The following interview with Nicholas Calvert was made by Knut Gerwers via e-mail in October 2006.
I’d like to thank Nicholas for his time, his support and especially his openness to talk/write about a few quite private subjects.

KG: What was your and Robert’s favorite way of spending your time? - (Jill allowed me to read a letter, in which he described how he planned a theater-play with you, while strolling through a desolated area around Ramsgate or Cambridge.)

NC: Two of the most memorable things that spring to mind are playing with our tape recorder and going ‘adventuring’. The tape recorder was a never ending source of amusement for me as child. I used to sit with my Dad and take it in turns to continue stories – a kind of Calvert Jakonary.
Some of these tapes still exist and are rather amusing, I think one of them must have been overdubbed at a later date as it drifts seamlessly from a rather Lovecraftian version of The Three Little Pigs into some poetry my father had recorded.

One of the very earliest memories I have of spending time with Robert was exploring the poppy fields at the back of our home in Ramsgate. To me, it seemed as if they had sprung up out of nothing; one day they weren’t there, the next they were.
I told my father what I had noticed, he agreed it was very odd and insisted we explore them. Rather than going headlong in, this was a rather measured affair. We sat and planned it meticulously - even down to the ‘adventurers’ toolkit we would need.
I went to stay with my grandparents for the weekend, keeping in touch with my parents on the telephone. When I spoke to Robert I was informed he had managed to source an ‘adventurers’ kit and that everything was ready. He described it in the most wonderful detail; it contained an elephant gun, some rope, a variety of knives for cutting foliage and a tent – everything we would need. I gleefully returned home on Sunday night to find this was a complete figment of his imagination and also experienced my earliest feelings of disappointment. In this respect I think I was sometimes both the benefactor and victim of my fathers – shall we say, over enthusiasm.

Overall I was an incredibly lucky child and I received a lot of good input from both my father and my mother

KG: A very general question... nevertheless: How’s your memory of Robert as a/your father?

NC: This is actually a surprisingly difficult question to answer.
I remember him as a very complex individual; even from the perspective of a five year old child this was obvious. At times he could be the most encouraging and eager father, at other times, when he was working, he could be the complete opposite.
It would also be foolish not to think my memory of him has been glorified over the years, yes I put him on a pedestal but I also remember the bad times. I remember the arguments and raised voices that came when he was experiencing a ‘bout’ of mania. I remember how upset my mother got. Ultimately though, I remember him as a loving father and more importantly a loving person. I think that’s the most important thing for anyone to remember.

KG: I guess that the view of one’s father, who died that early, must change quite a lot over the years. It must have taken a good few years before you learnt about ALL the things he did in his short live. Has the knowledge of his works changed your - private/remembered - perception of him? - Do you or can you make a difference btw. The father and the artist? (IF there is any sense in such a difference...)

NC: Yes, it has changed it to a certain extent. There is only so much you can pick up as a five year old child and this dulls with time. Reading his body of works and also relationships I have with his friends have ‘filled in the blanks’ so to speak.
I think my perception of him is not entirely real, as it is combined of all these different aspects – I haven’t known this man for 25 years but it feels like I have. While it isn’t real in the strictest sense of the word, it is very real to me.
I don’t think there is any difference between the father and the artist, the father WAS the artist.

KG: Robert is well known for his - let’s call it mood-swings - which he was probably benefiting and suffering from. Do you remember to notice any signs of his ‘mental instabilities’ from the time you spent with him - and if so, how do you remember them?

NC: Yes, totally. I remember it getting so bad that in the last 3 months of his life my mother and I moved out of our family home and in with her parents. Sometimes it wasn’t pretty, but it was never, ever malicious and I was acutely aware of that even as a child.

Things happened around that time that I can only put into perspective now, as an adult. For instance, I remember, quite vividly, being taken to a mental hospital to see my father. I also remember a doctor coming to the house and administering a sedative to Robert because he hadn’t slept for several days. I’m quite glad I have these fragments of memory, as, in retrospect, it has given me the opportunity to have a personal and adult view of my father I might not otherwise have been able to have. If that makes sense.

KG: Do other people - especially from your generation - at times come up with your father’s name - or is he *the guy who was with Hawkwind / the band that had this Silver Machine one-hit-wonder*?

NC: Generally, people of my generation don’t know who Hawkwind or Robert Calvert were and I kind of like this. I don’t think I have any of the problems Dwizel Zappa has, bless him. The only time it ever comes up is in conversation with older people, normally at Hawkwind concerts! It’s a very niche thing...

KG: If people ask you what your father did - and what his special talents where - how would you describe him?

NC: If they asked me who he was I’d say he was an author, a writer; who fell in with a bunch of really nice, well meaning hippies. If they asked me what he did, id say he did far too much to be regarded in the meager way he is today.

KG: It’s easy to see, that Robert never achieved real fame, or at least a kind of critical acclaim, that his manifold and often pioneering work would deserve. What do you think were / still are the major obstacles for getting his work into the public eyes and ears?

