Over the next decade he played bass in Fuzzy Duck, Toefat, Jimmy McCullough Band, Landslide, Charley Horse, Shanghai, Human Orchestra, and Ten Years Later recording with the likes of Alvin Lee, Mickey Jones, Mathew Fisher (ex-Procol Harum), Gilbert O'Sulivan and more besides.
Mick talks us through his bands, his basses (he currently uses a Gibson RD artist bass - "a truly magnificent bass") and throws in a rock and roll story or two!
FlyGuitars How did you become a musician?
Mick Hawksworth (MH) All my family played. My uncle was a professional musician all his life, plus he owned a music shop in Battersea. He restored and repaired violins and guitars. I started learning guitar after I saw Pete Seeger playing a 12 string on TV. I thought that sounds great, though I ended up with a six string. There were a couple guys that lived across the road from me, who both played guitar a bit, and from that moment on I was a bass player. Guy Mascolo and David Montague.
FlyGuitars Your first band was the Mailtown Blues Band. What was your first bass?
MH Yeah that was the first band I ever gigged with. I knew the guitar player, a guy called Dick Hannay; we'd been at school together. John Cann eventually replaced Dick Hannay. The first bass I actually bought was a Gibson EB0, but the one I had before that... It truly was a vile plank. This old Rosetti thing. Sort of semi-acoustic. I was more or less learning on it, you know, tape wound strings. Sounded like a dull thud instead of an instrument, you know. Got thrown off Chelsea bridge!
The Five Day Week Straw People, by Guy (Mascolo) and David (Montague) was recorded in 1968. Original copies of this garage-psych album are highly-sought after, and recently it was included in "Record Collector's 100 Greatest Psychedelic Records of all time".
FlyGuitars Almost immediately you started playing sessions for people. How did that come about?
MH There used to be a shop in Tooting called Terry Walsh and Bobby Kevin. They were both session players. I went up there ogling the basses. Terry Walsh the guitar player said come along to our grand opening, so I did though I still couldn't play, but they had me sitting in on their little jam session, just playing Green Onions I think it was. I was astonished at the little they were able to play without a sheet of music in front of them, and when Terry Walsh said once you learn to read music I'll get you loads of work. I thought no thanks; not if it means ending up like that... so I never learned to read music, and I still don't regret that.
FlyGuitars One early session was recording the Five Day Week Straw People album for Guy Mascolo and David Montague...
MH They said will you record these songs for us? And promised to pay us this that and the other - John and I said "ok, but we don't want our names involved at all". So we recorded this entire album in a day. It's absolutely dreadful. The only reason that it's worth any money is because John Cann let it slip that it was Andromeda.
FlyGuitars So what about the EB0?
MH First real bass: Gibson EBO, bought along with a 100 watt Vox amp at a shop in Stratford in the East End. I was hoping that it would sound similar to an EB3 as used by Jack Bruce, but sadly not. I sent it to Ivor Mairant's shop to have a Fender pick-up fitted in the treble position. Unhappily, the cretin who fitted it used a pick-axe to cut the hole for it in the body. It did improve the sound, but not enough. Not Gibson's best effort. The EBO was eventually bought by Mike Oldfield.
Mick Hawksworths RD Artist Bass guitar
Mick Hawksworth on stage with Alvin Lee, using the RD Artist Bass guitar
FlyGuitars Jumping forward, you currently use another Gibson, the RD Artist bass, but you've had one since the late seventies
MH Yes, I wandered into a guitar shop in Denmark St, where they had an Alembic for sale, which had a switch to give different voicings. I was still hooked on the idea of the EB3's switch, and Stanley Clarke's Alembic's sound variations were what I was looking for. They were asking a grand for this guitar, so I couldn't have afforded it anyway, but that didn't stop me from having a play. I believe I'm right in saying that it belonged to the guy in The Moody Blues, and his decision to sell it was bang on. This thing was in the same league as the Jazz bass. Crap, and very disappointing crap, at that.
However, they had something else in the shop that really caught my eye: a wonderfully quirky shape, obviously a dedication to a previous model, and a set of electronics that were truly brilliant. The all new Gibson RD Artist. What a tool; a truly magnificent bass. If you couldn't get the sound you wanted out of one of these guitars, then you should have been an accountant. I loved the shape, as it was a sort of slightly less extreme Thunderbird, (which I'd lusted after ever since seeing one in Selmer's window) but there was a problem, it was £650, with an English case: never as good as the American ones, and sadly beyond my reach.
