When a musician has an illustrious and mind-bending musical catalogue, it’s tough to know where to start in an interview. Or end. In fear of missing out on what’s important, you wonder what to address at all.
Nik Turner is one such musician: he is quite possibly the coolest 73-year-old ass kicker you’ve (probably) never heard of. The former Hawkwind saxophonist, flutist and vocalist has been bending minds and opening the doors of perception since joining the band in 1969, when he offered his van and services to the newly formed act. For nearly a decade, he warped his instruments into electronic media, contributing layers of sound and atmosphere to the band’s acid-laden freakouts. Perhaps you can attribute the legal drama that followed in the late 2000s to his firings from the band; no matter, he continues performing in PROJEKT9, Outriders of the Apocalypse, Space Ritual and as a “solo” artist. It is in the final guise that he will touch perform in Calgary.
“I’m very happy to come and play music for people, to raise their spirits, raise their consciousness and make them feel good and make them healthy,” begins Turner, who chats with BeatRoute from his home in England. “I think that music is a healing force and I like to try and heal people at a concert. So, they consciously think about it and raise their consciousness and health and harmonize them and make them feel very good and have a great time, because it makes me have a great time. It’s an exchange of energy really.”
This will be Turner’s first time performing in Calgary and the first time he has been in Canada since “1973, or ‘74” when he came up for a vacation in Vancouver between tours with Hawkwind. The legendary band and its numerous offshoots have marked his entire musical life — Turner has been an integral or passing member of Sphynx, Inner City Unit, Nik Turner’s Fantastic All-Stars, Galaktikos and Hawklords. His current solo project is quite similar to the psychedelic space rock that characterizes all of these projects.
“I’m having a renaissance now,” he says, laughing. Indeed, the newest album to be released is the October full-length, Space Gypsy. “I’m very excited about the new album. It’s very much of a communal event… It started when Cleopatra Records approached me… It was very exciting and very interesting; it was the product of everybody… I sang all the songs, played saxophone and flute on all the tracks, and I found it very interesting to collaborate with people and to be dropped into the middle of it, and be expected to write interesting lyrics at the drop of a hat… I didn’t mind at all.”
Turner tells a lengthy story that skirts along a myriad of projects he’s been involved with that’s remarkably difficult to do justice to.
“I found I could cope with it. I found it quite demanding and interesting, putting me on my mettle really, making me work at it and come up with something interesting, because the last album I worked on with a band was the Space Ritual and I wrote most of the songs on that album. It’s an album called Otherworld , and I wrote songs about the ancient mythologies, Celtic mythology and Mayan mythology. I’m very interested in these things: I went to Egypt at one point and recorded flute music inside the Great Pyramid [of Giza] in the King’s Chamber, lying in the sarcophagus. I turned that into an album… So I put some of the interest into the Space Gypsy album.”
Although Space Gypsy is the current focus, Turner’s performance, which will include his American backing band, will feature songs from Hawkwind’s venerated Space Ritual (1973), Nik Turner’s Fantastic All-Stars, Inner City Unit, and “a lot of funk, jazz, rock ‘n’roll, good dance music really, stuff to make you jump on your feet.”
So don’t miss it, it’s truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Catch Nik Turner’s Space Ritual and company at the Palomino Smokehouse and Bar on Monday, October 14.