by Keith Henderson
Photos by Deb Kranitz
From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)
Here in Ohio, we've been lucky enough to have been visited by longtime Hawkwind synthesizer guru Harvey Bainbridge for both the 2000 and 2001 Strange Daze festivals sponsored by Strange-Trips.com. Both performances were wondrous occurrences - whether outdoors at the Ledges (as in 2000) with cosmic lights and starry skies as a visual backdrop to the floating sounds, or this past year in the confines of the Beachland Ballroom where 'campers' sprawled themselves out over the spacious floor and watched the laser light show flash past their upward gazes.
In 1996, Harvey released his second solo CD (following five works with the Alman Mulo Band) entitled 'Red Shift,' that appeared, like all the others, on the Taste label in London (Cat. No. TASTE 65 CD). The few copies that actually made it into the marketplace soon vanished, and as Harvey explains below the label seemed to vanish as well. Attendees to the Strange Daze event and other dates on the tour with Mr. Quimby's Beard and Nik Turner were pleased to discover that Harvey, in conjunction with Strange Trips as the tour promoter, had authorized a CD-R version of 'Red Shift' (and also Alman Mulo's 'Afrodiziac') to be made available.
The virtually all-instrumental 'Red Shift' opens and closes with two of the more anxious pieces of music, "Solar Drive Down" and "Cut on the Surface." More of the album focuses on 'standstill' ambience as on (I'm going to shorten this one) "And he smoked his pipe..." So mellow, the birds singing, waves lapping on the shore... blissful. "Horseshoe and the Swan" is a gentle galactic ride upon a steady marching beat, complete with the sonic swirl adornment of so many Hawkwind tunes past. Shifting cosmic winds and garbled vocal transmissions caught in the aethers are heard elsewhere ("1,000% Solution"). Nothing but a spaceborne extravaganza of sound - suitable for a First Contact with our nearest neighbors in the Milky Way. Hubble went looking for evidence of the Red Shift in the outer reaches of space... and here it was lurking in electronic gadgetry sitting in a recording studio somewhere in England's green and pleasant land.
In my opinion, Harvey made big leaps forward from his solo debut 'Interstellar Chaos' in 1988 to 'Red Shift' in crafting an ambient journey that one needs no patience to endure. I imagine that 'chill out' albums like this find it hard to make themselves "stand up and be counted" amongst the more dynamic spaceROCK put forth by the majority of his Hawkwind family peers. 'Red Shift' is one that should be noted for the delicate beauty it possesses, and it's a shame that it has been such a rarity for these past five years since its initial public offering.
Here is the transcript (as best as I could determine) from a brief talk I had with Harvey prior to his Strange Daze 2001 performance.
AI: OK, so you played with Nik (Turner) for about an hour last night it seemed?
HB: It seemed a long time. I was only going to go on for, like - four songs or so. They carried on a long time...
AI: Yeah, I know - for over two hours I think. So how do you think it sounded? How do you think it went?
HB: Well, it's difficult to tell from on-stage soundwise. It sounded ok... I'm sure. I don't know what it sounded like down in front.
AI: You didn't have much rehearsal I guess. 'Cause this was only the second time this band had ever played together...
HB: Yeah. I think the band themselves had rehearsed, so that was before Nik came over, but you'll have to ask them about that.
AI: All right. So how do you like playing in America? Are the distances really becoming a problem?
HB: When you're driving, yes. It does, if you don't get it worked out right. Then you've got to drive 500 miles, play a gig, and then do it all over again. You want to fall over when you get there, after 500 miles anyway. No, it's a pleasure for me because it's a nice break. This is very low key, so it's a real pleasure to do - it's like a holiday. Just seems you suffer at the end of the day.
AI: So I see out on the merchandise table that you've got some CDR versions of some of the old solo work you did. And so... It's really hard to find anything. What is the status with the old Taste label?
HB: Yeah, I'm not sure what happened to Taste. I can't get ahold of Bill Wood at the moment. I think he had a few people after him in one form or another. But, no, he did quite well really getting it out into the market, but then there.... I think what he did, was he sold it onto some European firm or something, and a lot of those CDs went into a holding company and I haven't been able to get any more. So, what... I mean, they are mine, so I just decided I would.... because people have asked me, you know, for them again. I'm trying to sort something new out at the moment. My son (Matthew) has got a little record label now, we're going to try to do things on that. 'Cause earlier this year I was doing a few live shows in England and we recorded those, and we're going to sort of mess around with those... and since he's a Pro-Tools technician and so... which is - recording and equipment. So we're going to mess about with that and put something out on his label.
