was an extremly talented
and creative person in many artistic fields -
i.e. Theatre, Poetry,
Acting and was involved
in many exciting and innovative projects.
I feel that it is high
time that his marvellously creative talent should be recognised and acknowledged
as the great influence that he indeed was - and still is."
Turner was one
of the earliest and closest friends of Robert
Calvert and one of the most important musical collaborators throughout
Apart from that, Turner is the main figure in
keeping Calvert's music alive today on stage,
as he is frequently playing a number of Calvert's
songs at his own gigs.
upon a time in Margate...
yes, that's how this
life-long-story of Calvert & Turner could
really begin. Margate, the half-town-half-amusement-park
by the seaside was the place where both Robert Calvert
and Nik Turner grew up and got to know each
other long before they ended up in the same legendary band named HAWKWIND.
The sunny beaches,
the deck-chairs, sea-gulls and the countryside around Margate
became a great inspiration for Calvert's later
poetical work. In the first part of our heros' life's however, these were
the places where people spend their holidays and they boys made their
money in the summer that would buy them the precious time of those cold
and dreary winter-days, when the town was emptied of tourists and half-professional
gamblers, and you could get into all those fantastic ideas of your own....
"I worked in Dreamland,
the amusement park in Margate - did a bit of work on deck-chairs, beach
photography and that sort of thing. Nik Turner was selling funny hats
at the time. Nik, DikMik and myself used to talk about the sort of band
we would get together if we had half a chance. We used to come up quite
a lot to London to
This was around the
mid-60's. Our heroes had just passed their twen-barrier and the Summer
of Love 1967 was coming up. What a brilliant coincidence.
"1967 saw me working
on the beach in Margate in Kent. It was full of speed freaks, mods, alcoholic
day trippers from East London, rockers on their big bikes. And me working
on the sea front selling stuff, playing sax sometimes, hanging out with
all sorts, and I eventually got bored so I went to Holland...."
Arriving on the flattest
land of the continent Nik got a job with a kind
of psychedelic circus, called The Mobile Freakout
He helped putting up the huge tent, sold beer, ice cream and flowers to
the evergrowing audience of hip-hippie people. The musical acts featured
in the programme were mostly dutch - and Nik had to pen down these difficult
English lyrics for them.
However, there was one British band involved called The
Famous Cure, a blues-type of band, featuring a certain Mr. Dave
Brock and Mick Slattery - both soon
to become co-founders of HAWKWIND.
The Mobile Freakout
tour ended - The Famous Cure went back to London,
Nik Turner remained for a while in Holland -
and later headed back for some more work on the beaches of Margate.
Robert Calvert was also slowly working his way out of the rural
countryside to the hot-spot of London:
"I gradually found myself
spending more time in London than in Margate - there seemed to be less
and less going back for - but there was a lot happening around the Notting
Hill area at that time."
So did Nik
He had stayed in touch with the guys of The Famous
Cure. Though the band had disbanded by mid-1969 and Dave Brock
went back to busking for a while, he wanted to set-up a new line-up. When
it finally came together they called themselves Group-X
- Nik heard of the new band and offered himself
- incl. his newly bought van - to join them as their roadie. At a rehearsal
/ jam Nik showed up with his saxophone - got
invited to jam with them - and immediately turned into an active band
Via his old friend
Nik, Calvert was soon
to join the band as well - first as their resident
poet, later on as their full time lead-singer.
All this has been extensively documented on the Calvert
& Hawkwind story in 4 parts - so, I skip these parts
of the story here.
with Hawkwind until late
1976 - and rejoined them for a while in the early 80's.
In those days of the 70's Calvert and Turner
turned into the most important front-men of the band - everyone in his
own particular style - but both sharing the liking for dressing-up and
While Calvert supplied the band with the whole
poetical and conceptual
background, lending the band mostly it's tougher, threatening
edge, Turner took delight in the much more
playful role - the kind of joker on stage...
As Calvert, especially in his more manic / hyper
periods could easily irritate / annoy friends and audiences and also provoke
a lot of aggressive responses, Nik is a man
who - as my web-friend Phil
Franks put it - "is
just oozing good vibrations.".
Who knows, it might
be this complementary element that let Calvert and
Turner get along well all these times...
prone - and prooved...
excessive showmanship, however, also brought him in danger from time to
At a benefit gig for the Gay Liberation movement the following almost
fatal event occured:
"I wore a metal shirt
- made with gold thread - I had my saxophone plugged into the amplifier,
and we were about to get started. I walked across to the microphone, said,
'Hello', and suddenly there was a huge exlosion and I was knocked over
backwards. I hit the speaker cabinets and they fell all over me! The microphone
was still in my hand, stuck to it with the power full on. All of ten million
volts were going through me, and all I could see was a huge, blue, continuous
flashing that I was in the middle of. I could hear these voices in the
background, 'Turn the fucking power off!', and everybody was panicking.