In 1978 though, on tour with Alvin Lee in New York, we went to Sam Ash's, and there sat shouting at me, was a cherry sunburst RD Artist. It was mine in ten minutes. I used it on three tours of The States, and was using it on the fourth, when it met with an accident and had to be sent back to Gibson to repair the broken headstock. Don't ask. [We did ask]
Now I had to find another. One of the guys in the crew made all the calls, and could only find one in Chicago, so it had to be that one. It felt exactly the same as the other one, and sounded identical too. Real good quality control. When I got the other one back from Gibson, it was as good as new, but now I had a bass I didn't need, plus it was a natural finish, which I've never been keen on, so it had to go. Getting both guitars through customs was no problem: the duty was cheap enough; the final cost of each one was 360 notes: with a U.S case. I figured that £350 for a bass that had done about twenty gigs was a good price, considering they were still £650 here. I didn't get one call from the ads I placed, which says a lot about people's obsession with Fenders. So it never got sold.
FlyGuitars So in 1967, whilst John Cann was still with the Attack, the two of you teamed up with Jack Collins (Jack McCulloch) to form Andromeda. What was the plan, musically?
MH We definitely had the same idea; we liked attack and forcefulness in music: aggression, you know. I also liked the more melodic side and arrangements, but if there was a solo going on we could really cook it. And cook it hard as well. We were on the same train of thought in that respect. We didn't always go down well because a lot of the places wanted straight ahead rock music, which wasn't what we were doing. It was quite involved. We wanted to be the sort of band that you didn't particularly have to watch. You could shut your eyes and nod off almost and picture for yourself what was going on. We liked the complication of the music. Different sections that maybe illustrate the lyric a bit better. Flights of fancy.
The demos on Beginnings 1967-68 are very much more "1967" (for want of a better adjective) than the Andromeda album recorded in 1969. Guitars are just a bit cleaner, but still heavy. Intros and outros just a bit shorter, and so on. But still with the trademark Andromeda power.
FlyGuitars Some of the early demos are now available on the album, Andromeda, Beginnings 1967-68, recorded at Graham Clark Studios, in Walton-on-Thames. Presumably recorded with the Gibson EB0 before the bridge pickup had been added?
MH I'm sure it would be, yeah. It doesn't sound bad actually, and considering it was the EBO, which was never a very clear kind of sound, better than I thought it would be. I never had copies, or if I did they were lost.
FlyGuitars How did you get your sound for those early sessions with the EB0?
MH Undoubtedly the Vox amp I was using; 60 watt head, with an 18" cabinet. It was all done on a revox. The guy's studio was very basic.
Andromeda in Trident studios with John Peel, 1968. From left to right: Mick Hawksworth, Ian McLane, John Peel and John Cann.
FlyGuitars The band was soon picked-up-upon by John Peel, who got you to record a Top Gear session for the BBC in October 1968. Can you remember what bass you played for the top gear session?
MH Yeah that was the EB0. We were going to be the first band on Peels label (Dandelion), and then when we got ourselves together, and sort of became the band that was definitively us, he decided he didn't like it. That was a big disappointment actually, because that could have been great for the band I think. Ultimately we got signed up to RCA as a tax loss - which was the fate of loads of bands at the time - virtually everything single band i've been in I think (laughs).
Andromeda's eponymously titled album as it was released in 1969. Although this album has not been reissued on CD in it's original form, all tracks are available on the compilation Andromeda - Definitive Collection
FlyGuitars In March 1969 Ian McLane replaced Jack Collins, and straight away you recorded the Andromeda album, "Andromeda".
Mick outside Macaris music shop in 2009
MH By the time we did the first album I had a Danelectro Longhorn bass; bought at Joe Macari's shop in Charing Cross Road for £45. Fabulous tool: two octave neck, low action, made from old packing crates and real hardboard! It even used lipstick containers for the pick-ups. For all this, it sounded fantastic, even with the tape wound strings I was still mistakenly using. Again, inspired by Jack Bruce using one, I couldn't resist. And that shape! Oh YESSS!
The EB0 had the Fender pickup on it, and I think it got used only on one track, and that's because I used to do a thing of fading the volume in on it. Return to Sanity [listen], the beginning of that. I'm fading in and hammering with the left hand.
FlyGuitars And you couldn't do that with the Danelectro?
MH No, I don't remember why. I think the volume was just not quite so easy to get to. Or maybe it wasn't so resonant. It served me well the old Gibson, but I wasn't sorry to see it go.
There's my beautiful, beloved Danelectro, with it's original silly machine heads on, but somebody had removed those odd volume and tone pots that they used to use, and replaced them with sensible ones, which I liked. The print under the scratchplate used to get changed quite often.
We used to invent things in the studio. One thing we did that I really liked - again, on the intro to Return to Sanity: we mixed the introduction onto 1/4" tape, put that on one machine, then ran the same mix into a second machine, also with 1/4" tape... and we had vari-speed, so we ran the mix we'd just done and the sixteen track together, both mono, in left and in right and just varying the speed slightly. If you listen in mono it just phases, but in stereo, like in headphones, it was really weird, it kind of sucks your ears out.
