The Scientists are back in their classic 1985 lineup

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The Scientists are back in their classic 1985 lineup

From Beasts of Bourbon, The Surrealists, The Business and the Darling Downs, Kim Salmon’s music career has had many faces. Now he’s back with The Scientists, the pop-punk cult hit from the ’70s. Forté was stoked for the chance to sit down with Kim Salmon to discuss his sound and the rock lifestyle.

Can you tell me what drew you to making music in the first place?

No, I can’t! Really though, when I was an adolescent I heard music that, pardon the pun, struck a chord with me. I decided that I would investigate the sounds I was hearing from the 1970s and that particular period in rock. There were heavy rock sounds such as what the Rolling Stones and David Bowie were doing that inspired me to want to do in music. To begin with I wanted to be a singer, but I figured that I couldn’t do that, so I learned guitar. Then when I got into the band I ended up having to sing my own songs and write my own material.

Your band originally came from Perth before relocating to Sydney and Melbourne. How have you found the music scene differs here?

Perth has this reputation about being a place that produces top music, like Tame Impala, Empire of the Sun, Sleepy Jackson, and The Stems. When we began, we were playing pop punk and it wasn’t a very popular move, since it was like punk but with a melody. We found more of an audience in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. I arrived here in Melbourne and then was in awe of how proficient they were and that turned everything upside down. It used to be that the guitar players were probably the least talented people and the bassists who could play a range, along with the keyboard and understand harmony. When punk rock came along and turned that upside down, it became so that the bass player was like a guitar player that could only play a few strings. I also found that having a singer who was an arts student really brought melodies into what I was writing.

The Scientists have reformed a few times. What can you tell me about the development of each incarnation?

In the early days, I composed the music and the drummer wrote the words, until he left to join the Hoodoo Gurus. I didn’t have a drummer to write lyrics for me anymore! It was a shift in that I had to draw from my own life, and the music became more of a blend of primitive garage rock and experimentalism. We relocated to London after that and our sound changed to be more stylised and motif driven. There was a trashy comic book element that permeated the music for a while, and then it really exploded. The last album we made was on a really low-budget, called The Human Jukebox, which was really experimental. The phase that we’re best known for is that second one, which brought out songs like Nitro and Solid Gold Hell.

What’s your favourite thing about performing live?

God, there’s all kinds of things I love about performing live. It’s an immediate art form and I love the response people have to the music. It doesn’t have to be a standard response, because our music can be confronting at times. We even got bottled off upstage once. In the ’80s we went around to a lot of different agencies to try and get a gig, but they all gave us the bum’s rush. Daddy Cool was quite tenacious and they set us up in a tour with The Angels, the main act in their roster, through the suburbs of Perth. We felt totally mismatched with The Angels but we continued to play our own music. At the final gig in Paramatta, there were some disgruntled mutterings in the audience. We just turned it up even louder and picked the songs that would antagonise them, such as Nitro. So we played that, and then there was a torrent of bottles coming at the stage and we had to run. The bouncer was helping us out of the building but I was dreadful – I was going out and dancing in front of them as they shouted us out. But we were a punk rock band, so what do you expect?

So, back to the present. You’re going to be touring with The Scientists between October and November. What can we look forward to?

There will be the usual songs that people expect us to play like Swampland and We Had Love, songs from Blood Red River, and songs we wrote when we went over to the U.K. Every time we’ve gotten back together, which is mad often, we’d pick slightly different songs that have overlooked from our repertoire. I’ve also got a cover that we haven’t done before, but I feel that it’s a song that fits with our band and what we’re about.

Where and When: Corner Hotel, Melbourne – October 28 & Barwon Club, Geelong – October 29

Written by Stephanie Downing