One of the founding members of Hawkwind, saxophonist/flutist Nik Turner has had perhaps the most prolific and varied outside career of all its many alumni. Turner grew up in Margate, Kent, England, with future Hawkwind bandmate Robert Calvert, and came to Hawkwind's original 1969 lineup from a band called Mobile Freakout. Turner was an integral part of the band's prime period, contributing not only sax and flute work but also vocals and occasional songwriting (including the band staple "Brainstorm," which appeared on 1972's Doremi Fasol Latido, and the classic "Silver Machine," which he co-wrote with Dave Brock). Turner's final album with Hawkwind was 1976's Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music, after which group leader Brock fired most of his personnel (including Turner).
Turner used his newfound freedom to travel to Egypt, where he soaked up the history and culture, and also made a recording of his flute music in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Cheops. With backing from several musicians associated with Gong, the results were released in 1978 as Turner's solo debut Xitintoday (credited to Nik Turner's Sphynx). Turner next played on the 1979 Mother Gong album Fairy Tales, and headed up a new group called the Inner City Unit, which also featured guitarist Trevor Thomas, bassist Baz Magneto (soon replaced by Dead Fred Reeves), and drummer Mick Stupp. The group's debut album, Pass Out, was issued in 1980, displaying an odd blend of influences that ranged from prog-rock to punk and big band swing. Turner rejoined Hawkwind in 1981, but initially continued to record with the Inner City Unit, which released The Maximum Effect in 1981 and Punkadelic the following year. Also appearing in 1982 was Ersatz, an ICU collaboration with Turner's boyhood friend and Hawkwind mate Robert Calvert. Turner departed Hawkwind once again in 1984, restarting the Inner City Unit and releasing New Anatomy.
In 1985, Turner relocated to the western side of Wales, where he set up a new age community in a fairly rural, isolated area. The ICU released The President's Tapes that same year, which would prove to be Turner's last album with the group; he left in 1986 to concentrate on a smaller-scale project called the Nik Turner All-Stars, who took the big band swing predilections of the ICU into relatively straightforward territory. The group never recorded, remaining a largely local and concert-oriented outfit. In the early '90s, Turner moved to California, where he began working with progressive, industrial-influenced artists like Helios Creed and Pressurehed. He also resumed his solo recording career, beginning with 1993's Sphynx, a belated sequel to the Egyptian-themed Xitintoday. 1994's Prophets of Time involved former Hawkwind members Simon House and Del Dettmar, with whom Turner would work frequently over the rest of the decade, sometimes as part of the spacy Anubian Lights (which also included members of Pressurehed, and debuted on record in 1995). Also in 1994, Turner put together a new backing band called Space Ritual that was mostly devoted to performing Hawkwind repertoire. The group toured in 1994 and 1995, releasing live recordings culled from each separate year (Space Ritual and Past or Future?, respectively). Turner has continued his activity in the late '90s, frequently collaborating with various Swedish prog-rock bands, including Darxtar and the Moor. ~ Steve Huey
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