Tim Blake
Synthesizers & Vocals

Born : February 6th, 1952 - Hammersmith, West London (England)
Past Bands : Gong, Crystal Machine, Hawkwind, Gong25
Current Activity : solo career

A Short Bio:

Tim Blake was born in Hammersmith, West London, and lived in Northwood, Middlesex during his youth. His first contact with music was at school where he studied classical trumpet and played mouth harp and slide guitar in a school band. At the age of 15, he attended drama school and developed a fascination with sound studies.

Around 1967, Blake became acquainted with the group Trees. Their manager, Doug Smith, put him in contact with the Clearwater Productions organisation, based in Westbourne Grove in the Notting Hill area of London. Clearwater handled groups such as Hawkwind, Skin Alley and Hard Times as well as Trees. Blake's involvement with Hawkwind made him aware of electronics and prototype synthesizers. For a while he lived in the same house as Dik Mik. His specific interest at the time was P.A. engineering although he also experimented at home with signal generators.

In early 1971, a telephone call from Lady June put Blake in touch with Daevid Allen who at that time was recording Banana Moon at Marquee Studios. It was decided that, upon returning to Gong's headquarters in France, Blake would become their sound mixer, but in the meantime that job had been taken by Vénux De Luxe, so he became their truck driver! He returned to England briefly to purchase his first synthesizer, and became so engrossed in playing with this that he decided to leave Gong and work on personal projects.

Following a brief collaboration with some members of the musical collective Musica Electronica Xoa (who were based in France at that time), which proved financially unrewarding, Blake, now in Paris, founded the Crystal Machine studio. He had in fact purchased the seventh EMS synthesizer on the market and modified it, and the Crystal Machine project provided him with a lot of work, including demonstrations of synthesizers. Blake made a solo recording which was privately circulated to friends and distributed locally as a limited edition cassette. The first Crystal Machine concert took place at a free festival in Bièvres, France, with Blake playing a 90 minute set instead of the allotted 20 minutes.

In the autumn of 1972, Blake rejoined Gong, participating in the Flying Teapot recording. He stayed in Gong until March 1975, taking the stage name Hi T Moonweed, and in addition to synthesizers and occasional vocals played trumpet and percussion, co-wrote some of the material and added a very striking visual appearance with red dyed henna'd hair. His musicianship became especially well integrated in the group on the You album. Blake and his wife Brigitte were also responsible for the front-cover artwork on this release.

Tim Blake left Gong a few weeks before Daevid Allen, not in entirely happy circumstances it would seem - his departure didn't even merit a press release, and the band then dispensed with keyboards for several months. As Virgin appeared unwilling to release any of his solo material, he returned to France with his French girlfriend Brigitte to recommence the Crystal Machine project. Blake felt quite shocked and disoriented and went through a period of poverty, sleeping on people's floors. He collaborated with Patrice Warrener (apparently some kind of inventor) and Bernard Szajner (who had some years earlier done the lighting for Gong's gigs and had subsequently worked with Magma).

The Crystal Machine project began to use small lasers and staged some shows at the Kinopanorama in Paris, appearing at night after the film showing. This gave Blake a deal of public exposure and after a while he was able to acquire larger lasers. Another venue was a large Paris nightclub, the Palace ("our Fetish gig - and we played there twice, each time for a week, in 1976 and 1977"), which later became a trendy laser-light discotheque. Blake felt that his show helped to catalyse this (his show was very sci-fi orientated). After Szajner withdrew from the project, Crystal Machine continued with only Blake and Patrice Warrener, whose past activites had included work as a theatrical effects creator. Their gigs were very adventurous but also extremely time-consuming and expensive, restricting the mobility or longevity of events.

Some of the Crystal Machine gigs were taped and excerpts used to make up the first and eponymous Crystal Machine LP which was released in the middle of 1977. Initially, Blake had just wanted people to hear him, not necessarily through an album release, but that was the form it eventually took. The music was in similar style to that of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze at the time, and marred by poor sound quality. A handful of gigs took place in Britain, at Seasalter, Brighton, Oxford (with Planet Gong) and Stonehenge.

May 28th, 1977 saw the Gong reunion concert in Paris, organised by the band's former tour manager Jacques Pasquier. Tim Blake opened the event with Crystal Machine, sometimes joined by Gong's Jorge Pinchevsky on violin. Later Blake and Steve Hillage played music from Fish Rising, and finally the classic 'Trilogy Gong' appeared to play a 2-hour set of their best material.

By 1978, Blake was more specifically interested in releasing an album of songs, feeling that this would satisfy his urge to express himself. It also was a step back towards the rock group format, which he had left behind with Gong. For the album Blake's New Jerusalem, he concentrated more on vocals. Concerts were planned in England but never materialised. The album also featured a blind French musician called Jean-Philippe Rykiel, still in his teens at the time. A fellow keyboardist, Rykiel also accompanied Blake for some of the continental performances that did eventually occur in Japan, France and Spain. This particular project, though, seems to have found Blake feeling himself and his style of music to be more and more at odds with the music business. Rykiel also recorded the album Waterfalls In Space with Blake, which has appeared only through the GAS network, and which was probably put together before the tours of Japan and Spain. It is described as a 'studio jam'. In 1978, Blake was also involved with the Nik Turner's Sphynx album, Xitintoday which also featured Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy and Mike Howlett.

In early Autumn 1979, Blake received a phone call asking him to join Hawkwind, which he did. The band subsequently played live versions of "New Jerusalem" and "Lighthouse", the latter proving more popular and appearing on their album Live '79, as well as the studio album Levitation of 1980. Blake began another tour with Hawkwind and all seemed to be going well. However, he was to leave the band after only a handful of gigs, returning to live in France, where he took up residence in a windmill in Brittany!

Seemingly inactive during the eighties except for a few one-off appearances at festivals, he re-surfaced in 1988 to play his first concert in years. Three years later, his third album, Magick, in the song-based vein of New Jerusalem, was finally released by Voiceprint. A handful of gigs, both in Britain and the States, followed. In 1994, Blake took part in the second Gong reunion in London, celebrating the band's 25th birthday. Blake didn't take part in further reunion tours, preferring to concentrate on his solo work.

A new album, Tides Of The Century finally saw the light of day in September 2000 on the Voiceprint label, along with reissues of his other three solo albums. Since then, there have been sporadic returns to the stage, most notably on a Hawkwind UK tour, but in 2004 Blake was involved in a serious car accident, spending several months in hospital. He eventually resumed his activities in the summer of 2005. He performed with other members of the Trilogy Gong at the 2005 Uncon in Glastonbury, and more importantly, took part in the reunion concert at the 2006 Uncon in Amsterdam. More recently he was seen performing again with Hawkwind, as well as young French electronic combo Turzi.