There’s not many artists who can credibly claim to have invented a new genre but Hawkwind’s guitarist Dave Brock did just that with space rock.
Over the last 50 years he’s been the only constant in Hawkwind’s long history seeing off generations of band members and he’s back with yet another album, Carnivorous. This one has been delivered under the Hawkwind Light Orchestra moniker, so what’s the difference?
“It hasn’t got Niall Hone or Tim Blake, so it doesn’t have the whole band, as I started doing a solo album in December last year and I recorded a couple of numbers when Richard Chadwick was down here before the lockdown occurred,” says Dave who is in isolation at his remote Devon farmhouse and home studio.
“There are two tracks with Richard playing drums live and I’m playing bass or something. After we did our last gig in January that was it basically and from February I just continued on by myself.”
Hawkwind have always been comfortable using technology so it’s no surprise that lockdown didn’t deter them as guitarist/keyboardist Magnus Martin and Brock were sharing music as they shaped Carnivorous.
“I was sending stuff to Magnus who put some bits and pieces down the line, as it were, that’s how we got it all together.
“Magnus plays on four tracks, so we tried it by Zoom, and that didn’t work. The trouble is Richard has an electronic drum kit at home, and we didn’t know how we how we could get him to do his drumming and did it on WeTransfer and all these things. Richard’s drums are down here in the studio, so I had to do some drum programming to make the drums sound like him.”
One of the key elements of space rock is it’s futuristic sounds and themes with Brock often working with visionary lyricists like Robert Calvert to take a look forward to where humankind may end up. The new album feels like it might be a semi-concept album?
“I was doing this thing about my favourite topic of androids helping the humans as usual, apart from human beings running the earth,” muses Brock about the album’s loose concept. “That was the storyline I came up with, and the first track is about falling in love with an android as when humans die androids go on forever.
“Then, of course, we got the lockdown and I wrote one about the virus. Magnus did some stuff in his room on the farm where he was living, they thought he was mad recording himself shouting. They were going ‘you alright in there’ and Magnus said I’m just doing some recording. I’ve been doing this album endlessly and it drove me nutty. I wake up the morning with songs going on in my head, you just live it constantly day in and day out.”
Aside from lovestruck androids, Forgotten Memories is one of the atypical songs on the album looking at the power of music for people making their dementia journey.
“I wasn’t going to put it on the album actually, but our manager Kris said it’s a really good track you should do it. Music is a key as a lot of people with Alzheimer’s can often relate to music and songs because it brings back memories and childhood memories.”
Brock will celebrate his eightieth birthday next year with yet another tour and a huge live celebration of their 50th anniversary being planned. For many blokes of his vintage the highlight of the week would be pottering round the garden centre not setting off for another festival date.
“I do potter round in my garden and this year we did really well as I was able to look after my vegetables,” laughs the very busy septuagenarian. “But it’s one of those fun things if you enjoy playing music and I must admit I haven’t played my guitar as much as I used to when we were touring. As soon as the bad weather comes I’ll be concentrating on playing the guitar properly as the end of your fingers get little corns when you are touring, but they are a bit soft at the moment.”
Brock was doing this interview in between phoning a London studio where a new Hawkwind live album recorded at selected gigs and festivals dates in 2019 is being mixed. And the full band are not hanging around as they’ve already demoing songs for their next album.
“Magnus has sent me stuff which I’ve downloaded onto computer and we’ve got about five numbers already. What we always try to do is get a lot of numbers together and weed out the ones that aren’t too good.”
In the history of hit singles, there have been a few candidates for the band most unlikely to have a hit single, and Hawkwind would a serious contender for that title. Yet Silver Machine has proved to be a timeless radio classic, so does Brock think their only top five single is an albatross round the band’s neck?
“I don’t regard it as an albatross as funnily enough Sooty and Sweep were playing it on their show. Sooty was playing a bit of Silver Machine as he was learning to play guitar, and I was sent a little clip, but he couldn’t play it properly.”
“It’s just one of those things that as time goes past it just happened to be at the right time – it gets airplay, it’s catchy and you’re in luck. Then you have to follow up and we did Urban Guerrilla, which got banned by the BBC because of the unfortunate bombings by the IRA, but there you go.”
“If we’d had another hit record who knows what would have happened, we would have gone down a different line, and I perhaps wouldn’t be doing solo things anymore.”
Bass legend Lemmy provided lead vocal for Silver Machine, but he was sacked from the band after an unfortunate incident involving some speed and US border police. He may have gone on to his own legendary status with Motorhead, but Brock and Lemmy had long since made their peace before the hellraiser’s death five years ago.
“Even when he was ill I used to speak to him quite often on the phone. He was going to be the best man at our wedding, but then he had his heart attack when he was in Germany.”
“He was flying over, we had a car at the airport to pick him up, and that’s when he had to go in hospital. From there onwards I think that was his decline because he wouldn’t stop smoking, his speed intake probably and the alcohol.
“He died doing what he wanted to do in the end.”
The Sooty Show. Sooty, Sue and Harry are enjoying a refined musical evening. But Sweep, that little tinker, just has to get involved with a number of totally unsuitable instruments …. pic.twitter.com/1y7cVN1Gps
— Archivetvmusings (@archivetvmus71) September 11, 2020
Carnivorous is out on October 16 2020 through Cherry Red Records.
Review by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here.