Deniz Tek was born and grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The quiet university town an hour west of Detroit on Interstate 94, was, in the 1950's, a leafy green and picturesque haven to hipsters, beatniks, free jazz aficionados, the art crowd and academics. They co-existed alongside more conservative locals of German descent, who ran small farms and engineering and machine shops serving the huge car factories just down the road. Ann Arbor was later to be home to a new and revolutionary kind of high-energy rock music. Exploding on to the scene in the late sixties, it was a volatile mix of the contrasting cultures of avant-garde art and high-powered cars.
As a child, Deniz spent many late nights with a little blue transistor radio, listening to early 60's rock and roll, surf and hot rod music, and Phil Spector's "wall of sound". He started learning the guitar at age 12, taking lessons from Dan Erlewine, then a guitarist in the local progressive blues outfit The Prime Movers, which featured a young Jim Osterberg (aka Iggy Pop) on drums. Erlewine demanded classical practice, lessons were a drag, and Deniz soon quit to focus exclusively on playing rock and roll. The first rock and roll song Deniz ever learned to play was Walk Don't Run, by the Ventures. He learned by copying from records, watching more experienced players, and endless practice. His first electric guitar was a Harmony solid body, with a little Gibson amp that he got for his birthday.
"It was the spring of 1964. Nothing much had happened here yet musically, but there was a growing sense of excitement in the sleepy university town. Change was happening, and something immense was rolling toward us. We could feel it in the air, like the low rumble of thunder on a clear day, or the first chill of autumn on the late summer breeze...a cool breath of far off arctic weather. One block north of the State Theater there was a row of old buildings. Three and four story wood and masonry Civil War era houses and upscale residences built before the turn of the last century, long since divided into flats and small businesses. On the ground floors were downscale boutiques and snack and coffee shops, which were always replaced by others within a year or two. On higher floors were offices, used clothing places, record stores and bookshops. Some student and beatnik hangouts existed around there where you could actually smell incense, see men in black turtlenecks and berets and sandals, barefoot women with long hair cut like Mary Travers, in black leotards, reciting poetry and playing bongos and folk guitars, discussing Zen, the Beat authors, and Bakunin. There were no head shops yet. Those were still three or four years over the event horizon." "I was twelve years old and all of this seemed a bit dangerous but utterly fascinating. After school I got dropped off by my dad, into the stairwell of one of these buildings, and lugged my bulky guitar case up six flights of stairs. The hardwood steps were worn into visible grooves over the many decades ... I could see that they knew how to make things to endure in the old days... Up at the top of the stairwell was a familiar landing. The door on the left led in to the Herb David Guitar Studio. This old wood door with glass window hung with objects and flyers, the years having worn it into somehow a more than perfect fit in the doorframe, so that pulling it open was uniquely pleasurable...the resistance neither too great nor too easy ... a sensation not available from modern doors. It led me into another world." "There were guitars hanging on the walls of a room, like a small lounge room, and photos of Woodie Guthrie and Leadbelly. The instruments could be taken down and played by anyone, at any time. There were worn out couches in there that smelled like old stuff you would find in your Grandma's attic ... the horsehair in the upholstery redolent of days gone by when these same old horses might have delivered milk along State Street when it was a dirt road. There are always guys in there sitting around jamming, acoustically, mostly on folk and bluegrass. I didn't dare say anything but I could watch and learn. I didn't really like the folky stuff although I admired its' technical mastery. I always tried to show up for my lesson early so I could watch these guys hanging around on the couches at Herbs. I was soaking all of it in, but I really wanted to find out how to play the current nationally known rock and roll stuff. The Ventures...Scotty Moore, James Burton...Chuck Berry... "
EARLY AND ENDURING INFLUENCES
The early 60s was the time of surf bands, hot rods and girl groups - Deniz recalls loving The Surfaris, Dick Dale and the Del Tones, The Ventures, The Crystals, The Chiffons, the Vandellas, The Shangri-Las and the Ronettes. There were the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. There was the Philly sound - The Dovells and The Orlons. Even movie themes sounded cooler then: James Bond, Mondo Cane, and Ennio Morricone's Western themes. Motown, with hits too numerous to count, was huge everywhere but especially powerful in the Detroit area, being blasted out of Windsor's CKLW Radio at 50,000 watts. Radio play lists weren't very commercial or market driven because really big money hadn't found it's way into music yet. Deniz soaked it all up. Then came the British invasion, peaking in 1964. After that it was all about the big groups, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, and The Kinks, and the first garage bands, novices who wanted to emulate them. The garage band scene was not only cool, but accessible. Anybody could get there if you grew long hair, dressed like Brian Jones and played electric guitar. Presaging the punk movement of the mid to late 70's, lack of playing ability was more than compensated by passion and energy. The first actual live rock band seen by Deniz, at a school dance, was The Rationals. Their regional hit with a cover of Otis Redding's Respect predated and informed Aretha's by a year.
