Music interview – Dave Brock and Mike Batt on ‘In Search of Utopia’

Hawkwind are playing at Leeds Town Hall.
Hawkwind are playing at Leeds Town Hall.
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SPACE-ROCK veterans Hawkwind are on their travels, and not only that, they have an interesting new album out.

‘Road To Utopia’ is the band’s 31st studio album and is something a bit different. All the tracks on the album are re-workings of old favourites, but with extra ingredients – and it actually started off as an acoustic album, as leader and founder-member Dave Brock tells me.

“The main reason behind the new album,” he explains, “is from when we did an acoustic set as support on our last tour which seemed to go down well.

“Cherry Red Records came to us and asked if we’d like to do an acoustic album, and with it being the 30th anniversary of [former member] Bob Calvert’s death, we thought it would be a good idea.”

And it all started off quite normally.

“That’s right, it [the album] was recorded acoustically, but then we added some electric stuff and then Mike Batt got involved.”

We wanted to do things differently, such as a Latin-American feel to the backing of Quark, Strangeness and Charm and Psychic Power. Bob Calvert would have love it as he always liked doing things differently.

Dave Brock

Batt added a string quintet, a sax quintet and a brass section.

“Dave was delightfully free-spirited and generous to me,” Batt adds. “Using a small ensemble of additional musicians and giving me a pretty free hand with the arrangements.”

And then Eric Clapton got involved too.

“I’ve known Eric for years,” says Brock. “In fact, the guy who was writing his biography got in touch with our management and we got in contact with Eric and he played on this new version of The Watcher.”

The Watcher was originally written by Ian Kilmister when he was in the band back in the 70s. Ian Kilmister is, of course, better known as Lemmy.

“We would have had Lemmy singing on the track, but he sadly died, which is a pity as he really loved Eric’s guitar playing.”

The whole album is a bit different from the usual Hawkwind fare.

“Yes,” agrees Brock. “We wanted to do things differently, such as a Latin-American feel to the backing of Quark, Strangeness and Charm and Psychic Power. Bob Calvert would have love it as he always liked doing things differently.”

The band, who are famous for their space/art rock, are touring, and again, it’s with a difference.

“We’ve got a 26-piece orchestra on stage with the band, and Arthur Brown (The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown) will be doing guest vocals on some of the songs. We know Arthur very well as he toured with us recently for a year and a half.

“We won’t be playing all of the new album, just a few tracks as we want to do a good mix of rock and orchestral songs. Plus Mike Batt will be conducting too.”

The band is now approaching a bit of a milestone. “We’ve been going for 49 years, so we hit 50 next year,” says Brock.

And will the boys be celebrating?

“Oh yes,” he says. “We’re going to be doing something special, but I can’t tell you as it would spoil the surprise.

“There’s been loads of highlights,” he adds. “With many ups and downs. Too many to focus on any particular events.”

Brock is pragmatic about the new album.

“It’s different,” he says. “And the next one will be totally different again. We paint pictures with sound and when you paint something, you never do it the same way twice.

“Music is art, you know.”

Hawkwind will be appearing at The Town Hall, Leeds on Friday October 19. www.hawkwind.com