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IN CONVERSATION WITH: Kim Salmon – May 2014

| 28 May 2014 | Reply

IN CONVERSATION WITH: Kim Salmon – May 2014
By Shane Pinnegar

Kim Salmon blazed a fiercely individual swathe through the Western Australian music scene in the late 70’s and early 80’s, from his native Bunbury, around the traps in Perth and onwards to the East Coast and internationally.

Initially forming The Cheap Nasties and The Scientists – a band which earned him the moniker ‘The Godfather Of Grunge’ and global cult acclaim – Salmon went on to create wildly original and challenging music with The Beasts Of Bourbon, The Surrealists, The Business, Sexually Transmitted Music, Antenna, Mudhoney and recently, in unison with former Died Pretty vocalist Ron S Peno, The Darling Downs.

His is a body of work which values uniqueness over easy listening, and it all started here in Western Australia. Playing this weekend’s State Of The Art Festival in celebration of W.A.’s musicians, Kim shares some of his memories about being an alternative, underground artist in W.A. back when the world was young.

Kim Salmon 01
Shane: G’day, Kim. Shane from 100% Rock in Perth. How are you?

Kim Salmon: Not bad. How are you?

Shane: Very good and thank you for your time today. It’s much appreciated.

Kim Salmon: Yeah, I’ve got to say you’re very punctual, that’s not 100% Rock! That’s however good and no, I’m very pleased, don’t get me wrong.

Shane: Maybe if it was SIX am, I wouldn’t be quite so punctual.

Kim Salmon: 6 am this morning, yeah.

Shane: We’re here to talk about The State Of The Art Festival so let’s start off with, what do you think has made the WA music scene so vibrant for so many years?

Kim Salmon: That’s a hard one because I left it a long time ago and I would like to think that perhaps some of what I did had some effect on some people.

I remember that WA had a reputation for some pop sort of bands, like psychedelia, and I’d like to think some of the things that I did back then [in the 70’s] might have had a bit of an influence there.

Shane: Mm, there were a few different acts that were challenging the cover band vibe that was going on around then. You had Dave Warner doing the suburban rock thing, you guys were doing your thing…

Kim Salmon: Yeah. That was the beginning.

The Scientists

The Scientists

Shane: Dave Faulkner was doing his thing so there seemed to always be something vibrant happening, even on a cult level. I was just a little bit too young to be a part of that late seventies scene, but looking back on it, it seemed like even though most of the pubs wanted cover bands there was always still a scene happening, it was just a bit more underground.

Kim Salmon: Yeah, the thing is we were all reacting against [the scene]… probably the first signs of anybody reacting was just at that time, in the mid to late seventies. Before that it wasn’t so much covers [that were the problem], it was kind of like bands that aped particular ‘it’ bands from other scenes, like this real strong blues scene that was very much about getting it all exactly right, trying to replicate the Chicago blues sound a la San Francisco hippie.

And the British blues boom – there was a lot of blues around the place. For instance, you mentioned Dave Warner. I remember when I first saw him with [Dave Warner’s] From The Suburbs, he had this one song, and as I went into the pub the song was called The Worst Day Of My Life – and the band WASN’T playing a 12 bar blues! That was like a huge shock, along with his character and his songs, so I think we were all reacting against something while just trying to do our own thing.

There were no opportunities for young musicians. You had to pretty much create your own scene and when there’s an already existing scene and it’s like that, it’s very hard.

Then the cover thing really happened a little bit later. I actually played in a band that did covers but it wasn’t a themed band, it was a band that did a whole range of covers from the Hit Parade, basically. That was more the way cover bands operated down there. That was their repertoire – what had been in the pop charts over the last decade or so.

The themed cover bands happened a bit later. They were occurring in the same time that we were all going into the punk rock type things.

The Scientists

The Scientists

Shane: Do you think that the remoteness of Western Australia has created a common thread running through successful West Australian artists?

Kim Salmon: That common thread is really reacting against what’s there really, at the time. I don’t know, there could be, but it’d sort of be dangerous to try and put [a label on it]…to me, you can say all kinds of things in hindsight, so yeah, I don’t know. I certainly found myself not only to be isolated geographically, but isolated from anything – even other musicians it seemed. With all the world unto ourselves, me and then Dave Faulkner….

