R13: What made you decide to get into music and what influenced the choice of instruments?
NT: I was quite inspired by my brother who played the piano. My uncle played the clarinet and I was subjected to jazz music a lot when I was a kid. My aunt used to sing like Billie Holiday. My family was very theatrical; my grandfather made films, my family had a lot going on. One of my aunts is in the Royal Shakespeare Company. We got into creative arts at a quite young age. I remember my brother and I dressing up as Flanagan and Allen and singing ‘Underneath The Arches’. I was quite inspired by jazz and one of the first records that I bought was a jazz record, ‘Twelfth Street Rag’ by Pee Wee Hunt. I listened to George Schering and Charlie Parker and stuff like that.
R13: When did you begin playing?
NT: Initially I played clarinet. I liked the clarinet and I had lessons when I was about seventeen. I would have liked to have learned earlier. I had the opportunity to learn piano but I never took it up. I got quite inspired by jazz musicians and listened to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. One of the most inspirational records for me was by Earl Bostic who played the saxophone on a song called ‘Flamingo’ which I thought was fantastic.
Then I sort of got into Rock n Roll a lot. I got a saxophone and started to play a bit then realised how difficult it was to play. I carried on learning and I’m working on it now. I eventually got into a band playing the saxophone with my brother; ‘The Canterbury Tailgaters’ we were called. We were a sort of college band. After that I didn’t play for a while. I got into Rock n Roll but never played at the time. When I went to Berlin and I met three jazz musicians who inspired me by telling me you didn’t have to be technical to express yourself. After that I met the guys from Hawkwind in Holland who were working in a Rock n Roll Circus. I got involved with the band a ended up playing free jazz in a Rock band. I was invited to join the group who at the time didn’t have a name. I’d met Dave (Brock) and Mick Slattery in Holland and when I got in touch they were getting a band together and I was going to be the roadie and drive the equipment around. They invited me to join in with them. We didn’t have a name, it was before Hawkwind. We gate-crashed someone else’s gig as ‘Group X’ in All Saints Hall in Notting Hill Gate. John Peel was there. We just did one song, ‘Sunshine Special’, which was loosely based on a John Coltrane song and inspired by The Byrd’s ‘Eight Miles High’. Apparently, when the Byrds wrote that song, they were in the middle of the desert and the only album they had was the John Coltrane album. Once we had a record deal, we decided to change the name of the band. ‘Hawkwind’ was chosen which was inspired by Michael Moorcock and my farting and spitting. We went on to play a lot of gigs and benefits; we’d play anywhere. I just enjoyed playing. Materialistically, Dave Brock was busking at the time so he got himself together. Lemmy joined the band. A few people came and went. John Harrison was the original bass player and when he left, in came Thomas Crimble and he was followed by Dave Anderson. Then Lemmy joined the band. Robert Calvert joined the band. He was my mate from Ramsgate who I’d known for a long time. He was a poet and turned me on to a lot of good literature and music. I’d invited him to join the band and he started writing songs with us and got involved with the album ‘In Search Of Space’. He wrote the log book with Barney Bubbles. Barney did paintings for us and I asked him to do the album cover for ‘In Search Of Space’. I co wrote ‘Master Of The Universe’ with Dave Brock or Dave Anderson I think. They used to dispute who actually wrote the riff. I wrote some other songs on that album, including ‘Children Of The Sun’ which I wrote with Dave Anderson.
R13: What’s the starting point for writing a song?
NT: I write poems really. I have an idea for a song and then I elaborate on it. Then the music happens. When I wrote ‘Brainstorm’, I wrote the lyrics and music together whilst sitting in an airport waiting to take off.
R13: You are always very busy; do you get a chance to see other bands live? If so, what bands?
NT: I’ve seen lots of bands that we’ve played with. That included Deep purple, Pink Floyd and Blind Faith.
R13: What are your favourites?
NT: I listen to a lot of jazz now, some funk too; really expressive music. I used to listen to Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, Steve Miller, Mountain; those sort of bands.
R13: You play lots of styles including jazz and spacerock. What style do you prefer to play?
