Dave Brock of Hawkwind: Interview

The Carnivorous album by the Hawkwind Light Orchestra  was recorded entirely in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, having started life as a solo project by Dave Brock during the winter of 2019.  Our review here. With contributions added by the band in January and February 2020 saw contributions from Richard Chadwick (drums) and Magnus Martin (guitar, vocal and keyboards) to create a typically tight, futuristic but classic sounding record that emphasises Dave’s classic song writing.

Carnivorous is an album that by default had to be recorded without a full complement of Hawkwind members in their usual style. However, it is a testament to the contributing members that we hold a record that bears all the hallmarks of classic Hawkwind while recorded under such testing circumstances.

hawkwind manchester albert hall 15.11.19 by mike ainscoe 5
Dave Brock – Manchester 2019

We got the chance to speak with the legend that is Dave Brock about what he’s been up to over the recent past and called him up at his Devon farmhouse. His wife Kris answers the phone.

Crumbs it’s his interview isn’t it!! We did know but we’ve totally forgotten about it!! (loads of laughter). Hold on, I’ll go and get him. I reminded him about an hour ago and he’s gone in the studio so he’ll be engrossed in there.

In a wonderful alternative to the usual piped music you get when you’re put on hold, I then get treated to a chorus from the family dogs. One bark and then they’re all off creating a chaotic cacophony. It’s probably the best and most wonderfully bizarre start to an interview we’ve had.  Rock and roll! The first question though is from Dave….

What would you like to know then?

The opening gambit was going to be an enquiry about what Dave had been doing since being locked down, but of course, he’s made a record (and more, more of which later…). An album that started life as a Dave Brock solo project, so he explained how it become a Hawkwind project.

What actually happened was that when I started doing this solo album which I’d mucked around with having Richard play drums and of course with the lockdown we couldn’t continue. I just ended up doing everything meslef. The good thing is that I can play bass as well as guitar and a bit of keyboards and programme some drums. Some of the stuff I sent to Magnus who overdubbed some nice acoustic bits and vocals and it would come back. I’d edit it all on my Mac so that’s how we did it in the end.

The beauty of modern digital technology seems to allow us all to sit at home to do our jobs.

It really is quite good fun actually having had the experience of getting my first MIDI pickup system on my guitar all those years ago so I could play keyboards from my  guitar. It was very erratic not holding the notes properly but that was the first wonderful step to take. Being able to play other instruments as it were. And now we have the technology with good computers and ranges of equipment that you can fiddle around with forever.

Even when we rehearse together, people potter round doing their own things. Sometimes Kris will come in and it will be dead silent, like a reading room in the library as we all have headphones on doing things on computers.

There’s been a real positive wave of activity of recent years. Over the last 2 decades you’ve released albums on average every 3/4 years now we’ve had 2 albums practically within 12 months.

I guess it’s about bands gelling together sometimes. Different things go on in the band and it’s just one of those things. We just did a tour which was our fiftieth year so we have a live album coming out in December which we mixed and got  together. We did quite a few festivals as well and recorded lots of bits and pieces. Some of the recordings vary in quality of course, but there are some nice pieces and jams. It’s quite long as well and likely to be a three vinyl set.

We’re also getting on with a new project too. I was just sending Richard stuff off my stick to take home and practice on his kit. The latest epic is all about sleep. All the possibilities about dreaming and having terrible nightmares and things like that. Magnus sent me some stuff that I put some electronics on so that’s what we’re currently working on.

We were at the Albert Hall in Manchester for the tour… (our review)

That was a funny old place! I’ve played in Manchester loads of times but never in that place.

We go off on a tangent briefly to discuss the rise of the Albert Hall as a music venue and of the days prior to that when the Most Haunted team visited to carry out a psychic investigation into its history as a Methodist chapel.

Did they find it haunted??!! Haunted by dampness in the crypt no doubt!

So how does it compare with the Royal Albert Hall on that tour?

No comparison!! The RAH is such a fantastic place to play in. It’s not bad for sound either considering we were all a bit wired in the afternoon when we were doing our soundcheck with things echoing and getting lost. Big balls in the ceiling!

