HF: May I ask
you first what you're presently working on, book and recording wise?
MM: I'm working
on the next book in the four volume sequence that began with 'Byzantium
Endures' which is called 'The Laughter Of Carthage', and
that's a sort of non-fantasy thing which leads up to about 1940. It's
an attempt to deal with the whole ambience of racism and intolerance
which existed between 1920 and 1940 which allowed for the holocaust
and stuff. The holocaust is the center of it, but I don't actually deal
with it very much, but different kinds of racism like Turkish racism
towards Greeks and K.K.K. racism.
Recording wise I'm simply feeling guilty because I'm supposed to have
done some words for Dave (Brock) which I haven't done yet, partly because
I'm panicking to get this book finished on time .. (chuckles).. I'm
supposed to be doing some words for Pete Pavli as well which he reminded
me about which I'd totally forgotten about. But I'm not doing any recording,
and don't plan to do any, until I've got all my writing commitments
tidied away. I'm hoping that by next year I'll have some more time because
- I think Dave Brock said in an interview that all my singles sound
like demos, which I think is fair comment - because although I put the
work into doing the initial stuff I normally find I haven't got as much
time as I'd like to spend on doing the mixing and 'treatment', and I
think the next time I do a recording I want to do something that's a
little bit better in terms of production. I think the next thing we
do we'll have echo on everything just for a start.
The other thing is that I'm very rusty. I was playing through some old
tapes to see what I had on them about two weeks ago, and Linda said
of the guitar playing, "that can't be you, that's too good"
..(chuckles).. And the singing and the timing and everything else. And
it just shows you how bad I've got ..(laughs).. So when I do it I think
it'll be something that'll have a lot more time spent on it. I like
'The Brothel In Rosenstrasse' for instance as a song, but I don't
think we spent enough time doing it. Pete's done a much better rhythm
for it - a bit late ..(chuckles).. But we're gonna re-record that at
HF: Could you
tell us a little about your early life, like birth-place, education,
MM: I was born
in Mitcham, Surrey, and that's around where I spent pretty much my entire
childhood. I went to quite a lot of different schools, too many to list.
I got expelled - well, I wasn't expelled, it was a myth that I was expelled
because they didn't expel you in those days, they just asked your mother
if you'd leave ..(chuckles).. Very early on I was doing fanzines, which
were then called amateur magazines, from about the age of ten. I wanted
to be a journalist from then on, as long as I can remember that's what
I wanted to do, and write. Nothing in my family background or anything
like that, just an ordinary lower middle class background, I think reading
itself was thought to be a little bit, er, suspect ..(chuckles).. When
I failed my 11-plus I went to Pitman's collage because they thought
I'd learn shorthand typing. I never learnt shorthand - I never 'got
it' - and it took me about four times the normal course to learn typing,
but at least I learnt typing, which probably is a lot to do with my
latest speed at writing because I became a very fast touch typist, but
that was the only thing I ever learnt at school, I think. Nearly got
expelled from Pitman's two or three times, left at fifteen, and got
a job as an office junior and was fired.
I was writing all the time and still doing a lot of fanzines - at one
point about three or four a week, I was obsessively cranking them out
- and music fanzines and science fiction fanzines, well just general
book fanzines because although I liked science fiction it wasn't an
obsession with me, I liked all sorts of other stuff as well. The one
thing I've said in the past is that the areas of rock'n'roll and science
fiction were so completely out of any adult experience that you could
feel that they were your own, that you could do things within them without
people criticising you, looking over your shoulder, suggesting, so you
had areas that were in a sense private, where there was just a few people.
By the time I was fifteen I was going up to Soho, where there were in
those days coffee bars, which were the big thing, and skiffle, but also
blues was a big thing and it was out of that the Rolling Stones came
and the Yardbirds and all that whole area, and I vaguely new quite a
lot of those people, and it wasn't hard because there were only a few
clubs and everybody was doing the same thing.
