> Words, Quotes & Relations <

> OF BY ABOUT <


> Robert Newton Calvert <


> CALVERT ACCORDING TO CALVERT <


  Below you'll find a selection of statements by Calvert, focusing on specific works and projects he was working on, his obsessions and subjects - shedding some light onto Calvert's character, his views, working-times and methods, the circumstances of his life and work and quite a few other things. This selection has been compiled from interviews, articles and letters.  

To get this evergrowing assemblage of words
into some sort of shape, the following statements
and
fragments are broken up in three parts:

 
  • Calvert according to Calvert / below

  • The World according TO Calvert

  • The World according ON Calvert
  •  


    This division is certainly somewhat vague - as there are various cross- references between these parts - especially between the CALVERT ON CALVERT and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CALVERT sections - references between his works and statements on it and his views and obsessions that often inspired these works... but such is life.

    CALVERT according to CALVERT

    "Anyone who knows my work would realise that however bad
    they might think it is, it's all intentional." R.C.


           The following selectin is roughly divided in 5 parts:



  • Calvert on his work & working strategies in general
  • on some specific works of him / in chronological order
  • on his character and personal situation(s)
  • the influence of his work
  • stories & anecdotes


  • ROBERT CALVERT ON...






    Calvert according to Calvert


      On his body of work (and Italian dilletants):
    "What I`ve achieved so far seems to be a rather diverse body of work that has to be looked at as a whole, really. The songs and the poems, and the plays I've done, the one book I've done so far, the book I'm doing at the moment, and other's I think I will be doing, will have to be looked at, if I live long enough, as sort of different facets of the same output, rather than just firing off in different directions. I hope I'm not a sort of - what's the Italian word? - "dilettante". I hope I`m not one of those. I don't like Italians very much!"



    On his working strategies - 4/81:

    "My background was in building. My father is a master builder, and my brother's a quantity surveyor. I started up doing structural engineering.
    The way I approach the staging of things is in effect what a chartered surveyor, or a structural engineer would do, to see what your budget is for your materials and do a quantity study on how best you can use these materials, or like a civil engineer designing a bridge (...) You`ve got a stage, you`ve got a certain budget or system of equipment to use. If somenoe says, "Look, here`s a projection screeen, 5 musicians, 3 dancers, 2 actors etc., do me a show, that`s the sort of thing I can work very well with. I find that a greater stimulus than someone saying, "Look `ere, here`s a totally unlimited resource. You can have Mount Fujiyama, combined with a complete flotilla of aircraft carriers, do anything you like, I don`t think I`d be able to come up with very much. I think I'd spend most of the time sitting abound dreaming of what would be possible "
    On his working times:
    When I finished work (I work at night - I'm definitely an insomniac) - I work these peculiar hours between ten at night to five in the morning which may not seem like long hours to people who do real work, but the rest of the time I'm thinking about it. After I've finished, I get into bed and put a tape on and watch about three movies before I go to sleep. This is the most bizarre thing - the birds are singing outside and there are movies on TV."



    On his method of songwriting:

    "What I do is mess about with the guitar until I find something that works, an interesting chord progression for example. As I find it difficult to play a riff and sing at the same time, I put that guitar part down on a Revox and I can nearly always find a vocal line to go over the top because most of my tunes come straight into my head and what I usually find is that I tend to restrict my lyrics to fit my melody lines.
    (...) Songwriting is like any other task of making something - it`s a very boring process. (...) It`s like laying eggs - a lot of squawking before a final shape arrives."



    On his working method:

    "My whole approach to work is different from that of the Hawkwind's. They're improvisers, but I meditate for a long time over something before I commit it."



    On the literary and theatrical aspects + antics of his work with Hawkwind:

    "„It’s all very tied to fantasy and science fiction, obviously. What I’m doing with the band is a very literary thing really, in that it’s about words and images. In many respects it’s more to do with the theatre than it is with music. Mine’s an acting job really, I have to embody what the music’s about, which is, I suppose, heroic fantasy really. Roger Zelazny type science fiction heroics. Comics don’t really come into it. I never really liked comics. No, I think the influence stems more from a paperback novel of not the highest cerebral level. Not like JG Ballard. More Pulp science fiction, like Michael Moorcock or Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley (around which Calvert has written one of Hawkwind’s more compelling stage songs.) (...)
    There’s a whole culture that’s acceptable in pulp novel terms. Jules Verne rather than H.G.Wells. We even get letters from University people, in the States in particular,who have found parallels between science fiction and the literature of the past and who can fit Hawkwind into that scheme. I still think we’re closely aligned with that, but when it comes down to something like 'Uncle Sam’s On Mars', it’s a little more serious. (...)
    We only do things that excite us. We do all sorts of things to keep it going when we’re on stage. It’s spontaneous lunacy really. One night on the last tour Dave Brock and I both had guns that fired blanks and we had a shoot-out on stage. Everything stopped and we started firing at one another. The audience must have thought we were insane but it’s things like that that keep it all alive for us. If we get bored with anything then we invariably drop it. We would like an audience to have the same reaction seeing what we’re doing as we would if we were to go and see ourselves:
    A polished and astonishing act. That’s how I see it all developing. With more props and theatricals used not as gimmicks and effects but with a degree of artistry and skill to mean something of some sort of value, as well as making good entertainment."
    > read the entire article/interview



