Posts Tagged ‘Chris Masuak’

masuak2Chris ‘Klondike’ Masuak needs no introduction. Over the last two decades he has been a crucial member of some of the coolest, most rockin’ bands this country has ever produced. Radio Birdman, The Hitmen, The New Christs, The Screaming Tribesmen, The Juke Savages. Guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer. Australian rock n roll owes a large debt to Chris Masuak. This issue, Vicious Kitten speaks to the man himself, and gets the lowdown on everything from the recent re-flight of Radio Birdman, his views on today’s music scene and also his forthcoming plans……..read on cats !

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Vicious Kitten: Klondike, let’s talk about the recent Radio Birdman reformation.  How did that all come about ?
Chris Masuak: Radio Birdman used to kick out major horsepower. That kind of energy is hard to contain, and when it spilled into our personal lives we didn’t have the skills to deal with it. Subsequently, it’s taken a lot of years to recover from the fallout and for some of us to even talk to each other. When we found ourselves in a recording studio remixing the old albums the feeling was generous, familiar, and comfortable. Then when I was visiting Deniz in the USA last year, a fax from the Big Day Out boys came through. We kind of looked at each other in a vague inquiring way and I guess decided then and there that if it was OK with the other guys it was fine with us. When Ron jammed with Deniz on one of Deniz’ European tours the die was cast. We all had different reasons for wanting the thing to work. I felt that it was a rare opportunity to repair an ugly ending and make the ‘family’ live happily ever after.

VK: From a fan’s perspective it appeared that the old ‘magic’ was still there. How did it feel to play as a unit after such a long time ? Was the old ‘magic’ still there ?
CM: It was awkward at first. The unreality of the situation was overwhelming ! I had to relearn the songs in some cases but it didn’t really seem to gel. Then one day in rehearsal I remembered the feeling, the posture. Genetic memory kicked in and we were back as far as I was concerned. I’m greatly relieved that we were so appreciated. I guess it means the ‘juju’ is still with us.

VK: Do you have a favourite show from that re-union tour? You looked particularly floored by the raucous response from the Selina’s crowd.
CM: It was typical Birdman; erratic, unpredictable, but always a trip. Yeah, sometimes the response surprised me. It was a case of being shocked out of concentration by the unbelievable support of the fans. I loved playing outdoors. There’s something about the sound and feel of megawatts.

VK: It must have been a thrill to have Wayne Kramer fly out and open the shows. 
CM: Wayne is a huge influence and a magnificent artist. It was an honour to share the same bill with him, Brock and Paul.

VK: Did any special moments/funny incidents occur during the re-union tour ?
CM: The most hilarious thing is that on any given night there were six old farts up on stage and no one got egged. The sight of Ron sitting behind the kit, like a cross between Buddha and Winnie the Pooh was worth the price of admission.

VK: Will Birdman be releasing any new product ?
CM: It’s possible.

VK: Was the reformation tour a one off ? There are a few rumours of a European tour ?
CM: We’ve all got our own projects and obligations, and we live all over the planet. The last tour was a logistical nightmare and it’s success was testament to John Needham, our manager’s courage and patience. I didn’t believe anything about the last tour until I had the proof in my hands, so who knows.

VK: The last re-incarnation of The Hitmen spawned the wonderful ‘Moronic Inferno’ LP. Your playing on that record is just so fluent. Were you disappointed with the lack of response it received from the music press and the record buying public in general ?
CM: Yeah, The Hitmen kinda fizzled out. We never did get much support from the industry here, and in fact even Triple J usually reject any of my stuff as “not the kind of music they play on this station”. Still, I can’t complain. I got more second chances in twenty odd years of rockin’ than most people dream of.

VK: Whilst on The Hitmen, I find it hard to believe that the indestructible Johnny Kannis is not on a stage somewhere. What is Zeus up to nowadays ?
CM: Johnny’s up north where it’s warm doing entrepreneurial stuff. His injuries really do keep him from doing much, which I know is a frustration.

VK: Let’s talk about your time with The Screaming Tribesmen – in particular the US tour of 1987. How did that go, and was the band well received ?
CM: We had support up the yinyang but basically fell apart at the seams. The performances were too erratic for me to accept and we all had personal problems to deal with and the band blew it. It’s always seemed a shame that Mick didn’t take advantage of all the resources and keep going in that direction. He had it all on a plate at that time – despite the problems and with his talent and a bit of vision, may have kept the hits coming. The fans were certainly there for it.

