A Place Called ‘Lab’
What about the Scientists?
An oft asked question in my world.
It could be festival promoters answering my question with a question.
It could be me considering what to blog…..
Where ever I am the Scientists aren’t far.
Since the band’s demise in 1987 various phases of the bands have reformed in 1995, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015
There have been various repackages of the band’s catalogue on Sub Pop, Cherry Red, Citadel, Munster and Sympathy For The Record Industry in USA, UK and Australia
This year saw the band reform to play Spain’s Azkena Rock Festival (also featuring The Who) and across the Channel at The Lexington, a club in London.
It also saw the release of Numero Group’s complete retrospective on the band entitled ‘A Place Called Bad’.
For a band who existed for 10 years some 30 years ago and made about 5 albums worth of material the Scientists are remarkably present in my life now!
The thing that differentiates Numero’s release from the previous ones is that they’ve got close to all of the catalogue (at least on the CD box set). That means not just the good stuff but all the stuff. I’m being haunted by my 24 year old, sometimes fairly addled, self. I’m also having to compete with my 24 year old ‘match fit’ self!
That’s the worst of both worlds…..
The best is that because the Scientists are this ‘cool undiscovered band’ for a lot of people, I can ride the (lab)coat tails of those wily professors.
Numero have a detailed story of the band gleaned from interviews with various people involved (including me) and from folklore.
I told it all my way back on the Citadel/Sympathy For The Record Industry/ Munster CD & LP comps, Blood Red River, Human Jukebox and Pissed On Another Planet.
It’s definitely someone else’s story in Numero’s hands but I’ve come to expect that to be the legacy of something that has (to whatever extent) become history. One has to let go of one’s own mythology. The story is out there telling itself!
There are pics of most Scientists releases on this site, although this beast (no pun intended) has a life of its own and may have hidden itself from even me at some stage of its life.
There is plenty, ‘out there’ if you can be bothered with an internet search of a word as ubiquitous as Scientists, so I won’t bother with the insurmountable task of an extensive history and picture gallery.
I’ll just make a little list of facts, figures, fun items
The band is usually thought to have had 2 distinct phases:
The early ‘Pop/Punk or even Powerpop phase in Perth from 1978-1980:
James Baker was the drummer, lyricist, stylist
I was the lead vocalist guitarist , melodicist and arranger
Roddy Radalj was the crazy motherfucker gorgeously stylish looking
rhythm guitarist who started the band under the name ‘the Invaders’
Boris Sujdovic was the dark presence playing the bass
Dennis Byrne replaced Boris and competed with Roddy in the looks department as well as adding some BVs and designing the iconic Frantic Romantic 7” cover. He lasted all of 2 months with the band.
Ian Sharples replaced Dennis and was the lacking (till this point) Bowie clone as well as provider of much welcomed literary content to the lyrical content. He stayed till the end of the first phase.
Ben Juniper replaced Roddy, was the mandatory Beatle obsessive (also lacking – James and I were Stones fans), provided BVs and some lead guitar including THAT opening guitar hook for ‘Last Night’ which he can be seen playing with us on national pop show Countdown courtesy of You tube
He wasn’t a great fit (damn Beatle fans!) but toured extensively and made it onto our first EP.
After some moderately successful touring of the East coast of Australia the band remained in Perth, stripped down to a 3 piece, recorded its first eponymous LP known as the ‘Pink’ album and disbanded in disgust.
Before Punk, Perth was a haven for hipster blues bands and after punk it was overrun by anglophile, post punk, industrialist angst.
Hardly any room for interest in what WE were doing.
Its ironic as Perth’s subsequent successful exports have ALL been POP!
Hoodoo Gurus, Stems, Eskimo Joe, Sleepy Jackson, Empire of the Sun, Tame Impala, Pond…..
The later, ‘dark and primitive’ ‘experimental’ phase of the band in Sydney and London from 1981 – 1987:
Brett Rixon provided charisma a certain laconic presence and weird arsed rhythms on the drums
Tony Thewlis provided charisma, the mandatory Beatle obsessiveness and phenomenal ‘non blues’ guitar chops.
Boris reunited with the Scientists provided nous, a game plan, minimalist bass throb and more dark laconic presence
Someone had to provide the songs and sing them. That was me.
The English Lucas Fox was a very good drummer who provided some laughs along the way while he stood in for Brett after his departure in 1985. He was a nice affable chap who we liked but not a great fit for the band.
Chicago born Phil Hertz joined after Lucas on the drums.
He was in Import/export and brought with him that kind of insider knowledge.
He also brought a muscularity to the rhythm that would’ve been welcomed in most situations but somehow seemed to take away from the swing in ours.
He made it onto our recording of ‘You Only Live Twice’ and a bootleg single called ‘The Monster in Me’. I still haven’t heard the latter since recording it.
Leanne Chock was our tour manager and had bought Brett’s kit upon his departure.
Even before she could properly play she brought Brett’s nuance back – in form from having learned only from his playing but also in the form of a feminine version of his scowling countenance. She made it onto our Weird Love LP.
Joe Presedo was a mate who played in London fuzzed out electro rockers Silver Chapter.
He was only too happy to take over from Boris when Boris had to leave the UK due to his visa running out. He was definitely a groover and slotted right in. He can be seen on live video footage on a show called Bay 63 courtesy of You Tube.
I have memory of loads of touring in UK with Lucas, Phil, Leanne and Joe and they all did a great job of helping Boris, tony and me put across the Scientists Vibe!
However from the moment Brett left, the band had been in a creative stasis. I didn’t seem to be able to write anything that would gain traction with any of these lineups.
The Scientists had been able to put across the existing repertoire but eventually fizzled out when new material could not be generated.
After the grand implosion and with a budget still available to us with our existing record deal with Big Time I grabbed a bass and took Tony and my friend into a demo studio to try out some left field musical frameworks that I had.
Nick Combe had been a friend/sounding board/mentor for years. He and I did cartoons together and shared a similar fashion aesthetic as well as more experimental musical taste than the rest of the band. He could do a lot with his limited drumming repertoire of Sandy Nelson chops.
Nick, Tony and I were able to come up with an album’s worth of material over a few sessions. That became The Human Jukebox.
As far as I’m concerned it was a great note to end on.