Hawkwind are a band born of an era and a collective state of consciousness that's been critically examined to within an inch of its historical life. In the late 1960s, with the once primeval genre of rock 'n' roll casting a glance to the heavens - and occasionally up its own arse - to contemplate the possibilities of artistic exploration, with their indulgence of Celtic folk iconography, sci-fi imagery, electronica-spiced psychedelia and a reasonable quantity of mind-altering substances, Hawkwind were ready-made for the times.
The succeeding 40 years have seen Hawkwind process a revolving door of musicians (including the redoubtable Lemmy Kilmeister, whose legendary outfit Motorhead were named after Kilmeister's last composition for Hawkwind before he was summarily dismissed in the mid 1970s); the original Hawkwind style, however, lives on.
Guitarist Dave Brock remains the only constant member of Hawkwind from their conception in 1969, through to their current incarnation. These days Brock lives on a farm in rural England, where he tends his garden, dabbles in music and generally ponders the kaleidoscopic sights he's seen over the years. "We used to breed horses years ago," Brock chuckles down the line. "I suppose these days I play a lot of music while I'm here, potter in the garden, fix up the fencing," he laughs.
The name Hawkwind itself has been the subject of many a debate over the years. One theory suggests it's literary in origin; another, more popular, theory suggests that it's derived from original band member Nik Turner's unedifying public habit of clearing his throat and passing wind. Brock takes a bet each way on the matter. "It was originally from a Japanese proverb," Brock reasons. "But the other reason was Turner's coughing and farting," he laughs.
Hawkwind's indulgence of sci-fi themes was a symptom of Brock and his bandmates' popular interests, rather than a particular attempt at cashing in on the space missions being conducted by the United States and Russia. "I used to read a lot of sci-fi, as the whole band did," Brock admits. "Hence the titles of the songs, like Damnation Alley. Early on I used to dabble with doing loops, and that helped with creating the strange sounds that we came up with."
As for the possibility that Hawkwind were a very 'English' band - the subtle Celtic themes in lyrics and stage imagery being especially relevant here - Brock isn't so sure. "Was it particularly English eccentric? I don't know - but there were space rock bands all over the world," he figures.
As for the influence of drugs on the nascent Hawkwind sound, Brock is honest, but not gratuitous. "It wasn't critical, it just happened to be part of the era," he reasons. "Lots of artists used to take LSD to reach higher planes. We used to be able to get different varieties of hash and cannabis - not like what's around these days," he remembers.
Brock concedes, however, that the higher planes one reaches in the green fields of youth can look a bit self-indulgent with the benefit of hindsight. "Yes, there was a lot of rubbish sometimes, just plonking about!" he laughs. Drugs may or may hot have had an influence on Hawkwind's often grandiose stage show, which at any given time could include dangers, light shows and elaborate props. "We like a good show!" Brock admits. "These days we have a couple of good dancers - sometimes they'll come up with a good idea for a particular song, and we'll go with it. One time they decided to dress up as giant lobsters! We like to put on a good show for people."
Hawkind's line-up has changed regularly over the years, with the drumming position particularly problematic. "Simon King was in the band for nine years, on and off," Brock says. "We also had Ginger Baker (from Cream) for a bit, but Richard Chadwick has been there for the last 23 years. People used to come and go. I used to liken it to a ship - you'd drop them off at a port, and pick the new ones up!" he laughs.
One of Hawkwind's more unusual collaborations came when it joined with one-time page three girl and occasional solo performer Samantha Fox for a one-off performance of Master Of The Universe in 2000. "She was recording a song for the homeless, and she was asked what band she wanted to have backing her, and she said 'Hawkwind'," Brock recalls. "When she did the song, it was actually performed as Mistress Of The Universe," he grins.
Having done his part to further the cause of social and environmental consciousness over the years, Brock admits to being occasionally disappointed with the current state of society and its seeming inability to curtail waste and pollution. "With music you try and change things with the lyrics you write," Brock says. "But things haven't necessarily change - the population is still breeding faster than the planet can accommodate it."
Hawkwind's legacy can be seen across the musical spectrum - especially at the harder end where bands such as Monster Magnet hang out - and Brock is only too happy to see Hawkwind as a critical influence on modern music. "There's quite a lot of influence for other bands - lots of electronics," Brock says. "We've even had hits in the dance clubs in Ibiza," he laughs. "It's a nice thing that we've managed to do - you can draw parallels with jazz and rock."
Whereas once Hawkwind's electronic sounds were purely analogue, Brock and his colleagues have managed to move with the times. "It's a bit of both analogue and digital technology," Brock says. "My oscillators and audio generators are analogue, but we have Mac computers."
Finally, I'm compelled to ask whether Lemmy - who'll be on tour in Australia around the same time as his former band mates - will make an appearance during Hawkwind's forthcoming tour. Brock leaves the door sufficiently ajar. "There is a possibility," he chuckles. "Our managers have spoken, so you never know!"
HAWKWIND play GOLDEN PLAINS at the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre over March 12-14 - tickets and info from goldenplains.com.au. They also play Billboard The Venue on Saturday March 12 - tickets from billboardthevenue.com.au, ticketek.com.au and 132 849. Their latest album Blood Of The Earth is out now through Eastworld.