So I started playing blues mainly, and again you did it for a coffee
or a 'whip round' if you were lucky - there were so many other people
doing whip rounds you didn't get very much. I discovered the other day
that a friend of mine that I knew as Pete Green, who I taught his first
chords to, which is ridiculous cos they were the only cords I knew -
three - turned out to be Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac. I'd never made
the connection cos I'd lost touch with him ages ago and I'd never seen
Fleetwood Mac perform, and I just sat there and I didn't even know who
the band was and I said to Linda, "that's Pete Green!" ..(laughs)..
And she said, "that's right, that's Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac,"
and I said, "oh! ..(laughs).. I wondered what had happened to him!.."
HF: When did
you first have your musical aspirations, or did your science fiction
writing come first?
MM: Musical aspirations
were pretty much the same time as writing, and as I say my first enthusiasms
were black blues, and Woody Guthrie I liked, partly I think I liked
it because it was much grittier, and at the time there was just bland
crap about - in the main you had a choice between Rosemary Clooney and
Pat Boone - to the point that when Elvis started breaking I thought
he was a weak watered down version of the black players that he'd actually
taken a lot of songs from, and so I never really got much into Elvis
and that whole thing. I went along to see 'Rock Around The Clock'
partly with the view to ripping up a few seats because that was
what you were supposed to do, but in fact the whole place was patrolled
by police and police dogs who were ripping up people so I never did
get to rip up a seat at 'Rock Around The Clock'.
After that I still went on playing blues based stuff - I was in various
blues bands and one or two skiffle groups, but the first semi-pro thing
I was in was called 'The Greenhorns' which I'm deeply ashamed
of because it was basically Guthrie songs and a bit of country stuff,
but in order to be palatable we all wore stetsons - it was like a country
and western band although we didn't really perform country and western
songs. Then I got rid of the stetson and got hold of my pride and joy
which was a sort of railroadman's cap which was the same kind that Woody
Guthrie was photographed in, and I've still got one or two pictures
of me in that somewhere, looking vaguely ludicrous.
Then cos I'd done an Edgar Rice Burroughs fanzine I got offered the
job editing 'Tarzan Adventures' , which was at the time mainly
a comic just reprinting the Sunday strips from the American newspapers.
Looking back I now know that I got the job because I was willing to
work for about six quid a week, well under union minimum. Then suddenly
- I was working for it at sixteen, I wasn't editing it until I was seventeen
I think - suddenly I became a professional editor, and I started putting
a lot more text stories into it and getting rid of the strip more which
in fact did well in circulation. I did the 'Sojan' stories for
that. Then I got fired.
Almost all my straight jobs had been a series of good starts in which
I'd tend to revolutionise what I was doing and try to pep up what was
there, and that's what I did with 'Tarzan Adventures' but it
was costing too much money because it was cheaper to reprint old American
comics. Also I was getting selective about the comic strips because
I wouldn't do certain artists cos I didn't think they were good enough
so I was going back to older strips. They finally .. I think I was fired
.. It's one of those peculiar things where you're not quite sure, you
remember the emotions of the time and the heated arguments but you can't
remember whether you actually resigned or whether you were fired or
whether everybody thought they'd had enough of you...
HF: Mutual consent..
MM: Or mutual
dissent actually. So I left and free-lanced for a while. I was still
doing stuff in the clubs - I was never a very good guitarist and I still
am not a very good guitarist but I was quite a good blues guitarist.
I didn't have any training at all .. Everything I learnt was just picked
up from people just playing little clubs, literally coffee bars, where
you weren't actually on stage or anything but a few people just gather
round and start playing .. There was a very Bohemian atmosphere in Soho
which is where it all happened .. A lot of people read science fiction,
there seemed to be quite a close association between people who read
science fiction and played rock'n'roll. When I was first going to America
very few people were interested in science fiction, there just wasn't
In England there has always been a strong interaction between the two
so that you'll have someone you admire in rock'n'roll and you'll say
to them "You know, I really admire..." And it turns out they
say the same to you as a science fiction writer and they've been reading
your stuff, so it's always been much easier to move between the two
worlds here than in the States. People like Eric Bloom actually tend
to think of themselves as a bit unusual in reading science fiction.
