Descent into the Maelstrom
Sydney, Australia. 1974. A group of outsiders band together with a mission. In world of satin jumpsuits and screaming teens on Countdown, they form the high energy rock’n’roll band RADIO BIRDMAN, forever determined to keep compromise from their art.
Switched off, shut down and booted out of venue after venue they stay determined to do things their own way, and they slowly accumulate a cult-like following of youth, a ‘New Race’ of disaffected youth who rally around the band.
Descent into the Maelstrom is the true story of Radio Birdman, from their original formation to the present. Like the band itself, it’s an independent production, made from outside the industry. It shows what the band meant to the fans, and how they changed Australia, by inspiring a golden age of indie music from Cold Chisel to Midnight Oil.
Descent into the Maelstrom features interviews with all surviving members of the band and doesn’t shy away from the internal conflict which sometimes fuelled the band’s performances. It’s already been called the greatest Australian music documentary ever made and is crammed full of Radio Birdman music and rare archival footage and photos, some not seen for over 40 years!
CAST INCLUDES: Deniz Tek, Warwick Gilbert, Rob Younger, Chris Masuak, Pip Hoyle, Ron Keeley, Jules Normington, Alley Brereton, Johnny Kannis, Julienne Mostyn Gilbert, Mark Sisto, Anthony O’Grady
Radio Birdman was conceived by Deniz Tek and Rob Younger in mid-1974 in Sydney. With Ron Keeley, drummer; Pip Hoyle, keyboardist and Carl Rorke, bassist; they envisioned a band which would break rules and have no regard for the status quo of the rock business at that time. The band would play hard and with maximum effort from the members at all times, almost as though their lives were at stake. It was to be an art form created from a rock and roll song foundation, lit by passion. The performances were designed with no strict format or structure, and could go in any direction at any time. This would include forays into improvised visual as well as sonic realms. At any moment theatre or dance, even poetry reading, could occur. No two performances were the same. Each performance could have been the last.
The establishment reacted predictably. There were many doors slammed shut, engagements cancelled after the first song, often with the threat of actual physical violence and destruction as club bouncers were let loose on the band itself. The band had to resort to putting on its own shows in small community halls and the like. Later, they found a pub upstairs in Taylor Square which allowed them to perform without restrictions. This was the Oxford Tavern. Later the band took over its management, renaming it the Oxford Funhouse, and made it available for other like-minded groups who followed.
Line-up changes inevitably occurred. Warwick Gilbert replaced Carl Rorke, and Chris Masuak replaced Pip Hoyle, who was later to return to the band.
An exclusive scene developed, at its center the couple of dozen friends and fans who had been there from the beginning.
Radio Birdman were a volatile mix. The chemistry of the members combined to form a whole that was much more intense than the sum of the parts. In effect, a new force was created, whose energy seemed to empower some of the members but corrode others.
As hot as the band glowed, it was inevitable that it would relentlessly burn out its components. Given the human frailties of the individuals involved, it is a wonder that the first incarnation lasted as long as it did, finally giving up in June of 1978.
Radio Birdman reformed in January of 1996 with all original 1978 members, and completed four national tours of Australia. Both critics and fans old and new feel that they more than lived up to the legend. They recorded a live album, "Ritualism", on the first of these tours. Initially it was only available by mail order on their own Crying Sun Records label, another low budget but high quality DIY project which is perfectly consistent with their earlier work both sonically and philosophically.
Following the departure, sequentially, of Warwick Gilbert (replaced by bassist Jim Dickson) and Ron Keeley (replaced transiently by Nik Rieth and enduringly by Russell Hopkinson), the band embarked on multiple successful European and North American tours, while continuing to play regularly in their home country.
In November 2014, the band was reassembled to promote the release of the Box Set, and played successful shows across Australia. The 2014 lineup continues to this day, and features Nik Rieth on drums and Dave Kettley on guitar (replacing long time member Chris Masuak), along with Jim Dickson (bass) and original founding members Rob Younger, Pip Hoyle, and Deniz Tek. Radio Birdman remains active as of this writing, with an Australian Tour with Died Pretty in June 2017 coming up.