About Deniz Tek
Best-known as the guitarist, main songwriter, and leader of Australian proto-punk heroes Radio Birdman, Deniz Tek is the man who brought the high-energy sound of vintage Detroit rock (in the manner of the Stooges and the MC5) to the Antipodes -- which was fitting since he was born and raised in Michigan. Though Radio Birdman were stars in Australia and cult heroes around the world, since their breakup (and in between occasional reunions), Tek has kept their sonic ethos -- lean, powerful, energetic rock fueled by raw guitar lines and clever, impressionistic lyrics -- alive in his solo work and with his various side projects, many of which have found him collaborating with his musical heroes and fellow travelers. Highlights from his non-Birdman catalog include 1994's Outside (with the Deniz Tek Group), 2002's Ann Arbor Revival Meeting (with Scott Morgan's Powertrane), 2009's On the Inside (with the Soul Movers), and 2013's Detroit.
Deniz Tek was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on November 10, 1952. As a teenager, he frequently saw local heroes such as the Stooges and the MC5 perform, developing a taste for rock & roll that was fierce and uncompromised. He went to Australia with his family in 1967, and he liked it enough that he moved there in 1972 to attend medical school at the University of New South Wales. By this time, he'd learned how to play guitar, and wanted to form a band that would follow the lead of the Michigan bands he loved. Tek's first Aussie group, TV Jones, built a large local following, but broke up before issuing any recordings. Undeterred, Tek immediately formed his next band, Radio Birdman, along with friend/singer Rob Younger, second guitarist Chris Masuak, bassist Warwick Gilbert, keyboardist Pip Hoyle, and drummer Ron Keeley. Despite being even more popular than Tek's previous band, Radio Birdman's hard-edged proto-punk sound wasn't exactly embraced by the Australian record companies, and the sextet were forced to issue their inaugural singles on their own. 1977 saw the group tour Europe and sign with the Aussie Trafalgar Records, and a year later, Sire Records finally signed the group for the U.S. and the U.K., issuing their first full-length release, Radios Appear, in 1978. However, a decision to move their operations to England backfired on the band when Sire's U.K. branch fell into financial trouble and they were left stranded. The band broke up in 1979 (their second album, Living Eyes, would go unreleased until 1981), but despite their brief tenure together, Radio Birdman inspired countless other Australian bands, paving the way for such acts as Cold Chisel, Celibate Rifles, and Screaming Tribesman, among countless others.
Tek soon formed another similarly styled outfit, the Visitors, along with Birdman holdovers Hoyle and Keeley in addition to newcomers Mark Sisto on vocals and Steve Harris on bass. A self-titled four-track EP would be issued in 1979 before the group splintered (two full-length recordings, a self-titled 1982 LP, and 1994's Visitation '79 would be released after the group's demise). In 1981, Tek was joined once more by his former Birdman buddies Younger and Gilbert, as well as two Detroit rock notables, ex-Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton and ex-MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson, for a one-off Australian tour under the name New Race. Like most of Tek's previous musical endeavors, New Race would manage only a single release, The First and the Last, an in-concert set issued in 1982. Around the same time, Tek began playing alongside singer Angie Pepper, whom he penned songs for and toured with; the duo would dissolve after a single release, the forgotten 1984 single "Frozen World" b/w "Why Tell Me."
After his first-ever solo release came and went (the single "100 Fools" b/w "Alien Skies"), Tek then turned his back on music altogether for a spell. He moved back to the United States and became a licensed physician (earning qualifications in emergency and aerospace medicine), in addition to serving as a flight surgeon for the Marines. A compilation of unissued demos was released during Tek's period of exile, 1989's Orphan Tracks, but little else was heard from the former Radio Birdman leader. By the early '90s, however, he was ready to give music another go, and he formed the Deniz Tek Group, issuing several releases -- the full-lengths Outside (1994) and Le Bonne Route (1996), plus the EPs 4-4 The Number of the Beat (1995), Italian Tour (1996), and Bad Road (1997) -- as well as launching several tours of Europe, Australia, and the U.S. Tek also issued solo albums on a regular basis during the same decade, including such releases as 1992's Take It to the Vertical, 1998's Equinox, and 1999's Got Live. In addition, the '90s saw Tek reunite with Radio Birdman for a pair of Australian tours, as well as a live release, Ritualism, in 1996. Tek found time to form a band with ex-MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Dodge Main (who issued a self-titled release in 1996), as well as a studio project called Deep Reduction (formed while Tek was producing a group called the Stump Wizards, he joined the band for a pair of releases, 1997's single "Black Tulip" b/w "Gotta Say No" and a self-titled full-length in 2000). In 1999, Tek performed in a one-off reunion of Sonic's Rendezvous Band, taking the place of the late Fred "Sonic" Smith, under the banner the Rendezvous Band; the show was released on the album Gettin' There Is Half the Fun: Live at the Magic Stick, Detroit. Tek also took the stage with SRB vocalist and guitarist Scott Morgan and his band Powertrane for a series of hometown shows (with Ron Asheton sitting in), which were recorded for the 2002 album Ann Arbor Revival Meeting. Another collaboration between Tek and Morgan, Three Assassins, arrived in 2004.
In 2006, Radio Birdman once again reunited, this time releasing a new studio album, Zeno Beach, which was followed with international concert tours in 2006 and 2007, including their first shows in the United States. In 2011, Iggy and the Stooges played a special show in Ann Arbor to honor late guitarist Ron Asheton; while latter-day guitarist James Williamson played most of the show, Tek joined the band for a four-song mini-set, where he played his version of Asheton's classic style. Tek and his backing band, the Golden Breed, brought out a single, "Bermuda," in 2013; the Golden Breed comprised bassist Art Godoy and drummer Steve Godoy, who also played in the Exploding Fuck Dolls and often backed Tek on tour. 2013 also saw the release of the solo album Detroit, followed by 2016's Mean Old Twister. In 2017, Tek joined James Williamson for the recording of an EP of unplugged versions of Iggy and the Stooges numbers titled Acoustic K.O. Another solo effort from Tek, Lost for Words, came in 2018, and he brought back the Godoy Brothers for the recording of the 2019 effort Fast Freight, a rough-and-ready set recorded entirely on vintage analog equipment. Tek and Williamson once again joined forces for another duo recording, this time a full-length electric album, 2020's Two to One. ~ Greg Prato & Mark Deming