    On his fascination for the negative - or rather ambiguous protagonist - 4/74:

    "I find something fascinating about the arms dealer as a figure - I always had a sneaking admiration when I was a kid for the bad man in the Westerns who incited the Indians to attack the farmers and then supplied both sides with arms."



    On Science Fiction and sources of inspiration - 12/78:

    "I don`t like SF that much. Nobody in this band (Hawkwind) is particularly an SF fanatic. I think for a practitioner of that kind of thing, in literature or music, there are much more intersting sources of inspiration to be found outside this field altogether, in newspapers, and magazines like "Scientific American", which is where the Quark, Strangeness and Charm idea came from.
    Most SF is trash, actually...



    On his early days, bands, his involvement with Hawkwind and his aspirations to become a "durable star" - after his Forties....:

    I was born in South Africa of English parents. My father`s in the building trade - a kind of "Meisterbuilder" in the Ibsen tradition. We moved to England when I was three, and my parents went back when I was in my teens. My first band was when I was 15.
    It was called "Oliver Twist and the Lower Third", and we played round the Margate dancehalls. The next outfit was "Mordecai Sludd and the Others". We were kind of satirical - a bit like the Bonzos (Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) though it was a lot earlier.
    Unfortunately, there wasn`t a lot of demand for satire round the dancehalls, so we had a rather rough time. I remember I used to wear luminous socks... Then I turned very snobbish and decided to be a poet instead of a singer. I even got snobbish about music for a short time, decided it was an inferior form. I used to enjoy sitting in churchyards and reading Verlaine, Keats, Shelley, Dylan Thomas.
    God I was naive! I thought you could make a living as a poet!

    When I moved to London I had an exhibition of environmental poetry at the Roundhouse "Better Place to Live" exhibition. I got involved with the underground as soon as I came to London. I looked on myself as a kind of anti-literary establishment guerilla. I hated the weak impact of straight poetry, and realised that the only way to get through to people is through music. I began working for "Frendz" writing fiction.
    I'd known HAWKWIND before they even formed, and we shared some anti-establishment attitudes. I still don`t like iambic pentameters. I am more interested in what a poem can do - what a piece of music is good for. What I liked about Hawkwind is that they were experimenters you could understand. You either liked them or you didn't - there was no "should" about it. I remember my time with HW as an endless succession of flashing gigs. I wrote a fantastic hymn to the sun at Glastonbury Fayre, and lost it the same day. That really was the high point of the British Underground.
    Looking back, it`s impossible to put things in any chronological order. Everything happened at the same time. Really, only someone who`s seriously experimented with pharmaceutical agents could understand....

    I know that I'd only like to be a star like George Bernhard Shaw - durable.
    A rock star's got such a short life expectancy, and it's difficult to change direction. I'd alwas like to be fluid. I won't be a star till I'm over forty. Which is cool - neither was Shaw!"



    On the french absurdist writer Alfred Jarry`s "pataphysical" approach and how Silver Machine came out of it:

