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Nik Turner

Nik Turner
Nik Turner in 2010.
Background information
Birth name Nicholas Turner
Also known as Thunder Rider
Born (1940-08-26) 26 August 1940
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Genres Space rock, jazz fusion
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, saxophone, flute
Years active 1969–present
Labels Cleopatra Records, Charisma, Ozit
Associated acts Hawkwind, Hawklords, Sphynx, Inner City Unit, Nik Turner's Fantastic All-Stars, Galacticos, Space Ritual (band), Space Ritual, Nik Turners Hawkwind

Nicholas "Nik" Turner (born 26 August 1940, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England) is an English musician, best known as a former member of space rock pioneers Hawkwind. Turner plays saxophones, flute, sings and is a composer. While with Hawkwind, Turner was known for his experimental free jazz stylisations and outrageous stage presence, often donning full makeup and Ancient Egypt-inspired costumes.


  • 1940–69: Early years 1
  • 1969–76 and 1982–84: Hawkwind 2
  • 1977–86: Sphynx and Inner City Unit 3
  • 1987–99 4
  • 2000–present 5
  • Discography 6
    • As a member of Hawkwind 6.1
    • Solo and collaborative projects 6.2
    • Guest appearances 6.3
    • Various artists 6.4
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

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 worked 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.[1]

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, the Netherlands.[1]

He had two years of clarinet and saxophone lessons in the early 1960s but never considered himself good enough to pursue them seriously.[2] 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".[1]

1969–76 and 1982–84: Hawkwind

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.[3]

Nik Turner (1974)

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".[4] 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.[1]

NME – September 1972[5]

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.[6]

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 Chronicle of the Black Sword album, he was sacked once again.[7]

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.[8] 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.

Nik Turner (2010)

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 (ICU) with Trev Thoms and Dead Fred. Thoms and Ghisio-Erba had previously played together in Steve Took's Horns who had played their only gig at the Bohemian Love-In. The Horns were managed by Tony Landau, a friend of Turner's since adolescence, and were fronted by former Tyrannosaurus Rex percussionist Steve Peregrin Took, who would later make guest lead vocal appearances with ICU alongside his former Horns bandmates.[9][10][11] Inner City Unit 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!.[12]

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 on Len Del Rio and Tommy Greñas from Pressurehed with contributions from Turner, Dettmar and House, as did the band Spiral Realms centred on 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.[13] He also fronts the "psychedelic latino-funk" band Galaktikos.[14] 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,[15] and live appearances with UK dance outfit Akahum[16] at BGG Shareholders Party & HEADS Haiti Benefit show. Living in Carmarthen, he often busks playing his saxophone in Cardiff city centre during weekend nights.[6]

Nik Turner (2011)

After playing at "Hawkfan Festival" in Hamburg in 1997 and the Space And Rock Festival – Rocksjon, Jonkoping, Sweden in 1998 with the Finnish space rock group Dark Sun, they moved to play at Tavastia Club, Helsinki, Finland. This resulted in the live album, Ice Ritual, which was released in 2000.

In 2008 Nik Turner was invited to Space Mirrors collective as a guest member. Since that time he recorded flute and sax on three Space Mirrors releases: "Majestic-12: A Hidden Presence" (2009), "Dreams of Area 51" (2011) and "In Darkness They Whisper" (2012).

Turner also provided flute for Dodson and Fogg, a folk rock project released in 2012,

After a chance meeting with Mr H a Welsh Jazz/Blues singer songwriter at Brecon Jazz festival 2012 where Turner and Mr H performed a free improvised Jazz session and Mr H invited Turner to feature on his 4th album titled l'histoire tragique.In October 2012 Turner entered Berryhill studios in Monmouthshire and Performed an improvised alto sax session on Seven of Mr H's compositions which is to be released in the spring of 2013.

In March 2013 Nik turned up at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas playing an official SXSW gig at Rebels Honky Tonk bar billed as Nik Turner (ex Hawkwind) playing predominantly Space Ritual songs. He also guested on stage with The Soft Moon at Hotel Vegas the previous night.


For Turner's work as a member of Inner City Unit, see the Inner City Unit article. For his work as a member of Space Ritual, see the Space Ritual (band) article.

As a member of Hawkwind

Solo and collaborative projects

  • 1978 – Nik Turner's Sphynx – Xitintoday (Charisma, CDS4011)
  • 1993 – Nik Turner – Sphynx (Cleopatra, CLEO21352)
  • 1994 – Nik Turner – Prophets of Time (Cleopatra, CLEO69082)
  • 1995 – Nik Turner – Space Ritual 1994 Live (Cleopatra, CLEO95062) and video-DVD (Cherry Red, CRDVD136) – live
  • 1995 – Pinkwind – Festival of the Sun (Twink Records, TWK CD2) – live
  • 1995 – Anubian Lights – Eternal Sky (Hypnotic, CLEO96032)
  • 1996 – Hawkfairies – Purple Haze (Twink Records, TWK CD5) – live
  • 1996 – Anubian Lights – The Jackal and Nine EP (Hypnotic, CLEO 9666-2)
  • 1996 – Nik Turner – Past or Future? (Cleopatra) – live
  • 1997 – Nik Turner – Sonic Attack 2001 (Dossier, 8480) – compilation album of Cleopatra material
  • 1998 – Anubian Lights – Let Not The Flame Die Out (Hypnotic, CLP 0346-2)
  • 2000 – Nik Turner's Sphynx – Live at Deeply Vale (Ozit/Morpheus) – live 1978
  • 2001 – 2001 A Space Rock Odyssey – double live cd of the first two Space Ritual concerts (Ozit/Morpeus CD 0055)
  • 2001 – Nik Turner's Fantastic All Stars – Kubanno Kickasso (Ozit/Morpheus, niktcd334)
  • 2013 – Nik Turner – Space Gypsy (Cleopatra)
  • 2014: Space Invaders & Nik Turner – Sonic Noise Opera (Nasoni Records)