FlyGuitars Another unusual sound you used on Now the Sun Shines [listen] came from the 'nameless string instrument', or 'electric cello' as it was described at the time. You described it as producing a "hanging sound" or a "drone".
MH The cricket bat. I'd forgotten all about that. It's not really an instrument. An experiment really. If it had worked really well, I'd have made a reasonable mark II of it. It was just the top four strings of a guitar, which I bowed.
FlyGuitars How were you recording, still the Vox amp?
MH The Vox had long gone. I had a Sound City amp, with a Hiwatt cabinet. I wasn't very happy with that either.
FlyGuitars Whats the definitive track by Andromeda?
MH The definitive track is the very last track of the first album When to stop [listen]. That had everything. It had the gentle stuff and the full on aggression aswell.
FlyGuitars Did you write any of the songs?
MH I'm credited as writing the songs The Reason [listen], and Keep Out Cos I'm Dying [listen], though I wrote most of the instrumental passages. A lot of the arrangements are down to me. John and I used to sit around and kick out riffs between us, but I would think of whole sections of music, and those more often than not got included, though somehow, John Cann got the credit and the royalties... There was one song I did called Last Man Alive; I don't know if that ever got recorded.
The 1971 album Fuzzy Duck, by Fuzzy Duck
FG Fuzzy Duck was (from left to right) Graham White (later replaced by Garth Watt-Roy) (guitar), Paul Francis (Drums), Mick Hawksworth (Bass) and Roy Sharland (Hammond organ). Managed by Gordon Mills (who also had Tom Jones and Gilbert O'Sullivan on his books), they recorded one, now highly saught, album and two singles in 1971.
How did it come about?
MH I answered an add in Melody Maker - you know, bass player wanted. And I thought, oh, it's nice to meet a couple guys who can play. As for the name, the drinking thing is not right. The guy who designed the sleeve, Jonathon Coudrille, his missus thought of it. A great name for a band. He asked if he could do the artwork for the album, and I said, yeah, well, it's got to be the duck hasn't it? I specified the starry T-shirt and the shoulder bag, and the rest is his... that's me by the way: the liquorice roll-up. I always smoke liquorice.
I played on Gilbert O'Sullivan's only single that never did a thing along with Paul Francis. It was called Underneath the Blanket Go. We recorded it before the duck album was out. Check it out on YouTube
FG Bass and drums lock in really well on this. You and Paul Francis get some real grooves going, a bit of a style change since the Andromeda days. Who were you listening to at the time?
Mick Hawksworth playing his Danelectro longhorn bass, (with Steve Waller)
MH I think it's just progressed really. Probably slightly better technique, you know, broadening horizons. I've always loved the American bands of the late sixties. They blew our guys away really. Spirit. Have you seen Spirit live? Oh, they made the Who look stupid. And we all know how good the Who were. They were brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Sly and the Family Stone. He never made it past four bars on their opening number before the entire audience stood up. Moby Grape, a bit weird and off the rails, obviously, but you know, a really good band. Zappa. What more can you say about that man. Wonderful.
I like the album, and I like the band. It was a good band, and we weren't too serious about ourselves. We didn't have a big mission to accomplish. I don't know which I prefer, the band with Graham White in; the way that the material went at that time, or with Garth Watt-Roy in. Because I like Garth's songs, and I liked the way we did things, but we lost that thing of stealing off into unexpected directions. His brother Norman (Watt-Roy) used to come along sometimes; he was a nice bloke.
FG It sounds like you influenced Norman Watt-Roy's playing. The bassline to One More Hour reminds me of things he played several years later with Ian Dury.
What equipment did you record the album with?
MH All Danelectro. It would have been a Sound City head with the Hiwatt cabs, 4x12s. I never did DI. We did the album first and then we started gigging, and after the first couple gigs, they said we've got to get you better bass gear; what do you want? Acoustic 360!
Mick playing the Danelectro Lonhgorn bass, early 1970s
Original programme for Mountain and the Jimmy McCulloch band at the Rainbow theatre London, 1972
FG After Fuzzy Duck you played with a lot of different bands: Landslide (featuring Graham Bond), Killing Floor, Cliff Bennett's Toefat, Charley Horse, Ross, and you toured with the Jimmy McCulloch band?
MH That was quite a good band really, but Jimmy was a bit wild. We did one Hellish tour supporting Mountain, in a bloody Hillman Avenger - my God - you really don't want four blokes and their guitars in one. Great tour, loved it. Lesley West used to appear in the doorframe of our dressing room every night. They were great, really nice. Jimmy's guitar had been stolen, and Keith Richards had lent him an old Les Paul, and Lesley West didn't realise it wasn't his guitar, and every night he'd go "I'll give you a thousand bucks for that guitar Jimmy!".
FG Did any of these bands record?