    (Warning to all you Hawkwind space-cadets: this may lead to a serious demolition of all illusions about this supposedly psychedelic-spacey-song...sorry 'bout that...):
    "I read this essay by Alfred Jarry (author of "Ubu Roi / King Ubu") called, "How to Construct a Time Machine", and I noticed something which I don't think anyone else has thought of because I've never seen any criticism of the piece to suggest this. I seemed to suss out immediately that what he was describing was his bicycle. He did have that turn of mind. He was the kind of bloke who'd think it was a good joke to write this very informed sounding piece, full of really good physics (and it has got some proper physics in it), describing how to build a time machine, which is actually about how to build a bicycle, buried under this smoke-screen of physics that sounds authentic.
    Jarry got into doing this thing called 'Pataphysics', which is a sort of French joke science. A lot of notable French intellectuals formed an academy around the basic idea of coming up with theories to explain the exceptions to the Laws of the Universe, people like Ionesco the playwright.
    The College of metaphysics. I thought it was a great idea for a song. At that time there were a lot of songs about space travel, and it was the time when NASA was actually, really doing it. They'd put a man on the moon and were planning to put parking lots and hamburger stalls and everything up there. I thought that it was about time to come up with a song that actually sent this all up, which was 'Silver Machine'.
    'Silver Machine' was just to say, I've got a silver bicycle, and nobody got it. I didn't think they would. I thought that what they would think we were singing about some sort of cosmic space travel machine. I did actually have a silver racing bike when I was a boy. I've got one now, in fact."



    On FRENDZ, other underground magazines and the decline of collective energy:
    "Those papers were actualy having international circulations (...) FRENDZ had quite a wide circulation for an underground paper, so had "International Times". They were also creating quite a stir at the time; there were court cases and the police were taking notice, they were raiding offices. It was good fun to be invoved in all that, it was very much a key part of the underground movement."
    (...) We are actually living in a period of very little collective activity. Obviously activities are going on, but they don`t seem to be collectively in any common root or any sort of common understanding. You have riots going on, you have wars going on, terrorism going on, there`s no sort of consciousness explosion of any kind that was taking place in the late Sixties & early Seventies. And obviously the demise of the underground magazines of that time is reflective of the fact that the whole thing declined. (...)
    Diversification has really got hold of everything, it`s almost like alien cultures on one planet nobody really seems to be able to see eye to eye at all."



    On Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters - 5/73:

    "Although I am known as a poet and songwriter, it's been my ambition to become a playwright. Since I was a young boy I`ve always wanted to be connected with aircrafts - ideally as an "ace".
    I`ve grown up with the Starfighter jets, which have accounted for the lives of many young pilots. It has become so much a part of me that I`ve had to write about it in order to get it out of my system. (...) What concerns me is getting the play (on the Lockheed album) staged at somewhere like the Roundhouse. I want it to be a theatrical event in the true sense. Like those in the Elizabethan era. The story is a true one about the German Airforce under the direction of Franz Joseph Strauss, who allgedly for political gain revitalised it with 700 Starfighter jets. As we know, many of them have crashed, giving them names like "Jinx-Jets" and Widow-Makers. A more popular name now is a "Flying Coffin". The play is a comical tragedy - it`s a good way to put across a heavy idea, although 159 crashed jets is no joke."



    On the concept of Captain Lockheed & his mental instability:

    I've a tendency to be manic-depressive and the thought of not having regular sleep and meals is too much for me to take. What I'm planning is to stage the play at somewhere like the Roundhouse. A concept album will also follow. People like Vivian Stanshall, Keith Moon, Neil Innes, Arthur Brown - who`ll be the Gremlin and perhaps Jim Capaldi will also be doing something towards the production. Being a hypo-maniac and consequently having mental disturbances means that I need to be seen in one place at a time, and by staging the play, I`ll be able to do just that.



    On Capt. Lockheed and the planned stageplay/concert version of it:

    The music is based on the Germanic hypnotic riffs that Hawkwind use. The thing derives from the Velvet Underground primitive rhythms, but also using the technology of music.
    The drama is in short scenes and the songs are a commentary on those scenes and an extension of them and take you on to the next scene. Rather what Bertolt Brecht called epic theatre in the thirties.
    I have tried to present the situation in terms that are my interpretation of the events, using my humour. The whole thing was laughed at by everyone in Germany except the relatives of pilots that were killed. The plane wasn`t designed to perform all the functions, including assault and battery the Gemans wanted it to do, the instruction manual was always changing, the pilots were constantly flying a new experimental plane and the ground staff were only conscripts who couldn`t care less about it anyway."
    On the cancelling of the stageplay/concert version of "Captain Lockheed": - A spokesman told NME:
    "There are two seperate reasons for cancelling the tour. The first is that Calvert is now under new management, who consider that the cost of the proposed tour would be prohibitive. After all, it was to have been an elaborate show, complete with sets, and a one-nighter itinerary on this basis would have presented many problems. Then again, Calvert himself is not keen on the idea of touring."
    >



    On Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters - 8/73:

    Arthur Brown is definitely the bloke to play the Gremlin - that`s the mythological thing that pilots talk about jokingly as causing faults. And I think Eno would be wonderful as a lounging, laconic pilot. I want to use melody as a way of conveying lyrics; two of my favourite song writers are Noel Coward and Cole Porter."



