MOJO - Out Of This World

In its November 2019 issue, MOJO published "Out Of This World", an eight-page retrospective article celebrating Hawkwind's 50th anniversary. It included a piece by me about DikMik, entitled "Sonic Attacker" (reproduced courtesy of MOJO).


Born Richard Michael Davies, DikMik was a key member of the early Hawkwind line-up – perhaps the key member. “I think he was the sound of Hawkwind,” says Nik Turner. Certainly, the ghostly, atonal whooshes, wails and laser fire he produced with his ‘audio generator’ – primitive signal testing equipment and an oscillator fed through an echo unit and various pedals – were absolutely integral in making Hawkwind the world’s preeminent space age rock band, their stun guitar riffs and cosmic sax backed by the alien noise of intergalactic machinery. Whereas other groups used early electronic keyboards such as the Minimoog to add sub-classical trills to their music, DikMik’s frequency wrangling brought an elemental chaos to Hawkwind’s sound, and became notorious for the physical effect it had on audiences.


Speaking just prior to his death in November 2017, DikMik recalled, “What I was trying to do was turn people on, blow their minds! I understood what sound could actually do in terms of how ultra-sonics affects the brain and sub-sonics affects the body. Especially if people were drunk down the front of the stage, you could use sub-sonics to make them actually physically sick if you wanted to, which I think I achieved a couple of times on purpose…”


Before joining the nascent Hawkwind in 1969, DikMik had been friends with Dave Brock and original guitarist Mick Slattery as teenagers in Richmond – later on, living between Margate and Broadstairs, he had fallen in with Turner and the band’s future singer/poet Robert Calvert. It was only natural then that when Brock pulled together a new group, DikMik was invited to participate, first as a roadie, then as a full-time member – “I got all this electronics stuff laid on me, and I thought, hmmm, I can do something with that.”


An avowed non-musician – although an early article claimed that he had once been the drummer in the band that became The Yardbirds – he saw his role as creating sound effects and atmospheres, having been influenced by Krautrock pioneers such as Can and Tangerine Dream, as well as White Noise, the experimental pop group featuring the Radiophonic Workshop’s Delia Derbyshire. The copious amount of hallucinogenics the band were taking also had a major impact: “You have to understand the amount of substances that was coursing through my body at the time! All the weird noises that were going on weren’t just having an effect on the audience, but on the people on stage as well.”


Drugs were also what led to DikMik recommending Lemmy as the band’s new bassist, having first bumped into him “at Earl’s Court doing speed deals.” He wasn’t the most obvious choice: “Lemmy had never played bass in his life, but that was beside the point. He was a really good rhythm guitarist, we used to sit up all night playing when we were in squats. There was a bit of aggravation, because they didn’t want another speed freak in the band, but we overcame that.” As Lemmy later put it, they discovered a “mutual interest in how long the human body could be made to jump about without stopping.”


Having played on Hawkwind’s trio of space rock classics – In Search Of Space, Doremi Fasol Latido and Space Ritual – DikMik quit the group in 1973 at the absolute height of their popularity in Britain, having tired of being constantly on the road. “The whole thing to me was like a little adventure for four years,” he said, “Just one of many, many adventures I’ve had throughout my life.” Yet his often unacknowledged influence on generations of electronic musicians has been profound.

Days Of The Underground is an in-depth primer to the music of Hawkwind in the 1970s. It also explores the ideas and concepts that fuelled the band during this period, and speaks to the crew that manned the ship.