An Interview with

'Jerry Richards'

Hawklords - 'Jerry Richards' B&W' - Photo by Charles Palmer

Founder Member & Vocalist/Guitarist of
'Hawklords'
that took place on 13th June, 2021.

Interviewed by Glenn Milligan.

Glenn: How did the Hawklords originally come to be all those many moons ago and as the unit it is right now?

 

Jerry: The idea for Hawklords rebooting was never based around any one person but was really a collaboration with Nik Turner in order to raise some money for Robert Calvert's widow, Jill, who was having some financial problems at the time. This was back in 2008 and the idea that we subsequently devised was that we would do a concert featuring as many former members of Hawkwind as possible to play a show at The Kings Hall, Herne Bay, in Southern England and then during the afternoon of the show we auctioned off a lot of our own personal memorabilia from our days as members of Hawkwind and thereby raised quite a bit of money for Jill.

 

Bob's son, Nick Calvert was there and read some poems from the stage, we had performances in the afternoon from Pentameters Theatre, who performed, as I remember it, one of Bob's plays, 'The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice' along with many bands who were part of the original UK festival scene of the 1970s also on the bill. It was a terrific day all around, with lots of happy Hawk fans of all kinds at the venue.

I think Ron Tree (former Hawkwind and Hawklords singer) and I wrote the set list during the afternoon and once we figured out which songs the band members knew best we settled on a set of songs that was really quite a thrilling ride through some of the Hawkwind/Lords back catalogue, culminating, of course, with fan favourite, 'Silver Machine'.

 

A few months after the Herne Bay gig we did a memorial concert for Barney Bubbles, the legendary graphic designer of many of Hawkwind's biggest selling albums of the 1970s, at the 229 Club in London.

 

This was in conjunction with a book launch for a retrospective collection of Barney's works which was entitled 'Reasons To Be Cheerful'.

 

Again, it was another packed London show, with many former Hawkwind band members present, including Simon King, who didn't play at the show, although he was tempted….

We did a multi camera video shoot alongside a multi-track audio recording from which I created a DVD of the show.

 

It was a limited edition release of about 2000 copies, I think. It had beautiful triple fold-out packaging, which kinda harks back to those halcyon days of experimental artworks for some of the band's 1970s releases. So, folks, if you have one of those DVDs then they're probably worth a fair bit of money by now….

 

It was, again, a great show and a really good product for fans to buy as a memento of the evening.

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Glenn: How would you personally describe a Hawklords gig experience and why for those who are completely new to it?

 

Jerry: Well, different band members will give you completely different reasons as to why they like what it is that we do, so, for instance, our drummer, Dave Pearce, might say that he gets to hear his original 1970 Premier drum set through a large drum monitor stack onstage where he can really hear the power of his kit and all of those beautiful tones that he can create at that kind of volume.

The power of his kit is simply stunning when you're listening to it on the PA rig in the concert hall.

Drummers: they like to hit things….

 

'Dead' Fred Reeves, our keyboard player, might tell you that he's there simply to hurt people and would prefer that the doors are locked once the audience is inside, thereby preventing any escape from his sonic bombardment!

 

Our bass player, Tom Ashurst, likes to lay down really foxy bass grooves, at volume and create a classic form of drums and bass engine room for the music. He does it really well.

 

As for me, I like very much the idea that each successive show on a tour simply gets better and more diverse as the tour progresses and that we change things around from night to night with subtle variations in the the songs that we're performing.

 

So, each show is better than the one the night before, for us, giving the band the opportunity to create something very special at each performance.

Hawklords 'Dave Pearce' - Photo by Charles Palmer
Hawklords 'Fred Reeves' - Photo by Charles Palmer

Glenn: What are the main elements that you have to consider in order to create that said experience – also regarding lights/extra additives etc?

 

Jerry: The main thing is that the band is relaxed and focused on the show for that night. We travel small and with a tight crew who all know exactly what they're doing for their part. Our sound man, Mark Amadeus, is essentially another member of the band who happens to be sitting out front controlling the audio and thus has a very creative role in the audio output to the fans.

 

This, of course, is alongside our legendary lightshow which is created anew for each successive tour and album release by Dave 'Lighthouse' Johnson, an invaluable old friend and lightshow designer veteran. Sometimes I can look out into the audience and see that the people there are simply trancing off to the projections that they see on the screen behind the band. Dave has an intrinsic understanding of the relationship between the audio and the visual aspects of our show and really does blow minds with his projections.

 

Naturally, the most important component of any show is the audience themselves. Their experience of the night is paramount to all of us involved in creating the show. We have no higher goal for the fans other than to blow their minds, if we can.

