Doug Pearson ceres at SIRIUS.COM
Thu Dec 30 14:51:35 EST 1999

On Thu, 30 Dec 1999 12:32:26 -0500, dhuggins <dhuggins at HYPERNOVA.NET> wrote:
>        I always wondered how Hawkwind got that eerie, spacey sound during
>Space Ritual Tour and associated era.   The albums either listed
>"electronics" or "audio generator" as being played by Del or Dikmik.

An "audio generator" generally refers to a piece of electronic test
equipment that (surprise!) generates signals in the audio (approximately
20Hz to 20,000Hz=20kHz) frequency range (as opposed to RF radio frequency
signals which are considerably higher, in the 100kHz to 100MHz range -
above that, you're talking microwave frequencies).  It also might be called
a "test tone generator".  As I understand, Dik Mik was a TV/radio repairman
before hooking up w/Brock & co., so he merely ran his test equipment
through a WEM tape delay (British equivalent of the Echoplex), for extra
spaciness, into Hawkwind's big amps.

Del Dettmar, however, played an actual synthesizer, the EMS VCS3 Synthi (as
used by Brian Eno, Tim Blake [a pair can be seen behind him in the back
cover photo of 'Live 79'], and visible in the 'Dark Side of the Moon'
studio segments in Pink Floyd's 'Live at Pompeii' movie; easily
recognizable by it's "battleship"[the game]-style patch panel ... more
recently used at Strange Daze performances by F/i's Grant Richter and Doug
"Dr. Synth" Walker of Alien Planetscapes).  Del's first one blew out when
Hawkwind embarked on their first German tour without the correct voltage
adaptors (oops!), but he still uses the replacement unit to this day.  For
the Nik Turner tours, he strung his axe with a guitar or piano string,
attached a pickup/transducer, ran the output of that through a
pitch->voltage converter and envelope follower, which in turn controlled
his Synthi.  Very good for creating semi-random blips, bloops, squiggles,
and other weird electronic noises (which the Synthi excels at - it's not
that great for playing melodies, and many users don't even bother with a

>According to this source, it was a "Theremin", which has an interesting
>story all it's own. (It is a 20's era invention, and not a vitamin or
>dietary supplement;).   I did see Del with his axe-thingy on Nik Turner's
>Space Ritual tour (94-ish?), so this makes sense.

The source is inaccurate, then.  Hawkwind never used a Theremin, although
much of Dik Mik's audio generator playing does sound a lot like one.  The
only real difference is the user interface - an audio generator changes
pitch when its' control knob is turned, wheras a Theremin changes pitch
when the user moves his or her hand relative to the pitch control antenna.
(And here's another bit of trivia - the instrument in "Good Vibrations" is
not a Theremin, either, although it's also very similar to one.)

FWIW, I've used a Precision Electronics (I think that's the make) LT1125 &
3mS/Soundshimmer Triwave Picogenerator for audio generator stuff, and a
PAiA Theremax (Theremin available in kit form that's great for spacey stuff
and nicely controls analog synths, but isn't really made for playing notes
and melodies).  I've given up on trying to find a VCS3 - too expensive, and
there are plenty of good *new* (modular) analog synths (including the Wiard
modular made by the aforementioned mr. Richter) out there these days.

Thanks for the resources ... cool stuff!

         ceres at sirius.com

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