Into the Woods
Cherry Red Records

Gods of Space Rock

The honor of having the privilege to feature Hawkwind on this website is a dream come true. With the opportunity to see them at Giants of Rock and interview their rhythm section Haz Wheaton (bass) and Rich Chadwick (drums, vocals), gave us added insight on the inner-workings of this highly regarded and influential band. Unfortunately, Hawkwind has never seen their proper dues on this side of the Atlantic. For most, the name is most associated with Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister who was bassist for the band from 1972-75. However, without Hawkwind there would have never been a Motörhead. Hawkwind began as a band of hippies traveling around the UK in a transit van smoking grocery bags of reefer. Sordid tales have Dave Brock, the only original member in the band, rounding up a handful of like-minded pot heads in1969, crashing a local talent night and ripping into a 20-minute jam of The Byrds ‘Eight Miles High’. They were so disorganized they didn’t even have a name calling themselves “Group X”.

The stories get bigger and more outrageous with each album, tour, LSD trip and naked belly dancer. Remarkably the band fashioned several classic albums that have defined the Space Rock genre including the self-titled debut (1970), In Search of Space (1971), Doremi Fasol Latido (1972), Hall of the Mountain Grill (1974) and Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975). Though the lineup was in constant rotation Brock’s vision was uniquely inclusive. It was his open-minded direction that created a bustling network of patch-quilt albums that embraced electronic experimentation, epic jams and heavy rock all layered over a jazz, blues backbone. The band has toured very few time in the US over the years and most fans only discover them through import record stores. One of the first questions we asked the band’s rhythm section (at a local fish and chip shop) was if they were ever going to bring their show to the states. “It’s not about not wanting to tour the US,” says bassist Haz Wheaton. “We’re an English band that tour England. Touring America is very expensive and we’re busy enough working in the UK. The calendar for this year is insane. It’s a matter of where would you fit one in. Besides that, the band’s all dotted about the country – Bristol, Derbyshire, Devon…”

The subject of a live DVD was the next logical question. “We’ll, we did just release the Roundhouse show a couple months ago,” adds drummer Rich Chadwick. “It’s really just a static camera set up to shoot the gig. We put it out as a bonus feature on the double live release. The cool thing about it was the way it captured our light show because of the dome-like roof of the venue.” Interjects Wheaton, “One of the many projects we’re scheduled to do this year is to play with an orchestra next November. Mike Batt (Watership Down), a famous composer and producer is involved with the project. We’ve doing it at the London Palladium and it’s already sold out. It’s going to be really different for us because our music is very free form. Working with an orchestra will require us to be a bit more rigid.”

The current Hawkwind lineup consists of founder Dave Brock (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Rich Chadwick (drums, vocals), Mr. Dibs (keyboards, synthesizers), Magnus Martin (keyboards, guitars) and Haz Wheaton (bass). “All the people in the band are influenced by different types of music,” says Chadwick. “We’re all trying to craft those influences into what we’re doing. The amalgamation of such is what ends up being Hawkwind. The lowest common denominator of the band is the music. All of us like different things. Some if it crosses over. Dave’s a big fan of jazz and you can hear that and blues in his soloing.” The band also likes to go heavy. “Were so heavy we can’t stand up,” laughs Chadwick. “Were kind of a heavy band which surprises the prog purists. It’s not so much metal, it’s hard rock. I’m always trying to push us in a heavier direction.” The band’s recent studio effort Into the Woods has some of the groups heavier leanings in ‘Space Ship Blues’, ‘Vegan Lunch’ and ‘Magic Mushroom’.

When asked what the secret to their longevity is, Chadwick, who’s been with the group since 1988 replied, “Only the strong survive. When we started it was post-psychedelia, you know that progressive rock period. The band has always been about spontaneity, jamming and improvisation. Going for it on the fly. It’s like jazz songs with visual ques that keep it real. We keep the music fresh and exciting that way which keep people coming to our gigs.” Confirms Wheaton, “Dave’s a true artist. You wouldn’t believe the amount of creative ideas he has. He’s always working even at 76. I’m really inspired by him. Every week there’s something he wants to try, or something happened, and he wants to experiment with. Nothing’s off the list really. He encourages us to bring in ideas too. The different eras of Hawkwind have all been a little different because Dave pushes us to try new things. That what keeps it a going-entity and not a heritage-act.”

With a catalog so vast (30 albums plus) it must be difficult to select a song set for the Giants of Rock festival. “Well, it depends on where we are as a band,” says Wheaton, “if we have an album out, we play what we’ve been doing in rehearsals. Rich would play ‘Sliver Machine’ at every gig if we let him because he loves the heavier stuff.” Chadwick replies, “We’ve got a chemistry now that’s as classic as English rock music gets, like The Who or Status Quo. We have this level of integrity and it’s about the chemistry of the musicians playing together. It’s all about dynamics, isn’t it? We’ve entered this period where we have the soul of the Hawkwind sound again. It’s a lot more fun than it used to be.” An hour later Hawkwind took to the stage for an animated series of cherished gems including the quintessential, ‘Born to Go’, the new Beatles-like, ‘Have You Seen Them’ and the punk-infused, ‘Damnation Alley’.

See Hawkwind next at Desetfest London 4-6 May 2018

Website: Hawkwind