Radio Birdman: Warehouse, Falkirk- live review
Written by Gus Ironside1 July, 2016
June 25th 2016
Supported by The Fuckin’ Godoys
No, you haven’t stumbled onto The Daily Mash satire site. You read that headline correctly- legendary Sydney proto-punk group Radio Birdman just played a concert in rarely-celebrated Falkirk, the Scottish town located in the no-man’s land between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
To be honest, even those of us who were there are still pinching ourselves, and wondering if the gig really did happen, or perhaps was some kind of fever-dream hallucination brought on by the calamitous referendum result announced the preceding day.
Radio Birdman have always had terrible/brilliant timing. They formed in Sydney around 1974, exactly the wrong time to be essaying a new brand of Detroit-influenced high energy rock & roll, yet precisely the right time to kick-start Australia’s punk scene, along with Brisbane’s finest, The Saints.
The aptly-named Warehouse is a utilitarian building that normally hosts club nights laden with cheap drinks promotions, perhaps explaining the strict 10.00pm curfew for this gig. As I arrived in the venue’s car park with two members of Glasgow’s veteran garage rock outfit The Primevals, we couldn’t help observing that it looked like the kind of place where Bobby Fuller met his untimely demise.
And yet…who was that skinny figure deep in earnest conversation by the back door of the venue? None other than Rob Younger, frontman not only of Radio Birdman, but also his own rigorously-drilled garage-rock warriors, The New Christs.
The show kicked off just after 7.30pm with the unforgettable support act, The Fuckin’ Godoys. Jack White may have indulged in playful myth-making with the brother-sister conceit of early White Stripes, but there was no mistaking the shared DNA of the Godoy twins, Art and Steve.
Very few audience members would have known about the Godoys’ long history of collaboration with Birdman guitarist Deniz Tek. When the twins opened their set with the Ramones-like ‘Let’s Go’ from the Glass Eye World album that they recorded with Tek under the band name The Golden Breed, most of the audience took an involuntary strep backwards, perhaps wondering if these ebullient maniacs with matching tops, trainers and sleeve tattoos were about to launch an inverse stage invasion.
With a history as pro-skaters and tattoo artists, the Godoys could never be described as shy and retiring, and their bellowed vocals were of the football terrace variety so beloved of Sham 69 and The Skids.
The Dunfermline group were name-checked by the Godoys, along with The Rezillos, the Edinburgh band who were scheduled to share a bill with Radio Birdman on their first, ill-fated trip to these isles, back in the 70s.
The Godoys’ idiosyncratic instrumentation- Steve’s energetic surf-punk drums driving Art’s chorused 12 string Di Pinto electric- is a departure from the blues-rock template of the current glut of guitar & drums duos, and there was no doubting that classic 70s Brit-Punk is their main inspiration.
‘Glass Eye World’ closed the twins’ high-energy set, which would surely go down a storm at the UK’s main punk festival, Rebellion.
Due to the strict 10.00pm curfew, Radio Birdman were on-stage at 8.30pm, opening with the atmospheric ‘Crying Sun’, the song’s Stonesy swagger driven by a hard-grooving rhythm section that characterises the band’s current line-up.
With The New Christs’ Dave Kettley taking up Chris Masuak’s former role as the foil to Deniz’s Ann Arbor-schooled guitar flurries, there was more of an emphasis on the tightly-locked backline. It occurred to me that if the Stooges could have been the American Stones, then perhaps Radio Birdman had the potential to fulfil a similar role in ‘Detroit South’.
‘Smith & Wesson Blues’ followed, Rob Younger moving with the lithe grace of Jagger while making the connection with Jim Morrison vocally. The frontman was in good humour, cheerily chastising the Falkirk crowd for not dancing (“I know there’s a ‘flu going around, but all the same…”) before the six-piece tipped into the molten chaos of ‘Descent Into the Maelstrom’, and the crowd erupted.
Kettley’s playing was confident and disciplined throughout, and the guitarist essayed a fine solo on the apposite ‘We’ve Come So Far’, a ‘Zeno Beach’ selection that grew wings in the live context. Keyboardist Pip Hoyle displayed his sublime piano skills on ‘Man with the Golden Helmet’, despite a less-than-perfect sound mix that provoked Tek to shoot metaphorical daggers at the road crew.
Bassist Jim Dickson is a veteran of the Australian underground, and tonight he pummelled his worn-in ’67 Fender Precision like his life depended on it, a towering presence on the right of the stage, locking in tight with Nik Rieth’s propulsive drumming.
As for Deniz Tek, the wiry Michigan-raised guitarist of Turkish descent was an intense presence throughout, serving up his trademark blend of Detroit rock, surf twang and Stones strut while looking impossibly youthful for a man with six decades on the clock.
We got all the classics- ‘What Gives’, ‘i-94’, ‘Do the Pop’, ‘Hand of Law’, ‘Aloha, Steve and Danno’, ‘More Fun’ and ‘New Race’, plus a surprise cover of Magazine’s ‘Shot by Both Sides’ that went down a storm with the enthusiastic audience. ‘Anglo Girl Desire’ and ‘Alone in the Endzone’ were also highlights, while ‘Hand of Law’ included a snippet of The Chantays’ ‘Pipeline’.