At 13 in '65, Deniz started a band with Roger Miller. Roger was already an accomplished guitar player, and inspired the others.They did Kinks songs and other cool covers. They never really played anywhere, maybe a couple of parties; mostly they just practiced in the Tek family basement. Roger went on to be in many bands and solo projects, including the Boston outfit Mission of Burma. Twin brothers Larry and Ben Miller were later in Destroy All Monsters with Ron Asheton and Niagara. Roger's gift to Deniz was the vision that anything was possible.
Deniz spent 1967 in Australia with his parents. It was the time of The Masters Apprentices, The Purple Hearts, The Loved Ones, Phil Jones and the Unknown Blues, The Easybeats ... a golden period of Australian rock, and the soundtrack to news of remote wars in VietNam, the Middle East, and the streets of America.Back to the USA in 1968 he found he'd missed the 'Summer Of Love'. Everything had changed. The radio waves blasted Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and Quicksilver through a hallucinogenic haze. Captain Beefheart, The Velvet Underground and beyond were getting airplay. FM radio had started, and a number of local independent stations had started up. One of the greatest was WABX, which beamed out of Detroit from high above the David Stott Building. DJ's like Dennis Frawley and JC Crawford were revolutionary outlaws, who played anything.<br>
Back in Ann Arbor the local version of psychedelic rock and roll was harder, faster, more blue collar. Some of it had a free jazz element and was much farther out than anything coming out of the west coast. The MC5 could and often did bury anything coming out of SF, LA NYC or even London at that time. Jazz greats Sun Ra and Pharaoh Sanders often shared the stage. The Stooges were the wild card which would distill the essence of rock and roll into it's purest and most basic elemental energy. For Deniz the attitude and spirit was even more important than the aural attack.
"That is what I wanted to do. When bands from either coast or England came to town, the locals destroyed the competition and the audiences, even when the competition were bands like Cream. Everyone who witnessed this music was influenced by it."
In November 1969, saying goodbye to the sixties, he went to see The Rolling Stones play in Detroit at Olympia, a small ice hockey stadium. There was no turning back.
LIFE IN OZ
Carrying a guitar, Deniz migrated to Australia in 1972. Nothing much was going on locally, and a post hippy, drugged out phase was tediously working itself out with the occasional mega groups like Deep Purple and Zeppelin on tour. He lived in a student house where the soundtrack was often Stooges, Stones, Alice Cooper, Velvets, Zappa and Captain Beefheart, collections of Atlantic and Motown soul singles, and occasional jazz records including Coltrane and Coleman. Deniz gravitated to and became friends with others with similar musical taste ... notably Lee Taylor, who shared a love of the Stones and of soul music; and John Needham, a fellow student who would become a lifelong friend and partner in music. In 1973 Deniz met Rob Younger. Rob was the first person Deniz met in Australia who knew about the Ann Arbor / Detroit sound. Rob had hundreds of records and a big singles collection, and the two would sit around listening and marvel over great sounds. Rob filled in many gaps for Deniz, especially the 60's British material that was unreleased in the USA.
The next big influences were the release of Raw Power, the first three Blue Oyster Cult albums, and the New York Dolls. It was in this context that they started thinking about Radio Birdman.
Formed in 1972, TV Jones had morphed from Screaming White Hot Razor Blades and Cunning Stunt. The line-up was Chris Jones on guitar, Gerry Jones on drums (brother of successful jazz horn player Vince Jones), Giles Vanderwerf on bass and Deniz on guitar and vocals.
