Mark Seymour Profile (Good Weekend)
An article on Mark Seymour, with references to his Catholic upbringing.
Author: Good Weekend (The Age).
Date: 25 August 2007.
Original URL: N/A.
Mark Seymour, 51, was born in Benalla, Victoria, the third of four children in a left-wing Catholic family. He was lead singer of Hunters & Collectors, the legendary rock band that formed in 1981 and finally broke up in 1998. He has since pursued a solo career releasing his latest album, Westgate, earlier this year. He is married with two children, aged 10 and 13.
On being a loner
In year 7, I came sixth in the high school cross country run. Discovering I could run was a huge thing for me, because I was notoriously pathetic at sport. I couldn’t play football or do anything vaguely co-ordinated. I was always the little short guy that didn’t get picked for the volleyball team
Running is also very solitary, a sport you do on your own, and I found that the idea of an internal contest really appealed to me. I was someone who tended to keep to himself. The funny thing is, I ended up in a team, with Hunters & Collectors, but that wasn’t my natural game. I think I was hiding in that group concealing my true nature, which I’d found somewhere on that run.
When I was 17 or 18, I started to wag church for the first time in my life. We were a Catholic family, everybody went to Mass and to confession every Sunday.
It didn’t seem like a huge issue to me at first. Wagging it was just a social thing, something I did with a couple of friends. But it was such a part of our family life that there were all these significant relationships, particularly with my father, which were affected. I was basically saying I don’t believe what’s going on in there and it’s not that important to me. I didn’t tell my parents, but they found out. It was part of the secrecy of my early adult behaviour: booze and girls and drugs.
The interesting thing is that faith is something I find myself grappling with again. When you become aware of the approaching mortality of your parents it forces your hand – you go, well, that’s what they believe at the back-end of their lives. What are my values? What do I believe?
On becoming a singer
The night I first sang in front of an audience, when I was about 22, was an important moment. I was in this kind of amateur cover band at university and my song was Twist and Shout by the Beatles. I got up there and I screamed it. It was really aggressive and it was a rush of blood.
I went, whoaaah, I love this. I knew that was what I wanted to do but it wasn’t until a year or so later that I announced I wasn’t going to be a schoolteacher.
I hadn’t thought of myself as a singer before that. I used to sing when I was a kid because Mum cultivated that in all of us: we had a family choir, sang harmonies around the piano. It was good but I had case that aside. That’s the thing about families – they encourage you to do artistic, creative things when you’re a kid and when you’re an adult, they expect you to get serious and get a normal job.
On falling out with the band
I can pin-point a time when I lost faith in Hunters & Collectors. It was 1990 and we’d been together about 10 years. We were on a world tour and it wasn’t going well. I was getting more and more despondent and I kept on saying I didn’t think the band was focused, and that it lacked energy.
Eventually there was this one night when the whole band stood up and just walked out of the room, except for the bass player. He looked across at me and said, “You don’t deserve this band.” I wanted a hold to fall into but I also realised at that moment that I didn’t want to be in the band anymore, although I stayed in it for another eight years. I’m a procrastinator.
Years later, I realised I actually don’t believe in collectivism and Hunters & Collectors was about as collective as you could get. I don’t believe you should be compelled to share the dividends of your creative life with people who aren’t directly engaged in it. I’ve realised I’m not a team player.
When my wife got pregnant – well, we weren’t married at that point – I silently made the decision that that was it. We were going to be together for the rest of our lives. I knew instantly that I had all these really strong beliefs. Being Catholics has something to do with it, although it’s not about spiritual underpinnings. It’s about having a sense of decency or something.
My parents had never split up, even though there were times they were probably close to it, as people in marriage often are. I think parents separating has a disastrous effect on kids and I’d put the welfare of the family as a unit before my own happiness.
This wasn’t so much a moment as a slow reveal, about my views on the importance of fidelity in marriage. It comes up a lot when you’re a musician. There’s a lot of opportunity for me to be unfaithful, as there is for a lot of guys.
A lot of me I hang out with talk about the idea that it’s “natural” for men to go off and f*** other women. That may or may not be the case, but I have a quite iron-clad belief it’s wrong.
People say all this stuff about “Oh, it just happened” or “Our eyes met across a crowded room”, but you can’t blame it on the Easter bunny. You choose to get into bed with someone. It’s about free will.
Thanks to Stephen for typing out this article for us all to enjoy.