True Believers Mark Seymour Interview
True Believers webmaster Stuart talks to Mark Seymour about Embedded, fans, music, and anything else that time permits.
Author: Stuart Fenech
Date: 27 May 2004 (online 7 June 2004)
An avid music fan for about ten years now, like many I feel that our favourite musical artists are to be enjoyed from afar, and any chance of meeting them is a sensational stroke of luck. Therefore, it was with some amazement that I found myself backstage at a Sydney Mark Seymour gig in 2002, being plied with alcohol.
While on the phone to Mark clearing up our fan harassment on the contents to “Mutations”, I hit him up for a fan interview some time. Two months later, the opportunity arose with Mark’s first gigs in my home town Brisbane for nearly three years. On Thursday we decided that after the soundtrack on Thursday would be the best time, to get it out of the way.
Borrowing my brother in laws recording device that he purchased for university lectures, I made my way to Downtown Gillhooley’s at around 5pm. Sound check was in action, and, as you do, I experimented with recording Mark’s sound check. It did not work well enough to rave about, especially considering we are talking about a small mono recorder.
After sound check I made my way to where Mark is, and found myself again unsure as to words. A definite ‘rocknerd’, I am more comfortable with enjoying from afar. I find myself unsure of what to say around Mark, and hesitant to say to anything under the old ‘better to appear stupid than to say something and prove it’. Besides, Mark was replacing the strings on his guitar and having on, off conversations about acquiring a better capo and a ‘feedback buster’. Eventually, Mark asked why we did not start the interview here, so I pulled up a chair and went through most of the questions I had prepared. Rob Miles also joined in for a while, being up here in Brisbane doing sound for Mark. I hope you all enjoy!
Stuart: Ah yeh, it’s moving. Must be working. OK, a couple of questions about Embedded. What’s your favourite song to play live?
Mark: In The Kitchen Of A Perfect Home
Stu: Ah OK. A lot of people on your guestbook there, we get a lot of feedback on that song, a lot of people are big on it.
Mark: On my website or on yours?
Stu: Yeh, on yours. You’ve got the guestbook going, for a lot of people it’s their favourite song off the album.
[A guy interrupts – he wants his guitar signed, Mark says “I’m in the middle of an interview”, he goes]
Stu: You wrote something like 50 songs for this album, what happened to the other 39?
Mark: Ahh, oh, I’ve got them, they are just sitting at home on the laptop.
Stu: Aaah, OK. Are we ever going to see those 39?
Mark: Aaah, there’s a pretty strong likelihood that yeh, some of it will end up surfacing but I don’t know which ones, you never know. There’s no kind of rational process.
Stu: Whatever happened to the Wayne Carey tribute you did a while ago?
Mark: Ahh, well, I just decided that in the end… his misbehaving didn’t deserve the attention so I just didn’t bother with it. You know, didn’t think it was that interesting really.
Stu: Next focus track I heard is “Shoulder To Cry On”. Is that right?
Stu: OK. When about is that going to go out to radio stations?
Mark: Ahh well we are doing the clip in the beginning of July so probably by the middle of July.
Stu: OK, is there any chance of “Left Alive” making it out in any form?
[Mark nods no]
Stu: No so it will just be the two songs?
Stu: OK. There goes my favourite song!
Mark: Yeh, its probably mine as well but it’s one of those songs that it’s really elemental and a very exciting song but it just isn’t lyrically sedate enough for the average punter.
Stu: OK. Do you prefer the electric or acoustic version of Paradise Downunder?
Mark: Aah, I think that we got that production right of that song…
Stu: The acoustic?
Mark: Yeh. Yeh, it’s right.
Stu: From Made Man, lyrics like “people come and go in your life, I don’t care much anymore”. I’m just wondering was that how you were feeling at a particular moment in time, or do you feel that a lot now, or…
Stu: Or did I just ask a stupid question?