In Wollongong, a tough blue collar steel town, 50 miles south of Sydney, the kids were bucking against the ennui of a bland diet of bands who covered Smoke On the Water, Black Magic Woman, and Southern Man. Anything original or bizarre or even merely exciting would have lit the fuse. And for early 70's Wollongong,TV Jones was beyond bizarre. Exploding light bulbs. Imploding television sets. Strange androgynous makeup and clear plastic raincoats. For bored kids the band seemed to open a door to a new world - or at least a way out of this one. With uncompromising attitude and an eagerness to attack boundaries, they tore up an overdriven mixture of Velvet Underground, Stooges, Up, Stones, J Geils, various obscure garage bands and old bluesmen, and a few early attempts at their own material. When they left a converted crowd at the Charles and headed North, to enthusiastically booked engagements at Chequers and the Whisky, they were doomed. Straight up, TV Jones was summarily rejected by the powerful music establishment in Sydney the way a dog would vomit poisoned meat. The band sacked Deniz, feeling that it was his "negativity and attitude" that was holding them back from commercial success. The silver lining was that it left Deniz, never concerned with commercial success, free to pursue his dreams with a new partner, one Rob Younger.
Deniz and Rob started Radio Birdman in mid 1974 in Sydney. They dreamt of a rule-breaking band with no regard for the rock business status quo. They'd play as if their lives depended on it, with an art form created from passion. No strict format or structure, and scope for forays into improvised visual as well as sonic realms. No two performances would be the same. And they played each performance as if it could, and might, have been the last. Predictably, many doors slammed shut, engagements were cancelled after the first song, and there were threats of physical violence and destruction as much from the club bouncers as anyone. More than once, Deniz was pulled off the street and questioned by police, although never formally arrested or charged. Unable to play in any venues, the band put on its own shows in small community halls until they found a pub upstairs in Taylor Square that allowed them to perform without restriction. It was the Oxford Tavern, where Deniz had first seen Rob's earlier band The Rats. Later the band took over its' music management, renaming it the Oxford Funhouse, and made it available for other like-minded groups who followed. The Funhouse became the nidus for the incipient crystallisation of the Sydney "punk" scene even though the founders were not really a punk band. Thousands more claim to have been there and seen Radio Birdman perform than could ever have fit through its doors.
Radio Birdman recorded an EP Burn My Eye (1976) and an album Radios Appear (1977), both high quality recordings made piecemeal at the 24 track Trafalgar Studios in spare studio time when there were no paying clients. Trafalgar and the band partnered in the independent releases, which bypassed mainstream distribution. Radios Appear was critically acclaimed. The band, with the help of manager George Kringas, moved from the Funhouse to bigger shows, still self promoted. Sire records president Seymour Stein, in Australia to sign the Saints, saw one of the last Radio Birdman shows at the Funhouse, was enthralled, and licensed Radios Appear from Trafalgar. The band re-recorded parts of the album for the US and European release and added some new material. They toured Europe and England, recording a second album Living Eyes in Wales. Remastered material has been re-released at various times by WEA, PolyGram, SubPop and Citadel Records.
It is hardly news that Radio Birdman was a volatile mix. The chemistry of the members: Rob Younger, Deniz, Chris Masuak, Warwick Gilbert, Pip Hoyle and Ron Keeley, combined to form a whole that was somehow greater than the sum of the parts. They played with fire ... summoned deep energy, and collectively got burned in the process. None escaped whole. The break-up was inevitable and some say it is a wonder that they lasted as long as they did, when they finally gave up in June of 1978.
Radio Birdman unleashed a wave of influence which still echoes today. An entire sub-subculture, tied loosely to the surf movement, with tiny enclaves all over the world, was formed based on the cult of Radio Birdman. Seminally important in the development of music in Australia, the band continues to inspire and provoke. Many of their most dedicated fans are musicians in other, better known bands of today. Radio Birdman reformed in January of 1996 with all original members and toured four times in Australia. They recorded a live album, Ritualism (1996) on the first of these tours. The band continued to play worldwide in recent years with a new rhythm section, with whom they recorded an album of all new material, Zeno Beach (2006).
