From the Biggest Army To Marching As One
A good Canadian article on the event of Mark’s 2009 tour of Canada.
Author: Holly Fraughton, Pique News Magazine.
Date: 8 July 2009.
Original URL: http://www.piquenewsmagazine.com/pique/index.php?cat=C_Entertainment&content=Mark+seymour+1628
Mark Seymour makes strides as solo artist after career as front man for longtime band, Hunters & Collectors.
Who: Mark Seymour
When: Friday, July 10, 8 p.m.
Where: Crystal Lounge
Any Aussie worth his or her salt can sing along with the “Holy Grail,” a tune that’s been adopted by the Australian Football League. Well, the man behind that anthem, Mark Seymour, is coming to Whistler this week to play an intimate gig at the Crystal Lounge.
These days, Seymour is touring solo with some fresh, new material, trading on his solid rep as front man for the iconic Australian group, Hunters & Collectors. He’s currently touring Canada to promote his fifth solo album, Westgate, and has plans in the works to release the record in Canada.
Though Seymour may be something of a legend today, unlike many musicians, he never dreamed of living the glamorous life of a rock star. He went to school to become a teacher, and actually still spends some time substituting in classrooms back home, along the Australian coast.
“I had a pretty intense musical background; my family was very musical,” he said. “And I finished uni and just became more and more interested in it, really… I just remember there was one point when I just thought I really had to try and write songs. I was going to see a lot of bands in Melbourne back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and it was a… very creative time, sort of the punk rock era.”
In 1980, he founded the group Hunters & Collectors as an informal jam band with friends. Their early performances started as serious parties, with audience members jumping onstage to join in on the fun.
“There was a certain amount of mythology associated with that,” Seymour said with a laugh. “We actually didn’t do that for very long because it got to a point where we started losing instruments, so we decided it wasn’t such a great idea… People were wandering off discreetly into the crowd with guitars, trumpets, et cetera.”
They assembled a large group of musicians, an eight-piece funk ensemble, featuring industrial percussion and the infamous “Horns of Contempt” section, and began building songs out of the jam sessions.
“That was very much an experimental approach, and it proved very successful, very quickly.”
The group soon evolved into something much more than a casual jam session. Hunters & Collectors released six albums and developed a healthy following of fans before finally disbanding in 1998, almost 18 years after inception. The band had become renowned for their live gigs, while the members managed to maintain their independence with solo projects, which meant that they weren’t focusing their energies on the commercial success of their records.
“It wasn’t until many, many years later that we started becoming commercially successful – like almost 10 years later, actually,” Seymour said.
The band members didn’t realize they were truly missed by fans until a few years after the group broke up, and they noticed their songs kept getting airtime. In response, Seymour released a book last year, Thirteen Tonne Theory, which explains the history of Hunters & Collectors.
“It was pretty emotional,” he recalled. “…I felt that the band’s heritage have never been fully understood, I suppose, especially by the media, and that was my starting point.”
On the musical front, he’s forging ahead as a solo musician. A few years before the band had officially broken up, Seymour began working on his own solo projects. After the break up he simply carried on.
“One thing led to another, and I just found myself alone,” he said. “It’s just been like that ever since, and I’ve just continued to make records and tour and play and it’s just what I do – I don’t really have a plan, but at the same time, I have no intention of giving up, either.”
Today, Seymour is increasingly including political messages into his music, with lyrics that speak to the working class, everyday person. And without the Horns of Contempt blaring, the meaning behind his lyrics is finally allowed to shine through.
“I find that sitting alone writing is hard, but I think that’s pretty much what I want now. I’ve reached a point where I’ve grown out of band culture – it just doesn’t interest me anymore.”
Now, he’s out of the “young man’s sport” of being in a band, and is instead carefully crafting his own music.
“I tend to think very deeply about my songs before I put pen to paper – themes and issues and the subject matter of what I do is much more specific.”
He took a simple, straightforward approach to this latest studio project, collecting the material over a long period of time, recording it quickly, and then taking his time mixing it.
“It’s been sort of a slow burn, really,” he said.
Seymour also spends a lot of time writing music for fringe, community and semi-professional theatrical productions in Australia, which have inspired him to delve into a wide range of subject matter and history, and cultivated his interest in storytelling, creating narrative through verse.
At Seymour’s upcoming Whistler performance, which will also mark his first visit to the community, he plans to play a mixed set, performing songs from Westgate while he road tests some of his new material on the audience.
“It’s interesting, too, playing new material for people who haven’t basically seen you play for a long time, because it puts everything in perspective – it’s fresh.”