In 1978 when Deniz and Rob returned via the USA to Australia, Radio Birdman had taken heavy losses on the British tour. While they had fully expected to reconstitute the band in Australia, the damage was too great to repair. Ron had already quit, Warwick had said nothing but was expected to leave. What they didn't expect was Chris informing them, upon their return, that he would no longer play in the band, choosing instead The Hitmen.
Deniz and Rob had to call it a day, as they felt there was no longer a critical mass of dedicated original members to work with. Rob stayed in Sydney where he formed The Other Side. Deniz relocated to Newcastle to finish his medical internship. He didn't play for about 6 months until the pain of withdrawal became too great and he began to collaborate with Mark Sisto, the old Birdman sidekick and bodyguard who had remained loyal even after being unceremoniously ejected from the British tour a year earlier.
It was from an intense desire to play that the energy came to form The Visitors, deal with the politics and old baggage, write the songs and do the rehearsals, then a three hour drive each way on what was one of the most deadly roads in Australia. The same desire fuelled the live performances and recording of the album.
From 1978 to 1979 The Visitors were Deniz on guitar, Sisto on vocals, Ron Keeley on drums, Pip Hoyle on keyboards and Steve Harris on bass. Their style was a dark mixture. The band being 3/5ths Birdman, including the chief songwriter, was almost like the next phase of Radio Birdman, had that band continued on. At the same time, the sound of the band was more like the early Birdman days with the single guitar plus keyboard format.
There was much more technical ability this time around. The music was hard and heavy, while maintaining a melodic sense unusual in those immediate post-punk days. The band was crushingly loud, the guitar stage setup being two 100 watt Marshall Super Lead heads pushed through 16 twelve inch speakers. This in small clubs! But with the top end rolled off and compression applied, the overall effect was survivable for the audience. Sisto brought a strong Doors influence. Visually they were striking, combining black clothing and shades with various dada/surrealist accoutrements.
In 1979, The Visitors recorded a long single session's worth of demos at the 8-track Palm Studio in Sydney, essentially playing their entire set live in the studio direct to tape. From this source tape, with minimal overdubs, came a 12 in vinyl ep, a full length LP, and 2 successive remixed and remastered CDs. See complete discography HERE.
(Above photos : Principal members Mark Sisto, Pip Hoyle, Deniz Tek / Press conference 1978 Hyatt Hotel, Sydney / Poster from the 2008 reunion tour)
The Visitors reunited in 2005 with the principal members Deniz Tek, Pip Hoyle and Mark Sisto joined by Steve Godoy on drums and Art Godoy on bass, for a short run of concerts, including Newcastle (Great Northern), Sydney (Gaellic Club). This tour coincided with the re-release of the album, remastered, with a historical twelve page booklet, on Citadel Records. The songs included covers of the Rolling Stones "The last Time" and the Zager/Evans hit "In The Year 2525" as well as an ambitious Roy Orbison cover "It's Over", which featured the remarkable vocal range of Mark Sisto.
In 2008 The Visitors appeared in Sydney to open for The Hitmen and Niagara at The Crest in Sylvania, this time with Nik Rieth on drums, Andy Newman on bass, and Jack Shanley on saxophone. This lineup then went on to play a run of its own headline shows, including the now defunct Empire Hotel (Annandale), Wollongong and Melbourne. The setlist included the Tek/Asheton penned Radio Birdman clasic "Hit Them Again", Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally", the never-recorded tune "She Used To Know My Name", as well as all of the Visitors standards.
The last Visitors performance was 6 Dec 2013 at Sydney University's Manning Bar, headlining a fundraiser for the Ron Asheton Foundation. Sharing the bill were The Hoodoo Gurus, Rob Younger's New Christs, and others. The Visitors lineup was : Deniz Tek, guitar; Mark Sisto, vocals; Pip Hoyle, keyboards; Andy Newman, bass; and Gerard Presland, drums. In a striking return to near original form, they played faithful arrangements of almost the entire Visitors album, along with covers of the Stooges "Dirt", Radio Birdman's "Hand of Law" and Arthur Conley's "Sweet Soul Music".
Photo © Anne Laurent
Photo © Anne Laurent
Photo © Anne Laurent
For further information, Radio Birdman biographer Vivien Johnson wrote the only definitive article on the band to ever appear :