Nik Turner: We're Trying to Make Shows Into Healing Experiences

Randall Michelson
An evening with Nik Turner on his "Space Ritual" tour promises to be both a learning and -- according to Nik himself -- a "healing" experience. In fact, Turner told Up on the Sun, "The energy that we're putting into [this tour] sort of transcends what the thing is about. We're trying to make all of the shows into healing experiences, and let people feel good, and hope that they're feeling better at the end of the gigs than they do at the start . . . Trying to help each other is what it is really about."

There are very few people on the planet who can say they've been exploring the musical galaxy as long as Nik Turner. For part of the past six decades, Turner has been traveling the globe -- "rocketing around the United States of America," as he playfully puts it -- performing a genre of music that he not only helped create but continues to perpetuate.

For the uninitiated, Turner was an early member of Hawkwind, one of the progenitors of the "space rock" sound. Originally a roadie for the band ("slogging gear," as Turner remembers it), he was brought into the fold on saxophone, flute, and vocals quite quickly as Hawkwind started to round out its sound, which has influenced everyone from the Sex Pistols to Ministry to Monster Magnet and Rush.

The title of Nik Turner's current tour -- "Space Ritual" -- is also the title of Hawkwind's 1973 double-live album, which featured Ian Kilmister on bass, who you may recognize as the lead misfit behind Motorhead.

"In hindsight, we were doing stuff that nobody else was doing, really," Turner says. "We were doing the whole mixed-media thing with a stage show and lights and dancers. We had a purpose . . . a grand design," For its time, the music was heavy, but it featured an electronic aspect many of their contemporaries did not have. Renowned rock critic Lester Bangs once lovingly described Hawkwind's electronic angle as sounding like "barfing computers." If you are familiar with Bangs' work, that sounds like high praise.

"The music was groundbreaking, really, although I didn't really think it at the time. We were all a bunch of individual musicians who had our own idea of what we wanted to play, as opposed to what people may have envisioned that we ought to play." Turner has continued to attempt to break ground throughout the years of his impressive career, although often returning to his Hawkwind roots. His current release, Space Gypsy, is reminiscent of Hawkwind's early work, chock-full of pummeling riffs, noisy blasts of saxophone and synthesizer, and, of course, some space-themed lyrics.

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