Hi pot-patters, I am Richard Chadwick, Hawkwind’s drummer for the past twenty-odd years, putting these words into your eyes.
We’ve just gotten back from playing two festivals, one in Germany—Burg Hertzberg—and one in England—GuilFest. I love festivals. They’re the reason I got into drumming in the first place. I’m an aficionado of the free festival culture that existed in England in the ’70s, ’80s, and early-’90s until social and political pressure forced the phenomena into the mainstream. What was fascinating to me about the whole scene was the do-it-yourself sensibility. It was fuelled by punk-rock ethics, which were very prevalent in my scene in Bath, Somerset, at the time—young, broke, living in squats and on the dole (welfare) forever. It was easy to find like-minded individuals and start a band. Technical ability wasn’t at the top of the agenda in our musical aspirations, it was all about energy—atmosphere, the anarcho politics of ecstasy. It was through the festival scene that I ran into Hawkwind, and as all my musical projects were fading, I eventually joined them in the summer of 1988.
Joining the Hawks was a fast learning curve for me, as by this time Hawkwind were deeply involved in the then–quite new music sequencing technology. This meant playing with a click track. However, it wasn’t long before I was sequencing the drumming myself. Initially I used drum machines, then by playing a drumKAT, which was much more intuitive. I recorded four or five albums with this device before finally getting a full-size MIDI kit, a Roland TDK. I still use it now, including on the new album, Blood Of The Sun, which came out in June.
I love the sound of electrical music in the open air—the way it is sucked into the sky, eliminating the reverb and slapback…the way the wind catches the sound, making it shudder and eddy as whirlpools in still water. It is the perfect environment for Hawkwind music. The recent gig in Germany was a wonderful warm psychedelic tribute to sun power, earth power, and burgeoning hope for humanity.
Up early the next morning, going back to Blighty to play Guilfest the next evening. This festival was very different, a much more urban vibe, situated close to the town Guilford on the outskirts of London. I felt this made the whole thing more inclusive. Whole families were there, something for everyone, so we ended up on a “mum and dad” stage along with Mungo Jerry, Alvin Stardust, and Arthur Brown. Our set was shortened due to impending curfews, but what was intended to be a punchy, concise rock gig transmogrified into a space-themed performance-art installation. We used the full light show in tandem with our graceful dancers, there were moments of real epic drama, held aloft by wild musical flights of fancy and grandeur. The crowd watched with open-mouthed wonder, transported to another realm.
Hope to speak to you again, there are many stories to tell of the whirlwind around the invisible beat.
For more on Richard Chadwick and Hawkwind, go to www.hawkwind.com.