NC: I don’t think there is any obstacle now, except time and hard work. This is the right time for that kind of work to make it to the public eye, perhaps the only time. I’m going to try very hard to make sure it does.

KG: You told me that you wrote a couple of songs and that you’re spending a lot of time
on your writing. Do you see a familiarity of interest in subject-matters / your view of people/the world?
(Maybe a shared interest in new technologies / psychic/mental „phenomenon’s" / moral issues...)
- and are there any certain characteristics you recognize in yourself, that you could/would track down to your father’s personality?

NC: It’s funny you should ask this as I think about it often.
I think the way my mind works is very similar to my fathers; I am very inquisitive and easily become obsessed with ideas – unable to think about anything else until my mind is sated. However, there are two very distinct differences between the two of us. Firstly I have a fraction of the energy he had, I don’t suffer or benefit from any of that manic drive.
Secondly, and this is probably the most distinct difference, we grew up in very, very different times. I think the environment you grow up in and the people you meet really shape the subject matters you are interested in.
If you look at ‘Hype’, or the unpublished book ‘There at the Turnstile’, there is some very personal stuff born form living in that time. I think I have been influenced by my generation in a similar way.
Moving on from this, and I’m probably going to contradict myself here, I think we also share the same core interests and basic morality. I am fascinated by the stories you can tell with genres like Science Fiction and Fantasy. I am also very interested in the human mind, a lot of what I write about features stream of consciousness and exploration of ‘normal’ thought processes; am I really thinking this, why am I thinking this, should I be thinking this etc I think I have definitely inherited these things from Robert.

Overall I am a strong believer in there being very little to the nature/nurture argument; it’s all nature as far as I am concerned. I see large chunks of so many people in me, my mother, my father, my grandfather – even my half brother and sister who I only met very recently.

KG: Could you point out - maybe in a short list of words, the main characteristics you see/sense in Robert’s works?

NC: There are so many characteristics, so many different types of work this is quite hard to do.
Futurism’ is the biggest one, which was Robert through and through. ‘Morality’ and ‘Love’ are two others that spring to mind. People say my father never wrote a love song.

"When I’m working, working on my machine, I think about you; I think about what you mean."

To me, that is one of the most poignant lyrics from a love song ever.

KG: What are your favorites amongst your father’s
work(s)? / Why?

NC: I will probably draw a bit of fire here but my favorite album has to be Hype. Yes, it’s considered the most accessible but I think people are missing the point. Musically, if you look at what he’s trying to do its amazing, each of those songs is a carefully crafted pastiche with original ideas thrown in for good measure. That’s not an easy thing to do.

‘There at The Turnstile’ is my favorite written work. This is an unpublished and possibly partially biographical novel about a young boy exploring the emerging world of 1960s London. My father was always on record as saying he wanted to sit down and write a ‘healthy’ novel, something not many authors are able to do. I think this was it.
My favorite poem is ‘Married’, I just think it’s a really sweet collection of words and probably means more to me than most people.

My absolute favorite thing he ever did was ‘The Kid from Silicon Gulch’. This is just such a truly remarkable work, the reasons why are hard to quantify.
I hear some people saying Robert planned out British synth-pop ten years before it happened. If you really want to see something scarily before its time, look at this… Except you can’t, because it doesn’t exist anymore – brilliant eh?

KG: Do you - possibly together with Jill - have any plans to (re)-release any of your father’s works that haven’t been published yet - or that are out of print?
(personally I think that especially the The Kid from Silicon Gulch project, which I consider one of his very best works is criminally underrated - quite a shame it never was released in one form or another...)

NC: I wholeheartedly agree with you as far as ‘The Kid’ goes.
My main concern are the two novels, ‘Hype’ and ‘There at The Turnstile’, I really want to get these published and out there as I think there is a huge amount of people who would enjoy them.
The music is a difficult and murky subject as I’m sure you know. Jill is currently working quite closely with Voice Print to get the oddities and unreleased stuff out there and accessible to the fans. Watch this space, as they say. Things are picking up.

KG: Apart from the inevitable feeling/pain of such a loss: What’s Robert’s "role" in your life today? Is he a point of reference you’re thinking about - maybe especially in regard to your own writing - and/or other parts of your life?

NC: He is many things to me. It may sound clichéd, but he is still able to be there for me whenever I want him; through all the things he left behind. I am so incredibly lucky, lots of people have lost a parent but not many people gain a body of personal, artistic work when they do.
He is a benchmark for me in some respects, I certainly don’t aspire to be him or imitate him but if I can produce something artistically that I think he would enjoy and appreciate I will be a happy man.

KG: Do you have dreams in which your father appears? - and how does he "show up"? In the age you remember him / older or younger?

NC: My father appeared to me in dreams almost constantly throughout my childhood; the strange thing was this dream world was persistent. We would pick up and continue conversations, continue to do things we had started. He looked as he always did, behaved as he always did... One day this stopped, pretty much around the same time I became an adult.
I’ll let you drawn your own conclusions to this.



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