MH Yes, but there was nothing that was released; i've got stuff by the Human Orchestra. Ross recorded, but only demos. (Charlie Horse) a couple of nice demos. We almost got a deal with DJM, but at the time I'd been to see the Ross band, and they'd asked me to join and go on this six week tour of the States, and DJM were quibbling about a stupid piddling sum of money. You know, I'd have preferred to stay with the Charlie Horse band, because it was a great band, but what do you do? It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. With all the experience I'd had of record company's just signing you as a tax loss, I thought well, i've got six weeks of touring America, decent money and decent prospects; because they were signed to Stigwood, or i've got DJM quibbling over two or three grand. I still don't know whether I made the right decision or not to be honest. Often happens though.
Matthew Fisher's 1973 album, Journey's End
FG But you did record one album, Journey's End, with Procol Harum keyboardist Matthew Fisher in 1973?
MH I borrowed a jazz bass for that. I went along and we did a bit of playing together. He wanted to know if I knew a drummer. I said I know this guy called Geoff Swettenham. Geoff turned up, Matt Fisher liked what he did and the three of us did the album together. It's very low key, it's not in your face at all, and it's not really me... not a style of music I'd played before then, but it was an extremely instructive album to make. And Mathew Fisher being a keyboard player, and an excellent one at that, had great learning, a great background, and pointed me in a few directions. There are nice instrumental passages all over it, but a very very low key album. My only input really was playing bass. A lot of it is a tirade against Procul Harum, because he was treated like absolute crap.
FG The early part of your career is characterised by the use of short scale basses, the Gibson EB0, but moreso the Danelectro longhorn? Why the change
MH The Danelectro was stolen from the band's truck in 1974, along with my Acoustic 360 pre-amp, after the roadie promised me faithfully that he would take them into his house. I'd put a lot of work into the bass, like replacing the daft machine heads with a set of Schallers, getting the action perfect, designing and making a custom shaped clear Perspex scratchplate, with a Salvadore Dali print underneath it, and finally resprayed in a pale metallic blue: Ford Silver Fox! It was stolen just before I went to the States for the first time with a band called "Ross". We were to play two weeks in clubs and then join the Doobie Brothers tour for a month. And me with no bass...
This mighty beast had to have a name. If B.B. King's guitar was called "Lucille", this monster had to be "Igor"
The pattern on the heads was a result of me using a metal scribe in a "Spirograph", (remember them?) to gouge the design into the wood, which was then filled with the same epoxy / brass mixture, and the excess sanded off
MH I'd begun to realise that the really low bass end I was looking for, could only be had from a long scale bass, and having seen Larry Graham with Sly and The Family Stone, it had to be a Fender Jazz bass. A Friday night Fender Jazz bought in Nashville. It was the only one in the entire city! I was a bit dubious about it, playing it in the shop, but I figured I could do something with the terrible action. We were working that night, so I had to buy it. What an unutterably vile piece if shite. Not only was it a pig to play, it sounded crap as well. It would have made a fairly useful garden spade though. "Skunk", (Jeff Baxter, playing with The Doobies at that time) very kindly took the neck off and inserted a pick in the neck slot in the body, which helped to lower the neck a little and made it nearly playable. No amount of truss rod adjustment made any difference to the neck angle, or the twist near the nut end. Like I said; a complete pig. Made me realise that Fenders weren't for me.
MH In 1976, knowing that I still needed a long scale bass, but sorely missing the Danelectro's wonderful short scale feel, I arrived at a very large decision. At the time, I shared a house with a few other people and one of the guys started making guitars: and he was really good at it. I finally asked him to make me a double neck bass: long and short scale. I designed the beast myself, using shapes stolen from an Epiphone solid guitar and a pair of exaggerated Danelectro Longhorns. It was paid for by selling the Jazz bass and the EBO, which was bought by Mike Oldfield. The pick-ups were hand-made, using a compromise between Fender's 10,000 turns and Gibsons 15,000 turns of wire. They were to be mounted in a trough encased in epoxy resin, with a high brass powder content, in an effort to get a clean, undistorted sound; I'm very heavy with my right hand, I used to break bottom E strings on a regular basis! The body is bird's eye maple with ebony fingerboards. The long scale neck is 34 inches and the short scale 30 inches, the same as the Danelectro. The long neck has 27 frets, and the short has 26. The pattern on the heads was a result of me using a metal scribe in a "Spirograph", (remember them?) to gouge the design into the wood, which was then filled with the same epoxy / brass mixture, and the excess sanded off. The splendid guy who made it for me was Peter Fabio Barraclough: PFB Guitars. This mighty beast had to have a name. If B.B. King's guitar was called "Lucille", this monster had to be "Igor". I loved him. The sound wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped for, though it is crystal clear, but the action and feel is beautiful. The plan I had for the electronics never really worked: I wanted a master volume, a master tone, plus a stereo pan pot between the two. The problem was that the level would plummet as soon as you went from 'full off', or 'full on'. Damn! I've just realised how to do it! The really big problem though, was that the short neck just wasn't up to it sound wise. It wasn't hard, or percussive enough. Even so, the lower string tension allowed me to bend strings by a tone and a half!