With typical perversity, Radio Birdman had arrived in Scotland in the most challenging of circumstances, playing an unglamorous venue in an unusual location, on a night when thunderstorms were forecast and public transport was non-existent due to a rail dispute.
And then there was the small matter of the country having been plunged into abject despair following a catastrophic referendum result which will almost certainly result in the break-up of the UK. It’s probably fair to say that the portents were not good.
Yet somehow, it all made sense. The Warehouse has put itself on the map by hosting such an influential act, and the plucky souls who made the effort to attend were rewarded with a barn-storming show that none of us will ever forget. The descent into the maelstrom may have just begun, but we emerged from the Warehouse with spirits raised, mercifully out of our minds on a Saturday night.
Main image by Gus Ironside. Hoyle/Kettley/Younger image and Deniz Tek image by Lindsay Hutton, used with kind permission.
All words by Gus Ironside, whose Louder Than War archive can be found here.
The Fuckin' Godoys interview
-So….why the name change?? what events or incidences brought you guys to this??…I mean, I have been following you guys since you were young skateboard stars in the mid 80s……
Steve- Stars??!! …ha ha ha ha…we were just a couple of kids who skated and were good at it…we didn't really get the success we deserved…we got notoriety FOR SURE because we changed a lot of things in skateboarding…the 80s were fun but the big bukake party (skate industry) was NOT in favor of pushing US and honestly had no idea how to market us…it was like a total struggle to get magazine coverage unless we were sponsored by the biggest companies who had deep pockets for advertising…but thats in the past…
What brought us to this? what do ya mean?…as far as the name 'The Fuckin' Godoys'?? For starters , it' who we are…like anywhere we show up people say 'the Fuckin' Godoys' are here, wether at a skatepark or a show…it's US…simple. We weeded out all the unnecessary extras and stripped it down to a two piece band because we know we can count on each other to do what is beneficial for the band…and we have all the ingredients to destroy just as well or better than any 3-4 piece band….we have so much experience in touring, recording and performance….this is it.
Art- stars…hahahaha, totally.. stars! there seems to be less restriction in a 2 piece band.
|GODOYS - ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE|
-Well that makes sense! Yea being in a band is not as easy as it would seem to people who don't play…
Steve-Thats a fact!!! With this 2 piece band we don't have any weird personality disorders to deal with…no egos, no drug/alcohol addicts , no dictators, no clowns with identity crisis…there is nothing or no-one that can hold us back . We have no tolerance for this type of stuff in any band situation…we have experienced it already since the early years re-igniting the Orange County punk scene with the Exploding Fuck Dolls which we formed in 1991-1992…too much drama.
We run our own label, we haul our own gear, we book our own shows, we do all our own merchandising…what else or whom else could we need?
-The thing I wanna know and I'm sure others will wanna know is how do you describe your sound…like if you could compare your music/attack to any bands out there…I know people wonder what kind of sound you have especially being that you are a 2 man band, …because the typical band has a singer a bassist and a drummer at the very least…when i personally hear that a band has only 2 people in it ,sounds like there could be something missing?! what should we all expect?!
Steve- the typical band today has all that AND a BEARD!!!…Well…we are NOT flimsy weak 2 man music like bands such as Black Keys who strangely enough have managed to slide in as "punk"!! lame ! but anyhow…we don't use any sampled music, beats, or triggers either…we get out there and play hard, real drums and cymbals, guitars and amps and microphones…You said it sounds like there could be something missing?? well the only thing missing to be labelled as "current" is a beard,!! you'll find no BEARDS here!!!!….. expect to be floored by the conjoined guitar and drum tones, the rough untrained siamese vocals , theres nothing fraternal about it!!!…(IDENTICAL TWIN JOKES LOL)
- OK…so let us back up a bit and get into some more detail about who you are,who the band is and whatever you think is pertinent to this interview…something meaty…not some lame ass questions like;"so how long have you guys been together, whats your favorite band, do you have future plans and stupidest of all-What do you wanna say to your fans?"…fucking retarded questions…How bout this, you feed me information and I'll report it!!
Steve- Thats better!!!….well, we are into punk rock, 77style punk…I mean, if someone asks me if I have had drum training or took lessons i would say YES! I learned how to drum from Topper Headon, Dolphin Taylor, a little from Paul Cook, Ron Keeley….haaaa….get it??? of course I have never sat in the same room with them in person, only on my stereo at home or in my car!!! Just listening to the bands they were in taught me fills, timing, rolls…and semi technical stuff…as for style, well that is all me…I could really care less about being criticized for not being technical or knowing drum terminology…I play how I play and its great!!
|GODOYS - FUCK DOLLS 1993|
Art- We both do. I'm not a soloist, I don't hear much influence in my playing from specific guitarists but one big influence that punk gives you is the ear for effective simple solos and hooks! As far as lifestyle… do the timeline, look at the styles when we were "current" in the skate scene. Look at who controlled the industry - the companies who were part of the Thrasher conglomerate - indy, spitfire, thunder, venture etc… the people under the tracker trucks roof - transworld skate boarding mag… and their advertisers… look at the all the contest finishers under the first 5 spots. there was a lot of talent but the problem was the politics. We stood out in that dayglo mess of 80's filth… and just because we were ourselves. Taking the music that embodied the rebellious nature of the skate lifestyle, and the aggressive characteristics of the competitive side of skateboarding and combining them… it was meant for us.
