From Aural Innovations #2-4 (April-October 1998)
This interview was published in 3 parts across three issues of the printed mag
We caught up for a few words with freebooting sax-spaceman Nik Turner, some hours before him entering the stage with The Moor. The Molotow is a medium/small sized dark basement venue, with a bar above it on ground floor, located in the heart of Hamburg's well known haven of seedy pleasures, Reeperbahn. At the time, January 11, 1998, ex-Hawkwind member Turner was touring around Germany with Swedish band The Moor, on their third date of playing their own material boosted with passages from the Hawkwind/Sphynx/Inner City Unit canons, along with Knut Gerwers performing lyrics by Hawkwind's late Robert Calvert. Musically an interesting collaboration as The Moor are more industrial sounding and controlled musicians on their records and their own material, but jam out with Turner's sax frenzy on the extended space jams in a live setting. Turner's musical shapeshifting ability to just jump in and happily jam with anything, whether he knows the material or not, is once again required and Turner appears again with a different constellation of musicians, as always musically a part of a whole band and not as a soloist with backing musicians. He has done similarly successful shows with several US bands on the Cleopatra label and many other bands in the past.
Present in a small dark room below the streets of Hamburg were Scott Heller, Christian Mumford, and spacerock legend Nik Turner, an extremely nice guy who was happy to talk with us about it all for so long, despite the band already being pretty late for the show.
Scott Heller (SH): So how did you get associated with The Moor? Did they contact you?
Nik Turner (NT): Yeah, they contacted me rather than me contacting them. I wouldn't have known where to get in touch with them, but they knew where to get in touch with me. They invited me to do some recording with them, and also - well, they had invited me previously and then I did some recording with them, never having met them, and then I was invited to go to Sweden by a band called DarXtar to do one concert in a place called Jonkoping, which I went and did and it was actually a very interesting gig. It wasn't hugely attended and I just wonder excactly if this sort of spacerock fan base is as strong as the fans actually feel it is. Do you know what I mean?
NT: I mean the spirit is there, but the quantity of people isn't probably, that might be what the problem might be. So I did a concert with DarXtar which I think they've actually turned into an album, I've heard something, rumours like that.
NT: I've seen a copy, not heard it... and then, whilst I was into it and I did some more recording with The Moor, and then I went back to England. Then they invited me to come over... there was this Hawkwind-gathering of fans, a sort of a convention I think, in Hamburg. Thomas organized it. Do you know Thomas?
SH: No, but I know of the person you are talking about, but haven't met him.
NT: He is actually promoting this gig tonight and I think we're staying at his place tonight. So, I was invited to come and play with The Moor, at this Hawkwind-spacerock festival in Hamburg last summer. So I did that, I had not rehearsed with them really. I knew some of their songs, they'd sent me tapes, and I knew my songs - more or less. Then I forgot the arrangements, I am still trying to catch up with them! And they suggested I might do a tour with them, which is what we're doing at the moment, organized by this young lady here, Sabina. So she's doing a great job. That's how we got to be where we are at the moment, we've so far done two concerts... we've done one in Berlin the night before last and one in Dresden last night, and we're variously successful, we're actually very successful. Last night was probably more successful than the night before, because there were twice as many people there. So in one way that's a mark of success, and as well the band is getting tighter, having not rehearsed before. The guys are saying "oh I didn't like that gig", and I'm saying, well, don't worry about the notes, worry about the spirit and that's what important, and I say I liked it and I don't care what notes you play! It's just the spirit, I had a good time, and people had a good time, and you look like you had a good time, so it was a successful gig. So that's the mark of success as far as I'm concerned.
Christian Mumford (CM): How did you hook with the US bands you have been playing with, like Farflung and Pressurehed?
NT: Well, that's another thing, I suppose I am a bit of a legend, you see, I never thought I was but people are telling me I am a bit of a legend. And suddenly out of the blue, some people wanted to release an old album of mine, the Xitintoday (the Sphynx) album, recorded in 1978... and '77 and '76. And they wanted to release the album, it was this company called Cleopatra Records, and then they discovered, or they thought... I don't know if they actually did discover them at all, I don't think it was actually true, but they thought it was, that EMI or Virgin records actually owned the tape. Well, technically that might be true, but in fact they didn't own the tape, I owned the tape but we didn't know that because we didn't have a contract, well I forgot... or we'd lost the contract... and I wasn't aware that the tapes which I'd produced in 1978 had actually reverted back to me, there was a reversion clause in the contract, so that was quite handy really so I think that United Artists/Virgin Records/EMI had probably been holding on to these tapes for four or five years when they really didn't have the right to, and I'd actually been in touch with them to find out how I could get ahold of the tapes myself and got pretty much of a blank until I was told then that Virgin Records were quite interested in reissuing the tapes, and so I sort of made some enquiries, and discovered that I actually owned them, and then I thought I would release my own album on my own label instead, which I'm doing at the moment.