NT: I’ve played in big bands and I’ve played in soul bands. I’ve played in ska bands and traditional jazz bands. I’ve played in a lot of different bands. I find jazz is more demanding than rock music; rock can get a bit one dimensional; it can end up playing in non-interesting keys, only E and A. I prefer to play in more brass keys as it’s more demanding and more musically satisfying. I like all sorts of music really; I don’t mind. I’ll play with anybody and I’ll play in any key anybody wants to play in.
R13: 'Space Ritual' is acclaimed by many as one of the best live rock albums. What are you memories of playing the gigs that contributed to this?
NT: It’s a bit bass heavy, I think; it was Lemmy being really loud. The gigs all merge into one; you just tend to remember the dressing room. I remember the promoter at The Liverpool Stadium, Roger Eagle. He’s no longer alive but was a nice guy. It was a boxing stadium; yes, I remember it. I remember quite a lot of venues. I have got some memories; I haven’t completely lost my ability to remember things. We all have different memories of these things as we all have different associations with what happened - what it was like, what you were doing and who you were with. I supposed some people took drugs but I suppose that may have enhanced their enjoyment.
R13: The Hawklords mini tour earlier this year was a great success and achieved some very good reviews. I for one witnessed your great gig at the Liverpool Academy. Are there plans for another tour later in the year or early next year?
NT: Space Ritual are doing gigs all the time and I’d like to do something later on with The Hawklords, something big. I got the band together and organized the gig for Robert Calvert, well for his wife. I invited all these guys who had played with Robert and as it transpired it happened to be some people who had played in The (original) Hawklords. I was asked by the promoter to help get together a big concert at The Roundhouse. He said he would ideally like Hawkwind or The Hawklords to perform ‘The Space Ritual’. I had already got The Hawklords together in the context of the Robert Calvert benefit, so I got that band together to do the concert at The Roundhouse. Because the promoter hadn’t sold enough tickets, he pulled out of the arrangement. Barney Bubbles had been involved with the original presentation of The Space Ritual and had also designed the stage set and presentation of The Hawklords. I thought it would be nice to make The Roundhouse gig a memorial concert for Barney. It wasn’t a benefit at that time. They had Amon Duul, Quintessence and The Brian James Band lined up for it. Then I thought that just because they’d cancelled it, I’d like to carry on and do it myself as a project as a memorial to Barney Bubbles. I got all the projects that I’d been involved with him on. We had The Hawklords performing The Space Ritual and we had Inner City Unity which was a band I got together with Barney. The Imperial Pompadours was an album project that I’d done with him. So I got those together. There was a guy called Jerry Fitzgerald who had put the original Space Ritual show together with Barney. He had heard that at one of the gigs that he’d done, Lol Coxhill was outside busking in the queue so he got him to play on stage with him; so I invited them to play as well. Quintessence (were invited) as well as Barney had done a lot of work with them.
R13: The Barney Bubbles Memorial gig at the 229 Club was a great success. When will the CD and DVD be released and where can we get our hands on it?
NT: We’ve got a DVD coming out.
R13: Have you any idea when?
NT: It’s a DVD of The Hawklords actually. There’s no other bands (on it). It would be nice to put together a DVD of the whole thing but I haven’t got film of everything. I’d have to try and rustle up film of Jerry Fitzgerald and Lol Coxhill. Kev and Trev played as well. We played as Inner City Unit. Mark James couldn’t make it because he was ill. Maybe I should get together a Barney Bubbles memorial DVD. I might do that. It’s a problem with the promotional machinery; it costs money to have it pressed up properly.
R13: Are there any plans of a Hawklords studio album?
NT: Yeah, there is talk of it. I don’t know what people have done yet about material. I’m working on some songs myself. I’m also working on some material for a new Space Ritual album.
R13: During your long musical career you’ve played shows all over, what is your most memorable tour moment?
NT: There’s been some quite strange things; me nearly writing myself off in various places. I’ve been electrocuted in London at the Saint Pancras Town Hall at the Gay Liberation Benefit. I nearly crashed a car in Berlin with dodgy brakes on our way to the Olympic Stadium. It’s all memorable near death experiences; more memorable than the gigs. I’ve enjoyed all the gigs I’ve done; every gig is the best gig. The last one is always better than all the others and the next one is going to be better still.
R13: What made you decide to get into music and what influenced the choice of instruments?