Tony Thewlis and Kim Salmon fronting the Scientists at Sydney's Southern Cross Hotel in 1982.
The Scientists at their peak were unmatchable. A glorious collision of droning, caustic, fuzz guitars, minimalist bass, anguished lyrics about alienation and ominous, funereal rhythms, they created something unique after landing in Sydney in 1981.
Originally ragged New York Dolls-inspired popsters back in Perth, the re-constituted Scientists stripped their music back to its darkest roots, concoting their own brand of psychedelia and incorporating influences like Suicide, the Stooges and Captain Beefheart.
Too big for their own Surry Hills backyard, the band moved to the UK in 1982 and, in typical expatriate Australian underground band fashion, starved before going on to influence countless other acts into the ‘90s and beyond.
James McCann leads his New Vindictives through a set in Sydney.
Before he was hanging out with The Drones in Perth, or touring through Europe with his own bands, James McCann cut his teeth playing in a local band in regional Western Australia. It was a baptism of fire, an experience that instilled in McCann a resilience that’s benefited him ever since.
“There’d be bikers, surfers, shearers, hippies, all mixing into one crowd, and fuckin’ getting’ shitfaced,” McCann says. “It could go real good, or it could go south really quickly. Heavy stuff would be happening, and you’d be up there watching. You had to hold your own.
"So by the time we got to Perth, playing was a walk in the park! The whole of my music career since then has been easy, crowd-wise.”
McCann grew up in the Western Australian town of Albany, 400 kilometres south-east of Perth. McCann’s father had moved from Scotland to Australia in the 1950s. After marrying a local woman in Sydney, where McCann’s elder sister was born, the McCanns moved back to Scotland, where James and his younger sister were born.
Gang War at Second Chance in Ann Arbor in 1979. Sue Rynski photo
It’s said the drummer in a rock and roll band has the best seat in the house. It’s given John Morgan his unique perspective on some of rock and roll’s most talented, fascinating and sometimes flawed characters.
Now living in Ventura, California, John Morgan’s spent half his life as a professional musician, playing with a long list of blues and jazz bands. But it’s his insights into two in particular: Gang War and Sonic's Rendezvous Band - the former as a partcipant, thw latter as an observer - that will hold the most interest for I-94 Bar patrons.