Forget the old Eagles reunion joke: Hell has now truly frozen over. Radio Birdman -- the Aussie-American blitz-rock band that introduced punk to the South Pacific in the mid-Seventies, turned Sydney into Detroit Rock City with palm trees, then broke up in 1978 after hitting a brick wall of indifference overseas -- have made their first studio album in three decades and open their first American tour on August 30th. On top of those miracles, Zeno Beach -- which stars four of the six original Birdmen, including singer Rob Younger and Michigan-born guitarist Deniz Tek -- is as fast and fierce as the few, hugely influential records the band made in its first lifetime. Even then, Radio Birdman never played punk rock as Warped Tour bands now define it, instead creating a then-unprecedented attack music from surf music, Nuggets-style garage, the primal assault of the Stooges and the twin-guitar terror of Blue Oyster Cult. It is still a rare blend of gunpowders, and the rejuvenated Birdman pack fistfuls into "You Just Make It Worse," "Locked Up" and especially the opening resurrection bulletin, "We've Come So Far (to Be Here Today)." Few bands of any vintage can say that with a straight face. Radio Birdman play it like they never stopped. * * * * Rolling Stone
In 1978 Deniz and Rob returned to Australia, after Radio Birdman had splintered. While they expected to reconstitute the band in Australia, the rest of the band had other ideas. Rob stayed in Sydney to form The Other Side. Deniz relocated to Newcastle to finish his medical internship. He lasted about 6 months until the thirst to play became overwhelming. He started collaborating with Radio Birdman keyboardist Pip Hoyle and singer Mark Sisto. The Visitors line-up was completed by Ron Keeley on drums and Steve Harris on bass. This time around the music was stark, sparse and heavy, with echoes of past and possibly future Birdman, while maintaining a melodic sense unusual in those immediate post-punk days. The band was crushingly loud, the guitar stage set-up being two 100 watt Marshall Super Lead heads pushed through 16 twelve inch speakers. The Visitors continue to play to this day withTek, Sisto, and Hoyle at its heart.
ANGIE PEPPER BAND
Angie's special voice has been praised by many including Arif Mardin, Aretha Franklin's producer. When her band, The Passengers, split up, Trafalgar Studios owner Charles Fisher, decided to record an album. Deniz agreed to write the material for the project. The idea was to do produce tough, hard-edged material that most female singers of the time wouldn't attempt. Eventually the line-up would include Steve Harris on keyboards, Ivor Hay on drums and Clyde Bramley on bass. After rehearsing challenging new material, they played a series of club gigs around Sydney in early 1981. It was at this time that Angie and Deniz married, in a low key private ceremony attended only by close family members. Passenger fans joined new audiences brought in by the other players and word of mouth. And although the recording sessions started well, when the album was less than half finished the plug was pulled on the project ... a classic album that never got to be. Some Angie Pepper Band songs were redone as demos in Houston, Texas, a year later, and a few of these surfaced on the French compilation of Deniz out takes and demos, Orphan Tracks (1989). Finally the existing Trafalgar tracks were remixed and released in late 2000 as part of the Citadel Passengers /Angie Pepper Band compilation It's Just That I Miss You (2001) Angie and Deniz finally fulfilled the promise of the 1981 sessions with the masterpiece album Res Ipsa Loquitor (2002) on Career Records (USA) and Citadel Records (Australia).
Conceived by by Angie Pepper, the New Race project was intended to be a one off project that introduced Deniz' Detroit music friends to Australia and vice versa. They toured Australia in 1981, and recorded a live album, The First and the Last (1982). The music was hard, fast rock and featured Detroit legends Ron Asheton (Stooges) on guitar, Dennis Thompson (MC5) on the drums together with 3 ex Radio Birdman players, Deniz on guitar, Rob Younger on vocals and Warwick Gilbert on bass, with Chris Masuak guesting at some shows. They played a set of songs derived from The Stooges, MC5, Radio Birdman, the member's current bands and a song written jointly for the tour, Columbia. Miscommunications and financial troubles followed although most of the band members remain close friends. Total Energy records in the US recently reissued The First and the Last.
THE IN-BETWEEN YEARS
In the early 80s Deniz moved back to America. He became a licensed doctor, specialising in emergency and aerospace medicine. He worked for a time as a flight surgeon and aviator. And you might even have heard of his call sign... Iceman.
