Hunters Still Firing the Shots

A positive article and interview with Mark Seymour about the Hunters playing the AFL grand final and the release of the Crucible tribute album.

Author:  Simon Collins, The West Australian.

Date: 27 September 2013.

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Hunters & Collectors. Picture: Martin Philbey

Tomorrow at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Mark Seymour will sing in front of nearly 100,000 people and pretend he’s in the shower. Hang on – aren’t you supposed to pretend that everybody else is naked?

Either way, Seymour reckons the performance alongside the rest of the reunited Hunters & Collectors at the AFL grand final between Fremantle and Hawthorn is no big deal.

“It’s like singing in the shower and you just ignore what’s going on around you, make it sound as good as you can,” says the veteran singer, who has played football’s biggest stage three times: twice solo and once with his current band, the Undertow.

Seymour is not afraid to tackle the elephant in the ‘G – namely Meat Loaf, his terrible performance in 2011 and the “black hole of neurosis” the AFL seems to have about the entertainment for the last Saturday in September.

“You could talk about it for hours,” Seymour laughs. “I don’t mind the idea that you have a couple of guys standing on stage in the middle of it and they sing a couple of tunes. There’s nothing actually wrong with that.”

Like most folks, the Western Bulldogs fan is far more interested in the main course – the footy – than the appetisers, which also include Perth rockers Birds of Tokyo.

Nonetheless, the timing of the grand final performance is perfect for his band. Today sees not only the announcement of a national tour for Hunters & Collectors but also the release of a new tribute album, Crucible.

The 15-track compilation sees Aussie bands tackle obvious (Throw Your Arms Around Me, Holy Grail, When the River Runs Dry) and not-so-obvious songs (Alligator Engine, Dog) from the mighty Hunnas’ catalogue.

When asked about his favourite tracks, Seymour couldn’t care less about stepping on toes.

If this were the Brownlow medal, he would give three votes to Alpine for their almost unrecognisable version of Hear No Evil, two votes to Matt Corby and Missy Higgins’ duet on This Morning and maybe the final vote to Paul Kelly, Emma Donovan and Jimblah for their brilliant remake of True Tears of Joy.

Those three tracks surprised Seymour the most, he says, but the biggest shock was that these “Triple J kids”, including Oh Mercy, the Rubens and Cloud Control, lined up to perform on the compilation in the first place. “To be honest, I didn’t think people would do it,” he shrugs. “I thought they’d get halfway through it and go ‘This is really hard, we just can’t get enough people interested’.”

Seymour reveals that the Hunters question their cultural relevance beyond their lifespan from 1981-1998, during which they released 10 studio albums. “The band always felt, apart from really early on, that we became isolated or stigmatised by the idea, especially in the media, of being a pub band,” he says.

Clearly, a generation of Aussie musicians, including WA acts Birds of Tokyo, the Panics and Abbe May, think differently.

The creative part of making Crucible was finding the right band for the right song, or vice versa. This task came down to John O’Donnell, the music maven responsible for similar tribute albums for the Finn Brothers and Paul Kelly.

“John O’Donnell has done a really good job,” Seymour says. “Because the songs themselves are so varied stylistically, it was almost like casting a movie.”

Crucible comes with a second disc of the original recordings, which could form a set list for Hunters & Collectors’ gigs next year.

The 1998 line-up of the band, which briefly reunited in 2009 to appear at the MCG for the Sound Relief charity concert, will play Days on the Green, theatre shows and two Bruce Springsteen support slots – a far cry from their days slogging around the nation’s beer barns. “I don’t think we’ll be working anywhere near as hard as Hunters did in the early days, which is a blessing,” Seymour laughs. “We’re not 25 anymore.”

Seymour promises “at least 100 minutes” of hits and favourites on the tour and absolutely nothing fans haven’t heard. “There will be no new music,” he states. “None. That’s just not going to happen.

“The thing is with Hunters & Collectors, it’s like getting this huge train moving. There’s a whole lot of people pushing to get it going and then, once it’s going, you can’t stop it. It really is a machine, a big machine.”

Crucible – The Songs of Hunters & Collectors is released today. Hunters & Collectors will play Kings Park on March 29, supported by Something for Kate and British India. Tickets go on sale from Ticketmaster on October 11.