Grandfather rock ticks on

By GRAHAM REID

Rock 'n' roll can take you a long way, and in the case of Hawkwind, their three decade-long career has taken them to ... Massey, in West Auckland.

After a nightmare trip from London, during which their plane was diverted to Honolulu and violinist Simon House was held under armed guard for a 1969 cannabis charge, they are relaxing in a suburban garden, laughing about the experience and vaguely philosophical about their past and future.

Dave Brock, the sole original member of the band, reflects on 30 years of rock 'n' roll and admits with a laugh that after a while there was nothing else he could do. Today Hawkwind "lurches on."

"Sometimes it looks like the end, then something will happen and off we go again - like being here. A month ago we never thought we'd be here. I don't know how it happens, people get in touch ..."

He shrugs, and expresses some surprise that they should have become fashionable with DJs and samplers.

Their brand of sky-scaling space-rock, initially fired by consciousness-shifting drugs in the late 60s and early 70s, has been cited by numerous electronica acts, and their swirling keyboard and guitars have been sampled often.

It's fitting that DJ Stinky Jim is on the same bill for Hawkwind's Powerstation show on Saturday.

"Yeah, we became in vogue - and we're like grandfathers to these people," laughs Brock, who turns 59 this year.

Hawkwind's career began in 1969 and their hard-driving, free-form rock made them regulars on the festival circuit. Sci-fi author Michael Moorcock was a regular collaborator and at times they sounded like Status Quo on an astral plane.

Their idiosyncratic blend of styles has seen them hailed as founding fathers of heavy metal, but one encyclopaedia of rock ruled out easy pigeonholing by describing them as making "genre-shattering British psychedelic hard rock, heavy metal, contemporary art rock, sci-fi, post apocalypse concept music."

Over about 100 albums they have endured numerous line-up changes (notably losing bassist Lemmy who went off to form Motorhead, and the death of singer Bob Calvert in 1988) and the occasional throwing-in of the towel.

These days they are still regulars on the festival circuit and later this year they expect a full reunion of their many members at the Glastonbury Festival.

Their audience hasn't changed much - "always young men," says House.

"And diehard original fans," adds Brock.

Ahead lie tours of the States and Britain and ... oh, just other things.

When Brock and House talk about Hawkwind, their enjoyment at arriving in a place like New Zealand ("like Torquay on acid," says House) and taking life at a leisurely place, you feel they don't take themselves especially seriously. But they are serious about the music.

Brock has written some music for a recent Oliver Stone movie, they are involved in writing music for a project involving the MIR satellite to get kids interested in space, they all have their own home studios, enjoy touring because you can get out and see places ...

And so, in the Massey backyard, the conversation drifts through a discussion about the constellation of Orion and Brock's recent reading.

The band gather for a photo and all the while things are filmed for a documentary on Hawkwind Down Under it is hoped British television will pick up.

Unpretentious, good-humoured and self-deprecating, Hawkwind look more like a lifestyle than just a band.

"Music keeps you young," says House with a lop-sided smile.

Who: Hawkwind, with Dooblong Tongdra, Inangafunga

Where: Waihi Beach Hotel tomorrow; Powerstation (with Stinky Jim) Saturday.

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