North American Space Ritual 2019
It’s hard to believe that 50 years ago, Hawkwind was a gleam in the eye of a bunch of spaced-out hippies in Ladbroke Grove – a band that’s mutated from a bunch of acid-washed alternatives who produced the eponymous “Hawkwind” debut trip in 1970 and the genre-defining colossus that is the Space Ritual, through the science fiction tinged years of Bob Calvert to the epic Elric-inspired Chronicle of the Black Sword via trance and acid house to today’s classic Space Rock overload.
With Hawkwind confined mostly to Europe in recent years, Matt Callen decided to take matters into his own hands and organize a celebration of that amazing heritage specifically for fans in the US: a plan that culminates in the upcoming “North American Space Ritual 2019”, a weekend of love and laughter, song and dance that will to take place in Austin, Texas on the weekend of March 29th and 30th.
Heading the bill – Moonhawks – a band set up for this event, featuring Nik Turner, Michael Moorcock and Alan Davey, former members of Hawkwind with a long and storied history stretching back to those early days in west London. Mike was kind enough to take the time to chat about his musical past, collaboration with Hawkwind, and some of what we can look forward to at the festival.
Mike, what were you doing in Ladbroke Grove at the time Hawkwind formed way back in 1969? How did you get involved with Dave, Nik and the rest of the crew?
Jon Trux of FRENDZ brought Robert [Calvert] to see me. He wasn’t yet performing with the band. Robert persuaded me to go to see them at an early gig and I loved them. Soon afterwards Dave and Nick said their name came partly from my Hawkmoon books and asked if I’d write some material, then invited me to perform it.
I did SONIC ATTACK in a free gig Trux was helping organise at Portobello Green, a ‘people’s project’ we were involved in, to open up the new motorway bays for use of local businesses and a theatre (for which Jim Cawthorn and my then wife Jill did murals). I did SONIC ATTACK, POWER ARMOUR and a version of CHANGE YOUR MASKS (Dave changed it to MASQUES which in my view weakened the metaphor!) with a kind of Hawkmoon ambience.
New Worlds Fair came out in 1975, under the moniker “Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix”. The Deep Fix was Jerry’s band, right? Is he your alter-ego, or are you his?
THE DEEP FIX is a story I wrote for Carnell’s SCIENCE FANTASY magazine. Later I used it as the title of Jerry’s band. Then, after UA asked me for an album, I formed a band with sf writer/professional bass man Graham Charnock and, solo singer/guitarist Steve Gilmore and ex-‘wind drummer Terry Ollis, and called it by the same name! Jerry’s certainly ONE of my alter egos! :)
What can you tell us about the recording of that album?
Nothing particularly unusual – rehearsals, recording. I’d been a musician since the mid-fifties, so I was already familiar with the process. Typically, much fuel was consumed. We preferred working at night and most of the recording, I recall, was done at Parlophone, just off Edgeware Road in the West End. I think my own favourites are Dude’s Dream and Rolling in the Ruins.
Steve’s songs came from his experience working in a fair. Sam Shepard (later in The Right Stuff etc) did the lyrics of two of Steve’s songs. His first book of poetry was called HAWK MOON after Hawkmoon and we were acquainted. Sam was living in London at the time (damn’ near everyone was!). Graham writes good songs but said he couldn’t sing ‘em. I persuaded him to do them and the result was great. We had to amplify the shit out of him but he has a nice voice. They are often people’s favourite songs!
Are you performing any of it as Moonhawks?
No. I simply don’t have time to rehearse it with new guys, particularly since my neuropathy has now reached a stage where I can barely type, let alone play a fretted instrument. I played 3 different instruments on that – gtr, mandolin and banjo. Now I’m confined to harmonica!
Around the same time, “Warrior on the Edge of Time” came out – regarded by many as one of the Hawkwind classics, the drive of Lemmy’s bass and Simon King’s drums, Dave Brock’s sublime vocals and guitar, your poetry (and Longfellow’s), Nik’s ethereal flute – is this something we’ll get to experience in Austin?
I’m fond of that album, too. Got a gold one for that and I’m proud to be associated with it! I think we’ll be doing some of that, yes! Alan’s acting as musical director and has told me what and where – only one I’m not sure I want to do is WIZARD BLEW HIS HORN, which I always felt needed to e stronger. Alan hasn’t asked for that. But who knows what will happen on the night. Our old gigs were never shambolic, though they might have seemed so sometimes, but I suspect this will be a little looser. You have to have a boss in a band and Alan’s it!
What do you remember from recording the album? Did you take part in the tour that supported its release?
Yes. I did a lot of gigs at that time. I remember a slightly strange experience. One week I was at Reading University with Samuel R (CHIP) Delany, Thomas M. Disch and M. John Harrison, dealing with avant garde literature and the direction of NEW WORLDS and the following week I was back blasting many of the same ears with HAWKWIND. I did everything which appears on that album at Majestic all in half-a-day. i was going to the pictures in Brixton with Graham Hall (NW writer & editor) and didn’t want to miss the start of the first movie (double and triple features still the norm!). One take for the music, one draft for the books! How I worked in those days. I’m a lot wimpier, these days.
Music weaves in and out of your novels, and your novels weave in and out of many people’s music – a few examples are your collaboration with Blue Oyster Cult on “Black Blade” and “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” from the early 80’s – how did those come about?
Usual way. Eric Bloom asked me. I gave him songs I planned originally for Fix or ‘Wind. Wasn’t always the same. Kings of Speed, for instance, was one of a few which wouldn’t fit on NEW WORLDS FAIR and which I gave to Dave who modified it to a key and tune which suited him. Eric, too, did music to suit him and the band better.
