PHIL AUSTIN The Man Under The Hat


PHIL AUSTIN was born in Denver, CO, 4/6/41, an Aries, is the musician of the Firesign Theatre, and a writer. Phil was raised in Fresno, CA, by semi-Hindu parents. His father was an accomplished jazz trumpet player, and passed along his musical genetics and sensibilities to his son. Austin began appearing in local theater productions as a child, with his mother and continued that pursuit through his high school years and at Bowdoin College, Fresno State and UCLA. Phil began, very early on, to write poetry and literature, printing works in various scholastic publications, throughout his education.

Austin initiated his broadcasting career by reading the funnies over the air, during his elementary school days, and putting together fake radio productions and political comedy tapes with his high school friends in Fresno. Phil further developed his radio craft in college on his own program and as a U. S. Army reservist in the Psychological Warfare Department. With some fellow soldiers, he wrote and performed various voices for a novelty single, "Duckman", by "The Buddies", released in 1966, on Decca Records, and that eventually lead to a recording contract for The Firesign Theatre at Columbia. Austin also appeared on a political parody album based on the Lyndon Johnson administration and provided narration for the Gary Usher produced "The Astrology Album" which featured famous rock stars talking about their signs.

By the time he was hired at KPFK in LA, eventually succeeding David Ossman as Drama and Literature director, Austin had appeared in over 30 Shakespearean and other theatrical productions at various venues including the Actor's Workshop, in San Francisco, Centre Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum in LA, where he worked with Phil Proctor and in numerous community based playhouses.

Phil Austin was the producer and on line engineer of the "Radio Free Oz" show that brought Peter Bergman together with the other future members of The Firesign Theatre. Austin contributed his unique writing skills to the group, adding an inherited musician's surreal and silly sense of humor and a Philistine approach to the new age comedy espoused by the others. His 'Nick Danger' character helped establish the necessary album sales to keep The Firesign Theatre afloat on a major label, and in the record bins, opening the doors to their best work.

Austin wrote and produced his first solo recording, "Roller Maidens From Outer Space", released on Epic Records, in 1974. Like an audio Magritte, mixing down known images on his surrealistic recording palette, and utilizing the other members to juxtaposition his favorite Firesign themes, from TV channel switching, matinee movies, family sitcoms, detective dramas, and pseudo-evangelism, with his own personal obsessions of sports, women, country music, and Nixon, he soundly painted an apocalyptic nightmare resurrection and the ascension of televisionary American icons on a Roller Derby canvas of fun.

When Proctor and Bergman splintered off to run the nightclub circuit, Austin joined with David Ossman to carry the weight of the Firesign mantle, producing several shows and writing the basic script for the last Columbia album, "In The Next World You're On Your Own".

Throughout The Firesign Theatre years, Phil honed his writing skills, publishing his own little flyers, and producing many radio and movie scripts, and contributing various fiction to national magazines. Austin's voice also surprisingly graces some recordings not normally associated with Firesign Theatre fans providing all the spoken word segments on "Dream A Little Dream Of Me" (1968) Mama Cass Elliots's first solo album, and writing and performing a brief 'skit' for David Cassidy's "Massacre On Park Bench" on the "The Higher They Climb, The Harder They Fall" (1975) LP.

In 1976 Austin started his first detective novel, "Sucker's Game", that began as installments in "Crawdaddy Magazine", which also included some of his various other short pieces reflecting the "Next World" images on the "Firesign Theatre Fun Pages". Austin has also contributed many short stories for various publications.

In the '80s Austin formed Pyro-Playhouse with Proctor and Bergman as a vehicle to produce commercials, develop TV shows for Lorimar Pictures, investigate the world of Compact Disc Interactive, write and record the 'Grammy' nominated, first comedy CD, "The Three Faces Of Al", help realize the video projects "The Case Of The Missing Yolks" for Pacific Arts, and the Cinemax special "Eat Or Be Eaten", which he directed, and continue The Firesign Theatre name and catalog, when Ossman journeyed East to work for NPR. Austin continued the Nick Danger tradition by writing, performing and reporting in character 53 episodes for the nationally syndicated political satire radio program "The Daily Feed", carried on over 80 stations between 1988 - 90, and now collected on a limited edition CD produced exclusively for Firezine.

In recent years he has recorded numerous voice-overs for television and radio commercials, and had his own radio show, "Hollywood Nite Shift", which ran for 2 years. Phil Austin was scheduled to write for and appear on Chevy Chase's ill fated late night TV talk show and has contributed to Barbra Streisand's 'Emmy' nominated HBO specials. He has recently recorded two audio productions, "Down Under Danger" for Michigan Public Radio, with a cast of local actors for their "Pulp Radio" series, released by "Sparks Media", and a new book on tape "Tales Of The Old Detective And Other Big Fat Lies", for Audio Partners, that he wrote and performs by himself. Austin is now working on developing a television series for a major cable network, creating new characters such as Ed Woodpecker, Private Eye, setting up the Firesign Theatre website and acting as the spirit guide for Firezine.

When not concentrating on Firesign Theatre material, performing, giving readings of his stories, voicing commercials, back packing, auto touring, and watching sports on TV, Austin spends his happily married time with his beautiful wife Oona, a Hollywood commercial food stylist, and their assorted dogs, and in the pursuit of the great American novel, now reaching epic proportions, the tentatively titled "Beaver Teeth", expanding "The Tales Of The Old Detective, And Other Big Fat Lies", into printed book length, and forming the newly started automotive fiction, "The Domestic 500".

During his long 40 some odd year career, Austin has worked in every phase of show business. He started out as a writer and has come a complete full circle to where he feels that writing is his main avocation, and desire. An extreme concern for quality, and a willingness to express a high degree of professionalism, permeates through all of his work and has won an undying respect from his associates and loyalty from his legions of fans. His willingness to carry forward his concept, and love of The Firesign Theatre against all internal and external odds has filled Firezine with an appreciation to try to portray his thoughts and words as accurately as possible.

Phil Austin is an extremely funny, refreshingly frank, horrifyingly soft spoken, self deprecating man, who has a very realistic insight on his world, and an incredibly imaginative outlook on ours.