the following interview has been conducted by Knut Gerwers - it took place in Oct. 1998, when he was on tour with Nik Turner and the swedish avant-rock band The Moor. - due to it's length it's been broken up in 2 parts.

[editors note: at the time this interview took place there has been quite an "argument" going on btw. Nik Turner and Dave Brock, (still) the main musical force and co-founder of HAWKWIND. You'll find a couple of "references" in here - however, in the meantime - to the best of my knowledge - this conflict has been settled and none of the parties involved wish to take it further - and it's certainly not the intention of these pages to get it started once more. so, take this interview for what it is: a "historical" document - from 1998.]

KG: What's the first thing you remember about Robert - when did you get in touch with him initially?

NT: Well I lived just outside Margate and Robert actually lived in Margate or else he was living in Ramsgate. Sometimes he was living at his moms in Margate, in a sort of multi story block and than he lived with his wife as well in Ramsgate - and with his three children. I'd known about him for quite some time, because he was friend of another guy. Friend of mine called Tony Cooper who was a really good sax player and lives in Boston. We just started sort of getting together.

Can you remember which year that was?

Probably 1966 or something like that.

What got you connected - was it your music or...

Well no. He was doing poetry readings around the place and I went to one or a couple of those.

But you already made music yourself?

Yea, I was sort of learning to play the saxophone at the time - and a bit of clarinet.

Do you know when Robert got married for the first time?

I'm not sure no. Probably 1965 or something like that. Earlier, maybe '64 or '63 cause he had children that were... I mean his eldest kid was about six I guess, or something like that.

So he became a father very early on?

Yea I think so, I think they got married or they got involved with each other, when they were 16 or 17.

So, how did it all come together? How did your collaboration start? Did you both move to London?

Well, I lived down in Margate and Westgate for some time and we used to hang out together. I also used to go to Holland quite a lot and that's where I met the people in Hawkwind. And they used to stay at Robert's house in Ramsgate quite frequently. I had a car and we used to whizz around, go out together, and you know, do things. I was going back and forth quite a lot and then - I went to Berlin in 69, and I met a lot of free jazz musicians there - going into the idea of playing free jazz in a rock band. And then, well.... - When Hawkwind came together, I got Bob involved because - well, it was quite a natural thing really. He was a very creative sort of guy.

So you established the contact between Robert and the band?


How did it come about? I think it was quite unusual, and Hawkwind was was one of the first bands who introduced poetry into rock music? Was the rest of the band open to do it?

We were open to doing anything really. So, having Robert to come along with his poetry was quite a natural thing for us. You know, its just another medium of expression and performance another creative thing with a lot more content in certain respects.

I've always had the feeling that Robert was more or less the conceptual force behind the band, though he wasn't that much present on the stage for most of the early 70's period.

The concept for Hawkwind's In Search Of Space album was created by Robert and this other guy, Barney Bubbles, who did all the artwork for the band then. And between them, they came up with the "Hawkwind Log", the booklet that accompanied the album and the whole concept of science fiction. That was really when the science fiction aspect became quite strong. I know not everyone is into science fiction, but we wern't trying to produce a science fiction vehicle. We were perhaps trying to produce science fiction music. I mean the Pink Floyd had been going for some time then, and we were all into them and electronic music and... Dr Who.

Do you know where that special interest of Roberts in science fiction and these futuristic subjects came from?

He'd always been interested in it. I mean he'd read loads of people and also turned me onto quite a lot of different things.

He studied for a while, something technological? I'm not quite sure what it was.

I think he wanted to be in the Air Force, or his father wanted him to be. He wanted him to be a fighter pilot. He wanted to be a poet.

Well, it was quite an obsession with him as well, this aviation subject.

I think he fancied the idea of being a fighter pilot, but he had a perforated ear drum so he couldn't. He'd fail the medical test basically. So he lived in a high rise block instead.

Another thing is - when you see pictures of him on stage, and look at a lot of his lyrics, that he was fascinated by this heroic type of characters. Any kinds of heroes or lonely wolf types...

Yea. I think so yea.

Do you think that he had a similar attitude - that he wanted to be such a person?

No, I think it was a fantasy really

Was it maybe a way for him to live it out on the stage. That you can become or at least imitate such a character. Obviously you can develop quite some power up there...

You can say that possibly...- I mean I dunno, I suppose you could say that he was sort... I mean, I think he was really just using his fantasies, as a vehicle. He was using the stage as an excuse to realize his fantasies...
So he was actually a sort of fantasy stage player... Fantasy hero. But I mean, then there are heroes you know. Stage personalities are heroes to people.


So, in a way, although you may present a make believe sort of picture of yourself as a hero, actually a lot of people take that image very seriously. And because, if your lyrics are thought provoking and interesting and have a message, then it becomes a very strong sort of force.

Do you remember how the audience reacted when... when you introduced these poetry elements for the first times? It must have been very unusual to those audiences.

It was quite a good reaction. We were involved in lots concerts and other happening being held at a number of quite creative places. You know, arts laboratories, where they had theater and avante garde sort of events going on. So Hawkwind were seen as quite an avantgarde sort of band in that respect. And that was probably quite a contributory factor towards that. I mean we were playing experimental music and we were seen as quite experimentaL. And we were of embraced by all these arty groups, those underground... creative people. Magazines, underground newspapers, painters - all sorts of people.