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Glenn: How do you go about creating that set-list since there are so, so many incredible Hawkwind and Hawklord related songs to choose from now?

 

Jerry: Oh, that's easy. I just ask one of the band to suggest a set of songs and we work on that.

Usually, we will play songs from our back catalogue that are fan favourites, such as 'Flight Path', 'The Joker', 'We Are One', 'SR-71', 'Devil In My Head' & 'Ghost In My Machine'. But, we make room for both the brand new album material from whichever is the current release as well as some original 1970s material that have become classics in their own right.

 

So, if Nik Turner is playing with us, then we might play 'Brainstorm' and 'Master Of The Universe' - two of Nik's signature songs. It's good to get a nice blend of old and new material so that the fans can get off on the brand new songs and also have a legacy fulfilment with some of the older classic material.

Hawklords - Nik Turner & Jerry Richards - Photo by Charles Palmer

Glenn: What are your favourite parts of a Hawklords show with regard to certain sections and songs and why?

 

Jerry: I love it when the band 'gets off the page' as I like to put it. These are magical moments where the entire band is breathing and playing as one complete indivisible entity and is creating brand new arrangements and interpretations of the songs, all in real time.

 

It's so exhilarating when that happens because you are no longer simply playing the music; you have stopped being just the guitar player, or synth player and have become more than one constituent element of the music. These are the moments that I look for when we play together and they're so thrilling because they are unique events and cannot be replicated. I learn so much more about the substance of our songs and about my relationship with my guitar in these truly inspirational moments.

 

On occasion, when this happens, you can hear a pin drop out in the audience at the end of the song. They have been as mesmerised as the band by a performance in which everyone present has been an active participant.

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Glenn: What would you say are the hardest songs to recreate live and how do you get around that?

 

Jerry: I think this is a question about scale, really. We take account of the size of the venue when setting up the sound for a performance. So, large scale venues will give us a bit more scope for a more powerful and theatrical performance where the band can really ramp up the sonic power of the music. In smaller venues, we can often use that closer space with the audience to create new poems in real time and engage with the people in the venue on a more intimate footing.

 

Sometimes, it's so nice to speak with the audience without using a microphone to amplify your voice. It diminishes that divide between the performers on stage and the people in the room. It's a lovely thing to do if you are fortunate enough to play at those kinds of venues. Luckily for us, we have stalwart friends all over the UK who do operate their venues almost as Jazz clubs, where we are free to engage with an audience that may only be sitting a few feet from the stage and can both see and hear everything that we do without the need for a gargantuan PA system.

 

This gives us an opportunity to connect with people through the music in that much more of a direct and intimate fashion.

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Glenn: Are there certain sounds you like to use for songs in the band that are preferable that are sonically linked with Hawkwind as well, merging the two bands together almost, if that makes any sense? If so, which ones and why?

 

Jerry: We don't really bother about what other musicians may have created sound-wise in the past. We're much more interested in creating something new, yet perhaps familiar, for each and every show. Having said that, the bass synths and the bass guitar can really mess people up! The band has been doing that for years.

Hawklords B&W L-R Jerry Richards - Tom Ashurst - Dead Fred - Dave Pearce 1-2020

Glenn: What gigs/countries/venues have stood out over the years and why?

 

Jerry: Naturally, the UK has been a bed-rock for us for many years, now. Some of the best shows that I've been involved in have been here in the UK. However, we have done shows all over the world in my time. New Zealand and Australia were particularly memorable events for me. I remember we (as Hawkwind) played the Australian equivalent of the Joolz Holland BBC music programme on ABC TV in Sydney in the afternoon. This recording was fantastic and I think I'm right in saying that it has been the most repeated of all of that series of TV shows.

 

Then later in the evening we played a sold out show at The Metro in Sydney, with fans queueing around the block to get tickets. Again, another fabulous show featuring a fantastic musical line-up of Dave Brock, myself, Simon House, Steve Taylor, Harvey Bainbridge and Richard Chadwick.

 

A fabulous show which left the fans foaming at the mouth with excitement.

 

What more do you want?

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Glenn: If you had the chance either to down size or financial restraints, what else would you like to incorporate into the show and why for added texture and flavour?

 

Jerry: As I said before, I don't necessarily think that bigger is better. I would prefer that we had a little more time in pre-production to rehearse the touring show and that would give us the opportunity to tie up more concisely any loose ends both in the visual and in the audio department. As it goes, pre-production time is expensive, but more budget would allow us the time to shape the shows in a more detailed way before we take it out on the road.

