Transcript of 1994 interview with Kim Salmon

By John Pecorelli

KIM: I'm a little sleepy I just woke up.

Congrats on the movie thing:

KIM: Oh yeah! That's great, isn't it?

What's directly ahead music-wise?

KIM: I'm so tired because I was just up all night with Tony Cohen listening to him do a mix of one of the songs--a couple of em. We've been recording for the last--well, I've been mixing all this week and we did the recording a coupla months ago for the new Surrealists album--we haven't finished it but we hope for February.

American release?

KIM: Well, we're certainly working on it and certainly hope to.

Difficult to track down yer stuff here, yknow. . .

KIM: Yeah, I've heard it is absolutely impossible, that the only thing people there knew about was some Scientists material. I'm pretty hopeful about it (getting signed). I'm not counting on it too much but I think it'll happen. It seems like there's a hell of a lot more things to yknow go through as well, like A&R people--I mean, we got em here, but like that sort of thing seems to be taking a long time as well. Finding all the right people and all the connections and getting everything linked up.

What does the new stuff sound like?

KIM: (LAUGHS). . .I was at this festival last week and this guy who edits for Rolling Stone Australia asked me that question and that was like, yknow, I was at a festival and in the festival mood, lotsa festivities, and it was at the end of the day as well and I think I said, "Oh, it's kind of more sexual." And he said, "Great!" That would be true about it. The last record had a certain amount of funk of it, and it's a little bit that sort of funkier--the funk's a little bit funkier, the hard edges are a little bit harder, the soft bits are a little bit softer. It's more defined in that way, ummm, and at the same time it's more approachable, I believe, this is what I'm told by people that were used as guinea pigs.

This is my perspective and it might be off, but . . .

KIM: Well, my perspective is gonna be way off, you know, I'm right here with it.

. . .but it seems to me the Scientists and the first three Surrealists albums all sort of had a certain jagged, abstract feel to 'em, which I don't sense as much on Sin Factory and later material.

KIM: Yeah, that's true. I've sold out (laughs).

Well, I'm just saying that it seems like there's more of a classic hard rock feel going on these days, Sin Factory, the last Beasts . . .

KIM: Yeah. Like you say about perspective, it's very hard for me to have one on it. For me it's all been not just a sort of continuous thing but it's an expanding sort of process, writing songs, and I don't really wanna be limited to any one style or direction, especially now as I get older. But I would venture to say that maybe uhh, some of that early feel, as you say abstraction, I fancy returning to a bit in the future. Just because of the challenge of it. I like to be challenged by the idea of writing a song or writing a piece of music and uhh words, and just by the ideas. And I like the process of creating to be different each time, not just a matter of doing something over and over again. To move on. If the stuff I'm doing now is kind of like more structured and formalized rock, well that's just. . .I've tried to use that genre and make something with it. You'll always find that there'll be some little perversion in my songs, anyway, whether it be a play on words or some chord that just shouldn't be there. There'll always be something there. It's not even really that I always want it that way. I just can't help it. I'm a pervert. A musical pervert.

That'll make it hard to sell out completely, Kim.

KIM: Yes.

One common thread throughout all of your material--it doesn't seem like it's good times music really.

KIM: (Long pause). The old heart of darkness. Yes. A lot of what I sing about had to do with the way people respond to one another, i.e. human relationships, whether that be done in metaphor like "The Cockroach" -- are you aware of that one? ("Oh, yeah.") Or whether it's just done in a totally literal way and generally it's sort of more interesting to write about people screwing up (laughs). You know, things decaying--there's more to write about than everybody living happily ever after.

I agree. And what I said was certainly not a criticism. . .

KIM: I know, I know. That's just a question I've had plenty of time to ponder. I've probably got a lot in common with the average country and western songwriter. They tend to sing about families and couples and divorces and generally hard times. Either that or trucks. Like 'Hey Believer.' You know, that one's abstract, it's got the sort of abstract form, or lack of form.

Who inspired you early on to make the transition from the tennis racket in the mirror to the electric guitar?

