Coca Cola Embedded Interview
An interesting interview with Mark about bands and the music industry.
Author: Paul Cashmere.
Date: 7 April 2004.
Original URL: http://www.cocacola.com.au/int_markseymour.asp
It is funny watching the various descriptions of Hunters & Collectors. To some it was art, to others they were pure rock. Hunters & Collectors reached a large cross section of the Australian public for a variety of reasons.
Songs such as ‘Holy Grail’, ‘Turn A Blind Eye’ and ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ have become part of Australia’s musical culture.
The voice of Hunters & Collectors was Mark Seymour who these days is one of Australia’s most respected solo artists. Mark wrote a lot of the Hunters songs that marked their legacy.
He has a fascinating perspective on how new bands should start today sourced from his years of experience. He shares his thoughts with you here at Coca-Cola.com.au.
Paul Cashmere: Compare you early days and starting out with what someone has to go through today?
Mark Seymour: The simplistic point to make is that the industry is radically changing and consumers have changed their spending habits. When I was starting it was much simpler. You could make a living out of playing live if you were good almost from the first day you walked on stage. That is a thing of the past. In order to get a record contract now you virtually have to start demoing before you even get on stage. Having said that, I don’t think that it is necessarily a bad state of affairs. I think the big difficulty any musician has if they are talented and what to make a living, no matter what era you come from you have to be bloody minded and tough. That is reality. You get knock backs and you will experience failure on a regular basis and you have to have the ability to be able to bounce back. It is all about free will. So many musicians I have known over 25 years just drift away because it is too insulting, it is too heart breaking. You are putting your life on the line but the reality is you are riding your own pony. If something goes wrong, you have to use your imagination. Just don’t give up.
PC: When and what do you look for in a first manager?
MS: I don’t think there is any point getting a manager until you have an income stream. You have to start with good legal advice early on if you are offered a record contract. That might cost you $150 for a good lawyer. At the same time don’t play too hard to get either. The relationship between you and a record company has to be built on compromise. Don’t regard the record company as the enemy. That won’t get you anywhere. You have to be a good communicator and explain what you what from a record contract. I don’t think you need management until then.
PC: Do you go through your own contracts?
MS: We sit down and discuss them. He presents documents and we go through them. The advantage of having a good manager is that they are a buffer between you and the record company. Record companies don’t like dealing directly with artists because from my experience artists aren’t very articulate at saying what they want. That is where managers come in to play. If you are working on artwork, that’s okay. It is always a good idea to know what you want before you go in. Say what you want and why you want it. If it is an open and free exchange of information then it will make more sense. Record companies generally know more about marketing than artists do. I remember David Bowie saying that he had never picked a single in his life because he never knew.
PC: What type of equipment do you use at home?
MS: I have a computer, an old computer that I treat like an old second hand car. I take it apart and put it back together. It is an Apple. It is a ’98. I just don’t change it. I keep working inside the machine, plug in the microphone and headphones and put the ideas down. My work is all lyric driven. The lyrics are the hardest part.
THE FIRST RELEASE
PC: Compare the thrill of getting your first Hunters & Collectors album to getting your new album Embedded?
MS: I can’t describe it at any stage as ever being a thrill. I always find that getting to the end of a record is always hard work so getting there I feel incredible relief. I’m now at the stage where I can talk about the record and I like doing that because I’m comfortable with it. Having said that, I have never been all that comfortable with records. Having gone solo, I know the buck stops with me and I have a clear slate to work with. In the early days with Hunters I was always anxious about the release. It was always mysterious and political. I was very young and paranoid.
PC: Are you over Hunters now?
MS: Socially I am over it. It was a great band. The political nature in that band was brutal and hard for me. I wasn’t comfortable in that band. The process of getting songs complete and shaped was always difficult but it was all I knew so I thought it was the natural order. Now I know there are basic issues to confront like poetic landscape that have to be there. With Hunters & Collectors, it was always the issue about what other people felt. That’s just the way it is with art.
PC: Look a Chisel and the success of the Ringside. Could you see yourself going out with Hunters again every five or six years and doing something like that?
MS: No, it was a different type of band with different types of people. There were guys in Hunters who you wouldn’t call professional musicians. They weren’t compelled to play an instrument for the rest of their lives. I know at least four of them who haven’t picked up an instrument since we broke up. It’s not like they are looking for a gig. It was a funny beast and I can’t say I honestly know what it was about. The legacy was profound and that is what intrigues me now, just what those songs meant. Some of the songs have become these iconic tunes. I am more interested in that than the band itself.
SOMETHING YOU DIDN’T KNOW
PC: It’s interesting to see the ripple went as far as Seattle and reached Pearl Jam who invited you on stage on their recent tour to sing one of your songs.
MS: What was interesting about that was before we sound-checked Eddie (Vedder) came over and shook hands and after a minute I had to ask “How do you know about Hunters & Collectors” and he told me this amazing story. He said he met me in a band room in Seattle. He was a devotee of Aussie bands and a lot of Australian bands were touring America. He turned up at an amphitheatre in San Diego and he tells me that he worked in a local petrochemical plant and used to come and see bands all the time and he talked his way backstage to say hello and I gave him my autograph. He fell in love with that song ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’. He had Human Frailty. It did well in America. It was played by college charts and had a nibble at AOR. If we had stayed in America for a year after that and consolidated like R.E.M. did, we would have made it but we went home. There is a distance that Aussie bands have to face and you have to get a song away in America for it to make sense.
Mark Seymour’s new album ‘Embedded’ is out through Liberation Records.