5 Questions with Radio Birdman’s Deniz Tek

“Radio burnin’ up above. Beautiful baby, feed my love” – The Stooges “1970”

Being one of the founding members and guitarists for a band named for a misheard lyric in one of Iggy and The Stooges greatest tunes gives you a fair amount of Rock N Roll cred. Turning that band into one of the most ferocious and influential bands Australia has ever had, well now you’re talking “rare air” kind of stuff. Along the way becoming a pilot, an ER doctor, a Navy flight surgeon, a painter, friends and band mates with members of The Stooges and the MC5 among others as well as fronting your band well……

If Rock N Roll has a Renaissance man I’m thinking it might just be Deniz Tek.

Best known for his guitar playing in the legendary Radio Birdman Deniz has had a long and storied career in Rock N Roll. He’s a gifted and intelligent guitarist who has always maintained a raw, energetic edge to his playing. His Detroit roots showing thru in all the music he’s made regardless of where he is or what he’s playing. His arsenal of guitars is home to some very rare and very special pieces too, the most coveted is likely his well worn Epiphone Crestwood Deluxe. Rare unto itself the Epi also has the distinction of belonging to Fred “Sonic” Smith during the heydays of the high flying MC5 .

With lots of the things happening in his musical world these days please sure make to keep up with Deniz on his website. There’s lots of good stuff on there with some great stories from his past, some great guitar stories too!

GK- Hi Deniz what’s happening in your world these days?

DT – Rob Younger and I just finished mixing my next solo album, which will be out in April. We are also working on the next batch of new songs for Radio Birdman. Hopefully we’ll tour next summer. Australia and Europe are on the agenda. Maybe some shows in the USA too if we can afford to go there. Other than that, I am often strumming an acoustic guitar around the house.

GK- Why the Guitar?

I don’t know. Guitars are cool. I’ve loved them ever since I was a toddler. A guitar is a lifelong friend that doesn’t ask any questions, but is always there for you. Like a good dog, but it doesn’t need to be fed or go to the vet. Just change the strings once in a while.

It is also an antenna capable of pulling songs out of the ether.

(GK – couldn’t agree more, the Rock n Roll divining rod!)

GK- You have some pretty special guitars, what’re your favorite pieces and what kind of gear do you go to for your sound?

DT – Probably my all time favorite guitar is the 1966 Epiphone Crestwood Deluxe. Mine is factory fitted with a Bigsby. They used a little plate to cover up the standard Epiphone screw holes in the body, and the plate says ”Custom Made”. Gibson says they only made 200 of those. I got mine from Fred Smith (MC5) in 1973.

I have an 80’s Japanese Strat that was owned by my dear late friend Ron Asheton. That one is special too – has magic in it.

I like acoustic guitars too. An old Taylor, from back in the days when they were made by Taylor.

Epiphone Casino,1967. American hard-tail Strat. Rickenbacker 620.

Amplifiers are best thought of as power tools that have fairly specific applications. For big shows, 1970’s Marshall Mark 2’s or JMPs, or Hiwatts. For clubs, I like a Groove-Tubes Soul-O 75. These were individually scribbled on by Aspen Pittman. I don’t think he is making them anymore. For tiny rooms, a Fender Vibrolux.

For recording, Ampeg Jets, Kalamazoo, Fender Champ – get something with a single 10 in speaker that can be cranked up. There are a few secret weapons I can’t talk about.

I don’t use effect pedals much. Sometimes a volume boost for solos live, either a Fat Boost or a Tech-21 XXL. I don’t use any effects pedals in the studio except occasionally an old DeArmond T-60 Tremolo. Nothing else sounds like it.

Strings: Elixir 10-46

GK- I’d like to add a 2nd part to this question since you own one of my favorite guitars of all time, I am curious, have you ever talked with Epiphone about doing a signature Crestwood?

DT – Management may have written to them about that a while back, I dont think we ever got any response. Steve Salvi, luthier in Adelaide has made a signature guitar for me, designed by Art Godoy. It is loosely based on the Crestwood.

GK – Who da man? Where do you go for inspiration?

DT – Lately, Keith’s new album is great. His voice has morphed over the years into something approaching Mississippi John Hurt’s.

All time? Too many to count! Off the top of my head, other than Keith, I would begin by listing, in no particular order, and leaving many out :

Pete Townshend, Fred Smith, Ron Asheton, James Williamson, Peter Green, Buck Dharma, Johnny Winter, Lightnin Hopkins, Muddy, Bukka White, Zoot Horn Rollo, Sonny Sharrock, James Blood Ulmer, Segovia, Django, Etc, etc etc

GK – Do you have any favorite guitar related You Tube clips you’d like to share?

DT – Again, there are too many great ones to know where to begin! Anyway here’s a few that I have watched more than once:

GK – Great stuff Deniz, thank you so much!

Scott Bittner is the founder and main author for the Guitar Blog “Guitar Kulture “. Scott is also the lead singer/guitarist for NY Punk N Roll band The Heartless Devils. The Heartless Devils “El Diablo Sin Corazon” is now available for download on iTunes. You can also check out The Heartless Devils on Facebook and Reverb Nation.