KIM: There was originally people like T-REX and Beatles and the Stones and whatever. The electric guitar sound and the way rock was sung. Jagger. But just seeing it on TV the pop show called 'Happening 71' it was a four-hour show on Saturday mornings and they had a lot of Australian pop as well as international stuff--whatever, they didn't have videos in those days, well they had some, but they had to bulk it out with a lot of live i.e. lipsync bands in the studio and it was sort of strange stuff but it looked really easy -- the idea of just getting up there, growing your hair and singing and waving a microphone around and posing - it'll looked a lot easier than doing my homework.

Was there one seminal influence?

KIM: Uhh, there was a few things then. An Aus band called the Master's Apprentices and they basically captured my imagination at the time. I guess there was band called Chains, a really heavy sort of blues-influenced thing, in the heavy metal sort of way.

The Missing Links?

KIM: They were before my time, really. I became aware of them later. But it was their sort of spirit that I felt kindred with or whatever. I felt some affiliation with. You can pick the right choice of words there for that little bit.

On the topic of links, how 'bout Link Wray?

KIM: Oh, yes! Of course! He's been a real great inspiration as well. But I didn't get to hear Link Wray til I was about 20 or something like that. The time period I'm talking about was 14, when I was first trying to make the transition, as you say, from tennis racket. I originally felt like I could be a singer, cuz it looked easiest. I dunno, I had a go at it and I think...I didn't really feel like I could once I had a shot at singing, I think my voice wouldn't really go where the notes were, the way my brain told it to. So I figured guitar would be the next choice. I learnt singing really from knowing the music and knowing the guitar and following that. But I mean, I really like singing and find it really natural now.

It seems like singing is a really vulnerable thing, hard to start out doing.

KIM: Yeahhhh. But at some point I found that the frustration in trying to communicate musical ideas to other singers, especially mine because there's a lot of fucked up notes in them, a lot of sort of blue notes, wrong notes, scared notes, and things with a sort of perverted melody, getting singers to get the right sort of nuance and handle on that sort of thing can be really hard. So I found it a little easier to do it. And consequently I've learned to sing. And I think I've done a pretty good job of it.

I can see your progression as a singer over the years.

KIM: Uggh. There oughta be a huge amount of it!

New drummer:

KIM: That's right. He somehow found out we needed a new drummer when we were going to get rid of our other one.

Yeah, what happened with Tony?

KIM: Uhh, drugs. Our concepts of truth and honesty and friendship kind of diverged a little bit, so we had to let him go. So Greg found out at the right time and made himself available and by the first audition he knew every song, he knew it. The first gig we did with him was when we still had Tony. We'd flown up to Sydney and Tony was gonna fly out of Perth at this stage, he was supposedly trying to dry out. Tony couldn't make his flight, he thought he'd miss his original flight and get a stand-by flight across Australia, and this was leaving things by lots of chance and he didn't get it, so he wasn't able to make the flight. He thought he'd save money. So we were stuck doing this really important gig supporting, umm. . .

Was it the Banshees gig?

KIM: Yeah, well, it doesn't sound that important (laughs). But it was a big gig. And we had to ring around Melbourne and find who was basically at home to answer their telephone to play the drums. Greg was the one who was able to. He had a gig he was supposed to play that night in Melbourne and was prepared to jump on a plane, go straight to the gig, do sound check, play the gig, and fly home and do his other gig. So we thought he was dedicated and showed some spirit and bravery and GUTS, yknow, true grit, basically (laughs). We felt like this was the person for the job! His first gigs were with the Banshees and with U2. He had had about 20 gigs with his other band under his belt, not major international support, just playing in pubs and clubs. But he's a very down-to-earth sort of guy so he was able to handle the reality of the situation. He's been good, able to handle it. He's just got a grip on the whole lot.

I read a quote in some interview that his drumming style is so different from Tony's that it's almost taken the band in new directions. Is that accurate?

KIM: Well, it sounds like you've taken some statement in a new direction (laughs). It is different from Tony's--he's a lot more concise and he doesn't fill out as much space with it, and that gives the sound more punch and drive in a lot of ways. So our sound might have contracted somewhat (using these sort of visual terms for sound which is hard) and I think it's got more direction to it. But as far as taking it in a totally different direction I don't think that that's really gonna happen. It's my material, really. It's gonna take my material in a different direction slightly but I wouldn't think that it would totally change things. I could be wrong, though. But judging from the sound of our new record I'd say the direction is very similar to Sin Factory-- there's just more of it! (laughs). It's more so, like I said, the hard edges are harder, the soft bits are softer, the sexy bits are sexier (laughs).

