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Birdman cometh

By Barry Divola - The Sydney Morning Herald - January 12, 1996


It was a somewhat surreal moment, to say the least. Just after Tina Arena had punched the air and yelled "whoo!" on her final trek to the podium to accept yet another ARIA statuette last year, three teenagers took to the stage, accompanied by a tall, skinny chap on guitar, and hurled themselves into a maelstrom of noise.
"There's gonna be a new race, kids are gonna start it up!" roared the littleblond chap on stage left. Silverchair, plus the windmilling Tim Rogers from You Am I, were paying a very loud homage to New Race, a song that Radio Birdman recorded before any Silverchair members were born.

"I love the idea of it, because it was supposed to be a teen sort of song when it was written," says Deniz Tek, Radio Birdman's founding guitarist. "At the time it was completely misinterpreted and met with scorn, but now there are teenagers playing it. And successful ones, at that. That's just wonderful to me. It's like a circle."

Tek now practises emergency medicine in Montana, USA. The Sydney band he helped form is still spoken of in hushed tones by many thirtysomethings who idolised The Stooges and The MC5, and were thirsting for sounds from the underground rather than what was being shown on Countdown. Birdman has now re-formed, after 16 years, are playing in Sydney this weekend, are a star attraction at The Big Day Out, and their recordings have been re-released.

Yet, honestly, hasn't the mythology surrounding Birdman been blown out of proportion? "Oh, yeah, of course," Tek agrees. "It's completely out of touch with reality. In the long run it's just a band, although I think we helped build that bridge between the post-hippie days and the explosion of bands in the late '70s. But the band itself could be great or terrible depending on the night."

By 1979 it was all over, and Tek describes the various post Birdman projects (The Visitors, The Other Side, The Hitmen) as "wandering around a crash site trying to pick up pieces that you think might be useful". He ended up quitting music altogether, moving to the US, learning to fly jet planes, and putting his medical degree to use. Now he plays with his own band, but a question remains about the Radio Birdman revival. Why now?

"Why not?" Tek replies. "I think it'll be fun. It couldn't have happened before. There was still bad blood between members. If we wait much longer it would be impossible again. I think we'll play pretty well, and we'll be Radio Birdman, not a bunch of guys trying to sound like Radio Birdman."

Radio Birdman play at Waves in Wollongong tonight (Friday) and Selinas on Saturday and at the Big Day Out on January 25.

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