Friday Five: Deniz Tek


Deniz Tek stands in the door frame for Motown's Studio A. Photo by Anne Tek.

Deniz Tek stands in the door frame for Motown's Studio A. Photo by Anne Tek.

Friday Five is a weekly column that highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.


Ann Arbor produced one of the world's first punk guitarists, a person who channeled the speed and chaos of the I-94 rush-hour drive and influenced ax-wielders around the world.

And while The Stooges' Ron Asheton also fits this description, I'm talking about Deniz Tek.

The Ann Arbor born and raised Tek took everything he learned about Motor City rock 'n' roll in the late 1960s and brought it to Australia in the early 1970s when he moved to Sydney for his studies. There, he co-founded Radio Birdman, perhaps the greatest exponents of proto-punk mayhem this side of his buddies in The Stooges and another all-time Australian band, The Saints.

Over the past 50 years, Tek has continued to pound away on his guitar like a metal-stamping machine, producing steely riffs that draw on bluesy rock 'n' roll but played with linear propulsive power—like Chuck Berry playing a surf song on a buzzsaw.

Tek, now 70, has played in Ann Arbor many times since he left, but it feels especially fitting that he's the key act for this year's Fuzz Fest, the eighth annual celebration of the primordial punk sound the guitarist was essential in co-creating.

As always, Fuzz Fest takes place at The Blind Pig, and this year's edition runs Thursday, August 3 to Saturday, August 5, with Deniz Tek headlining the Friday, August 4 show. (See the full lineup below.)

If you're not familiar with Tek's career, this Friday Five will give you a tiny taste of the man's prolific output in a variety of bands.

But this is a bonus edition of the Friday Five, so in addition to my selections, Chris "Box" Taylor also weighs in.

Taylor, the main man behind Fuzz Fest and a member of Mazinga, will be holding down the bass for Tek at The Blind Pig gig—perhaps even playing some of the face-melting torchers he picked as some of his favorites.


Fuzz Fest 2023 poster


TV Jones, "Monday Morning Gunk"
A year or two after moving to Australia, Tek joined TV Jones and the group played together for a couple of years, likely from late 1972 to early 1974. The band never released a record, and the few songs they recorded were thought to be lost until a cassette dub of the sessions was unearthed. One of the tunes on that tape was "Eskimo Pies," an early version of Radio Birdman's "I-94," as well as the swaggering "Monday Morning Gunk."


Radio Birdman, "New Race"
After TV Jones disintegrated, Tek co-founded Radio Birdman in mid-1974. The quintet recorded the Burn My Eye EP in 1976 and then the classic debut album Radios Appear. The first single was "New Race" backed with a cover of The Stooges' "TV Eye." Radio Birdman wasn't crazy about the original sound of Radios Appear—it was remixed and reorganized when it came out in the U.S. on Sire Records in 1978—because the musicians felt like it didn't capture the unhinged force of their live performances, such as this rendition of "New Race" from Paddington Town Hall in Sydney, Australia, on December 12, 1977.


The Visitors, "Brother John"
Radio Birdman's chaotic spirit caught up to the musicians by 1978 and the band broke up. Tek regrouped again, taking fellow Birdmen Pip Hoyle (keyboards) and Ron Keeley (drums) with him to form The Visitors, which started in late 1978 and ran through about August 1979. Toward the end, the band recorded its entire set straight to tape, with the music trickling out to the public over the next few years. Vocalist Mark Sisto, a close friend and roadie for Radio Birdman, channeled his inner Jim Morrison, giving The Vistors a moodier sound than Tek's previous groups while still retaining their sparks-wielding energy.


New Race, "Columbia"
Tek's wife, Angie Pepper Tek, is a fab vocalist and the former singer for early Aussie punks The Passengers. While she and Tek were making music as The Angie Pepper Band, she suggested he get together with some of his buddies from Michigan and Australia to form the supergroup New Race, named after the song by Radio Birdman, which itself was named after a misheard lyric from The Stooges' "1970." ("radio burnin'" not "radio birdman"). New Race featured guitarist Ron Asheton (The Stooges), drummer Dennis Thompson (MC5), and three ex-Radio Birdmen: Tek, vocalist Rob Younger, and bassist Warwick Gilbert. The band toured Australia in 1981, recording the live album The First and the Last which consists of tunes from the Radio Birdman, MC5, and The Stooges as well as one raging original, "Columbia," which channels the combined spirt of all their previous groups.


Deniz Tek, "Run Out of Water"
After moving back to the U.S., Tek spent much of the 1980s working as a physician. In 1992 he returned with the solo album Take It to the Vertical, picking up right where he left off. Since then he's mixed his doctorin' career with his rockin' job, whether leading one of many ensembles that bear his name, collaborating with old pals James Williamson (The Stooges) and Scott Morgan (Sonics Rendezvous Band, The Rationals), or working with the Radio Birdman in various reunions.


Fuzz Fest impresario Chris "Box" Taylor knows Tek's music inside and out, having performed in his touring bands in the past. He said Tek will be playing a lot of newer stuff at The Blind Pig as well as many of his stone-cold classics, including some of the jams that Taylor has selected and commented on below:

Radio Birdman, "Aloha Steve and DANNO," "Hand of Law," "I-94"
"Those three songs, from the first Radio Birdman album, for me, really capture the essence of the Deniz Tek sound. The surf influences are present as well as the mysterious lyrics and fantastic imagery."


Deniz Tek Group, "Outside"
"In the early '90s, Deniz formed The Deniz Tek Group. Songs like 'Outside' are a great example of this era in his long career."


Deniz Tek, "Truck and Roll"
"His latest album shows he’s still celebrating his early '60s rock roots with songs like 'Truck and Roll.'"

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.

Fuzz Fest 8 happens August 3-5 at The Blind Pig, 208 S. 1st St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $12 per night; doors open at 8 pm. For more information on Fuzz Fest, visit

Thu., Aug. 3:
Human Skull * Velvet Snakes * Temple Of The Fuzz Witch * Along with Ghosts * Angle of Mars * Sex Change * Pepper and the Heavy Boys * Bloody Butterflies  * ill Collens * Dear Darkness * Trouble Clinic

Fri., Aug. 4:
Deniz Tek * Easy Action * Carbon Decoy * Slumlord Radio * Mazinga * Barbed Wire Playpen * King Under Mountain * Dr. Peter Larson * Non Fiction * Child Sleep * The Soma Sisters

Sat. Aug. 5
Thrall * Electric Huldra * The Jackpine Snag * Minus 9 * Witchfist * Warhorses * The State * Kat Steih and the Ferals * Volt * Witchpucker * Glass Chimera

Deniz Tek, age 12, Ann Arbor

Deniz Tek at age 12 in Ann Arbor. Photo courtesy of Deniz Tek.