I also read somewhere that you were most proud of Sin Factory.

KIM: Yeah, certainly. I am proud of the Hey Believer one too. Although it's only been released for a month--I'm doing the promotion for it now, but it's about a year old, that recording, and I'm just equally proud of that one. And the Low Road--I'm sort of equally proud of all of em, although obviously I've got more -- I'm equally proud of my input in all of those things and to be associated with them. Obviously the two things that have got my name on them are gonna fill me with more satisfaction because there's more of me in them.


Your Sour Mash tunes are odd, by the way.

KIM: Well, that's very old. My songs on that album are, well, fairly abstract (laughs). Possibly I think as songs or versions of songs they didn't really work as well because the band was getting a handle on that kind of stuff back then. They're good things to do, like Playground and Flathead and whatever else was on it, but it was really a means of stretching the band in directions that it maybe wouldn't have naturally gone.

There's a greater variety of material on that album than the Axeman's Jazz, I think in large part due to your contributions.

KIM: Well, the Axeman's Jazz was just done like, we went in there and just consumed a lot of stuff.

That's a great album too, don't get me wrong. . .

KIM: Well, I don't even remember recording it. That's how consumed I was with the project (laughs). I remember being in there a little while, and the last thing I remember was walking out onto a road and Tex grabbing me and (laughing) stopping me from walking in front of a car.

Well, that slide guitar on Love and Death is just out there. . .

KIM: Oh, well, uhh (laughs). Is that the partic. . .Yeah, yeah, that's me. There's one that Spencer did that's really out there too, he wanted a shot at slide guitar--I knew it wasn't me when I listened back to it later. But his is Lonesome Bones. There's a lot of stuff on there where I wouldn't know who played what.

As far as history is concerned here, do you feel the Scientists got the credit they deserved?

KIM: History's a funny thing, isn't it? It is totally up to people's perception of it and it depends on who's recording it, who's writing the history books, really. So it's really up to us now, you and me (laughs) to just sort of put the record straight, at least the way I think it should be. But who's deserving or not I couldn't say, actually. I know that we did a lot of things that I've heard subsequently--whether that's due to us or not I really couldn't say.

I've heard an awful lot of bands, Australian, American and English, that I think at least captured a part of the Scientists. . .

KIM: Yeah, a part of it. . .We had our own particular angle on things that hasn't really been touched.

Certainly a lot of these bands don't understand the concept of space in music.

KIM: Yeah, well that's the thing we did have and a lot of bands in their sound kind of explode when we were actually imploding. We do have a lot of space, there's a lot of open air in the sound of the Scientists. Something like Revhead off Blood Red River is as dense as they get in points, the dynamics there so things get really strung out--it's something to do with coming from Australia I think. I initially come from Perth and there's a hell of a lot of space there--it's a very flat place and buildings tend to be very far apart. It is a modern-looking city and quite big and it's got quite a lot skyscrapers. In fact, it is very modern because they tear down buildings after 15 years (laughs). There's no past, history's being re-written all the time and I go back there and feel like my memory's been erased -- I don't know what the hell's happened but (laughs), but there's certainly a lot of space in Western Australia and it's like a long way from any other place geographically. So I'm sort of used to it. I'm sort of used to looking out and not seeing buildings, I'm used to seeing. . .blue. And that does have an effect on a person--it has an effect on the way you think, and the way thoughts fill your head even. I sort of feel that, uuh, I live a lot in dreams. I don't know why, but I can kind of relate a little bit to the aboriginal culture--because I'm living in that kind of space a little bit. It sounds like I'm romanticizing it, which I am, but it is true. Every time I've gone back to Perth I've felt very differently there, even uncomfortable. I'm not used to space, but I think with the Scientists there is a real sense of it, especially in records like Blood Red River, that you don't get in, say, on a Mudhoney record. A Mudhoney record's a really dense sort of thing. A good thing, a good thing! But that's my perception of it.

Now Mudhoney is a band that's gone on the record and said a big part of there sound comes from the Scientists. . .

