticketweb.co.uk