Mark: Nah, it’s a good question, I think that’s generally what I think, I don’t care that much anymore. I mean, people do come and go. There are some people that I would be pretty upset if they went away but generally speaking that’s how it works. You get to a certain point of your life when you realise that 90% of relationships are transitory. That song in a way in a way is more like that Bob Dylan song, umm, “What Was It You Wanted”, off “Oh Mercy”, and it’s kind of like this middle aged guy who’s realising that most people who come up and talk to him want something. It’s kind of, I’m making a reference to the, you know, just the expediency of relationships in the rock industry. And it’s about a guy in the rock industry, the guy I’m talking about us used to work, well still does work for Festival Mushroom Records.
Stu: Are you talking about Michael Parisi?
Stu: I’m impressed with that bit, that was a later question. Your story on the site had me looking at it going ‘mmm, I wonder who that is…?’
Mark: Yeh, well it’s him mainly but it’s also about three other characters. I had to write, I had to write, did an Internet interview, can’t remember the bloke, and got to that and said, I just make up, Parisi, Mark Latham… I mean I admire all these people, you know, they are all people I admire. There’s two others that are quite funny. Michael Parisi, Mark Latham, who’s the youngest Murdoch?
Mark: Not James, is it James? James Murdoch. No, Lachlan Murdoch. Lachlan Murdoch is the third. And there was someone else, anyway.
Stu: With he demise of the single we are finding rarities a bit hard to find. We miss, you know, like the Rob mixed b-sides on the “Don’t You Know Me?” single were great. We’re wondering, are we going to see any future CD singles?
Mark: Of my stuff?
Mark: Aah, oh yeh, I’m going to be doing a… oh, pretty likely, yeh.
Stu: You know, perhaps an Embedded bonus disc with some additional material. We are just looking at ways to get rarities because singles aren’t the thing anymore. Maybe rarities on the Internet?
Mark: I mean I can post stuff, I’ve got heaps of things lieing around.
Stu: That would be good, we just miss the rarities, that’s all. Where do you see yourself going from here? More music, acting, or…?
Mark: Aaah, a soundtrack. I’m up here working with these producers up here. They are making a film about the Lindy Chamberlain story. You know, Lindy Chamberlain, she was the woman who was accused of killing her baby…
[The sound check going during the interview was too loud… small break, both of us back with VB]
Stu: Can’t see a thing.
Mark: Why don’t you scroll back and leave it in play?
Stu: I’m not sure, I got this off my brother in law, and you know I’m not bootlegging your gigs because I don’t even know what I’m doing.
Mark: Are you recording now?
Stu: Yes. It’s alright.
Stu: So, what were you doing, what were you doing for the film on Lindy Chamberlain?
Mark: Yeh, um, it was a huge social, legal controversy in the early 80’s, umm, and a film was actually made about it, it divided the nation, it was a huge public thing. They even had 1800 call in’s on t national networks ‘do you think she killed the baby or not?’. Anyway, they made a film about it called “Evil Angel” with Merrill Streep and that kind of not particularly attractive film writing. Anyway, so she’s brought out a, Lindy Chamberlain has brought out a, she’s written an autobiography and these people are making a film based on the book.
Stu: Are you acting or are you doing the music?
Mark: No, I’m doing the soundtrack.
Stu: The entire soundtrack or…?
Mark: Pretty much. Well, I’m not doing the effects. I’ve written five songs, I mean, I’m writing it as though it’s an album. So I’m singing, my voice will be in the soundtrack.
Stu: OK, good. With the Embedded tale on the Internet site…
Stu: You know how you have the story about each song?
Stu: Umm, Kew, Where is it?
Mark: It’s kind of like a leafy suburb in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. It’s just a very kind of boring place. There’s nothing particularly special about it except that, it’s kind of like Indooroopilly. It’s an aspirational suburb.
Mark: Indooroopilly. It’s just one of those, I just picked it at random. I could have picked Caulfield or… well no, Caulfield would be interesting becauase it’s full of Jews. So it’s interesting, it’s got something going for it. Kew is like just upper middle class Australia and it has nothing, it has no redeeming features other than that it is full of incredible beautiful houses and pretty rich people.
Stu: I’ve lived in south Brisbane – Beenleigh all my life and those suburbs to me are, oh well. How’s the Monaro going?
