Mark Seymour Kicks Back
Rolling Stone article about Mark Seymour’s first solo album.
Author: Matthew Hall, Rolling Stone.
Date: September 1997.
Original URL: N/A
The Hunters and Collectors frontman shows his sensitive side on a debut solo album.
Mark Seymour is sitting in the front bar of a hotel in Kings Cross. We’re deep in the heart of Sydney’s red-light backpacker paradise but this joint is packed full of international business types. A pot of tea stands between us. The seats are big and passed. We’re getting comfortable as the Hunters and Collectors frontman tells a story about an incident from a couple of years back at the Newcastle Workers Club.
“We’d finished our soundcheck,” says Seymour. “I’d heard about this band who were supporting us so I thought I’d have a look. They were all these guys standing around wearing overalls. They looks like plumbers or builders – I was wondering if they were fixing up the venue or if they were the band.”
“There was this kid standing around, too, who I thought had come along to watch his old man soundcheck,” continues Seymour. “That guy, whatever his name is – just turned around and gave me this big sneer. It turned out I’d got it completely the wrong way around.”
Mark Seymour, meet Daniel Johns and silverchair. Once, when Hunters and Collectors snuck on to Countdown with their stand-out video for “Talking To A Stranger”, Seymour was a champion for the avant-garde. Today, he’s an old rocker bloke keeping the angry kids from doing their soundcheck.
It was a small incident but a big sign for how far Seymour, now approaching his mid-forties (his management refuse to divulge his actual age), has come in 17 years. However, after nearly two decades as part of Hunters and Collectors, Mark Seymour has stepped away from that band’s large extended family to record a debut solo album, King Without A Clue.
“It wasn’t like I woke up one morning and decided I has to do this,” explains Seymour. “I’d been mumbling about it to a few people. Eventually someone came up and said to just start it.”
King Without A Clue is released as a time when the future of Hunters and Collectors is somewhat ambiguous. The band has put a stop to its relentless touring and although a new album is scheduled for release later this year, beyond that, no one is sure what will happen.
“My relationship with the band is very important to me,” says Seymour, hinting his solo venture is as good as a holiday but also a catalyst for something more. “There have a few instances over the last few years where I just lost it and have created real big problems. I figured that I was losing the band’s respect. Some of the guys thought I was a dickhead.”
“No one from the band has said anything much to me about the album but I didn’t talk much about it, either,” he adds. “I’m not that close to them. It’s a big band.”
One Hunter who Seymour did involve in the project is Barry Palmer, who contributed guitar and some production duties. Also featured is drummer Peter Jones, who stook in with the imploding Crowded House, and, for the first time in 17 years, Mark managed to involve his younger brother, Nick.
“Nick and I haven’t ever had that much to do with each other socially,” says Seymour. “But given the opportunity I’d love to do something like this with him again. He’s very eccentric – I’m a lot more conservative. I’d ask if he wanted the chords to the songs written out and he’d say no and be forever doodling. He’d never commit at a rehearsal. Then there would be this great event in the studio when he’d lay it all down. He has a great sense of melody which I think he must get from Neil [Finn].”
King Without A Clue is not a wild musical departure for Seymour. He may have been newly inspired by songwriting eccentrics from the ’70s but this album is still Mark Seymour – laid-back and without a band.
“I was listening to Neil Young, Warren Zevon, Jerry Rafferty, Al Stewart, Randy Newman, Jeff Buckley… people with bizarre sensibilities that keep them out there,” says Seymour.
“But I think the big difference with the songs is the subject matter,” he explains. “I’m dealing with intimacy the same way as I did on Human Frailty.”
He pauses to look around the bar, taking in the late-afternoon crowd.
“Everyone in Hunters and Collectors has kids now,” he says, himself the father of two children. “It had totally changed my perspective.”
“I had this gig one night recently and everyone coming into the room had all been elsewhere. It was the sort of place you end up after you’ve been out,” he says. “I was doing my new materials in this meat market. It was wrong. It wasn’t me.”
“It was a mistake but it didn’t matter,” he grins. “No one was listening to me anyway.”
There’s no hint of sneer. Mark Seymour is no longer an angry young man.