DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM is the warts and all, no holds barred story of groundbreaking Sydney band Radio Birdman.
Written, directed, edited and co-produced by filmmaker Jonathan J Sequeira, the documentary chronicles the rise and fall of the band – from the vibrant music scene they created, to the legions of bands they influenced in their wake.
The ascent into the maelstrom began in 1974 at a house in Kensington, where band members met up and decided to play together. Two of them, Deniz Tek and Pip Hoyle, were med students.
From their first gig at the Exelsior Hotel IN 1974, where the quintet outnumbered the audience, through to 1978, Radio Birdman’s uncompromising, high-energy ethos inspired a ‘New Race’ of disaffected youth, ready for a change, while their DIY attitude and self-released records were the prototype for the indie music scene.
It was a fraught four years with break -ups and bust-ups fuelled by a brutal combustibility, somewhat a Catch 22 as this unstable chemistry created the explosive energy of the band’s music and persona.
Radio Birdman’s volatility as a unit came to a head on their UK tour, where emotionally and economically stressed, their touring vehicle, a Kombi, became known as the van of hate.
Not averse to perverse performance art as part of their presentation – a skull scooping brain eating stunt gained a lot of traction – Radio Birdman were poles apart from Skyhooks, who courted middle class audiences through Countdown.
It was possibly jealous pique that Red Symons wrote a scathing review – an attack really – of Radio Birdman, calling into question certain members fitness to be physicians, let alone musicians.
These days, Symons has been relegated to hosting bourgeois breakfast radio where he has had to back peddle bad choice remarks, whereas Birdman continue to play, a band as Hoyle describes, “I don’t think there’s an Australian sound to Radio Birdman. I think there’s a Radio Birdman sound to Australia.”
DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM, despite its abundance of talking head interviews from band members past and present, follows Deniz Tek’s perfect plan for a music performance- power, pace and precision.
The brutally truthful interviews are intercut with thousands of stills, art work of posters and a storyboard by bass player Warwick Gilbert, himself a casualty of the ructions and rents of Radio Birdman.
From their emergence as an “accident of empathy” to their disintegration into acrimony, and their resurrections and 2007 induction into the Aria Hall of Fame, DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM is a kick arse 40 year journey, a two finger salute to the forces of evil conservatism and a celebration of a seminal band who gleefully expound that rock music is not just a young person’s game any more.
DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM will be releasing through an Appointment Viewing strategy, with screenings at 7pm Thursday, 9pm Friday and matinees on the weekend from July 20 at Event Cinemas George St in Sydney,
Fan-Force have also partnered with the film, making it available to fans to book screenings.
Jonathan J. Sequeira will also tour with the film through regional locations.