deniz tek - The I-94 Bar
Sonically speaking, there’s an awful lot going on here. It's like a bowl of musical ramen.
For those not in the know (that’d be most of us) Masami Kawaguchi is a underground legend in Japan, playing with a string of bands (Miminikoto, Haino Keiji's Aihiyo) and touring the USA and Europe numerous times. He sings, plays guitar and occasionally holds down the bottom end on bass.
There is an Australian connection: Tokyo-based Masami toured and recorded with Penny Ikinger and Deniz Tek in Japan a few years ago. He plays guitar in Penny's latest album. His solo record, the quirky and earthy "The Mad Guitar Sings”, came out in Australia a year or more ago, and he played some solo shows.
One definition of a convolution is “a twist”, and there are more of those in the history of Donovan’s Brain than Donald Trump’s Twitter stream.
Starting as a garage band in 1986 - playing Thunders and Stooges covers - the Brain has evolved into a shape-shifting, back woods psychedelic musical collective, with nine albums and 26 past or present members. “Convolutions” covers 1991-2017 and generously spans three discs. That’s 49 songs and a touch under four hours of music.
The only constant in the Donovan’s Brain story is Ron Sanchez, a musician, radio host, restauranteur and producer who relocated many years ago from the US West Coast to the bucolic and relatively remote location of Bozeman, Montana.
Dave Weyer circa 1969: Sought after Hollywood sound architect.
DATELINE 1999 - If you're a regular here at the I-94 Bar, chances are good that you have a more than passing interest in the music of Deniz Tek. Granted, the Radio Birdman mastermind's music has taken a markedly experimental turn over his last couple of albums -- one which hasn't found universal favor among fans of Birdman and his earlier solo work. But give the Iceman his due for hewing true to his uncompromising vision and never failing to make challenging, stimulating music.
Since the "Italian Tour" and "Bad Road" EPs and the "Le Bonne Route" album, a key element in the Deniz Tek sound has been one David Weyer, owner/operator of the studio in Laurel, Montana, which bears his name. As engineer and co-producer, Dave is the man who's helped realize Dr. Rock's prescriptions on tape and disc, and he has a fascinating story of his own to tell...
He's been a musician, inventor, a resident of L.A.'s Laurel Canyon during the frenetic '60s, amp technician to a host of guitar greats including Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix. Over a virtual beer or two, we talked about Dave's facinating past and his work with Deniz on projects past, present, and future.
Dave Weyer bellied up at the bar with me from his home in Laurel, Montana, on Sunday afternoon, October 3, 1999.
Making an instrumental album is a brave step for someone best known for doom-laden tunes about living eyes, muscle cars and human reinvention under piles of ice and snow, but Deniz Tek's departure from the well-worn path really works.
From the scuzzy serrated intro of "Eddie Would Go" with its air of "Human Fly" Cramps crossing swords with Davie Allan to the clean and lean retake on Radio Birdman's "Zeno Beach", "Lost For Words" makes a voice-less statement about simpler times.
Back in the '60s, a pre-teen Tek cut his musical teeth on these sorts of songs. Surf music (and its variants) was a radio staple around the world. Tek told Perfect Sound Forever in 2001:
"The first rock and roll song I learned to play on the guitar in entirety was 'Walk Don’t Run.' I was 12-years-old. And their version of the Hawaii Five-0 theme was a great inspiration to me in the summer of 1969, the year I started driving fast cars. When it came on the radio, the ‘68 Charger went much faster!"
It’s hard to imagine Deniz Tek fans being disappointed by his latest release. Radio Birdman fans, maybe not so much.
While Deniz’s last album, “Detroit”, was a brooding, introspective and dark reflection on urban and personal relationship decay, “Mean Old Twister” paints with a broader aural palette. Sax, harmonica and keys are woven into the sound at strategic points, to enhance Tek’s trademark guitar and guitar player’s vocal.
Radio Birdman boss Deniz Tek's latest solo album, "Mean Old Twister", will be released by Citadel Records on September 30.
Stand-out tracks are said to include the straight-ahead, high-powered guitar rockers "Burned Black" and "Prison Mouse", "Comanche", a shimmering surf instrumental, the Stonesy ballad "Table For One" and "Free At Last", an all-acoustic diversion from the electric guitar attack.