FlyGuitars Probably the best known of your bands was Alvin Lee's Ten Years Later: Alvin Lee, guitar; Tom Compton, drums; Mick Hawksworth, bass; (and sometimes) Bernie Clarke, keyboards. You had played with Tom previously in the Human Orchestra. How did that lead to Ten Years Later?
MH Tom got the gig first. Tom's a very aggressive, very flamboyant drummer, and when he first played with Alvin, he followed what Alvin was doing very closely. As a consequence, his tempo probably crept up a bit or something. The bass player, Alan Spenner turned to Alvin after Tom had gone, and said "I can't really play with that bloke because he speeds up" and Alvin said, "Well I really like him". He asked Tom if there was a bass player he liked working with. Tom gave me a call, I went along. I don't know why but I was very rusty at the time, really, really, rusty; there must have been a real lull in my work. I apologised profusely and said to Alvin I'm really feeling this. I was very embarrassed, but happily, things eventually came together and he was quite happy, so that was that. Tom and I did work very well together; extremely well. We've been in 3,4,5 bands, I don't know... Charley Horse, Landslide. Tom also came to an audition for Mathew Fisher on my recommendation; there was talk of another album, but it didn't happen. Matthew liked Toms playing.
There are two guys from that period that I got on really well with as drummers, and as people, and that's Tony Fernandes and Tom Compton. I saw Tony not very long ago; he's still playing great. Absolutely lovely guy. I've not managed to play with Tom again since the Alvin Lee days.
Mick Hawksworth's Gibson Thunderbird bass was previously owned by Gary Thaine of Uriah Heep. Note the central maple block, and slightly repositioned pickups.
Mick bought his Guild in 1977: 'What a revelation. It had one pick-up and weighed about the same as a bag of sweets. And the low end!' Note the Acoustic 360 amplifier in the background.
FlyGuitars Tell us about some of the new basses you were using at this stage.
MH A regular visitor to Alvin Lee's place was a close friend of Gary Thaine, [Uriah Heep's bass player] and after Gary died this guy inherited his gear, which included a Gibson Thunderbird bass. He asked if I wanted to buy it: I nearly tore his arm off. One thing though, it seems like the entire centre section has been remade in maple, but not by Gibson. Whoever did it though, made a fantastic job of it. It's beautifully married up to the side sections and the headstock has the same step cut into it. You'd never know it's not original except for where (for some weird reason) the holes to take the bridge adjusters have been drilled in the wrong position, filled in, and then repositioned, which is a great shame. It's as great to play as I always knew a T'bird would be and it has a unique sound: very clean and workable. You could really wind up the low end on the amp and this would deliver, big time. Using both pick-ups together gives it a real nice tonal quality in the high mid. I'm still as impressed by this bass as the day I bought it.
Then, in 1977, I got a call from a friend who was working in Sound City in Shaftesbury Avenue. He was raving about a Guild B301 bass that they had, and ordered me to get there and try it. What a revelation. It had one pick-up and weighed about the same as a bag of sweets. And the low end! This great guitar must be the most under-rated bass of all time, and for 150 quid, there was nothing else to touch it. Probably sounds so good because Guild used to have the oldest stockpile of wood of any guitar maker, and old seasoned wood makes great guitars. The only 6 string guitar I'd like to own now is a 60's Guild acoustic.
FlyGuitars The Ten Years Later live footage available (Rock Palast DVD) shows you play the Guild B301, Gibson RD Artist and Gibson Thunderbird - is this something you generally did, swap basses on stage?
Alvin Lee and Ten Years Later - live at Rock Palast
Towards the end of the set, Mick used to launch his bass into the air. The Guild B301 prepares for take-off.
Mick with his doubleneck bass "Igor" and the Acoustic 360 amplifier in the background
MH I can't imagine what I was doing using the Thunderbird. I definitely wouldn't have done too many gigs with it. I know the Guild used to get used near the end. I played the doubleneck mostly and that weighs a ton and I'd get quite worn out by the end of it. It had to go away for work, there were things that needed doing, but once they were ironed out it was great. Just the usual teething troubles with a custom-made instrument. In the meantime it was mostly the RD, the cherry sunburst one, and then when the head got broken, the blonde one. Coincidentally, most of the footage is with those instruments, though somewhere there's an Old Grey Whistle Test where I'm playing the doubleneck.
FlyGuitars How did you break the RD Artist?
