Radio Birdman's Descent Into The Maelstrom Doco + National Tour

Radio Birdman's Descent Into The Maelstrom Doco + National Tour

radio birdman
(Photo: Bob King)

Iconic Sydney underground rockers and ARIA Hall of Famers Radio Birdman hit Australian stages again this week ahead of another European tour and following the release last week of their acclaimed Jonathan Sequeira directed documentary Descent Into the Maelstrom.

To celebrate we take a dive into Radio Birdman’s legacy through the music that the band’s members went on to make following its original split in 1978.

When Radio Birdman first split in 1978, they hadn’t had a hit single and they’d barely made a dint on the album charts. But the band had a huge impact, helping to kickstart the local punk scene as well as inspiring successive waves of hard rock bands from the Angels and Midnight Oil through to Silverchair and beyond. They also started a parallel high-energy rock’n’roll scene that stretched through bands like the Lipstick Killers, the Fun Things (featuring a young Brad Shepherd), the Sunnyboys, Celibate Rifles, Lime Spiders, Hard-ons and onwards; bands who not only loved Birdman but were deeply immersed in Birdman’s own heroes including the Stooges, the MC5 and obscure ‘60s garage rock bands like the Remains and the Thirteenth Floor Elevators.  

Radio Birdman’s legend grew in the decades after their initial split, to the point that when they reformed in 1996 they played in front of vastly bigger audiences than ever before. The revived band released a new album Zeno Beach in 2006 and were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in  2007, after which they took another break. The long awaited 2014 release of a definitive Radio Birdman box set drew the band out again, and they’ve been touring sporadically ever since.

The band’s story is told in all its ragged glory in director Jonathan Sequeira’s film Descent Into the Maelstrom – The Radio Birdman Story, which features interviews with everyone involved and some incredible footage of the band. With copious bonus features, the just-released DVD edition is an essential purchase for any fan of the band, or of Australian rock’n’roll in general. As the film touches on, Radio Birdman’s musical legacy has been furthered by the continued work of its members, who in the years and decades following the band’s original split in 1978 have continued to make vital music in new bands or as individuals. It’s through these efforts that we celebrate the Radios’ reappearance. 

The Hitmen

The first post-Birdman band out of the blocks was formed by Birdman second guitarist Chris Masuak and the band’s part-time backing vocalist and MC Johnny Kannis. Birdman bass player Warwick Gilbert soon joined up as well. Probably the hardest working of the Birdman offshoots, the Hitmen were more or less a commercialisation of the Birdman style, with a whole load of pop culture thrown in for good measure. For that reason they were never ‘cool’, but they were a lot of fun and made some great music. Future Hoodoo Gurus Brad Shepherd and Mark Kingsmill were both members of the band’s classic early 80s line-up. The band has been an on-again/off-again proposition for years now, and have recently released some cool new tunes.

The Visitors

Guitarist Deniz Tek, keyboardist Pip Hoyle and drummer Ron Keeley were next out, with Birdman’s other part-time backing vocalist Mark Sisto up front. The band only played a handful of shows as the American-born pair of Tek and Sisto both had plans to head home, but the recordings they made before they ended gave us one of the great Australian albums. 

The Other Side

Singer Rob Younger finally made it back onto Sydney stages with another short-lived outfit, which featured future Hoodoo Gurus bass layer Clyde Bramley. The Other Side’s set was primarily covers, but those who saw them remember them as one of the great live bands. Unfortunately, they never made a finished studio recording, but this track, with Deniz Tek’s future wife Angie Pepper on vocals, has recently surfaced and seems to feature some members of the band, including Rob Younger on drums.

The Passengers / Angie Pepper Band

Having made that demo recording with members of The Other Side, Angie Pepper soon fronted a short-lived band of her own. With a sound that mixed Birdman atmospherics with 60s girl group melodrama, the Passengers were a sensation on the Sydney scene. Guitarist Jeff Sullivan went onto form the Flaming Heads with another Birdman associated female vocalist Julie Mostyn up front, while bass player Jim Dickson would work with a number of other Birdman related bands before joining Birdman itself in 2002. Angie & Deniz formed the short-lived Angie Pepper Band in the early 80s.


