Alan Davey interview
- January 2011 -
Alan Davey is of course familiar to all the Psychotropic Zone readers as the longest-running bass player of the legendary UK space rock band Hawkwind. He was part of the mothership from 1984 to 1996 and then again from 2000 to 2007 writing many classic Hawkwind songs and also doing much of the vocals in the band. Alan has been releasing and playing music with several other outfits and as a solo artist, as well. Motörhead’s Lemmy has named him Bass Assassin No 2, with himself of course being No 1... Alan Davey’s heavy hard rock band Gunslinger is playing their debut Finnish gig at Psychotropic Caravan Festival III in Helsinki on February the 5th, so it was time to ask a few questions from one of my favourite bass players in the world...
Bass Assassins No 1 & 2 w/ Dave Brock & Phil Caivano
(Monster Magnet) playing “Silver Machine” during
Hawkwind’s Ruisrock Festival performance in Turku, Finland.
How did you first get interested in music and what were your early influences?
When I was 15 I heard Lemmy’s bass solo/jam on the song Time We Left on a Hawkwind album called Doremi Fasol Latido. The bass had a dirty sound and at the point where Lem goes onto the bass chords it hit me like a bolt of lightning! “I want to make that sound, NOW!” But I was so unmusical at the time I didn’t even know it was a bass guitar so I took the record to a music shop, played it to the owner and asked “what is that instrument?” “I think its a bass” he replied. So I bought a Rickenbacker copy by Hondo 2 not knowing it was the same type Lem used! I was bought an acoustic guitar when I was 14 but didn’t play it as I didn’t like the sound it made. With no lessons I started strumming on the bass after finding some chords that worked, just like the guitarists on the TV as I didn’t know it was wrong on the bass, but it sounded so right! I soon realised that was what Lem was doing to create that awesome sound so I played along to the Space Ritual album many times which has lots of Lem on it and learned bass from his playing!
Lem asked me this same question when we first met and he was obviously touched and moved by the story, he’s a nice, real down to earth guy!
You’re going to be playing at our Psychotropic Caravan Festival in February with your band Gunslinger. Please tell us how the band was formed and what Gunslinger really is all about.
At about the same time I bought my bass my cousin Nigel Potter bought a 6 string electric guitar, so we hooked up and hit it off straight away writing lots of songs and practising every day for 3–4 hours! Nigel was influenced by Jimmy Page mostly in my mind and became a demon at chord changes like Page, and mixing that with Lemmy style bass made a great sound, so after a couple of false starts with other names, in 1979 we started Gunslinger and soon got a reputation locally for being LOUD and crazy!
We were offered a major Record deal within a year after Sounds Magazine ran a competition, and the best 2 were picked out being us and Raven! They’re still playing too!
Our drummer at the time left to maintain his job, I don’t think he had the same faith in Gunslinger Nigel and I had. So we couldn’t find one in time so Raven got the deal, then it kind of stopped for a while as there was no drummers around crazy enough!!
I joined Hawkwind in 1984 and Nigel was in the last 12 guitarists to be auditioned for the Motörhead slot after Eddie Clarke’s departure. Nigel and I still did the odd recording etc. and our demo tape from 1980 was in demand so Nigel kept the name going in that way!
Then 3 years ago I found out Nigel had a PC studio as did I, so we thought it would be fun to record a couple of the old Gunslinger songs which I then put on my MySpace site. Well, the response was HUGE!! So we decided to do the album we never did, and we used the title we had back in 1980 too, “Earthquake in E Minor”, which was released on my own label in 2008. It got LOTS of attention from all corners of the world so Gunslinger started again with James Tait (guitar) and Sunil Jolly (drums), both from the mighty Meads of Asphodel whom I’ve done the bass for for the last 6 years! Sunil was emigrating to New Zealand or Italy so the line up was never considered permanent but it got us out there. On Nigel’s recommendation he suggested my nephew Louis Davey take over guitar in Gunslinger and it worked well, so, just need to find a drummer, AGAIN!! We tried a local guy, Jared but he couldn’t keep up, so I asked my old friend Martin Webb (a local drum instructor) and he said “I know just who you need!” So we met up with Cat who was 18 years old and tiny! Well, she pounds the drums as good as any guy I’ve played with and she fits in nicely, bringing a modern drumming style to our old sound too!
