Drum Media: One Eyed Man
General article about One Eyed Man, how it was made and other interesting musings.
Author: Michael Smith.
Date: 29th May 2001.
Three years ago, after touring Australia and the world with Hunters & Collectors for 20, recording nine albums during that time with them, Mark Seymour finally stepped out of the “Comfort Zone” to try his luck as a solo artist. He’d already tested the waters with King Without A Clue, released a year before the breakup, but there were no guarantees.
Mark Seymour muses about it all with Michael Smith.
“I’ve always wanted to exercise my throat in other ways,” Seymour admits, “but I was kind of restricted by the band. Not to say that the band wasn’t important to me – it was really crucial and I miss it a lot. Once the band was over, I had to recognise that none of this is ever going to be comfortable for me. I wasn’t really testing myself creatively the last three or four years of the band’s life. If I was going to make sense of being a solo performer, the vocal really had to be the key to the whole thing.”
Just how important the voice has become for Seymour is evident from his performances on his latest album. Listening to One Eyed Man there’s perceptible difference in tonal quality between the voice we’re all familiar with and the one you hear here.
“That was probably the area we spent the most time on. The songs kind of generated the mood, because it’s a song-driven record. We found fairly early on that the vocals that we had on some of the material that appear to be the strongest weren’t appropriate. We always left the vocals till the end. As the album unfolded, that became more and more of an issue.
“I just think I got more confident as time went by. We wrote upwards of 60 songs and (producer) Daniel (Denholm) ended up getting excited by demos that had the best vocal performance on them and really that became the benchmark for the whole album. I never really knew which one Daniel was gonna like! Which was a bit disconcerting in the early days, but towards the end of the record I realised that it was actually really productive for me as a performer because I had to be spontaneous, more soulful, and really deliver where it counted. There was no room for tantrums or navel-gazing. It was all very hardcore production and at this stage of my career, that’s really where I have to be, very focused and simple in my messages. The whole album’s melody. We just wanted to make every song work melody really hard so that you’re always hearing this tale with the melody dipping and rising from one song to the next.”
There are a few co-writes on the album – three with former Hunters cohort Barry Palmer, and one See You Around with Daryl Braithwaite.
“That was one of the first songs we recorded. Daniel liked it because it’s very melodic and really traditional, and I wanted to really explore that kind of music ‘cos I’ve only had limited opportunities in that area. He was looking for songs for his album, and we collaborated on the lyrics, but I definitely had him in mind. The way the chorus unfolds early on, to me, sounds like a Daryl sort of twist. He was really good to work with and I also wanted to get away from the little tribe that I’ve always been in, the alternative music scene. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with it. I just felt that if I was going to adapt and grow and mature as a performer, I needed to try and associate with people that I’d never had the opportunity to work with in the past.”
These days, Seymour works as often with a five-piece as he does alone with just an acoustic guitar, and readers might be surprised that after 20 plus years of doing this, he is only just getting confident at it.
“I’ve found even when we’ve done big productions like the Olympic Games, I found it incredibly easy to cope with large crowds, just because of the exposure I’ve had to working in a really intimate environment. That’s given me a lot more confidence. Once I started playing on my own, I realised there was no reason why I couldn’t just keep pushing the envelope, all the time. I’ve now got this massive amount of flexibility that I can enjoy, and sometimes it’s not particularly easy but it’s never boring! Ever.”
Mark Seymour’s One Eyed Man is out now on FMR.
~ Thanks to Miriam Gravino for providing (and typing out) this article.