    On Lucky Leif and the Longships - Sounds, 11/75:

    The idea for the album came to me as a spin-off from a sort of Jacobean gangster musical I've written. The music itself deals with America in the prohibition period, and this, in some strange ways, prompted me to start thinking about the Vikings. You see it struck me, when I was doing some background reading, that it was very funny that when the Vikings dicovered America they should call the place Vinland, the land of wine, and that later the country should develop a bad drinking problem. So, I started reading translation of the Vinland sagas, which I could see as being relevant to the prohibition days.
    Then I had a very good idea for an album."



    On: Lucky Leif and the Longships - NME 9/75:

    All the tracks have got more than one musical reference. I tried to keep the cross reference between American culture and Scandinavian foklore and ancient myths. Brian Eno made a lot of difference. We both had to compromise. I really wanted his more objective view, it's easy to imagine that an ideas's working out when in fact it isn't . I still think Eno's the best producer I could possibly have had. The recording went like a dream.
    We did have some friendly arguments while we were working. Originally I wanted some dialogue sketches between the tracks, to help along the narrative. But Eno advised me that dialogue and humour don't really work on an L.P. I decided he was right, and we left out the talking. But the storyline`s still there. People had said that each track`s too isolated, and the album doesn't flow. But to me, it`s just a different kind of flow. At the time I was writing "Lucky Leif" I was very impressed by Peter Barnes approach to theatre. It`s a magpie kind of attitude - taking aspects of lots of theatrical genres, anything from music hall to Shakespeare. That`s what I tried to do; to be eclectic not for the sake of it, but when it seems appropriate.



    On an abandoned stage show on the "Dan Dare" character:

    Calvert - shortly before Hawkwind`s `75 headlining gig at the Reading festival, that marked Calvert`s permanent return on a full-scale to the band: "I`ve just finished writing a scenario for a stage show which is based on a character we all know and love. It`s a theatrical story with a plot, character`s actors, as well as music. The project revolved around Dan Dare, the Eagle comic character, and was supposed to actively involve Hawkwind, but never came to see the light of day. I wrote a script for the whole thing. Everyone was behind it, it was just a matter of trying everything up, legally. Unfortunately someone else stepped in with an offer for the Dan Dare rights, bought them up and left me high and dry." This actually marked Calvert's second major set-back in the field of theatre / music-shows, after the Captain Lockheed stage-show was cancelled by his new management, very shortly before it was meant to hit the road.



    On his lyrics and interpretation of Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf:

    The original idea came with Adrian Wagner, who asked me to write a song about living in cities and I was re-reading Steppenwolf at the time. It seemed to me that there was a strong myth in it about city life and it gave me the basic idea. Adrian played me the song he had written and I put the words to it. 'Steppenwolf' was a borrowed figure from the only Hermann Hesse book I can actually stand. I think "Steppenwolf" is a great book and Harry Haller is a fascinating character. He`s a sort of the last of the great romantic heroes, a solitary figure who stays in his room writing poetry and letters in a smoking jacket. The hero figure is something I am fascinated in, mostly in sending up. I didn't take it really seriously, it's not a case of wanting to be the hero. I wanted to be laughed at. I wanted to be funny, although I think a lot of people took it as being more sinister. I must confess I didn't really see anything funny in it myself, that was one of the more serious pieces, but the rest of it was meant to be quite comic. I think there was an element of tongue in cheek in "Steppenwolf". It was definetely over the top. The melodrama elements were not spared in it. I was really trying to do two things. If you take two almost opposite things and mix them together in the right proportions, you get an effect which is quite resonant. The idea was to have the Werewolf films combined with Hesse's ManWolf with a big distinction between the two." - the illustrated STEPPENWOLF - plus sound files -
    > more on STEPPENWOLF from the ACTION MAN interview by Nazer Ali Khan:
    'Steppenwolf' was a borrowed figure from the only Herman Hesse book I can actually stand. I think 'Steppenwolf' is a great book and Harry Haller is a fascinating character. He's not really a hero by any means, although he's sort of the last of the great romantic heroes, a solitary figure who stays in his room writing poetry and letters in a smoking jacket. The hero figure is something I am fascinated in, mostly in sending up. I didn't really take it very seriously, it's not a case of wanting to be the hero. I wanted to be laughed at. I wanted to be funny, although 'Steppenwolf' I think a lot of people took as being more sinister. I must confess I didn't really see anything funny in it myself, that was one of the more serious pieces, but the rest of it was meant to be quite comic. I think there was an element of tongue in cheek in 'Steppenwolf'. It was defiantly over the top. The melodrama elements were not spared in it. I was really trying to do two things. If you take two almost opposite things and mix them together in the right proportions, you get an effect which is quite resonant. The idea was to have the Werewolf films combined with Hesse's ManWolf with a big distinction.