SH: That just came out on EBS, is that right? The original release?
NT: Yeah, well its on EBS but its actually on my own label which is NIKT records, or "Nikt" Records [transcriber butts in: "nicked records"?] is distributed through EBS and Plastichead who also distribute EBS. So that is where I have got to so far with that, and then... I can't remember what you were talking about, you were asking me something... what was that?
SH: Just how you got in touch with...
NT: ...the guys in America, yeah that's right, yeah, and they said they wanted to release the original Sphynx album and then they thought that Virgin Records owned it, so we decided collectively that we would make a new album using some of the original flute music and using the original lyrics which we re-recorded, and the people that were involved in getting the project together were these guys who were actually fans of mine and Hawkwind fans and that sort of thing and had their own band, they had a band called Pressurehed, they play industrial sort of rock music, and they sort of helped me to get the album together, the Sphynx album, and then subsequent to that I was invited to go to America to do a tour, and in the meantime we made another album out of back catalogue material of Inner City Unit, which is another band I was involved with for quite some time after I left Hawkwind from 1979 or something like that. It was an album called The Prophets Of Time which was actually reworkings of Inner City Unit songs, and then I went to America to do a tour to promote these albums during which time I was doing the Space Ritual 1994, and whilst I was there we recorded several of the concerts and decided to put one of them out as a live recording.
SH: Yeah, I saw you on that tour in Boston, in Cambridge...
NT: (laughs) ...okay, in Massachusetts? Wow...
SH: Yeah, that was a great show, I had just moved there, I had only lived there one month.
NT: It was a good show and an interesting tour because to me it was sort of a new direction, not an absolutely new direction but it was an experiment and I was quite interested in hopefully making it work really, because in a way it was sort of a career move for me, I mean it wasn't something I thought about as I was suddenly presented with this opportunity to go to America, do a tour, do an album, I had a band who were really keen, a record company that were really keen, and everything seemed to be going quite well really and in the right direction for me, which was good.
SH: What were you doing up to...
CM: ... or between...
SH: ..yeah, say between Inner City Unit ending in '86 or whatever and...
NT: Well, I sort of had a new band which I am working with at the moment and I'm currently doing an album with, we play sort of jazzy dance music really, I suppose that is one way of putting it, a sort of hard edged sort of dance music, and the band has developed, I've had that band about ten or twelve years.
SH: This is the All-Stars?
NT: Yeah, its the All-Stars, they've sort of developed...
CM: Did you tour around the UK with this band?
NT: Yeah I have done that quite extensively but then I got quite bored with what we were doing and decided to sort of upgrade the band and do an album and try and sort of not have to play all the lavatories all around Britain, which is pretty boring actually, sort of doing the same gigs and going there every six months or something like that and then if a sort of audience is depleting then it gets a bit depressing and then you can't command more money because... there just isn't... people haven't got the money and the venues are limited by the amount of money they can actually pay you, so you end up going around in circles really, getting further stuck in the ground.
SH: Will this new band, The All-Stars, put something out in '98 or...?
NT: Yeah, we are putting an album together at the moment, it should be out in a month's time or something like that... its not quite finished.
CM: So that will be on the NIKT label...?
NT: It will be on the NIKT records label, yeah, and I think it will be a sort of high-profile production, and hopefully we will get lots of gigs with it and play all over Europe. I am trying at the moment... trying to get concerts at festivals, get gigs at festivals all over Europe, maybe Roskilde [in Denmark, transcriber butts in] and places and festivals I can find out about and do sort of fairly good venues in England as well, maybe get an agent, well I don't know really, it depends... well I don't really mind having an agent, you can only struggle for so long (laughs) and you either give up or do something else you know.
CM: Do you have alot of new songs with the All-Stars, or are you playing a sort of mix of old material and...
