Nik Turner: Bringing the Music to the People
I was listening to a lot of jazz. I was listening to a lot of Miles Davis, a lot of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, and a lot of trumpet players, Freddie Hubbard, a lot of Art Blakey stuff, sort of developing in that direction and aspiring to play jazz, really. What I was trying to do was play what I termed as "accessible jazz," so it wasn't intellectual. It was the sort of jazz that I imagined jazz stemmed from originally, which was people like having a party, like the black slaves having a party and playing their music, which was derived a lot from African music.
We were playing jazz, and jazzing was fucking, at that time. That's how it was originally supposed to be. It was party music and people had a party and fucked each other [laughs] and played a lot of music and had a good time. This is what jazz was to me. It wasn't this intellectual thing that people put on a pedestal.
I was trying to play accessible jazz that would touch people, they could understand it, that had a good beat so you could do what you liked on top of a good beat and people got off on the beat and I could sort of meander around playing my jazz [laughs]. That's what I developed in the band called Nik Turner's Fantastic All Stars.
I then got a trumpet player in the band who had been trained at the Royal College of Music. His name was Rick Walsh. We were then playing a lot of his repertoire. He'd worked on the ships, he'd worked on the cruise liners. He'd played with all of these Las Vegas jazz artists like Lena Horne and Sarah Vaughan. He was a really good trumpet player. He died recently from cancer, unfortunately. He taught me a lot. We worked on a lot of stuff. We played all sorts of duets and harmony stuff. I could develop with him.
That band then developed into the band I'm currently working with which is the Nik Turner Band, where we play a lot of sort of Maceo Parker, The Meters, a lot of different stuff, really. We play a lot of the jazz repertoire, "Sidewinder," Miles Davis's "So What," quite a lot of other stuff, some original material as well, sort of funk, just a lot of fun, good time music, and we play parties. We have a wide repertoire of material.
I also play in another band currently of all ex-members of Hawkwind, this band called Space Ritual, and we're playing a lot of new material most of which I wrote. I'm also playing in the Inner City Unit band. I'm still playing with that band and it's still playing quite a wide repertoire of interesting satirical high energy upbeat rock and roll background music.
I did an album with Barney Bubbles called Imperial Pompadours at one point, which was a lot of really wacky rock and roll and I've gotten a lot of that into my repertoire, like "There's A Fungus Among Us," or "See You Soon, Baboon," and "Little Black Egg," and a lot of rather obscure rock and roll stuff, all of it just good time, good fun music, really. So, I'm doing quite a lot of gigs.
I did a gig the other day which I actually organized the whole thing. It was in London. It was a memorial benefit concert for Barney Bubbles featuring, actually, myself playing in three of the bands. I played in this other band which I've got together called the Hawklords which was a spinoff from Hawkwind that had been going in the sort of '80s very briefly. I played in that band, I played in my band Inner City Unit, and I played in the Imperial Pompadours. It was actually very successful and very exciting, and very interesting. I'm doing gigs currently with all of those bands as well as the Nik Turner Band playing sort of funky, sort of jumpy rock and roll and jazz, Latin jazz [laughs].
As well as these things, I go busking sometimes on the street playing anything people want to hear. I go sort of regularly to the Brecon Jazz Festival and go busking there, although sometimes I have played there with my band. That's a festival in West Wales. I was there in the summer playing anything people wanted to hear. You know, people would throw numbers at me, "Oh, play 'The A-Train,'" or "Play 'Little Sunflower,'" or "Take Five [laughs]."
So that's sort of been a bit of a parted history of my musical experiences.
AAJ: Do you think you are going to continue to record and perform new music?
NT: Yeah, I think so. That's what I do, you know. I like it. I get off on it. I find it's a privilege and a pleasure, and I find a great deal of satisfaction in touching people musically and turning people on and raising their spirits and trying to raise their consciousness and making people have a good time and helping them to have a good time and having a good time myself. It's what I do [laughter]. I'm working on some recordings at the moment with two or three of the bands I'm in.
AAJ: Do you think you have stayed close to your roots?