"Simon House was born in Nottingham. His father was a musician, playing sax, clarinet, banjo and cello. So Simon got into music at a very early age. He was raised on the Big Band sound; Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Johnny Hodges, people like that. At the age of 11 Simon entered secondary school and it was here he took up the violin. With the violin Simon was introduced to Classical music and until four mop top lads from Liverpool arrived it was his sole interest.
Any reason why you picked the violin?
"No, I really can't remember. At the time I just seemed to get on with it okay."
Simon studied the violin for 7 years. He played in several orchestras, including one with his father, The Mansfield and District Light Orchestra. Simon continued onto a University, but got caught up in the essence of the 60's and dropped out. The result of this was a few crappy jobs and very little money. Simon lived in a flat with Wayne Bardell and Tony Hill. In 1968 Simon and Hill, together with Pete Pavli and Roger Hadden formed High Tide. Simon actually started out on bass, but soon got back to playing the violin. Wayne Bardell was their manager, and they soon signed up with Doug Smith's Clearwater Productions.
What was your first band?
"High Tide, I was 20."
High Tide seemed like a pretty high energy rock band. You got to really cut loose, a fair amount of solo time?
"Yeah, quite complicated structures but there was a lot of jamming going on. We put out a couple albums and then just sort of burned out."
High Tide released "Sea Shanties" in 1969, and "High Tide" in 1970. They also toured with other Clearwater artists, like Hawkwind. In 1971 High Tide ended. Simon heard that the Third Ear Band was looking for a Violinist, he got the job on his reputation alone, no auditions.
"I joined the Third Ear Band for a time. About a year. We did quite a lot of stuff, the Polanski Macbeth soundtrack, a lot of concerts. They're still around. They did well, especially in Italy. As far I know, they played there a lot, they [the Italians] like weird stuff".
After a brief but productive time with Third Ear Band, Simon played with Magic Muscle in 1972 and Barclay James Harvest in 1973. After brief stints nothing quite worked so Simon took a break from bands and got a day job. In 1974 Simon went to see Hawkwind at the Edmonton Sundown. He joined the band soon after.
So you knew Hawkwind, High Tide had gigged with them before?
"Hawkwind's very first gig, they were called Group X at the time. High Tide played there as well. At All Saint's hall in [Ladbroke Grove] in London. They were a pretty far out band. We all had the same management then, High Tide and Hawkwind. So we all knew each other. That was a long, long time ago, about 30 years ago. I played Violin, Mellotron, the VCS3 synthesizer. Which was one of the first synthesizers to come out in England. They were wonderful machines, there were things you could do with them that you just can't do nowadays."
Simon joined Hawkwind on the eve of their US Tour. There was no time to obtain a work permit for him, but he went along anyway, and did manage to play with them a few times. Upon returning to the UK, Hawkwind went to Clearwell Castle, near Wales and began recording "Warrior on the Edge of Time."
Were you involved with the production of the albums? Was Hawkwind a more advanced band in the studio than any you had previously worked in? There is lots of stereo crossovers, interesting effects and such.
"No. Not really. It was pretty basic in those days, but, then I haven't heard any of those albums for a long time. It would be interesting to sit down and listen to them one day."
Simon also did some side jobs. He worked with Michael Moorcock on the "New World's Fair" LP where he was reunited with another ex-High Tide player, Pete Pavli. He appeared on Bob Calvert's "Lucky Leif and the Longships."
You worked with the late Bob Calvert; to me he seems like someone who was very interesting to be around. What was he like?
"He was a very creative guy and very funny as well. I guess he did go over the edge a few times, but he would always come back. I think his lyrics are really wonderful. He was very underrated."
Simon survived the 1976 house cleaning. Nik Turner, Alan Powell and Paul Rudolph all got sacked as Dave Brock reclaimed his band.
So how did you get on with Dave Brock? With all the people coming and going, you get the Impression he's hard to work with.
"We got on really well, I've never had any arguments with Dave. Um, and all the times I've been with the band he's been very easy to work with."