    On the Cricket Star single:

    I wanted to make a reggae single, as a sort of send-up of reggae. In those days reggae wasn`t a commercially viable music. (...) It is meant to be a joke, and is is a joke...I haven`t heard the song since then, I don`t know how good it is, but it isn`t the original tape unfortunately. The original tape was in fact so authenticaly reggae-sounding that the director of United Artists, was absolutely horrified, he wanted to have nothing to do with it at all."



    On another later abandoned theatre-project which Calvert had finished writing around `77 - combining the strange and fatal coincidencies of the late Rolling Stone Brian Jones and the "lone sailor" Donald Crowhurst, who died in mysterious circumstances during a Sunday Times marathon yacht race.
    "A lot of the things that were happening to Brian Jones were happening to Donald Crowhurst. The play is full of strange circumstances because they were both driven to a kind of suicide by inadequacy and the drive of ambition for fame. They were carried along by the publicity. The point I`m trying to make in the play is to show the pressures individuals have to put up with when they`re faced with the whole Rolling Stones machine or the Sunday Times.
    At the end of the play Brian Jones and Donald Crowhurst meet up with each other after they`ve died and they have a kind of underwater conversation."
    >> READ more about this project



    On Quark, Strangeness and Charm - interview for "Rock-on", BBC Radio; 6/77:

    "Quark" is one of the few albums available at the moment which is very much in touch with the modern world, and Hawkwind is a band which has always been in touch with the modern world, in spite of what people say in the press, boringly and interminably, that we are left over from a peace and love psychedelic era, which we were in fact, a part of, but we were still very much in touch with what was outside of that - that revolution at the time, and we still are. The album`s title itself is an expression of modern physics terminology ... You will find on this album a selection of musical and poetical interpretations of the world we live in, including the threat, not only of nuclear war, but the threat of the Middle East becoming a very powerful influence on the future of this globe, as they are proving at the moment with their dominance of the energy resources." Illustrated version of the lyrics for QUARK, STRANGENESS & CHARM



    On a strangely vanished project around a character named "Luigi Brilliantino":

    "Luigi Brilliantino, the Italian hairdresser has become this gangster musical ("a sort of Jacobean gangster musical") which I told you about earlier. I got so involved with the whole thing, and I was very anxious to present it on stage, but when I'd finished writing it I had an immense script that would probably have run for three hours. So I had to cut it down to workable size. It`s being polished and perfected right now - I've completed the dialogue and stage directions, Andy Roberts is currently writing the music. (...) I would like to do something on a "Jesus Christ Superstar" scale, but what I`ve written is slightly too nasty. It`s full of nasty humour - the sort of humour I like - with lots of verbal excess and dark and and devious plots. (...) More like the "Rocky Horror Picture Show, although my musical has much less to do with suspender belts." - another article - 4/74, mentions this project as the follow up to "Captain Lockheed" under the title "The Ride and Fall of Luigi Brilliantino".
    "The play is set in Chicago of 1928-35 and traces the story of Luigi, who sets out from Sicily to avenge the murder of his father and his mother`s remarriage with the murderer. Calvert says it has an Oedipus-style twist at the end so you may be assured that his literary reference points are respectable. He has gone some way into writing words and dialogue for the presentation, which he calls "another black comedy". The music for this will be a kind of "swingrock" - rock music with a basis in the swing band sound of the Thirties. Although the subject matter is to be weighty, Bob insists that the treatment will have an element of parody which will make the music appropriate."



    On The Kid from Silicon Gulch and the practical aspects of the Shakesperean era:

    "What gave me the idea to do a detective play is the fact that I`ve got this really battered old raincoat, like a detective`s raincoat. This is the way, I think, good art is produced. The Elizabethans did marvellous things with their theatres. It was a tradition. This is why Shakespeare`s plays are all the same in format, if you look at them. They have all all got one big court scene, or a big scene on a heath somewhere. They`ve all got these big set pieces and it was very easy for the theatres to do them, they had the facilities, the costumes and the actors to do it. "Right, this is the old court scene lads, on with the old cossies, get the throne out" - because they were all in store, you see. So I think it's a great challenge to work to budgets.
    The limitations start to happen when you get other people in with ideas that conflict. This is the real limitation, working with people whose ideas are not the same as yours."
    > Click HERE for an extensive feature on THE KID FROM SILICON GULCH -
    really one of Calvert's masterpieces - incl. images, animations, sounds a.m.