Gunslinger is a unique Hard Rock band like early Motörhead but with our own Gun Metal edge! We give it all we’ve got and are soaked in sweat after every gig! If ya not, WHY NOT!?
What are the Gunslinger gigs usually like? Can we expect to hear any Hawkwind songs in the set or other covers or do you just play your original material?
We do all original songs, but sometimes when we get 90–120 minutes to play we do 2–3 Hawkwind songs and Ace of Spades too! But I don’t know how long we have at your festival. If we get a 45 minute set then we only play Gunslinger songs.
Your first gig with Hawkwind was at Stonehenge at Summer Solstice Festival. Please tell us how did you get the job as the band’s bass player and how did it feel like?
I sent the Gunslinger demo cassette tape to Brian Tawn who does Hawkfan in UK and he passed it onto Hawkwind! That Lemmy sound reared up again and they couldn’t resist it! So I was in! Hawkwind were sounding weak in 1983–84 and needed some power, Lemmy power, like the early 70’s sound. I told them Hawkwind needed to mix Warrior on the Edge of Time with Church of Hawkwind, old and modern as the modern alone wasn’t doing it for me personally! I was spot on so the Black Sword came from that! It felt great to be playing with Hawkwind, and the guys were very nice easy going people except one!
What has it been like to work with Dave Brock?
His cocaine habit made it difficult sometimes with the mood swings and childish tantrums which were unbearable sometimes... It used to make me angry sometimes, a man of his age acting like a child and I nearly left HW many times because of it!!
What’s your favourite HW album today and why?
Space Ritual, because there’s loads of Lemmy’s bass and Simon King’s drums! He’s my favourite drummer! DikMik, Del Dettmar, Nik Turner and even Dave all played well on that album! Doremi Fasol Latido is a close 2nd.
At what point did you learn to play synthesisers as well and what is your favourite synth?
Well in 1988 Harvey Bainbridge had so many gadgets and synths it took a few seconds to set them up for the next song and silence in between songs is bad at HW gigs so I bought a Jupiter-6 to make the old sounds like on Space Ritual to fill in the gaps and keep the mood going. My favourite synth is the Korg Wavestation EX and SR, I still have them and use them in my studio. If you make an original sound this was the synth for the job! I like original so got on well with programming them. A lot of people couldn’t figure them out! If you think musically on them you’ll get nothing new out of them, but if you transform music into numbers instead of notes then a huge door opens up and your in...
Could you tell us something about the bass gear you use? Do you have many bass guitars?
I only have 2 basses, my main 1964 vintage maple Black Rickenbacker 4001 and a new Blue 4003 which I’ve had customised by Iron Maidens Gtr Dr. Both produce 200 milli amps of output, that’s about twice of a normal active bass! I use 50 watt Fender Bassman valve amps which are a very important part of my sound also! All run through 2 speaker cabs, each with 2 x 15" speakers, so 4 x 15" speakers in all. I don’t use pedals for distortion unless it’s a small place, the amps maybe only 50 watts but their rated output is 80 watts and everything in on #10...!
Rotosound strings are still the best for me. 105-45 long scale swing bass are what I use and they don’t break much like a lot of bass strings do I’ve tried!
Do you have any other main activities/work/hobbies besides music? Can you make a living with space rock/gun metal?
I like to do pike fishing when I can in winter and in summer I go to speedway racing. Finland has some good riders and good pike too!! But mostly I write and record music in my studio. I get lots of ideas all the time!!
What do you think is the current situation of psychedelic space rock in the world? Are you interested in checking out new bands?
There are some really good psychedelic bands around these days, but maybe too many!
Only a handful are original... Ozrics kicked off the new wave of bands but I rarely listen to space rock, I hear enough space rock!
What kind of music do you listen to nowadays? Your favourite bands?
