Hunters in the ‘youth’ market appearing in Dolly magazine.
Author: Stuart Coupe and Daphne Sider, Dolly Magazine.
Date: May 1986.
Original URL: N/A
Stuart Coupe and Daphne Sider happen to work in the same industry, which is about all they have in common except for the fact that they both wanted to do a story on Hunters And Collectors. So they paired off with Mark Seymour and Doug Falconer (lead singer and drummer) and were pleased to report that there was actually a lot these two agreed upon.
Having been around the block more than once or twice, Stuart has known Mark for quite a while, the two having done any number of interviews over the course of the Hunter’s career. Stuart finds Mark to be an affable sort of human being, but also rather serious and sensitive, especially when it comes to the subject of the band, their music and the songs Mark writes for them.
More often than not, in past interviews Mark has despaired of Hunters making a big breakthrough on the music scene. He’s always thought the band played accessible music and has never quite understood why it’s not always in the charts. Therefore this meeting was rather a surprise – Mark was still serious, still sensitive, but for the first time unbelievably positive and enthusiastic about the Hunters’ new album and their prospects.
Stuart and Mark met, as they usually do, at the Bondi Cosmopolitan Hotel. It was a hot day. Mark walked into the foyer of the hotel complaining about how much two pies had just cost him at a takeaway joint around the corner. Stuart suggested to Mark that they retire to the nearest bar for their chat. He didn’t have to ask twice!!!
While Mark tends to be a bit of a dreamer and a romantic, Doug is very down-to-earth, sarcastic at times, brutally honest and has a generally positive attitude to life. Daphne and he wandered down to Bondi Beach and sat around getting sunburnt, watching tourists and basically raving. Little was she to know the prominence that seagulls would play in her interview. Unfortunately, she recorded far more than Doug’s voice on the tape recorder! Yet another example of human frailty?
When asked about their latest album, Human Frailty, both Mark and Doug agreed they were too close to be objective. So keep that in mind when Doug says, “I love every track! The material is very Hunters And Collectors, although there’s probably a wider variety of music on it than on Jaws of Life or Fireman’s Curse.” And Mark? “I actually didn’t like it for a while and thought, ‘Oh God! What have we done?’ But in retrospect, the songs are all very strong and really work on their own terms.”
Human Frailty was recorded in a tiny studio in St Kilda, Melbourne, with producer Gavin McKillop. “His approach was wonderful,” says Doug. “The rougher, the better for the recording and then he mixed the sound to make it really full and natural.”
The history of Hunters and Collectors stretches way back in time to the year of 1981 when, in the space of just a few months, they became the hippest band in the whole universe. Yes siree, they were up there with the funkiest of dance bands, they had a percussionist who hit gas cylinders, and like wow, for at least three months they were it.
In the beginning Mark, Doug and bassist John Archer played in a band called The Jetsons. They didn’t go far, explains Doug. In fact, they never left Melbourne. “Then we got some ideas about forming a new band. The brass section wasn’t an original idea but after suggestions from various people we decided to try it. So we got a few brass players in – six actually – which made for 12 performers. It was a little ridiculous.”
Now the brass section has been halved. Michael Waters plays trombone; Jack Howard is on trumpet and Jeremy Smith is on French horn as well as keyboards. They’re a much more integral part of the band than most brass sections, supplying both rhythm and melody, as opposed to a mere fanfare. But if you think the brass is the heaviest part of the act, have a close listen to Mark’s lyrics. Their intimacy and emotion really paint a strong picture.
“The off-chance that they’ll be heard on the radio,” says Mark, “may give people a new idea of perspective on a situation that has been previously taken for granted in a different way.”
Doug, too, has strong words to say about the lyrics. “Mark takes a point of view on personal relationships that’s different from any other lyric writer I know. His lyrics are very strong: He takes personal situations and makes them allegorical for world events. And people like to have their emotions pushed around a bit. We want to give them the feeling that they’ve been through something.”
If you’ve ever seen them live we’re sure you’d feel the consistency of the energy that’s thrashed out through the whole venue. The songs, like the performance as a whole, build themselves up to a monumental sound until they’re violently halted. Although the scene is very social, it’s something personal that you take home with you.
Hunters And Collectors are naturally very happy with the quality of their live performances. The way things are going for them, they have good reasons to be confident, but like any band, they’ve had their bad patches. One such period led Mark to the realisation that he wasn’t the centre of the universe.
“I started realising that Hunters And Collectors weren’t going to save the world and I changed my attitude towards myself. Put it this way, I take what I do seriously but I don’t expect anyone else to.”
Well, how can anyone take a pop person with an injured groin seriously? We were reluctant to ask why or who or what, but then Mark did say something about being a born-again athlete. What do the others do in their spare time? Before Doug got into everyone else’s personal and private life, he gave me three words about his own: “I play golf.” That’s interesting, I thought, and then I heard what Mark said about him and his prowess on the football field: “Doug is good to watch when he’s in motion…which isn’t very often.”
