‘There was just this chemistry’: Scientists talk chemistry, new discoveries and their first studio album in 35 years

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‘There was just this chemistry’: Scientists talk chemistry, new discoveries and their first studio album in 35 years

Words By Tammy Walters

From a scientific perspective, the world is evolutionary; from apes to Neanderthals to humans; embryos to tadpoles, to frogs. It’s about chemical compounds binding to force those evolutions, and it’s about making new discoveries.

For Perth post-punk rockers, Scientists, their entire career follows this formula. 

Forming in 1978, they have seen multiple incarcerations spawning from The Exterminators and then The Invaders, to holding two forms as a Perth-based punk band of the late 1970s and the Sydney/London-based swamp rock band of the 1980s under the title The Scientists, the Kim Salmon led band eventual dropped their tadpole tail to be just Scientists that we know today.

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“Anything after 1982 doesn’t have ‘The’ in front of Scientists. I just liked the idea that it was Scientists better, it was good enough for Ramones, it’s good enough for us,” Salmon laughs.

Following their 1982 self-titled debut album, The Scientists, aka The Pink Album, Scientists would release six albums, with the mid 80’s seeing the band as one of the most successful independent Australian bands and growing a major fanbase in the UK. But by 1985, cracks started to appear. 

“Things happen with bands. In our case, we had some label issues that we had to get through which we did eventually but it took a bit because it was legal stuff. That took up a lot of energy and resources and kind of wore the band down a bit and we ended up imploding,” explains Salmon.

“Our drummer that we relied on in the ’80s, Brett [Rixon], had left around 1985 and replacing him – the band had this particular chemistry, as much as the sound itself was incredibly robust and like a bull at a gate, the mechanisms to make it work and chemistry was a very delicate balance and we couldn’t seem to make it work with drummers until we finally got Leanne [Cowie] our tour manager. She had bought Brett’s drums and had kind of been secretly practising away on the side. She had no experience as a musician or anything, and in 1985 on the tour with Siouxsie and the Banshees, she jumped in and played, and has been with us ever since. There was just this chemistry!”

That chemistry continued until 1987 when the band called it a day. Salmon went on to front Kim Salmon and the Surrealists and joined the second incarceration of the Beasts of Bourbon from 1988 until 1993. Reforming in 2006 the band made special appearances around the world, but 2017 would see them officially start to release new music. 

“We were pretty dead against being an old band and getting back together and making new material because we thought ‘Oh people hate that’. They don’t hate it; they ask for new material, listen to it and go back to the old stuff so it’s like why bother? There’s not a great history of old bands getting back together and doing good stuff. So we had that to battle against,” says Salmon.

With a few single releases supporting tours in the lead-up, 2019 saw the band inducted into the Western Australian Music Industry Awards Hall of Fame and jump headfirst back into the studio to form the 2021 release of Negativity; a culmination of the band’s past and their explosive chemical compatibility. 

“It was definitely informed by what had come before with Scientists. The odd thing about Negativity is that those pieces that we did many moons ago to tie us over like Survival Skills, when I listen to them now, they don’t sound like a band in one place. They sound like many things coming together in a production room. Negativity really does benefit from having everyone in the room at the same time and it’s organic as much as that doesn’t really reflect our name,” Salmon laughs.

“The things that people expect outside of the band and what we expect as a band for the Scientists to sound like can be very different and that’s because we have all evolved individually, our likes, our styles, but we always want to come back to that essence.”

This album will be on showcase at their upcoming February 2023 tour, along with potential new singles, where they will be bringing Double Agent and Imperial Leather to the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine on Saturday 11 February and Barwon Club in Geelong on Sunday 12 February for two huge nights of post-punk jams.

Tickets for Castlemaine here, and Geelong here.