He and I were mates and hung out with our particular group of people. But we started out with a very small clique. We would get out and just rock while people were trying to get some bands going. But generally it was like we were pretty alone there.

And that’s kind of what… it’s great, it’s something that evolved where there is a common thread that is fantastic. We certainly didn’t see that back in the day.

Shane: And as you said, you guys had to create your own opportunities. There wasn’t a WA music industry as such, back then was there?

Kim Salmon: No. There was the Musicians Union, but they were very much into protecting the interest of what was already established – and [that was] the status quo. They didn’t really do great things. The particular way that we were able to create our own opportunities didn’t fit in with the way that things were already set up.

Pub owners paid bands a fixed wage, fees and there were certain scales or fees. That was the way we had to operate because we couldn’t get those sort of gigs. We weren’t welcome – there was like a closed shop. We weren’t welcome, so basically we had to approach venues that were willing to have us and put a cover charge on. That was [the only way we could] get paid… the union came repeatedly and tried to close us down. Because we were taking jobs – which DIDN’T exist, in actual fact – for other musicians. We were starting up opportunities.

It was a lack of understanding by the people of the time for what was actually occurring more than anything. It was just evolving over time and I’m very much an advocate of unionism but that particular situation didn’t really work for us.

Kim Salmon 03

Shane: As I said I was just a little too young for that scene, but having looked back and seen the regard that The Scientists are held in now, it’s hard to believe that it was that much of a struggle for you at the time.

Kim Salmon: You better believe it, baby! We were pariahs in Perth. I come back now and it’s completely different. We were not welcomed in our own town. I’d like to say otherwise – but I’d be telling a big fib.

Shane: Does it surprise you that it turned around completely – 180 degrees?

Kim Salmon: I feel somewhat vindicated! I do feel somewhat vindicated! I don’t know if it surprises me. It occurred over too long a period of time to be a surprise.

Shane: Fair enough. So you’re sharing the State Of The Art bill with a particularly eclectic line up. Are you aware of many of the artists on the line-up there?

Kim Salmon: I’m so busy just doing it in the moment and trying to make a living at it, getting by and working on new things that I’ve barely looked at it… I think Kill Devil Hills is on there, I know one of the people in my band plays for them. Who else is on there?

Shane: The Stems, for one. I thought might be almost contemporaries of yours?

Kim Salmon: Um…. yeah, I think so. It was more like the mid-eighties for them….

Shane: There are a few new bands: The Floors, Axe Girl, The Shakeys. Eskimo Joe you might have heard of…

Kim Salmon: Yeah, I’ve heard of them.

Kim Salmon 04

Shane: Black Eyed Susans, of course. They’re in there somewhere.

Kim Salmon: Yeah, yeah. I know a couple of them – I think of them as a northern band. Funnily enough, I played guitar in the Black Eyed Susans in their genesis.

Shane: I didn’t know that.

Kim Salmon: The Black Eyed Susans was quite a different thing back then. It was actually Dave McComb and Rob Snarski. I think Dave had the idea of setting up a band because he loved Rob’s voice so much. Rob didn’t really want to go and form a band, so Dave formed a band for him to be in and that’s what happened. Obviously he didn’t have the ego to go form and start his own band.. He was like that, you know, very unassuming. He didn’t want to assume he’d be able to start a band. That’s my take on it.

Dave thought, ‘Ah – let’s start a band’ and he started it with him and Rob. They were quite a tongue-in-cheek sort of band that did various things… I really liked them. I went along for a couple of gigs and got to talking to Dave. He had to leave, go away for awhile, so I talked to him and said ‘do you want me to fill in for you?’ And I did fill in for him for one season that they had. So that was interesting.

So I got to know Marty, I already knew Rob but I got to know Martin Casey quite well through that and struck up that friendship there. So yeah, I spent a bit of time there. But it is a little known fact [laughs]!

Shane: What can punters expect from Kim Salmon at State Of The Art. You’re performing as a three-piece I believe, with Todd Pickett and Pete Stone?

