With Australian punk icons THE SCIENTISTS set to play a one-off show in London this week, Vive Le Rock spoke to Kim Salmon and Tony Thewlis from the band for our Rough Guide feature in the latest edition of the mag. As a special online-only bonus, here are the rest of their responses….
How did the reissue deal with Numero Group come about? Did they approach you? Had you been seeking a back catalogue reissue initially?
KIM: My manager Andrew got that one. I’m always open to these things but as an artist who is still producing work I find that doing that takes up most of my energy.
What can we expect from the Scientists’ set?
KIM: We’ve been discussing doing stuff from Blood Red River and things like ‘Murderess…’ and ‘Leadfoot’. We might look at some obscurities like ‘Perpetual Motion’… but essentially expect – dare I say it? – classic Mach 2 Scientists.
TONY: The Scientists playing a selection of Scientists songs that we imagine people would expect us to play, plus a few obscure old songs and possibly a couple of old covers that we used to play, just to keep it fresh and interesting to us and hopefully exciting for everybody else.
I understand it was a request from Mudhoney that sparked the 2006 reunion. How easy was it to accept?
KIM: Not difficult at all as we had already reformed 4 years earlier for an Australian national tour in 2002 to promote some of our CD reissues.
TONY: We actually did a reunion tour of Australia in 2001 when I happened to go back there for a holiday. The last gig was in Adelaide and that was supposed to be our last ever show. It didn’t really occur to us that anyone would want us to do anything again, but the tour (and a show we did for Australian TV) was fun and we all enjoyed playing together again, so when we were asked to do some ATP gigs by Mudhoney it was no hardship to say yes.
Robert Coyne, who’s currently on drums, has played in the band previously. When was this and how did you recruit him?
KIM: He played a show in 1985 when Brett Rixon first left. He was great, and all of 16 years old, but when we asked him if he’d join he said he couldn’t because of his loyalty to him and his brother’s band ‘Sliver Chapter.
TONY: Robert was playing bass and keyboards in a band called Silver Chapter who used to come to Scientists gigs as soon as we landed in London. In 1985 we needed someone to take over from Brett and we considered asking Silver Chapter’s drummer, but then Kim helped them with a recording session and realised that Robert was a Brian Jones type of whizz-kid who could play any instrument he touched, and his style was very much like ours. He drummed with us at a few gigs in London but we didn’t ask him to join permanently because: a) we didn’t want to be responsible for ruining Silver Chapter by stealing one of their members, and b) Robert was only 15 and too young to be legally allowed in most of the places we played!
In 1987 Kim did some gigs as a duo with Nick Combe, playing some new songs he’d written, and I did some demos of my songs with Robert on bass and Kevin Rooney on drums. When we recorded The Human Jukebox we used a combination of those songs and personnel (which is why Rob is playing bass on It Must Be Nice). I think Kim’s left-over songs went to the Surrealists, and most of mine went to The Interstellar Villains.
When I moved back to London in 1992 Robert kindly let me sleep in his living room for a few weeks and eventually we started talking about forming a band which became The Scoundrelles. We both also played together in Venus Ray and Chris Wilson’s Groovin’ Flames. And to balance things out I play in Roberts own band, The Robert Coyne Outfit.
So it is very fitting that we have him back on the Scientists’ drum stool seeing as Leanne isn’t available for these shows.
What are your memories of you spell in London during the 80s. Do Australian bands who’ve spent a prolonged period over here ever compare stories?
KIM: I think I’ve talked about those times with Dave Graney and Clare Moore but to be honest, the Scientists distanced themselves from other Australian bands…in fact other bands generally. I remember being poor but I got to like London a lot and was actually homesick for it when I went home to Perth in 1987.
TONY: We didn’t hang around with any Australian bands in London. Although we didn’t really hang around with any Australian bands (apart from the Hoodoo Gurus) in Australia, either!
What are your thoughts on a new record from The Scientists?
