THREE FACES OF MARK SISTO
"The earliest pic is the one with long hair in a Michigan
shirt. That's what
"The one in the Indian shirt, maybe a year later, say
early '76, taken in a
"The one with short hair ... I've always loved this shot, it's so timeless. Could be a refugee in the 40s ... Anyway, that would be late '76 or '77 when he was in flight school at Cessnock. I was living with Rob, and when Mark had a weekend off he would come to Sydney sometimes with other pilots, and crash at our house. Always a party in those days...there would be a knock on the door, open it cautiously and Mark would EXPLODE into the room screaming, and tackle me. Hard core."
CR: What was the story from Radio Birdman
days about the shave coat you used to wear and the staff you used
to carry around the wild streets of Darlinghurst? (You'd be a
brave man these days!) Likewise, the shark's fin shirt you wore
for a Visitors show?
MS: The walking staff would still be handy. I had this long bathrobe, which was referred to as "The Robe". Being in a foreign country, I felt this freedom in (temporarily) re-defining myself every so often for experimental purposes. One role was "The Null", who had just been born or arrived from another time. I would meditate, clear my mind, then take my walking staff (this wasn't for appearances; the state I was in meant it was a security device a weapon just in case) and walk outdoors and look at the whole scene with absolutely no preconceived picture in the way of my perception.
This worked really well just ONCE. It was a bemusing sight: birds and trees were delightful, humanity almost made me weep. Out of pity, that is.
The Shark fin was another experiment.
I had no idea if it would do anything. I found this whole business
a great opportunity for "harmless human experiments."
Deniz and I shared this enthusiasm. Rob, on the other hand, was
a pure rock 'n' roll guy. I mean this to his credit. He knows
a vast amount about rock 'n' roll. He liked the "human experiments"
aspect but wasn't an enthusiast. In those days we had a childlike
wonder for all sorts of mysterious shit (as if I've grown up much!)
But you know, things did happen! The bands did well. People were attracted to the (Birdman) symbol. That was one of the first things that impressed me with Deniz (this was before I heard the band, which was rather raw then, but had plenty of the right spirit.) THE SYMBOL! I saw that and said to myself: "Yeah!! Now THAT will fuck with people's heads! Brilliant! I like this guy. Shit, with a symbol like that many things are possible. Like departing from Western Civilisation, the whole nine yards." He had some neat books, too, like Etidorhpa.
[ED: Pharmaceutical chemist Dr John Uri Lloyd's first novel was an occult story which he originally published only for his friends. Etidorhpa ("Aphrodite" spelled backwards) describes the adventures of a man (called "I-Am-The-Man") who must pursue knowledge for both humanity and a secret society as punishment for trying to reveal the society's secrets. The man's adventures occur in a great network of caves beginning under Kentucky where he meets a variety of supernatural creatures and gains much metaphysical knowledge. To read more, go here.]
MS: Which reminds me of another story. When I first met Deniz, I saw him walking down these stairs of his house. He had this intense focus, just for the act of walking down stairs. "What's this guy on about? It seems like something important." Years after that, the subject somehow came up. He explained how, the previous night, he fell off the stairs. There were some loose boards and he was drunk and he almost cracked his head on the table below. This was funny to me, because of that impression of purposeful focus. I was intent on picking his brain, which actually led to some interesting things.
What was the question?
Oh yes, the shark fin. And one time (in the Visitors) I had a complete flat
black body paint, too. These things worked, I think, people were more receptive
to the music because of the employment of these...devices.
I believe symbols have objective meaning, some stronger than others. I don't know what "shark fin" ultimately meant, but it was the best way to find out.
Recently, I've done some research into mind control. This is in response to these sensational shootings in American schools. I suspect foul play (that is, upon the heads of these perpetrators) because similar events in Australia and Britain resulted in major political action (disarming the public). I'm suspicious of the Tasmanian incident, because of Dr Bailey and his "deep sleep therapy" - putting people in comas, opening skulls VERY WEIRD shit. There was similar "work" done by a Dr Ewen Cameron in Canada . This is the most horrific stuff and Dr Bailey died in a suspicious suicide in 1985 or '86 (yeah, I'll get to the point real soon.)
Well, in my research into mind control,
I came across some interesting stuff. There is intensive mind
control (Manchurian Candidate) and then there is the extensive
low level (drink Coke) type. Some of these little tricks used
by advertisers were employed in the Birdman thing, not by scientific
method, but by instinctively found methods that are NOT entirely
Basically ,in much of media mesmerism one simple technique is raising the pulse rate. This is usually done through anxiety, frustration, sex and violence. This isn't nice; implied violence was used in lyrics, and sometimes unspoken postures and "tones". And it worked.
But this is so tame compared to what kids
have to listen to these days. So much "music" these
days is heartless nihilism. I hate it.
For the greater part, the whole thing was about having fun, being cooler than the other guys. Your basic 20- something-old male motives. Not purely good or evil. It wasn't so exalted and I don't think it merits hushed toned reverence. I still like its style. It was better than most. I'm glad I was there.
CR: I note your comments about crowd control and experiments. The story of trying out the shark fin makes me think that the theatrical side the Lipstick Killers had must have been part of the appeal for you. [Vocalist] Peter Tillman had a lot of style.