We should also point out that Doug is not…um…er…a small chap…In fact, his physique resembles the average brick wall!! As for the others, “John windsurfs; Jack likes shotput, javelin and things like that; Jeremy’s a medical student; Michael…I think he disappears into a little cave somewhere and comes out for the gigs; and Rob (sound engineer) is a full-time architect who also enjoys photography and takes care of most of the band’s artwork, and eats out at French restaurants – he doesn’t actually have a lot of spare time after that.”
Sometimes Rob’s hectic schedule does get the better of him. Doug recalls one instance: “Rob, behind his mixing desk, can be clearly seen by us on stage. But one night when we looked over, his head was a bit lower than normal. We thought this was a bit funny but didn’t worry about it. When we looked back again, he was gone. The lighting guy told us later that he’d actually fallen asleep!”
One of the most important aspects of being a journalist is to get a complete stranger opening up and talking to you candidly. They don’t have to spill their souls, but a really concise and interesting story can only be as good as the information in it. Stuart and Daphne tried asking both Mark and Doug the same questions to compare the results. Although Doug was great with the facts, Mark really got into the nitty-gritty. Perhaps Stuart’s familiarity with Mark had a lot to do with it?
Where did the name of the band originate?
Doug: “We pinched it from a German band called Can, in whose studios we recorded Jaws Of Life. Hunters And Collectors was actually the name of one of their songs.”
Added Mark: “The ironic thing was when we met one of the guys in the band. He’d heard our album…He hated it!”
What has been the highlight of the band’s career?
Doug: “One great night we were playing with Midnight Oil at Kooyong Tennis Stadium. That was a good feeling.”
Mark: “Recently we supported Midnight Oil at Kooyong Tennis Stadium. We thought we were doing really well when halfway through the gig the crowd started picking up seagrass matting from the tennis courts and tossing it on the stage – we’ve never had anything thrown at us before.
“On the second night we creamed ’em! But towards the end the crowd started chanting ‘Oils, Oils, Oils’. We thought they were yelling for more so we went back on for an encore. We didn’t realise until after the gig when our mixer said they wanted ‘Oils’ not ‘more’ of us. You’ve got to have a sense of humour.”
Does the band function democratically?
Doug: “About as close as realistically possible. We all chip in in areas other than just songwriting and playing. A few help out with the management side, John handles most of the production and Mark does most of the interviews…Poor bastard.”
Mark kind of agrees, but begins with: “Not really. We don’t vote or anything like that. Everyone just basically does what they’re good at doing.”
If you were allowed to take one single or album with you to a desert island, what would it be?
Doug: “The idea of taking a stereo to a deserted island and then bringing along only one record sounds pretty dumb to me.” (He’s so literal.) “Umm…Umm…That’s hard…That’s really hard…Mmmm….I suppose I’d take one of the Rolling Stones’ albums: Let It Bleed or Exile On Main Street. Not that I’m one of their biggest fans, but I think they’re one of the most spontaneous, most together rock ‘n’ roll bands ever.”
Mark, on the other hand, decided to toe the party line: “I’d probably take “Throw Your Arms Around Me” because it’s probably one of the most optimistic songs we’ve ever written. It’s not often that you hear songs which are positive in a really honest way, so for that reason it would be the ideal song.”
Are you a born musician?
Doug: “I was a doctor once upon a time and I know I wasn’t a born doctor. I’d like to think I was a born muso, although I have doubts every now and again. I think I’m a reasonable drummer, at least I know I can do the job. It’s great being able to feel my hands and feet doing things instinctively and letting my mind create little bits and pieces on top of that.”
Mark: “As long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed music and my parents have always encouraged it. I sang in the choir and learnt piano but I failed grade five piano dismally and the wrath of God descended upon me. I swore that I’d never indulge in music again and I didn’t…until I started listening to the Stones’ albums. Figuring the people who wanted me to play piano again would obviously hate this, I started playing music again.”
How do you feel about the media?
Doug: “They exist, you can’t do anything about it.” (Thanks!) “Well, I find it difficult to get enthused about doing interviews because you’ve got no idea how they’re going to turn out.” (We wonder what he’ll think of this!)
Mark: “There’s a handful of journalists and critics who take the business fairly seriously, and there’s a whole troupe of people that you run across who basically don’t give a damn about you and wouldn’t have a clue about your music.”
Well, we guess some people like the media more than others. By the same token, journalists have their preferences too, which is why the solution to this story was a combined effort by Stuart and Daphne.
In conclusion, Hunters And Collectors are preparing for a year of touring, both in this country and overseas and hope to record an EP by Christmas. That’s typical of the main interests of the band: Travel and music. And that’s as far as they’ve planned.
Thankyou to John for typing out this article for us all to enjoy!