Nik Turner: Bringing the Music to the People
Because I've got a lot of play-along records, I learned a lot of stuff like that. I've got all of these Charlie Parker records that I do play-alongs to. You know, I'm teaching myself, really, and I'm learning. I give music lessons to people that want to learn to play like me. When I was in London playing in Hawkwind in the early days, I used to go to the music shops and one of the guys said, "Oh, you can have anything you want cheap, if you want." And I'd say, "Oh, why is that?" This is about 1973 or '74, and he said, "Well, 90 percent of the people that come in the shop who want to play the saxophone say they want to play like you." [Laughter] And I thought, "Wow, that's very flattering." But I didn't think I was very good, even then [laughs].
Busking at the Brecon Jazz Festival
I go busking in Cardiff as well, sometimes, when I'm not doing anything else. I just like to take the music to the people, really, and I find it actually great fun to be busking and for nobody to know who I am. Then I make quite a lot of money at it and get a really good response, and I get all the girlies dancing.
I'll go on a Saturday night down one of the streets and everybody's out clubbing, and all the girls come to me and say, "Wow, this is much better than the disco." I'm playing the alto saxophone with a tambourine on my foot keeping time and playing all these sort of bossa novas. If I play "Sway," I get all the girls completely besotted with it, and they're all doing this really sexual dancing. It's a real turn-on [laughter].
Yeah, I do like playing. I do music workshops at kids' festivals and stuff like that. I do music workshops all over the place. I just try to make music fun for people, and I get people that have never played in front of other people and I get them up and running and give them confidence.
I think that my attitude towards playing music is to enjoy yourself and don't give a fuck [laughter]. That's what I say to people, you know. Come on. And if people have got the balls to come onstage with me, then they are very welcome to. I just like to encourage people and give them confidence and show them that everybody is different. We're all at different stages of musical, spiritual, and intellectual development, and nobody is better than anybody else. We're all different.
That's why I like to listen to John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. I find them inspirational, but I don't want to be them. I just want to be me, you know, enjoying music, really, and I want to turn everyone else on to enjoying music and playing it and listening to it.
I felt very sorry for people that can only play music by reading. And I try to tell people throw away the reading books. Start again. Learn your scales. Start from scratch. Just learn basics and just practice and practice. And enjoy it.
AAJ: I've found, just myself, from playing, that one of the best things that you can do is to just play as though you have never, ever picked up the instrument before, and just sit down and play like you are playing for your very first time.
NT: Yeah, you've just got to play for the enjoyment and not worry about what other people think. One of my kids plays drums, and he listens to Stanton Moore. Do you know Stanton Moore? Really complicated New Orleans shuffle stuff. He's learned all of that sort of thing. He played percussion with me at the gig I did the other day. He's very good. He's really cool.
AAJ: I saw a video of the Barney Bubbles tribute. It looked like the gig went really well.
NT: Yeah. There's stuff on YouTube, I think.
AAJ: I saw something at your websiteI think it was "Watching the Grass Grow."
NT: Oh, okay. Cool! [laughs] That's Inner City Unit stuff. I'm doing that with the Space Ritual as well. I mean, I just drag my songs into all of the bands sometimes. But then I'll work out a repertoire of material quite often just based on what turns people on, really. I've got stuff on my site where I'm just playing "Tequila" or something like that [laughs]. Solo sort of stuff. I used to do that a lot. At the end of the gig, all of the band would want to stop playing and the audience wants more. I just get everybody clapping and play "In The Mood," or "The Pink Panther," or "Tequila," or "Sway," or any of these old tunes, and just give people a nice time.
AAJ: You said that you're really influenced by free-form jazz. Have you ever gone out and gigged playing free jazz? You were saying that you were really influenced by that early on.
NT: I've done that as well, yeah. I've done free jazz sometimes. I did a gig recently at Cheltenham University playing free jazz. It was great. I've got videos of it. I don't think there was any of that on YouTube. Maybe there was at that time. There was a guy called Chris Cundy who organized it. It might be on his site. I think he might have a Website. I'm up to anything, really. I just enjoy playing music. I play with The Damned sometimes, and other bands. I just sort of fit into any sort of genre.