Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bridget Wishart Interview: The First Lady of Psychedelic Rock
Conducted by Anthony Servante

I’d like to welcome Bridget Wishart to the Darkness for a discussion on music and performance art. But first, let’s meet this artistic talent:

Bridget Wishart; Singer/Songwriter

Bridget Wishart might be best known for the many talents which she brought to legendary space rockers Hawkwind during her tenure with the band in the early 1990s, providing her vocals, poetry, mime and dance, and playing a major part in rejuvenating their sound and vision for a whole new generation of fans, but that’s only a small part of her story.

When Bridget joined the Hawks, she was already well-known to the free festival crowds as having been the singer for The Demented Stoats and, mostly notably, with the all-girl punksters The Hippy Slags. Although those alliances were, sadly, never committed to vinyl, her time in Hawkwind (for which she left her job teaching ceramics at Bath’s Prior Park College) delivered up albums such as Space Bandits and Palace Springs, an appearance on the television music show Bedrock and a number of DVD releases. The epic magnum opus, ‘Images’, which she co-wrote and provided lead vocals on, is still a live favourite for the Hawkwind faithful, whilst her evocative vocals on the Native American-influenced ‘Black Elk Speaks’ is a high-point in 90s Hawkwind output.

Leaving Hawkwind in 1991, she moved on to contribute dance and choreography with Techno Pagan and then in 1995, along with Tim Carroll, formed the UV design company, Temple Decor, who, amongst their credits, provided backdrops for the WOMAD festival.

Having left the music scene in 1997, little was heard from Bridget until she was, thankfully, lured out of musical retirement in 2003 by American composer/musician Don Falcone. Since then, she’s worked with Don and his space rock collective, Spirits Burning, on two full-length CDs, Earth Born and Bloodlines (both released by Gonzo Records). Their third CD Make Believe It Real is due for completion in 2013. She has recorded for many other bands, including Astralfish (Far Corners) Mooch, Space seed, Omenopus (Portents ,Time Flies, The Plague), Hola One (Moments) and Djinn, with Alan Davey (Last Wish).

She is co-author, alongside Ian Abrahams, of the long awaited book, Festivalized, which recounts the rise and fall of the free festival scene as told by those who were there.

Bridget’s latest live project is Chumley Warner Bros, which consists of Bridget on vocals and EWI, alongside Martin Plumley on guitar and vocals. They describe themselves as having a ‘semi-acoustic fireside sound’, harkening back to the festivals campfires of yesteryear. Catch them where you can!

The Interview

Anthony: Thank you for joining us today, Bridget.
Bridget: My pleasure J thanks for the invite.

Anthony: What influences led you as a child to follow a career in music and performance art?
Bridget: I loved art, acting, singing, choral speaking, playing recorder and clowning as a child. As I grew older I was torn between acting and art but decided to follow art. When I went to Art College I was lucky to be accepted by Newport Art College (Gwent College of Higher Education) Roy Ascot was running a new course entitled The Gentle Touch (Hah! a more inaccurate title I have yet to come across J ) Unlike most art courses there were no barriers between media, if you wanted to paint with mud in a home made swimming pool on top of a mountain you could, if you wanted to make cardboard replica tanks you could, if you fancied hanging upside down in a cocoon on the ceiling to a sound track of  vocal cries you could, if you wanted run your own project you could, the stranger and more weird the better…in that environment you sank or swam…I bubbled under for a bit but ended up flying…hmmm, well, hanging from a ceiling. J

Anthony: What defines “performance art” for you?
Bridget: Performance Art first and foremost is art using your body and anything it can do. All else, like soundtracks, smells, installations, images, machines and lighting might be an integral part of the show but is extra.  Performance Art, when you see it, happens ‘Now’, it’s art in creation, communication, in front of your eyes, it’s personal, it’s never the same, no one ever sees or experiences it from the same view point… You can’t bottle it or sell it. Some performance artists are pretentious oiks and just want to be weird (IMHO!); others like Richard Lazell are genuine people, talented artists, presenting life and all its parts in fresh and illuminating ways.

