Headliner Kim Salmon: No fish out of water. Campbell Manderson photo
Every time I go to Melbourne, something elbows me in the ribs and, somehow, things don’t go according to plan. The last few weeks have been short pay weeks, so I didn’t have quite enough dosh as I expected.
Of course, I had also completely forgotten that hotels now want a deposit against impromptu extra day stays and so forth, just in case you take the toaster into the shower or, to settle an argument, see how just far down the emergency stairs you can surf on the bed.
So, somewhat impoverished, I set off for St Kilda, a once-magical place of genteelly-crumbling art deco, dread gangsters (the real kind), assorted equally impoverished students, musicians, dealers and migrants and so on and so on. The event is the 16th A Day By The Green, a long-running Melbourne rock and roll institution.
The name James Baker is synonomous with Australian garage rock. His musical exploits read like a who’s who of legendary Australian music – one third of legendary Perth proto-garage punk outfit The Victims, original drummer (and songwriter) with the garage pop incarnation of The Scientists, skinsman in the first (and best) line-up of Le Hoodoo Gurus, founding member of Australia’s best known rock supergroup, the Beasts of Bourbon and drummer with the sadly underappreciated Dubrovniks.
After a 22 year hiatus, the Dubrovniks are temporarily back together and will be playing shows around the world, book-ended by gigs in Perth (June 6) and Melbourne (July 18).
“I’m Flipped Out Over You” is the theme for the Australian dates, the first leg of which is a show at Perth’s Rosemont Hotel with the original Scientists. It also happens to be the wedding reception for Dubrovniks and Scientists drummer James Baker and features the Television Addicts (two-thirds of the Victims, Spencer P Jones and The Runaways (Spencer P Jones and Kim Salmon.)
The Melbourne version of “I’m Flipped Out Over You” becomes a two-stage garage punk extravaganza at the Corner Hotel with a gloriously loud bill that also includes the original line up of the Scientists (Kim Salmon, Baker, Boris Sudjovic and Rod Radalj), They’ll be joined by Rocket Science, Spencer P Jones & The Escape Committee, Hits, The Pink Tiles, The Electric Guitars and Girl Crazy.
Leanne Cowie (nee Chock), Boris Sudjovic, Kim Salmon and Tony Thewlis. Collectively known as The Scientists.
Ever have an attack of the stupids?
No? Must be me then.
See, The Barman asked me to do this interview with Kim Salmon to mark an Australian Scientists tour with the classic "experimental" line-up. A phoner. I wrote back saying, I couldn't, I'd be in Melbourne.
For many years now I’ve been damn glad I don’t live in Melbourne. There’s more quality musicians there per square metre than almost anywhere you can name. The worst of it is, see, I don’t like to go see a brilliant band just the once. No, that’s not how you’re called to music.
Here in Adelaide, I would relentlessly follow - and record - my favourite local bands. The Lizard Train, Bloodloss, I couldn’t get enough of. There were others I liked, but not like this. If I lived in Melbourne, I’d have to have myself cloned.
Kim Salmon, expat Perthian (we think they’ve stopped worshipping Baal, we know they no longer eat their young at Easter but the inbreeding remains a problem) and one of a handful of musicians with the strongest and most extraordinary creative imperative in the country, plays here tonight with a pickup band (the only way the gig would work).
Mark this one in your diary: Kim Salmon is taking the late period line-up of The Scientists out on the road in Australia for just four gigs later this year.
Guitarist-vocalist Salmon, bassist Boris Sudjovic, guitarist Tony Thewlis and drummer Leanne Cowie (nee Chock) were the 1988 configuration of the band, based in the UK and responsible for some of the band's most striking and harsh music. They'll be hitting Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in October and November.
Contrary bugger that he is, while this hasn’t quite been released, quite a few radio shows are playing tracks; this is probably because the DJs have all contributed to Kim’s crowdfunding site and have been snaffling the thing. And no wonder, because My Script is a ripper of a CD, all raucous yet bedroom-y, intimate and deafening by turns.
It’s also quite clear that this is Kim’s first "real" solo LP, allowing us to see the full gamut of his talent. Miles Mumford is in the production chair, in between contributing poignant soundscapes.
On the back cover, “All Rights Reserved” is followed by “All Wrongs Righted”. In a way that’s typical of the man Salmon; I mean, yeah, it’s bit of flung-out wordplay, but imagine setting out a task so hopelessly impossible to complete…
The Palais & The Prince of Wales, St Kilda, Melbourne, October 26, 2013
I have a lot time for the All Tomorrows Parties as a festival, it is ultra-cool. Awesome vibe. In fact, my festival going was a dim memory since the late Nineties until the ATP Sydney Cockatoo Island of a few years ago. It a lineup of was The Saints, Rowland S. Howard and Bad Seeds. No brainer really, It was an awesome day. Nor, was it a no brainer to get down to Melbourne for another dose of ATP with a lineup that included Jesus Lizard, Television, Scientists, Breeders and the Roland S Howard tribute Pop Crimes.
If they paid musicians retrospectively for being ahead of their time, iconic Australian drummer James Baker would be a billionaire. Picture his teen years growing up in The World’s Most Isolated Capital City (that’d be Perth) at the far end of Australia (that’s Western Australia.)
Expectations are one thing. Outcomes are another. The Scientists reformation (as in 35th anniversary of the original line-up) show at Sydney’s Factory Theatre failed to deliver for any number of reasons.
Pro Tools were bloody good. Drums bass guitar. Bassist I've seen before. Guitar is now Pete 'the Stud', who is a ridiculously talented, good natured show off. And damn good value. See them if they come to town, track them down and invite them if that society wedding promises to be a bit dreary.
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.
Kim Salmon’s creative productivity knows no bounds. While he occasionally looks backwards, re-visiting his Scientists and Beasts of Bourbon history in the live sense, for example, the overwhelming sense with Salmon is one of overwhelming momentum.
That’s the case with “True West”, his latest project which pairs him with late period Scientists drummer Leanne Cowie (nee Chock) to be his most vital sounding record since “Sin Factory”.