VK: Johnny Kannis and yourself received a ‘thankyou’ on the Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom album ‘…And You ?’, whilst the latter day Hitmen used to open up with ‘The Party Starts Now’. What is the connection there ?
CM: We met the Handsome One in New York, and he came onstage for a Dictators encore at The Cat Club. The next thing you know Andy Shernoff has invited me to play on ‘The Party Starts Now’. There’s this guy in the studio and Andy says “Chris, meet Ross”. Dumb fuck that I am, I go “The Boss ??!!”. I spent much of my career ripping him off. Perhaps the style was too close to the bone ’cause they didn’t end up using my leadbreak (which I consider superior). Kannis and I hung out with them for a while and it was a pleasant surprise to be acknowledged on their album.

VK: What have you been up to of late ? You have a new band – The Raouls, is that correct ?
CM: I live, study and work in Sydney and am preparing for fatherhood. I drum in The Raouls which is primarily Warwick Gilbert’s baby and an outlet for his formidable guitar lust. We have recorded songs for a Spanish label and are putting together a CD for release here. We seem to play regularly so I guess there are a few people left in Sydney who don’t have their heads stuck up their ass too far to have fun.

VK: Are The Juke Savages on hold ? What’s in the pipeline ?
CM: The Juke Savages still exist, with a new drummer, Tubby Wadsworth, who despite the stigma of playing with the Candy Harlots (actually, a good bunch of guys) has given us a shot in the arm. We’re recording for a European release and, hopefully, a tour early next year. We don’t play around much; we’re too rocky for the blues fraternity and too bluesy for the hip venues. Too loud, too old, whatever. We’re patient.

VK: What’s your opinion on today’s scene, with the likes of Oasis fairly dominant ? Doesn’t seem to be too much rock-action out there, you really have to search for it nowadays.
CM: I wouldn’t know what’s out there, particularly. There does seem to be a trend toward pop and cohesive arrangements, which would be great if the new artists would come up with some ideas of their own from time to time.

VK: What excites you musically these days ?
CM: Listening to The Raouls, Juke Savages, Wayne Kramer, Coltrane, Parker. Playing the drums and giving up trying to play guitar at a respectable volume.

VK: How did you get into rock n roll ?
CM: My Dad gave me a guitar at 13.

VK: What was the first record you ever bought ?
CM: My brother and I bought Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

VK: What was the first concert you attended ?
CM: I can’t remember if it was T.Rex or B.B King. T.Rex was crap on every level and I was naive enough to believe that B.B was really collapsing from exertion on stage. I used to go and see these big concerts and heckle bands like Blackfeather, Finch and Hush. Utter crap but no alternative. When I started going to Birdman gigs my academic career was shot to shit and my destiny forged, for better or worse.

VK: Name your five ‘desert island discs’ ?
CM: ‘Cha Cha Cha’ by Bobby Rydell, ‘Linda Sue Dixon’ by Mitch Ryder, ‘Strange Pleasure’ by Jimmie Vaughan, ‘Giant Steps’ by John Coltrane and ‘The Hard Stuff’ by Wayne Kramer.

VK: A message for the Vicious Kitten readers/Klondike fans out there……..
CM: We are all here for a purpose, which I don’t pretend to know. I do know that once we get off our asses and do things, anything, anytime, and lots of it, life gets really weird and interesting and I suspect we get closer to finding out what that purpose may be. Work hard. Play hard. Have fun for cryin’ out loud !

(Archive Source: Vicious Kitten Fanzine Issue 4: July 1996)