I listen to Charlie Parker a lot, Motörhead, Arabic music, old rock n roll. I don’t listen to much rock though it’s a bus mans holiday!!
You have also made several excellent solo albums like Human on the Outside and the most recent one called Eclectic Devils. Please tell us something about the writing and recording process of these albums. Are you happy with these CD’s?
I rarely sit and write songs, they just come to me out of the blue so I like to think of my songs as magic moments, so because I don’t read or write music I quickly record the riff and then work on it later or there and then! I’m always happy with my CD’s if I wasn’t I wouldn’t release them and I never put “fillers” on as that’s in poor taste!
You have also played in other bands besides Gunslinger and Hawkwind. Is there going to be any more albums or tours with Beduin, for example? Do you see yourself being a full member of some other bands in the near future?
No more Bedouin but I do play Bedouin songs with solo gigs like at the On Board the Craft Fest in September 2010 and I’ll be doing the same at the Sonic Rock Fest in UK in 2011. I’m a full-time member of the Hawklords and the Meads of Asphodel, so far no clashing problems, I was in PreMed but that clashed too much. Maybe you should get the Hawklords or a scaled down version (5 members) for your fest in 2012...?
How important impact do you think the psychedelics like LSD, mushrooms or marihuana have had on your music or life?
Not much, I was writing psychedelic music before I even saw any of that stuff so I’m naturally that way inclined! Been years since I’ve done anything like that, 15 years maybe. It stays with you anyway!
Do you believe in UFO’s or aliens? Have you ever seen them?
I’ve never seen an alien, well maybe Ron Tree, hahahahaha!! I’ve seen what I thought were UFO’s though! But until you actually see one close up on the ground or hover above you I’m not convinced. Most sightings can be explained but there are some that cannot be explained so it’s ok to believe in them!
What are your plans regarding music for the next couple of years? I’ve heard that there will be a new live album by Gunslinger out soon. Can you tell us a little bit of this?
The Gunslinger live album will be out about April’ish 2011, called “Unlawful Odds” on Flicknife Records, and us Hawklords are also planning a new studio album in 2011–12 but first a live Hawklords album, CD and DVD will be released soon! I have 2–3 solo projects too on the go also, as always!
Do you see yourself re-joining Hawkwind again at some point?
NO!! It’s lost all the magic and many fans mail me that they even walk out of the gigs, it’s so un-Hawkwind! Many tell me they sound like a tribute band of themselves, I haven’t seen them so I don’t know but when long time fans walk out of Hawkwind gigs and say bad things about it, it’s time to stop! Also Brock owes me a lot of money, like he does ALL ex-members! It’s a sad end to it really; it could be so different...
Any comments on the quarrel in between Dave Brock and Nik Turner and some of the other ex-Hawkwind members that has been going on for some time now? Do you think Dave could play with Nik again someday?
Brock hates Nik and many other ex-members! Nik was a big part of Hawkwind and it seems that Brock is jealous that so many fans think so too! After the Hawkestra gig in 2000 there was a plan for Hawkwind that every fan would have loved! Brock didn’t want to do it because he wouldn’t be in control of the band or the money as we would have all got an equal share! Hawkwind fans have missed out on a golden, classic end to the Hawkwind legacy because Brock is greedy and a control freak! He doesn’t know what’s best for the band or the fans, he thinks only of himself. I find playing with Nik and the other ex-Hawkwind members in Hawklords fun, enjoyable and all equal, the true spirit of Hawk music!
I first met you at the Hawkfan Festival in Hamburg, Germany in 1997. You asked me back then “When can I come to play in Finland?”. You have now played twice in Finland with Hawkwind, and in 2011 it’s time for Gunslinger’s Finnish invasion. What are your expectations?
Good! The Finns are a great audience to play to and it’s always been a nice meeting and experience! Gunslinger hope to come back too in 2011 when we’ve released the live album!
Anything else you would like to say to your fans?
No Ear Plugs allowed and you’re in for a real treat, genuine British Hard Rock is coming to Helsinki on the 5th February in the form of GUNSLINGER!! Don’t miss this...