Kim Williams Interview (extract)
Myspace page: www.myspace.com/predragdelibasich
Ross Buncle, June 2006
I suppose when I was in high school. I got a part-time job in a record shop. I hung around The White Rider Records all the time, they asked me to give ’em a hand and I agreed. They were the first shop in Perth to sell disco and probably the first to sell punk as well. We’re talking mid-70s, ’73, ’74, ’75. I started getting into music when I was about 5 or 6. My cousins, who were a few years older than me, had this portable record player and they used to come to my house with their collection of singles, like The Monkees and stuff like that. I listened to the transistor radio all the time.
Was Perth more isolated then than now?
Yes, but when you’re a kid you don’t really question. I probably started my record collection when I was 7 and that was from bubblegum singles like The Lemon Pipers, and you might hear something on the radio and wish you could get it. If you’re adventurous you look at the record store and you might find it. Back then there weren’t record stores – you’d go to a place that sold white goods and they would have a selection of singles on like a whirly gig rack. The singles were $1 and LPs were $5.95. I never seemed to save enough money to buy an album.
Were you in high school when the whole 70s punk thing started?
Yeah, I suppose the first punk record I heard was the Ramones’ first single Beat on The Brat, and I had never heard anything like it before. It must’ve been 75 or 76. To me it was like a novelty record, but then other bands came along, like The Saints and The Victims, who used to distribute their own singles out of the box basically. Hard to believe that those singles which I saw discounted in some record store for 50c are now probably worth a few hundred dollars.
Were there any good pre-punk bands in Perth?
There was heavy rock in the late 1960s, early 1970s. I was lucky enough to go to a few shows, but being a little kid I didn’t go out much. I saw a band called Bakery, an incredible band. They made an album and a couple of singles, and they were influenced by Deep Purple, had a tremendous guitar player Peter Walker and a Scottish drummer who used to throw sticks up in the air and managed to catch them without missing a beat. Also Fatty Lumpkin, who were somewhere between a heavy band like Deep Purple and something more arty like Jethro Tull. At the time Led Zeppelin toured over here, and I saw Santana, blues guys like Willie Dickson, people like J.J. Cale. I didn’t see The Rolling Stones, but they played only for 40 minutes or so.
You didn’t play in any of the first Perth punk bands?
No, I didn’t really think my playing was good enough. One of the things about punk that I add my bit to it is that punk tells you that anyone can do it. I think anybody can, but please don’t! I started writing for Adelaide music paper Roadrunner. I wrote a Perth column for that. At one point I gave up playing guitar and I gave away all my spare strings. I went to see The Scientists and said to Kim Salmon: “Here, have these.” That’s how I get to know him, and some time later I decided I was gonna pick up the guitar and do it rather than talk about it.
How long were you writing for that paper?
Once a month for a couple of years – just record and Perth scene reviews. I liked Nick Kent and Lester Bangs – I read more of his stuff in NME, even though Creem and Trouser Press were available in newsagents.
Did you see The Scientists and Victims often?
I saw The Scientists probably more often, but even more than that The Triffids and The Manikins, as they both played for a bit more. I saw The Victims once, at their last gig [Ed. note: Kim is referring to The Victims reunion gig in 1979], and that was one of the scariest experiences of my life. It was completely out of control. The skinheads were breaking bottles everywhere. There were several hundred of them and somebody ended up getting stabbed and some marines came in; they were in town and they ran away. They literally ran away, because all the skinheads were giving them a hard time. The gig closed down when the door of the nightclub got smashed off its hinges, somebody got stabbed, the ambulance came in, and that was it. Perth was a much more violent place then than it is now. There were a lot more skinheads and they would often travel in packs to gigs, smash things up…
Is there a band you like that regrettably didn’t get released?
Yeah, The Teeny Weenies were good enough to warrant a release, The Tarantulas, The Manikins never really released something that could’ve stood the test of time. They did some cassettes which were pretty good, but they were one of those bands who were underdone in terms of bringing out anything long lasting. Likewise, if not more, were The Rockets, an incredible band, probably the closest Perth’s ever had to a Radio Birdman or MC5 sound, but they had huge problems. They released cassettes, but nothing on vinyl. Somebody should probably try and get those recordings into a proper compilation CD. There seems to be more interest among my customers in early punk, like the “Murder Punk” CDs, than in these new punk bands like Offspring and Green Day. [Ed. note: At the time of this interview, Kim had his own record/CD store, House Of Wax Records, downstairs in Hay Street, Perth.]
Has the idea of moving to Melbourne or Sydney ever crossed your mind?
No. As I always say, my roots are here. I’ve checked all those places and met a few people, but I’ve never been tempted to move.
What was happening in Perth after the first wave of punk?