    On Calvert`s first published novel Hype and the record by the same title - from a 1982 radio interview:

    "HYPE focuses on the music business but it isn`t based on my own experiences as such. It is derived obviously from stuff I picked up hanging around record companies.
    I've drawn characters who are recognizable types but not individuals from these experiences, but the story line of the book and the events in it are not based on my own experiences but are fiction. There`s an album included to this novel which is published by New English Library - and they complement each other - as the book describes what happens to a young band who get very badly used by a record company and internal power struggles between two over-ambitious individuals, who use this band as an elaborate game of spy vs. spy. - but it`s not a comedy. I wanted it to be a comedy. When I had initial talks with NEL about doing the book I had very much in mind doing it almost like P.G. Woodhouse would might have written about the music business, had he known about it. I wanted to write about the music business in the late 70s and early 80s the way he wrote about Hollywood in the Twenties. But they talked me around to the way of seeing the potential of writing a thriller about the business which I ended up doing but it has got elements of black humour and sarcasm although the plot is very much a sort of fast moving thriller type plot.
    The album features the songs of the band themselves - the Tom Mahler Band. And that`s going to be released the same time as the book. "
    On the Hype project - from another article and interview:

    "Hype" is a fictional look inside the music industry, centered around a rock star called Tom Mahler. The book is a superb example of pop literature; a fast highly accessible read which is literally unputdownable. Where it jumps ahead of the growing family of rock business exposÚs, however, is in the simultaneous release of an album "Hype" performed by Calvert and featuring the musical talent of Behtnal, with the songs of the book`s hero. "The way the record came about, was because when I was writing the book I had to keep inventing songs to make it credible. Every time I thought of a song-title it seemed necesary to quote a line from it, and suddenly it took shape as a song. This bloke Tom Mahler actually did become quite real to me at one point. I didn`t actually plan to do an album of the book until I was about a quarter of the way into it. It came to me that I`d have to record his songs. One excuse for doing it...I`m not comparing the literary worth to Boris Paternak...but Pasternak, in "Dr. Zhivago" quotes a collection of Zhivago`s poems, and I`d often felt that it was an interesting idea to invent somebody who does something, and then do it - it gives it another dimension of fictional reality." Q: "The book blurb describes you as having been there and made it back again. Do you feel you`ve returned to sanity?"
    "In a way I do feel as though having absolutely stopped any sort of work with Hawkwind at all is a kind of coming back to sanity and reality. I just couldn't go on performing "Silver Machine" over and over again or "Master of the Universe" and all that stuff for the rest of my life. It's not insanity, it can lead to insanity, in my case it has done actually. On one or two occasions I have got very ill over it. (...) The book is not about the band`s situation as much as the actual types who work in the business itself, who are for the most part horrifying examples of humanity. (....) The music business is a world of its own, divorced from everyday reality entirely, and yet it has quite a big influence on it, this is the alarming thing."



    On Ezra Pound, a poet admired by Calvert and about whom he wrote one of his best poems and planned a stage-play about:

    "I want to do this play about Ezra Pound, and actually do the whole thing to the extent on growing a beard like him. I`ve got this marvelous tape of Ezra Pound reading his poetry. He's got an extraordinary voice, like a cross between Irish, Scottish and olde English, which he concsiously developed as a way of speaking himself, totally eccentric. He was arrested for treason by the American forces and locked up in a sort of cage in Italy, and he had a searchlight trained on him night and day so that he couldn't sleep. Eventually he broke down from pure lack of sleep, he collapsed in a catatonic state. But in the meantime, what was fascinating was the way he behaved in this cage which is what the play`s about. His way of passing the time with the guard and with characters of his imagination It`s a play that would be very easy to stage with just two people: one who plays Pound and one who plays the guard, who can change roles and come in as characters that Pound is imagining as well."