AI: Sounds good.
HB: In the meantime, it's been kind of havoc, because people have asked for them, so...
AI: Yeah, some of the Alman Mulo stuff has been...
HB: Yeah, you can't get hold of. It's still, though... the Alman Mulo thing was a bit of fun. It was just an experiment. I was just messing about with synthesizer sequences. And I thought... really they're great for rhythms. I knew this guy Norman who plays conga drums so I just said, let's do this. Just play along to the rhythms and see what comes out really.
AI: You started out together in the band Ark?
HB: Well, he wasn't in the band Ark to start with. He stood in once, when we had to have a gig to do - he just stood in for us once.
AI: So how did Ark and Hawkwind... kind of... meet? You were out there... you recorded some in Wolden [Studios] - where they did the Weird Tapes?
HB: Yeah, yeah. Jeff Hawkins' studio, he's a friend of Ark... yeah, basically what happened was - I was schoolteaching at the time, I was working in a special school, and another guy I knew... we were at college together but we didn't know each other very well, but he was working in the same area at the same kind of school, and we hooked up - and we met with a few other local people as well. We just put a little band [together] for our own entertainment really, and kind of grew from there. We had a really good singer called Reg Meuros who's got an excellent voice. And then Jeff Hawkins, who's at Wolden Studios, he kind of...basically built a recording [studio?] out of it, you know. To record us. So it was really good you know.
AI: So where are those recordings - are they ever going to see the light of day on CD?
HB: Oh, I dunno. It depends. I think Jeff's probably still has got loads of tapes back there. I keep meaning to go and dig through and see...
AI: Yeah, like all the Weird Tapes just came out on CD now, on Voiceprint.
HB: Yeah, I know. But the recording quality is not really very good unfortunately. But there are some reasonable Ark recordings - [live?]. We had all sorts of people [in there?] at one time.
AI: So eventually there was the Sonic Assassins, and that was kind of...
HB: Yeah, well that was because....well, we lived in North Devon, and that was where Dave Brock and Bob Calvert lived....
[A soundcheck suddenly begins and there's a short break to close the ballroom doors...]
HB: Where we lived was where Dave Brock and Bob Calvert lived as well. And we met, not socially but we used to hang our [faces?]... There's only one main town in that part of our county. So that you bump into people, and it was from that...well Dave suggested that because the rest of Hawkwind didn't want to go and do free festivals, would we fancy coming along and playing, and so we said sure, and so that's how we kind of hooked up.
AI: And the Sonic Assassins eventually became the Hawklords...
HB: Came out of that. Yeah, that's right.
AI: And that was only because of the legal issue over the name...
HB: Over the name Hawkwind. To be quite honest, I don't know exactly what was going on... what happened was in '78 they did the American tour, and Dave kind of... I think sacked everybody really [laughs]... Who knows?
AI: The story goes that he sold his guitar right from the stage. Marc Sperhauk actually the guy who bought the guitar.
HB: Yeah, good ole Marc.
AI: So I was listening to the Weird Tapes the other day... I was listening to tracks like "Valium Ten" with all this weird synthesizer stuff going on, and I look at the credits it says Steve Swindells - Keyboards and then nobody else, and so I was just wondering if you or Dave... 'cause it sounds more like your style.
HB: Yeah, all that - a lot of that stuff... a lot of Weird Tape stuff came out from rehearsals at Rockfield Studios. It was myself, Simon King, Steve Swindells, and Dave Brock.
AI: Were you playing synthesizers at that time?
HB: No, I was just playing bass. We recorded it all onto two-track, and I think basically what Dave did is take it all home and put it onto his 8-track, and then throw synthesizer over it.
AI: Oh, so he did put some of that stuff on.
HB: Sure, sure. Could be wrong. [laughs]
AI: I was also listening to "Over the Top" and then you... you were on a lot of those recordings...
HB: Yeah, that was a live show, that was a live show we did in North Devon. That was just totally made up. Bob kind of started off with this thing...'cause he was a bit over the top at the time, and we just followed him you know. Just made it up as we went along
AI: So do you have any favorite Bob Calvert stories to pass along from those times?
