One of the founding members of Hawkwind, saxophonist/flutist Nik Turner has perhaps had the most prolific and varied outside career of the group's many alumni.
He penned some of the space rock band's seminal anthems such as "Master of the Universe," "Brainstorm," and "D-rider," to name a few. He has also led bands such as the satirical punk cabaret outfit Inner City Unit, who issued five albums between 1980-1985, the highlight of which was 1984's Punkadelic. His stylistic diversity includes such album highlights as 1995's cassette-only Ska Stars Live and Nik Turner's Fantastic Allstars' Kubanno Kickasso, that offered fans his own take on Latin jazz fusion. But he's most acclaimed for his futuristic take on spacy prog rock, as evidenced by 1993's Sphynx, 2001's Transglobal Friends and Relations, and 2015's Space Fusion Odyssey. His musical interests and abilities know few boundaries.
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 Presidents 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. Released in 1994, 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 year (Space Ritual and Past or Future?, respectively). Turner remained active well into to the 2010s, frequently collaborating with various Swedish prog rock bands, including Darxtar and the Moor, and releasing a handful of solo albums, including 2013's well-received Space Gypsy, which he issued via Cleopatra. The similarly progressive Space Fusion Odyssey arrived in 2015, followed in 2017 by the thematic Life in Space. The following year, Turner and bassist/producer Youth co-headlined Pharaohs from Outer Space on the British experimental/ambient label Painted Word. The duo described the date as "a nod to Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane." ~ Steve Huey