tonight we ride cvrTonight We Ride: Official Bootleg Live in Sydney November 13 1991 – Hitmen DTK with special guest Deniz Tek (Vicious Kitten)

Hello I-94 barflies! Ain’t life grand? A new official bootleg recording of the magnificent Hitmen DTK, with special guest Deniz Tek, ripping through a few choice cuts from the Birdman catalogue, How good is that? 

But first, the back story.

Hitmen DTK were fresh back from recording the underrated album “Moronic Inferno” in the USA. They hit the road to promote said record in Sydney, Australia, for a handful of gigs.  

Now the Hitmen -  Hitmen DTK by this stage - have had a few members throughout their illustrious career, but the core players were Johnny “Zeus” Kannis  (vocals) and Chris “Klondike” Masuak (guitar and vocals).  

Joining them in this line-up were Gerard Presland on drums, Shane Cooke on bass, Bob Sattler on guitar, Deniz “Iceman” Tek  (guitar and  vocals) and Mark Sisto (back-up vocals). 

The date was 13th November 1991. Speaking with folks who where at this highly anticipated gig. It had Sydney’s independent music public buzzing because it marked the first reunification in 10 years of the twin-guitar attack that had taken the place by the throat and inspired countless other bands.

Masuak had called in Tek to play some guitar on “Moronic Inferno” and  asked if he would be interested in doing some shows. With a resounding YES they hit the stage.

Now, no-one within the Hitmen organisation thought to record this  moment in history but some punters with a passion for the Hitmen took a cassette recorder to the Newtown show - and thank fuck they did. Finding the tape many years later, it was restored by Melbourne’s Ernie O, who did a fabulous job,. Yes, it ain’t pristine, but it sounds pretty bloody awesome, pumping out of these speakers here at The Farmhouse

General Johnny Kannis sent me this message about it:

Thank you LTG Brown. I salute you. 

Remember, this is a bootleg album. That means that someone’s come to the gig with an old cassette recorder and taped the gig. Mono. We fixed as much as we could to make it sound good but you can’t mix those things. I’m happy with it. It’s like standing in front of the sound system. Enjoy 

Doing my best. 

Kicking it off, “Justice Blind” and “Utopian Emotional Love Aura” sound just great live.  “Slice and Dream” and “Slice of Life” clearly leave the punters happy. The New Order cover “Rock ‘n’ Roll Soldiers” is always a crowd pleaser. There are a few more new Hitmen tunes, and then Klondike takes the microphone, nailing “Walk Don’t Run” with some stunning guitarwork.

Then, with one of the greatest bass lines ever, Dr Tek takes to the stage, takes over on the vocals and smashes out “Hand of Law”. Oh, how sweet it sounds. “Heartful of Hate” and the awesome “I Don’t Mind” follow and they keep everyone happy.

“This Bar” is a magical tune that I’ve always loved it no matter who sung it, but this version is just so good. Johnny Kannis’ vocals are heartfelt and powerful. 

Now Deniz Tek takes back the microphone for a great guitar duel with Chris on “Man With Golden Helmet”, followed by “Do The Pop” and “Aloha Steve and Danno” (which never sounded better.) These versions sound  fucking awesome’ the vocals are perfect and  the twin guitars are going off .

The encore: “LA Woman” is a tune a young Radio Birdman would play at shows. It’s fabulous and the rhythm section are so  tight as Johnny Kannis channels his hero, Jim Morrison, and has some fun with the audience. The amazing back and forth soloing on guitar is just brilliant.

“California Sun” ends this 18-song set of classic tunes with the band on fire. 

So I will leave you with this note from Klondike: 

Vicious Kitten rescued quite a moment in time
The recording certainly captures the long lost friendship and generosity of sprit of said band. Ironic, isn’t it? 

