"Being right there with them at the Albert Hall will be pure joy, and I plan to make some huge slabs of Orbit noise when the moments are right": William Orbit's love letter to Hawkwind

Hawkwind with (inset) William Orbit
(Image credit: Cherry Red Records)

I feel as if a proper bit of space time curvature is going on.

Parallel lives colliding.

I will be onstage at the Albert Hall with my heroes.

When I was 14, I had little side hustles to augment my scant pocket money, but had only ever traded records at school with kids who had older siblings with a job, and who could actually afford records. They were so expensive to buy full price. 

But I was in my local record shop and saw Hawkwind's In Search Of Space. I did what you did back then – asked to hear it – whereupon they put it on a turntable, and I dived into one of the listening booths. I could not believe that there was 45 minutes of such wonderful noise in existence on this earth, and it became my first actual record purchase.

I was so into progressive rock back then. The guitars, oh man! And thus became enraptured by two dream scenarios: One, to meet Jimi Hendrix. Well, he died. The other? To be on a stage with Hawkwind!

The reason they called me ‘Orbit’ a few years later, in my squat days, was because I was (and still am) obsessed with orbital mechanics, rocketry, solar chromatics, everything astro. I knew the name of each rocket in the Gemini and nascent Apollo programs. A childhood spent bunking off school and sitting in the local library working my way A to Z through the adult section science and astronomy book sections was where it all started.

There’s another aspect to this love. The whole Hawkwind/Pink Fairies/Michael Moorcock thing I was entranced by was based around Ladbroke Grove in West London. It was so romantic! Now 18, and living in Hackney, I would take the tube over there to join long space rock jams in the squats in Elgin Avenue. It seemed such a special place. I live near there now, and even though it has become ‘posh’ there is still a vibe.

Hawkwind Royal Albert Hall poster

(Image credit: Hawkwind)

At first, when I got the message asking me to join them on stage, via a mutual friend, I was so wrapped up in other projects I kind of put it to one side. I do let comms slip I’m when in deep deadline mode. Code Crunch. But my EA Félicité said: “you really must reply to this, you love that band” And then it hit me. Wow! I felt simultaneously cosmically calm about the idea, it was meant to be, and supernovally stoked.

Being right there with them at the Albert Hall will be pure joy, and I plan to make some huge slabs of Orbit noise, when the moments are right. This is a band who love to extemporise, which suits me to a T.

The thing about Hawkwind over the years is that they have done incredible ventures and collaborations, and to my ear now everything Dave Brock and the band are doing sounds so fresh. On hearing the band strike up at Dave’s Earth Studios in Devon this week, I was absolutely thrilled by the musicianship of everybody. A real pleasure and a cherry-on-top moment.

I said something along those lines, and one of them said “but you’re probably seeing this all the times, in studios, in your life” or to that effect. How little they know.

I revealed that’s it’s 90% hunched over a laptop like a prawn at the moment. Big sounds in my headphones, but not exactly Abbey Road Studio 1 every day.

And that these moments, in the middle of the action when a band first strikes up in a studio, such as I’ve had with Blur, U2, Limp Bizkit et al are thrilling highlights. A favourite thing in life.

They’ve got me at a good time. There is an Orbit Renaissance, about to be revealed. I’ve not had this happen since 97/98, in my improv jam jam of a career and life.

Them too. And it’s no wonder that they have been touring to rapt audience for 50 years. With their innovation.

The train strike is a bit of a thing. They’ve previously filled the Royal Albert Hall to the rafters on a Tuesday night. Here, with the industrial action, so many fans in far flung parts of the UK have been thwarted in their travel plans, and as a consequence there are some tickets coming back online for sale.

This gig has been a wonderful contingency in which to get my live tech jump started, as I have live action of my own in the works.

Speaking of collaboration and natural fusion, I’ve become involved in Dancehall, in Jamaica. Cannot say more as is to do with a massive TV series, but listening to Dave Brock’s signature sounds from his Warbletone had me thinking he could add some to my ongoing work in that area. 

I mean, in the early 70s, it was all coming from the same place. 

Everybody was listening to, and being inspired by everybody else’s music. Globally. Albeit with some deep detective work and cassette deck recording required to access and share it

And now, immersed as I am back to Hawkwind Universe, I’m getting acid flashbacks. That was my thing aged around 16. Out of school and in the workforce, and then age 17, squatting in Norwich, and a roadie for the band Crazy Lizard. And tripping fairly often. Epic inner voyages of galactitude, and deep insight, combined with taking five minutes to plug a pair of headphones in (Yes, we did have headphones back in that not-so-dim past).

You know, Hawkwind, as I re-discovered at their studio this week, really have wonderful musical chops. Not as in all ‘muso’ and flash, but in great listening, and watching satisfaction. And total musical kinship.

The amazing drummer, Richard Chadwick, who I don’t reckon knows fully how good he is. He was toking leb all day, and yet so on point with his sticks. Flipping heck. My eyes nearly popped out a couple of times when he landed bang on the ‘one' after a ridiculously beautiful arc of triplets round the kit. I mentioned triplets to him, and he asked what that meant. Could have been pranking me, but I didn’t pick that up.

Dave Brock and Magnus Martin’s divine guitarmanship, Doug MacKinnons lyrical yet pulse-compelling bass. Tim Lewis (Thighpaulsandra)’s insane keyboard magic. All in beautifully mellifluous lockstep.

And Dave played me material that had me intensely intrigued. I reckon our paths will continue to run together after the curtain closes at The Albert Hall.

It’s a wonderful studio they have. Earth Studios, in a remote Devon woods. I’ve been referencing it in emails as ‘Space Command’. Every inch an interesting visual, all the gear painted vividly, and of course to my geeky eyes, a seductive array of legacy electronics.

I’ll put that down as the favourite ‘home studio’ I have ever visited.

I will keep the whole topic live and kicking on my instagram.

Meanwhile, it’s back to Masters Of The Universe.

I am on the Intergalactic Highway now, come in from the outer ambient reaches.

Dreams do come true!

William Orbit's new album The Painter is out now. Limited tickets for Hawkwind's show at the Royal Albert Hall this evening are available from the RAH website.

William Orbit

William Orbit productions have sold more than 200 million copies, having worked with the likes of U2, Blur, Madonna, All Saints, Queen, Prince, No Doubt, Pink, Robbie Williams and Britney Spears. He has won three Grammy Awards, and his favourite band are Hawkwind.