Mark: It’s gone, it was stolen.
Stu: Oh right. So what are you driving around now?
Mark: My brothers Land Rover. It’s from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Rob: My car was stolen last year too.
Mark: Yeh, he got his back though.
Rob: The first time.
Mark: Oh, that’s right.
Rob: Second time it’s really gone.
Stu: So your brother’s overseas and you’ve got the car?
Mark: Yeh, may as well make use of it.
Stu: You mention the Subaru Forester a bit, are you making fun of it?
Mark: Aaah, well, the reason I picked the Subaru is because it’s one of those aspiration vehicles. It’s the sort of car that people buy when they’d probably prefer to have something like a…
Stu: BMW X5?
Mark: Mercedes four wheel drive but they go for the Subaru and they say things like “it has fantastic resale value, I know it’s Japanese but it’s mechanically one of the best cars on the road”
Stu: [laughs loudly]
Mark: You know, it’s kind of a wannabe car
Rob: Why would the Japanese buy any other car? [?]
Mark: The Japanese aren’t as rich as they used to be. You know, it’s one of those wannabe cars that is actually quite a good car. Ahh, you know, it’s a solid car. They handle well. Bit of grunt. But it’s kind of a bit daggy. Not quite getting over the line, the statement, you know, it’s not quite there.
Rob: It’s a chick puller.
Mark: It’s definitely not a chick puller. We’re talking about families that live in Kew.
Stu: My parents want to get a Forester as their next car. Anyway.
Mark: Good luck to them.
Stu: I don’t have a problem with it…
Mark: I’d buy a Forester… I wouldn’t buy a Forester. I wouldn’t get a Forester.
Stu: Hey, I drive I Camry, I can’t talk.
Mark: I have… you drive a Camry? F*cking hell.
Stu: [laughs] It’s understated. It’s a manual V6. You have a pretty good chance of being able to take of an automatic Commodore…
Mark: This may make you feel better about this, but a very, very famous Australian singer songwriter drives a Camry, a silver Camry sedan…
Stu: We heard about you playing Hunters and Collectors songs in Vietnam with a Vietnamese band. How did that come about?
Mark: Umm, well just through contacts I had over there, employees and corporations years ago now. This one girl, in the Australian consolidated press, she was a promotions manager and she had a job in Siagon and her brother in Saigon with her… umm, her husband is my wife’s brother. And they were looking for an Australian artist to go over and play a big corporate promotions event between Australia and Vietnam. This gig was funded for the Chinese New Years by all these Australian corporations in there promoting Australian culture. I did it one year, I’ve done it…
Rob: Four times?
Mark: And basically, they’ve since got in the habit of bringing Australian artists over. Things started going pear shaped about three years ago because budgets were going up and up and up because they were getting people over bringing their full production rig over and their Australian musicians and charge like a wounded bull. And I used local guys, I got introduced to these people when I got over there through an Aussie who was working with one of these companies who was a drummer. Melbourne guy. And he had pulled together these cover band full of Vietnamese musicians who do Aussie pop songs. And they just came up and said we’ll get Mark over and we’ll work up a set of Hunters and Collectors. And they did my solo stuff too. So I played Hunters and solo material with this Vietnamese band. It was f*cking great, the sound was atrocious. The last gig every year is so stressful. The sound was so bad that I broke the strings all night. I got incredibly stressed, it was so stressful.
Stu: The other question I had is is there a recording… but since you were not there [looking at Rob]
Mark: Oh mate, you don’t want to hear… actually the drummer they had this year was really good. He’s a good drummer. Little Vietnamese Jazz drummer. [impersonation] Tiny little fella, they are all really small, tiny.
Stu: We get e-mail from fans everywhere in the world, basically. Have you got plans of touring anywhere outside of Australia?
Mark: [Small laugh]
Stu: That’s a hard one…
Mark: There’s a vague sort of proposal to go to Canada. Because I have a contact over there, this bloke Keith who is a mad fan and he is a corporate dude. Wants to get some gigs over there for me.