In those days there wasn't a lot of it about. You couldn't get any American
science fiction here because there was a ban on American imports coming
in till about '59. So what I'd do was I'd go to Paris with my guitar,
do a few little bars and night clubs and with that money I'd buy American
paperbacks which were available in France, and I'd come back with my
guitar and a suitcase full of Alfred Bester. Most of the science fiction
I read I bought in Paris, and I wasn't that keen on it either. What
happened was I read Bester's 'Stars My Destination' in Paris
in I think '57 and I thought "Christ this is brilliant!" I'd
never read science fiction as such before - I'd read some fantasy, Edgar
Rice Burroughs and Conan etc., never read any science fiction, never
had any tendency towards it. Read 'Stars My Destination' and
'Tiger, Tiger' and thought "bloody hell, if this is science
fiction this is great stuff!" I've never found a book as good as
that since, but I went on buying them in the hope that I'd get something
as good as it ..(laughs).. The only other science fiction I discovered
after that was about joining Starfleet and learning to be a man - I
mean, it might as well have been John Wayne ..(chuckles)..
So really in the 1950's I wasn't writing much science fiction, I was
writing journalism - nearly all the stuff I was doing was comic strips
for 'Thriller Picture Library', 'Robin Hood' and 'Kit Carson',
'Billy The Kid', Buck Jones', Buffalo Bill', and I did stuff for
'Lion' and 'Tiger' which at the time were 'Zip Nolan
of the Highway Patrol' and Captain Condor' and stuff like
that. So I got a job working for Fleetway, that was in the late '50's,
and by that time I'd got a bit sick of the general seediness of the
small gig scene - I think what I did was I got out of music at exactly
the wrong time, just as things like the Stones and the Yardbirds started
beginning to take off. I was a purist, erm... You had a choice. You
either stay in the sleazy coffee bars basically and be lucky if you
made ten bob a night, probably a damn sight less - half a crown a night
was probably more like it - and stick to what you thought was good.
Or you could go to Denmark Street and get 'tin pan alleyed'. And you
had friends who'd suddenly turn up in powder blue rinses, powder blue
draps suits with cigars in their top pockets - well, that was really
big news - and they were the ones who'd gone into the commercial pop
scene and we that was not worth it, even if you did get an MG. I remember
going down the Flamingo one night, wondering what all these tennyboppers
were doing down there, because normally it was at least 50% black people
just enjoying the music and suddenly it was nothing but little tennyboppers
and you couldn't actually get in, and it was because Georgie Fame had
suddenly become a star.
So although I kept an interest up and I'd still jam with people, I gradually
just got to do more and more journalism and started doing the Elric
stories for 'Science Fantasy Magazine'. Again, I wasn't much
of an enthusiast for fantasy by that time, I was really writing either
general fiction or general non-fiction, but Ted Carnell was the editor
at the time, he commissioned the Elric stories, he asked for them and
I did them, it's just like doing any other job I was asked to do. And
I thought "well, if I can do this I'm gonna try and do something
that's a bit different and I'm not just gonna churn out the same old
crap" and whether I did or not is a matter for dispute ..(chuckles)..
But that's what I felt. At the time they were fairly novel for anything
that did appear in the magazine, so I started doing those and they went
over well with the audience and so I drifted into writing science fiction
It wasn't as well paid as the other stuff but I could see that you actually
got royalties off books, but journalism you just wrote it - that was
it, you couldn't get any further money or anything. It was as much as
anything a common sense decision. I could see all these old journalists
around me day in, day out, just drinking themselves into a hole in the
ground very quickly, they were leading such crappy lives by the time
they got to 40.
I left Fleetway and went on the road, hitchhiking round Europe, and
wound up in Sweden which was virgin territory. There was about three
people who could play guitar and two of them played classical guitar
so you didn't have to be very good to pick up work, cos they all thought
it was marvellous, you know, ..(dutch accent).. "Oh, der bloos!"
- it was Sweden really! ..(laughs loudly).. It was dreadful what you
could get away with ..(chuckles).. Nobody knew any better - they were
into modern jazz in Sweden .. So this was 1960, I just went over there
and found I could get any amount of work, not for particularly big money,
in these little night club places I could get a job which would last
me two or three weeks, usually as a kind of novelty.
