Every now and then you hear a cover version that really adds something to the original and today that band is Erin Bennett’s EBB, and the recipient is English spacerock mega-giants of awesomeness HAWKWIND! In fact Dave Brock ( 80 years young this year ) was so impressed with their cover of ‘The Demented Man’ that he came on stage to help sing it at the recent Hawkfest of 2021. We chat with Erin, a talented singer songwriter with quite a story to tell, about how it all came about.
You can listen to a Hawkwind record and love the music and the lyrics, but when I see them live I am transported right out of myself…out of my daily concerns and into a space where music and lights are the soul meaning of life itself. And that’s addictive!erin BENNETT 2021
Hi Erin! So how did the idea to cover ‘The Demented Man’ come about? You’ve done a great job of the arrangement.
Thanks very much! Well, when the covid lock down started in the UK, we made sure we were all together at the Lodge Arts Collective in Scotland, that way we could spend real time in rehearsals and writing both for EBB and Krow. We didn’t know then that it would be a whole year of lock down. After practice one evening we had a get together with drinks and vinyl and I put on my copy of ‘Warrior on the Edge of Time.’ When ‘Demented Man’ came on, I guess because of the high stress of lock down, it really touched me emotionally and I had it stuck in my head for ages.
So getting ready for practice one day I was messing around and figured out how to play it on guitar. Nikki heard me playing it and asked for the chords and that; and we just started jamming it.
We were mostly messing around, you know? But then Dog came in on bass with this really cool synth sound he’d dialled up on his Kemper and it all started falling together. In the end, though we had to transpose it because the original key was slightly too low for me to sing. At some point during jamming it out, we realised that it could be a really fun thing to do a cover, because we never do covers, and what a song to cover, right? So we worked it out and then just made a little video of it and put it up on YouTube.
I figured it was something nice for people to hear during such a strange time (the lock down) and we wound up getting a really great response from it, not least of all from Hawkwind themselves.
Care to tell us a little of your performance at this year’s Hawkfest?
Oh man! It was truly life-changing! Hawkfests are always amazing because they are always limited to 1000 people to keep it intimate and you know, it really works! You see so many familiar faces and get to bond with people better, because you’re all camping in the same field and using the same toilets. You share in the experience together, you know?
It turned out that we ‘book-ended’ the festival by playing the first slot on the first day and the last slot on the last day which was pretty cool! But certainly, the best moments where during our various performances with Dave Brock. We had a great moment in the car park when he joined us for a practice of ‘Demented Man’ and then he came up on stage during our set on the Friday and joined in on the song. It was incredibly moving…didn’t seem to be a dry eye in the house.
On the Sunday during Hawkwind’s ‘light’ set, Dave invited me up to sing the song with them and that was just amazing!
We also received a brilliant response to our set which was largely brand new music we wrote during lock down, including a new song, ‘Mary Jane’ that we wrote a week before Hawkfest itself.
You are from the US, right? How did you end up in Scotland? It can’t be for the weather, surely? Have you taken on the accent and become undecipherable to your relatives back home?
Ha! You know, every time I go to the states to visit family a lot of people have a hard time understanding me. It makes me laugh. But to be honest, my accent has been strange since I was a child because I was born in Texas and had quite a strong southern accent, but moved to Colorado when I was 10. They don’t really have an accent (as such) in Colorado and so I was mercilessly teased for my drawl. (insert ‘yee-haw’ here.) I decided to change the way I spoke at that age and its never been ‘quite right’ since. Who knows…
The story of how I wound up here in Scotland is long…I’ll try to summarize.
I met Dog, Suna, Kitty and Nikki in the USA back in 2005 when they were on tour with their band MT-TV. I fell madly in love with their drummer Jo and joined up with them as a sound tech and roadie Eventually I went on to start a side band with Jo and MT-TV’s bassist Amanda, called Syren. In 2008 when everyone came to return to the UK, most of MT-TV moved up to Scotland and Jo, Amanda and I settled down south in Northamptonshire and carried on touring as Syren. We moved to Holland in 2009 to record our second album and had been there about a year when Amanda suddenly quit the band. Thankfully the album was recorded but just needed mixing. So Jo and I moved to Scotland where we were going to employ Dog to mix the album for us. That was in 2010. During this time Jo fell ill and was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and very sadly died in January 2012. I stayed here in Scotland to be with Dog and all the girls from MT-TV. They had been my family since I was 18 and really absorbed me into them. At this point, Hawkwind reached out to me asking if I had a musical act that would be prepared to open for them at their June 2012 gig at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall. So, Dog, Nikki, Suna and I put together a quick band, played the gig and realised this was what we wanted to do. About a year after that gig, we found Anna who was studying for her BA in popular music at Napier University and Kitty joined the band after being our mixer for a while.
I hear you and Dave Brock go way back? Why do you like Hawkwind so much?