Anthony: Can you tell us about your career before Hawkwind?
Bridget: My first band was the Demented Stoats; we lived in a squat called Stoat Hall, we practiced in the basement, we played a mix of space rock and punk; our influences were Hawkwind and Nina Hagen. Richard Chadwick, Hawkwind’s current drummer played drums and Steve Bemand (TOSH, Timelords, Hawkwind) played bass and guitar. We played the free festivals. The band split and in 1981 I moved to Wales and went to Art College in Newport getting into video and Performance Art. When I came back to Bath I formed a band with Pete and Lol called Next Year’s Big Thing. We played festivals and gigged in the South West. I moved to Reading to do a Masters Degree and kept the band going for a while with the addition of Huw on bass and Marion on flute and keys with a succession of drummers. The band folded just before I graduated and when I returned from Tewkesbury after doing a Sculpture Fellowship at Cheltenham I had the chance to join the Hippy Slags. I had also found a great job as a sculpture tutor at Prior Park College in Bath.

Anthony: And how was it that Hawkwind was graced with your talents? Can you share some favorite experiences? I loved the costumes you wore in concert.
Bridget: The Hippy Slags were a festival band, our drummer was Richard’s girlfriend, we knew members of Hawkwind from way back. When they did the Travellers Aid Trust album they invited us to do a couple of tracks on it and to support them on a few dates on the tour. At one of the gigs they invited us to sing on a jam called Back In The Box. I was the only one who did, I continued to sing the track if we were playing the same festivals as them. Then when they recorded the track for Palace Springs they invited me to sing it. That was my first recording for Hawkwind, though it came out after Space Bandits. As I became more involved in the band and recorded songs at Rockfield: Wings, Black Elk Speaks and Images; I realized I couldn’t be a teacher and tour with Hawkwind. I chose Hawkwind. I chose and designed my costumes for the tours, working within a limited budget, but unlimited imagination J I listened to the songs, worked on dance moves that expressed the words. I learned semaphore, I wore layers of costumes for quick changes and had many accidents because I couldn’t see where the hell I was going in a mask, in the dark with the smoke and the strobes! 

Favourite experiences…Uhmmmm…not fav experiences but some unforgettable memories … I loved the American tour of winter 1990. We were in Grateful Dead’s old greyhound tour bus, it had winged horses painted on it…the bunks were small and snug, the windows opened, the driver was bonkers J the scenery was unbelievable, the crew were fantastic and the audiences were great. Lemmy came on the bus to say hi; we drove across the Rockies through the night in a blizzard with only the passenger windscreen wiper working, Harv sat there, directing the driver from one bollard to the next…the cliff edge was just on the other side of those bollards! I remember being backstage after doing the vocals for Golden Void listening to Dave play his guitar solo with tears running down my cheeks, it was so moving. When we did the European Tour the following year, it was a real mixed bag of chaos and disorder with moments of hysterical hilarity. The gold taps with dolphins and naked little boys in Rome were totally bizarre as was the parrot in Greece, I wanted to free it. The German audiences were brilliant, they clapped they cheered they shouted and stomped; it was really heart warming. The soldiers in Yugoslavia were a bit worrying and war broke out just after we left.

Anthony: “Images” and “Wings” were two of my favorite songs on the Space Bandits lp. How do you view your contribution to the music of this psychedelic mood piece?
Bridget: Images is a great song, I was lucky they were writing it when they did and that I had lyrics that fit it perfectly.J This was the first song I recorded at Rockfield, my first in a professional studio, I was nervous and the band worried me when they all sat around in the room and I thought I’d have to sing in front of them…Paul (Cobbold) chucked them out…even so I had got jittery and promptly ‘lost’ my voice after singing it through once. Luckily it returned and after a grueling five hour session we had then vocals done to Paul’s exacting standards. I remember later in the week listening back to it on the huge wall speakers in the studio…it was jaw droppingly magnificent! Recording Wings was altogether a more painless process, Paul liked the strange harmony I had selected and got Alan and me to sing both the top and bottom harmonies, when we did the song live I did the low harmony which was hard to do as my voice was quiet that far down my range.