I went all over Sweden and then eventually I hitched back to Paris where
I was starving, literally - I passed out. I remember waking up sitting
in a chair in the British Embassy, somebody had found my passport and
taken me there. I jut hadn't eaten anything. I'd run out of money and
my plans had gone wrong and I'd hocked my guitar so I had no means of
making the pathetic living that you can. So then I came back to England
and that's when I heard the Beatles, and I just thought they were bloody
amazing at the time.
Anyway I got interested in rock music again because it seemed to be
possible to do something in music and rock'n'roll that was successful
and good at the same time. So for a little while I was in a band which
did more rehearsing than performing and we changed the name 82 times.
The end result was a record that never got released, a demo LP called
'Suddenly It's A Belly Flop' which was just a bunch of spoof
stuff. Every so often I'd get the guitar out and go along and jam with
somebody or do a bit of rehearsing but never really found I had the
By that time ('64) I was doing New
Worlds and 'New Worlds' took up 24 hours a day, my entire
life was ruined by 'New Worlds' without any doubt. People on
the fringes of it tend to remember it with nostalgia, as an exciting
time with lots going on and lots happening. It was exactly the time
too when the rock scene was getting interesting and everything was kind
of exploding with the Stones and Hendrix,
but in fact although I was very enthusiastic about Hendrix and the Who,
I lost touch pretty much with the mainstream of music. I'd go to a few
gigs but not an awful lot, the Flamingo I still went to and that was
about it really. I developed for some reason a total passion for Zoot
Money's Big Roll Band - I still think Zoot Money's the best keyboard
player that ever came out of this country ..
HF: How did you
first meet up with Dave Brock and Hawkwind, and was your reaction to
MM: That was
'New Worlds' and the underground scene at the time. It was almost
totally based around Notting Hill so I just started getting to know
musicians again cos there were so many people living round there, so
that if you socialised at all it was almost impossible not to know a
few people who were doing music. In fact it was Bob
Calvert and John Trux, who was an underground journalist, who came
round and we were talking about Hawkwind.
I don't think they had a record out at that point, and it was John rather
than Bob, although it was Bob who had actually brought John Trux around,
but I got on very well with John Trux, he said "why don't you come
along and see Hawkwind because Dave and Nik like your stuff."
The story of the origin of Hawkwind's name has
changed so many times, but at the time the story was that it was taken
from 'Hawkmoon' in the 'Runestaff' books and the Wind
bit was because Nik
Turner farted a lot ..(laughs).. I went along to a gig in Shepherd's
Bush and I really liked the whole atmosphere of the band. It fitted
very closely with what I imagined a rock'n'roll band should be and it
wasn't like the image which by that time ('70-71) had got a bit slick,
where you could buy - well, you couldn't actually - buy books which
said, you know, 82 different guitar poses for appearing on stage with,
and it had got a bit like that, sort of a lot of wanking about ..(laughs)..
Which I didn't like. What I liked about Hawkwind was that it was like
a mad spaceship with everybody jaming things in to see what would happen.
Half of it was DikMik just finding out what would happen with the synthesizer,
and Nik used to have his captain's cap at the time, he doesn't wear
it much now but he used to have this captain's or seaman's white cap
and he looked very good 'doing that' ..(chuckles).. So I sort of went
up to a few gigs.
Dave almost immediately asked me if I'd do some
work, but at that time Bob was working with them and it didn't feel
right somehow to move in as Bob was starting up his career, so I felt
a bit awkward about it, I wouldn't do anything. Finally Bob went into
the loony bin, obviously by this time I was involved in it, and Dave
said "could you do something?" and Sonic
Attack was the first thing I did and I was the first person to perform
I was helping organise some free gigs in the Portobello Road under the
motorway and it just naturally happened because I was helping organise
the gigs and so I was involved in it anyway and Dave said "why
the hell don't you do it." I hadn't been on stage for some time,
and I did it. So I said to Bob, until he wanted to come back I would
fill in for him, which is basically what I did, and that was more or
less how it ran thereafter. I did all the first 'Sonic Attack'
on that first stretch and then Lemmy started doing it and I think it
was Lemmy that
finally did the first recorded version. The weird thing is there's no
recorded version of me doing 'Sonic Attack' - there was going
to be but I don't think Dave liked it so it never came off.