 

Fortunately, the band is always well rehearsed and some of us have now been working together for quite a long time so we're all on the same wavelength most of the time.

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Glenn: Tell us about the new forthcoming album material that we can expect soon and where you are at with it at the moment...

 

Jerry: Yes, delighted to do that.

 

We have a new studio album called 'TIME' which is set for release on 6th August 2021.

This is our 10th consecutive album release and follows on from the very successful 'ALIVE' album that we put out in 2020, which documented our live shows from the Generations Tour of 2019.

The 'TIME' album is all done and dusted and is now with the pressing plant and our distributor.

It's a concept album which deals with "Observations as seen through the prism of TIME."

 

It sounds fantastic, with lots of ear-worm material, Pop music 60's hipster-speak lyrics and memorable phrases, plus very strange and beautiful electronics and poems and is probably the most accessible/commercial release that we've made to date.

 

It's a real headphone album, with lots going on in the stereo sound field and will have you singing and humming along with the songs in ways and at times that you simply don't expect….

Yes; it could well be that annoying!

 

But we don't care, because we like it and we're sure that everyone else will, too.

All recorded remotely during lockdown here in the UK between November 2020 and May 2021 by me and Dead Fred.

 

The drum session took place at our usual London recording studio, The Music Complex, with Chris Mansell's legendary drum track ears on the case as engineer.

 

The package is completed with artwork by British graphic designer Martin Robert Cook, who has been working with us for a few years, now. This time, he's really torn it up and created an artistic narrative around one of the new songs, Speed Of Sound, which is an uptempo rock and roll number about the halcyon days of the late 1940s when the sound barrier was about to be broken in a sustained powered flight by Chuck Yeager in the Bell X1 aircraft. Martin has used images of classic space-suited aeronauts throughout the artworks which lend a very cutting edge, yet, by-the-seat-of-your-pants, experience for both the music and the artwork.

 

I am really thrilled by the whole package and it's exactly the kind of thing that I would hope for from a band that's pushing the boundaries of expectation for the space-rock scene.

So, yeah, please buy it when it comes out. You will love it.

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Glenn: Since your songs are often space and/or UFO based, are your songs from personal experience or from reference elsewhere too? Care to tell us about UFO's you have seen or other such experiences that may or may not have influenced ay of the songs?

 

Jerry: Aha, this is perhaps a misconception that we only write about UFO's or aliens. We don't do that.

 

We do write about subjects that interest us as human beings; so, that can include the topic of alien spacecraft and so forth, but we also make social comment about many things concerning human kind and the planet earth, it's just that often we can tie that commentary up with a sci-fi narrative approach to the songs using electronics and poetry to create an atmosphere that's sometimes dystopian, but I like to think that it's also a hopeful vision looking forward to the future of mankind.

As for witness testimony about paranormal phenomena, then I prefer not to talk about that as some people think I'm crazy enough as it is….

 

Maybe I'll put it all down in a memoir one day. Who knows. Only TIME will tell.

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Glenn: How do you prefer to record? As in altogether or apart? Also digital and analogue and why?

 

Jerry: Yeah, this is the weird thing about creating music. It doesn't really rely on too many rules when it comes to procedure for us.

 

I do like enormously that we are ordinarily able to get together in a studio and work as one on the songs at hand. That way we can iron out any wrinkles in the fabric very quickly and shape the material with a finer degree of practical tolerance. So, you can quickly figure out which parts of an arrangement are working best and kick out anything that's redundant.

 

I prefer to write songs, so that the fans can really engage in the subject matter at hand and also space out to the groove and the musicianship.

 

So, I tend to write at home when I'm working on the concept and lyrics for each album and then it's really great to come together as a band in rehearsal or the studio to begin laying it all out in a functioning way.

 

The great thing about digital is that it's very flexible for editing (I use ProTools as my recording work station) and digital files can easily be shipped around the world when one finds oneself in the middle of a deadly global pandemic and it becomes unsafe to leave the house….

 

Sound familiar?

 

Like I said earlier, Fred and I were able to write this album from our respective studios and deliver 'takes' and sound files to each other using file transfer services and yet, despite the fact that we couldn't all be in the same space, the album still sounds very 'live'. It's a question of experience I think and my time in the film business is invaluable when you find yourself slightly constrained by external forces like COVID-19,  for instance. In those instances you need to think outside the box to solve any little problems that arise.

 

Fortunately, Fred is also very experienced in all things recording and musical and so we were able to work very well together despite the global chaos and the both of us being physically hundreds of miles apart.

