Radio Birdman’s Chris Masuak Flies Again

By Colin Gray of Vicious Kitten Records

ARIA Hall of Famer Chris Masuak rose to prominence as a teenage guitar prodigy with Australian punk pioneers Radio Birdman, his razor-sharp riffs also integral to the sound of The Hitmen, The New Christs, and The Screaming Tribesmen. 

Masuak has played with everyone from Ron and Scott Asheton of The Stooges, to Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson of MC5, his muscular guitar providing serious firepower to every band he’s been in. Some with long memories will recall the time when The Cult came off second best to The Screaming Tribesmen at Selinas in 1987, not to mention the time The New Christs blew Iggy Pop and his band offstage night after night on Iggy’s first Australian tour. 

The stuff of legend. Those who have ever witnessed Masuak live will attest, he’s a hard act to follow.      

Masuak hits Australian shores in May for his first tour here in six years – including a rare gig in the nation’s capital. BMA caught up with Chris at his home base of Galicia in northern Spain to get the low-down on what audiences can expect. 

BMA: Chris, you have four solo albums out, including the critically acclaimed Address To The Nation from a couple of years back. You must be looking forward to playing this solo material live, particularly in Canberra where you are playing as a solo artist for the first time?  

CHRIS: Very much so! Although choosing what songs to play is actually quite a conundrum.

On one hand, I have an expansive history and an extensive back catalogue of ‘hits’ that promoters and punters kind of insist that I play. On the other hand, I also have a ton of my own stuff that’s a lot of fun too. 

I know I can’t, but I’ll try to please everyone.

One of your last gigs in Canberra was with Birdman at the old ANU in August of 2006 on the Zeno Beach tour, yet over the years you’ve played here many times before with The Hitmen and also The Screaming Tribesmen. Good memories of playing in the national capital?

Canberra has always had a vigorous and rather enjoyable dark underbelly underneath its desolate and unnavigable streets. It’s always been a fun place to play. 

You also have a new book published called Faith and Practice in Bedlam. I assume it was satisfying, or maybe even cathartic, to write the book – to look back and reflect but to also look beyond? 

Adelaide-based writer Robert Brokenmouth got wind of some of my ‘bits’ as I refer to them, and over a number of years provoked me into collecting them together. 

The resulting book is not so much a reflection of my various derring-do, but more an observation of how particular characters can’t help but reveal themselves for themselves through their own actions. Including myself. 

On this Australian tour you are backed by Dog Soldier, featuring Tony Bambach of Lime Spiders and Stu Wilson from The New Christs. Some serious Oz underground rock pedigree there! 

How could we have anything else? Will be exciting to play with those guys!

With such a lengthy resume, what songs can punters expect to hear? Birdman? Hitmen? Tribesmen tunes?  

You’re gonna hear me cut a swathe across that back catalogue that I talked about. All the stuff that you’re familiar with – plus maybe a few surprises chucked in.

You have a red-hot Spanish-based band, the Viviero Wave Riders. What’s in store for 2023 with that band? A new album? More shows in Europe? 

We’ve just finished recording a single for an American label that will be released later this year. COVID hit Spain hard, and we’ve been stuck with a scene where bands either play for free or pay to play. 

When people get fed up with the fashionistas participating, we’ll be ready!   

The Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is a well-known fan of Radio Birdman, and is often seen donning a Birdman or Celibate Rifles t-shirt. Perhaps Albo will join you on stage for a rendition of New Race or Aloha Steve & Danno

It’s heartening to see a decent human being at the helm after such a long turgid time, yet somehow I doubt our PM would deign to visit with little old me. 

But, he’s always welcome to join me on mic! 

Chris Masuak & Dog Soldier play at Smith’s Alternative on Sunday, 28 May with support act Il Bruto. Tickets are $20/$25 via the venue website.

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