HB: [laughs] Not really - he was just a wonderful character you know. He would do crazy things some times, because he lived, you know... he was living his imagination really, I think, a lot of the time. Now, the night before the Sonic Assassins show in Barnstaple, in North Devon - 1977, he was really... he was dressed as a 1st World War officer in the trenches, sitting in this cottage in North Devon he had the leather boots, and the uniform, with the holster, the belt and everything... and he just was so over the edge, and then he just wasn't going to do this gig, and I sat and talked to him all night, and it was like... I was shattered the next day. But he decided in the end that he'd come and do the gig... and he stormed in you know dressed as this Lieutenant and just went over the top. "C'mon boys, follow me over the trenches." He even had a, sort of, replica pistol on this lanyard that the officers wore, you know.
AI: Some of the tracks you did with Hawkwind, like "TV Suicide" and "Back in the Box," there was some really poignant socio-political content in there. I was wondering about the current events... what's going on in the world, whether you had some ideas about what other kinds of biting commentary you'd like to do on future works?
HB: No, I don't know really. Perhaps it's... I think basically what's happened here is... it's brought the U.S. into the global community really. I know it sounds a silly thing to say, but here you kind of sit... you sat back from it because you're a huge island nation you don't need to go anywhere else, yet we all have to muddle along mixing and matching. So all of a sudden you are in with the rest of the global community, and I think what you have to... it's a big insult to have airplanes being flown into your... into the money tree and military centres.... got straight through and went bang. It's a big insult, and I can understand America jumping up, and steaming off across the ocean and saying "Look, buddy..." But what I think you have to do is... I mean, the more thoughtful of us may think of it in terms of zen philosophy about all this, that everything we do is vanity anyway, and that really there is nothing... just ask yourself a question each day... "How is it with nothingness today?" If you can answer that... I don't know whether you're in the right or in the wrong. But I think certainly a Zen approach to this... 'Cause what's happened is the world has woken you up. It's hit you 'round the head. "OK look, we're here... wake up have a look." And that's what zen does. It creates anomalies.... it creates paradoxes. How the most powerful nation in the world can have its defenses so low that a group of Arabs living in caves can steam through and hit you where it hurts?
AI: So, I was wondering do you see Bridgett Wishart these days? Do you know what's she's up to?
HB: I haven't seen her for a few years. Last time I saw her she was travelling around on a bus, trying to get some sort of education system running for kids. So, still travelling on the road... so I don't know what she's doing since... a few years ago, she was asking me whether I'd be interested in doing something...
AI: Do you mean educational-related or more music?
HB: Oh, education.
AI: Alright, here's a loaded question - can you tell me what your current status is as a member of Hawkwind? It seems like you, and Simon House, and Tim Blake, you know... you're in Hawkwind and then you're not...
HB: Yeah, in and out... Oh, well, basically I'm a guest...
AI: Always welcome?
HB: Well, yeah I mean, Dave phoned me up and wanted to know what I was doing this autumn 'cause he's got loads of gigs happening, and I said I was coming over here. So he said, "Oh well, you won't be able to do these gigs, then?" Well, I said "not really, I've got to concentrate on this." But I know he's planning a big extravaganza and... yeah I mean there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to do more stuff with Hawkwind again.
AI: Apparently there's work towards a new album next year, like the Death Generator could be - Are you going to be involved in that?
HB: I hope so, I mean I wouldn't mind. Because that's always been in the cards for years and years - that particular project, so... yeah, if I'm asked, I'll join in. Depends on what I'm doing really.
AI: So, it seems from the fan's perspective that there's this strange sort of Cold War between all of Dave's activities and Nik's activities.
HB: Yeah, I know, it's...
AI: So how does that affect you when you go to work with one...?
HB: I try not to get involved you know, I'm trying to have a foot in both camps, because I don't want to be that way. I mean... I don't really want to make a personal comment about that. Suffice it to say that I think it's 'kids in the playground' you know. "That's my ball, no it's not. Oh, that's all right, that's..."
AI: How long has that been going? Ever since the beginning of the band?
HB: Oh I think, ever since Nik was asked to leave, shall we say.
AI: Yeah, twenty-five years ago now.
AI: So what other kinds of things do you have planned for the future?
HB: As I say, what I'm doing is recording with my son... get that out of the way.
AI: Have you got a title for that yet?
HB: Well, no, I've been working. The working title... one of the things I've been working on is called "Dreams, Omens, and Strange Encounters." Which is 'DOSE' I realise.
AI: Oh, yes. That wasn't intentional?
HB: No, it wasn't actually. It was just "Dreams, Omens, and Strange Encounters," I just liked the title and it seemed to be apt to what I was going through at the time. I've got loads of stuff hanging around which is unfinished which isn't put together yet, so I want to get that out of the way. Plus I'm just trying to do more gigs actually...slowly do more gigs next year. If Jim (Lascko) does this again, I'd love to be able to come back and do that. And hopefully we're looking at maybe some festivals in Europe next year, so... I'm open for a tour over here if anyone wants to put one together.
