Posted October 13, 2006
Radio Birdman's marathon Zeno Beach World Tour has wound up and the platitudes are still rolling in. After a slow start to the Australian leg, the band kicked into high gear and stayed there for its first-ever run of shows in the USA and a series of shows on European shores. There wer some amazing scenes. The US dates were like magnets for rabid fans from all over North America, with longtime followers bussing and flying their way into the major stop-overs after years of only dreaming of seeing the band in the flesh. It's been three years since the band last hit European shores in a major way, and the fact they were doing it with a new album under their wing made it all the more special for the locals. En route back to the US for another intensive burst of work as an E.R. ward medico-for-hire, Radio Birdman guitarist and principal songwriter DENIZ TEK put his feet up at the Paris home of the convival ERIC HOLY CURSE, vocalist for French band Holy Curse. Deniz spoke to Eric on October 8, 2006. Live photos from the Paris shows are by SUE RYNSKI and the happy snap of Eric and Deniz toasting each other's health is by VERONIQUE.
E : Deniz, welcome to the French chapter of the I-94 Bar. The Zeno Beach tour ended last night in Spain. How did you and the guys feel like after 44 shows over three continents ?
D : Was that 44 only ? Seems like about 144. But it felt good, it felt really good. We ended on a high note. The standard of the shows throughout the tour was pretty high. We had a couple of not so great shows but generally the shows were excellent. We wanted to finish really well and last night it was just a smoking show, the tempos were really hot, the playing was good, the sound was good and we were very happy to end this way.
E : Last time you spend so much time together on the road was in 1978 in the so called “Van of Hate”.
D : Yeah we broke up that time and we didn’t get together for 15 years. But this time, we’ll probably get about three months off and then we’ll be back together again. All of the problems that existed then don’t exist now.
E : So does it mean that you got some time to write new material during the tour ?
D : When I started the tour I fully intended to write some songs, write my book, do all the stuff on the tour and as it turned out, there was no time for anything. It’s hard to imagine being on tour. All you have to do is get to the next place, do a soundcheck, eat something, go the show, do the show, back to the hotel. So the whole day is spend getting there and you work for a short time.
But for some reason, all that time disappears, and particularly writing in a van, or writing in an airplane, it’s very difficult to do any work. You cant get your guitar or keyboard out and play or come out with a melody. I did a little bit of writing on my laptop but the battery only last for about an hour. All these little things happen and make it impossible.
So, I’ve got some ideas for some songs, in my head but I haven’t written anything on the tour. I’ll start writing now.
E : So getting there is not half the fun?
D : It is a lot of fun but it’s not appropriate to expect to get a lot of extra work done when you’re on a tour like this. There was two times when we played a double, two nights in the same place, and that was Paris and Madrid. All the other shows were in different cities and we’d be travelling each day. We ended up with one run of 11 shows on the row. No time to do anything - but great fun.
E : You mentioned what happened 28 years ago. But you are now ready to play and record together again?
D : Yes. We ended up together with solidarity and no significant interpersonal problems. The band is probably at its peak and we’re ready to move to the next level.
E : What about your respective solo careers ?
D : Well, Rob was able to fit a New Christs European tour in between the end of the recording and the start of this tour. So there’s no reason that he can't do that again. I know that Chris is going to continue with Klondike's North 40. Pip does his music. Rusty will be doing a You Am I tour of Europe that starts right away.
As far as I’m concerned, I would really personally like to focus on Radio Birdman right now. So any idea of the Deniz Tek solo group is on hold right now. I might bring it back in the future if my work with Radio Birdman is less but for now I’m just gonna focus on Radio Birdman.
I may do some shows with Scott Morgan. I did an album recently with Art and Steve Godoy called “Last of The Bad Men” and we may do some shows, but only if it fits within the Birdman schedule.
E : I think the shows I attended in Paris were very different from the ones I saw three years ago. It really felt like the band was back on the track, not like doing covers of your own songs, but playing new songs and playing old songs as if they were new. Also the fun you had on stage, harmony as you call it, was obvious and communicating.
D : Everybody’s pretty happy with the way the band is working together at the moment and I think the reason behind this is the solidness of the rhythm section. We have a very solid foundation between Rusty, Jim and either Chris or me whoever is playing rhythm guitar, usually me. This triangle makes the music take off. When you can rely on solid rhythm, people are free to improvise. It can take things out on the edge, come back. They know there’s some place to come back to.
The dynamics of the music is such that we all feel comfortable and happy. We don’t have to follow a formula. We can play the old songs different, the new songs are still evolving, so there’s always something new to look forward to. Anything can happen, we might take a song to a new place it never went before.
Also the reaction we’re getting from the crowd is making us happy, making us play better, and we’re generating that feedback that the audience is giving us, we give it back, they give it more, there’s joy coming out of the audience. In previous tours, there’s been anger, on stage, and sometimes in the audience, and sometimes violence.
Here, this tour, pretty positive vibes. Things switched to a positive position.
