by David Robinson
Deniz Tek is a legendary figure within the Australian music scene and has been doing it his way, sonically speaking, for over four decades. He is best-known by most, however, as a founder member of blistering seventies’ rock‘n’roll outfit, Radio Birdman. To celebrate the release of a new retrospective CD box set, Deniz is touring Australia with the latest incarnation of the band, the line-up featuring three of the original Radio Birdman members.
The Clothesline caught up with Deniz on the eve of the first show of the tour, and asked him if things are shaping up well.
“Yeah, I think so,” he begins. “We’re ready to go. We had our last band practice last night and it went well. We wrote a set list too so, yeah, we’re ready to get started. We’ll drive to Newcastle this afternoon.”
How long is it since you played with Radio Birdman?
“Our last show was in Athens, Greece near the end of 2007 and we’d had a pretty big year,” Deniz answers. “We played something close to 80 shows, it was a good year but we haven’t been together since. We’ve all been working on individual projects. Rob (Younger) has The New Christs, I’ve been doing solo work, Chris Masuak moved to Spain and he has his own band over there so, you know, we’ve all been doing different things.”
What were the audiences like on the world tour? Did you attract new fans?
“We did,” Deniz confirms. “For one thing, in the old days we never played in America. We were supposed to go on tour with The Ramones in the second half of 1978 but we got dropped from the label, from Sire Records, and it never happened. So there were a lot of people across America that was interested in Radio Birdman that had never seen the band.”
You’ve just released an eight-disc box set containing your 1970s albums as well as a host of unreleased material, including the entire 1977 Paddington Town Hall gig. There’s also a DVD. Are you happy with the final product?
“We’re all very happy with the way it turned out,” he declares.” Sonically, it’s great. The unreleased stuff will be of interest to collectors and the really deep fans. It’s a unique package, and it sounds and looks great. We’re very happy with it from an artistic standpoint.”
Why is now the right time for this reformation and tour?
“It’s probably a combination of things, but the main motivator is the release of the box set,” Deniz says. “We were very keen on getting the box set out and having as many people know about it as possible. The best way to do that is to go out and play. So the box set was the prime motivator but other things play a part too. When you haven’t been together for a long time it makes it fresh again. It becomes another new adventure.”
You’ve played in many bands, and alongside some of the great names of the genre. Why is Radio Birdman particularly special for you?
“I think the original members of the band had chemistry,” he suggests. “I suppose you’d say that we worked together well. It’s the only format that really makes the songs come to life. I think we had a pretty good batch of songs and they don’t really sound dated today. This is the band that can present them in the right way.
“Then there’s the matter of getting together with good friends; people that I’ve known for so long. We’ve gone through a lot of things together, and that forges a bond that’s not easily broken.”
You have, more or less, three albums worth of material to choose from in terms of selecting songs for your setlist. Are you looking any wider than that for this tour?
“No, we’re gonna focus on Radio Birdman songs,” Deniz says. “We’ll play the songs that are well-known and requested but we’ll also play some of the more obscure things that maybe didn’t get that much attention when they came out.”
Once this tour is over, what’s next for you?
“When the whole idea for this tour came up I was already half-way through my next solo album, which is a follow up to the Detroit album I released last year,” he replies. “So I’ll have to go back and finish that. That’s what I’ll be doing.”
Any future plans for Radio Birdman?
“We are going to reconvene in March for the Golden Plains Festival, Deniz says. “After that, we’ll have to see. Maybe we’ll do some touring overseas. You never know, we might come out with some new songs and do some recording as well. It’s all within the realms of possibility.”
That’s good news for fans. If you do come up with new material, do you expect it will deliver more of the unique Radio Birdman sound? Most people seem to think you pulled it off with Zeno Beach.
“Well, it won’t be a dance album, or electro-pop,” he jests. “It will be rock and roll, and it will sound like us.”
Do you have any last words for the people of Adelaide?
“Some of the great live footage of the band was shot in Adelaide; some of the best stuff at the Marryatville Hotel,” Deniz concludes. “Adelaide has always been dear to our hearts because of those gigs in the seventies. We’re looking forward to getting back there and playing again.”
Radio Birdman performs at Governor Hindmarsh Hotel on Sat Nov 8.
Bookings at The Gov on 8340 0744 or www.thegov.com.au. Click here to book your tickets.
Images courtesy of Anne Laurent ©