MH I sent it into a lighting rig. I used to like to use the Guild at the end of the show because it was light. It also used to make a journey upwards into the air at the end. Catch it on the way down.
FlyGuitars What was it like, working with Alvin Lee?
MH I have to say that Alvin was a decent bloke. He certainly looked after us financially, and was happy for us to take solos and so on. He was good in that respect. To a certain degree Alvin did have "guitar player syndrome", but at least he didn't want all the limelight. He was quite happy for stuff to go on, on stage, you know.
Alvin Lee and Ten years Later - Rocket Fuel (1978)
FlyGuitars You did two albums Rocket Fuel and Ride on...What were the musical high points?
MH The stage work more than anything. I didn't like the way Alvin recorded, because when we'd lay down the backing tracks, I'd take such care with my sound. I really wanted to make it sound exactly like you were standing next to the amp. You know I'd spent three or four hours with the sound engineer in the morning before anybody got there. We'd try this and we'd try that, so the bass drums and the initial guitar track sounded incredibly powerful to me, but Alvin put too many guitars on. It detracts. It robs the bass and drums of frequencies that make them sound powerful, so to me they sound weaker. The more guitar went on, the less powerful they became. Highpoint of that time is, I suppose, a very impromptu session with George Harrison, who was a neighbour, four or five miles away. Eric Clapton, Carl Raddle, Tom (Compton). When Carl Raddle came in... I said use my rig, you know. So I had nothing to play. So I pulled a guitar off the wall, plugged it in. Eventually Alvin walked up to the microphone and started singing "I've got the too-many guitarists blues... and I don't know where to play". Really good fun. But the touring.... especially in the States, which was brilliant.
Alvin Lee and Ten years Later - Ride On (1979)
FlyGuitars Did you go on Concord?
MH Yes. Alvin paid for us to fly out on Concord. A great thing to do, though there was a lot of money that should have been conserved rather than spent on a good time. And sending limos round to pick me up from my folk's place in Clapham to take me to Gatwick or Heathrow. A lot of wasted money. Still, it wasn't mine and it was very generous of him.
FlyGuitars You use a lot more effects with Ten Years Later than previous recordings. What basses and effects are you using on the Rocket Fuel album?
MH All Igor. Effects: number 1 is the Acoustic 360. It's got this fuzz built into it. Now, i've tried plugging a bass into a fuzz pedal, and it just sounds like crap, but the fuzz circuit on the 360 is astonishing, it really is brilliant. You get endless sustain and it's really violent and raucous. So I used to use that in a solo, or at the end of a song. You'd hit a bottom E, then an open G and an F# on the D string. You'd get this onslaught, this huge wall of dissonance. Sounds brilliant. Any showmanship I possess, is in my sounds and playing, rather than running around on stage. I've never been one to stay in the background, wondering if it was time to play another note. My biggest problem has been an unending procession of people telling me I'm playing too loud. Yeah, really. I also used an Electro Harmonix pedal - the "Zipper". Like an auto-wah and I used their chorus unit; the "Clone Theory", the flanger; the "Electric Mistress" and the filter; "Bass Balls". Their pedals were brilliant. Another thing I tried was a Roland monophonic pitch to voltage synth that I was using, as well as I could: it was an unwieldy beast at the best of times, let alone me trying to pump Igor down its throat.
FlyGuitars Do you still play the Pink Panther theme in your bass solos?
MH (laughs).... no I don't. I like the idea of it though. I was so pleased I hit on that one. It's a tough thing doing a bass solo. My playing has changed a lot from then until now. It's now good standing up there going dum dum dum dum. That means nothing to people, and not all of us can be Jaco or Stanley Clarke, but a certain amount of diddling around, showing them you can play fast, that's very impressive, but I thought this is not really connecting with people, and as I always liked sliding bits in here and there anyway, I thought what's a piece of music that everyone is going to know. I always loved the Panther films, so I thought let's give it a go. I did try the theme to Monty Python once in America. I think they thought I was doing the Korean national anthem. There were some very pissed off people backstage.
FlyGuitars And you use the microphone stand to play slide bass?
MH It's like the thing with the fuzz pedal again, at the end of the number, I'd stamp on that fuzz pedal. Just a visual and audio thing for the end of the song. I've never been a great visual player. Never been one of these guys who leap around the stage like a demented Tarzan. I'm happy to stand there and play, measuring what I'm doing, being aware. You're under a lot of pressure in bands like that. Alvin had a couple of blokes who did manager impressions. "You gotta back Alvin up. Gotta do this and gotta do that. Set fire to your trousers".
FlyGuitars (FG) The 1980s saw you in a new band, Flying Pigs. How did that come about?
