top of page


(The Beasts 2024: Charlie Owen, Boris Sujdovic, James Baker, Kim Salmon and Tex Perkins. Photo by Stu Spence.)

THERE ARE SOME TECHNICAL difficulties at the start of this interview and I am forced to ask Kim Salmon to turn himself up. Right up. “How’s that?,” he comes back at me. You are massively loud and clear, I tell him.

And would we want it any other way? At least while he is in Beasts Of Bourbon mode it would be most insulting to have Kim Salmon quiet.

Urgh. That’s just the kind of cliché at least one of us would hope to avoid in this interview. As if Salmon – a man who began as a proto-punk in mid ‘70s Perth’s The Cheap Nasties and art rock devourer/grunge predictor in Scientists, went with electro/pop/something else with fellow Perth boy, The Hoodoo Gurus’ Dave Faulkner, in Antenna, and elegant country pop sculptor with the late Ron S Peno in Darling Downs, not to mention maybe a dozen other bands in and around these – could be so blithely narrowed down.

And that holds true even if we are talking about Beasts Of Bourbon, a band of graduates/refugees of some of underground Australia’s gnarliest bands/finest reprobates formed 41 years ago, that put the bucket into gutbucket blues and the frighteners on performative rock ‘n’ roll.

Does he get tired, maybe passed tired to well annoyed, when someone says something like “I’m only gonna go to a Beasts gig if I get absolutely smashed first and watch them fall apart”, or the only way to talk to Kim Salmon is at max volume?

“I’ve learned that that’s the job I’m in, if you want to call it a job,” he chuckles benignly. “And that’s another cliché: this isn’t a job, this is a way of life!”

It’s enough of a job to live up to our expectations, Or live down to them.

“Or, defy them. Whatever. Just knowing that that those expectations are there,” he says. “A band like the Beasts, maybe the expectation is we are out there to defy them: that’s part of our shtick. If we can be said to have a shtick.”,

Maybe we’re the ones who had the shtick. For a certain type of fan (okay, a lot of us) we wanted The Beasts – of varying lineups mixing guitarist Salmon, singer Tex Perkins, drummers James Baker and Tony Pola, bassists Boris Sujdovic and Brian Hooper and guitarists Spencer P Jones and Charlie Owen – to live the kind of mythologised life none of us would have the energy, adventure or livers to manage.

We knew we could never be that cool or dangerous. We could never be that louche or drunk and function. Face it, we could never survive.

“Well, members of the band lived it to that extent where they are not around anymore, so there is some truth in that,” Salmon says with some gravity, but not sentimentality. “I always felt that there was a degree of irony in [the band’s persona], and that it was a sort of theatrical thing. That’s been my thing.

“Personally I never felt I gotta live this. I’ve always thought of the Beasts is like The Cramps or something: they were non-smoking vegans!”

Then and now, we didn’t want them killing themselves off stage; we just wanted them to embody our desperate, if a little pathetic, aspirations on stage.

“Yeah well, it’s only for an hour and a bit,” he laughs. “I was going to say it’s like sport, but it’s not really like sport.”

If it was a sport it was old school rugby league or Australian football from the days of black and white tv: softening up periods, ironing out someone in back-play, 30 beers in the sheds afterwards and chucking up out the back of the pub.

“But I’ve been practising this stuff all my life too. When I first started I was really painfully shy and the idea of being on stage was something that I would dread. But at the same time I wanted to be a performer and I’ve spent a lifetime doing it,” Salmon says, adding with a sly smile, “We’re all really paradoxical aren’t we? What complex people we are.”

Complex. Enigmas. Inside riddles. And back for a second run of reformation shows. Without Jones, who died in 2018, but surprisingly – for him and for them – still with Baker whose health had looked certain to scuttle what was intended as a limited run of 40th anniversary shows towards the end of 2023, but who has come back for more this year, not long after turning 70 this month.

They are back and still teetering on the edge of brilliance and collapsing. Or is that another projection/cliché?

“We really could collapse at any moment,” Salmon says. “We recorded the last bunch of shows and Tex and I were listening to them thinking, we’ve got to put this out, this is so chaotic. It’s exactly why we love [Tav Falco's] Panther Burns, The Gun Club and The Cramps at their best: it was loose as all fuck, but it never came completely unravelled. Very close, but it never did. That made it more exciting because of that, funnier, and thoroughly entertaining.”

Even without those show recordings they’re ready to go with a live album called Beasts Alive, with an EP offshoot from it being sold at the April shows. Salmon is pretty happy either way.

I mention to him Andrew Stafford’s 2019 Guardian interview with Perkins where the singer – who’s been doing double retro duty of late with a reformation tour of The Cruel Sea, on top of another solo album in 2022 – was talking about looking back at the first few decades of the Beasts and having an element of regret and sadness about some of the things that happened.

Part of that was about band members who had already lost their lives (as well as Spencer, they had lost Hooper, who had replaced Sudjovic, who in turn has stepped back in now, and since the story, Pola also died), but given what we’ve been talking about with the humour and vicarious living, the looseness and the mythmaking, how does Salmon balance that tricky emotional terrain with what is at its core a wild, entertaining, could-crash-at-any-moment band?

“How do I reconcile that? Man, that’s a hard one,” he says. “I’ve recognised it all along. That’s me though. Maybe it’s the age I am [67] – I’ve got seven years on Greg [Tex] – and Ron Peno dying last year. That’s been the toughest one for me because [he and Peno] were an actual songwriting partnership over the course of a few albums there. In order to have that kind of 50/50 writing, you do have to work with each other and enjoy each other’s company and go through all of the hardships and good times. I really did that with Ron. And I’m remembering that James is 70 now. That’s what I had with James too.

“I’m of the belief that you can never be ready for anything, you’ve just got to salvage whatever you can in terms of dignity and joy, whatever life has to offer. It’s the same with art I feel. That’s my belief and have had that belief all my performing career: nothing goes the way it’s supposed to. That’s a philosophy that has worked for me.”

How does this philosophy manifest 50 years into the Kim Salmon career?

“Performance is what I feel my art is about and a lot of it is what you salvage in the moment. That’s what a performance is: it’s not what somebody planned, it’s something new when you are performing it,” he says. “That’s what I take my solace in, that this is something new, that this is something I’ve never done before. I’m almost getting born for the first time in this moment because this is a new moment.”

Maybe that’s Kim Salmon saying the loud bit quietly.



Beasts Of Bourbon play:

April 5 – Metro, Sydney

April 6 – Triffid, Brisbane

April 12 – The Gov, Adelaide

April 13 – Freo Social, Fremantle

April 19 – Chelsea Heights Hotel

April 20 – Northcote Theatre, Melbourne



bottom of page