    On the Cellar Tapes:

    "The reason I did them was because I know myself would be interested if I could hear the demos made of songs that I`ve liked. I think the demos are often very much more intersting than the finished recordings which are done under such a clinical set-up."
    "The fact that they were recorded on primitive home equipment, some of it home-made, and one in mono, made me wonder, if in this age of digital-compact-no-noise-ultra-high- clarity-recording, they might seem like fossils of wire-recordings dug up out of a time- capsule - perhaps that is part of their charm." (24/1/87)



    On The Earth Ritual poems:

    I wouldn't say I was an urban poet. If you are going to be rude about it, I am more of a sub-urban poet at the moment. I wrote "The Earth Ritual" book as a deliberate escape, obviously taking the Space Ritual and putting it back down to earth as a title, to approach subject matter from a different perspective other than speculative or science fiction thinking processes. But I think that a number of the poems still come out as science fiction - if you didn't actually fully realise that this book was meant to be a down-to-earth view of reality I think you probably would suspect that it was still science fiction, like the title poem itself has a lot of SF references in it, and most of the poems in it do, actually, and refer back. A lot of them refer back to pre-history which again is hardly a suburban or urban outlook to constantly be placing things, say woodlice, in the perspective of evolution.



    On (another un-realised) project and himself being diagnosed as schizophrenic in his youth:

    article: Calvert also has another solo project up his sleeve, " a painful sort of album" about a teenage schizophrenic for which he hopes to get together with label-mate R. D. Laing. "I was diagnosed as a schizophrenic in my youth, treated as that, but then I was told afterwards that I wasn't actually a schizophrenic at all. It might end up as part of the next Hawklords album."



    On South-Africa, his familiar background and the situation of the self-chosen exile:

    I am in actual fact, in exile from the situation through choice. Although I was brought up in England, my parents went back to South Africa in the early Sixties, and they gave me the chance to stay here or go with them - they weren`t just going to dump me here - and I chose to stay in England which they suggested was not a wise decision on my part. They said England was actually sinking at the rate of one inch per year into the sea!
    It has always been a conflict of attitudes in the family. I`ve always been very much against the system in South Africa and couldn't live there myself, although the rest of my family seem to have no problem dealing with it.
    My feelings about this are expressed as clearly as I can in the poem White Dynasty.
    (...) Although I`ve divorced myself from active participation in an exploitative system, I'm still descend from white fascists who live there, but they are my family, and I must say that the talk about the bloodbath is very disturbing from all points of view, but especially from my personal feelings about it. I have a lot of dreams about South Africa, which is hardly surprising, and I dont really see any easy solution for that situation at all, but then there aren`t any easy solutions for this entire planet anyway."



    On his way to get obsessed by certain subjects - starting from the fact that he recently restored a shed in his own garden - to use it as his "writing shed" - 10/85:

    (...)...our garden was a Science Fiction nightmare of vegetable attempts at world dominiation. Buried in this Burma of weeds was a tumbling down shack. (...)
    While I was building this place I got obsessed to the point that my only topic of conversation was sheds. Shed building. Wood work. Tools. The virtues of various kinds of paint. I was reading doityourself magazines and quoting from them at the breakfast table. My wife acutally broke down in tears at one point - the last time it got this bad was when I formed an obsession with genetic science. I had to write an album of songs to get it out of my system."
    .....and later on Englands wildlife and the advantages of writing in sheds:
    "You just never realize the variety of insectr life that can exist in a mild climate like Englands`s until you start rebuilding a shed. Spiders the size of octupi and Kamikazi squadrons of flies. I hate these things. I`m surrounded by an arsenal of deadly sprays with names like DOOM; MAFU; VAPONA. (Mafu?) I hope they`re not out there planning some dreadful revenge on me. This constant battle against the elements is half the attraction really of writing in a shed. It`s back to nature. It reminds you constantly of the realities of life - that you can easily forget under the glow of electric light with central heating and video. (...) It`s rickety and fly-ridden and spider haunted but on the whole III feel I`m a very lucky man to have this shack.
    This cabin.
    This shed."



    On insomnia and working - 8/84:

    "I do need to get more sleep. But I`m on holiday. It`s great. I haven`t had any leave from my work for over a year now.
    I call it work. But I love doing it so much that I have to have a wife to drag me away from my machines. Otherwise I`d be on them twenty four hours a day."



    On the advantages of an elegant lifestyle:

    "I am going through an elegant phase at the the moment. Clean Shirts and things feel good and uplift me.
    Unfortunately my lifestyle is governed by being a manic-depressive. For instance when I wrote the Lockheed play, I started by sitting on an old boat lying in a cove in Cornwall. It just looked like the remains of a crashed aircraft and just being near helped me to relate to what I was trying to do.
    I completed it in Morocco at a time when I was feeling very depressed."



