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Encyclopedia entry for 'Scientists' LETTER:

Formed in 1978
 Original line-up: Kim Salmon (guitar, vocals; ex-Cheap Nasties, Invaders), Roddy Radalj (guitar, vocals; ex-Exterminators, Invaders), Boris Sujdovic (bass; ex-Exterminators, Invaders), James Baker (drums; ex-Geeks, Beheaded, Victims)
 The Scientists albums: The Scientists (aka The Pink Album, EMI Custom, 1981; reissued on Easter, 1986), The Sweetcorn Sessions (compilation mini-album of first single and EP, Timberyard, 1988), Pissed on Another Planet (reissue of The Sweetcorn Sessions, Timberyard, 1989); Scientists albums: Blood Red River (mini-album, Au-go-go, 1983), This Heart Doesn't Run on Blood, This Heart Doesn't Run on Love (Au-go-go, 1984), Atom Bomb Baby (Au-go-go, 1985), You Get What You Deserve (UK issue of Atom Bomb Baby, Karbon, 1985), Heading for a Trauma (compilation, Au-go-go, 1985), Weird Love (UK import, Karbon, 1986), The Human Jukebox (UK import, Karbon, 1987), Absolute (compilation, Red Eye, 1991).

In August 1976, inspired by The Ramones and New York Dolls, Kim Salmon formed Perth's first punk band, The Cheap Nasties. Robert Porritt (vocals), Neil Fernandez (guitar), Dan Dare (bass) and Mark Betts (drums) completed the line-up. Like so many other primeval punk bands of the day, The Cheap Nasties made little headway and broke up in December 1977.

Salmon joined The Invaders, while the rest of The Cheap Nasties continued on as Manikins. The Invaders had started out as The Exterminators with a line-up of Mark Demetrius (vocals; replaced by Salmon), Roddy Radalj (guitar, vocals), Boris Sujdovic (bass) and John Dowlings (drums). The Invaders became The Scientists in May 1978 when James Baker replaced Dowlings on drums. Baker had been a member of Perth's most famous punk band, The Victims, alongside Dave Flick (real name Dave Faulkner). In August 1978, Sujdovic left The Scientists, and the band did not re-emerge until January 1979 with new bass player Dennis Byrne.

In April, Radalj and Byrne were replaced by Ben Juniper and Ian Sharples respectively. Radalj and Sujdovic formed The Rockets with Allan Stewart (vocals), Peter Johnson (guitar) and John Cole (drums). The Rockets issued one independent single, `Mean Mistress'/`Little Donna' (February 1980), on the White Rider label before Radalj and Sujdovic left the band. Stewart and Johnson recruited new players and continued on until 1985.

The Scientists' debut, independent single, `Frantic Romantic'/`Shake (Together Tonight)' (June 1979), featured the Salmon/Baker/Radalj/ Byrne line-up. Along with The Scientists EP (February 1980), the `Frantic Romantic' single went on to become one of the most collectable artefacts of the Australian punk rock era. The Scientists undertook two eastern states tours (December 1979 and February/March 1980). While in Melbourne, The Scientists made an appearance on the ABC-TV pop show Countdown, performing The Flamin' Groovies-styled `Last Night' (from The Scientists EP). In May 1980, Juniper left The Scientists and Salmon, Baker and Sharples continued on as a three-piece. By the end of the year, The Scientists had run out of steam. The band broke up after recording an album in January 1981. Baker left Perth to join Radalj and Dave Faulkner in Sydney in their new band, Le Hoodoo Gurus. Salmon formed Louie Louie with Kim Williams (bass) and Brett Rixon (drums; ex-Screaming Fits). By the time The Scientists album (commonly referred to as The Pink Album) came out in August 1981, Salmon had broken up Louie Louie.

In September 1981, Salmon and Sujdovic re-formed the band as Scientists and decided to move to Sydney. Rixon joined on drums and Salmon recruited Tony Thewlis (ex-Helicopters) on guitar. By the time Scientists arrived in Sydney, Salmon had dropped the melodic, punky power pop of old for a more malevolent, psychedelic-tinged neo-rock'n'roll. Having absorbed influences from American icons like The Cramps, The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and Suicide, plus 1960s acid-punk, the band's snarling punk/ blues/noise hybrid attracted a whole new audience. Scientists came to the attention of Bruce Milne, who issued the band's singles `This is My Happy Hour'/`Swampland' (December 1982) and `We Had Love'/`Clear Spot' (December 1983) and the consummate mini-album Blood Red River (September) on his Au-go-go label. Blood Red River was unlike any other record issued by an Australian band to that point; it remains one of the most original and influential records of the post-punk era.