NT: Yeah, we got a mixture of lots of different things because we never put an album out you see, we've got a few tapes...
CM: But is the album going to be like a mix...?
NT: It's gonna be really brilliant, I'm working on actually producing the album as an interactive CDrom... so you can play it on your CD player or put it into your computer drive and its got all the information... and I'm working on a computer game and stuff like that with it, possibly... I don't know if it should get too complicated, maybe make it a bit simple...
SH: That's great.
NT: Yeah, not so extremely complicated. So that's where I am sort of working on with that. And we are actually working on a page on the internet, I want to get a page out, but I want it to be interesting and not just a bunch of bullshit and rubbish and boring facts. So I am sort of embossing it to make it more interesting, management sort of thing and elaborate sorts of ideas.
CM: Yeah, making it more interesting to navigate around.
NT: Yeah, that's right.
CM: ...not just a page and the next page.
NT: Yeah, the same pages and pages... I saw Hawkwind's page, I thought it was so boring...
CM: Its very factual.
NT: Yeah. I mean you know, a band like Hawkwind, they should have creative people around, and they haven't really, Dave's such a codpiece [?? need Scott to confirm "codpiece"??!!], he's elbowed everybody out and shit on everybody to the degree where there is no sort of genuine or very creative people who want to be involved with the band, everyone has sort of been used too much and and Dave's ended up with sort of a rather incompetent bunch of people he works with, and I don't think its very high quality work, that's my opinion... some of the people the band get involved with are actually very good. I mean they don't treat people very well, that's the problem...
CM: So you don't see any result of... because what I've seen... well, I guess what happened at Strange Daze when you had agreed...
NT: Were you there?
CM: No I wasn't actually there, no...
NT: I was actually very disappointed with Strange Daze.
CM: It seemed like there was some tension...
NT: Well, there was no tension on my part, it's Dave who's got a lot of tension. I mean, I did the Strange Daze gig, I actually went over there on crutches and had a broken foot, I had busted two toes before I went over there. I don't imagine Dave anyway... But I went there quite willingly and openly to do the concerts and do as much as I could, and do work with Hawkwind and you know, do a tour with them. I mean I'm not bothered, if they'd liked to, that's great, if they don't that's fine. So I did a gig with my band on the Friday night which was great, and then on the Saturday Hawkwind were going to play and I went to see Dave, and you know, say how are you doing and that sort of thing and blah-blah and that sort of thing, and that's fine you know, everything is groovy and all that, and I said "well, you know what all the people out there really want to see is me and you on stage together." and he said "oh, do they?" and I say "yeah, well.. yeah." and then he said "oh, I suppose you better play a song with us then, ain't ya." (laughs)
NT: ...condescending, you know. But I said okay, yeah it would be nice. So then we did 'Brainstorm' , it was all a bit.. well I didn't really like the tone of the whole thing really, you know. And Dave said "oh, and we're gonna play Brainstorm now, and Nik Turner is gonna play - if he can play in tune.". And I thought, well, he didn't need to say things like that about me... (laughs)
NT: There's no need to sort of be like that... and then.. so I played this sort of 'Brainstorm' and then I played another song I think, and then Dave is saying "oh, you better go off now, because you don't know the other songs". And I thought, well...
SH: Does that reallly matter?
NT: ...what is there to know? (laughs) You know what I mean. What is there to know about a Hawkwind song you know...
NT: So I just sat in the front on the stage, and then Dave.. then they stopped playing and still had another half hour to go, you know, before they had to stop which was at 12 O'clock, so we had half an hour... so I'm saying to Dave, "c'mon, let's go and play Silver Machine", or 'Master of the Universe', or some simple song I won't have any problem with, there were an audience all dying to hear us play, and it was "oh fuck off, I don't wanna play any of that shit", you know, "I know what I'm doing", you know. And I say "c'mon, let's go and play another number", and Dave says "Oh, fuck off, Turner", you know, "you don't know what you are talking about", and "just leave me alone" type of thing. And I thought, well...
SH: And then you went out and played solo sax for like half an hour.
NT: Yeah, that's what I did, you know, I thought "what is this?" - all these guys are here, they're fucking fans, they've organized the whole thing, they are only here to see us, what the fuck are we doing treating them... [someone enters the room to move something and the mic picks up too much noise!] ... you know, what is Dave doing?
CM: How's your NIKT label stuff now, that is being distributed by EBS... which is... I get the impression it is Hawkwind-owned label.
