LASERS IN HONITON
A last-second flurry of emails found me hopping a west-bound freight-train to check out this:
I think there's a typo on the ticket, as the venue is/was actually The Honiton Motel, a surreal-looking, slightly down-at-heel venue on the edge of town that had a definite West Country Phoenix Nights vibe to it. And I mean that in a good way.
On the train, I read this just to vibe myself up (I wasn't kiddin' about being a Method Reviewer):
Meet up with CyRus Da Virus, who, as usual, is packing more hi-tech gizmo heat than Inspector Gadget. Whi-Fi Network-detection kit, palm-tops, mini vid-cam, GPS: it's like going for a pint with Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
We groan when a poster says there's a support-band, but one of the roadies laughs and explains that it's actually the name of the company that's doing the lighting. Hurrah!
Support 'act' is Sam Ollis, son of original Hawkwind drummer Terry, who's DJing. We arrive to find him playing U-Roy, followed by some Old Early Nineties Acid-Techno, which is pretty strange in itself considering we're in what feels like a 60's style Social Club. Nice lighting-rig, though.
Neck a drink while Cyrus sets up some sort of Hi-Tech perimeter, presumably in case Hydra attack us during the gig. I check out the merchandising stall, just as the motel's head-chef (a very fat man dressed in full papal chef-regalia) marches across the dance floor in time to an Old-School 303-squiggle. Someone tests out the UV-lights and he temporarily turns luminous. My God, I suddenly realise, I'm at a Rave at the Crossroads Motel; and my brain momentarily short-circuits and shuts itself down: zzzxzztz....zzzzzkktxxz...zzzzzik
As CyRus boots-up some weird glowing device that looks like a minature Epcot centre, I get some more drinks in. A gaggle of Goths, students and really old people with long hair have crawled out of the woodwork and are drinking Real Ale, sucking on roll-ups and (barely) shuffling in time to some M25-Era bleepbeats. I keep having to pinch myself and say "Honiton....2005....Honiton....2005..." Without this mantra I will surely lose my sanity and temporally up-anchor. There's nothing worse than time-travelling accidentally.
The lights suddenly turn red and Nik Turner emerges from a mini-blizzard of dry-ice to ragged cheers. With short hair and a cropped mini-beard he resembles a sort of benign-looking Ginger Baker. Behind him, shadowy forms stumble through the back-lit fog, plugging-in guitars and bumping into drum-kits. My God, the stage is tiny; how can they fit that many people on there...there's two drummers, for Chrissake.
They start with a languid, Duul-ish Acid Rock jam that immediately gets my ears tingling inna Fimbles-stylee. Something I didn't recognise but which sounded like an outtake from the first Hawkwind LP is followed by a chugging version of "Born to Go": Da Vyrus takes his cue from my gin-fuelled whoop of delight and starts filming the band with a gizmo that looks as if it was drawn by Jim Steranko.
...And the band don't stop for breath: songs are linked by Old School echoplex'd synth-swirls and glissando guitar smears, with Nik reciting classic spoken-word interludes from "Space Ritual" and "Warriors on The Edge of Time". Time has softened Turner's voice and he lacks Calvert's caustic edge, but hearing him read "Welcome to the Future" ("Welcome to the oceans in a labelled can/Welcome to the dehydrated lands/Welcome to the self-policed parade/Welcome to the neo-golden age/Welcome to the days you've made/YOU. ARE. WEL-COME.") and "Sonic Attack" in a run-down motel in Devon quite frankly blew my mind.
(Apologies for the poor photography, but I was using a two-quid camera and I had to Photoshop out the dry-ice...)
Unforunately, no Del Dettmar tonight, but original Hawkwind bassist Thomas "Iron Man" Crimble filled in on keyboards and occasional guitar, while analogue fwoooooshes and bleep...bluuuup...bluuuurps were ably provided by (I think) John Greves.
Acid Rock Bass-God Dave Anderson (who also played on Amon Duul 2's first two LPs) was in the house tonight, head bobbing as he locked into a series of Space-Rock grooves, meshing with drummer Terry Ollis and his son Sam. Dave was Hawkwind bassist after Iron Man Crimble and before Lemmy...I have to say, I much prefer his playing and his tone to Kilminster's leaden contributions, but then Hawkwind were a heavier-sounding band by the time they hit "Space Ritual"...
John Effay commented that Space Ritual (the band) can sometime sound a bit pub-rock...I understand where he's coming from, but I think part of the reason might be that some of the musicians (guitarist Mick Slattery, in particular) come from a Sixties Blues-Rock tradition...these guys cut their teeth playing in that era, and there are still stylistic echoes of that in their technique and approach. Some of Thomas Crimble's keyboard fills had a vague Blues/12-bar feel which may have contributed to John's perception. Odd to think that there is a direct lineage from the British Blues Scene to Acid Rock.
A young-lady (Jacqui?) provided some suitably out-there Stacia-style 'cosmic' dancing and multiple costume-changes that culminated in a (oo-er, missus) vinyl nurse's outfit during "Brainstorm". Turner gave her a good 'seeing-to' with his sax. Well, the stage-show may have been tongue-in-cheek and a bit cheap and cheerful (Hawkwind on a shoestring), but the enthusiasm and the energy-levels of the band and the dancer were infectious. As gigs go, this one was fantastic fun.
