Alan Davey Interview - September 2008
by Jodie Humphries
Alan Davey is probably best known as the ex-bass player of Hawkwind. He was a member from 1984, had a brief break between 1996 and 2000, before leaving the group fully in 2007. But over recent years, he has had several successful solo albums, been part of Bedouin, and lately has been part of reforming rock giants Gunslinger. Add this to several other side projects, and you get a very busy ‘bass monster’. I was lucky enough that Alan took the time to answer a few questions for me via email, as his music has played a large part in my upbringing.
Everyone has someone that got them interested in music, Alan explained that for him it was, “Lemmy`s Bass solo on a song called ‘Time We Left’, which was on a Hawkwind album called Doremi Fasol Latido. It's got lots of note bending, growling bass chords and a bass/guitar solo element about it. I had no interest in music till I heard this! I told Lemmy this the first time I met him at Motorheards rehearsals in London in 1985, he was visibly touched by the story! So its all Lemmy`s fault that I’m a musician!!” I think a lot of people can be thankful for Alan hearing ‘Time We Left’.
I know a lot of people would want to know why Alan left Hawkwind in June last year, so I did have to ask the question. Alan explained that “There were lots of reasons really, being replaced in April 2007(without being told) for one! I never said to the band face to face I was leaving officially, but they knew I wasn’t happy with the whole situation! The band was being badly run in my opinion, the others in the band were saying the same thing but behind certain peoples' backs!! I was going to make Hawkfest 2007 my last HW gig and announce it officially then! One reason was I was fed up with playing the same old 15-20 songs over and over again when there are so many other songs to choose from! I use to get this complaint from fans a lot too! I found it embarrassing and it felt to me like the fans weren’t getting what they wanted, there’s no real jamming anymore, its like they’ve become a tribute band of themselves and that’s what a lot of HW fans are saying to me, not my words!! We did ‘Orgone Accumulater’ and it would last five minutes which is a real kop out! It’s a big jam number that should last ten minutes but it’s like they can’t be bothered to do things right anymore, I think it’s disrespectful to the fans because they want it done properly!”
Staying on the subject of Hawkwind, I wanted to know if fans of the band have supported Alan since his departure from the band, and with side projects he’s always been involved in. Alan says, “Yes, they’ve always been great to me, and that’s something I don’t take lightly! I’m very grateful for their constant support!! Thanks guys and girls!” I also wondered what the best gig Alan had played in any formation was, to which he replied, “That’s hard to answer, but highlights have been Headlining Reading Rock Fest 1986 when Lemmy came on with us! The USA 1989 tour was good, and the tour we did without Dave Brock in Euro 1990 I think it was, Steve Bemand stood in for DB and out of 25 gigs only one person asked where DB was!! We played really good on that tour and for much longer than usual too! One gig was 2 hrs 40 minutes long!! While the cats away the mice will play....for longer!” Over the years, Alan has played in venues of different sizes, whether its larger venues like The Astoria in London with Hawkwind, or The Fleece in Bristol with Dumpy, so you would think he has a preference, but he just says, “I like both big and small venues. I don’t mind which as long as the sound is good and the crowd enjoy it, that's fine with me!” Speaking of Dumpy, Alan is going to be playing with him again soon, so I wanted to know if he was looking forward to this, which he replied, “Hey, now you’re getting personal!! Heehee!! It’s great to play with Dumpy; he’s a great guitarist and fun on stage!! So yes it’s always good to play with him!” As well as working with Dumpy again, Alan is also working with Bridget Wishart again, which he says is “Great, she’s had some great idea’s, written some good lyric’s and been very patient as I’m so busy it’s a slow process, cheers B!! x”
With the variety of projects Alan is involved in, he must surely have a lot of different things that influence him. Alan says, “Everything and everybody really! Like when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker sunk and all those birds got covered in oil, I immediately wrote a song called ‘Wings’; it’s like a folk song/tale in a way, telling a story of what happened at that time. Another example is when I saw this TV programme about the amount of space junk in our orbit and that one day it would all start to fall on us. I imagined that at some point soon, a guy in a scrap collecting space capsule would have to go up there and collect it all, weigh it in and get paid for doing it, like scrappers of cars etc. So I wrote a song about that! That turned out to be a big favourite with HW fans; it’s called ‘Sputnik Stan’.