There was also a link up with the local pet rescue organisations at different stops on the tour…

We do have a bit of a crusade for it. It’s really about trying to get the law changed, but for people who have dogs, they’re like your best friend and to have one stolen and you don’t know what’s happened to it or if it’s been killed, it’s quite a big thing. It’s about time we had some proper laws; if you get a bike stolen it doesn’t mean anything but if it’s a dog then it’s like losing one of your family. There was the dog license and having dogs chipped and things that are supposed to happen that don’t. It would be a good thing to make it a serious offence to steal a pet.

We have a big thing about animals in general; Animals Asia is another thing. The bears in cages are another one and the unfortunate thing is that they stem from a certain part of the world where there are these wet markets. The practices that you see on the TV is dreadful – people then go and buy it and eat it. In some ways, a very modern country that still has some medieval practices.

Meanwhile, back to the script and touring with the Blackheart Orchestra as support…

They were very good, weren’t they? They sent us a CD (the two bands share the same record label) and we thought it was a really nice piece of music and thought it would be good to get hold of them. Morecambe – that was the first show they did with us. When we played in Guildford at whatever place it was, we had Eric Clapton come down and Chrissy and Rick came on stage to sing with us which was a great dream with Eric playing as well. They were thinking that even in their wildest dreams something like that would happen! They’re a good support act.  

You’ve had dealings with a few record labels over the years; how do the guys at Cherry Red guys stack up as they’ve put out a lot of your stuff of late, both archive and new releases.

We get on really well. They basically have most of our catalogue now. We have a wonderful relationship with the boss Adam and the big boss, Ian. We have known them for a long time and it’s one of the good things in the business.

Have you found the period of not performing live stifling or an opportunity to develop new ideas?

Funnily enough, the Palladium got in touch with us last week to ask if we’ll do a gig in February. A lot of these venues are trying hard getting big spaces between people and cleaned, so if there’s no lockdown we said we’d be OK if they got all the precautions in place we’d give it a go and see what happens.

For a band like us, we have things behind us but if you’re a young band and you can’t play anywhere there’s no option but to split up. Lots of venues have had to close because they simply can’t keep going with no turnover, like the small football clubs.  You have to have people coming in. It’s a sad old business and you wonder what’s going to be the outcome.

We asked Dave if there was anyone today from any music genre do you go to for innovative sounds, but like us he’s still a massive fan of the ‘old days’.

Well…I have got a huge amount of music and sometimes play some of the old ones that go back years. I still listen to jazz programmes on the radio I must admit. Funnily enough on the radio recently, on one of the jazz shows does requests there was a really good band who were doing some interesting electronic things but I can’t remember what they were called. It’s quite hard to name lots of people, but the Steve Miller Band is one I’ve played a lot recently and going back to the Sixties and Seventies there was so much good music around. It’s nice getting your old vinyls out and Kris will say “who’s that!?” and even though it was fifty years ago it still sounds just as fresh and modern, you know what I mean. A lot of the stuff just doesn’t get dated. I just like a lot of music – a bit of everything really.

Talking of which, having just celebrated 50 years in rock music with a tremendously successful legacy to the music world is there any particular part of that legacy are you most proud of?

There are just so many different things and so many different songs. Funnily enough when we did the thing with the orchestra with Mike Batt, I was listening to some of the recordings we did then of just the orchestra without us playing on it. His orchestral piece of We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago is like The Lark Ascending! There were a few inflections in there; he obviously poached a bit of it! But it was a lovely piece of music he wrote behind our song. Things like that would be nice to put out but you’d have to pay union rates and all that!  If you’re an artist though, the music is a nice thing to leave behind.

What the longer-term future holds, who knows. However, there is this element of warmth for a band in its latter incarnation. They’re at the stage of being heralded as an institution. The Warrior At The Edge Of Time album getting the PROG Classic Album award and Dave has also had the Lifetime Achievement award (albeit 6/7 years ago!)

As we wind up the thought occurs about Rock stars in their seventies. Jagger is 76, McCartney 78 is and Brock is an incredible 79, Dylan is also 79 (a few months older). Why (and how) do musicians go on – is it the ‘that’s what I do’ attitude?  Will there ever be a 100-year-old Rockstar!? With the strength of the life force that thrives in Dave Brock, he could be the first.

Huge thanks to Dave for popping out of the studio to chew the fat with us and to Matt Ingham at Cherry Red Records for continuing to support us and Hawkwind!

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