But no one did anything about it....
...I could hear my heart beating and it was going 'be-dum...be...dum....be....
...dum' getting slower and slower...
...I thought 'Christ, I am going to die in a minute'. It was like being
locked inside a magnet. I was paralysed. I wanted to get the microphone
out of my hand, but I couldn't coordinate my arms.
Then suddenly, the power went off, after what seemed to be about half-an-hour,
though It was probably only about 30 seconds. It felt like a long, long
time. Fortunately for me, I think, I had taken a large amount of acid
before it happened, and that kept me detached enough to stay calm.
When the power went off they were saying 'Cor, thank goodness you're alright!',
and I was saying 'Why shouldn't I be? There's nothing wrong with me'.
'But we thought you were dead,'. I thought there was nothing wrong with
me until I looked down at my hand and there was this huge fucking hole
in it (I've still got the scar) where the microphone had stuck. It had
burnt its way through my hand - all my fingertips were burnt too. I had
a 3rd degree burn, right inside the flesh.
When I came out of the hospital, I felt fine, so I went back to the gig,
got on stage and finished the set with this huge bandage.
After that little affair I liked electricity. I remember one day I was
fixing a light socket in my house and I accidentally stuck my fingers
into the hole. It felt great!"
At another occassion
Nik put the heat on him all by himself - when trying to dip his toes into
the art of fire-eating he accidentaly set his arm and hand (this time
the other one) on fire.
However, the man
survived it all - even his unfortunate half-departure-half-sacking from
Hawkwind in which also
Calvert took part.
"I left the band because
I was bored with it, and I think it probably showed in what I was doing.
There were certain people in the band who said that if I didn't leave,
then they would. It seemed more important to the band, at that time, that
I leave rather than them. I just thought, if that's the way they feel
about it, then fuck them!"
"Nik had entered a stage
where his playing had become rather irksome.
He would blast away throughout the whole set, irrespective of what else
was happening on stage. His concentration appeared to have slipped - and
it got to the point where, on the eve of the recording sessions for our
on the Streets, Paul Rudolph and
King said they'd leave if Nik wasn't ejected...
...and in the heat of the moment, Dave
Brock and I acquiesced.
Nik's importance, and his presence since the group started, were ignored,
and he was fired."
rang Dave, and he began by saying, 'Don't take this seriously, it doesn't
mean anything, but we had a meeting without you and decided to sack you
from the band!'"
and Calvert later asked him to rejoin the band,
but by this time he had become bored with the idea and decided
to follow his own paths and ideas.
Looking back on Nik Turner's career since then
it seems this was indeed a good move.
first he decided to take a break and made a trip to Egypt - a highly
inspiring journey out of which arose his first solo album Xitintoday,
released in mid-1978.
The album is soaked
in the ancient Egyptian mythology and emplyoying the appropriate oriental
On this musical journey Turner was supported
by various members of another legendary cosmo-psych band: Gong.
Amongst these fellow musicnauts was Steve Hillage,
with whom Turner later collaborated as well on some of Hillage's projects.
In late 1979 Nik
once again headed in yet another musical direction, when he became the
co-founder of the proto-psy-punk band Inner
City Unit - find more on ICU on their own Collab-Relations
City Unit was
also the next musical outfit, that brought Calvert
and Nik Turner back together on stage - and even in the studio
for one very odd recording.
After Calvert himself had finally departed
from Hawkwind in late 1978 he found himself looking out for new musical
Obviously the Calvert
& Turner connection had remained intact and from the early
80's on Calvert turned up as quite a regular guest at the Inner
City Unit gigs. The band then played a lot of Calvert's solo
material and various songs he had written
With both Turner and Calvert being in top-performative-form
these shows could turn into quite inspired lunatic experiences - often
culminating in some strange cover-versions. At one gig Calvert
even sung Bob Dylan's 'The Times they are a-changin'.
But the wild punkadelic
mix of ICU wasn't really suitable for the more
minimalistic style Calvert was heading for - and so he remained on his
However, when Calvert later formed his own back-up band with the distinctive
name Krankschaft, two former ICU
member, namely Steve Pond and Fred Reeves became
members of it.
Until Calvert's death
in 1988, both he and Nik Turner occassionaly
showed up for a guest spot at a Hawkwind gig.
the Calvertian spirit alive...