The list of projects that Alan is involved in, just seems to be getting longer and longer, as he explains, “The main one is Gunslinger, this is the band I was doing about 1979-82 before I joined Hawkwind. It's been re-born! The main stay of it was Nigel Potter (my cousin), Andy Lamb (Liffy) and myself. About nine months ago we decided to record an album of the songs we’d written for this band as we thought they were still great songs! I put a couple of them up on my Myspace site (alandaveymusic) and the response to them was HUGE!! So much so that we made its own Myspace site (alandaveygunslinger) and it’s been getting 1200 hits a week ever since. We’ve been touring the UK and the album is out now available from (www.alandaveymusic.co.uk) or in the High street stores! It’s called "Earthquake in E minor". Ha-Ha!! I’m also doing an album with Bridget Wishart (ex-hawkwind) called Djinn; it’s an Arabic styled album and is sounding rather nice! Bridget has done some great lyrics and singing on this project!” And then a bit of plugging from Alan, “You should interview her too; she’s in your area!” But then this does show Alan supports his fellow musicians. He then went on to say, “I’m doing another album with Karl Seigfried from Chicago; he’s a bassist too, so it’s his upright bass and my growling bass in the same piece!! Plus he’s doing all of the guitars while I’m handling the synths. This is an unusual project which we’ve called "Thunor"(Myspace site for that is "thunoruk"). So I’m a busy Bass Monster at the moment!!” Even with all the musicians Alan has played with, he has to have his ideal line-up for a band, for him it would have to be, “Simon King - Drums, Eddie Clarke - Guitars, Charlie Parker - Sax and Rick Wakeman - keys.”
Although Alan gets his influences from everywhere, it doesn’t seem he gets them from the charts, as when I asked him if he pays much attention to the charts, his response was, “The charts! What are they?” And the latest CDs he’s bought aren’t chart related either as he told me the last CD he bought was, “Birushanah, their album called Akai Yami. They’re a Japanese band, very unusual! I always like unusual music; it’s so easy to make commercial sounds!! Also a Dolly Parton best of compilation, she’s got a lovely tone to her voice and she sings about real stuff, she had a hard time years ago and I’m glad she’s done well for herself! Hello Dolly!” I thought that even if Alan didn’t buy a lot of well known artists’ albums, that he would go out to at least a few gigs, even if he was just seeing old friends, but he says, “No, I rarely go to gigs, the last gig I went to was Pink Floyd in Phoenix, Arizona on the Division Bell tour in 1994! I saw the Moody Blues at Albert Hall 2002`ish but that was more of an invited to gig, not my cuppa tea really.” So Alan has had his fair share of strings breaking over the years, but he’s not a huge fan of going to gigs to maybe witness the same thing, and sympathise with the disasters that sometimes occur on stage. I do have to say I find surprising that he doesn’t go out to more gigs, as it could be considered he’s missing out on quite a bit.
Alan may not enjoy going to gigs, but he has joined the revolution of Myspace, and found that you can find new and interesting talent on there. “Its made musicians who you’d never even hear of, let alone hear their songs, be able to get out there, and there is some good muso`s about too! Myspace levels the playing field somewhat. I brought a CD by AdryA, a female singer from Hungary, she’s got a great voice, but without Myspace I’d have never of heard of her!! She’ll be singing on a track for my next solo album.” It seems that Alan will be around for a long while yet, as when I asked him if he’s ever considered turning his back on music, it was a firm “Never” as the response. And where does Alan Davey see himself in the future? “With Gunslinger as a live act, but still making space rocky solo albums as many people like my style of space rock! My last album ‘Human on the Outside’ has done really well, so I’ll do another!”
Links that may be of interest if you want more information: (I know some are Wikipedia)