KIM: Well, yes, ummmm. It's good that a band is prepared to say something like that (laughs) because with people like the Scientists it seems like not too many people want to admit it. I admire their courage (laughs).

I heard you played We Had Love onstage with them.

KIM: Yeah, I did at a couple of Big Day Out shows.

How was that?

KIM: Ahhh, fun!

They didn't mangle the tune or anything. . .

KIM: Awww, of course they did! I wouldn't have it any other way! And they wouldn't have it any other way! (laughs)

I do have the Set It On Fire tribute.

KIM: All right. I don't. I do have a little bit of a problem with tribute albums in general. (Says something inaudible about a "wide berth").

I liked the Monomen's Swampland. The vocals were off on that but the music was OK.

KIM: All right. I seem to recall having heard a very strange version of "Frantic Romantic" which actually I didn't mind, because they mangled it a bit (laughs). They treated it with a total lack of respect. But you know there's nothing wrong with that -- that's actually a form of showing respect. Funny thing is "Frantic Romantic" is a song that's been covered quite a few times on record, I mean for me. The Beasts and people have their songs covered but it hasn't happened a lot to me. But that thing's been recorded about 15 times -- it's an amazing amount of times. A lot of versions out- I don't know, I'm just picking a figure out of the air but there's a lot of them.

What did you think of the Philistines version of Teenage Dreamer?

KIM: Not too bad a version, I think.

I thought it was an odd choice because what I've heard of the Philistines is very busy, notes all over the place . . the Scientists seemed to have been in diametric opposition to all that.

KIM: What do you mean by 'notes all over the place'?

Just that the Philistines own material is very cluttered, sometimes with too many notes.

KIM: Yeah, right. Uhhhh. That wasn't the Scientists. I mean if we were busy it was busy making chaos maybe. Not really notes (laughs).

Sorry to keep harping on the Scientists, but just a few personal questions if you don't mind. What is it you're screaming at the crescendo of Backwards Man?

KIM: That's what I'm doing, I'm just screaming! (laughs). Well, whatever I sing in the chorus, "you've got the power to tear down this house. . ." ummmm, what is it, uhh, ". . . love for and all that I want." I probably could be singing that or I could be just howling. I don't know--it's been a long time since I even touched that song.

I guess so. That seems like a hard song to reproduce. . .

KIM: Thank God for that.

I love that song, by the way. I actually wrote a very long paper on that song when I was in college.

KIM: God. Did you get a good mark?

Yeah, I actually did. And I gave a copy of the song with my paper to the professor. It was a music course and the theme of the paper was dissonance.

KIM: All right!

And the best use of it I could find, I thought, was Backwards Man.

KIM: What did your tutor or whatever, your lecturer that gave you the mark think of the song?

Ummm, he's a classically trained music professor. He was puzzled. Even though he's a music professor I don't think his forte was dissonance.

KIM: Right. Hmmm.

Well, I think puzzling a music professor is an accomplishment.

KIM: Yeah, that's what I was thinking. God! That's weird. . .

Also, there's something about "the gun I brought with me" on the song Blood Red River that I can't figure out.

KIM: Yeah, that was by my girlfriend who later became my wife-- I'm separated from her right now. Umm, I just wrote the chorus, you know, "This is the blue that I want from you when I fell down the blood red river to your heart." She wrote the rest of that. Something about "here's the gun that. . . " Ummmm, it really doesn't make sense unless you hear the rest of it. It kind of had a sort of feminist slant to it, that song. A lot of people haven't picked that up about me because it's not said clearly enough.

Well, I never got any misogynist feel from any your stuff, though. . .

KIM: Well, that's something that I wanna point out. It's probably not the right time to be PC about things but I've always sort of tried to steer clear of misogynist leanings in my lyrics, you know? It sounds pretty sexual a lot of the time, blatantly so.

I've never gotten that vibe from any of your material. Now the Birthday Party, on the other hand. . .

KIM: (laughs). Well, you know, I don't hold it against people to be honest about that. I mean, people have those feelings, it's natural to divide the sexes, to have a certain amount of, ummm, maybe mistrust of the other or members of it. Bad feelings are just sort of natural, but I've tried to be as positive as possible in that . . .oh God, I'm blowing my own trumpet in some really (laughs) .