I love this CD but I’m biased. Hitmen DTK are one of my all time favourites. Every album (especially those cd reissues with live and demos) are pure gold. So to be able to add live “Moronic Inferno” and “UELA” songs to the collection is so bloody good. - Ron Brown


Buy it 

If you were at the shows, you’ll know they were special. If you weren’t, now you can hear what the fuss was about with your own ears. 

“Tonight We Ride” is an approved bootleg documenting one of a handful of shows that reunited Radio Birdman’s “twin guitar attack” of Chris Masuak and Deniz Tek on an Australian stage. 

By 1991, the Hitmen were 10 years past their peak of major label interest and after some stops and starts, were not gigging as frequently as in their heyday.  The Australian live music circuit was starting to atrophy under the weight of red tape and regulation and shifting tastes. It was still in existence but the big boys had moved in and festivals were the thing. The one thing that hadn't changed was that on their night, the Hitmen were the equal of any other band in the land.  

Tek was in the throes of igniting a solo career, and had joined the Hitmen (using the moniker Hitmen DTK by then, to avoid a potential US copyright clash) in Sugar Hill Studios in Texas for the recording of the “Moronic Inferno” album. A hit-and-run visit to Sydney by Tek the following year left just enough of a window for rehearsals and three gigs.

Vicious Kitten zine (and later label) owners Denis and Colin Gray ran tape over the first of them, at the blink-and-you-missed-it venue Toucan Tango in Sydney’s Newtown. Thirty years later, the brothers proposed to issue it as a CD. Last year, Tek and ex-Hitmen Chris Masuak and Johnny Kannis - all estranged from each other - agreed. 

A pause for some caveats: This isn’t your well-balanced, remixed, multi-channel desk tape. It’s as the audience heard it. Sonic wizard Ernie O worked his magic at his Urban Compound in the wilds of outer Melbourne to bring it up several sonic grades. Additional declaration: The I-94 Bar has history with the principal participants and an ongoing association with Chris Masuak.

Back to the review: Apart from Birdman standards and the odd choice cover, the songs are mostly drawn from “Moronic Inferno” and the Hitmen DTK “U.E.L.A.” EP that preceded it. The former highlighted the sharp pop hooks of the band, the latter its muscular rifferama strengths. 

Besides Kannis, Masuak and guest player Tek, this formidable line-up is Bob Sattler on guitar, Shane Cooke on bass and Gerard Presland on drums. I saw them at Annandale a few nights later and this recording confirms what the memory bank registered: The show was killer, the band was a keeper.

Opener “Justice Blind” marches to Gerard Presland’s snare and kick. “Utopian Emotional Love Aura” is another shouldabeenahit. Ditto just about anything else on “Moronic Inferno”, from which we get a six-pack. 

Some people can’t cop the Hitmen’s cover of New Order’s “Rock and Roll Soldiers” for its militaristic overtones and band-as-a-gang mentality. Same old shit sounding familiar? In the band’s hands back then, it really did seems like they were fighting a war against the jive. But that there was less jive around now, the world would be a better place.

Seven songs in, Masuak tackles the Pink Fairies vocal intro to “Walk Don’t Run” with spirit and that’s the cue for The Iceman to step on stage. “Hand of Law” is a pre-requisite.  

Tek’s warning that “Man With Golden Helmet” might lack something without key boards is superfluous. It’s a cracking, strong-arm version with two guitars jousting replacing the piano leavening. 

“Do The Pop” has added Glutonic assistance from Mark Sisto on backing vocals. No “New Race” but “Aloha Steve and Danno” keeps the Birdman home fires burning. 

“La Woman” is stripped of the family member call-outs that would feature in latter-day Hitmen DTK sets, and Kannis channels the blues-wailing Jimbo to good effect. “California Sun” might have been a predictable finish but it’s served up with equal measures of cheese and good-time guitar lick fun to be the shit that the inner-city hipster types would never get, but the suburban fun-seekers would always understand.  

This album might be an ode to a time that can never be re-captured but it’s a pretty great piece of nostalgia that deserved to see the light of day. Buy it on CD only from the label’s Bandcamp. - The Barman