NT: Yeah, well, you see what happened, I approached Doug Smith, who is sort of Hawkwind's manager, because I said I'd like to start my own record label, no, I said I'd like to release alot of material. I was gonna release all of my American catalog, all the Inner City Unit back catalog, my Sphynx album, and the new album I am doing with my band currently, and any other things they wanted to release... you know, Robert Calvert, I've got complete sort of Robert Calvert material, his wife's given me access to any of his material I want to release, including the books, and plays, he's got several plays he wrote, like 'The Kid From Silicon Gulch' and...
SH: ...yeah, I have a tape.
NT: ...Captain Lockheed... you got a tape of that?
SH: I have a tape of that, yeah.
NT: 'Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters', 'The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice'... I don't know what else, there's probably other things you know, 'The Virgin Spermdancer' or something like that or... I can't remember what else there was... so there's all these albums as well, like 'Freq' and 'Hype', whatever, I could get into that, get into publishing if I wanted to.... ['Hype' is also a novel by Calvert]
SH: He was an incredibly creative individual.
NT: ...yeah, so I've got access to all that stuff and anything else, including an album I am working on with a lot of ex-Hawkwind members, the sort of first line-up of the band, I'm in touch with them, doing some playing with them, and want to do an album with them.
NT: There's an album that's just come out, recorded in Chicago in 1974 of Hawkwind material.
SH: Yes, I have that.
CM: 'The 1999 Party'.
SH: Have you heard that yourself?
NT: No, I haven't... is it good?
CM: It is.
SH: It is very good in the sense that it represents the band well from that time period.
NT: Well, there's talk of reforming that band... to actually promote that record.
NT: So that's another thing we might do.
CM: You are not talking the entire band though?
NT: Well, that's the idea, yeah.
NT: That band, you know. I mean the thing about it is that Lemmy will be given the option, just as Dave Brock would, whether they take it up is up to them.
CM: How would you see that affecting... sort of the musicianship on stage where... 1974 or 1998 or 1999... there will be... a lot of things have happened and you've all been on your separate ways.
NT: Yeah, sure, what you don't want to do is just to play what you played in 1974, I mean its what you don't want to do.
NT: So I mean, I'd rather work with Paul Rudolph as a bass player, honestly... Lemmy is just a really awful person to live, to work with, and he's not, in my opinion, a particularly good bass player, I've worked with loads of people far better than Lemmy. But, Lemmy... having said that you know, Hawkwind wasn't about music at that time, more about the spirit I think, so... so in fact what will happen is that Lemmy will be invited to be in the band, as will all the people that were in the band, and those who don't want to be, don't have to be, you know. There's other people who'd get in involved, like the original drummer Terry Ollis is availible, Alan Powell, another drummer, I think he was on that tour... Simon House... Dave was interested in doing it and then sort of decided he didn't want to do it, so he's gonna be given the option too, Lemmy will be given the option, Paul Rudolph I hope will be given the option though he joined the band a bit later, but I mean, in the mists of time, in the past, nobody's gonna argue about it I'm sure.
SH: You could ask Paul Rudolph or Adrian Shaw or...
NT: Yeah, that's right, yeah. And then perhaps Huw Lloyd-Langton as well, I don't know, we may be going for the original line-up, sort of... it would be Paul, Alan Powell, Terry Ollis, and Lemmy if he wants to do it, or Paul Rudolph, if he's availible... Terry Ollis, Alan Powell, Simon House, and possibly Huw Lloyd-Langton, because I don't know if Dave wants to do it. I was told he said he doesen't want to... maybe not even Huw Lloyd-Langton, maybe we'll just have one instrument doing solos, House on violin, guitar keyboards...
CM: So if this band actually gets together, but Brock chooses not to come along, would it be very hard to use the Hawkwind name, or...?
NT: No. It will be Hawkwind without Dave Brock.
NT: So why not? You know. The manager Doug Smith is quite agreeable to it. I mean, Hawkwind's bigger than Dave, and really, it doesn't come into the picture really. If you saw him at this gig in New York, the band Hawkwind is Dave and these other guys who just do what they're told. So that's what Hawkwind is, you know. Dave's own band and that's the end of it. He wouldn't let the rest of the band come on stage again afterwards... I was saying to them "well, come on, come and play on stage with me", and they said, "oh no, we better not..."
