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Nik Turner: Bringing the Music to the People

By Published: February 24, 2010
Prior to that I'd played in a couple of bands. When in a college band, my brother played the trumpet. He was at Art College studying architecture. I was in college studying engineering at the same time, and I played in a band with him. We did a couple of gigs. He played trumpet, he had a trombone player, there was a bassist and a drummer. We did a couple of gigs just playing four or five numbers. We were playing stuff like "Foggy Day In London Town" and "My Funny Valentine."

I listened to a lot of Gerry Mulligan

Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
1927 - 1996
sax, baritone
and then my brother turned me on to Miles Davis with Milestones (Columbia, 1958). I bought a Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
record, Something Else (Blue Note, 1958)," and I thought I really was into jazz. I read a lot about it and listened to it a lot, and I really found it very exciting but quite difficult to play.

While I was in Holland I was road managing for a black guy who did a James Brown

James Brown
James Brown
1933 - 2006
look-alike act—or sound-alike or stage act. I was his road manager and we used to hang out all night in bars in Amsterdam with all of these black guys on the run from the Army [laughter] listening to all this old jazz. He turned me on to John Coltrane's Olé Coltrane (Atlantic, 1961). He was writing a book about black hip-speak at that time.

This was probably about 1967. Psychedelia was happening and everybody was taking LSD and stuff like that. I later discovered John Coltrane took LSD as well. And then I got involved with these free jazz people in Berlin in 1968, I think it was. I listened to Jimi Hendrix when I was in Amsterdam and I thought that was really cool music. I think it was quite influential to me. Miles Davis playing his wah-wah, as well.

I got quite influenced by those things and got involved in this band Hawkwind. The guys in the band were all friends of mine, I had met them in Amsterdam. They had played in a band—I was working on a rock and roll circus as a roustabout and a barman. I wasn't playing music at the time but these guys played in one of the bands that featured there. I eventually got this band together with them, a guy called Dave Brock and another one called Mick Slattery. Incidentally, I work with Mick Slattery still today.

We got this band together, I was going to be their road manager. I happened to have my saxophone in my van, in my car, and brought it into rehearsal and banged away at it playing all of this sort of expressionist music that I learned about in Berlin, and then I was invited to be involved in the band.

They didn't have a name at the time, but we later called ourselves Hawkwind as a result of my hawking—clearing my nasal passages, and my wind—my sort of volume of flatulence [laughs], you might call it. So, we were Hawkwind, then, and I was playing free jazz in a rock band. Then my friend Robert Calvert got involved in the band and we turned into a space rock band. He was a poet, a space poet.

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