1977 saw the release of "Quark, Strangeness and Charm." Ex-Magic Muscle bassist Adrian Shaw was playing. Hawkwind toured a lot, and were at the top of the form. The UK and European tours were all well received. A small US tour followed.
On the 1978 American Quark, Strangeness and Charm tour, you left in the middle of it?
"Yeah, that when I joined Bowie."
Rumors have that tour not working out too well, were you relieved to leave?
"Well, it's hard to say. I had planned to leave Hawkwind already and going to Bowie was such a change anyway."
With Hawkwind you're playing these very small clubs and then you instantly moved to Bowie's 'Stage' tour, where you're playing in large arenas. How did that go? Did if take long to adjust to?
"Well the first concert was a bit scary, that was in San Diego. But once you start playing, and everything's going okay, then you can start to relax. But yes, it was a big change. We first went to Dallas for two weeks of rehearsals."
Two weeks? You had a pretty wide range of Bowie songs to learn.
"That's right. It was a great tour to do, great set, playing all those good Bowie songs and lot of instrumental things as well. It was really enjoyable to play. It was a great band as well. An excellent band."
How did you get involved with David Bowie?
"Well that was through High Tide originally, the very first time I met David was when I was rehearsing for High Tide. High Tide's guitarist, Tony Hill, used to play with David. And I met him a couple of times. And High Tide did a couple of gigs with David Bowie, before he was famous. And that's where it started really. He phoned up one night and asked if I wanted to do a tour. I just couldn't believe it. He phoned back a couple of days later, I had a couple of days to think about it. And yeah, I jumped at it."
Simon had intended to return to Hawkwind after the Stage tour, but after the US tour, Hawkwind was in shambles. So he stayed with Bowie and went to the studio to work on "Lodger".
"We had a few weeks in Montreux, Switzerland . Working in the studio with Eno and Bowie, and the rest of the guys. That was great. It was great fun to work with Eno, he was always coming up with weird ideas. Trying the thing out, just a lot of fun, very interesting to work with the guy."
Did you learn anything from them? To me, It seemed Eno/Bowie were writing very good music at the time for pop songs. Really stretching it out.
"They were both just very gifted guys, very intelligent and willing to try anything and not being afraid to make mistakes. Coming out with some really good ideas at the same time."
After his 4 years in Hawkwind, Simon became more of a free-agent. He appeared on David Bowie's 1978 "Stage" and 1980 "Lodger" albums. He also contributed to the Hawklords sessions and rejoined with Robert Calvert on his 1980 album, "Hype." Session man Simon then played on Japan's 1980 release "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" and their 1981 release "Tin Drum". He played on Bruce Wolley & the Camera Club's 2nd (not the Video Killed the Radio Stars) album and then on ex-Camera Club member Thomas Dolby's "The Golden Age of Wireless". In 1981 Simon formed Turbo with Simon King, Andy Colqhuon, Ian Henderson and Tom Jackson. Turbo recorded a demo and when nothing came of it, broke up. So in 1982 he began work on his solo album, "House of Dreams." He completed the album but it never was released.
Do you listen any other music, other artists?
"Not really. I listen to classical music a lot. I guess I am a bit out of touch, there seems to be so many different kinds of music around, it's hard to keep up with it all."
In 1983 you toured with Mike Oldfield?
"Yes, the tenth anniversary of Tubular Bells. And he got a band together to do a European tour. Playing Tubular Bells and a lot of other things as well. Apart from playing violin I played keyboards and mandolin. And a bit of percussion as well."
I guess Mike likes having people do different things, his music has so many sounds going on.
"Yes, it's very technical. But very good, I really love his music."
How was he to work with, was he very precise or...?
"Yeah, he's very demanding. Not particularly pleasant to work with on a personal level. But I have great respect for him, he's obviously extremely talented, but he's not a genius. The music was enjoyable to play and that's the main thing. The music."
So that was 83, what next?
"After the Oldfield thing I tried to get a band together called the Famous Scientists. Which never actually got anywhere but we did some gigs and did some recording but nothing really happened."
