Solid as a Rock: The Hitmen return

For those who don’t know The Hitmen, they are pure rock and roll, born out of the hard rocking brotherhood of iconic Australian band Radio Birdman. Johnny Kannis was right there amongst it all, dressed in a white tuxedo, introducing Radio Birdman as MC and singing back-up vocals to boot.

The Hitmen had many members who’ve come and gone, including Hoodoo Gurus’ Brad Shepherd and Mark Kingsmill. Radio Birdman former guitarist Chris Masuak was a staple in the band, and now lives in Spain and will not be joining the band on tour. The best way to find out what’s happening with one of the hardest playing and working rock bands in Australia is to ask the man himself – Johnny Kannis.

It’s a long time since you were Radio Birman’s MC and also a long time between drinks for our favourite rock ‘n’ roll soldiers The Hitmen. What has brought the Hitmen back to the war against the jive?

Hitmen have been trying to plan a tour for the past few years, ever since our 30 Year birthday party celebration but have stumbled at the last hurdle a few times due to Chris living in Europe. An offer came through from the Harbour Agency in Sydney late last year and it seemed to fit just right with the 4 of us. Laneway Music was also planning to release our Best Of album online. So it made perfect sense.

The Hitmen have had various line-up changes over the years and some legendary players. What is the new line up and how is it going so far?

We’ve been rehearsing for the past seven months. It’s a tougher, rock n roll sound. Tony Robertson and I return as original rock n roll soldiers.Tony Jukic (switching to lead guitar) has been re-called to active service and Muzz Shepherd, ex chief Screaming Tribesmen and brother of original member Brad Shepherd (currently serving in another war), are now proud to serve. Murray has been with the band since 2007.Not a loose collection of musicians, I say!! Rather, a genetically spliced SupaHuman, featuring both original and family DNA. With the recent inclusion of new member, and second guitarist Vince Cuscuna (Ex Buffalo Revisited), this is truly the next generation of THE HITMEN DTK.

Chris Masuak was a part of the Hitmen for many years, and there have been many rumours floating about regarding him not being in the band. What is the real story?

Chris Masuak will not be appearing on this July 2017 tour. Negotiations with his manager to bring him out from Europe became impossible – they kept knocking back our offers. He wasn’t fired. We do wish him all the best with his solo career and fantastic new album! The HITMEN DTK 2017 tour line-up is sounding bigger and better than it ever has! Trust me, I know. It’s time to move on and shake some action!

I have been coming to see The Hitmen since I was old enough to get into venues, and one thing I have noticed is that you give everything to the point of exhaustion. Do you still have that passion and burn onstage, the fire in the heart that has always been the guts and glory of The Hitmen?

Nothing’s changed. Why would it? I’m still a lean – mean rock ‘n’ roll machine. My passion has never died. I’m excited to meet old and new fans at the gigs. It’s what drives me. I am shameless. I love the stage. I will give 110% and will not let anyone down. I work out these days and have a lot of fuel to burn off. It will be complete rock n roll ANARCHY!

Of all your albums It Is What It Is and Tora Tora DTK are my personal favourites. What are the albums and bands that are your personal favourites?

I still listen to Radio Birdman’s Radios Appear! I was 16 when I wore that white tux in Radio Birdman’s New Race film clip… what an amazing rock ‘n’ roll journey these past 40 years has been for me. I thank Rob (Younger), Deniz (Tek), Ron (Keeley), Pip (Hoyle) and Warwick (Gilbert) for all the inspiration and good times. I owe it all to Radio Birdman. Richard Manitoba from the Dictators NYC inspired me to have attitude and be shameless, Elvis taught me about showbiz, the Ramones/Sex Pistols introduced me to anarchy which still drives my performances and Jimmy Barnes inspired me to never give in.

So what can the punters expect when The Hitmen strike town?

We will leave nothing in the tank. We’re going to have some serious fun! We’ll play all your favourite songs from Tora Tora DTK, It Is What It Is and our first album. The sound will be tougher and faster. In the War Against The Jive we will rip it up!

The Hitmen DTK are one of Australia’s great, hard rocking guitar bands and when they hit Parkwood Tavern on 7 July, they’ll be supported by The Protools (including former members of the Exploding White Mice).

The Hitmen DTK play the Parkwood Tavern on 7 July. See you in the trenches, Rock ‘n’ Roll Soldiers.

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