SH: "..better do what Dave says.."
NT: (laughs) well, fuck, who the fuck's Dave, you know. You know, what's the problem?
SH: So we were talking about your solo album from '78, I was recently listening to a couple of tapes from the pyramids when you were jamming... and there's like two 100 minute tapes out that circulate with a few people...
SH: ...with you jamming with the Here & Now band at the pyramids in '78...
NT: Oh yeah, right..
SH: ...and its just sort of free-form jamming you know...
NT: ...ha, oh wow, I'd like to hear that.
SH: It's really fabulous, there's a barking dog in the back ground sometimes, but its really spacey, just a really great jam.
NT: ...wots that? [on table]
NT: Any tobacco in it?
SH: No tobacco in it. He has one with tobacco in it... anyway, it really reminded me a bit of the Anubian Lights feel...
NT: Oh yeah...
SH: I really liked that project a lot.
NT: Yeah, that is good, and we are working on some more of it actually, it is another album in the pipeline at the moment, which will be out... we need to finish some work on it.. so that will be out in a couple of months time.
SH: Oh, that's great... yeah... we just mentioned The 1999 Party...
NT: Oh yeah, I'm interested in The 1999 Party, that's the gig that was recorded in 1974.
SH: Yeah, I've listened to it extensively and in some ways... the mix, I don't know if they had 16 track or 8 track or only 4 track, and if that had something to do with...
NT: 16 track...
SH: 16 track? Well okay, then in that way I'm a bit disappointed because the sax is actually mixed quite low at many times, almost completely gone.
NT: Hmmm... this is a problem I find a lot... what happened a lot in Hawkwind, the sax got mixed out a lot, and the problem is the sax gets mixed so low you can just hear it a bit. I mean, it just sounds like crap, while you see if they had it quite loud it would have a lot better quality, you just about hear it and lose a lot of what is there.
SH: ...cause on "Brainbox Pollution" as I recall you used to play quite a good sax part on that, on that CD there's like absolutely no sax on "Brainbox Pollution" and I can't imagine that you guys played it and you didn't play any sax.
SH: ...now, Dave [Brock] mixed this album presumably, so...
NT: That's what you're up against really, oh well. I just write these things off you know... I don't get overly... well, I've had people who've come to me and said, for instance a while ago in Bristol, at a gig with my regular band, this girl came to me and said "wow, this is one of the best gigs I've ever been to", she was like an old girlfriend of mine you know, and she said "the most marvelous thing about it", you know, "is that you can actually play the sax!" (laughs) You know, she was saying you know, "in the early days of Hawkwind you used to get completely mixed out of it and nobody ever heard you!" and that type of thing, which is probably true... so I thought it was flattering that I actually could be heard! (laughs)... did I answer what you were asking about?
SH: ....yeah... I was just curious because I find The 1999 Party pretty interesting from those days.
CM: It is pretty interesting, because I think its almost an opposite version of Space Ritual. On Space Ritual there is that full frontal guitar fuzz. But here the fuzz is mixed down and you get a very different feel... and you have a slightly different lineup, on 1999 Party you have Simon House added on violin, you don't have Robert Calvert, and you and Lemmy do a lot of the spoken pieces, and its like a double album... [as] if Space Ritual were released after Hall of The Mountain Grill as opposed to after Doremi [Fasol Latido], and its sort of an interesting picture of the band at the time, because every other recording of the band from that time is very low quality.
NT: Oh yeah it is, it's crap... its all sort of very substandard, except from a sort of nostalgic point of view I suppose.
SH: So how can you describe a day in the life of Nik Turner in say, like, January 1971 compared to a week ago for you?
NT: Well, a week ago I was rushing around in the mud... at home! (laughs)
SH: You live in Wales?
NT: Yeah, I live out in the wilds, probably repairing a car or something like that... in sort of domestic bliss you know. (laughs)
SH: And in January '71?
NT: In '71 it was very different, yeah, living on the streets of London, sleeping on a different floor every night, or living in the back of a van... doing gigs, meeting loads of people living in London, living on the street...
SH: Did you generally consider it though, that you were having an okay time and enjoying life?
NT: Yeah... I was never really ambitious for anything, I never have been... its probably a problem of mine really, and... my only ambition is for people to be happy really, that's all, you know... so I try to create a situation where that happens... try to bring happiness through music.