Stu: We do get a few Canadian fans through the site.
Mark: I’d love to tour but, yeh.
Stu: Even the American fans are wondering when you are going to turn up there… OK, Australian Federal election later in the year. Any thoughts?
Mark: Aaah look, I’d like to think that Labor will get there and I mean, the polls are sort of saying that, but it’s still too early to say. Wouldn’t you agree Rob?
Rob: It depends on the campaign.
Mark: I think a lot of it will depend on how the public’s perception of our involvement in the Iraq war goes. Whether that wears off or not, I reckon that could be the clincher. I’d like to think that might be the thing that, public sentiment about our involvement in Iraq…
Rob: … equal one seat lost.
Mark: From a social perspective I just don’t think that this government is offering Australia anything at all. It’s a really dull government. You know the only thing this government has actually done is the GST.
Stu: At the last election you were in the press promoting Labor…
Mark: Was I?
Stu: You were, to do with the music policy, there was a CD released with a couple of Hunters and Collectors songs on it.
Stu: Yeh, and we had quotes coming through. Is anyone talking to you this time?
Mark: Aaah, no. No involvement. Are you talking about songs being used in the campaign?
Stu: Aaah, well, you were there promoting, actually saying Labor would provide better in terms of musicians and were basically putting your weight behind the Labor Party. Is anything likely to happen this time?
Mark: Well, I don’t actively pursue those sort of relationships but if they approach me to be a spokesperson for the Labor Party, I will definitely be there, no question about it.
Stu: I have to admit I’m biased because I can not stand John Howard and many aspects of policies…
Mark: Well there’s only one party that’s going to beat them and it’s the Labor Party.
Stu: … and I joined the Labor Party.
Mark: Did you? Aaah yeh, good on ya.
Stu: Yeh, I’m doing some websites for local candidates going up against sitting members. Alright, very briefly, the popstar phenomenon, the Idle and all that sort of thing, what do you make of it? Is it good or bad for the music industry?
Mark: I just don’t really have any negative feelings about it. It’s just pop music. All it is is a way… it’s not really about music. It’s about television. It’s TV entertainment. And that’s alright, it doesn’t effect me. If that phenomena had emerged 20 years ago it wouldn’t have made any difference to me. I’ve never sought, I just never thought it bares any relevance to what I do. I mean the only reason why it might is because I am a public figure and people will have that public perception of me that I’m a star of some description so I may have some kind of relationship with that. That I might have some philosophical point of view on it. It’s just pop music, it’s always been there, and that’s just a modern manifestation of a strange kind of cultural disease that is ever present. You know, how’s that for pop? [To Rob] You’re being very patient there?
Stu: I’ll try and pick the better ones out. Someone said you’ve got a sexy tattoo on your arm?
Mark: Dunno how sexy it is, it’s pretty f*cking drab actually. I think I’m getting another one.
Stu: I got the feeling it said sexy. It must have been a temporary tattoo you wore at some point.
Mark: [rolls up sleeve to show slightly faded Hunters tattoo] It couldn’t be this one.
Stu: Well someone asked what’s the story but it doesn’t seem to be there at the moment. Hey I got weirder questions than that from… [uncertain] some female fans… umm… do you ever get stopped by fans in the street, around Melbourne?
Mark: Yeh, yeh.
Stu: How do you feel about that?
Mark: Aaah, I’m not that good with that actually. I must say, I don’t have a great deal of patience. I know that’s not a nice thing to admit to but I’m not that good at coping with being confronted by people. Sometimes, you get the odd person who is incredible gracious. There’s a way of doing it I think, which, like meeting John Hammond in the airport today. Cause I knew him, I just went up and said a quick hello.
Rob: Just hello mate, love your work, have good day, piss off. I’m an observer because they do it in clubs where I am. It happens all the time, they go up and they know him in their lives and therefore they think that you know them.
Mark: You get the odd one, I just think, I don’t mind people coming up with me to me very politely saying ‘hello, I really love your work’ and getting out of my face. That’s not bad, that’s what I would do…
Stu: That’s what I did the first time I met you. You were there signing Hunters and Collectors records and you were there promoting One Eyed Man. Came up said “hi, love your work, bye bye, see ya”.
