What’s A Few Men? (Dolly Interview)
Hunters marketed for the teen female audience.
Author: Stuart Coupe, Dolly.
Date: December 1987.
Original URL: N/A.
Guess what, we got to meet Mark Seymour! We were really such an uncool bunch. Julie went speechless, Sue fainted, but good ‘ol Stuart Coupe came to the rescue and whisked him away to get the latest info on Hunters & Collectors.
Hunters & Collectors are, as their new album title suggests, just a few men – but there are heaps of good reasons for suggesting that this handful of mere mortals is one of the greatest recording and performing bands Australia has produced in the past 10 years.
High praise??? You betcha – but from where Uncle Stu’s sitting its high praise that’s totally justified.
I mean, just have a listen to the What’s A Few Men? album and tell me that it isn’t as fantabulous as contemporary rock ‘n’ roll gets, OK!
And as for lead singer – Mark Seymour – well, I won’t tell you what some of my female friends says about his appearance and the way he moves on stage, but it’s hard to imagine a more emotional, intense and captivating rock ‘n’ roll performer.
Now, being the kind of guy that I am, your best buddy Stu decided to give his favourite people (the Dolly staff of course!!) the opportunity to fawn over this Seymour person at close quarters.
You see, it was the day that everyone had gathered at a Bondi restaurant in the sun to have lunch and say goodbye to Mr. Art Direction, Neill. Now, knowing that the Hunters & Collectors were staying just up the road at the Bondi Cosmopolitan Motel, I suggested that Mr.Seymour stroll around to the restaurant for our chat about the meaning of life and other lesser matters.
After the Dolly mafia had their chance to check the lad out we retired downstairs. It’d been an embarrassing meeting – Julie couldn’t’ speak for a full 10 minutes, Sue fainted and the rest of them just gasped. Such an uncool bunch, really!!
Anyway, I suggested to Seymour that What’s A Few Men? is easily the best record that the Hunters have made in what is becoming quite a lengthy career. But we won’t bother with all that historical background stuff except to say that with every album they’ve made Hunters & Collectors have just got better …and better….and better.
“I’ll need a bit of hindsight to see how the songs on this album shape up on the road” Mark said.
“But in terms of the tightness of the songs, I think it’s the best record the band has made. It’s a very focused concentrated effort.”
What’s a Few Men? is also the fastest album recorded by the Hunters and the quickest Mark has ever come up with a bunch of songs.
Musically it’s also a departure from previous Hunters albums and has been influenced by Creedance Clearwater Revival.
Mark agrees with the Creedance reference but also thinks that a lot of it is influenced by The Rolling Stones. He reckons the first half of the first side sounds very much like the Stones around the time they recorded Sticky Fingers.
What’s A Few Men? also contains some of the most melodic songs Hunters & Collectors have ever recorded, something that’s also noticeable on Midnight Oil’s Diesel And Dust album.
Both the Hunters and the Oils have always had reputations for not compromising what they do just to get their records played on the all-powerful radio.
Coupe was interested to know if this new found melody was just a natural development for Hunters or a reaction to the nasty sell-records-or-get-used-to-oblivion pressures that the music business puts on bands.
“Sure we want our records played on the radio,” Mark said. “There’s always a critic somewhere saying I can’t sing – but I can, and in a way I guess I’m trying to prove that on this album.”
One of the lad’s best performances – both writing wise and in the vocal department – is “Southern Go” a song that Mark said is all about lost innocence, something he thinks about every time he and the band return from a tour.
“Every time I get back to Melbourne something always strikes me about the place,” Mark said. “It’s almost a situation of re-introducing yourself to your home town. Something always strikes me as really odd or bizarre about this place that I think I know. This time it was Melbourne’s entrenched alcoholism. It’s really such a drinking town, probably more so than Sydney.”
Having spent more time in America during 1987 I suggested to Mark that from my experience American people don’t party nearly as much as Australians. From what I’ve observed they just don’t go out and have a good time like we do.
Mark has toured America twice in the past 12 months and noticed the same thing.
“Californians strike me as having a really theatrical friendliness that they maintain all the time,” he said.
“You just wonder when they have their quiet reflective moments. It’s certainly not in public. Australians have the ability to be quite personal in public.”
So does Melbourne change for Mark each time he returns home from an overseas or international tour?
“Probably not Melbourne, but me,” he said. “My perspective has broadened. For the first time I’ve realised that I’m probably going to spend the rest of my life there. I’m thinking a lot about living somewhere else for a while – like Sydney or maybe Los Angeles.”
In Mark’s opinion the Hunters are one of the more unified, supportive bands around – but that’s not always the case. He freely admits that the pressure was certainly getting to them during their last American tour.
“It depends on what period of time we’re going through. When the band was on the road in the States last time there were periods when you could have cut the air with a knife.”
The album’s title is partly a comment on people’s perceptions of the Hunters. It’s also the name of a war song which Mark came across while reading Albert Facey’s A Fortunate Life.
“I wanted to present a picture of the world with the question, What’s A Few Men? related to it,” Mark Said.
“There’s a kind of tongue-in-cheek humour to it. The Hunters don’t really have a very glamorous image as far as the music industry is concerned. We don’t really look like your typical rock ‘n’ roll band.”
There’s usually an underlying theme or inspiration to a Hunters and Collectors album. In the past, one of those theme was space, and how Mark felt after bring in an open space on tour and then returning to an enclosed area like his room or house.
The new album is a reaction to writing and receiving letters while away from home.
“When you write letters you tend to be more detached,” Mark said. “This album is more like being aware of the total picture. There’s less of my personal feeling in this album. Loneliness becomes something you live with when you’re in a band. It’s a part of life. I think there’s a lot more mortality in this record.”
The loneliness for members of bands is something that interests me a lot. Your uncle Stu hates being away from home with bands and spends lots of time wondering whether the band members feel the same way or whether they like that feeling of constant movement and changing environments.
For Mark it’s also something he thinks about but he knows that to an extent he’s in control of that situation and can make decisions about what Hunters & Collectors do or don’t do.
“It’s ultimately down to me,” he said without a trace of ego. “I don’t want to feather my own nest but basically a lot of the core energy with the band comes out of what I do. I could say no to a 10-week tour if I didn’t want to go.
“But on the other hand, a lot of that is good for songwriting. My writing tends to be fairly, ‘Oh, here I am in this situation.”
And does he ever tire of having to put himself through gruelling tours to get that sort of inspiration?
“It’s just a case of weighing up the percentages,” he said. “I have to decide whether it’s working negatively. But on the other hand, sometimes negative energy can push you, whereas other times it really gets you down.”
But like most creative artists, Mark realises that the reverse of all this turmoil and pressure is something that he wouldn’t’ be comfortable with either.
“I’d be bored to death just living a normal life,” he said.
“I don’t think I could. There’s constant adjustment when I go home. Probably that’s the real drug in rock ‘n’ roll – that constant tension between adjusting back to normal life and going away again. The whole thing is such a punt – whether you are going to be a big band or not.”
At the moment Mark feels pretty confident. The Hunters’ live shows are loud and completely over the top and he feels as if they’re finally making progress overseas.
The band won’t tour overseas again until March or April but then it’ll be back to America, and maybe to Europe.
In America it’s been a hard slot, to say the least, but the Hunters have won a lot of friends.
“this is the first time we’ve been overseas that we feel confident we’re getting a lot of attention,” Mark said.
“People are noticing that we are original.”
With an ounce of luck everything might fall into place for Hunters and Collectors during next year. I can’t think of a band who deserves it more – can you???
Thanks to Stephen for typing this one out for us all to enjoy.