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Spawn's Early Light

[whitespace] Salmon Bait and Tackle: Salmon jumps back into the club scene headfirst.

San Jose's Salmon returns for second go-round

By Sarah Quelland

STEP BACK TO 1996. Salmon was King of the South Bay. Twisting rap, funk and metal together into a slapping sonic feast, this complex four-piece from Gilroy created a sound that was decidedly fresh, animated by a high-energy stage show, with stage leaps and flailing dreadlocks. Looking at the San Jose scene today, where rap-rock hybrids seem to dominate, it's hard to believe that once upon a time Salmon's formula was fairly innovative. But that in itself is indicative of the band's substantial impact in this area.

Hatched in 1994, Salmon quickly developed a dedicated following that moved from the South County to downtown San Jose and beyond. After winning the Cactus Jam Night competition, the band played the main stage at the 1994 SoFA Street Fair, landed gigs at the Fillmore and two Kamp KOMEs, and opened for Korn, No Doubt, Suicidal Tendencies and many others. Under manager (now former manager) Gary Avila's coaching, Salmon eventually made the leap and signed to Red Ant, a label known for promoting grass-roots and underground bands.

Unfortunately, according to Avila, it was a bad deal and the band lost tour support only two months after its album came out. "Everything kind of fell apart in the company," Avila remarks. Red Ant went belly-up in 1997, leaving Salmon without a label. Deciding to call it quits, the band played its "last" gig Aug. 21 of that year at the Cactus Club.

Less than two years later, Salmon is resurfacing with its original members intact. Vocalist Laurence Martinez, guitarist Aaron Goodwin, bassist Tom Walker and drummer Pat Ruiz are back in action and everybody is waiting to see what happens next. "It kind of makes sense that they're back together," Avila says. "The bond that those four always had was very strong."

A lot can happen in two years. The musical climate shifts. Fans grow up and move on. Bands lose their touch. But judging from Salmon's set at the Edge on June 3, opening for Videodrone, the energy and chemistry are still there, and fans are still loyal.

Ruiz shakes his head, smiling, as he talks about it: "We were rusty," he grins, but adds, "I was pleased by the crowd and the numbers of the crowd. We didn't really promote it." That show wasn't promoted because the band was just testing the waters. The big comeback is Saturday (June 26) at the Cactus Club. Willies Conception reunites for one night to welcome Salmon back, and Hydrovibe and NinePastNine were hand-picked for the gig. Talking about plans but revealing very little, Martinez says, "I'm excited about the surprises we have."

Inside Salmon's rehearsal studio, Martinez shows a theremin, which he jokes is the reason they got back together in the first place. The obscure electronic instrument is played without being touched. Making music out of thin air, the theremin creates funky wah-wah and wooo-wooo sounds that will only enhance Salmon's trademark sound.

The band also has four new songs (all still with working titles), including "Monologue," about willpower; "Concrete and Sand," about taking the easy way out; and "Common Sense Man," which Martinez describes, inscrutably, as "my view on lack of common sense in certain arenas I have encountered." A new instrumental will lead off the set, and special guests are expected.

Without a label, Salmon is relying on self-promotion and will keep the band website updated with lots of goodies. The band's got new logos in the works and new merchandise coming out, including hand-knit beanies made to request.

For now, though, the guys just seem happy to be jamming together. "The reality," emphasizes Martinez, "is we're here right now. What we'd like to do is record our own stuff on our own terms." But he speaks for the entire band when he says, if "Joe Arista" comes knocking, "We would say OK if [the deal] was worthwhile."

Salmon plays Saturday (June 26) at the Cactus Club, 417 S. First St., San Jose; doors 8:45; cover varies. (408.491.9300)

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From the June 24-30, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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