KIM: It’ll never happen again! Why would I want to throw away perfectly good songs when they won’t have a hope in hell in any comparison with the ‘legend’. It’s the same with any reformed band. No one is EVER EVER really interested in new stuff from them. Also the Scientists ran their course back in the day. A reformation can only exist in a controlled environment if you’ll pardon the ‘scientific’ pun. If you bring a band back to life it’ll pretty quickly find its way back to the point when it imploded. Even when people have matured they tend to revert back to their old modes of behavior in a familiar old situation. And who’d want a band like the Scientists to be a bunch of psychologically ‘mature’ blokes anyway ha ha!
TONY: People seem to like our “legacy” so it would have to be something very extraordinary in order to not sully what we did before. There aren’t many bands that can pull that off, including bands that we admire like Big Star or The New York Dolls, who obviously thought they could pull it off. Their reformation albums have had some ok moments, but nothing that touches what they did originally. And if they can’t deliver what we expect from them, what chance have we got? That said, though, I just recalled that The Pirates made some entertaining and rocking “new” records, post-Johnny Kidd, so if Kim or Boris came up with something that they thought needed “The Scientists” on it I’d be happy to oblige. Although it would probably be better to call it something else and have people think “Wow. This sounds a bit like The Scientists…”.
It’s similar to how I think about remakes of TV shows – it would be much better to have a new show that you enjoy and then suddenly realise why – “Wow. This new show is great, it’s a bit like a modern, Jeremy Brett-era Sherlock Holmes!” rather than being bombarded by a load of hype and then discover – “Oh dear, this is actually supposed to be Sherlock Holmes? It’s nothing like Sherlock Holmes! Why didn’t they just leave it alone?”
Kim, you’re quite a prolific songwriter. What situation do you find most conducive to writing?
KIM: A deadline. I actually don’t ever write unless I have to. Generally its for some musical project eg Kim and Leanne, or the Runaways record I did with Spencer P Jones or my new one My Script. I think the only difference with My Script was that I had been feeling guilty over the last few years about my slackness with writing and had put the odd sketch on my iPhone memo to make myself feel better – so when producer Myles Mumford approached me about making a record I had something to start with. I still had to write them once we got into the studio however. So…. a deadline and being guilt-ridden are the two situations most conducive to writing songs for me.
The 80s, seen from overseas, was an unusually creative wellspring for Australian underground music. Discuss.
KIM: I’ve always said that Rock and Roll since it started, has had its epicenter somewhere in the world, be it Memphis, London, Manchester or Sweden. For The 1980s I’d argue that it was Australia. In those post punk times England got too caught up in fads and it was assumed that punk had been just one of those. Therefore rock became passé. Naturally a whole generation of Australians had gotten excited about the punk thing and then didn’t want to be told that it was passé. In the 80s the touring circuit of Europe was dominated by US and Australian punk. Younger US bands were actually looking to Australia for inspiration. Then of course once those younger US bands started blossoming it was the end for us and our European touring circuit gravy train. I knew something was up when reading the name Mudhoney on bandroom walls on a Beasts Of Bourbon tour in Groningen or somewhere.
TONY: A lot of Australian bands from that time seem to really strike a chord with rock-and-roll loving Spain. I’m not sure there was anything special about Australia, maybe that was just the place you happened to look and happily found exactly what you were looking for! There was stuff coming out of America at the same time (The Gun Club, The Cramps, Alex Chilton, The Panther Burns, The dBs, etc), and slightly later a flurry of stuff like the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, The Oblivions, The Reigning Sound, etc. Has anyone checked to see if perhaps there is currently a similar (and as yet undiscovered) wellspring in Croatia?
Of all Kim Salmon projects, what has been the most rewarding, or unrewarding, if you like?
KIM: They’ve all had their rewards. Actually I think my career has been amazingly rewarding for me. I’m really lucky! Some projects have had higher levels of toxicity than others, but I’ve weathered it or walked away before I got too damaged.
The Scientists play The Lexington, London on Saturday 25 June, with support from BLACK MEKON. Tickets are available here.
The retrospective A Place Called Bad is available to pre-order through The Numero Group.
Read the Rough Guide To The Scientists feature in the latest edition of Vive Le Rock!
Check out ‘Solid Gold Hell’ on YouTube.