Running Out of Steam

Article on the end of Hunters and Collectors from Revolver.

Author: Justin de Vries.

Date: January 28, 1998.


Article Text

There are two common reactions I get from people when I mention Hunters and Collectors.  A dismissive wave of contempt or “Hunners!”  They’re a bloody legendary Australian icon!  Now they are on their Say Goodbye Tour as the band decides to pack it in after 16 years of performing.  They leave behind nine albums, three EP’s, the memory of over a thousand live performances and a musical landscape that is as diverse as it is innovative.  With 50 shows over three months, it’s their biggest tour ever and it’s a wonder they can keep up the energy.  Doug Falconer, horn player for the band [Doug Falconer is in fact the drummer – Caelie], tells me it’s going well so far.

“I don’t know if I will be able to keep going” he jokes. “I certainly don’t want to come out of it with no energy.”

Hunters and Collectors are immediately peculiar to see onstage, with a prominent horn section as part of the act; and to listen to they are an ensemble of sophisticated and diverse voices that culminates in a very full sound.

The new album, entitled Juggernaut, is a collection of songs of urban distress, lover’s addictions and the distant triumph of good men.  Mark Seymour is typically direct and toiling in his lyrics, and there’s the brass punctuations and elaborate arrangements you’d expect from this band.  Mainly self-produced, eight of the 13th songs were written in less than a fortnight.  Kalju Tonuma engineers Juggernaut and lends his synthesizer talents.  The first track recorded, Those Days Are Gone, bewails the passing of Crowded House.  She’s Not Fooling Around is a sensitive and empathetic ballad softened with the strings of cellist Helen Mountford from Chocolate Cake.  Jeremy’s synth strings lend smoother surfaces to some of the more “balladic” tunes like It’s a Long Way To The WaterWasted in the Sun has an extremely catchy chorus and extended psychedelic outro and will be played on radio along with Higher Plane, one of the less restrained and sweatier rock numbers. A lyrically improvised song about Pauline Hansen called Mother Hubbard also beefs up the album.  There’s even collaborative work on the lyrics with Paul Kelly on Suit Your Style.

Falconer was surprised when I suggested to him that Mark’s vocals are sounding a lot like Bono on this album.  “He really gave himself room to play with his vocals.  He really let himself go.  I know in the studio he was a lot freer.  We would do a vocal track, then start on the brass and he would come running back into the recording room.  ‘ No, no, I’ve got another idea.  I want to change that line ‘.  There definitely wasn’t a lack of creative steam.”

Let’s rewind for a minute back to when it all began.

“It all happened by accident.  We were drawn together at university by a common interest in experimenting with new forms”.  (Hence the name ‘ Hunters and Collectors ‘).  “We intended to get back to a more tribal sound.”

Back then, in 1982, if calculations are correct, the band was more like a tribal orchestra of 15 members.  So why are they breaking up?  Doug is elusively philosophical and matter-of-fact about this.

“You know, it’s better to do these things sooner than later when things have gone on too long.  It’s been over a decade of giving a good run of music. I’ll look back with satisfaction over our time together.”

And what’s next for a Hunter and a Collector?

“I don’t know.  Of course Mark will go on with his solo career.  The others don’t know what they’re doing exactly.  I think it’s best to leave some space and let these things call you rather than starting something new too quickly.”  Having toured with a myriad of other acts and grown up very much in the public eye of the heyday of Australian rock, it would seem appropriate to ask Doug of his favorite contemporary.  It threw him deeply into thought.  “I’d have to say Midnight Oil.  We went on a world tour with them and we were impressed by their professionalism and commitment to the music.”

Some won’t even know that a chapter in Australian music history is drawing to a close (those under a rock or over the age of voluntary retirement), and some may well bemoan the breakup of a legend.  What matters is what’s left behind anyway.  The Hunters tour up these parts of the East Coast from February 28 to March 15.  Juggernaut is out now through Mushroom.