Nik Turner’s Hawkwind will be landing in Winnipeg on Monday, September 22 for a show at the Pyramid Cabaret. This will be the second time the former Hawkwind frontman has been in a Pyramid.
In December, 1976, after leaving Hawkwind, Turner was travelling through Egypt and he met someone who was associated with the Great Pyramid of Giza. This person gave Turner permission to spend a few hours alone in the King’s Chamber to record himself playing his flute.
On returning to England, Steve Hillage cleaned up the tapes and assembled the Sphynx band featuring Hawkwind’s Alan Powell, Gong’s Mike Howlett and Tim Blake, and Harry Williamson to record music augmenting the original flute tracks, while Turner adapted lyrics from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The album Xitintoday was released in 1978.
I talked with Nik Turner on Saturday afternoon over the phone, and he spoke candidly about that experience, subsequent healing powers he got from being in the pyramid, Hawkwind, Lemmy, William Shatner (who is a fan and even did a version of Silver Machine), Michael Jackson (and how he could have helped him snap out of it), friends he has lost to drugs, and about his love and passion for playing music.
As a founding member of the space-rock/ psychedelic band Hawkwind (who started out as Group X then Hawkwind Zoo in 1969), Nik Turner was the front man handling vocal duties as well as playing flute and saxophone. He was a member of spaceship Hawkwind until 1976 and his vocals and saxophone were an integral part of that band on the six albums he released with them.
He wrote two of their biggest songs ‘Master of the Universe’ from 2nd album In Search of Space (1971) and ‘Brainstorm’ from the nicely titled Doremi Fasol Latido album from 1972.
Hawkwind used to play for free outside all of the big festivals in the early 70’s. Their acts featured psychedelic light shows and their Tour de Force was the Space Ritual tour in 1973. Lemmy used to play bass for them until he was sacked after he was arrested for drug possession during a tour in Canada in 1975. The last tune Lemmy wrote with Hawkwind was called ‘Motorhead’, a song about speed freaks.
Turner did a lot of side projects like Sphinx and Inner City Unit before playing with Hawkwind again from 1982 to 1984. He toured with the band in that period and an amazing live video was released called ‘Night of the Hawks’.
After that, Nik Turner’s Fantastic All Stars gigged for several years, and in 1993 he was approached by members of Pressurehed and Helios Creed, and they revived the Sphinx era music, putting out a few albums under the names Anubian Lights as well as Nik Turner, before releasing two live albums – Space Ritual (1994) and Past or Future? (1996). Ex-Hawkwind members Simon House and Del Dettmar also played with Turner on these albums.
In 2000 there was a family reunion of all the musicians who have played with Hawkwind and a concert was organized called Hawkestra. Turner staged another Hawkestra a year later after which he and others from that project went on the road as ‘xhawkwind.com’.
Hawkwind co-founder Dave Brock was a little upset with this as he was still using the Hawkwind name and sued Turner successfully, forcing the band to change their name to Space Ritual. Unfortunately, the battle still rages on. Brock isn’t happy that Turner is using the name ‘Nik Turner’s Hawkwind’ on this tour.
Nik Turner released an album last year called Space Gypsy which certainly goes back to those Hawkwind glory days, sort of recreating that live sound with its wonderful spacey textures. At the end of the tour next month, he will be going back to the studio in San Francisco to work on another album.
Turner was very open in the interview. At 74-years-old, he is very sharp and witty. He is the proud father of a 24-year-old son, who is in school taking a law degree. He also has two other children and four stepchildren, and he shared how he really enjoys the time spent with them.
Nik Turner is touring with two opening acts, Hedersleben (a jazz-fusion combo who also back Turner during his set) and Witch Mountain. Turner’s set features many tunes from the Space Ritual album as well as a few new songs.
The show at the Pyramid Cabaret is on Monday, September 22, 2014 at 8 p.m.
For more on Nik Turner check out his blog at: nikturner.com
Feature photo, posters and Space Gypsy cover from Nik Turner’s website; Hawkwind Zoo and record collection photos by Doug Kretchmer.
Listen to the full interview by clicking on these three links: