tony thewlis - The I-94 Bar
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.
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.
Kim Salmon in full flight. Photo by Barry C. Douglas of Barry Takes Photos.
Before we start: The Scientists were bloody brilliant; Geelong hosted a magical gig. See them while you can, you may never get this chance again.
Now, then. There really are times when not being a multi-millionaire is, frankly, a bit of a fucking niggle.
So there I was, reading that a certain band were going to tour Australia - they’ve played a few reunion gigs overseas as one of the two guitarists lives in London - but they haven’t toured Australia in well over a decade. So there’s every chance this could well be the last time I’ll ever see them.
Iconic bands recording new music years after their prime-time is fraught with peril. Recapturing old magic is nigh impossible when every member has inevitably moved on, musically speaking. Only a few succeed.
The Scientists - as in the Salmon-Thewlis-Cowie (Chock)-Sudjovic line-up - have been an off-and-on, reformed concern for years, coming together for occasional festivals or the odd juicy support tour as, and when, members are available. They put together this five-song 12" vinyl EP between Australian shows and released it to promote their first US tour in 2019.
These days, their laboratory is spread over two continents with guitarist Tony Thewlis living in the UK and the rest of the band in Australia, so parts of the recording have been worked up inisolation and stitched together. Knowing how the sausage was made, in this case, doesn't detract from the taste. The EP, and the single (an updated oldie) that goes with it, rocks in its own uniquely primeval way. Completists should note that it was was proceeded by a digital-only single in 2017.
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.