Anthony: How has your career changed after Hawkwind?
Bridget: I felt pretty low after leaving Hawkwind, it was all a bit confusing. I formed a band with Danny Smith (guitarist from 2000DS) we called ourselves Daze, wrote a set, did a few gigs but Dan had personal issues to deal with so it didn’t go any further. I then decided to focus on getting a job and did a TEFL course. Just as I finished and got some work Klive (Farhead) invited me to be part of Techno Pagan. I became a dancer and choreographer for them. The music was hard core dance and our dance was UV and on the edge with sculptures, masks, stilts, and costumes of jellyfish, robots, androids etc. Klive and I are both quite opinionated strong headed folk and sadly we fell out so I went my way. Jumping straight into another project, that of UV Décor. I met Tim Carroll (RIP) doing a gig at a Temple Ball (rave); he was putting up some drapes that were good but I could sense how much better they could be. We formed an Ultra Violet Décor Company called Temple Décor. I designed the drapes for big scale raves and festivals, we made and painted the drapes and hung them at the venues. We made the venues look like giant psychedelic temples We worked for WOMAD, Pukkelpop, Glastonbury and many others. I became overworked, underpaid and totally stressed. In 96 I resigned and suffered a serious breakdown. After 4 months in hospital I got a job as a care worker looking after children with special needs in a respite home, after two years moving on to a home for young adults with profound special needs. At this time in my life I had nothing to do with music or art; I couldn’t bear the thought of it. Luckily I met Martin and we fell in love. In 2002 we had our daughter Hannah and the following year we got married. I was lured out of ‘musical retirement’ by Don Falcone of Spirits Burning, in around 2004, I have worked with him ever since. I also work and release music with Astralfish, Mooch, Spaceseed, Omenopus, Djinn and Hola One and have recently contributed to CD’s with Sky Burial and Melodic Energy Comission.

Plus, the latest Mooch collaboration...the ep Beltane To Samhain was released on May 1st... Download from or available from Stephen "Steve" Palmer in a handprinted cover. I haven’t stopped doing live gigs but they aren’t as easy to do with a family and a job. Martin and I form the acoustic duo, the Chumley Warner Brothers and we play a few favored festivals (e.g., Sonic Rock Solstice and Kozz Fest) plus a few  local gigs every year.

Anthony: Can’t help but notice we have a mutual friend in Dave Cousins, founder of the Strawbs. I could see you contributing to their folk rock style. What do you think?
Bridget: I’d love to. J Some of the Chumley’s music falls into this category. We do covers as well as our own material so maybe we’ll learn a Strawbs song next.

Anthony: What does Bridget Wishart have planned these days musically and artistically?
Bridget: Don and I are working on our third full length Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart CD (to follow Earth Born and Bloodlines) It’s called Make Believe It Real; it has a sci fi/fantasy theme. I’ve just designed the cover; the tracks are plentiful, varied and in addition to the usual SB crew, feature guest appearances from Nigel Mazlin Jones, Keith Tha Bass of Here & Now, Jay Tausig of Chrome, Nick May (The Enid) and Hawk family members: Alan Davey, Dan Thompson and Simon House. Release with Gonzo Records is due around autumn of this year. This release will also include a surprise CD with unheard music written by myself and Don…I shall say no more, just that you haven’t heard us do anything like this before. J
I have just this month finished a third and fuller collaboration with Marek Orgorzalek of Hola One. The EP Moments is pretty much finished and will be available for free download.
This year I have also been working with my fav spacerockin band Spaceseed. I have contributed vocals to four tracks for their next release ‘The Fraternal Order of’. Also, Chumley plans to record a CD.

