domenica 4 novembre 2018

Deniz Tek interview October 2018

Radio Birdman’s comeback in Italy is an unmissable occasion to get again in touch with a legendary band that has a key role in the hsitory of australian rock. Three studio albums (Radios Appear, Living Eyes) published in different years (1977, 1981 e 2014), two Eps, a bunch of singles and three live records (Ritualism, Live in Texas and Live at Paddington Town Hall from 1977) show a way of intending rock’n’roll which combines the proto-punk fury of Stooges and Mc5 with the psychedelic sound of the Doors, therefore becoming a very unique experience in the aussie rock scene. In three years and a half, from the end of ’74 to the summer of ‘78, Radio Birdman have managed to acquire the status of prime movers in a scene which will evolve significantly in the next decade. Despite the hostility of the music industry, they have kept carrying on their DIY spirit, gaining consensus among the audience.

Authors of roaring tracks such as “Burn My Eye”, “Anglo Girl desire”, “What Gives”, “Do The Pop”, “Murder City Nights”, generational anthem such as “New Race”, psychedelic mantras like “Descent Into Maelstrom” or “Man with Golden Helmets”, alongside wonderful and unexpected love songs like “Love Kills”, they put their signature on an era, dramatically stopped during the european tour in 1978, yet relaunched from 1995 til the present days. A story well told in the documentary by Jonathan Sequira “Descent Into Maelstrom”, published last year and now available on DVD, presented in Bergamo on October 27thAn ideal completion of the Citadel box set, which collects every Birdman work in their golden age. We’ve reached Deniz Tek, lead guitarist and composer, through an interview published in Italy by Rumore Magazine.

40 years later from the first not so much blessed English tour, you’re back in Europe and raising a success which probably balances the old delusion. Do you have any regrets on that English tour?

“We have actually been touring successfully in Europe for 20 years now. About the UK tour of 1978 I have no regrets. We played very well, actually killed it in many venues, and we recorded a good album at Rockfield. We did the best we could under difficult external circumstances, which were completely beyond our control”.

With a renovated line up with Dave Kettley on guitar and Nick Reith on drums, we can say that the “new” Birdman have nothing less than the historical ensemble. How did Kettley and Reith changed the Birdman sound experience in your opinion, and what’s the difference between them and Masuak-Keeley?
“Nik and Dave have returned the sound back to the original idea. The band now sounds close to how we sounded in 1977-78. Chris Masuak is an amazing guitarist but he had developed his own ideas and his progress as a musician took him on a different path, away from the direction of the band. Ron Keeley was a unique drummer. He could swing the beat and roll, as well as rock. No one plays like he did in his prime, but Nik is a total powerhouse and has his own swing thing happening, which works for the band quite well”.

Is Radio Birdman focused on performing, therefore something nostalgic related to the stage experience, or can we expect an album after Zeno Beach?

“We are constantly improvising and elevating the kevel and energy of the performance. There is no sense of nostalgia”.

During your Australian tour you’ve started performing covers of the Doors and the Amboy Dukes alongside the classic Stooges/13 Floor Elevators tracks you have always brought on stage. How and why did you choose these new tracks?
“We have often covered songs by many diverse bands, including the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, Velvet Underground, Alice Cooper, Masters Apprentices, Blue Oyster Cult, Bo Diddley, Roy Head, Kraftwerk, Jan and Dean, Pink Fairies, Magazine, The Remains, The Last Poets ... and others. You get the picture...Before each tour we get together with suggestions for new covers. We try them in the practice room and if they are sounding good, we include them in the set. We try anything, and throw out many. Rob suggested Not To Touch The Earth. We have done other Doors songs in the past. This one is very cool. It is good to surprise people”.

Have you ever thought on performing any of your solo tracks or the New Christs' songs with Radio Birdman?
No. Those songs have their own context. Birdman doesn’t need it, anyway”.

There’s a little bit of Italy in your recent years. Can you tell us something about your crew and the collaboration with Otis Tours?

“I started working with them many years ago with my solo band. When Birdman reformed in 2014 I suggested we go with Otis. Franz Barcella, Diego Clemente and Fabio Clemente are responsible for making it all happen - organizing and running a tour is a very complex and challenging affair, and these guys nail it. Not only perfect for our tours, but now good friends also”.

Even though there's no new album to promote, this tour is actually related to the documentary "Descent into Maelstrom" by Jonathan J Sequeira, which has gained a discrete success both in cinemas and DVD. What's your opinion on this work?

“It is true that the film gave the tour some momentum. These days tours don’t promote albums - quite the reverse. Albums are very difficult to sell in todays world, but they allow tours to happen.
Compared to most music documentaries the film is excellent. The editing is superb, and the music is presented well.

My impression after watching it is that each character's story is told in a very truthful and neutral way, showing both negative and positive sides related to the band's dynamics. Do you think this is true?
“Some of the characters stories are not completely truthful. Maybe not deliberately so”.