Do you think that has become more common these days, or was it the special atmosphere that people were more open in general towards these experiments. Because its still uncommon that, especially in the tour of rock music, that people try to work with poetry as a part of a set... .like we did in the last days.
{this refers to the then ongoing tour of the swedish avant-rock band The Moor accompanied by Nik Turner and Knut Gerwers - the latter recited/performed his own poetry and texts by Robert Calvert}

Well, a lot of people just discount rock music as sort of, very shallow and meaningless, just very mediocre - without any sort of intellectual content. Which a lot of music, rock music is unfortunately. The music that we were trying to create then was - well, it had much more content. Had more sort of intent in it, rather than just presenting some sex symbol, or that sort of thing. Which a lot of rock bands see themselves as. We were trying to actually create some sort of theatrical spectacle. A sort of happening, as they called them then.

So er, as far as I know a lot of the money that was made with Silver Machine was used to mount the Space Ritual Shows.

Yea, that was used to mount the stage show with Robert, and he was one of the instigators.

But as far as I know, he sort of dropped out of it for a while - during the preparations. I think the concept of the Space Ritual was never fully realized.

That's right.

There was a lot of ideas and they sort of interlocked...

You see one of the things that Robert had to cope with, was the fact that he was a manic depressive. And he would be like really groovy for a time. You know, sort of a year, and then he would start getting manic...

But he was also often very depressed - just unable to work?

Yea right. He was.

How did he come across then?

He found it very difficult to work. I mean he used to get really manic and he'd be really exciting at first, and then he'd become just too hard to work with, because he'd demand total attention. He had all these fantastic ideas coming out of his ears, you know? It was really hard to keep up with him. Then he used to start not sleeping and not eating and foaming at the mouth when he was talking to you, because he was so intense.
And then he'd have a nervous breakdown. He'd have to go into hospital, to have a rest. And then... when he came out, he'd be really depressed . Really quiet and not very creative: not a lot happening really. But I got on well with him anyway.

Could you say how conscious he was about these processes? Was he open to talk about it?

Oh yea.

Did he acknowledge that, or...

Yea, he acknowledged he had a problem. And that he sort of did get over excited... or under excited... I mean it was quite difficult probably, also for his ladies he was living with, to cope with that.

In a weird way - it's quite an interesting, even "fascinating" mixture of problems or elements - the psychic problems very early on - he said in one interview that he had been diagnosed as being schizophrenic in his youth and then it turned out that he wasn't - and then the family - his own family going back to South Africa and all that.

Yea all that...

And "on top of that" he had three children. That's an enormous responsibility - and I assume that he couldn't really live up to it!?

Well, I think he had a problem because he was so erratic within himself. He was sort of a bit selfish as well.
I think his wife knew what his problem was. That was Pauline, his first wife. I think she coped with it a lot but, quite often he used to treat her quite badly - just sort of go out and leave her to look after the children, keep them, keep the house clean. And not help her when she needed help, a lot of the time.

Do you know when they broke up?

I think they'd broken up actually when Robert joined the band. So that would probaby be around 1969.

He joined the band that early?

Well no, he joined the band in about 1970 or maybe late '69.

What were the circumstances and the troubles around the release of the Urban Guerrilla single? There seems to have been quite a fuss by the police and other authorities.

The record company didn't want to release it and *... We got some publicity about it and then I had some Hells Angles staying with me in London and one of them -it sort of transpired; there was one guy that got stopped coming into the country and apparently he'd had in his possession a gun that had been used to shoot an FBI officer.
(* ed. note: Urban Guerilla, the follow-up single to Silver Machine - co-written and sung by Calvert - was released in 1973 - but was withdrawn by the record Company, when - apart from this story- it's release coincided with some terrorist bomb-attacks in London. Bad - or right timing, as you wish....)


They stopped him coming into the country, but his friend stayed at my house and I think The Home Office figured that out! So, I got raided but I wasn't there at the time and my house was like...

And they found the gun?

The police came around and tore all the floorboards up looking for guns. I mean I didn't get anything, I wasn't charged with anything. I never even heard about it from the police, I just heard about it from people that had been there. So they obviously didn't find anything but it all sort of... I mean, it was all part and parcel of the same sort of thing really.I think the British government are just very paranoid about terrorism and...

Well, the lyrics were quite provocative I think.


You should've realized that before before that you released it. I mean for me, its sort of the first punk song. Kind of like "God Save The Queen" or "Anarchy in the U.K.".

Yea, it is.

One of the songs that the Sex Pistols would've liked to have done.

That's right. Very anti-establishment sort of lyrics and...

...also in terms of it's rough sound...

....idealistic as well... sort of Baader Meinhoff.

When Robert dropped out of the band for the first time, was he just bored with playing in a band or did he have mental problems again?

Well no, he got chucked out of the band through having a nervous breakdown really. That's how he came and went into the band really.

So he dropped in and out?

Yea.For instance - we got Silver Machine was out and we were getting The Space Ritual together. Robert wasn't around to record the lyrics, he was in hospital. Sso Lemmy sang the song. Then we got the Space Ritual together with Robert. And then Robert went to hospital again. So we had to go on without him again. That happened quite a lot at the time. We got a tour - had to go to America, Robert didn't make it. He used to get very excited and I suppose, whenever he got excited, it just became too much for him and he couldn't do the things that he'd sort of become involved in instigating and unfortunately...

I think he also had had a problem with doing extensive tours hadn't he?

I think so yea. He was manic really. Just got too excited.

Do you have any memories of the recordings for the Captain Lockheed album?

That was done at Waltham studio I think. I wasn't actually that involved in it. I did a bit on it. I remember going to the studio and... I think Arthur Brown was there when I went down the studio and there was a girl that Robert had been living with. Her name was Jarmilla - she was from Yugoslavia.

end of part I


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