I’m also very much enjoying making psychedelic bracelets for friends and family.

Anthony: What do you recommend to young artists seeking to follow in your footsteps?
Bridget: Have a website. Make some videos, get them on You Tube, have a track or two that is well recorded that you can send to promoters and have as free downloads. Choose a good band name and good artwork will help.
Play live, write songs, write more songs, dump the bad ones, record yourself, listen to your sound, ask your friends for their honest opinions.  Just be you, learn a few covers, they’ll help you to understand other ways of building songs. Create a stage presence, if you’re shy prepare a few things to say or say nothing at all! Write more songs, and above all, have fun, if it’s not fun, do something else.

Anthony: How can fans gather more information on you and your projects?

Anthony: Can you share with my readers the Top Ten List of Songs that have influenced your career to date and tell us a little about each one?

1. Cymbeline, Pink Floyd (Soundtrack from the film More) this album was one of a pile my aunt gave me when I was 14 and she left London to join a commune in the Lake District. Melody plays such a big part in my enjoyment of a song and this is just beautiful. (Version from movie:

2. Mushroom, Can (Tago Mago) The rhythm and the pitch of Damo’s vocals is mesmerizing.

3. Broadway Hotel Al Stewart (Year of the Cat) Great melody, glorious voice, great story, great song writing and violin! 

4. Dreamer, Supertramp. I loved Roger’s unique vocals, and the piano just works! Crime of the Century was my fav album for a long time.

5. Kashmir, Led Zeppelin (Physical Graffiti) Oh that guitar riff, the drums and Plant’s searing voice…the unrelieved tension… fantastic. 

6. Shakedown Street, (Shakedown Street) Grateful Dead A good all round happy song…happy songs are HARD to write! 

7. Black or White, Michael Jackson (Dangerous) whatever you think about MJ as a person, OMG, he was a great singer, dancer and performer, so much to admire and aspire to. 

8. Psycho Killer, Talking Heads (Talking Heads 77) David Byrne is a genius, this song starts the film ‘Stop Making Sense’ you just have to watch it.

9. Peaches The Stranglers (Rattus Norvegicus) This was my first punk album. Before this I had been listening mainly to Led Zep, The Eagles, Supertramp, Pink Floyd and Peter Frampton. The change to include punk was shockingly instantaneous. 

10. Demented Man, Hawkwind (Warrior On The Edge Of Time) Not many acoustic guitar songs in the Hawkwind repertoire but this is one and it’s great and it’s deep, I saw Hawkwind play it on their recent tour and we want to cover it J 

As a bonus, Bridget has sent along six extra songs for new and old fans to hear.

11. Images—Hawkwind

12. Wonderland by Chumley Warner Bros

13. Le Chapeau Rouge, Omenopus

14. Jay Tausig - Billy Sherwood - Bridget Wishart 'Twisting The Tail’ 


16. Nick Drake: Day is Done (a wonderful and inspirational influence for me--Bridget Wishart).

Anthony: Thank you for joining us today. You are most welcome here with the Servante of Darkness anytime you’d like to promote something or simply like to share your artistic adventures. It’s been a pleasure.
Bridget: Thanks Anthony, it’s been a real pleasure to chat with you, all best to you and your readers.


Buy Make Believe It Real by Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart CD DVD from Gonzo Multimedia


  1. Great read...Cymbaline is a beautiful tune....That whole album 'More" was incredible.... Keep Rocking!!!


  2. Fav songs with Bridget Cleopatra and Back in the Box...

    brian fowler

  3. This interview brought a smile to me knowing that finally BRIDGET WISHART was able to share some past history, current and where she is going which is onward and upward. This was a brilliant interview with layout covering her pathways. Thank you for making this happen and a special salute to Bridget, for keeping the faith. Truly stunning to read and see the past, present and future of her career in music.

    Cisco Kid 2032