MS: Sho'nuff yeah
CR: Your comment about empty nihilism in a lot of the stuff kids listen to probably is valid. What sort of stuff do you listen to? Do you go back to old stuff or do you listen to anything contemporary?
MS: Once in awhile I find something new I like, but you have to sort through so much shit to find it,I am pretty much old school. I heard a few good things here on Detroit radio, didn't catch the names. 90's music? I like The Cranberries. I saw The Dictators last weekend. It was so great! Rock 'n' roll can be really good for people. As great as The Dictators were, Birdman's version of California Sun was better...
Yeah , the Dictators,compared to modern death "music", it's a worry,. There is no joy in it.
CR: So what was the story with yourself and Kannis filling in for Rob at the Death of the Visitors gig?
MS: By this time Chris and Warwick of the Hitmen were talking again with Deniz. Talk was talked about a Birdman gig. Rob was against it. .Have you ever seen that Marx Brothers movie - I don't know which one - but Groucho is in the role of some kind of politician and does this song: "Whatever it is, I'm against it".
The others basically said: "We're
not going to beg him. Fuck it, let's do it anyway!" I'm glad
Rob didn't because I enjoyed it capitally, and so did the audience.
Rob did show up, so he could be seen walking out.
Don't get me wrong, I like Rob, I liked what he did. He just gets so fussy, and full of steam, I like to deflate it sometimes (WAIT ! this is terribly old stuff!) The Comrades of War show was probably seen by many who never got to see Birdman, the enthusiasm on the crowd's part was full tilt. The roars were huge, the encore demand was most extreme.
did you do with yourself immediately after the Visitors?
MS : Went to Detroit, signed up for US Army flight school. It took about 10 months of processing and waiting. I felt I needed to level my karma for being an active "peace" person during the Vietnam War. The leftists who led the whole "peace" thing were deafeningly silent on the holocaust in Cambodia. They were an accessory to the Khmer Rouge victory.
CR: Do you still fly commercially, or just for fun?
MS: It's been many years. It only bothers me when I'm close enough to one of those things to smell them, that turbine smell...
CR: Did your military service take you anywhere interesting?
MS: Lower Alabama in 1980. Now, there was some interesting music - old rockabilly guys who were doin' the same thing since the 50's. (But) I didn't get off post that much. Flight school was intense as heck, only a third of us got through it. The depiction in "An officer and a Gentleman" was accurate in regard to the character of the drill sergeant (and the crazy inspections). Also, Full Metal Jacket, minus the violence.
I was in Germany from '81 to '83 inclusive. Great beer. I was a scout in an attack helicopter company. It was a tense time - the transition from Carter to Reagan and the last years of Brezhnev. The tide was just starting to turn from Soviet superiority to our big build-up. The big question on all military men's mind was: "Are the Commies just going to stand there as we over take them? Are they going to let pass the opportunity to get some dividends from their trillion dollar investment?" They (the USSR) were making lots of not so veiled threats and the Europeans were on the verge of caving in.
CR: What did you fly?
MS: I flew OH-58's. They're like a Bell 206 (a small four seater.) I found it all enriching, however I would NOT recommend military service to young people THESE days.
CR: The Visitors material is really strong. Do you have a favourite song?
MS: Four tied for first: Sad TV, [Journey by] Sledge, Disperse and Life Spill.
CR: What do you prefer, the sound on the original Visitors EP [pictured left] with the up-front backing choruses or Deniz's re-mixes with Pip more prominent [pictured below right] ?
MS: It's been so long since I heard the old EP; I remember some gains, and some losses, with the remix. Some losses were unavoidable. The EP was on a fat tape 24-track. That was unaffordable for the repress.
CR: What was the deal with Manifestations, the band you worked in with Warwick Gilbert and, briefly, Pip Hoyle in Sydney in the mid-90s? What made you break up?
MS: We had one gig where we basically cleaned out the room. Warwick went into one of his depressive episodes where he said: "All the spirit has gone out of me." An obvious case of weak spirit. Soon after, he decided I was too inferior a singer for him to work with - this was after some time of practices, gigs and recordings, He quit the Manifestations once before that as well.
CR: I only caught you once but there seemed to be a few originals in the set, so had you been writing prolifically or were they group efforts?
MS: Warwick wrote music, I wrote lyrics. We had about 12 originals.
CR: So what's bringing you back to Australia in December?
MS: A 747 (ha! ha!). Motivation? To be near my son.
CR: Any prospects of working with Deniz and are you guys in touch often?
MS: There's a large amount of miles between Detroit or Sydney and Montana. Yes, we are in touch.
CR: Did you see the Rendezvous Band
show at Gutterfest? What did you think?
MS: Yes! It was really good. What I think is that in a place like LA, Sydney or London, where people are very concerned about their degree of hipness, there would be criticism of treading into "sacred" territory. Detroit is, of all places I know, the least concerned with image maintenance. People enjoyed it 'cause it was great rock n roll.
CR: Mark, can I ask, what do you do for a job these days?
MS: I've worked construction more than anything else since I've been here, concrete, drove a cab, security... survival.
CR: Lastly, since we're in a bar what do you drink?
MS: I'm not a BIG drinker actually, My fave bottled or canned beer is Tooheys Red. Fave beer on tap in Australia is the brews at the Lord Nelson Hotel in The Rocks in Sydney. I like red wine too.