Since then Nik
Turner's music kept on evolving - not only in the 'space-rock'
direction. In the meantime he founded the more jazz-oriented Nik
Turner's Fantastic Allstars, worked with Pinkwind,
featuring a.o. Twink,
he's playing with a Ghanean drummer, with Gong's Steffy
Sharpstrings doing guest-spots with the Swedish band darXtar
and former Inner City Unit members and....
But the most important and productive of all these musical branches has
become his collaboration with a group of American musicians - based around
various heavily Space-Rock influenced bands.
Most of these activities have evolved around the quite active Cleopatra
label, which has released all of Nik's latest solo-albums, backed up by
a team of splendid musicians like
Helios Creed (former CHROME member), Genesis
P. Orridge (Psychic
TV / Throbbing
Gristle), the Pressurehed
members Len del Rio, Tommy Grenas & Paul Fox
- and also former Hawkwind members Simon House, Allan
Powell & Del Dettmar have supported him on his last US-Tours.
Quite a big part
of the live-sets played on these tours consisted of various
songs of Robert Calvert.
Two live albums
have been released in the last 3 years: the double CD Nik
Turner's Space Ritual '94 and Past or Future
The latter one not
only features the more regularly played Calvert and Hawkwind - classics
but also some of Calvert's later solo-material and his poem Ten
Seconds of Forever.
Another highly interesting
link to Calvert that Nik Turner has re-established
shows up in the guest appearance of Jello
The former mastermind of the The Dead Kennedys
and one of the seminal figures in American Punk and Hardcore, joined in
singing the Calvert / Hakwind classic Silver
Biafra himself has been an admirer of Calvert
and quite influenced by his strategies - as you can read in
Calvertian spirit: Present and Future...
As you can see, the
man is more active than ever.
The most interesting - and in my opinion most creative collaboration,
however, hasn't been named yet. It's another band from Sweden named The
They got to know
each other via Nik's connection to darXtar
- who are friends of The Moor's musical mastermind
Nik listened to The Moor
and the immediate reaction was: "I want to join this band.". -- So there.
is of course not without complications with Nik
living in the wooly wilderness of Wales and the rest of the band being
located around Falköping, Sweden. However, via tape exchange Nik
contributed some great sax-tunes to FLUX, the
latest release by The Moor. (more on FLUX
MOOR on their Collab-Relations
Just recently The Moor did another one of their
quite rare live appearances (less than 1 per year is the average so far....).
They played in Hamburg at this year's Hawkfestival
- joined by Nik Turner.
They'd decided to
play a mixture of The Moor's own tracks - alongside
a long strand of songs taken from Nik Turner's
1st solo album Xitintoday.
And yet another strange guest spot was a part of this gig.
Your unhumble webhost in flesh and blood joined the band to deliever some
irritating (but suitable, from my point of view) intermissions, reading
some poems by Robert
Calvert - backed up by some (a bit reluctant) backing noises from
Nov. 2003: During the last years, Nik kept up his pretty
busy schedule, collaborating with numerous artists, playing and recording
- amongst others - with the Finnish band 5.15,
doing more gigs in the States - and finally also the troubles btw. him
and Dave Brock have been settled.
That doesn't mean that Nik has abandoned his Hawkwind-roots - on the contrary.
For about 2 years now, he is constantly gigging with Spaceritual.net
- a band he founded, consisting of Hawkwind members from the earliest
days of the band - like Terry Ollis, Thomas
From what I've heard, their performances - consisting of the early Hawkwind
songs - are re-creating those early psychedelic gigs - and it seems they're
doing quite a good job on this...
And apart from that, Nik's moving freely through all kinds of musical
territories. With his other regular outfit: Nik Turner's Fantastic All-Stars,
he has released an album called 'Kubano Kickasso'
- and you can imagine from that title alone, that this is musically quite
a few galaxies away from his Hawkwind roots... - when he feels like, Nik
is playing Jazz of all sorts, jamming with African drummers...and in general
jamming with everyone, when invited to festivals or other events...
You'll find infos on Nik's current & upcoming activities on his own
website - see below.
the extensive, highly entertaining
Turner Interviews - brought to you by our web-friend Phil
Franks. He recently visited his friends from the 'ole days again.
Meet just two of NIK's numerous alter ego's:
Moose Magoon and $id Money...come along to a gig of Nik
Turner's Fantastic Allstars and visit Nik's rural home The
Cadillac Ranch...every page featuring the newest wondeful Nik-Pics
City Unit homepage - contains infos on the time he spent with ICU
and the albums they've recorded - hosted by Steve
Pond, ICU's guitarist.