The Triffids were getting quite big and the music took on a cerebral aspect. It was more new wave rather than punk. There were arty bands – The Teeny Weenies who were really minimal and wacky, something like the B-52’s, although they are probably more serious than that. And there were bands influenced by The Cure, Joy Division…
Was Perth always ignored by the eastern states media?
I think so. It’s the distance thing that’s the biggest problem, but so many good bands have come from Perth and to make it you had to leave. And as soon as they do, local audiences seem to respect them and come to see them twice as much. Your audience used to double if you put on your hand-bill “Back from Eastern States tour” – they’re gone over there, they must be good. That gives me the shits. I had this idea to take a break with the band for a month and then just put out a hand-bill saying that we’re back from the tour and watch the audience double.
What did you do in the meantime?
I worked for a year or so in White Rider, then decided to work in the public service for a while. I went to Uni, left, came back and finished my B.A., majoring in English Literature. I never thought about career, it’s just for my own education really. It’s not a very practical degree, such as Medicine or Law. You can use a B.A. for all sorts of things or you don’t use it at all.
When did you start your first band?
First one was with some members of the Triffids, called the Real Dreamers. We used to jam a bit, played one party and broke up. It was 77-78. Then Kim Salmon was looking for a bass player and we ended up forming Louie Louie. We played for a while and he wanted to relocate to Sydney. I didn’t wanna move, so he took the drummer and with another guitar and bass player, formed a band and re-called themselves The Scientists. After that I played in a rockabilly band called The Rising Suns, which was a good experience. We never had any recordings, except one of the Louie Louie gigs. Then I started working at Dada’s [Ed. note: Dadas is one of Perth’s longest running import record/CD retailers/importers] and with the guy who runs the shop set up the record label Easter Records. I assisted this amazing band called Tarantulas, heavily influenced by The Stooges. We wanted to put out their single and I said if they wanted somebody to play bass on a record, I’d be happy to do it, so I joined after the jam.
You are the co-author of Swampland – have you got any royalties for it? [Ed. note: Swampland is a Scientists track, co-written with Kim Salmon]
That’s right, I wrote the lyrics. I get performance royalties every time the song’s played. I haven’t received any money from CD releases or any of the things that came out. I have to look into that, I’m probably owed a little bit of money.
Have you still got a tape of Louie Louie and will you release it?
It’s just a bizarre band, because we were one of the first bands to get into that 1960’s Pebbles/ Nuggets thing and we did Standells and Easybeats covers before bands in Sydney started doing the same kind of thing. But we also covered all sorts of things like Leonard Cohen, and even Garry Glitter, and so it was like a real hodge podge of style. Swampland was written in Louie Louie and we wrote this great song called Hopeless Case which is real Big Star-ish, really slow style. I think it’s the best song we ever wrote together and I hope that one day that gets recorded. Kim Salmon should record it. I still see him every once in a while, when he tours. We usually hang out a little bit and catch up and that kinda stuff. He’s probably the only guy I’ve collaborated with where it’s actually come off. I’ve tried collaborating with Dom (Mariani, of The Stems and DM3) and it didn’t work out that well. Everybody who’s got a strong personality and strong opinion about their music is a lot harder to accept a certain lyric or certain chord change. I’ll probably just keep going my own sweet way, just keep writing my own stuff.
Did you hear much of the Saints and Radio Birdman at the time when the Victims and Scientists were happening here?
I can remember the first time I saw The Saints on TV before I heard the record and I thought it was amazing. It was (I’m) Stranded on TV – mindblowing. The first time I heard Radio Birdman it didn’t really do it for me, but I heard it a while later and I really liked it a month later. I taped it and listened to it in my bedroom before I went to sleep. Around that time I got into the MC5 and The Stooges. I felt that was the kind of thing I could listen to as well. It was a time when people were coming into shops and buying records, rather than the DIY ethic. There weren’t that many people playing punk music; there weren’t that many bands. Punks used to go out and buy the right records. Bands like The Saints, The Victims and Radio Birdman sold reasonably well.
What about some smaller bands, like Fun Things?
I only heard about them 10 years later. I had no idea about what was happening in Brisbane at all. Even Roadrunner didn’t seem to talk about it very much. And it’s probably the same for the East Coast. They probably didn’t pick up The Victims for a long time, nowhere near as much as now. I think that Television Addict is probably as good as (if not better than) 99% of all punk stuff anywhere in the world at any time. It’s fucking incredible, an incredible song, and it just goes to show you the quality of people in Perth in terms of their song writing.
Kim Williams is one of Perth rock’s favourite sons. His bands have included Louie Louie, The Rising Sons, The Tarantulas, The Holy Rollers, The Summer Suns, The White Swallows and The Love Letters.