Steve- We aren't really a household name…nothing out front…but guaranteed if you are tattooed now and/or have been tattooed since 1990 you can bet it was Art and I who helped pave the way for that to happen! we were pro skateboarders and were interviewed for Thrasher Skateboard Magazine and were a household name- it came out in 1990 …back then , tattooing was an industry run by bikers who were NOT about to let anybody "in"…let alone skaters or punk rock youth!!…both of which described our life at the time…we were responsible for that change-marrying skateboarding with tattoos and tattooing…pretty much re-defined tattooing AND skateboarding…look around you..look at all the skaters professional or…they're all tattooed…the timeline fits, 'The Fuckin Godoys started it all.
Musically, we were inspired by 1977 punk , nothing hit as hard as the marching and first chord progression of Sex Pistols -'Holidays In the Sun!! we bought as many records as we could find and moved forward as the years went on… when it morphed into the Oi! movement…-skinheads and punks…street level rawness…the Cockney Rejects….Infa Riot, Chron Gen…that era.
Skateboarding , punk rock and tattoos go hand in hand…
-What else is descriptive of you…what other characteristics define you?
Steve- We are heavily tattooed identical twins…that's a big one right there!!! name another 2 man skate-punk band that are identical twins? that's a built-in selling point!….and the music we play, honestly, you wont believe its 2 people!!! We have punk history and are mixed in to a HEAVY timeline…
|STEVE DRUMMING FOR THE VIBRATORS - US TOUR 2007|
Art - Pure perseverance and dedication. We never wavered, never knew how! There were times where financially we were sinking! this made self esteem sink too… morale and hope too. We made it through. Now the toughest times are ones 'stagnancy'. It comes through in whatever we do. There is also a competitive motivator ingrained in us motivated by past needs to hustle and survive. Now it's about maintaining sanity! Sitting still for too long and getting comfortable is not in our program. We got sounds and inspiration from the Clash and Radio Birdman. The stealth streamlined speed of Radio Birdman's songs were perfect to skate to… the Clash too. Especially the Give em Enough Rope album!!! Tommy Gun, Guns on the Roof… Cheapskates. And for us, our dreams always come true. We have been playing with Deniz Tek founder of Radio Birdman for the last 20 years! His longest running rhythm section! A real dream come true… to be associated in the historical family tree of Radio Birdman, which dates back to the Stooges and the MC5 with all members playing together at some combination somewhere in time. And to have filled in for members of the Vibrators on 2 US tours!!! What an honour. One of our favourite bands also since we were 11 in 1977.
|GODOYS - WITH ROSS THE BOSS AND H.D. MANITOBA! NYC|
BACK STAGE WITH THE DICTATORS WHEN WE CO HEADLINED ON TOUR WITH DENIZ TEK.
Tell me about the "straight edge" thing..
Art - What… we don't drink, smoke or do drugs. Never have. We don't abstain for any reason other than that it never interested us. It was not an option. We have seen first hand how these things destroy. We don't' advocate nor do we preach against it. We don't' give a fuck. People make choices. Our choice NOW is to never play with junkies, drunks or anyone in "recovery" ever again. Too many short comings.
If someone chooses to take on these lifestyles, cool.. if they take it too far and die, too bad. Our stance is one of re defining visions of happiness. Societal symbols of status such as mortgages, families by the time you're 35 are not realistic. They produce costly divorces and limits on your freedom. So what we say, from experience. is if your job sucks, quit. IF your wife doesn't put out, bail, go find something new. Choose happiness. If you have a kid, give him a good life - shit happens when you fuck.
Steve - Straight edge.. it was a movement which didn't last for some. It seems to be a real thorn in the side of so many people. They think that because we don't drink, and they open a beer in front of us that we are gonna "relapse".. such a fuckin joke. We never did it, we never cared about it… so when they apologize it sounds like they themselves are the ones they are apologizing to! WE DONT GIVE A FUCK.
We don't sing about it , we don't care. There are a few phonys who have borrowed from us. Look, lifestyle, image, music… living up to a legend that was written for them by others. They know who they are. Can't tolerate it.
Sounds like you have something to prove…
Art - We do. If you live on this planet, in this fucked up world you need to prove your worth, everybody does. To people who matter. That's what we're saying. We have proven it over and over. There are people who get it and people who don't. We're over dealing with them. We can only move forward. We give credit where it is due. It's too bad some people don't… just wanting to toot their own horns… Sane Petersburg.