Well, speaking of that, are you comfortable with what Rollins said about being a national treasure?

KIM: Yeah, well. . . It's a nice, touching thing, I guess. And I'm glad, well, like I said about Mudhoney, it's good that people like him are prepared to sort of umm (laughs) be a bit brave and sticking their necks out to say nice things about me. It seems to be that people are loathe to do it here.

Well, I don't know. I got a pretty big press packet. . .

KIM: Well, there's a lot of people that don't care to know about me. I don't wanna sound like I have a chip on my shoulder or something, it's not like that. It's just the fact that I seem to scare a few people off for some reason.

Well, maybe they heard Backwards Man.

KIM: Yeah.

I understand that the first Surrealists album cost you $60 to make?

KIM: Yeah, it fell right in line with my idea of production techniques at the time. That was, ummm, to not have them. I used to think that like, it didn't really. . .I used to like cruddy production, it comes down to that really. I had a crappy studio and liked hearing bombed-out Link Wray records with scratches on 'em and eating hearts while listening (laughs).

I have a fondness for it too because here in the States I hear a lot of music that's all production without a quality song underneath it. A good song can easily overcome underproduction easily, but a bad song is still a bad song no matter how much polish you put on it.

KIM: Yeah, that's right. I dunno, I like listening to. . .the sound of. . .you know distortion is sort of what makes things, you know? People distort their guitar, they distort vocals and I think distortion is really just information being transferred from one source to another-- it's gonna get sort of distorted. It's inevitable! So I think that distortion itself is a good thing. That was the idea that I had with those productions I used with those records. If you can dig it.

I think that philosophy is outlined pretty well in the song "Distortion" from The Human Jukebox.

KIM: Yeah, that's it. That was certainly where I was coming from there. It wasn't the actual source or the air it was the bits in between. The sound waves and the square waves, you know?

That's one of my favorite tracks, as is Feel from that record. I'm sorry, not Feel, but Shine.

KIM: It's funny you make that mistake, though, because Feel was like a song we were playing--it was an outtake from that session. We tried to record it for Human Jukebox with the Scientists, so it's been around for a long while.

Ummm, I understand that Brett Rixon passed on.

KIM: Yeah, he did. It was Christmas Eve last year. Ummmm, a very, very sad thing. Umm, he hadn't really done anything except the Scientists, that was as sad a thing, well, not as sad a thing, but definitely the world's loss, that that occurred then. He just sort of stopped doing the Scientists and he stopped involving himself in music. Because he was very talented and he had a unique kind of vision and you know, he just undervalued what he did, his contribution to the music and his contribution to anything. He really . . . He had this idea of importance, and lack of it and I think he shouldn't have concerned himself too much with that.

He was a great drummer, I thought.

KIM: Yeah, he was totally unique. He was impossible to replace. Nobody could do it. Although there is a different drummer on Human Jukebox, but there's a totally different sound.

Weird Love has a different drummer as well, right?

KIM: Yeah, that's right.

What was going on there, with BigTime?

KIM: What happened was we were involved in a very bad legal wrangle with Au-Go-Go Records and we were practically separated from. Well, that's what the dispute was, whether we were still with them or not. It's not something I can really go into, even now. But we thought we were free to deal and we thought it was up to us to say so and blah blah blah. BigTime Records showed an interest and signed us up for about five records. The first being--our idea was, for the United States, let's have a compilation of all of our finest moments (laughs) and ummm we just knew we weren't going to be able to get hold of all of those because of our dispute so we thought, 'Let's re-record them.' Rewrite history again, you know.

How do you feel about those versions?

KIM: I think some of them just aren't quite up to it and some of them actually have something that isn't on the originals. That sort of thing.

Did you get to pick the tracks that were on the Absolute comp?

KIM: Yeah. I'd probably do it very differently now.

Yeah, I was puzzled that Hell Beach wasn't on there. That's another fave o' mine.

KIM: Umm, well, yeah. . . It's not one of mine. Sorry, John (laughs).

Now I was talking with Tex Perkins and he said something about you being actually paid to leave England? True?

KIM: Yeah, I was paid to leave the country! Is that how he put it?

