Sci-fi author joins two-day tribute to space rocker
By Michael Toland
The Austin Chronicle
March 28th, 2019
The spirit of Hawkwind lands at Come & Take It Live this weekend in the form of the North American Space Ritual 2019, a Saturday/Sunday load-in organized by Athens, GA., superfan Matt Callen.
Michael Moorcock (l) with North American Space Ritual founder Matt Callen (Courtesy of Matt Callen)
Performances by former ‘wind mainstay Alan Davey and his Motörhead tribute band Ace of Spades, Austin’s own ST 37, American space rockers Spaceseed and Fraktal Phantom, local guitarist Danny B. Harvey’s Head Cat 13, and more explore the genre’s musical cosmos. Most significantly, perhaps, the convergence presents the first show by Moonhawks, a Hawkwind tribute starring Davey, former HW saxophonist and current Space Ritual bandleader Nik Turner, and Bastrop-based science fiction author Michael Moorcock, for what’s being billed as his final onstage appearance.
Creator of the Elric and Jerry Cornelius novels, among other works, Moorcock collaborated with Hawkwind off and on for decades, most fruitfully on the 1972 LP Warriors On the Edge of Time. Though he didn’t work directly on the album, he also signed off on 1988’s Elric adaptation The Chronicle of the Black Sword. Further, he heads his own long-running band Deep Fix, and wrote lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult.
Finally, last year saw the release of Alien Heat, another musical adaptation of his work, this time from producer Don Falcone and ex-BÖC drummer/songwriter Albert Bouchard’s group Spirits Burning. We contacted Moorcock, who’s now lived in Central Texas for 25 years, about all of it. Herein are his responses, sent via e-mail as per his preference.
Austin Chronicle: Your association with Hawkwind has been long and often fruitful. How did you first come to meet the band and how did you get involved with them musically?
Michael Moorcock: I’d been in bands since the Fifties. I saw [Hawkwind] pretty much from the start when Bob Calvert, then a journalist on underground paper Frendz, took me to see them. I was helping organize free concerts at Portobello Green, and by then Dave Brock had asked for material. I did “Sonic Attack” and others, which became standard numbers for the band and which I’ll be doing on [Saturday] night! If you lived in Ladbroke Grove/Portobello Road in the Sixties/Seventies, playing a stringed instrument was pretty much de rigeur.
AC: How did you come to record with Hawkwind for Warrior On the Edge of Time?
MM: Dave asked me. I went into the studio and performed some of the material I’d do on stage when Bob couldn’t do it (he was bi-polar), which I did pretty frequently through the Seventies and Eighties, while also performing and recording with my own band. It took me half a day, one take for each number.
AC: How involved were you with The Chronicle of the Black Sword and were you pleased with the results?
MM: Yes, in the main. Nik had done some excellent material, but was fired from the band over disagreements and I missed his input. The last time I appeared at full strength, as it were, was with the band at Hammersmith Odeon concluding that tour.
AC: You’ve also used the band as occasional characters in your work. What inspired that? Was the band pleased? “I loved the feeling of those good times. The best of the Sixties and Seventies ethic – a strong sense of equality between band and audience. Very similar to the Grateful Dead gigs.”
MM: Yes. It’s a frequent habit of mine to continue themes in books with real people, as when I did the Sex Pistols’ Gold Diggers of 1977 [a fictionalized take on the Pistols’ story, aka The Great Rock & Roll Swindle]. I‘ve used bands and records in the Jerry Cornelius stories since January 1965.
AC: How did you meet Matt Callen and how involved were you in the creation and curation of North American Space Ritual 2019?
MM: Matt joined me up to his Facebook Hawkwind North America site. Later I read he’d saved to go to the Hawkwind annual Easterfest, but couldn’t afford a new coat. So I offered to lend him the coat and hat I’d worn onstage with Hawkwind and my own band, Deep Fix. Matt wore it to England, then came to Austin to return it!
From Callen, via his initial announcement to Hawkwind fans:
“Alan recently moved to California, and he and I were chatting one day about American Hawkwind fans. We came up with an idea of a festival for the fans over here because they deserve it. So, I called Mike (the only other Hawk I know on our side of the pond). He wanted to be part of it too. We decided to have it in Mike’s hometown of Austin in the spring before he returns to France. Then Nik called me on the phone from England, twice. He said he would be delighted to have a little pop over and join our festivities. So, NASR and Moonhawks were born to go.”]
AC: Are you looking forward to once again collaborating with your old friends Nik Turner and Alan Davey?
MM: Oh, very! Those guys are the spirit of Hawkwind from the days we would rather do a free benefit gig than take a paid TV gig. I loved the feeling of those good times. The best of the Sixties and Seventies ethic – a strong sense of equality between band and audience. Very similar to the Grateful Dead gigs.
AC: What can we expect from your performance with Moonhawks?
MM: Well, I’m in my 80th year and have serious neuropathy, so I can only play harmonica. But I bet I can belt out a few of my favorites, like “Sonic Attack”!
AC: There’s historically been a lot of conflict between various members and ex-members of Hawkwind, including between Moonhawks member Nik Turner and Hawkwind mainstay Dave Brock. Have you been involved in any of it or do you stay above the fray?
MM: I was at the beginning, hoping for a reconciliation. But I quietly stopped performing with them after that. My sympathies are with Nikky, but I can also understand Dave’s POV. Too much sneakiness then. Now, however, we have the distilled best of the band.
AC: You’ve collaborated with other musicians outside of the Hawkwind family, including Blue Öyster Cult, Spirits Burning, and your own Deep Fix. Out of all the musical projects in which you’ve participated, which is closest to your heart? Any you’ve regretted?
MM: Regretted lazy recording, where I stopped too soon. I tend to give up on projects if somehow thwarted. This is partly because I’m used to working on my own as a novelist. Production tends to be better on, say, Hawkwind, because Dave is a more disciplined producer. I like my own stuff best, really, because I’ve done both music and lyrics, though I really like what Albert Bouchard (Spirits Burning) has done with Alien Heat. I still enjoy performing Hawkwind lyrics, though!
AC: It’s been announced that North American Space Ritual is your final onstage performance. What makes it time to hang up the rock & roll shoes, at least for concerts? Do you think you’ll miss it?
MM: YES. I love performing. I think it is the most fun I can have – performing Hawkwind!!
AC: Will you continue to make music in between writing projects?
MM: I’m currently finishing up a new Deep Fix album, Live From the Terminal Café.
AC: Do you ever have instances where the music fuels the writing or vice-versa? Are there concrete lines between your many creative projects?
MM: All my work – books, comics, music, and so on – are interconnected. Characters, themes, stories, graphic themes all feed into one another. Always have.
AC: When did you move to Bastrop? Given the changes in the United States the last couple of years, and the role of conservative Texas politicians in parts of it, what keeps you here?
MM: I moved here 25 years ago for family reasons and because I wanted to learn about the conservative mindset. I can’t argue with someone if I don’t know where they’re coming from. Austin seemed a good base, a good place to live – a progressive, musical, book-reading town in the middle of a conservative state. I believe in respectful exchange of ideas.
The house is old and has high ceilings. Bookshelves floor to ceiling – a proper library. I have too many to move. Either I sell them and the house and move, or I stay put until we can no longer move between Austin and Paris (where we live half the year). It’s a very nice balance!