The Scientists: Set Your World On Fire

Much revered Australian swamp-rock band The Scientists are about to embark on a one-off, five date reformation tour of Australia, including a highly anticipated show at The Triffid in Brisbane on Saturday 4 November.

Once credited by renowned English music critic Everett True as the band that invented grunge, in truth their oeuvre covered a much broader spectrum, from edgy, 60s infused garage rock through to pummelling, mutant art-jazz and fuzzed out twang. Long-time critical darlings, their appeal runs the gamut from hip indie kids through to an impressive swathe of fellow musos; artists of the ilk of Mudhoney, Sonic Youth, Kurt Cobain and John Spencer have all professed to bow down and worship at their altar.

The band existed in two distinct incarnations, the embryonic Scientists of the late 70s Perth scene, which morphed into the harder edged version of the band that moved to Sydney and ultimately imploded in London in the mid 80s. And it’s this second line-up of the band that have gotten together to honour the outfit’s legacy and play this upcoming run of shows around the country. So expect to hear a tasty selection of latter period Scientists tracks of the ilk of ‘Fire Escape’, ‘Swampland’, ‘Set It On Fire’ and ‘We Had Love’.

The one constant across the entire Scientists journey has been front-man and guitarist Kim Salmon, a man whose musical longevity and pedigree is as impressive as anyone walking the Australian musical landscape. I had the pleasure of chatting with him recently, with our conversation running the gamut from what type of merchandise the band will be bringing (vinyl and cd box sets and t shirts will be in abundance!) through to talk of a surprise cover version that the band are working on especially for the upcoming tour; ‘Mini Mini Mini’, a song originally performed by 60’s French mod idol Jacques Dutronc. Says Salmon; “I thought the arrangement of that song would lend itself well to an Alan Vega (legendary vocalist of Suicide) type vibe that we can bring. It also goes on about everything being ‘mini’ and I think the Scientists and minimalism are certainly not strangers. We’ll give it a go..depending on how much French I can learn between now and then..and how good my accent is!”

Salmon also gave an illuminating insight into the anti-methodology employed by the band to detonate the cavernous cacophony of their live sound during their ear bleeding heyday.

 
“With the Scientists in those days, our secret weapon was, whatever our sound was on the night, that was what we worked with. So instead of giving the mixer a hard time, we didn’t even do proper sound checks. We just used to kind of rock up..we’d get a bit of a live check, then we’d make this unearthly racket, and that was the sound of the band on the night. Even if it was what you’d call ‘bad sound’, like really boomy bass, we’d exploit that somehow. It was kind of experimental in a lot of ways. And we did really do it that way. I kind of liken it to abstract expressionist painting in a way, if you want to be artistic and pretentious”, chuckles Salmon wryly. “It was very much like we wanted to grab the sound and chuck it at people. We weren’t afraid to be brutal with it. That was sort of how we built our sound up. It’s how we ended up getting a particular kind of crunch with a particular kind of guitar string..even though it was still kinda rock and roll.”

 
The words’ iconic’ and ‘influential’ are fully justified when it comes to describing the impact of The Scientists upon the alternative music landscape. So for fans, curious newbies and musical trainspotters alike you’d be nuts to miss them when they detonate with the force of an Atom Bomb (Baby) upon The Triffid on 4 November.

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