Kim Leith Salmon was born in 1957 in the Western Australian port city of Bunbury. He later recalled wanting to be a nuclear physicist until, at the age of 13, he heard "heavy rock stuff" on the radio. He bought his first guitar, "an acoustic steel string thing", for A$14 and taught himself to play "Black Night" and "Tobacco Road". By the age of 18 Salmon had started a fine arts course at a university but deferred after a year, "I didn't really fit in with it". At the age of 19 he was a member of Troubled Waters, a cabaret covers band playing in a Fremantle strip club.
In August 1976 with Salmon on lead vocals and lead guitar, he formed Perth's first punk band, The Cheap Nasties. His early influences include The Modern Lovers' self-titled album (1976), New York Dolls, and The Stooges. Salmon recruited his high school mates: Mark Betts on drums; Dan Dare on bass guitar; Neil Fernandez on guitar; and Robert Porritt on vocals. After Salmon left in December 1977 they were renamed The Manikins.
By early 1978 Salmon had joined The Exterminators replacing Mark Demetrius on lead vocals. Fellow members were John Dowlings on drums; Roddy Radalj on guitar and vocals; and Boris Sujdovic on bass guitar. The group were renamed, The Invaders, and in May 1978 James Baker replaced Dowlings on drums (ex-Geeks, Beheaded, The Victims). They changed their name to The Scientists and in August Sujdovic left. He was eventually replaced by Dennis Byrne on bass guitar in January 1979.
The line up of Salmon, Baker, Byrne and Radalj recorded their debut single, "Frantic Romantic", which appeared in June that year. It was co-written by Salmon and Baker. However Byrne and Radalj had already left in April and were replaced by Ian Sharples on bass guitar and Ben Juniper on guitar. In December 1979 and in February and March 1980, as a member of The Scientists, Salmon toured the eastern states of Australia and they appeared on TV pop music series, Countdown.
They had issued their debut extended play, The Scientists, in February: Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, described the single and EP as "one of the most collectable artefacts of the Australian punk rock era". Further line up changes occurred with Salmon, Baker and Sharples recording a studio album of the same name in January 1981. The group broke up and Salmon formed a briefly existing group, Louie Louie, with Brett Rixon on drums (ex-Screaming Fits), and Kim Williams on bass guitar. By August that year Louie Louie had disbanded and The Scientists album was released by EMI. McFarlane felt that Salmon was one of the first Australians to "embrace wholeheartedly the emergent punk phenomenon of the mid-to-late 1970s".