RADIO BIRDMAN It’s Only Three-Or-Four-Chord Rock And Roll But I Like It

Radio Birdman
Radio Birdman

 “I was offered to participate on the basis that he (ex-guitarist, Chris Masuak) wasn’t in the band. Despite what anyone may think – if the subject is indeed worth entertaining at all as anything of importance – it wasn’t actually my idea.”

Seminal garage rock outfit Radio Birdman play the Rosemount Hotel on Sunday, November 9, supported by The Volcanics and Leeches! SHANE PINNEGAR checks in with singer Rob Younger for the lowdown.

It hardly seems possible that kings of the Australian underground Radio Birdman have been a thing for 40 years, but they’re capping 2014 off with a comprehensive boxed set featuring all their albums plus unreleased bonus material, and a trip around the country to shout ‘yeah, hup’ one more time.

Singer Rob Younger says he felt more than just nostalgia listening back to the albums, citing “there’s such a distance between the way you feel you sound and the way you actually did sound at the time, that sometimes it’s unreachable. It’s really weird, actually. I’ve found that I was more curious as to the way I felt a little bit displaced by listening to the whole thing.”

In the sense that it’s listening to someone else almost?

“Yes, something a little like that, yeah. That was kind of interesting. I was kind of happy to hear things that I thought I’d be rather uncomfortable with, actually sounding sort of okay – or maybe it’s just that the perspective I have now lets me tolerate it a little more – because I’ve always been so self-critical that I actually can’t objectively listen to my own music most of the time anyway.

“I haven’t heard all the outtakes, I’ve only heard one thing. It’s the MC5 cover we did of Shakin’ Street. Otherwise, I’ve just heard the albums that have already been released and the live one as it was mastered,” he says, referring to the previously unreleased live album from December, 1977, which is due to appear in the boxed set.

These outtakes, I don’t even know what they are,” he continues, before laughing. “I might have to actually listen to all this stuff and sort of find a viewpoint or something so I can actually comment on it.”

Younger says the band haven’t reformed solely to publicise the new release… well, not exactly.

“Umm… no, not purely so, but I don’t think it would’ve happened had there been no boxed set. Probably. But the idea is, of course, well, it might be fun as well! It’s not an advertisement for a bloody record. We have no standards, whatsoever, other than that we need to turn up on time. We want the gigs to be good, you know, people to have a good evening. It should be fine; rehearsals are going okay.”

Featuring founding members Younger, guitarist Deniz Tek and keyboard player Pip Hoyle, Birdman have also invited along some friends including bassist Jim Dickson. Ex-guitarist, Chris Masuak, has publicly voiced his anger at not being included, but Younger says it wasn’t his decision, despite the long-held antipathy between the two.

“Are relations between the two of us simply unsalvageable? Yes – but I didn’t exclude him from the band – even though he thinks that’s the case. I was offered to participate on the basis that he wasn’t in the band. Despite what anyone may think – if the subject is indeed worth entertaining at all as anything of importance – it wasn’t actually my idea.”

When questioned about the chances of a new Radio Birdman album, Younger leaves the door open.

There’s nothing planned at the moment. But I couldn’t rule it out. I was ruling out ever getting back together about seven or eight years ago. You know, you believe some things you say when you’re saying them, and you don’t think much will change. So… I wouldn’t rule it out.”

For a band who formed deliberately to do their own thing outside of commercial constraints, Younger appreciates the irony that here they are 40 years later reforming again for another tour and re-releasing their albums.

I suppose it’s ironic,” he muses, “but we didn’t start out really to be uncommercial. We thought that the music we were playing, because it was different enough from the bands around the place, that it would either attract attention or it would get completely ignored. We also thought that if we come on strongly then people aren’t going to ignore us, but I don’t know that we thought the music itself was so radical. 

“It just happened to be a little to the side of what the mainstream was. When you look back on it, of course, it’s not that different – it’s only three-or-four-chord rock and roll isn’t it, after all?”