AI: Yeah, it's tough you know.
HB: Yeah, I know.
AI: We do our best at A-I to get the word out. So are you still in touch with Norman Alman? Is there ever...
HB: I haven't seen Norman for a long, long time, no... not since I've moved away from Devon. I don't know what he's up to.
AI: So where does the Mulo come from?
HB: The Mule. [There was] Norman Alman... [and then] the mule was me, 'cause I did all the work you see. [laughs]
AI: I read somewhere about this project you were once involved with called "Imitators".
HB: Yeah, it's a film... a friend of mine's particular film...
AI: So what was all that about?
HB: Well, he did two... he did a short horror spoof, which was a silent movie that I did the soundtrack for, and then he did this full-length feature film that he managed to finance on his own. He got a few well-known British actors. It's just a movie, of a bunch of people living in a garage in London [hustling?] along... it's a comedy. And they get everything wrong when trying to do a bank robbery. It all goes wrong. Someone gets shot, and so on and so on. I think it's out on DVD. I think my son has a copy of it on DVD. It's got to be out somewhere
AI: Do you ever get money for that?
HB: No... I did it in 12 days, I can remember it. That was hard work.
AI: So, do you have any particular favorites from your Hawkwind past? What you most enjoyed doing, what songs or which live performances you...?
HB: It's a difficult one. I'm asked that one quite a lot. And it's very hard...usually it's your favourite track you know. And I can never answer it, I can never answer it, cause there are bits and bits... I think the joy of the whole thing was just playing live as much as anything else. It always seemed to be...nothing was ever the same. No matter how you record it, no matter what the record was, or how you recorded the tracks or recorded something in the studio, when you went to play it live, it would never be the same every night. There was always something happening, and something else...
AI: What about Stonehenge? The Solstice Festivals...
HB: Yeah, as I say, playing live... the festivals are very nice, like getting up first thing in the morning to catch the sun and playing at that time of the day and that sort of thing.
AI: And so those don't happen any more...
HB: No, they stopped them unfortunately. But no, we used to play at a lot of festivals...
AI: Are they the same today as they were back in the 80s, or even the 70s...?
HB: What, festivals?
HB: No, it's all pop music now, because that's what brings the paying....
AI: So, it's all about money now?
HB: Yeah, that's what...
AI: No mudfields?
HB: Yeah, you still get those. [laughs] And you pay through the nose to get there.
AI: You pay, and you still get the mud...?
HB: Oh, yeah. At least you get the Spice Girls, or Robbie Williams, or Oasis. You know you get the pop group rather than... by chance.
AI: Well, we've never really had... well, until Jim had Strange Daze, this was really the first outdoor festival with this kind of underground, alternative music.
HB: When the festival scene closed down it sort of stopped the breeding of alternative bands somehow. You could play for nothing, everyone listen, have a.... you know, you could have... it was just all these different people putting different combinations together, that under normal circumstances couldn't work. But because it was a free festival, it was laid back or whatever, it works.
AI: That's kind of like... in 1989, when you were with Hawkwind, and you first came to the United States for the first time for what... like 11 or 12 years. Following that tour that was very successful I think, there were actually a lot of bands that formed from people meeting at those shows, 'cause that was really before the internet existed. A lot of people that couldn't contact each other any other way - they all showed up at Hawkwind shows, and so I've heard a lot of stories about bands forming at those shows.
HB: Oh, that's good news, isn't it!
AI: So that's kind of happened over here from those first couple tours... unfortunately we don't get enough of them still. But the climate is a little better here now than it was in the 80s, I guess it's the other way around in England?
HB: Yeah, they got a law out now that if two people are gathered together in a group, then that's illegal now! Basically. I'm not kidding, there's a law that says that. Anyway...
AI: So I guess I ran out my planned questions...
HB: That's ok...
AI: So do you have any final message for our readers?
HB: Oh, I'd just want to say thanks to a friend, Steve Hayes for lending me a keyboard while I was over here. He's been over in England with another friend Steve Taylor, with Jerry Richards, and Richard Chadwick doing some recording under the name of Star Nation, and I said that I would help plug it a bit.
AI: Yes, I've heard some of that stuff.
HB: You can put that in if you like. Well, I'd better see what's going on now...
AI: Well, thanks very much Harvey.