THE SOLO YEARS
Deniz began his solo career in 1992 with the recording of the album Take It To The Vertical (1992). The assembled studio band included Chris Masuak, Scott Asheton (the Stooges) and Dust Peterson (Dust and the Rotorheads), who was later replaced by Bob Brown for an Australian tour. The tour was a success artistically but failed financially, and the sales of Vertical were disappointing. Under the guidance of label boss and long time supporter John Foy, a new line-up emerged featuring Celibate Rifles' Kent Steedman on guitar and Nik Rieth on drums along with ex- Survivors, Passengers, New Christs and Barracudas' bass player Jim Dickson. The new band rehearsed, recorded and began playing shows around Australia in mid 1993. This line-up was to become known as The Deniz Tek Group. They released Outside (1994) on Red Eye and followed with a national, and gruelling world tour. While in Australia they recorded the EP 444 The Number of the Beat (1995) mislabelled as 4-4. This was perhaps a bellwether for trouble to come.
The next album Le Bonne Route (1996) was a complete departure from its predecessors. Eclectic and experimental, the record was too much for Red Eye, who after dropping them were soon disconnected by their parent company, Polydor. A chaotic and unpredictable tour followed in Italy, resulting in a limited edition CD, the Italian Tour EP '96. It was the end of the road for this line-up and a post mortem EP Bad Road (1997) followed. In the early 90's Deniz began a long association with the Crow Tribe of Montana. Interested in preserving the culture, he began making field recordings of traditional songs performed by elders. This resulted in an album of singing and drum music, Moon Lodge, which is only available through the tribe. He has recorded another albums worth of more contemporary music with Jace Bigday, of native American flute and acoustic guitar, which is unreleased. Deniz is an adopted member of the tribe and the Big Day family.
In the mid - 90's Deniz combined forces with the legendary twins, Art and Steve Godoy. The internationally famed skateboard champions of the 80's had now turned their intense focus on recreating late 70's punk mayhem and had become world renowned tattoo artists. As part of Deniz' American touring band, they played dozens of concerts on both sides of the continent. The Godoy's intense energy and positive spirit was a perfect match for Deniz and they would later combine as the three piece hard rock outfit, the Golden Breed. Deniz and the Golden Breed made one album of original songs in the late 90's for Career Records. Their partnership continues to this day with the renegade hard rock outfit The Last Of The Bad Men.
Career Records was the project label created by Deniz and Ron Sanchez, primarily as a vehicle to release their own material. Deniz contributed often in both session work and production for Ron's psychedelic group "Donovan's Brain". The label later provided a home for Penny Ikinger, Angie Pepper, The Plaintiffs, and Roy Loney, of Flaming Groovies fame. Roy's latest album, "Shake It Or Leave It", features Deniz' guitar work and production assistance.
Le Bonne Route was then released in America through Minneapolis based Prospective / TwinTone Records. It was received positively and Deniz did selective shows in the US with a new band featuring local Montana musicians, bassist Todd Eagle and drummer Tony Horton, which toured in North America and more extensively in Europe. Adding drummer and percussionist Clay Green, Deniz recorded Equinox (1998) with engineer, co-producer, sonic explorer and electronic guru Dave Weyer. Once again it signifies a transition to a new phase, employing diverse instrumentation, multiple vocalists and found sounds such as horses hooves treading in newly fallen snow, as heard in the song Christmas Eve. The experimental side of Equinox was later taken to full blown conclusion and driven past the edge of sonic abstraction with Dave Weyer in the "Glass Insects" project.
BACK TO DETROIT
In the early '90s Patrick Boissel from Alive Records began a crusade to resurrect the Detroit Sound. He had the idea of forming a "Detroit Super Group" of surviving players who were still active in music. Deniz and Wayne Kramer were asked to lead the effort, and both agreed. Less than a week after touring ltaly with The Deniz Tek Group Deniz flew to LA to record. Scott Morgan (the Rationals and Sonics Rendezvous Band) had been recruited to sing with Paul Ill on bass and Brock Avery on drums and percussion. Recording was done at a small studio in West Hollywood called the Music Box. Some songs were written on the spot, others in Deniz' motel room. MC5, Birdman, and Sonics Rendezvous standards made the cut. The entire album was done in less than 5 days. Dodge Main (1996), named after the now defunct automobile assembly plant in central Detroit, was released by Alive to rave reviews and a 4 star treatment in Rolling Stone. Dodge Main has gotten together for occasional live shows since then to wildly enthusiastic crowds, Currently there is an unreleased live concert tape waiting in the wings featuring the band at peak power in Cleveland with bassist Gary Rasmussen and drummer Scott Asheton.