SH: I think the music that you have created with all these different bands, like in the last five years, or since the Space Ritual tour you did with Pressurehed and those guys, and all these collaborative projects have really created more of a spirit in the spacerock community, of revolving around you a little bit, you know...
CM: I also definitely think it has brought in audiences from... well, [audiences] that might not have come in; via just the Cleopatra label, which is sort of a very industrial-techno-gothic-whatever type label.
NT: yeah, right...
CM: ...because there's definitely an element that overlaps with Hawkwind and Space Ritual and the whole technological idea that you guys were doing back then in the early seventies.
NT: Oh yeah, yeah... the guy who runs Cleopatra, Brian Perrera, is a real fan. That's how he got involved in the whole business, as a fan - and he's really into Hawkwind... (laughs) One of his sort of pet loves sort of thing, and so that's why he was really interested in working with me, and as you say is very much involved in the techno/industrial sort of music scene, so in a way sort of doing things with me is probably a lifelong ambition on one hand, and probably what we had been producing probably had been very inspirational to him as well... and then [he'd] sort of gone into techno and that sort of thing as a natural musical development really... and then us coming in and doing Space Ritual was probably very interesting, with a very updated sort of feel on the Space Ritual... it wasn't like it was on the album or anything else like that...
NT: ...although the guys in the band knew all the Hawkwind songs known to know! (laughs) But played them in their own way as well.
CM: It's an excellent mix... I guess Past Or Future? is sort of the title that points to that... because the way it's played is so very up to date - but it has that... that feel... that.... [lapses into uncontrolled stuttering]
NT: yeah, yeah... yeah, I like that album, I think it's the better album, it is my favorite of those two live recordings.
SH: That concert was totally amazing, the show you did in Boston, the Past or Future?... that was totally amazing. Hawkwind had just played a couple of months earlier in the US, and your show was so much better...
SH: ... I mean, a better lightshow, just a better flow of music... You had a friend of yours, I can't... his name was Tony or something, from Boston?
NT: yeah... Tony...
SH: ..and he came out and played like alto sax...
NT: Tony Cooper, yeah, he lives in Boston, yeah...
SH: ...and the version... you guys did like "Soul Herder" into "Opa-Loka", it just sort of flowed, and it was like a 15 minute piece... Simon was up there, and Tony, and you guys just had this... it was actually one of the most... like a magical moment for me in concert seeing you play that.
NT: Oh, wow... did it... (laughs)
SH: ...because it was just an incredible feel...
NT: ...yeah, that's good, yeah... great... I really enjoyed those American tours... yeah Tony's good, he lives in Boston, lives around there...
SH: Somewhere nearby...
NT: I used to know him in England when he lived there, we used to have the same music teacher... he was learning flute and sax and I was learning...
SH: ...sax and flute! (laughs)
NT: ...sax and flute, no I was learning clarinet at the time... he's brilliant, I don't think he plays very much...
SH: Well, this tour you are doing here with The Moor, with Knut doing like some Calvert poetry and stuff...
NT: Yeah, it's nice isn't it, it's a whole different thing really, 'cos it's sort of a hybrid, it's sort of an adaptation and it's an inspiration for him really, and that's what I like about it... Knut is doing Robert Calvert poems and he does them really well... it's great, it's great that Robert Calvert has inspired people to actually...
SH: ...get involved...
NT: ...get involved and do something creative, yeah... I like it... it's good...
CM: Back to the part earlier, about musicians in the past... what were you doing in bands before, well, when you joined Hawkwind, or you and Dave [Brock] started Hawkwind, you were like in your late 20s... did you have a musical career before that?
NT: You mean previously?
CM: Yeah. Previous to Hawkwind...
NT: Not really performing-wise, I mean, I'd been learning to play. I sort of grew up on jazz really, and was into rock'n'roll and Elvis Presley and Bill Haley and Little Richard, and that sort of stuff when I was in school, but had been weaned on jazz and sort of got into jazz at that time as well, modern jazz, and that's what inspired me to learn the saxophone and also a record by Earl ???Bostic??? called "Flamingo"... have you heard that one?
SH: No, I haven't...