Well, he said that you were living on a street owned by Lady Di's father or something and he was trying to get the bad element out of there. . .

KIM: (Laughs heartily).

Is that not accurate?

KIM: No, but it's a good story (laughs more). The truth is that, umm (laughs). Charles and Di's children went to kindergarten on that street and it was a pretty up-market street and our block of flats was the last block of flats that wasn't sort of being developed, you know, invested in. It was some old '60s block of flats, well actually it was Victorian with a '60s designer so it was very. . .condemnable. Ummm, and it was the last one that was that kind of an abode on that street and these developers bought it and wanted to develop it and obviously get everybody out of there and it cost them a lot of money to get me and my family out of there! It was a tidy sum, yeah.

That's not quite as good as Lady Di's dad coming around and saying you longhairs get out of here.

KIM: Yeah, get out of the country! But I sort of like it. (laughs)

Now I heard you were coming to the States soon.

KIM: Yeah. The first week of December. About then. I'm not really gonna be. . .I'll be doing like two shows in NY and one in LA maybe do a radio show somewhere and that'll be it. I'll be in the country for a week to do that sort of promotion thing. I'll just be solo, just me on guitar. NOT acoustic.


I have the Beasts version (Ramblin' Man) but to tell you the truth I prefer yours.

KIM: Well, it was just a thing done for a radio special, that. With acoustic guitars and it was something I wanted to do and the way I do it is very much the idea I had when I heard Hank do it. I thought, this song's gotta be done that way, and I thought that that's how Tex would naturally do it, because he does often sing that way. But he sort of chose to kind of be fairly umm, subdued in his delivery.

Well, that song inspired me to go out and get a double CD of Williams, who I'd never heard much of before.

KIM: Oh, great! Well, that's a good thing--I feel proud to have done that!

We normally just get his son around here doing that ridiculous cross-over music and a lot of people naturally overlook what his father did.

KIM: Yeah, he's probably done more harm than good (laughs). . .it's sad.

Have you heard that he's got the car that his father was killed in and has it all suped up and shit with mag wheels, like pin-stripe racing shit. . .

KIM: Oh God, that guy is sick! Well, I don't know, how can we judge? But my reaction to that instantly was one of, umm, I was aghast. Horrified. That's a guy who hasn't got a grip on things. He hasn't got a grip on what I'd call reality, anyway.

But anyway, I know you're tired of answering Beasts of Bourbon questions, so I'll only ask you one.

KIM: Okay!

Umm, I've heard that the Beasts' tours were very taxing physically and that sort of precipitated the separation.

KIM: Ummm, not really. Well, I sort of decided to give it a rest myself because umm I wanted to concentrate on my stuff entirely for a while. And you'll find that Tex is concentrating on other things as well. It's just, ummm, well, that's how it is.

Well, the Beasts always struck me as sort of a side project anyway. And then it seemed to become the main thing.

KIM: Yeah, well that's how I see it. And my focus is now on my material. The whole thing, as I keep getting back to, is perception and people's perception of things and if we had a chance to be perceived not in that way it would have been good. But their record company slant on it was very much. . .they sort of understand and market the Beasts a lot more easily than they could have with the Surrealists at the time. I think it's changed a little now. I think the Surrealists was intentionally, apart from me being in it, intentionally made ourselves more approachable. Umm, in order to. . . so people could approach us! And then you know, a couple of records down the track, we can sort of hit 'em with all the abstraction, and all the isms and every other diseased social more at 'em!

That's still in your heart then.

KIM: Yeah!

I have Revlover by the Interstellar Villains and I don't know if you're in any kind of contact with Tony Thewlis.

KIM: Well, he writes to me because he's a good letter writer. Oh, but I'm a poor correspondent so it's a one-way thing. Umm, I catch up with him whenever I go to England.

He's in England? Is that where the band is?

KIM: The band is defunct. He's got another one happening. I think that band is what he thought his...on the Human Jukebox there's a song called It Must Be Nice. Well, in actual fact that's got like Rob Coyne playing bass and guy called Kevin playing the drums, so I think he's sort of got that thing happening.

What name are they under?

KIM: I don't know.

I just noticed that he thanked you for 'things vague but indefinable' on the album.

