Don't forget the Motor City

HIGH ACHIEVER: Deniz Tek is an ER doctor by day.
HIGH ACHIEVER: Deniz Tek is an ER doctor by day.

HE brought the Detroit sound to Australia when he co-founded Radio Birdman in 1974.

Now, almost four decades later, American-born singer, songwriter and guitarist Deniz Tek has paid homage to the city and its distinct sound on his first solo album in more than a decade.

Detroit features songs about the city and injects the raw, simplistic sound he fell in love with as a teenager watching bands like MC5 and The Stooges in "Motor City".

"That's the area where I grew up and that's the area of the world where I got most of my musical influences from," Tek told H2 Live.

"After this long, long journey I've been on my whole life playing music, I just felt like going back to very basic sounding stuff and, thematically, some of the songs are about the city of Detroit and what happened to it and some of the people I knew there that have passed away.

"It wasn't planned from the outset to be an album about Detroit, but that's how it turned out."

Though there are elements of keyboard and harmonica - including a rousing performance from New York City-based blues harp player Daddy Long Legs on the track I'm All Right - Detroit is a guitar album.

"There wasn't any rush to get it done so I had enough time to really get it to sound the way I wanted it to," .

"I really wanted it to sound right to my ears and I wanted the guitars to sound like real guitars and the drums to sound like real drums," he said.

Mixed at one of America's oldest recording studios, Houston's Sugar Hill, the album came together slowly, taking two or three years from start to finish.

"I went through a rough patch in my life a few years ago and one of the advantages of having hard times is that it can bring some songs out.

"I had about 20 songs or so that I had either written either partially or completely. [Radio] Birdman finished in 2007, so that was when I got the idea of going back to solo work."

Initial recording sessions featured Tek on guitar playing live alongside British-born drummer Ric Parnell, who previously played in prog-rock band Electric Rooster and starred as one of the ill-fated drummers in the film This is Spinal Tap.

Even though he spent a couple of years going back to the album and re-working songs, Tek said he isn't a perfectionist when it comes to recording.

"If there's a little mistake on there but the feel of the song is good, I leave it.

"I tend to go more by feel and sort of gut feeling than the technical part of the music. I'm quite happy for there to be some mistakes on there."

Since his days with Radio Birdman, Tek has toured and recorded with The Visitors, New Race, Angie Pepper and The Deniz Tek Group.

He splits his time making music with his day job as an ER doctor (he is also an ex-navy flight surgeon and qualified jet fighter pilot) and spends half his time based in Australia and the other half in the US.

In 2011, Tek joined with Iggy and the Stooges as a guest for a tribute to Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton in his hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

It was a "pinnacle moment" for Tek.

"I know them all and I've hung out with them but to actually be able to play and to stand in the shadow of Ron and play those songs with The Stooges as a Stooge, you know, I tell people 'I was a Stooge for 30 minutes!'," Tek laughed.

"It was a real dream for me."

Tek launches Detroit in Newcastle on March 2.

No stranger to Newcastle, Tek spent a year living in the city during the late '70s when he and fellow Radio Birdman member Pip Hoyle completed their medical internships at the Mater Hospital in Waratah after Radio Birdman split.

Tek last toured with Radio Birdman six years ago on the back of a new record, Zeno Beach, but does not think they will reunite.

"A lot of old bands get back together and do reunion tours for the money but it's not always the best idea," he said.

"We had a great year in 2007," he said.

"We played about 80 shows and got into the ARIA Hall of Fame. It's a pretty good place to leave it on a high point."


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