Nicholas 'Nik' Turner

Name Nicholas 'Nik' Turner
Birth date 1940
Country United-Kingdom
City Unknown


Although Nik Turner is mainly known for his participation in reknowned British Space rock outfit Hawkwind, he has during his career worked on numerous other projects.
In the middle of the 1960's he started as a 'hang-around' in the London underground scene, but one with a profound interest in music. His special interest was in the Saxophone, which he more or less learned himself how to play. By the end of the sixties he had made his acquintence with later Hawkwind frontman Dave Brock by doing work as a roadie for Dave's former outfit "The Famous Cure". Among other feats he had accompanied the band on a short tour in the Netherlands.
When Brock was in the process of forming the proto-Hawkwind, he found out that Turner was enthousiastically playing the saxophone, which promted him to offer Turner a place in the line up.
Turner's weird handling of the instrument, lacking any formal education in how to play it properly, added to the already weird sound of Hawkwind. And so it came that from the very first gig of the band until the middle of 1966, Nik was one of the cornerstones of Hawkwind, contributing to several of its major compositions.
But given the fact that both Brock and Turner had fiercely independent and dominant characters, (As well as two further members of the early 1970's Hawkwind, Calvert and Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister), the situation couldn't last forever. Musical as well as personal differences with Brock led to Turner's departure from the band in 1976.
Although Turner would return several times to Hawkwind in later years, the cooperation never lasted long due to the same problems that had led to his first leaving the band.
By the early eighties however Nik was back in the limelight with another, more punk orientated, British outfit, the Inner City Unit. Although his contributions here are beyond doubt, it is also the place where his controversial image as the "Space Rock Hijacker" starts. It can indeed not be denied that most of the fledgling space rock outfits he later invaded were quickly transformed by him to early-Hawkwind cover bands. This kind of gives support to the widespread idea that Turner always remained the idea the in fact he and not Brock was "mr Hawkwind" himself.
From 1985 up to the present he has been involved in a fine number of projects and has guested for even more and at present his main occupation is fronting "Space Ritual" another Hawkwind "clone".
Most originally during the whole period was however his own outfit Sphinx, a band with heavy oriental influences, with which he produced a number of well received, and for once, highly original albums.

His work with Sphinx brought him the attention of Americian space rockers Pressurehed for which he also has done extensive work. It would go to far to mention here all of his involments, but several more are later mentioned in the "General Information" part.
At the end of the 1990's he made several guest appearances with Hawkwind once more, including a 2000 reunion of most of the old band members at the Astoria in London, which went under the name Hawkestra. This also marked however the beginning of a most serious conflict which in all likeliness will prevent Turner from ever appearing with the band itself in the future.
Most of the participants in Hawkestra and certainly those at that moment performing in the main band, had seen the event as a one-time thing, but not Nik, who with vigour was planning follow-up's, in which all present Hawkwind members and several old ones refused to perform in. However, given that a fine number of ex members indeed liked the idea and participated it can be called kind of a success.
When however it began to seem that Turner had the intention of turning the thing into a permanent performing act, the measure was reached for Dave Brock, who started filing lawsuits, with the only initial result that Turner changed the name into "X-Hawkwind" and indeed began exploiting it as a regular outfit.
Now red with anger Brock, the band and its recording label started sueing Turner's ass off. Turner lost, Hawkwind won, but irrepairable damage had been done to both.
Turner, never the man to accept defeat, tried to save whatever he could from the line-up and grudgingly changed its name to Space Ritual, under which it is still performing and which has in the meanwhile produced six releases. It all certainly remained not without success, and nowadays even bootlegs of SR appear on the market.

Although 70 years of age now, Nik is still full of energy and apart from his main project still works on and with several other outfits. Most notably the band "Spaceseed" with which he made one album and has on and of guest appearances. Spaceseed proved more Turner-resistent than others and has maintained its own character, making much darker music than most space rockers.

Two other things must certainly not remain unmentioned about him. First his often outrageous stage outfits and performances have attracted wide attention. The black and wide face paintings that he has by times applied from the early seventies on, certainly didn't fall before unseeing eyes and are nowadays a common feature with many black metal bands.
Second his often uncout, sometimes outright boorish, behavior, is also one of his major trademarks. A rumor that seems to hold the possibility to be credible says that the name Hawkwind was compiled from two of Turners less savory habits: Farting ("wind") and loudly scraping his throat ("hawking") in public!

Gletscherwolf, September 2010


1940-69: Early years

Turner was born in Oxford in August 1940 to a theatrical family, although his father was working in a munitions factory. At the age of 13 his family moved to the Kent seaside resort of Margate where he would work at the local funfair during the summer holiday season, befriending another seasonal worker Robert Calvert. His first influences were Rock and Roll and the films of James Dean.

He went on to complete an engineering course and then undertook one voyage in the Merchant Navy. He then set about travelling around Europe picking up menial jobs, and it was during a stint as a roustabout in a travelling music circus in 1967 that he made the acquaintance of Dave Brock in Haarlem, Netherlands.
He had two years of clarinet and saxophone lessons in the early 1960s but never considered himself good enough to pursue it seriously. However, whilst travelling around Europe he encountered some free jazz players in Berlin who impressed upon him the importance of expression over technical proficiency, and it was then that he decided that what he "wanted to do was play free jazz in a rock band".