Scientists were a compelling group because they manifested a sound and an attitude that captured the essence of real rock'n'roll: passionate, intense and threatening. The most publicised example of this was when the band supported Aussie pub-rock veterans The Angels at the Parramatta Leagues Club in Sydney's western suburbs. With their safe preconceptions having been shattered by Scientists' confrontational music, The Angels' audience responded to the band with a barrage of beer cans and glasses. Scientists endured the barrage for 20 minutes before leaving the stage, content in the knowledge they had ruined the entire audience's night out.

By the end of 1983, Scientists were one of the most popular independent bands on the Melbourne scene (alongside Hunters & Collectors and Sacred Cowboys). Yet, rather than consolidate their live standing on home turf, Scientists left for the UK in March 1984. Before their departure, Salmon and Sujdovic found time to tour and record with Beasts of Bourbon. Salmon also played with Beasts frontman Tex Perkins in Salamander Jim. Like The Saints, The Birthday Party, The Go-Betweens and Laughing Clowns before them (plus The Moodists and The Triffids later in the year), Scientists made an indelible impression on the UK independent scene. In October 1984, the band supported US outfit The Gun Club on that band's UK/European tour. In the meantime, Au-go-go issued the This Heart Doesn't Run on Blood, This Heart Doesn't Run on Love mini-album which was already a year old by the time it came out in September 1984.

Scientists' first overseas recordings appeared as the Demolition Derby 12-inch EP in February 1985 (only issued in Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg). The band's first overseas album, You Get What You Deserve, came out on the Karbon label in July 1985, followed by the single `You Only Live Twice'/`If It's the Last Thing I Do' (September). You Get What You Deserve was the band's most potent statement to date, a work charged with dark emotions and dripping with primal, free-form rock'n'roll. Due to a dispute between the band and its Australian record label Au-go-go, the album also saw release locally in a different form as Atom Bomb Baby (July 1985). Au-go-go also issued the single `Atom Bomb Baby'/`Backwards Man' and the compilation Heading for a Trauma that month.

Rixon had left the band in February 1985, and his departure marked the beginning of the implosion which continued until the band's demise in 1987. American Richard Hertz took Rixon's place, and the band supported The Sisters of Mercy and then Siouxsie and the Banshees on their respective UK tours. In December 1985, Leanne Chock replaced Hertz on drums. Scientists recorded a new album, Weird Love, with producer Richard Mazda (The Fall, Wall of Voodoo). Weird Love featured 11 re-recorded versions of some of the band's best-known songs. Sujdovic left the band after recording the album, and Salmon recruited Rob Coyne (on loan from Silver Chapter). Sujdovic returned to Australia and joined The Dubrovniks. Weird Love came out during April 1986. Coyne and Chock left in December, forcing Salmon to take over bass while Nick Combe came in on drums. The new three-piece recorded the album Human Jukebox, by which time Scientists had run out of steam. The band returned to Australia in April 1987 for the Human Jukebox tour, but broke up immediately after its completion.

As displayed on the throbbing Human Jukebox album, Scientists had ditched the last vestiges of melody and structure for a more experimental, minimalist sound where guitar and vocals wailed over relentless, metronomic drumming. The album appeared in October 1987, and Salmon took his new band The Surrealists (Brian Henry Hooper, bass; Tony Pola, drums) out on tour in order to promote its release. Human Jukebox proved to be a dry run for what Salmon achieved with the first Surrealists album Hit Me with the Surreal Feel. Thewlis formed The Interstellar Villains. In 1988, Salmon and Sujdovic joined the reconstituted Beasts of Bourbon for a series of notable albums and tours. The Scientists era effectively came to an end with the drug-related death of former drummer Brett Rixon in December 1993. The Salmon/Baker/Sharples/ Juniper line-up re-formed for a one-off gig in Perth on 10 February 1995.

Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop / Ian McFarlane 1999
under licence from Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd


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