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radio_birdman_radios_appear

35 years on – still demolishing all new comers

Let me start this rant with an undisputed fact…..this record was released 35 years ago and it still blows most current sounding rock acts out of the water. It is a very special album which sounds amazingly fresh and relevant. It has aged well my friends and there is much to rave about with Radios Appear (The White Album) – but where to start ? Okay – the songs. Oh man the songs. Every track is white hot rock n roll. What Gives, Non Stop Girls, Do The Pop, the glorious Man With Golden Helmet, New Race, the fiery Descent into The Maelstrom….need I say more ? How’s about Aloha Steve & Danno, Anglo Girl Desire, Murder City Nights. Hand Of Law and Hit Them Again. Not one style-lifter in sight. Keeley’s drumming is way underrated, as is Warwick Gilbert’s bassplaying. Pip Hoyle’s contribution to these tracks can never be underestimated and his sounds washes over much of the record. Good tunes however need their own distinguishable identity to raise them to another level, and these tracks are given that by Rob Younger’s distinctive vocals and the searing guitar work of Deniz Tek and Chris Masuak. Sure there is the MC5/Stooges linkage – that Detroit sound is littered throughout the grooves, yet – as Mr Ratboy recently reminded me over lunch – there is a little ‘Doors’ in there too….and so there is. When you consider that in 1977 – the local radio was airing lightweight crap like Pussyfoot, Andy Gibb, Smokie, Shaun Cassidy, David Soul or Boney M – and then along comes Radio’s Appear ! My goodness. The firepower contained on these tracks is mindblowing and it gave hope for those rock n roll soldiers who cared – those 70’s Aussie punks who had their ears to the ground. It is hailed as groundbreaking and justifiably so. I would stack this record up against anything released in the past thirty years and it will always hold its own. Me and the Cowboy have long been Radio Birdmaniacs and why not ! The Kids are still saying yeah hup. If you have never heard this album, take the tip from Mr Rockbrat and buy this sucker. You will love it.

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The Iceman and Klondike let rip !

Who: Hitmen DTK (with Deniz Tek)

Where: Annandale Hotel, NSW Australia  – 17 November 1991

Is this gig really 21 years back ? Where the hell are the years going ? This was when the Sydney rock n roll scene was still smoking, and great gigs were about as common as tatts on footballers. A Radio Birdman re-union, back then, like much of the 80’s always seemed unlikely, so having Tek and Masuak – two of Australia’s most underrated guitar players, both sharing a stage in Sydney once more was reason to celebrate. It was hot, it was sweaty. It was packed. It was, a great evening of rock n roll.

In a former life me and the Cowboy wrote and produced Vicious Kitten Fanzine. Nine issues with a total print run of 10’000 copies which was no mean feat. It was free from record stores in all major Australian cities. Why free ? Ever see a dusty, three-year old zine sitting in a record store with a $2 price tag ? That was why. Free was the magic price. It enabled kids who might’ve dug other musical styles to grab a copy and maybe discover some of the cool rock n roll which Vicious Kitten championed (and remember that in 1995 – writing about Birdman, Thunders, Dahl, Wells, Masuak etc etc was deemed ‘not very hip’ – at least not by the supercool indie street press or the supercool staff at Triple J). The front of the shirt was the cover art of issue #4 which featured a late-80’s image of the aforementioned Klondike Masuak and his partner in crime Zeus Kannis. Several of these shirts got purchased and I’ve got images of Jessie The Intruder wearing one at a Turnbuckles gig and Nick from San Francisco’s Jack Saints also sporting one – will try and find them. Is this now classed as retro wear !?

I have owned several Hitmen posters over the years, some of which I’ve now sold.  Some I took from walls of Sydney pubs, some I bought from places like Phantom Records, others I procured from Klondike Masuak himself. This one though is one of my favourites. It’s from June, 1989 and it is a massive, bill poster. It must be about 2 metres long! It’s unused too. It’s promoting for Sydney dates for June, 1989, including gigs at the Kardomah in Kings Cross…..ahhh I remember those 3 am starts so well and walking out with the sun well and truly risen. Anyway, both Klondie and Zeus look pretty damn cool on this one too. Great band – true rock ‘n’ roll.