Mark: Yeh, it’s just that you get… some people think that because you are a public figure they are part of your life and they won’t go away. That guy today who wanted to carry our baggage out to the hire car. He’s your best mate, I’ll hang out with you all day. You know, and you have to very politely say ‘no thankyou, it’s fine’. And go away very quickly. But other than that, I am very conscious of my privacy. I like my privacy.
Stu: I got this e-mail about a MusicMax interview and the particular fans spiel on it was “when the topic got onto Mutations, Mark mentioned ‘I’ve got this fan base’, but said it in a psycho sort of way with a bit of a dry laugh at the end”… so we are wondering, what do you make of mad Internet fans who harass you about Mutations?
Mark: My face says things, I don’t get a say in it…
Stu: It looked to me obviously like a joke, you were just stirring a bit.
Mark: Yeh, you know. My face tends to do things involuntarily. It doesn’t necessarily reflect the inner mind. It’s just a kind of a twitching. Don’t read much into what my face is doing because it doesn’t mean a great deal.
Stu: Yeh. I’m not sure what we’re asking with that, but anyway. Drive time with Ratso you’ve got on the net. How often do you get interviews like that?
Mark: Oh about 15%… about 15.7% of the time [Note: I am a statistician – Mark knows this]
Stu: OK. Rob said he uses his ARIA as a bookend, what are you using yours for?
Mark: Well my kids have used it as a show and tell device. In fact my second daughter, she’s used it three times – preps, grade one and two, as a show and tell device.
Stu: You mentioned when you were last in Brisbane that your daughters were enjoying Britney Spears at the time. Have they got over that phase?
Mark: Yeh, Eva’s moved on to… well Eva’s at a fairly crucial phase, she’s looking for a new style. She was at the Pink stage and Eva’s very rock and she’s, I’ve got to refresh my memory. They are both into Jet, they both love Jet, but Eva is searching for something more meaningful. Eva’s kind of like going to be a rock teenager with purple lipstick. Hannah’s kind of went through this massive Delta Goodrem stage last year. I don’t know, all bets are off in a way because every time they get in the car with me with the first question they ask is “can we listen to Fox FM?”
Stu: Oh no. I’ve heard about Fox.
Mark: They’re kind of becoming quite Catholic in their tastes.
Stu: I think that’s about it, I’ve held you up for long enough. Thankyou very much.
Mark: Thankyou very much!
Questions Not Asked
I deliberately did not ask anything about a Hunters and Collectors reunion. This is because Mark is asked about it in every second interview and it is my personal believe that it will not happen. Although Mark’s recent response to Sydney fan Dave Skinner that it would have to be for a ‘shitload of money’ I also believe.
There were a couple of questions I had on the list which did not make it because, as it was, I held him up for about half an hour!
After the interview I threw Mark two articles that he had got in the Brisbane street press, in “Tsunami” and “Rave”. Mark carefully read both of them, and commented that one of them had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, had not heard the album and had “been given the job at the last minute”. So Mark simply ranted on to him for a while. During reading, Mark comments about a grammatical error and a misquoting.
I wondered to Mark about why “Time Off” did not have an article on him, to which he commented that “Time Off” was not interested in interviewing him. Shame, “Time Off”, shame. When I was in university not that long ago, “Time Off” was the choice street magazine to read.
I spoke with Rob Miles, who tends to be quite approachable. The audio and artwork for “Mutations” is there and we still will get hold of “John Riley” some time. Rob recommended friend David Bridie and My Friend The Chocolate Cake to me a while ago, which I am extremely glad he did, because they make fantastic music. Bridie’s “Hotel Radio” was, by far, my favourite album of 2003. Rob’s doing sound for a David Bridie gig in the Solomon Islands at the end of July and Bridie’s football team (Demons) are going well. Rob had a copy of Bridie’s “Nautical Forlorn” soundtrack compilation and recommended it (I then bought it on Friday).