Deep Reduction and Deep Red 2
Deep Reduction got its name from heavy truck gearbox terminology and one of its band drummer Clyde McGeary, a trucker known for his exploits driving large rigs loaded with toxic waste across America. In 1996 joined by members of Pennsylvania based band The Stump Wizards, the band produced a single Black Tulip (1997) and the self-titled Deep Reduction (1997), and toured in the USA and Europe. They struggled to get the right vocal approach, and for a second album Rob Younger was recruited to travel to Mechanicsburg and sing on '2'.
Rendezvous Band: Getting There Is Half The Fun
In the summer of 1999, Scott Morgan contacted Deniz with the idea of doing a Sonics Rendezvous Band reunion gig. The original members, Scott Asheton, Gary Rasmussen, and Scott Morgan, were joined by Deniz and played to a wildly enthusiastic house in Detroit at the Magic Stick, and ended the show with smoking equipment and wrecked guitars. A good 16-track tape was made of the night, but has never been released due to disagreement among the surviving band members. A lower quality, semi - unofficial recording of the night Live at the Magic Stick (2000),
made from a crowd DAT has been made available through Real-O Mind Records.
THE 21ST CENTURY
The Glass Insects
The Glass Insects are David Weyer and Deniz Tek, doing free form spontaneous heavily processed harmolodic guitar, and electronic noise music. The album features a newly minted instrument, the "Davophone". Their first album, Cool and Unusual Punishment (2000) was recorded in three hours, and mixed and edited over the following year. It was released on CDRs made and labelled by the band, numbered and signed, and sold by mail order. Approximately 40 copies were eventually sold to listeners around the globe. The Glass Insects recorded a second album, with more than six hours of even more adventurous and strange material, enhanced by, and in some cases created by novel uses of arrays of pre-WW2 vintage electronic gear. They were joined in this recording by Jim Dickson and Will Weyer. Glass Insects 2 might or might not ever be released to humanity. Glass Insects have never played a live concert.
Res Ipsa Loquitor
The millennium saw Deniz Tek and Angie Pepper working together on an album with producer / engineer Dave Weyer. This album was conceived as the ultimate vehicle for the voice and lyrics of Angie Pepper, and no effort was spared in production to achieve that aim. Former fellow Passenger Jim Dickson and drummer Nik Rieth made the trek from Sydney to Montana to assist with songwriting, arranging, and recording the initial rhythm tracks. As the songs developed, Dave Weyer brought to bear all his talent, experience and exacting attention to detail and quality. Months would pass before the right sounds were found and placed in each song to paint the perfect sonic picture. In the later stages of the project, the Donovan's Brain crew with Ron Sanchez at the helm was assembled at God's Little Ear Acre studio in Bozeman to assist in completion. The album was released on Career and Citadel Records, but failed to get the recognition and acclaim that Deniz and others so strongly believe it deserves. The name means "It speaks for itself".
ARIA Hall of Fame 2007
In July 2007 Radio Birdman was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIAS) Hall of Fame. Original plus current members attended the ceremony at the Regent theatre in Melbourne. Daniel Johns (Silverchair) gave the induction speech, which was followed by the band playing a short but energetic set which saw most of the audience giving them a standing ovation (while some fled for the exits). The three guitarists (Tek, Masuak and Dickson) held aloft their howling guitars in a spontaneous salute to the drums as the ending of the song New Race ascended into auditory chaos.
Last Of The Bad Men
Deniz's long time association with Art and Steve Godoy continues to this day with the twin's own band "The Last Of The Bad Men". The Bad Men feature Cleveland punk singer, hardcore skater and experimental board designer Danny Creadon on vocals, and Alberta native Troy Zak on bass. The Bad Men are proudly uncompromising and remain true to old school hard rock and 70's punk ethos, with a "take no prisoners" approach to performances and recordings. They have toured in the USA and Canada, and have produced two independently released albums : "Nowhere Is Safe" (2007) and "Ride" (2008) both on the Godoy's DHD record label.