The Lipstick Killers

They didn’t feature any ex-Birdman members, but they were friends and fans of the band and Deniz Tek produced their classic “Hindu Gods of Love” single in
1979. The Lipstick Killers’ high energy sound and over the top antics helped fill the hole that Birdman left and they are very fondly remembered. Watch out for a definitive Lipstick Killers collection to be released soon!

New Race

A supergroup featuring Birdmen Tek, Younger and Gilbert, together with Stooges guitarist Ron Ashton and MC5 drummer Denis Thompson, New Race gave Australia the chance to see a couple of the guys, who back in the late 60s,  created the high-energy Detroit sound that Birdman drew from. A red hot combination that was only ever going to last a few weeks and a handful of shows, New Race left one incredible live album, The First & The Last

The New Christs

Having released a single in 1981 without even playing a gig, Rob Younger’s New Christs were unorthodox from the outset, and they continue to this day, countless of line-up changes later. Never having written a song for Birdman first time round, Rob Younger came into his own with the New Christs and has produced an immense and brilliant cannon of work over the decades. Catch them when you can!


Formed by Birdman confidante John Neeham, Minuteman released one great single, notable for its great Birdman-meets-Cramps vibe, its brilliant Rob Younger production, and for being the first release on Needham’s Citadel label. Citadel would go on to release many great records over coming decades (and still at it), many of them produced brilliantly by Younger.

Screaming Tribesmen

After the Hitmen, and a productive stint in the New Christs, Chris Masuak joined Brisbane outcasts the Screaming Tribesmen, an incandescent rock’n’pop band whose first two singles he produced. (Like Younger, Masuak was an in-demand producer on the Sydney scene in the 80s). He made a handful of fine records with them, and toured the States, where they were MTV favourites. 

Deniz Tek

After more than a decade of semi-retirement from music, Tek returned with Take It To The Vertical in 1992, and he hasn’t looked back. Deniz continues to make great solo records outside of his work with Birdman, and his brand new album Lost For Words is actually all-instrumental. 

Dodge Main

By the 90s Birdman’s international reputation was such that they were starting to be put on a similar pedestal to their own heroes the Stooges and the MC5. Having worked with Ron Ashton and Dennis Thompson in New Race, Deniz Tek teamed up with MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer – who had supported Birdman on their 1996 comeback tour – and Sonic’s Rendezvous Band vocalist Scott Morgan in another short-lived outfit. We never got to see Dodge Main down this way, but their one album was a cracker.  


Deep Reduction

A lesser known Tek project, Deep Reduction came about when Pennsylvanian garage-punks the Stump Wizards asked Deniz to produce an album for them. He ended up forming a new band with them as well. Rob Younger came on board for a second album, but the track we hear here is a cover of legendary English group the Pink Fairies, who Tek had seen and loved on a London visit in the early 70s.



Tek was at it again in 2002, returning to Ann Arbor to guest with Scott Morgan’s band Powertrane for a set that included some killer versions of Birdman and Tek solo material. This live album is incredible, and capped off with Ron Ashton joining the fray for a handful of crazed Stooges tunes.


Deniz Tek & James Williamson

Completing Tek’s collection of collaborations with iconic Detroit rockers (Deniz has never recorded with Iggy, but he did play a number of songs with the Stooges at a Ron Ashton memorial show after his old friend’s passing), Deniz recorded an EP of acoustic Stooges tunes with Ron Asheton’s replacement in the Stooges, the great James Williamson, in 2017. Hopefully more music from the pair will be forthcoming.


Chris Masuak

Now Spain-based, Chris Masuak may longer be part of the Birdman fold but he still making some great music. His last album, with his Spanish outfit The Viveiro Wave Riders was full of great Hitmen/Tribesmen style guitar driven pop rock, and there’s a new one on the way soon.

For more information and to purchase Descent Into The Maelstrom, check out the film’s official website.

Check out the trailer here...


MELBOURNE : Thur 27th September
The Croxton Bandroom

BRISBANE : Fri 28th September
The Triffid

ADELAIDE : Sun 30th September
The Gov

SYDNEY : Fri 5th October
The Manning Bar

SYDNEY : Sat 6th October -  SOLD OUT
The Manning Bar

More info & tickets, here. 

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