KIM: Yeah, things vague--that's me (laughs).

But you did play on that album, some slide guitar on If I happen By.

KIM: Uhhhh, did I play on that? God, where was I? I must have been in a very vague state (laughs). Umm, I think I. . .don't you mean I contributed some song writing or something. . .

I have it right here, ummmm, I can't find where it says, but I'm sure that you're playing slide guitar on that tune.

KIM: Oh, no no no. I don't play any of his records. I've never been around. I wasn't in the same city.

Well, then they got somebody to imitate your style pretty well. It fooled me, dammit.

KIM: Well, Tony was in a group with me for a long time. And I think the way we played--it think we would have had a bit of a profound effect on one another. A bad effect! As guitarists we're probably more similar than other guitarists are.

OK, here's a couple of good, general questions: what is it about rock and roll , what's good there?

KIM: (Long pause). Oh, oh. Uhhhhhhh, you would ask me that.

Sorry. I know it's a stupid question. Don't answer it.

KIM: That's all right, I'll attempt to grapple with this thing. What's good about it? Nothin's good about it, that's what's good about it. It's totally bad.

So then what's bad about it?

KIM: Ummm, yeah. What started out as a diversion from homework. . .(laughs), ummm, uhh, yeah. (laughs).

Well, what's unique to rock and roll that other forms of music like jazz and classical, C &W, lack?

KIM: I think. . .I don't wanna give an analytical sort of answer. There's more, ummmm. I couldn't really say. It hinges on my definition of rock and roll. My definition is one that kind of encompasses rap music and all, I just think of R&R as being more of an attitude than anything.

Well, I mean back in the early '80s when the predominant music in the alternative was synth-pop, the Human League, new wave was big. There were the Scientists and they just didn't seem to fit in anywhere.

KIM: I just thought of it as being a kind of wild card and just a berth of influence (LOUD BEEPS from record company) . . .(laughs). Just a berth of influence there that seemed to me to be the appeal of it. Not to say that it was good or bad, it osrt of fucks things up a little bit, it doesn't make everything totally perfect--it sort of fucks up somebody else's vision if they've got, like you say, this horrible, early '80s synthesizer music going on. To me it was just a chance to kind of say, "Naww, this didn't occur to ya! I hope it fucks you up a bit.' and "Whattya think o' this?' It's subversion, that's what it is! Just changing things a little bit, making things imperfect. Put a few flaws into the universe!

Well, they're there, anyway. I think people tend to try and ignore them.

KIM: That's right! I've got a song about this on the new Surrealists record called, It's Your Fault. Basically what I'm saying is embrace your faults. MISSING TAPE. . . had a great line in one of his songs like, 'There's nothing good or bad under the sun . . .' What was it? '. . . Except in people's minds.' That's what he was getting at, anyway. You look up the book, make it seem like I'm really literary (laughs). That's how I definitely think of it. Rock and roll is sort of my chance to sort of (laughs) screw my people.

There's a great lyric on the Surreal Feel where you say, 'You can find yourself living in your own private hell, and loving it!'

KIM: Yeah, that's funny you should even mention that song. We actually re-recorded that one with Tony Cohen doing it to give it a kind of different vision. It was not as wild as I tried, though--I was livin' in my private hell, except I dragged Tony Cohen into it and he made it a lot more hellish.

I've heard that about Tony Cohen, actually. Tex was saying he's a complete madman.

KIM: He is.

Is that good or bad in the recording process?

KIM: It's good and bad. I was tellin' you, what does that mean? (laughs). It's hard on a person though. Good and bad is hard on a person. Hard on their ears, hard on their brain cells, hard on their eyes! Hard on the feet.

Well, Kim, I really appreciate that you could take time out to do this interview, I know you're busy and I hope it hasn't been hard on your brain cells.

KIM: Okay, John. Thanks a lot.

But. . .one last horrible, stupid, grueling question: anything you wanna say to the States?

LOUD BEEPS from company

Woman's voice: "Are you Mr Slayman?"

KIM: What?

"Are you Mr. Slayman? We have a conflict of administration. They have requested that this interview be terminated."

KIM: OK, ummm. I say to America, just be there at my gigs. (laughs) And thanks a lot, John.

Retro Metro -- Mission Control