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.
4 Radio Birdman, The Stems, Los Chicos - The Croxton Band Room, Melbourne What a line up of talent! The Stems’ sound was amazing, Best bit of the night thoughg was meeting legendary X singer Steve Lucas (pictured at right - hatless) and his lovely wife Joey.
5 The Johnnys – Memo, St Kilda. The Johnnys are still the Cow Punk Kings of The World,
GERRY RANSON Vive Le Rock magazine writer and Mule Freedom PR publicist London, UK
TOP TEN TRACKS FROM 2020
Like going deaf or blind, a lack of gigs seems to have sharpened my other music-loving senses, so I’ve been digging more sounds than ever this year. This is just the tip of a very big, and very loud, iceberg. Working as a PR, I’ve taken the flaming liberty of including some of my own wares in here – can you spot ‘em? But I make no excuses: I’m incredibly lucky and privileged to get to work with people whose stuff I love. I hope after reading this, you’ll love it too. - Gerry x
PS - The Celibate Rifles' "Extract From The Fungus" would’ve been No.1 if I’d heard it yet.
10.) James Williamson & Deniz Tek – "Jet Pack Nightmare" They may be getting on – ain’t we all? – but Ann Arbor’s finest can still cut the Stories For Boys action rock! A venomous boogie riff to kick off "Two To One", the album that was bound to happen one day.
9.) Blue Öyster Cult – "The Alchemist" It’s taken them nine years to come up with a new studio album and when they do, it’s recorded in lockdown conditions. And it’s still the best thing the boys from Stony Brook have done in donkeys’ years. Fourteen newly minted and totally Cultish songs, "The Symbol Remains" is conspicuously low on epics, but this six-minuter – with its "Flaming Telepaths" dink-dink-dink – hits the spot.
Adjust your expectations. This is not a collection of Celibate Rifles-styled pyrotechnics -although some (notably, “Lockdown Shuffle” and the title track) could have worked for them.
Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that Kent Steedman has never been just about flamethrower rock. His work outside the Rifles has spanned the oblique, avant noise of Crent, the proto-boogie blues of Jim Moginie and the Family Dog, sonic adventurism with the Deniz Tek Group and live shows using Tibetan singing bowls.
The American college town of Ann Arbor - A2 to the locals - has a lot to answer for. This re-issue of a long out-of-print live recording of some of its famous sons makes it apparent.
Originally released on CD only by Philadelphia's Real O-Mind Records in 2002, it's on vinyl as well as shiny silver disc this time around, and marks the return of David Laing's Grown Up Wrong label.
Everything about this show smokes. Powertane were the vehicle for A2 legend Scott Morgan, a soul prodigy (The Rationals) who made up a quarter of one of the greatest guitar rock and roll bands to ever go MIA in the mists of musical legend status, Sonics Rendezvous Band.
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.
He’s taken it to the vertical, he's gotten all mean and twisted and more recently he’s been lost for words. “Fast Freight” strips things right back to the bone.
The cover doesn’t lie: It is indeed the good Doctor teamed with tattooists and former pro skateboarders Art (bass) and Steve Godoy (drums). It’s The Band Formerly Known as The Golden Breed. Nobody else. No frills, a few spills. Ten songs recorded over two days.
There was a track called “2Chloride Pam” that surfaced on a Japanese compilation many years ago, taken from a Deniz Tek and Godoy twins show. It exploded like a grenade. For all its spontaneity, “Fast Freight” doesn’t have that same recklessness. Which isn’t to say there’s not plenty here to please the fans, plus some variety.
Noise for Heroes Complete 1980-83 Vol 1 Noise for Heroes Complete 1988-91 Vol 2 Noise for Heroes Complete 1991-2004 Vol 3 Edited by Steve H. Gardner
Imagine a decade like the 1980s without zines. For the uninitiated (because they weren’t born then) zines were self-produced magazines, often photocopied and sometimes hand-drawn, focused on subjects that the authors were passionate about. More often than not, the topic was music.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of zines in a pre-Internet world. Along with college radio, theypowered the American underground music circuit. In Australia, they connected underground bands, and fans across a country of disparate cities and gave insights into scenes overseas in a way mainstream music papers could never reflect. In Europe, they were oxygen for a culture considered low brow that fought to find an audience.