Kim Salmon: That’s right. I’ve got a couple of new songs that I’ll send them mp3s of or sketches of so we’ll do a rehearsal and work on them. Some new stuff actually because, well, we’ve done a lot of Scientists stuff [recently], but there’ll probably be a couple of Scientists things in there that are fun. It’s a bit close to all of that to really be doing a lot of Scientists material, I think. I guess it will be a three piece band, and I guess it’ll have a hard edge to it – but whatever it is people will say it’s ‘garage rock’, they say it’s garage rock no matter what, so it doesn’t matter!! [laughs]

But I don’t know. Pete asked me for a set list the other day and I told him the ideas I just told you, so that’s looking good. And I have a couple songs there now that I play solo that I’ve been developing that nobody would know over in Perth – they’re completely new, so hopefully I’ll be able to put a few of those into the set.

Shane: Keeping it interesting – very nice. Coincidentally I was listening to Joe Algeri’s latest EP Love Dumb, and there’s a cover of Frantic Romantic on there! Which is a bit surprising – very German electro!

Kim Salmon: Who? Who?

Shane: Joe Algeri.

Kim Salmon: Now who is he? I haven’t [heard it]. How do I find it?

Shane: It’s well worth a listen. Check out

Kim Salmon: There have been a few covers of that one, believe it or not. There’s another sort of Unearthed Triple J sort of a band – I can’t remember their name – who covered it recently as well. [a quick search through Google reveals covers of Franic Romantic by acts as intriguingly named as nag nag nag, Potato Stars, Star Spangled Banana, Teenage Head and Sweet Apple!]

Shane: Haven’t heard that one.

Kim Salmon: And someone called Matrimony. There’ve been actually quite a lot of covers – more of them, other Scientists songs, in fact – Swampland would have been one, then We Had Love. They have been covered and so has Set It On Fire, but Frantic Romantic’s the one that’s been covered the most, I would say.

Shane: Do you have a favourite cover version of one of your songs, one that has resonated with you?

Kim Salmon: Oh okay, ummm, I liked Magic Dirt’s version of We Had Love. That was good. They kind of… because the Scientists, particularly the Mark 2 Scientists, are a very difficult band to cover. They sound very minimalist, but it’s definitely not, so to accurately replicate it… a lot of people sort of do things and miss out on a whole lot of vital ingredients. But [Magic Dirt] kind’ve got it, they got it. Which is good.

I’m trying to think of another version… there’s a bluegrass version of Swampland… can’t think of the name of band… oh God, it’s terrible isn’t it! Is it age? Or is it being around too long? [laughs]

Shane: Let’s be generous and say it’s what you said earlier: you’ve been focused on your new material.

Kim Salmon: Yeah, yeah… well, that was about a decade ago, anyway, so I think I can be forgiven. Maybe it was … there’s a band called Texas T, but it’s not them because they are a Brisbane band that are very old country, so it wouldn’t have been them. But it had something to do with that… Anyway – sorry, I can’t remember that.

Shane: Must be a little bit obscure… never mind. What’s up with you for the rest of the year?

Kim Salmon: I’ve got a producer who wants to record a solo album with me. So that will keep me busy creatively.

I’ve got an album coming out with me and Leanne from The Scientists. We go under the banner, Kim & Leanne. We did a whole album and it’s coming out on a US label called Hozac. They’ve invited us over to headline their festival next year, so there’s that, a whole album of tunes there – I’ve been sitting on that for a couple of years, actually.

‘Cos I had, well, the way things occur… it ended up that if we decided to put that record out – I would have had four albums out last year, which is not really the way we’re going to do it.

I had Spencer Jones and myself, I had the Beasts of Bourbon album – the live stuff, and also had the Darling Downs album, so it was a lot of things there that I’m still kind of trying to work, but I’ve got this thing with Leanne and that’s coming out in August. I’m also looking forward to doing my solo album with this producer .

Shane: Very good. Well, we’ll probably see you back in Perth then before the year is out.

Kim Salmon: I agree.

Shane: Very good. Thank you very much for your time. It’s much appreciated.

Kim Salmon: Thank you for yours.

Kim Salmon plays the Urban Orchard Stage of State Of The Art Festival Saturday 31st May 2014 from 6:20pm.

For the full line-up, tickets and play times, go to



Category: Interviews

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