E : Can you think of any shows that really stood out and some that were not as good as you would have expected?
D : We were a bit disappointed with the Sydney shows. It was probably the band that didn’t play as well for one reason or another, or we didn’t get it back from the crowd the right way . At the Metro, the BellRays were incredible and they probably ate our lunch that day, I mean they were really that great, and we didn’t quite achieve the standard that we wanted to, whereas in Melbourne, that was the last show we did with the BellRays in Australia, it was fantastic and the band really seemed to jump up to a new level and after that show we stayed at that higher level.
San Francisco was a great show, Seattle for me was not so great. The club had a difficult sound and when you cant hear yourself, when you cant hear the other guys in the band, the interaction goes away and when we can really hear each other on stage is when we play the best. It was kind of a strange club.
Chicago was great, Detroit was really amazing with Easy Action, the Dirtbombs, Mudhoney, all on the same bill and it wasn’t like we were at the top of the bill, it was like all these bands together playing a rock concert, in the old style. At the Grande Ballroom or places like that they used to have three or four bands on the bill, and there wasn’t any band higher than the other bands, it was just a great rock concert for everybody. That’s what it was like in Detroit. (Jokingly:) The dressing room was absolutely miserable...
Cleveland was great. New York City, the Irving Plaza, great show. Al Bouchard from the Blue Oyster Cult came to the show. He came in the dressing room and talked to us. We’re huge fans and he wrote songs that we covered, Transmaniacon M.C., Dominance and Submission. So we were like “Al came to our show, so fantastic”. It was big inspiration for us to see him.
Philadelphia was one of the bad ones, terrible sound, no monitors, it was in a church and it was not set up for a rock concert. Good and happy crowd but not such a great gig.
London was great.
Athens was so hot, the place was like a pit, like playing in a miniature coliseum. The lights were intense and it was a very hot day too. It was so hot that my guitar only lasted half the set. It got so wet, and as there’s some paint missing from my guitar, the moisture can get inside the wood. I had to play a spare guitar, the amps started to go down, miserable gig from equipment failure but great from the stage because you have to play harder to overcome that. If the amps don’t work and the guitars don’t work, you get down on your knees on stage and beat the stage with your fists and scream and somehow you make the gig work. It was like that in Athens.
Berlin was like that too, hottest gig I’ve ever played. It was so hot that I lost my vision, I couldn’t see anything, I couldn’t sing harmonies and no breath. I almost passed out, got into a coma, man it was so hot. Again equipment problems, amp failure. I had to buy a new amp in London because amps were blowing up. It’s a 100 Watt Hiwatt head and it worked great for the rest of the tour, very reliable.
Tilburg, Netherlands, was a terrible gig. It was a festival of heavy metal bands and we got up to play at this huge indoor festival gig. No soundcheck, there was like 50 people and there was no interaction with the audience. We played our set but that gig was probably a black hole in the tour.
Everything since that gig has been good : Paris’ gigs which you went to, we rate those very highly. They were both great nights. Some people say the 2nd night was better, some people say the 1st night was better, we don’t know, we had a good time both nights, it was great.
A couple of great gigs in Italy. Then we finished up in Spain, great shows in Madrid. It was like the Paris shows, two nights in the row at the same club.
E : How come you had to cancel a show in Scandinavia ?
D : Apparently this is a new law in Sweden. We had our airline tickets, everything was ready to go and then the Swedish contact for the show said that they had new noise regulations with 100 Db limit. You have to leave a 5000 Euros deposit and if you exceed 105 Db, we shut down and we keep the money. Our sound is about 115 Db, so we said we’re sorry but under those conditions we cant do it because we cant afford to lose 5000 Euros.
I saw some guys from Norway at the Madrid show and they asked me why we didn’t play in Scandinavia. So I said to them, well we played in Finland and they said, well that’s not Scandinavia, it’s out in the boondocks. The Helsinki gig was actually very good.
We told them about the noise regulations and how surprised there were so many great rock bands in Sweden and that they cant play there. They must play somewhere else, like Finland, but it’s not Scandinavia, it’s the “boondocks”..
E : If you could go backwards, now that you’ve played the Zeno Beach album live for the last couple of months, would you change anything in the recording ?
D : Chris Masuak says to me after every gig, I wish we would record the album now because I know how to play these songs. And my comment is, well we rehearsed these things for up to three years and that’s just the point in time that we decided to record. Of course we would make a different album now but would it be better ? Not necessarily. Just different. That was the approach we had at that precise moment, we did the best that we could and if we rerecorded the album today, next time we would want to do it different again.
And the other thing is if we didn’t record the album then, we wouldn’t be here doing this tour now. So, it is what it is, I’m happy with it, I wouldn’t change anything on it except for me the mix of the 1st song which I’m not happy with.
E : Thanks Deniz and now the usual question to end the interview. Since you’re in a bar, but also in France, what will you drink ?
D : Devaux champagne, thanks.
SURF ON DOWN TO ZENO BEACH
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