For later listeners like me, discovering you were against the system and that you fought so hard to stand out means gaining more and more respect towards the band.
“OK ... thanks”

Can I ask you why were you somehow "hostile" to success?
“We were not hostile to commercial success, but we insisted that our art would always come first. We never compromised in that regard. We never expected anything to come to us".

The other members of the band told that Birdman have always been Rob Younger and Deniz Tek's band. Is this related to how you developed the artistic process?
“Others could have contributed more, but they chose not to. There are leaders, and there are followers. I was always sure of what I wanted to do, and I am not shy about going for it. The others saw where we were going, came along with us. We were very lucky to have a great team that had special chemistry - the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. Although that is a cliche it is true. But nothing lasts forever. When that stops happening, you have to change things, reboot, or give it up. Over the years we have done both".

Did you develop a much central role to avoid what happened with your band in Ann Arbor or TV Jones, or was it just a result of having a very structured idea of the music you wanted to make?
“Ann Arbor was just early school bands stuff - meant nothing except good experience and learning. In TV Jones I did have a central role, but the others decided to go a different way- they wanted to chase “success” and they thought it wasn’t possible with me. They were right, but they never acheived anything after that anyway. I did not have a structured idea. It was always more instinctive”.

Were you aware of the fact that you were writing an important page in the history of Australian rock, or at the period you were just focused on writing songs and get them to an audience?
“No. We didn’t think about that. Nothing beyond the next gig”. 

Do you think that your choice to keep studying medicine (or Pip Hoyle's), therefore mantaining something else aside the band. has limited yours or the band's road to success somehow?

“No, Pip and I only went back to medicine after the band got dropped and broke up. If the Sire Records relationship had continued and we toured America with the Ramones in 78-79 as planned, things might have turned out differently”. Having the right job gives freedom to do the music you want to do without compromise. Over the years I have financed many records and tours that would not have been possible otherwise”.

You've certainly been a cornerstone in the australian music scene, prime movers opening the road for a lot of other bands, some of them certainly succesful. Did any one of them disappoint you - I'm thinking of Birthday Party - or was it the music industry attitude to disappoint you most?
"Neither. I dont like Birthday Party and many other bands that followed us, but they do their own thing. I have no interest in it. To be disappointed implies having some personal investment and I have none”.

In the documentary “Descent Into Maelstrom” Charles Fisher says you've written "New Race" as an hymn for the young audience following you and the band. What happened instead is that the track got you into accusations of being conservative/politically to the right, which is really far from reality. Do you want to talk about that?
“All you need to do is listen to the lyrics to understand that there is nothing political in that song.
Conservative? Anarchy would be closer to it”.

Radios Appear is a huge album, but has also triggered the conclusion of the band. Was it maybe because some of the other members wanted a different credit on the songs, which are meinly yours? Is this the reason why you pushed Rob in taking a bigger role writing down the songs?
“None of the band members ever suggested to me that they expected or wanted a writing credit at the time. I only heard this when I saw the film. I actually did write the bass parts in Hand Of Law, Smith and Wesson Blues, etc. This and other issues could easily have been cleared up in 1977 but no one communicated. I always encouraged the others to contribute ideas, but they never did... except eventually Chris wrote a couple of things, and Warwick also. They were appropriately credited whenever their ideas were used. I knew Rob could be a good lyricist, so yes, I pushed him to write. It was sort of like kicking a mule, but finally he started. And it’s true - he writes fantastic lyrics”.

In 1978 Iceman had to take the responibility for Radio Birdman leading them to the completion of "Living Eyes", which Gilbert defined as your solo album. Was it because you were the only one who still believed in the band and its potentialities?
“I still believed in it. Maybe Rob did too. The others had already essentially left the band. Warwick wrote the music to Crying Sun, his only writing contribution to that album. We recorded it, but he chose not to attend the mixing session, and then secretly hated the mix. It could have been redone but he said nothing. He could have participated more, but I understand that he was very unwell at the time”.

Do you think something would have changed if you toured in the US with the Ramones?
“Maybe. I think America would have liked us. We finally toured there in 2006 and 2007 to great audiences”.

From "Alien Skies" to "Song for Dave", b side of the "Can of Soup" single, your songwriting career has found an expression also in instrumental tracks. How did you get to the decision of making an entire instrumental album such as "Lost For Words"?

“I have “Ialways loved the Ventures, the Shadows, Ennio Morricone, Gil Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim, etc. After “Comanche” turned out so well on the Mean Old Twister album, I thought of writing a whole album of instrumentals. I had nothing to lose, so why not try? It was an interesting experience. I am very happy with Lost For Words, which couldn’t have been done without the stellar drumming of Ric Parnell and the bass playing and production skill of Bob Brown.

Are you satisfied with the result?


Thank you Deniz. See you in Bergamo
Ok ! Thanks for the interview.