(Left to right: Thomas "Iron Man" Crimble (keys, gtr), Nick Turner (vcl, sax), Terry Ollis (drums - but out of view), Sam Ollis (drums), Jacqui the Space-Nurse, Dave Anderson (bass-god), Mick Slattery (gtr), John Greves (keys - but out of view))
Apart from Sam they're not young guys, but they played for two hours non-stop, and they were never boring. Okay, I know I'm biased, but how many bands can you say that of?
I mean,lasers in Honiton, man...
And Nik Turner's day-glow glasses.
And a great version of "D-Rider".
Mick Slattery is a terrific lead guitarist (he played some absolutely blinding solos), but his rhythm-work sometimes lacks force and directness, and I think that's what the band is missing, if anything. When Crimble doubled up on rhythm-gtr, or when they were joined by a second guitarist (forgot his name: Peter...er...?) on "Master of the Universe" the power-levels went up a notch and the music sounded more forceful and propulsive. I think they def. need a second rhym-gtrist to flesh the sound out, which would free up Slattery to supply texture and the occassional blistering solo, both of which he excels at. I know this is near-blasphemous to say, but they are missing Dave Brock...I reckon Slattery is technically a better guitarist than Brock, but Brock plays solid and distinctive rhythmn work.
In fact, Slattery played in various pre-Hawkwind Blues-Rock groups with Brock (Flash-Fact: they once released a single of Beefheart's "Electricity"), as well as the legendary Group-X with Nik Turner and Terry Ollis. He left Hawkwind immediately after they signed to record their first LP.
So, yeah, a second gtrist would toughen the material up a bit and highlight the two-drum line-up, but, really, that's a minor niggle. Needless to say, I had a fantastic night out.
They ended with Nik's notorious rendition of "The Pink Panther Theme", which apparently used to really wind up Dave Brock.
Afterwards, Nik Turner kindly signed my copy of "In Search of Space" ("To Kek - Stay High...") and patiently listened to my slurred standard rant of "Hawkwind in Yeovil, 1974; it changed my fuckin' life, man...Lemmy tried to cop off with a girl in my year..."
Terry Ollis (a lovely guy and a total dude in bright orange combats) said (as he went to write "Love and Peace" on the blurred naked photo of original dancer Stacia): "Okay if I write on top of Stacia? Wouldn't be the first time I've been on her...hurh, hurh, huhr!"). Terry used to drum in the nude with Hawkwind at festivals in the (very) early Seventies. What a star!
I tracked down gentleman-dude bassist Dave Anderson, who also signed "Yeti" by Amon Duul 2 for me and made my fucking year by chatting w/ me about his Krautrock exploits. Seems like he's still in contact with John Weinzierl, Renate and the rest of the original Duul Cru, and had actually recieved a phone-call a few days earlier from Holland where they rang up from a festival to say "Where are you, man? You should be here playing with us tonight..." Needless to say, the thought of a Duul reunion line-up consisting of Dave and most of the "Phallus Dei" line-up had me salivating. Maybe they'll come and play the West Coker Motel (just outside Yeovil). Sorry, groovers, but it doesn't take much to reduce me to non-critical fan-boy mode. After all, these guys are the closest I've got to heroes...
Anyway, I just had to ask about Van Der Graaf Generator. Did Dave actually play bass for them? "Yeah, for about five minutes," he laughed, "Well, we rehersed on and off for most of the summer after Nic Potter left (in '71?), but it didn't quite come together..."
"Well, someone in the studio kept spiking our drinks..."
Spiking your drinks? What, acid...mushrooms...?
"Yeah, acid. It was fun, I guess, but it created a weird vibe...you can't really reherse music that complex while you're tripping...so it didn't really come together, then I got the call to join Hawkwind, and the rest is history..."
I didn't realise that Dave had also played with legendary Brit Bluesman Alexis Korner (again, that 60's Blues-Rock connection...) and was a member of (Nik Turner's) Inner City Unit. Space Ritual played a couple of punkier tracks during the evening that I didn't recognise, which I guess must've been old ICU songs.
Dave's also a producer (with his own studio in Wales) and had just finished an LP for New Model Army a few days later, and has also been producing an LP of new Space Ritual material ("It's beautiful stuff...") over the last year or two. Recordings, rehersals and gigs are hampered by the fact that band-members "live all over the country and it costs a small fortune in petrol just to get us all together in the same room..."
I never used to be into getting stuff autographed, but it's started adding a new physical component to some of my favourite LPs; it's sappy, I know, but every time I hear them now I also get transported to that time-and-place in addition to the complex web of memories and associations that already flavour and spice the music.
I left the ol' Honiton Motel walking on air, I can tell you. CyRus and I rounded the evening off by raiding the burger van in Honiton High St. and eating what was possibly the best cheeseburger I've ever had in my life.
Thanks to Cy and Ali for their hospitality. CyRus is the only guy I know who, if he was stranded on a desert island, could hand-build a server in 15 minutes from sticks, rocks and seagull droppings.
I woke up the next morning, hungover but happy, under the biggest lampshade I have ever seen. On the wall next to me, a huge poster of Yoda (made up of stills from the original trilogy) smiled down at me, knowingly.