Mick Hawksworth (MH) It was initially, a jam band, often with Willy Finlayson, vocals and guitar; Matt Irving, keyboards; Steve Sinclair, drums. It went on to regular line up of Mickey Jones (ex-Man), guitar; Phil Little, drums; later replaced by Rick Dyett. Then came the Flying Pigs Mark two: Mike Summerland, guitar; Colin Woolway, drums, which was also a great band.
FG An album of Flying Pigs recordings was released in 2004, featuring yourself, Mickey Jones and Phil Little. What did you like about the band?
MH I think it combined the best of my attitude and the way that I played, and the same with Mickey really. We did work extremely well together, sang together well too. He would suddenly start playing this solo, and he'd end up playing it for twenty minutes, and it was never boring, never. And all sorts of stuff. Wicked player, wicked sense of humour, lovely guy.
FG It is a good album, and once again some very different sounds compared to your previous recordings: lots of effects on both guitar and bass. What basses and effects pedals were you using?
MH Jet Lagging - that was Igor
On the Street, that was Igor going through a bass balls pedal, again from Electro Harmonix
Back Together Again was the Gibson RD Artist going through the Zipper pedal again; the auto-wah, but on slow
Breaking up was Igor with the Electro Harmonix flanger
Psycho was the eight string on Igor
What in the world Igor with the flanger
Private Movie was Igor
Asylum was the RD
Last Birthday Part was the RD
Against the Crowd was the RD
FG What amp?
MH Acoustic 360, of course! That's all I'd use. Apart from one time in 1974 when my preamp got stolen and I had to use a Sunn Coluseum bass head, which was rubbish, but I managed to pickup another preamp, and that's all i've ever used since 1970. There's nothing else like them.
FG There's an interesting bassline you used on Back Together Again; all that sliding around.
MH Mickey and I used to argue at length about what I would be playing. I maintained that, as it was a three-piece, I didn't have to continually follow the bass drum; you may as well have two or three other players. If you're a three-piece you need to expand your playing, not lessen it, to fill out the sound. Like when he played solos, I needed to do something behind him that would illustrate the chords, and you can't do that on one or two notes. In the end we arrived at something that suited both of us, and again I think, in latter days Mickey came to like what I did, because we did a hell of a lot of work together, and I think he missed it once he started playing with Man again. In turn, I learned a lot from Mickey's approach.
FG Who wrote the songs?
MH Yeah. We did about 50:50. Most of what I play is pretty well controlled by what I write. Psycho was mine, Private Movie and Against the Crowd. Jet Laggin', Back Together Again, Breaking Up, What in the World, Last Birthday Party and Asylum was Mickey Jones.
FG What was the musical highlight for you?
MH Breaking Up I suppose; I mean it's a great song and we had a great arrangement for the solo: it really built to a great climax. There was nothing I didn't like really, though I think Private Movie wasn't too suitable for the band, maybe. Some songs work with a band and others don't, you know. That was one of those.
FG Around about this time you started to play fretless in favour of fretted bass. What or who made you go this route?
MH I'd heard Jaco of course, in about '76, and I thought Jesus Christ!!! I think he re-wrote the book on the bass guitar, let alone the fretless bass guitar. Again, you can't help but be influenced, but I was determined not to sound like him, if there was any way I could avoid it. I'll tell you a bass play I really admire, Fernando Saunders - he played with Jan Hammer Group and then John McLaughlin in the One Truth Band. They had this wonderful rhythm section, Fernando Saunders and Tony Smith. Fretless player, absolutely stunning. There's a Jan Hammer album, Melodies, and there's a track on it called Mayday; the bassline is very basic, but it's so musical and a great sound, fantastic sound. I stood on the side of the stage in Germany, playing with Alvin, we were on the same bill as John Mclaughlin. We were on first the first night, and they were on first the next night and I watched both their gigs, and I was just astonished. Wonderful, wonderful player. What really started me on fretless though, was having two identical basses, which was crazy [The RD Artists], and if I couldn't sell one, then I was determined to use it. I was just astonished, once you get your head around it, some of the things you are able to do.
FG So what did you have defretted?
MH The spare blonde RD. I heard that if you filed down the frets on a bass and played with a light touch, it would behave like a fretless, and if you played heavier with the left hand, you could sound the fret. It didn't take long to do it and I was really pleased with the results. The only trouble was that my heavy approach soon wore the fret remnants down to nothing, until they all peeled off... A friend of mine de-fretted it and filled the gaps with a black resin, so I still had fret markers. An idiot's fretless. I got so hooked on playing fretless that I virtually stopped playing my fretted basses: so much so, that I decided to de-fret the Guild as well, using the same epoxy resin treatment. It sounded great minus the frets, but I had this idea.... Having studied a Danelectro Sitar, to see how they got the sound, and discovering that it had a bridge with no fixed saddles; just a sloping piece of wood for the strings to buzz on, I thought, what if? So I did. I didn't get the trombone sound I was hoping for, but what I did get was a really different sound. Quite toppy, but still with that real hard low end. By now, I was only playing fretless, which meant that Igor, the Thunderbird and the original RD were not being used. As I still loved the colour of the first RD, I de-fretted that one as well, in the hope that I'd use it more. As it is, I've just dug it out of retirement, and only need to work on the action a little, and I intend to use it as my regular bass, instead of the blonde one, which incidentally, I resprayed in a metallic maroon. I said I didn't like a natural finish.