The Famous Scientists were House, Andy Colqhuon, Ian Henderson and drummer Chris North. TFS gigged about London quite a bit but never released any material.
During that period you tried a few things but nothing quite worked out?
"Yeah. Then I started getting into computers. Midi. And I just kinda pursued that really."'
Simon appeared on releases by The Associates and Vitamin Z in 1985. However the House's daughter Holly was born and Simon once again went to work. In 1986 he and Tony Hill reunited for what was called a High Tide album, "Interesting Times". Later on Simon can be found on albums by The Tryp, The Jellymonsters and in 1987 he was back in Magic Muscle. Simon attended the Benefit concert for Robert Calvert, who had just passed away; there he played with Nik Turner's All Stars and Hawkwind, and before long Simon House was once again a member of Hawkwind. He played on their 1991 release "Space Bandits" and toured the UK with them. Sadly medical problems with his daughter force him to say no to the US tour.
For the Space Bandits album, you got back together with Dave and joined Hawkwind again?
"Yes, we did a couple of tours and the album, Space Bandits. That was a good album.'
I was really hoping to finally see you perform on the US Space bandits tour, but you didn't make it, what happened?
"Well I couldn't. My daughter had taken ill. With Leukemia. So I stayed home and did my own stuff, my own albums. Which is what I've been doing ever since really."
Somewhere along the way Simon has hooked up with Nik Turner and in 1993 plays on the "Prophets of Time" album. It is here he meets up with Len Del Rio of Pressurehed. Simon returns to London and records the first Spiral Realms, "Trip to G9". In 1994 Simon joins Nik Turner's Space Ritual, with old Hawks Alan Powell and Del Dettmar. The San Francisco show was recorded and released as "Past or Future."
"We toured the States and Japan. Nik rang me up and asked if I wanted to go to the states and play some gigs, make some money, which we didn't, anyway. It was during that heatwave a year and a half ago. It was just incredibly hot. I don't think people could move."
Was there any difference in performing for Nikwind or Hawkwind?
"Sure, different band, different people, playing in slightly different ways. It did feel a bit, different. I was a lot of fun, hard to say what it was. More people on stage, a bit more intense."
What about the Spiral Realms part of the show?
"Well it was Brian Perrara's (sp?) idea, and I really wanted to play with Del again, and Len Del Rio makes some interesting space effects, and the first album was out, the second was just coming out, so it seemed like a good way to plug it a bit. I recorded the backing tape, which just left the violin and Len and Del to play over the top. With a bit of a light show as well, it was good."
I missed your show here [in San Francisco].
"Well the Spiral Realms part was recorded" [and released as "Solar Winds")
Tell me about your solo album Yassassim. Is It like Spiral Realms?
"Well, it's more varied. It's more complex in structure than Spiral Realms. More music and less space. Space sounds. Less "ambient" I guess, it's hard to define what "ambient" is. I think it just means a lot of reverb. Slow. Which I am into, laid back spacey stuff. I got another album coming out as well, which is, well most of it is, old instrumental tracks I did with Hawkwind. Hall of the Mountain Grill, Spiral Galaxy, Forge of Vulcan, stuff like that. Which I have redone."
Is Spiral Realms going to continue?
"Yes, I enjoy doing that kind of music. As well as Yassassim, which is more of what I really want to do."
Any other projects in the works?
"The next thing that might be happening is trying to reform Hawkwind as it was in 1974. As near as possible. Maybe even Lemmy. There is an album coming out of one of the gigs, I believe it was Chicago. Recorded live in 1974. Someone has found the tape and it sounds pretty good apparently."
Well I can't wait to hear that.
"Well me too actually. I can't remember what that might sound like."
Well Simon, How do you feel you career has gone?
"Gone? Hmm. Well there has been some interesting moments, a lot of up and down, but I guess that's the way life is really. The music is the most important thing really, I can't see myself ever not playing or writing."
Okay, Simon thanks a lot for taking the time to talk, and I hope to see you play sometime.
no©2012 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)