When Salty was invited to review DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM, a documentary about Radio Birdman, there was only one Kernel I wanted to review it. We reanimated Kernel Andrew out of his carbonite sleep and gave him a pencil and paper and sent him off to review it via link in his lounge room. When I asked him to review a movie about Radio Birdman his words were “I am seeing them live this Friday.” Haha. Yep – genius to get him on board. DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM is releasing on a very limited release from July 20th – all the details of when and where are at the bottom of the article. DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM runs for 109mins from Umbrella Entertainment. Enjoy Andrew’s thoughts……….all the best………..JK.



Like many who grew up watching bands in pubs around Sydney –  Radio Birdman (or Birdman as they are affectionately called) are a name you learn quickly. I have seen them a bunch of times and had the life honour of supporting one of their spin off projects the equally revered “New Christ’s” on a bunch of dates many years ago. Fair to say Radio Birdman have long been gods in my musical pantheon. So it was great to finally have the opportunity to see an in-depth documentary on them.

Along with their sometimes mates / sometimes rivals The Saints, Birdman can be cited as the pioneers of the Australian punk movement. They formed in 1974 and went through the Australian live music scene like the aftershock of a nuclear bomb. A band known for their incendiary live shows, their turbulent interpersonal relationships saw them break up four years later in the middle of middle of recording their second album in the UK.


Radio Birdman Descent into the Maelstrom movie image



DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM consists mostly of live footage, photographs and in depth interviews with Deniz Tek, Rob Younger, Pip Hoyle, Warwick Gilbert, Ron Keeley and Chris Masuak. There are no voice overs or music experts telling you why you should love them. Rather the documentary leaves it to the band, friends and associates to tell you the story. It is as you expect from such fiery individuals, a brutally honest look into the volatile chemistry which made them as far as I am concerned one of the greatest live bands ever. Unfortunately that same fire when not being unleashed on stage or on album was directed internally.

It reminded this reviewer of other gifted but dysfunctional band documentaries especially END OF THE CENTURY which detailed the tragic, acidic, prolific and genius life of The Ramones. It’s interesting that both bands, in a sense, followed a very similar arc and trajectory. Each interview whether with band members, fans or friends underline very similar themes and in an ultimate irony still can’t seem to stop squabbling over events that happened many decades ago. You can also tell the fierce pride and love that they each still have for one another.


Radio Birdman Descent into the Maelstrom movie image



The main cores of the film are guitarist Deniz Tek (one of my personal heroes) and singer Rob Younger. Both are intense, serious, brilliant men. But it becomes painfully obvious that their drive and control of a band of fierce individuals was one of the chief reasons for it’s eventual demise. It has to be said though this documentary sees this drive and volatility as a sort of meta theme to their brilliance.

For a Radio Birdman tragic like myself I didn’t really find anything new here. But director John Sequeira does a great job in making his subjects open up and as the documentary moves forward with deeper and more brutal honesty. He does a great job of mixing in fantastic live footage and interviews with the band and close associates over the movie’s 109min running time. It’s great not to see “luminaries” of the Australian scene lavishing them with praise. There is no need.

But even if you are not a fan (yet) don’t let this lack of new information turn you away from seeing this excellent documentary. It is a wonderful example of those behind the camera just letting it roll and seeing what happens. The band’s recount of their rise and fall is enough to keep you captivated. It’s sad to see that it wasn’t booze, drugs and women that undid these guys but rather mental health issues and some seriously poisonous internal chemistry.


Radio Birdman Descent into the Maelstrom movie image



This is a documentary that needed to be made. Post implosion of Radio Birdman in 1978 our music scene really hit its straps: Midnight Oil, the Sunnyboys, the Hoodoo Gurus, the Lime Spiders, the Hard-Ons, Died Pretty, the Celibate Rifles all can look back and shake the hands of this band, they took their power and made their own brilliant contributions.

Pip Hoyle gets the last word from the band: “I don’t think there’s an Australian sound to Radio Birdman. I think there’s a Radio Birdman sound to Australia.” He is bang on. Not many bands on their best nights could be as good live as Birdman on one of their worst. I would encourage you to see this documentary. Also grab a copy of their double live album from Paddington Town Hall in 1977. It will take your face off.






When asked what is good in life? Kernel Andrew will tell you film, music and beer is all you need. Equal parts Star Wars fanboy, sci-fi nerd, horror head, comic book tragic and Playstation fanatic. You can find him ranting on these things and others on his twitter feed @abrusentsev