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Glenn: What are the band members memorable times so far in their musical careers?

 

Jerry: I have no idea. You'll have to ask them about that.

 

For me, I remember one time we went to America to play at a friend's festival, the Strange Daze Festival just outside Cleveland in Ohio and Dave (Brock) hadn't got his work visa sorted out, so the authorities wouldn't let him into the USA and our singer, Ron Tree, who had a legal problem at the time, was denied entry and put on a plane back to the UK as soon as we landed in Toronto.

 

It ended up with me, Richard (Chadwick), Capt Rizz, who fortunately was with us on the trip, plus two of our pals, Steve Hayes (keyboards) and Steve Taylor (bass player. He also came with us for the New Zealand and Australia tour of 2000) doing the show for the assembled fans. What a great show, with most of it being created in real time, live and direct on the stage. It's out there on YouTube and you can check that out if you get a moment.

 

It was great gig, which was made all the more amusing for me at the time as our living legend singer guitarist and our lead vocalist were denied entry for the show. That's what you get for missing staff briefings….

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Glenn: What have you guys most been proud of both personally and bandwise?

 

Jerry: For me, it's always the friends that I know in the business and elsewhere, the friends I've worked with in film and music and the friends that I've lost along the road. Every one of them makes me proud to know them, or have known them.

 

Musically, I'm enjoying immensely the Hawklords music project. It's a band with no boundaries and no tyrants telling us what to do.

 

What a treat in this wicked business that we call 'Show.'

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Glenn: If you could put an ultimate line-up of Hawklords together, who would you have in it and for what reasons since quite a few folk and been in the band over the years?

 

Jerry: I wouldn't change the line-up that we have now: Tom Ashurst (Bass & Vocals), Dave Pearce (Drums), 'Dead' Fred Reeves (Keys, Synths & Vocals), Myself (Guitar & Vocals) and now a new member on Sax and Flute, Chris 'Beebe' Aldridge.

 

It's a great line-up with all accomplished musicians and writers. What's not to like?

Hawklords 'Tom Ashurst' - Photo by Charles Palmer

Glenn: What projects/bands are you involved in when not working and gigging with Hawklords?

 

Jerry: Occasionally I will be asked to contribute to projects with other bands and I'll do that if I can bring something relevant to their music.

 

Mostly, I work with some very old pals of mine whom I've known for nearly 40 years, the Crokodile Tears.

 

It's a three-piece band consisting of two acoustic guitars and an electric guitar. Chris Crok and I sing and my friend Alf Hardy, with whom I was a member of the UK free festival band, Tubilah Dog back in the early 1980s, playing the electric.

 

It's a piece of cake to put on a stage and is both hilarious, charming and poignant all at the same time.

 

The Croks should be playing any and all stages at Glastonbury every year as far as I'm concerned.

So, if you're reading this Emily and I doubt that you are, give us a gig. You'll love the Croks.

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Glenn: What are you looking forward to regarding the tour next year?

 

Jerry: This new album release of ours is called 'TIME' and I almost feel that I've been 'doing time' for the last 12 months or so.

 

So, I will just be thrilled to get out and about with a fabulous collection of musicians and get back to what we do best, which is entertaining like-minded weirdos who also love the romance of sci-fi music.

 

I can't wait.

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Glenn: Any good spinal tap like stories you can talk about?

 

Jerry: No more legal ones, I'm afraid, but do check the answer above about 'Going to America' with Hawkwind.

 

That's proper Spinal Tap.

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Glenn: Any DVD concert plans?

 

Jerry: Nothing on the books at the moment. but, you never know, folks. Cameras are everywhere these days and anyone can knock up a Hi-Res movie on their iPhone now.

 

I think that, over the years, I've done my duty in creating some very decent DVD movies of bands with whom I've worked.

 

I'm not planning any feature length films in the near future. But watch this space. I might get twitchy and have to film something again!

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Glenn: Anything else you would like to discuss not covered?

 

Jerry: God, don't get me started. We'll be here forever.

 

I would invite people to come to the shows for the new album, 'TIME' and we can talk in private for as long as you like about whatever you like.

 

The current batch of buffoons in Downing Street are at the top of my list at the moment, but, like I said, don't get me started….

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Massive thanks to Jerry for the fantastic in-depth Interview.

Big thanks also for the supplying and permission to use the amazing photographs by Charles Palmer.

Other Photographs taken by Glenn Milligan @ HRH Prog VIII , O2 Academy, Sheffield 26/10/2019.

Be sure to get a copy of the 'Time' Album when it's available and catch Hawklords on Tour in 2022.