Zines were lapped up by people into punk, high-energy and left-of-centre music that didn’t manage to gain exposure elsewhere. They were the epitome of DIY culture, making the passion of others tangible. You’re “consuming” the digital equivalent of one right now.
One of the best was “Noise for Heroes” from San Diego, USA. The very lanky Steve Gardner kicked it off with some like-minded friends in 1980. It initially had a focus on punk rock. In its second life, it moved onto the Aussie and Scandinavian underground scenes with Gardner its writer rather than editor. Steve drummed in bands, ran his own record label, NKVD, and had a mail order music business.
Frank Meyer flanked by Cheetahs bandmates (from left) Bruce Duff, MIke Sessa and Dino Evertett on bass. AP Murray photo.
In these COVID-fraught times, asking Frank Meyer what he puts on his curriculum vitae is a valid question. The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs vocalist-guitarist doesn’t skip a beat, down the line on Zoom from his home in Long Beach, California.
“Right now, I mean, I'm basically freelance film producing and directing. You know, my last full time job was at Fender as directing and producing their digital content. But at the beginning of COVID, they laid off a lot of my team, including myself. And then showbiz kind of shut down.
“But now I've essentially just been doing music and freelance editing and online production, and a lot of session work, singing and playing, recording and producing. In the last few months, digital production has picked up and I've been getting a bunch of field production gigs. And I've got some book deals happening. So things are looking good right now.”
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.
In the early 1990s John Foy found himself in the eye of the storm enveloping the music industry.
Foy’s independent record label, Red Eye, had done a deal with Polydor, the Australian arm of multinational company Phonogram. A sold-out at show at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion in 1991, headlined by Ratcat and featuring English band Rideand Red Eye bands The Clouds and Falling Joys, had awakened major labels to the commercial potential of the independent music scene. Other Red Eye bands like The Cruel Sea would surf the independent wave into the late 1990s, even after Foy withdrew from industry machinations.
Thirty years later, Foy looks back on those heady days with fondness. But even as he trawled through his archive of posters, ticket stubs and memories for his “Snaps Crack Pop!” visual collection cum autobiography, he’s not dwelling on what he should have done back in the day. Foy has always lived in the moment, for better and for worse.
Sound of Sydney Volume 4 - Various Artists (Method Records and Music)
What is “the sound of Sydney”? It’s a rhetorical question, if not an outright non sequitur.
If you asked 20 different people, you’d get as many different answers. Someone young might say it’s Triple J - which would be laughable but it’s, you know, it is somebody’s reality. You can fight media fragmentation but it’s like yelling at a cloud. Boomer.
“Sound of Sydney” was a series of compilation albums- appearing in 1983, ’84 and ’86 - and the work of Method Records’ Fabian Byrne, of mod-pop band Fast Cars. They were fine records - and very diverse and that in itself was reflective of what was going on in the underground.
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.
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)
This could be the best news fans of raw and real rock and roll will hear this year: Esteemed Australian label Grown Up Wrong - th forerunner of Dogmeat Records - is back in business. Owner David Laing is kicking off with a bang with two killer releases to get the ball rolling (again.)
First is a fantastic collection of primarily live recordings from the original Perth-based line-ups of The Scientists - back when James Baker of Victims/Hoodoo Gurus was still drumming for them. "Not For Sale: LIve 1978/79" is an archival set of recordings from the band's ragged powerpop days when they sounded like a collision between the Flamin' Groovies and The New York Dolls.
The second release is a reissue – with extra tracks, and for the first time on vinyl – of a rare 2002 live album called “Ann Arbor Revival Meeting” by Scott Morgan's Powertrane with Deniz Tek and Ron Asheton.
“Sound of Sydney Volume 4” reprises the compilation series the label issued in the 1980s and so far includes tracks from Ups and Downs, Deniz Tek, the Hard-Ons, Happy Hate Me Nots, Even As We Speak and Fast Cars.
“The purpose of this crowdfunding is essentially a pre-sale for the latest volume of the Sound of Sydney,” says label owner Fabian Byrne, also part of Fast Cars.
“We want to press on vinyl as well as CD and print a really cool T-Shirt based on the album design which will feature one of legendary artist Peter O’Doherty’s brilliant paintings of Sydney."