For more than 40 years, Kim Salmon, frontman of cult sensations The Scientists (alongside a metric tonne of other projects), has forged a reputation as one of Australia’s most prolific artists, having spent decades performing for fans all over the world and even snagging himself a gong in both the Western Australian and Victorian Halls of Fame. Having said that, even the best of our slave-to-the-grind types need a breather now and again.
“I just got out of bed,” he admits with a chuckle when we touch base just after midday on a blustery May afternoon in Sydney. “I like it when my day looks different every day…Yesterday and the day before were really mental. I teach music at JMC Academy and it’s exam time! So between marking, and my schedule doing the promo for new Scientists’, it’s been tricky to get downtime; I’ve actually just finished doing an art exhibition as well.”
It’s an incredible amount to have your plate at one time for anybody, let alone someone who has achieved the level of success and been awarded the number of accolades that Salmon has. And yet, in the midst of this creative chaos, the Aussie icon has forged the time to cut a new record with The Scientists titled Negativity, marking their return to wax for the first time in 35 years.
“I used to hate the word ‘project’,” Salmon offers. “You had to do this [band] as your life.” After taking time out, he re-affirms what drew him back into the fold after reversing that decision. “This part of me will always be in my DNA. It’s good to explore new musical dimensions of yourself, but it just felt like it was a good time to go back to that classic two-note punk sound that I fell in love with.”
Notably, Negativity is the first Scientists’ record to feature shared writing credits between the band members across all tracks. However, Salmon is quick to point out that he’s still the primary writer of the band, and fans won’t be treated to any unwelcome sonic surprises.
“Really we’re trying in many ways to do what we did before, because it was a good thing,” he notes. “Someone extrapolated from the original press release that I wasn’t the primary songwriter any more – but I still am! Tony Thewlis [guitarist] came up with two thirds of the riffs, whereas I used to write everything back in the old days.
“I actually started messing around on drums to write these songs…I’d make up drum patterns, I’d go, “That’s groovy, I can sing to that,’ and he’d send back a bunch of riffs. That’s how 60% of the record was written, and it was a lot of fun.”
Having made the move from Australia to the United Kingdom in the early ’80s, The Scientists quickly earned their stripes in the motherland, slotting in alongside the post-punk sound sweeping the country at the time. Salmon agrees that the influence of such an experience is still present on Negativity, noting that they “tried to pare it down as primitive as we could get it…That was something we tried to do as much back then as we do now. It was important to keep this record a product of the same time as our last one.
“The song ‘Suave’ for example is totally a slab of the 1980s. It references our contemporaries from back then. When you’re around a scene that is so vibrant, it never really leaves you.”
Only time (and border controls) will tell if Negativity will lead to any live dates, with members scattered across the globe and experiencing various stages of lockdown. That aside, there is no denying that the creative flame that has made Salmon this underground titan of Aussie rock is as bright as ever, and at 67-years-young, he’s showing no signs of burning out.