NT: It was a hit in the sort of late 50's I guess, and that inspired me to get into the saxophone which I was learning then. I played in a couple of bands briefly, sort of working on songs, one was on the back of a carnival float of a lorry, a blues band I joined for one gig, that was really good (laughs), I used to just play on the beach all the time, and go down by the seaside and practice by the beach. I also sort of played in a jazzy college sort of band, we played a sort of college dance, a sort of one-off gig really, it was called The Canterbury... the other band I played with on the back of a lorry was called Virgin, a blues band, a local blues band that used to do free gigs and stuff like that and playing anywhere. The other band I played this sort of college gig with was called The Canterbury Tailgators, which was where this college was, I lived near Canterbury. Then I went to Berlin for awhile, went to Holland, in 1967 I lived in Holland for about a year, and then I went to Berlin and that's where I met the guys in Hawkwind, in Holland.
NT: In 1969 I stayed in Berlin for about 3 or 4 months, and I met alot of free jazz musicians, I can't remember their names now, I'm sure they'll come back to me... Rudy DeCarl was one of them, a saxophone player, I don't know if he's ever done anything, but he was a really brilliant player, I was quite inspired by him. Having met all these guys that used to play with Eric Dolphy and things like that. They used to play gigs at The Blue Note in Berlin, I used to hang out with them, and they convinced me that you didn't have to be technical to express yourself on the saxophone (laughs), so I thought that was quite inspiring for me. And I met a lot of the sort of the psychedelic crew in Berlin, I met Tangerine Dream, I used to hang out with them and Edgar Froese, his girlfriend Monica and people like that, at these sort of psychedelic clubs.
SH: Yeah, they had that whole psychedelic 'krautrock'-whatever scene going on there.
NT: Yeah, Amon Duul as well.
CM: Were people in England aware of that scene or was that something that was almost uniquely...
NT: The psychedelic scene?
CM: ...the whole German psychedelic scene.
NT: They probably weren't, they became aware of it because of all these 'krautrock' bands.
CM: Yeah, but was it by that time almost a retro-thing? Were bands that were happening in Germany popular in England at the time? Because now its sort of become a retro trend and people are suddenly talking about it.
NT: They became popular in England with Hawkwind I think, not caused by Hawkwind, but at the same time you know, like with Ash Ra Tempel or Guru Guru...
CM: So there was an audience for those German bands in England?
NT: Yeah, they became popular... so then I joined Hawkwind at the time, in 1969, playing free jazz in a rock'n'roll band (laughs), that's what I was trying to do.
CM: "and the result is..."
SH: What was it like, say, playing gigs outside The Isle of Wight in 1970 and...
NT: Oh, it was brilliant, really wild - it was really free, revolutionary and alot of fun... anti-establishment sort of thing.
SH: Because it seemed like to me that with the style of how Hawkwind music progressed and melds together, I can imagine in those days it was even freer, with Dik Mik and and all those guys making synthesizer noises, and you didn't really have a planned song, you just jammed.
NT: Yeah, it was a jamming scene, there were a few sorts of vague structures, but generally it was just sort of a jamming scene, yeah.
SH: 'Cause it seems like that kind of music is lost, no one probably recorded your 4 or 5 hour gig at the Isle of Wight.
NT: No... It's longer than that, its a 12 hour gig or something like that, a 13 hour gig.
CM: You gigged with the Pink Fairies a lot...
NT: Yeah, yeah... we did quite a lot.
CM: Did you interact a lot as both bands at once?
NT: Yeah, we had both bands on stage, and we'd take even turns on who'd get to be the top band (laughs)...
CM: Must have been really interesting.
NT: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. We had the same audience more or less, a real party atmosphere.
SH: Yeah, some of those stories that Kris Tait has in her book "This Is Hawkwind: Do Not Panic" from the early days are really quite hilarious to read about.
NT: Reading: you were talking earlier about 1999 Party, about Man playing...
SH: Yeah, Man, which I thought were a great band at that time.
NT: I was just reading that book by Deke Leonard, have you read that?
SH: No, but I've heard it's very good, and entertaining.
NT:Yeah, I'm reading it at the moment, its great, yeah...
SH: Yeah, their perspective is of a band that played all over England, and was a party band and toured a lot... and its supposed to be very good.
NT: I don't know a lot about them but its really good...
SH: Yeah, I like some of their music a lot... Now that you are having Knut [Gerwers] being Bob Calvert on this tour, do you have any stories that maybe Knut has brought to your mind, something about Calvert?