HF: How did you
put the lyrics together? Had you framed them on a book or some ideas
MM: No, I just
did it. It seemed to me to be an ideal Hawkwind thing, that was all.
Nearly all the Hawkwind stuff I've done is absolutely specifically for
Hawkwind and usually at Dave's request. My only disappointment is by
not being around enough I haven't recorded as much of my own stuff as
I would've liked to because I do enjoy that, but I'm usually so rusty
anyway that it's not a good idea, I'll only waste peoples time. There
are a few things I've done that still aren't out, partly because they're
not that good ..(chuckles)..
HF: When did
you write the song 'The Black Corridor (Space Ritual)'? Were
you involved with the tour and album?
Black Corridor I didn't write, that was Bob Calvert ripping off
'The Black Corridor' which was a novel of mine. He just used
the opening of the novel.
HF: When did you record 'Dodgem Dude/Starcruiser' and why was
it never released until 1980 on Flicknife, and how did you meet up with
Flicknife's Frenchy and Gina?
MM: That was
weird. What happened was when I was performing with the band quite a
lot I got back into a much more disciplined mode for music and I started
writing songs, more for myself rather then doing them for the band,
and someone, probably Douglas, suggested that I do 'Dodgem Dude'
and 'Starcruiser' as a single, and I said "alright,
why not?". We then went to have lunch with Andrew Lauder who was
then at UA, which was Hawkwind's record label, and we were having lunch
and Andrew said "well, when can we expect to start scheduling the
album?" and I said "what!" and he said "well presumably
you're gonna do us an album", and that was the first I'd ever heard
of it, so I said "alright, yeah, I'll do an album."
It hadn't occurred to me at all to do an album before and a deal was
worked out pretty much on the spot. I thought "this is ridiculous,
I know quite a lot of poor musicians who'd give their eye teeth for
a chance like this." So basically I got together people who hadn't
had any recording experience before, which was a serious mistake, I
think, in many ways, because it took so much longer to do, but nonetheless
I felt that Steve and Graham should have pretty much equal time on the
album. Looking back, I think if I hadn't been so egalitarian I'd have
produced a much better album because it got a bit patchy. The other
thing that happened was the more complicated songs I did - Simon was
so tired at the time that he wouldn't do them, he'd just do everything
in 4:4, so I had to scrap quite a lot of the more complicated stuff.
But I did the single first and it kind of petered out in a way. Everybody
got a bit sick of it so we set it aside, but UA said they would release
'Dodgem Dude' at the same time as New
Worlds Fair because it fitted in. Then UA didn't release it and
didn't pursue it and I had a three album contract and I argued with
UA and by that time I was pretty pissed off in general and I needed
to get on with some fiction.
What happened with 'Dodgem Dude' and 'Starcruiser' was
that it was hanging around at Douglas's office for a long time, and
I went down to the Marquee about three years ago to see a friend's band
and Frenchy was there and says (french accent) "I am a great admirer
of your work" and stuff like that, and he says "Have you got
anything we can do on our label?" and I said "if anything
comes up we'll let you know." I then went up to Douglas's office
a day or two later. I was on the edge of bankrupsy and I'd reached the
point where I just needed to have some idea of how much money was owed
me even if I didn't get the money, and he started bullshitting me, I
mean loads of bullshit, I couldn't take it, it was too much... So then
I got shoved out, and waiting around in the front office I looked at
the tapes that were in the office. There was nobody there, and I saw
my tape, which I'd been asking Douglas about for years, he said "oh,
can't find it, can't find it," so I just said to Linda "will
you put this in your bag. "She didn't quite know what I was doing
but she put it in her bag and then I took it round and gave it to Frenchy
and he released it.