Kim Salmon Shares His Grand Unifying Theory

No doubt about it, Kim Salmon is a legend of the Australian rock scene. Since the mid-70s he has been forming bands that have pioneered some of the most innovative sounds this country has produced.


After a long hiatus, Kim has released a new record with old band The Surrealists. The Dwarf wanted to find out what's it all about.


Grand Unifying Theory is your first record with The Surrealists in 13 years. What's changed in that time?


The opportunity to get back some objectivity. Bands/performers can lose sight of things when they're on the treadmill.


What is the most satisfying thing for you about the new record?


That it's essentially a collection of performances as opposed to a collection of constructions. It always seemed more interesting to me to set up parameters to allow things to happen rather than to rigidly construct music with no allowance for spontaneity, which still seems to be what pop/rock production has come to be about.


You recently played a retrospective gig in Melbourne, performing ‘Hit Me with the Surreal Feel' in its entirety. How was it to revisit those tracks from over 20 years ago?


Well…it didn't make me feel 20 years younger!


I found myself revisiting some of my old obsessions and ideas. It felt good because in many ways I've felt this was the first artistic statement where I really knew what I was doing and although it might sound smug, revisiting this record just confirms that for me.


All of tracks on the new album are quite short and tight except for the explosive 22-minute epic ‘Grand Unifying Theory II'. How did the formation of this track happen?


It was initially a couple of segments from a ‘solo' electronic piece I worked up a couple years back. When I was looking for material for Grand Unifying Theory I realised that this could be modified for a band and really fit the bill.


Also one of the segments used to always elicit extreme reactions, like walkouts and abuse, so I thought it really deserved a guernsey on this album ha ha! Anyway once we'd worked the piece up it ran at around 12 minutes. When we were recording it, Mike Stranges, our producer, said that he thought the fade out ending we'd got into the habit of doing could be extended a bit.


The second half of that piece is in effect an ending that we couldn't end…..some of the concise short songs you mention are really just bits of ‘Grand Unifying Theory' Parts 1 and 2 that I've focussed on and turned into songs.


The first two songs of the album, for example, have riffs that ought to be easily discerned from listening to the big tracks.


Do you think you'll get the chance to roll this out live?


We'll definitely be doing a set that focuses on the album. As to whether time treats the album well enough for there to be a demand for a track order rendition of it is something that I can dream about.


You are soon to travel to New York and play the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival with Iggy and the Stooges. How did this come about?


It seems the ATP folk have good taste! Ha ha!


As a punk-inspired musician were The Stooges ever an influence on you?


Is the Pope a catholic?… Seriously am I that opaque? Those three Stooges albums have been the most consistent influence on my music. There's a very big freeform jazz slant on the first two albums that often gets overlooked due to the outright primitivism of the things, but believe me its there.


Those albums groove as much as funkadelic, especially Funhouse. Raw Power, while it doesn't have the jazz so much, is the bible on brutal punk/metal assault. Funny thing is it's actually quite a positive statement if you listen to some of the lyrics.


The band reformed in 2006. Is playing with the group as rewarding as it was in the 90s?


More So! All the best stuff happened for us in the 80s anyway. The first three years of the nineties were just us riding the momentum we'd set up, all the while heroin was taking its toll on our drummer. Eventually we had to sack him.


After he was gone things never really got better until Stu Thomas came on board on bass to replace Brian Hooper. Then round 2000 we got Phil (Collings), but stopped playing shows soon after. The break seemed to be what was required. Not so much for us as for people to let go of Sin Factory and that lineup.


People will always patronise and say they know better, making absolute statements like, "such and such an album is the best they'll ever do", but I've been determined to create a new bench mark. As I've said, time will tell, but I know personally that Grand Unifying Theory is the album I've been trying to put into existence for decades!


You're playing a few shows in Australia to launch the new album, when you return from the US is a more extensive tour to follow?


Presumably we'll be visiting the capital cities. I prefer to wait for the opportunities to occur than try to force things. Promoters need to get the idea that they'd like us to come to their town and promote Grand Unifying Theory. I'm confident that they will.


Thanks for your time Kim.

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