"Mean Old Twister" was recorded with the same band which appeared on the last Tek album "Detroit". Drummer Ric Parnell is best known for his work in Spinal Tap and Atomic Rooster. Bassist Bob Brown has been working with Deniz since the 1992 Australian tour supporting Deniz's first solo album "Take It To The Vertical".
Lending a keen ear to the process, Radio Birdman bandmate and famed producer Rob Younger stepped in to supervise the mix.
Here's part two of Art and Steve Godoy's mini-documentary of their last tour of Europe as part of the Deniz Tek Group. In case you missed it, part one is here.
Art and Steve Godoy in: 'Deniz Tek and The Golden Breed USA/European tour through OUR eyes'.
Penny Ikinger’s third solo album, “Tokyo”, is on the way in Australia with launch shows in Melbourne and Sydney.
“Tokyo” is an international collaboration with guitarist Deniz Tek from Radio Birdman and musicians from the Japanese psychedelic rock underground.
“Tokyo” was released on Kerosene Records in Japan when Penny Ikinger performed in the Japanese capital with local band The Silver Bells last month. The Silver Bells will also back her at the Australian Tokyo album launch at Melbourne Museum’s Nocturnal on Friday, September 7.
Penny Ikinger “Tokyo” album launch dates
Friday 7 September - Nocturnal at Melbourne Museum with The Silver Bells, Taipan Tiger Girls, The Pink Tiles & Adalita (DJ set)
Friday 22 September - The Union Hotel, Newtown, solo with The Maladies
Sunday, 23 September – The Golden Barley Hotel, Enmore (solo)
You thought Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un were breaking new ground in geopolitics? Deniz Tek and solo band are undertaking a quick-fire tour of China this week.
The seven-date tour includes a Shanghai screening of "Descent Into the Maelstrom". The shows are being organised with the assistance of Shanghai-based Round Eye, a band comprised of US expats who have previously played Chinese gigs with M.O.T.O. and Paul Collins Beat. .
It’s taken me a little while to get to this one, and I wish I’d got here sooner.
There’s 12 tracks, nine by guitarist Dylan Webster, three by other guitarist Jason Sharples. With your bass by Dave Lundquest, drums by Serge Ou (no, really, that’s what it says here) and vocals by Michael Preiss… we’re looking at a band capable, if we read the back of the CD right, of constructing and delivering the twin guitar assault.
My oath they do.
It's a long time between Penny Ikinger records but the results are usually worth the wait. "Tokyo" follows "Penelope" (2010) and "Electra" (2003) and is as evocative as ever but with a slightly rockier disposition.
"Tokyo" was recorded with a batch of top-notch Japanese psychedelic musicians, with heavy input from Radio Birdman's Deniz Tek. The latter's influence is evident - not just in some flammable splashes of lead guitar but also in the odd lyric. That Four Winds Bar sure has done some mileage since being name-dropped by Blue Oyster Cult all those years ago...
Even so, "Tokyo" is very much a Penny Ikinger record. Gone are the days where she needed to be referenced as "a past member of Wet Taxis" or as "Nico defrosted". As clever as that last marketing line was, Nico ultimately shut out the world. Penny embraces its musical possibilities and has her own distinctive voice.
After collaborations for singles with Petra Haden (“Blues Jumped The Rabbit”), Lisa Kakuala (“I Love My Tutu”) and Maia (“Sickkk”) in the last six months, ex-Iggy & the Stooges guitarist James Williamson is poised to release an acoustic EP with Radio Birdman’s Deniz Tek.
“Acoustic KO” is being released digitally and as a vinyl EP on March 31. The track listing is “I Need Somebody”, “Penetration”, “Night Theme” and “No Sense Of Crime” and you shouldn’t need to be told that the first two come from “Raw Power” and the others from the Williamson-Pop “Kill City” album. Tek provides vocals and guitar on three cuts and Williamson contributes guitar (naturally) but expect acoustic drums, guest singers and an orchestra in there too.
Many people have tried to make a Radio Birdman documentary. For a variety of reasons, only one has succeeded.
And it would have been so easy for Jonathan Sequeira to fuck it up.
Don’t worry. He hasn’t. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
“Descent Into The Maelstrom” was screened to a select audience of band members, followers, media and other hangers-on in Sydney last night. The venue was the Chauvel Cinema, deep inside – ironically enough – Paddington Town Hall, the scene of the definitive Radio Birdman line-up’s last Australian stand.