The Way To Go Out (The Age)
Article including interview parts with Doug Falconer and Mark Seymour about the final days of Hunters and Collectors.
Author: John Mangan, The Age.
Date: 20 February 1998.
Original URL: N/A
After 17 years Melbourne’s own Hunters & Collectors are calling it a day – but not before releasing a new album and finishing a national tour. John Mangan reports.
For a generation or two of young Melburnians, catching the Hunters & Collectors in a sweaty pub or venue has been a crucial rite of passage. Then last September, on the grand final Footy Show, before a TV audience of 3 million or so, the band announced it was calling it a day.
For years the Hunters had instructed punters that the way to go out was with a bottle of fear, a body of anger and a gutful of beer. To this emotive formula, they have added a 52 – date national farewell tour and a spanking brand new album called, ominously Juggernaut.
So what is the mood within the band as it brings to a close a 18-year tour of duty?
“For us to go out with a new album full of new songs and to be promoting a new record is the right gesture to make,” says singer Mark Seymour. “We’re pretty serious about it, and the punters are really coming out in droves. And the band internally is quite comfortable with the idea it’s ending, so it’s pretty positive really.”
Over the course of more than a decade and a half the Hunters built up a repertoire of critically and popularly acclaimed songs, from the angst of Talking to a Stranger to the warmth of Throw your arms around me and the passion of Holy Grail.
The break-up has been a gradual process, says drummer Doug Falconer. “It’s been at the back of our minds for three or four years,” he says. “We decided to have a year off two years ago, to put our toes in the water and see what it felt like to do things outside the band.
“Different people went about it different ways, yet when we came back together there wasn’t a vibe to break up. It was another year or two before the subject came up again, and when it came up again people had actually got used to the idea much more, and it was a very easy decision to make.
“It was all nods and smiles around the table, everybody felt comfortable with it. It was weirdly amicable. There were none of the fireworks or tears and recrimination that people were half expecting. It was an idea that’s time had come.”
We’re sitting in a pub in Albert Park and, as he cradles a VB, Falconer speaks with the quiet intensity and humour that pervades the bands work. “I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be a professional musician any more, for several reasons,” he declares bluntly. The drummer is known within the band as the List Man, and proceeds to demonstrate why.
“Firstly, I don’t think I can top personally the creative satisfaction I’ve had with Hunters & Collectors. Secondly, the thought of starting again fills me with great dread – it’s a much tougher market. Personally I’ve moved on. I’m a family man, I’ve got other interests. You have to be blindly committed to start a band, and if you aren’t, you’re kidding yourself.”
In the curious twilight between punk and New Romantic music during which the Hunters were born, that blind commitment was available in spades. Nick Cave’s band, the Birthday Party, had just left town to pursue fame and fortune overseas, and Melbourne’s inner-city scene was hungry for a new infatuation.
Falconer recalls the band’s first performance downstairs at the Crystal Ballroom in St. Kilda. “We were all so wrapped up in getting the sound of the band right,” he says. “I can remember coming off stage and all we did was pick holes in our performance, and people kept coming in and saying ‘That was fantastic’. I think people were just overwhelmed by the scale of it.”
With a stage full of performers and a gas cylinder, the band brought a theatricality and sense of celebration to their work. Talking to a Stranger put them on the national map, the band head off to London to stitch up a UK record deal and international acclaim.
The London experience was difficult, the record company there was irritable, and tensions within the band began to fester. They eventually erupted with the resignation of mercurial percussionist Greg Perano.
For Falconer, the new line-up opened creative doors. “Percussively there was so much going on in the band in the first three years that I was just acting as a pulse. Once I’d got the (drumming) gig entirely on my own, I just found I could play and have a bit of fun and express myself on the drumkit in a way I couldn’t before.
“And the material lightened up. It was still heavy and still in your face, but it became more whimsical and more fun to play.”
The whimsy has been important to Mark Seymour. While the new more traditional pub rock approach of the Hunters appealed more to the white singlets of the suburbs than the inner city black shirts, the singer stresses the bands sense of irony.
“I’ve done this consistently throughout the course of the band’s career, actually taking the mickey out of yobbos while entertaining them at the same time. And I still do it. The last two shows I’ve had a real go at them, and they know I’m doing it, and the girls know I’m doing it as well, and the girls think it’s really funny because they’re standing by the side of their men looking at them being bagged, and they think it’s hilarious.”
The new rockier style took the band out deep into the suburbs. Suddenly pubs in Ferntree Gully and Frankston were appearing on their schedules. But it wasn’t until the album Cut in 1992 that the band had its first serious whiff of commercial success.
Spawning singles like Holy Grail, Head above Water and We the People, the album gave the band a new profile. Producer Don Gehman’s use of rhythm loops and lush production also gave the band a new sense of direction – back to basics.
The follow up, Demon Flower was the hard edged guitar album that Cut should have been – but while the band much preferred the sound, radio stations and album buyers were cooler.
But if album sales have fluctuated, the band has never had any difficulty attracting crowds to its live performances. This tour is no different – except that at the end of each gig band members find fans asking them why they’re finishing up.
“It’s actually a tingly sort of things,” Falconer says. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m pleased to be able to give it a whirl. The band probably reached a stage where challenges were hard to come by. Challenge is an important part of what made Hunters & Collectors good.”
Hunters & Collectors plays the Lyric Nightclub in Geelong on Wednesday and the Palace in St.Kilda on Thursday and Friday. The band also has dates in Frankston and the city in mid-March.
Thankyou to Stephen for typing out this article for us all to enjoy!