Guest appearances

  • 1974 – Robert CalvertCaptain Lockheed and the Starfighters (United Artists, UAG 29507)
  • 1975 – Robert Calvert – Lucky Leif and the Longships (United Artists, UAG 29852)
  • 1975 – Michael Moorcock & Deep Fix – New Worlds Fair (United Artists, UAG 29732)
  • 1979 – Mother GongFairy Tales (Charly, CHRL 5018)
  • 1981 – Robert Calvert – Hype (A-Side, IF 0311)
  • 1981 – Mother Gong – Robot Woman
  • 1981 – Sham 69The Game (Polydor, 5033)
  • 1982 – Catherine Andrews – Fruits (Cat Tracks, PURRLP2)
  • 1982 – The Astronauts – Peter Pan Hits The Suburbs (Genius)
  • 1982 – Big Amongst Sheep – Terminal Velocity (Rock Solid)
  • 1983 – Underground ZeroThe Official Bootleg
  • 1994 – Psychic TVPagan Day (Cleopatra)
  • 1994 – Helios CreedBusting Through the Van Allen Belt (Cleopatra, CLP 9465-2)
  • 1995 – The StranglersThe Stranglers & Friends Live in Concert – live 1980
  • 1995 – Sting and the Radioactors – Nuclear Waste (Voiceprint, BP181CD) – recorded in 1978
  • 1996 – The Moor – Flux (Bishop Garden Records, BGR 03.1996.01 RM)
  • 1997 – Nigel Mazlyn Jones, Guy Evans and Nik Turner – Live (Blueprint, BP250CD) – live
  • 1999 – Dark Sun – Ice Ritual (Burnt Hippie records, BHR-004)
  • 1999 – 46000 Fibres – The 5th Anniversary Concerts: Set 3 (TRI 3/3)
  • 1999 – Babylon WhoresKing Fear (Necropolis Records )
  • 2001 – Blue Horses – Ten Leagues Beyond World's End[17]
  • 2003 – The Jalapeños – Tear It Up (3D Discs 0002)
  • 2004 – Spaceseed – Future Cities of the Past Part 1 (Project 9 Records)
  • 2004 – Michael Moorcock and the Deep Fix – Rollercoaster Holiday (Voiceprint, VP351CD) – demos recorded in 1975
  • 2005 – Muzak – Saturnia (Elektrohasch, ATHG-4127)
  • 2009 – Space Mirrors – Majestic-12: A Hidden Presence (Sleaszy Rider, SR-0082)
  • 2011 – Space Mirrors – Dreams of Area 51 vinyl split single w/Acid FM (Monsterfuzz, 002)
  • 2012 – Space Mirrors – In Darkness They Whisper (Transubstans, TRANS097)
  • 2012 – Dodson And Fogg – Dodson And Fogg (Wisdom Twins Records, WTR01)
  • 2013 – Space Mirrors – The Other Gods (Transubstans, TRANS109)
  • 2014 – Silverwing – Strange Daze Indeed (Audio-Nectar, ANSILVER-01)
  • 2015 – Space Mirrors – The Street Remains (Atomic Age, AAR15-04)
  • 2015 – Space Mirrors – Stella Polaris (Atomic Age, AAR15-03)

Various artists


  1. ^ a b c d "The Egos Have Landed". 29 August 1969. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  2. ^ [7] Archived 3 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ [8] Archived 3 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ [9] Archived 3 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 242. CN 5585. 
  6. ^ a b c Saga of Hawkwind, Carol Clerk, Publisher: Music Sales Limited, ISBN 1-84449-101-3
  7. ^ "Hawkwind Press Clippings Part 12". Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Liner notes to Blow It – The All New Adventures of Steve Took's Horns, Cherry Red CDM RED 255, 2004
  10. ^ "CAREER HISTORY – CHAPTER 6 – 'HE SENT ME SOME TAPES AND THEY WERE INTERESTING'- (Steve's brief 1977-8 career revival, and the story of Steve Took's Horns)". Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  11. ^ "CAREER HISTORY – CHAPTER 7 – 'CAN I EVER HOPE TO DIE NATURALLY' – (Steve's last days, 1978–1980)". 27 October 1980. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  12. ^ [10] Archived 18 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "INNER CITY UNIT | Listen and Stream Free Music, Albums, New Releases, Photos, Videos". Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  14. ^ [11] Archived 9 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ [12] Archived 8 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Akahum welcomes YOU!". Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  17. ^ "The Guide to Folk Gigs, Concerts, Sessions". Folk and Roots. Retrieved 3 January 2012. 

Further reading

There are three biographies of Hawkwind which contain extensive contributions from and sections about Nik Turner.

  • Kris Tait This is Hawkwind: Do not Panic (1984, published by the band but now out of print)
  • Ian Abrahams Sonic Assassins (Published by SAF publishing; ISBN 0-946719-69-1)
  • Carol Clerk's Saga of Hawkwind (Publisher: Music Sales Limited ISBN 1-84449-101-3)

External links

  • Nik Turner's official site
  • Trilogy Rock: Interview to Nik Turner (2009)
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