    On Johnny Rotten - singer of the SEX PISTOLS, the punk-ish attitude of early Hawkwind times and his collaboration / single with Hawkwind - Urban Guerilla:

    "I knew him vaguely from some time ago, but I don't want to blow his image for him." - (article: In fact Calvert admires much of the punk rock scene:) "Johnny Rotten is proving that freedom of speech cannot be taken for granted in this country.
    But while they`re saying decadence is to be despised they`re manifesting another sort of decadence just as much the same sort of star syndrome. We've done punk kind of things - in fact back in 1972, just think of Silver Machine we wanted to follow it up with Urban Guerilla, a very dangerous piece of work actually.
    It was about urban bombing and just after we released it the IRA had a really concentrated attack all over London, so the record was quickly withdrawn. United Artists quite rightly got cold feet about it because it would have been very likely they'd have made a target for a bomb attack."



    On his- and Hawkwind`s influence on various punk bands:

    "There's also the punk connection - if you listen to Born to Go now, it sounds like a punk band; it coud be the Buzzcocks, or someone like that. Indeed, Pete Shelley acutally confessed to us that he'd spent a lot of his early youth listening to albums like the Space Ritual and derived quite a lot of his musical direction from it. Which doesn't surprise me, but this is something which never gets mentioned in the press."
    (Both Brock and Calvert acknowledged some form of acquaintanceship with Johnny Rotten, the spokesman for the Punk and New Wave movements in earlier times, as well as to The Buzzcock's Pete Shelley and The Stranglers. Joe Strummer, head of The Clash cited Hawkwind as an influence when discussing the first Clash album in a widely circulated media interview: "I wanted to do a Hawkwind version of a song that was familiar to us, and we just did it within our limitations." - a proof that the public admittance of your liking of Hawkwind didn't tarnish your street credibility even during the heyday of punk. D. Watson)
    Calvert also worked with Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible of THE DAMNED on various occasions.



    On the -sometimes frightening- effects of (involuntary) living theatre (in combat outfit) ... an almost legendary anecdote from the `77 Hawkwind tour:

    "A combat outfit is unbeatable as a travelling unit. (...)
    Due to circumstances beyond my control it so happened that on this European tour with Hawkwind, I didn`t have enough gear with me to keep changing clothes all of the time.
    So I spent a lot of time wearing this sort of combat outfit., and I ended up, after having a bad scene with rest of the band, being left behind in Paris, wearing this outfit, and being a short haired chap, looking like I could be a British Army officer. I recall the image of actually chasing a silver Mercedes limousine, that had four or five long-haired indivduals in it with the windows all wound up, through the main street of Paris, wearing this uniform.
    This is absolutely true, all the passers by, the people out shopping, stopped dead. It was like a scene out of a movie like "Alphaville". All these people stopped dead in their tracks with their mouths open watching this scene take place, this silver car speeding away with this guy chasing it, wearing this uniform.
    When it got to the traffic lights I was so fucking annoyed with Brock and the others that I tried to get the door open, shaking this vehicle up and down.
    It looked like I was single handedly trying to turn it over and arrest these people in it. When the lights changed, the car went off. It was more like a Woody Allen film than anything else.
    When the car drove off, I was left standing there in this uniform, suddenly realising what on either side of this main throughfare in Paris were all these people shopping, who were used seeing terrorism. (...)

    I think everyone felt this panic. I think they thought , fucking hell, there`s a bomb going to go off any minute somewhere. Is this guy trying to arrest these people? What have they done?
    Are we going to be blown up? (...)

    There was a lot of shooting going on at the time, a lot of explosions, all these Red Brigade people, an a lot of other organisations were there. I had to walk back through the streets, walk the Gauntlet of Stares, wearing this uniform, trying to say, in simple French, hey, look, it`s alright...calm down. I could feel their panic. It was like being on stage, having just discharged a grenade in front of the audience, who are absolutely stunned.

    That to me is an example of the pure power of theatre - I mean it was pure theatre . My actions were theatre for the benefit of Dave Brock and the others, and their behaviour was theatre for me.
    They were showing me that they were fed up with the way I was carrying on. We had a big fucking argument. They were pissed off. It was a mutual demonstration to each other of our discontent that this audience in the street misinterpreted. I could see why immediately.

    It was actually an unfortunate sartorial mistake to wear that gear on that day."
    Read the whole ongoing story on the Calvert / Hawkwind relation page(s).


    more QUOTES:

    The World according TO Calvert  - - -  The World ON Calvert
    biography   NEWS bulletin
    works / part I / II / III   works / part IV / V / VI
    words / lyrics   collab-relations
    Mike Moorcock   R.C. & Hawkwind
    Calv-ART   the spirit behind
    the spirit's home
    contact the spirit
    ...bug me...