Well, I hadn’t been aware of Hawkwind until I met MT-TV in 2005. The girls introduced me to Hawkwind’s music and I loved it, but I was really sucked in in 2008 when Syren was invited to play at that year’s Hawkfest. Seeing the band live was one of those eureka moments where everything from the instrumentation, to the lyrics and all the trippy noises in between made utter sense when coupled with the incredible light show and stage performance from the dancers. You can listen to a Hawkwind record and love the music and the lyrics, but when I see them live I am transported right out of myself…out of my daily concerns and into a space where music and lights and are the soul meaning of life itself. And that’s addictive!
I’ve known Dave and his wonderful wife Kris since that 2008 Hawkfest. Syren toured with Hawkwind a couple of times and since forming EBB they’ve continuously involved us in their Hawkeaster celebrations. We make a point to visit them each time they come up to Scotland on tour and its always a joy to catch up.
Your musical journey started with a guitar, I guess. Looking at your pics, you have played quite a few over the years? Can you narrow down your favourites?
Well it’s funny really. The first instrument I ever learned to play was the trumpet. But the first instrument I ever fell truly in love with was the drums. I pined for a drum set until I was 13 and got my first one. I had had a couple of guitars and figured out some chords and riffs by ear. But I couldn’t actually play the thing properly. Put me behind the drums, though and I seemed to instinctively know what to do. I think I was a pretty good drummer.
I taught myself how to play guitar when I was 13 because I had been writing songs since I was 9 and needed music for them. And once I became addicted to songwriting, my guitar playing was a necessary evil that took over my love of drumming.
I’ve just tried to count all the guitars I’ve had in my life so far and I think its around 15? The first guitar I had (and still have) is a 1950s Harmony H950 Monterey Archtop. It was given to me by a great uncle when I was 10. Its kind of one of my favourites because it’s so old but it looks so brilliant. When I was 20 I started endorsing RainSong guitars and they sent me an A-WS1000. This cherry red, beast of a guitar made completely out of carbon graphite. Its still one of my favourites and has been all over Europe, the USA and the UK with me on tour.
I played a PRS Custom for a while which was given to me by Kitty. And I loved that guitar because the dragon pick ups in it leave absolutely NO room for error when it comes to technique. So it made me a better player. But, the back of the guitar is signed to her from Paul Reed Smith, so when she started playing guitar in Krow, I gave it back to her and started using my USA strat again. I think the strat is my favourite electric guitar because the sound is so classic. From Gilmour to Stevie Ray,
I just adore the tone! But it also used to belong to Bonnie Raitt, so it has a little history.
During lock down, RainSong sent me a prototype guitar from their new Nashville series. Its has a ‘jumbo’ shaped body made from carbon graphite, but they fused book-matched spruce to the sound board and I have never ever heard an acoustic guitar sound so amazing. The ‘N2’ neck was designed by John Bolan and Steve Miller and it plays like a dream.
I’m so precious about it. I use it in recordings but would be very reluctant to take it on the road in case something happened to it. Maybe if I chained it to myself?
Whenever you approach writing a song, in the back of your mind its reception is usually going to be in a festival setting, is that right?
Well, yes and no. I’d say when we come to the production stage of writing we definitely focus on moulding the songs to fit into the ears of our audience, which are largely a ‘free-festival,’ music-loving, ‘prog’ audience. But there’s a big difference between festivals who’s line ups are made up of all Top 40, BBC 1 playlisted acts and festivals who’s line ups are made up of bands that have been around for decades, have a loyal following and make music simply for music’s sake. And the latter is the festival we are geared towards. Our audience seems to be made up of the people who buy a record and almost ritualistically put it on and listen to it with their undivided attention as opposed to people who call it up on spotify and let it run in the back ground while they talk.
Writing in general, though, is super personal. I try not to think about anyone or anything else and just get out what is rattling around in my heart and soul at the time. I leave it in the hands of the producer to shove it in one direction or another once its done.
Anything you’d say to yourself if you could go back in time, to when you first started out?
Ooh, that’s tricky. I’d probably pat myself on the back more. I have a habit of moving quickly from one goal to the next without ever really taking the time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labour. I wanted to say that I’d suggest I have guitar music theory lessons, but having said that, I’ve done well being self taught so I guess there’s no real point in fixing something that isn’t broken.
What are your plans for ’21 and ’22 for yourself, Ebb and Krow?
Well the rest of 2021 is going to be a gradual rise back into the live scene. Both bands had tons of gigs that were cancelled due to covid so it will be great to use the rest of the time in this year to polish our live sets and really nail the production. Both bands will also be recording and releasing new albums (hopefully) before the end of the year, ready for touring next year.
All of the gigs we lost are rebooking for 2022. So I reckon 2022 is going to be life on the road as usual. We are very excited!