Houston has a way of getting legends cheaply. I seldom leave the house, but even I have seen here Bo Diddley in a hotel lobby, Roky Erickson at a catfish festival in Conroe, German electronic music pioneer Roedelius playing in front of the shoebox stacks upstairs at Notsuoh and, more recently, American electronic-music pioneer Silver Apples playing to a mostly empty Walters a few weeks ago. Tonight we welcome other-dimensional rock and roll hall of famer Nik Turner to Fitzgerald’s downstairs. A founding member of Hawkwind, a tireless miscreant and music-maker, and, like many other visionaries, a natty dresser, Turner has done for rock and roll what Sun Ra did for jazz and George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic did for funk — energized it, futurized it and set it free.
Space exploration, ancient mythologies, inter-dimensional traffic, and future cosmogony are central themes in Nik Turner’s work. As he elaborates, “as far as Hawkwind’s ethos is concerned, the basic principles were originally laid out by Michael Moorcock in his sword and sorcery epics, borrowing from mythologies, and his inter-dimensional travelling secret agent Jerry Cornelius…. [Moorcock] saw Hawkwind as the band his hero listened to whilst travelling the dimensions. And Robert Calvert’s vision of his space-rock opera, The Space Ritual, where the band, crew and stage constituted the spaceship, and the audience were what powered the spaceship to other dimensions.”
Hawkwind was and is a force majeure, as far out as Pink Floyd and as heavy as Black Sabbath, in fact as propulsive and textural as anything made before or since, carving a route forward from rock to techno. And like the like-minded the Pink Faeries, Hawkwind were and are the wild ones in rock, anarchistic heavy-hitters too smart for their own good, too close to the culture of mind-expansion and too plain wild for much help from the ever-conservative music industry. According to Turner, the origin of the band’s name, Hawkwind, owed to his “pronounced, prodigious habits of spitting and flatulence...for these scurrilous habits, and the drawing of attention to them by people, I was known as Hawkwind.”
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While he has left and rejoined Hawkwind several times in the past 45 years, Nik Turner hasn’t stopped moving ahead. He’s currently on the road supporting new album, Space Fusion Odyssey, and a forthcoming book,The Spirit of Hawkwind. So when I asked him what’s driving your fantasies, he had this to say.
“I seem to be currently driven by mythology," Turner explains. "Ancient peoples seem to have known a lot that we still don’t know, I want to know about it. I grew up on Greek mythology; Roman mythology; recorded flute music inside the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Cheops; turned it into an album based on the Egyptian Book of the Dead as a sci-fi manual; studied Teutonic mythology with the album The Imperial Pompadours - Ersatz; spent time in Mexico, studied Mayan mythology for a project called The Outriders of Apocalypse commemorating the Death of the 5th Sun and the Birth of the 6th Sun, at the end of the Long Count on Dec 21, 2013.”
Domokos of Future Blondes (appearing in a slightly altered form Friday night as Children Ov Star), describes Turner’s last appearance in Houston — at the Shimmy Shack in 1994! — as "The best show i have ever seen in my life! The Space Ritual '94" tour was a complete life changer for me. Finally, I was at home.”
That last Houston appearance featured Bay Area slow-metal superstars, Sleep. This time Turner will be supported by German rockers Hedersleben, the aforementioned Children ov Star, and local recording company Studded Left (an organization in which, by way of disclosure, I am involved directly).
As we all know, Houston is the home of everything related to space-age merchandising, from T-shirts to coffee cups. People have described us as the first city on the moon; what with our lack of breathable atmosphere, our empty roads, our preference for vehicular versus pedestrian traffic, and the constant UV bombardment. despite all these inducements)When I asked Turner it has been so long since he last touched down here, despite all these inducements, he was atypically vague, mentioning only booking agents and “strategy…a some secret formula…based on...other known unknowns.”
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WHEREAS, on the subject of extraterrestrial life and alien intelligence and, particularly, Stephen Hawking’s statements to the effect that while there are most likely other intelligent life forms out on the range, if they're anything like us we shouldn't be yelling for their attention, Nik Turner was much more forthcoming.
“Well, I agree with him, tho’ I was impressed by books about alien abduction by George Adamski, Flying Saucers Have Landed," he says. "I read this as a teenager, and On Board The Craft, in which he describes his abduction by aliens, who look like normal humans, are benign and communicate telepathically. They power their crafts using Earth’s electromagnetic energy and create their own gravity, so are completely self-contained, and can travel from 0-400,000 mph in an instant. They also say that humans on Earth will never have this technology until they learn to love and look after each other — sounds sensible, optimistic and common-sensical.”
Which is to say Nik Turner, at 75, is still Nik Turner, going strong.
Nik Turner's Space Ritual performs at Fitzgerald's tonight with special guests Hedersleben, Children Ov Star and Studded Left. Doors open at 8 p.m.