NT: No, I was thinking about it though, because he wants me to put something on the internet about it, and it just sort of... well, I mean, Robert and I were friends for a long time, and we were friends before Hawkwind. We were mates you know, we used to hang out together and I used to spend a lot of time at his house. We would stay there a lot of the time and have terrible times with his wife, who he sort of.. (laughs), well he used to have nervous breakdowns then, every 18 months or something like that, and his mother used to look after him because she was a nurse, and she used to give him all these sorts of drugs... and he had access to drugs, she had like a cupboard full of drugs. I mean, it wasn't like he was into drugs particularly, but they were there, and his brother used to sell speed (laughs).
SH: So they certainly had an influence on his life.
NT: Probably, yeah yeah.
SH: Because there have been some stories, about when the last US tour that happened in '78 with Calvert, that he went really off the wall at times.
NT: I think he probably was quite manic. Its how he used to get, he'd have a nervous breakdown and get very depressed and build up to be manic again. Thats how he used to carry on. I mean that's how he died really, his heart couldn't cope with it, you know, sort of extremes of change and gaining and losing weight quickly and that sort of thing, burn up his energy and not go to bed or sleeping for two weeks.
SH: Yeah, he was an incredibly creative person...
NT: Yeah, he was.
SH: Well, I am really glad that you have continued on to keep playing music and interact with these younger bands to stimulate them.
NT: Yeah, right, right, yeah... well, any more questions you want to talk about?
CM: Yeah... but I didn't write 'em down like you did... ummm...
NT: Well, I gotta go and get my equipment together.
SH: Well, do you have anything you want to tell the fans... (laughs)
SH: No! (laughs) "Just come and buy our records!"
NT: Well, I'm not setting myself up to be commercial in terms of "buy my records", you know, I like to play music and I like to turn people on, I like to give people a fair deal.
CM: Do you think a lot of new people come to see your shows, or the same people you've played for [before mostly]...
NT: Well, I mean its difficult to say, because I play a lot of very different shows, and then if you mean the same people who came to my shows when I last was in Germany, or in Hamburg, would come to my show, yeah, I guess they would. But I hope other people do as well. I hope people come out of curiosity for one thing. Or people that have heard about The Moor, you know.
CM: I heard there was a piece in a local paper actually...
NT: Yeah, I think we've had a quite good bit of press.
CM: That's interesting, because I wouldn't think that Hawkwind or Hawkwind members would sort of...
SH: That they'd spend any space on you in the newspaper.
CM: Yeah. Because the newspapers are totally mainstream really.
NT: Yeah, I think they change all the time and they're looking for something new all the time... something that hasn't been held up to the light lately might be seen as new. So its good actually if they are interested, I hope they sort of like the shows, I mean, I think the shows are quite good, they're not specifically the sort of music that I am totally into, because I'm really into the band that I play with in England, and we play Afro-Cuban dance music.
CM: How would you describe The Moor?
NT: I would say they are sort of Nordic, sort of Gothic rock, a sort of bit like Host, or that sort of feel you know... but I find them quite interesting, varied stuff, they play alot of interesting keys, I think their sentiments are quite interesting, they've got a guy who reads songs, sings songs with them, its all sort of a socially aware sort of thing, you know... not this sort of factuous or meaningless stuff, you know what I mean, sort of ecologically sound.
SH: Yeah, they seem like a good band.
CM: An ecologically sound band.
NT: You know what I mean, not sort of singing about crap, putting a bit of punch into it.
CM: But having fun though?
NT: Having fun, with the sort of music that we are playing, you know.
SH: We were watching a video last night of your show with Farflung at this JJ Kelly's in Chicago.
NT: Oh really, oh really, wow...
SH: And that was really excellent, just excellent.
NT: (laughs) Oh really, I'd like to see that.
SH: Its really good.
NT: Was that with that wacky sue on?
SH: I mean it had a great lightshow going on and you guys just got into some really good groove... "Wacky Sue"...? what, did she come out to play...?
NT: Me! (laughs)
SH: Oh you! (laughs), yeah, you dressed up in that suit.
NT: Yeah, I wore that in Berlin, I didn't wear that last night, I might wear it tonight if I get time, it looks like a good gig.
SH: Well, the people out front seem to think there's gonna be a good crowd tonight, because there's been a lot of press here in Hamburg.
NT: Oh really, that's good.
SH: Well, we'll let you get ready!
NT: Okay, I'll go and see what I am doing.
SH: Thank you so much, it was really nice to meet you again.