"The Chronicle of the Black Sword" Guildford Civic Hall, November 5, 1985, Oz Hardwick
Cementing your mid-80's legacy with Hawkwind, and perhaps your introduction to Alan Davey – the “Chronicle of the Black Sword” album and tour was based around the Elric cycle with a magnificent stage show, live double album and video. You performed with the band on that one on at least a couple dates, too, I think.
I did my last gig, I think, at Hammersmith two nights running. I was due to take a belated honeymoon with Linda on the QE2 and had bought a new dinner suit required for the occasion. I wore it to the first gig and walked out on stage and up to the mike. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I’m your waiter for the evening. Can I confirm you ordered 560 hamburgers, 620 hot dogs… etc. etc.” But the joke went flat because nobody could hear me over the applause!!
That same tour, around Christmas, I thought I’d give audience members Elric books, so I signed a lot and took them with me, skimming them into the audience. I again had reckoned without the crowd’s enthusiasm. Everyone grabbed at them and tore most of them to bits. At another Apollo (Oxford) gig I did the same thing and I learned I’d hit some poor bastard in the face and then his, then, girlfriend grabbed the book and wouldn’t let him have it back, even after they split up. I’ll be giving away some books at the MOONHAWKS gig but probably in a less dangerous way for all concerned!:)
You seem to have been more focused on your literary work recently, but have found time to collaborate with Don Falcone and host of other musicians on the 2018 release “An Alien Heat”, based on the Dancers at the End of Time series – what can you tell us about that?
I’ve concentrated on studio projects now for years. Two were with Pete Pavli, my old Deep Fix partner (piano by Lang Jones, old friend, NW editor and Guildhall music grad) which we gave up on eventually because the engineer and producer we had just didn’t understand what we were doing with time signatures etc and we got too frustrated to continue. Some of our rehearsal and rough mixes were eventually done by SPIRITS BURNING and included I HEAR YOU WEEPING IN YOUR SLEEP etc from GLORIANA and THE BROTHEL IN ROSENSTRASSE and THE ENTROPY TANGO etc from ET. I’d like some day to bring them up to standard. I’m very lazy about working on records until they’re properly finished.
The next major project has been LIVE FROM THE TERMINAL CAFÉ, with the late Martin Stone. We always said we’d work together and I suppose left it a tad too late. Don Falcone is producing that for the Spirits Burning label. AN ALIEN HEAT – and its two sequels – are the brainchild of Albert Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult and involves some great musicians from bands I’ve always felt a special closeness to, including The Damned. I had nothing to do with the musical conception (apart from lyrics) but felt honoured to do some vocals and harmonica.
In about a week I’ll be recording for Albert’s next project THE HOLLOW LANDS as well as some stuff for TERMINAL CAFÉ. I love the sensibility he brings to the project. I only wish the books could be bought in the U.S. They haven’t been in print in America for almost a quarter of a century and many consider them my best. A shame.
Well, that brings up pretty much up to date – when Matt suggested this celebration of Hawkwind’s music, how did you react?
I THINK WE DISCUSSED it together from the start but it was Matt who decided to go ahead and make it a reality. He has more guts than me. He’s risked pretty much everything he has on this and I admire him like hell. I want to do everything possible to make this happen. None of us are taking pay and many are putting in serious time and dosh of their own. We are celebrating the old spirit of HAWKWIND who, as Dave Brock once said, would rather do a benefit for someone than take a paid gig.
What are you looking forward to most about the gig?
I am, of course, looking forward to the music but I’m particularly looking forward to reviving the atmosphere of Ladbroke Grove/Portobello Road in the 60s & 70s – the fellowship, selflessness, good will, humanity, generosity and idealism of those times. The spirit of the age in which many of us saw the best of humanity and humanity at its best.
In the present horrible social climate it seems a very good idea to come together in a spirit of common enthusiasms and pull down barriers between people from different cultures, age-groups and places. Idealistic ? Certainly. Positive ? Why not ? It’s going to be a mighty weekend!!
I’m not asking you to give away any surprises, but… what can people look forward to at the show?
Its on the T-shirts! :) There will be an auction of books and memorabilia to cover as many expenses as we can. We’ll be signing (books, comics, posters etc. etc.) and interacting with audiences. Free stuff. And, of course, the atmosphere and the music which, by a pretty irony, will actually be performed by more Hawkwind members than the present set-up.
It would only be better if Flight Captain Brock turned up to hug his Flight Captain Turner… Maybe if we all wish hard enough!
Here we are – fifty years after Ladbroke Grove, after Jerry discovered that “art constantly aspires towards the condition of music” – do you still think that’s the case? What would he make of our modem times?
Well, Pater said it before Jerry! :) I think it’s still true. Music is considered the subtlest and most inspiring form of art. And, as you’ve suggested, he and the rest of us are likely to experience that ‘strange, perpetual weaving and unweaving of ourselves”. Jerry has already lived through modern times, of course. He’s still in business, after all, Firing the Cathedral and Pegging the President!
See y’all at brunch!
Get your tickets here!
$65 for GA gets you admission to the shows on Friday March 2019 with Alan Davey’s Ace of Spades, Spaceseed, Third Ear Experience and ST 37 - plus admission to the show on Saturday, March 30, 2019 with Moonhawks, Fraktal Phantom and Head Cat / Devil's Daughters. For $100 you get the above, plus entry to a special brunch meet and greet with performing artists - don't miss out!
Can't make it to the show?
Either come to the festival and get your merch there, or buy one of the awesome t-shirts online - but only until the end of March! A portion of each sale goes straight to Moonhawks to help with the costs of putting on the show. Head over to the Skull Print store and get some custom printing, ethically done.