Jello Biafra: "Hawkwind's Space Ritual is my Ground Zero!"

Jello Biafra
(Image credit: Elizabeth Sloman)

“Next to Funhouse by The Stooges, Space Ritual is my Ground Zero for what made me what I am today. There would be no Holiday In Cambodia without them. When Klaus [Flouride, DKs bassist] began noodling around with that bass riff, I knew immediately where it should go.

I read about them in one of my dad’s Penthouse magazines. I checked out In Search Of Space, but I didn’t like it. Then I got Space Ritual and it blew me away. I not only liked its power but its ethereal hypnosis too. This, and an increase in weed consumption, was a gateway to the more powerful side of psychedelic music and eventually prog rock. 

I saw them as the Hawklords in 1978. It was stripped down, no light show. I was 19, in freshly spray-painted punk clothes. I had a chat with Bob Calvert about Captain Lockheed… asking him, ‘Where do you get your information?’ He told me where he read things up, and how he had dossiers on white-collar criminals. When I began doing spoken word, I was doing the same thing.

Some Hawkwind line-ups are better than others. The third time I saw them was at Hammersmith Odeon with Ginger Baker. During Brainstorm, he went off into a 10-minute solo. I admire the idea but it wasn’t my favourite. Another time I was walking down Broadway and saw Hawkwind were on so I strolled in. This time it was the real deal. Alan Davies had joined, and drummer Richard Chadwick was very friendly to me ’cos I was a fan of his anarcho-punk band Smartpils. That night I realised how much the band meant to me. 

I also saw the ‘other Hawkwind’. Nik Turner hooked up with Pressurehed, adding Helios Creed on guitar and Paul Della Pelle from legendary Philadelphia hardcore band Ruin on drums. Then Del Dettmar arrived with an electric axe – an axe with a string on it! On another platform was Genesis P. Orridge

I followed their tour, then joined in too. They’d been doing Silver Machine and no-one could hit the high notes. I wound up as the high voice on the live album! Paul now drums with my band, the Guantanamo School Of Medicine…” 

This article origjnally appeared in issue 35 of Prog Magazine.

Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.