Drummer Phil Little has set up this page about the Flying Pigs (http://www.littledrum.co.uk/flyingpigs1.htm) - check it out
FlyGuitars (FG) Another guitar legend you've played with is Albert Lee?
Mick Hawksworth (MH) I played two tracks on an album with a Swiss guy called Paul Mac Bonvin in 1989, on the M.A.X record label. The album was called Country Wine. I don't know if it was issued over here, (doubtful) but Paul does pretty well in his part of the world, and is actually, a very good player / singer. Albert Lee later overdubbed guitar on both tracks. Though we weren't in the studio together, we'd played together at the Tunnel Club at The Mitre by the Blackwall tunnel more than once or twice.
FG This was with Mickey Jones from the Flying Pigs?
MH Yes, we had a jam band called Corporal Henshaw, and we played every Tuesday night, and Albert turned up quite a few times. Plus Mickey and I also were in a little band backing Dominic Levack and we did a tour supporting Albert with Hogan's Heroes. Coincidentally, Dominic also played on both of the Paul Mac Bonvin tracks. Corporal Henshaw must have had about a hundred different players with us over the few years it was going.
Roll Again - Mick Clarke
FG The next album you played on was Roll Again with Mick Clarke, who you first played with in Killing Floor in 1971.
MH Killing Floor and Andromeda often met on the road: we were both South London bands, so it wasn't unusual. Then we did quite a few gigs together and at one point in Andromeda's death throes, we did some gigs with their keyboard player; Lou Martin, who became a good friend and that's how I got to know Mick better. Then around 1971, Mick called to ask if I'd like to join their revised band with Ray Owen on guitar and vocals, which I did. It was a good band, but doomed, as there was no manager or agent. Somehow, a year or two later, Mick, Lou, Tony Fernandes and I became Cliff Bennet's Mk 2 "Toefat" for a couple of years. We stayed in touch via the South London scene, playing at The Half Moon pub at Herne Hill in jams and so on, mostly with Steve Smith, a harmonica player / singer. Sometime in the early 80's, I met Chris Sharley, who came and played quite a few sessions at The Tunnel Club. He had a real nice feel to his playing and I got on really well with him. When Mick Clarke asked me if I knew a good drummer, I instantly recommended Chris and he stayed with Mick for years. In 96/7, Mick's bass player left and he asked if I'd like to replace him, which was pretty welcome, as work had been falling off quite a bit. I was probably in the band for about four or five years, touring all over Europe mostly, and all done in a Transit van! This seems to be the standard of living a lot of bands now enjoy: late 60's standards... This hard core touring was made a lot easier by Chris's constant clowning, wisecracking and general lunacy and it probably explains why we're still good mates.
FG Which brings us up to date: Tres Geezers
MH Tres Geezers. My current band. Rick Mead guitar, Chris Sharley drums. A little while after parting company with Mick Clarke, I bumped into Rick (an old guitar player friend) at a jam session and I really liked the style he'd adopted since I last played with him in a band called Hit And Run; with Phil Little drums and Phil Hunt guitar. Rick and I put "Tres Geezers" together, which eventually wound up with Chris on the kit; a very natural choice, not just for his playing, but his voice as well. We play our favourite obscure covers, like Joe Walsh, Todd Rungren, Steely Dan, Cream and so on, plus a good few of our own songs. The fact that Chris can manage to play and sing, means we can venture into three part harmony, which is great. I really love the band, but I'm sick of the jerks that play at being pub governors: they all seem to be bigger stars than any guitar-toter I've ever met and consequently, gigs are real hard to come by.
FG So another three-piece. Is that the line-up that suits you most?
MH Absolutely. A player who can adapt to a bass player like myself, is a very rare animal: they seem to miss the positive side, like the fact that my style would allow them to embellish, rather than have to play rhythm or chords and they generally play over and across whatever I'm doing. I hope this doesn't make me sound like an ego tripper playing in every available space, 'cos that's not what I do, I often drop out for a bar or two at the end of a sequence, to allow the drums to fill in. In fact, I drop out more than any player I've ever heard: especially when it's really cooking. You wouldn't believe the difference in sound and dynamics when an instrument drops out. So yes, a three piece is the ideal vehicle for my style: as long as the guitar player has the ability to hear!
Source: http://www.flyguitars.com/interviews/mickhawksworth6.php accessed 24/12/13