Saturday, April 18, 2020

Kim Salmon and the Formula For Grunge - Douglas Galbraith

Galbraith was actually a guitar student of Salmon's who was also a fan and the lessons he took were combined with stories of Salmon's rock'n'roll past which enthralled him enough to volunteer to write Kim's biography. Not being a writer did not discourage him nor Salmon, and their collaboration actually ends up being quite informative'n'entertaining, and gives us an overview of the Aussie scenes as well as Salmon's specific contributions. (Although Salmon's claim - albeit begrudgingly - that his sound was "the formula for grunge" seems to me a bit misplaced - I just don't hear it at all, which I think is a good thing!) Galbraith interviews pretty much everyone still living who worked with Salmon, so there are various viewpoints that fill out the generally consistent story.

Growing up in the comparatively small city of Perth (not nearly as small and backwards as many places, but confining for Salmon), Kim was enthralled with art and music as a child and eventually dedicated his life primarily to the latter. Various bands ensued, including an early, more punk-pop version of the Scientists that garnered some popularity before imploding. A move to Sydney with all new members but the same sobriquet, the music was simplified and refined into a mix-mash of their previous influences and newer styles such as the Cramps and Suicide (the two bands that I would always use to describe the group's sound) to form the Scientists sound that most people now know. I'm a bit amused'n'surprised by how much thought was put into their look, though. While they do look trashy/hip, they also basically look like they fell into a pile of clothes and wore whatever ended up on them!

After conquering Australia - selling out shows and pressings of records - the group relocated to London where, after a slow start, they took the country - and neighboring countries - by storm. It looked like there was no place to go but up. Of course, that's when the strains become their worst and the group eventually split up. Kim returned to Australia and various bands, particularly his own Surrealists and his collaboration with Tex Perkins, the Beasts of Bourbon. I, for one, had no idea whatsoever how popular the BoB were at the time (in Europe and Aussieland, but not the States) but their popularity caused Kim to eventually leave to commit himself to his own projects.

There is a chapter dedicated to the concept of Salmon creating Grunge, which, while he did undoubtedly influence some of the Seattle bands, I still think is kind of a stretch, maybe used to sell books? The Scientists really sound little like the Grunge groups which I always thought were more influenced by the likes of Grand Funk Railroad in their fuzzed-out sound.

The vast number of musical organizations that Salmon has been involved in surprised me, but Galbraith tries to compile them all, which can be challenging as Kim would sometimes do three distinctive offerings in one year! Of course, many would overlap, which makes the timeline of the book a bit fluid, as well.

Of course, Salmon is still active and so the books leaves off with a show the author put together as multi-media presentation and collaboration with Kim and some parting words from the man. He has an impressive career and hopefully he will continue to impress for years to come!