With Hawkwind, 1969-1976 and 1982-1984

Turner, owning a van, had originally offered his services as a roadie to the newly formed Hawkwind. However, when the band discovered his passion for the saxophone he was offered a position in the band to add to the overall weirdness of their sound.

Of his playing, Turner admitted that "it's the overall feel rather than the individual parts of the music that we're interested in. I don't have any illusions about my technical ability. I tend to use it as an electronic medium rather than an instrument". He became an active and vocal member of the band, pulling in friends such as Dik Mik, Calvert and Barney Bubbles, and involving the band in community and charity projects, sometimes to the chagrin of the others.

“ We wanted to play the Windsor Sex Olympics but only half the band turned up. ”

NME - September 1972

He was a member of the band during their most commercially successful and critically acclaimed period, writing or co-writing some of their most popular songs such as "Brainstorm" and "Master of the Universe". However, complaints about his playing over other members of the band despite numerous requests to modify his behaviour eventually led to his dismissal in November 1976.

In 1982 during the recording of Choose Your Masques, Brock invited Turner to the recording sessions and he was asked to front the band for the album's tour. Turner's second stint in the band lasted just over 2 years and although some live albums and videos were released, the band did not undertake any studio recording. At the end of 1984 while preparing material for the The Chronicle of the Black Sword album, he was sacked once again.

1977-86: Sphynx and Inner City Unit

After leaving Hawkwind the first time, Turner holidayed in Egypt and while visiting the Great Pyramid of Giza he was given three hours inside the King's Chamber to record some flute music. On returning to England, Steve Hillage cleaned up the tapes and assembled the Sphynx band featuring Hawkwind's Alan Powell, Gong's Mike Howlett and Tim Blake, and Harry Williamson to record music augmenting the original flute tracks while Turner adapted lyrics from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The album was released as Xitintoday on Charisma records in 1978 and the band toured, played festivals including Deeply Vale Festivals (later released as a CD), Glastonbury Festival (part of which was broadcast BBC television) and his own themed Bohemian Love-In all day festival at the Roundhouse.

With Williamson he conceived the "Nuclear Waste" single featuring many of the Sphynx musicians and a lead vocal by Sting. He then guested on the album Fairy Tales by Williamson and Gilli Smyth's project Mother Gong, and out of this he, Mo Vicarage and Ermanno Ghisio-Erba (a.k.a. Dino Ferari) formed Inner City Unit with Trev Thoms and Dead Fred. The band recorded the albums Pass Out and Maximum Effect before collapsing due to certain members drug problems. Turner and Dead Fred had stints in Hawkwind before regrouping to release the albums New Anatomy, The President Tapes and the EP Blood and Bone.


Turner's next project was Nik Turner's Fantastic All Stars, a sax and Hammond organ driven jazz and rhythm and blues band. They gigged for several years, eventually releasing the album Kubanno Kickasso!.

Turner and Twink got together for some impromptu live performances under the name Pinkwind, two CDs of which were released on Twink's own record label without the permission of Turner.

In 1993 Turner was approached by Pressurehed and Helios Creed to record another version of his Sphynx project using the original flute tracks, resulting in the album Sphynx. This partnership then developed further, regularly touring in the US performing a set of Hawkwind-centred material sometimes featuring Genesis P-Orridge, Jello Biafra and former Hawkwind members Simon House, Del Dettmar and Powell. One studio album Prophets of Time was released in 1994 followed by the live CD and DVD Space Ritual 1994 Live and another live CD Past or Future? in 1996. Out of this set of musicians formed the band Anubian Lights centred around Len Del Rio and Tommy Greñas from Pressurehed with contributions from Turner, Dettmar and House, as did the band Spiral Realms centred around House and Rio.


On 21 October 2000 at the Brixton Academy a Hawkestra event took place, featuring nearly all past members of Hawkwind. Disagreements between various participants led to any restaging of the event being unlikely but Turner did stage a further event under the banner The Greasy Truckers Party featuring members of the Hawkestra on 21 October 2001 at the London Astoria. Out of this a loose band formed, performing further gigs and eventually using the name An appearance at Guilfest in 2002 led to confusion as to whether this actually was Hawkwind, sufficiently irking Brock into taking legal action to prohibit Turner from trading under the name Hawkwind, a case which Turner lost.[6] The band settled on the name Space Ritual and are still currently active.

Turner has resurrected another version of Inner City Unit with Thoms, performing irregular gigs. He also fronts the "psychedelic latino-funk" band Galaktikos. He continues to attend festivals playing and guesting whenever possible and is an eager contributor to other band's projects, such as recording an album and touring with US space rockers Spaceseed in 2004.[11] Living in Carmarthen, he often busks playing his saxophone in Cardiff city centre during weekend nights.

After playing at "Hawkfan Festival", Hamburg summer 1997 and Space And Rock Festival - Rocksjon, Jonkoping, Sweden 8/14-15/98 with Finnish space rock group "Dark Sun", they moved to play at Tavastia Club, Helsinki, Finland. This resulted to Live-LP/CD "Ice Ritual", released in 2000.