from: 'ORBIT 6'


> PART I <

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 some point.

HF: Could you tell us a little about your early life, like birth-place, education, etc.?

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!.." ..(chuckles).

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 that combination.
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 really.
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 time.
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 their music?

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 it.
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?

MM: The 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.

on to
Part II

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Moorcock & Calvert