Rock n Roll War promo poster, Volume 1 and Volume 2

It’s hard to believe that 10 years have gone since the release of the Rock n Roll War compilation CD’s. Prior to Rockbrat, back then, Cowboy Col was operating Vicious Kitten Records, an independent record label whose mission was to fight the war against the jive. I had the idea of releasing a compilation album and did a short list of bands I wanted and things just took off from there. Vicious Kitten Records, and the Vicious Kitten Zine before that, developed a good reputation, and most bands were happy to be involved. The idea was to make it a solid balls-to-the-wall comp, and it achieved that. I wanted to show case some of the best Australian bands to an international market – and similarly get some of those international bands some exposure in Australia.   The first volume of ‘Rock n Roll War’ had such quality bands on it as the Dictators, Sylvain Sylvain from the New York  Dolls, the Hitmen DTK,  Deniz Tek and Chris Masuak of Radio Birdman, Jeff Dahl, Pete Wells of Rose Tattoo, Nikki Sudden, The Trash Brats, Asteroid B-612, Brother Brick etc.  This first volume of Rock n Roll War sold well, and following its success I decided to branch out into the USA and try and develop greater inroads there. Vicious Kitten USA was born and was co ordinated by Rick Blaze out of Boston. The second volume of Rock ‘n’ Roll War was the only release on Vicious Kitten USA and it came out in October, 2001. A CD release party was held for this album in Boston, and artists who appeared included Mike Thimren (who used to play with Johnny Thunders for five years, on and off, between 83-88) the Ballbusters and Kevin K.  Rock n roll War volume 2 was dedicated to Johnny Heff of The Bullys, a New York City firefighter who lost his life on September 11. There is a great Bully’s track on the comp called ‘New York City Man’. Johnny Thunders and the Ballbusters also do a live version of ‘In Cold Blood’. There are songs by Nikki Sudden, Dave Kusworth from the Jacobites, Walter Lure, the Streetwalkin Cheetahs, Kevin K, Freddy Lynxx, The Golden Arms, Dave Cuneo and Jeff Crane from the Ballbusters, Mike Thimren, the Detox Darlings. Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys was gracious enough to provide a tune called ‘The Morning’s Gonna Come, which he recorded specifically for Rock n Roll War 2. Other artists on this 2nd volume included the Cartridge Family from NYC who featured Donna from the Cycle Sluts From Hell, two Italian bands, one called The Valentines and the other called Loose. It was a very strong and impressive line up. The intent was to do release a third compilation CD, but the funds were not there.  These were a lot of work to put together, but looking back, some killer bands were released on these two comps.  These compilations occasionally turn up on eBay. Go discover.

Rob Younger through the Rockbrat lens

Who: Radio Birdman  When: Sands Hotel, Narrabeen, Sydney, January 10, 1996

The Narrabeen Sands Hotel, on Sydney’s northern beaches, was the venue for the first ‘official’ date of the much anticipated Birdman reunion tour – and I could indeed whiff the smell of anticipation, blended with a large dose of excitement as I entered the doors of the old Royal Antler. Needless to say, by the time the band strode onto the stage – which was cloaked in red and black – the joint was packed and jumping. The opening bars of ‘Hand Of Law’ churned the soul and it was evident that Younger, Tek and co. weren’t here to disappoint. A mean workout of ‘Burn My Eye’ was next and few, if any, prisoners were taken. ‘Smith and Wesson Blues’ was delivered with maximum ferocity to an eager and hungry audience. “Where were you when we needed you ?” a band member asks the big crowd, with direct reference to a bygone era. Good question. The stinging guitar intro of ‘Hanging On’ cuts finely through the air – Masuak and Tek are in fine form tonight and their playing is razer sharp. A rollicking version of ‘455 sd’ followed, setting limbs in motion. ‘Descent Into The Maelstrom’ was pure sorcery, impressing the socks off the peninsular surf set to boot. Rob’s handling of ‘Love Kills’ was rare, vintage stuff – to watch him swagger and sweat with the Birdman logo behind him this evening is proof that dreams can sometimes come true. ‘Crying Sun’, ‘Anglo Girl Desire’, ‘What Gives’….when a band can get up and deliver songs of such calibre with such velocity after a near twenty year hiatus, the legend and myths can only loom larger. Birdman ’96 would be the first reformation/comeback in recent history that could honestly be dubbed a success – a significant achievement indeed. The fire and intent pumping through ‘i.94’ was enough to discourage even the most jaded and cynical of doubters – besides, any song that name checks Eskimo Pies and Rolling Rock is apples with me. ‘Murder City Nights’ meant business too, Klondike and Deniz demonstrating that there were no pseudo musicians in this lot. Encore ‘Aloha Steve and Danno’ was more than a moment always worth savouring – the waxheads going truly mental. ‘New Race’, the call to arms for rock n roll soldiers everywhere continued the frenzied mayhem. ‘Breaks My Heart’, ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ and ‘T.V Eye’ were the second batch of encores, winding up a truly momentous evening. Younger, Masuak, Tek, Hoyle, Keeley and Gilbert; they came back, they didn’t suck – a rockin’ good time had by all !  (originally published in Vicious Kitten fanzine in 1995)