B-Size Fanzine Interview
Sizeable US interview with Mark Seymour.
Author: Carol Schutzbank, B-Size Fanzine, Philadelphia.
Date: 12 April 1986.
Original URL: N/A
In and among the stacks of albums I receive on a weekly basis to review for fanzines and music publication, there is the occasional release that really sticks out, grabs the attention and makes the listener wonder what the personality behind the vinyl is really like. Such was the case with the new Hunters& Collectors album, Human Frailty, a strongly fluid, melodic release full of emotional depths and shadings.
So when opportunity knocked in the form of an interview with Mark Seymour, I was more than receptive. Undeterred by the fact that it would be by phone, during the day (which meant negotiating a long lunch hour from work), I looked forward to speaking with him. Human Frailty had been receiving rave reviews from the press and fans alike. The band had come a long way from when they used to be lumped into the general category of “British Dance Music”, this despite the fact that they are Australian.
“In the beginning there was that tendency” he tells me as we get introductions out of the way and segue into my questions. “I would think so…yes, but I’m finding now that’s beginning to change. There was a tendency with people to categorize us as part of the British style, but that more of less disappeared when the band lost three members.
“We want to be perceived as distinctly Australian…sounding like the place we come from, and that’s basically what our music is about. We won’t advertise out views specifically, but we want people to be aware of the notion that where we come from things are pretty fresh and new and that we tend to think of things a little differently.
“When we first started out we didn’t want to be treated as some sort of exotic strange animal which basically was what was going on in the early stages…But I think we’re being taken seriously now. We don’t, I think, do anything that’s overly exotic – I think out music is very much a part of the average, general Australian music scene.”
But what about messages via lyrics? So many performers these days tend to view their bands as platforms from which to preach and exhort – is there a hint of that in Hunters & Collectors?
“We try to expose out personal experiences…the audience can look at themselves through us – what we see in our lives is a reflection, really, of what everybody’s life is like.
“I do see myself as wanting to do that whole thing – incorporating the politics into my music like that, actually, sometimes – but I think dealing with politics that touch my personal life can be effective. You know, politics are usually viewed as something that is out there or something that occurs – you see politics on television, you read about it in the newspapers. But you don’t seem to realise that politics are a direct result of what everybody thinks and does as individuals. So when I make a political statement I think I tend to make it in respect of how it is perceived by me. I don’t really think there’s a need to make a rhetorical statement. What I do is look at things, how I feel personally about them, and try to express them in a way that is going to get other people who are listening to reflect on.”
And the inspiration behind the lyrics? From where does that come?
“The lyrics are entirely mine. Sometimes I can come to a rehearsal and already have words set down – I always go to a rehearsal with a lyric in mind – but I don’t always come up with the idea for a song on the spot. A lot of times I don’t have any musical ideas – I pick up on the things that happen in rehearsal.”
Many performers complain that people listen only to the music and not to the lyrics…
“Oh, I think that’s true. But I think a lot of that has to do with the way the vocals are mixed as well. A lot of times a producer comes in and concentrates on the music – what instrument is doing what. And the vocals are shelved or not concentrated on as heavily. Most producers and bands or companies tend to have the idea that the product they’re putting out is going to have to appeal to the majority and they try not to be offensive. What I try to do – set out to do – is record a particular tune and try and state very personal things that can be understood on a really simple level. And then if you want to look beneath the surface, there are other interpretations as well.
“We’ve always been – our whole productions have been – not really slapdash, but with a really ‘run it off’ attitude. But now we’re starting to think, you know, ‘this is an album we’re making,’ in order to communicate what we’re like, and as people we start to value that idea of specific time and though towards this project. So we’re starting to spend a lot more time on what we do.”
Is there ever any pressure on the band about its lyrics? Especially in light of the current situation here with ratings and censorship.
“In all the contracts we negotiate with the record companies we always make sure we retain control, legal control, over the nature of the songs we write, how often the records come out…the nature of the artwork on videos and on album covers…we can’t be held off by doing something – we can’t let ourselves be held off…
“There’s bound to be suspicion, I think – living in an era of rock and roll the way it is not, but there’s nothing particularly overtly offensive in what we do. I think that some bands can actually exploit the whole censorship thing – if you have a censor stamp on your record, chances are people are going to buy it, they’re going to want to know exactly why it has a censored stamp on it. So really, censorship defeats its own purpose in a lot of ways.”
Is there a difference in the reception the band receives between the United States and Europe?
“Well there is a definite sense of attitude between an audience in the US and an audience in Britain. We’re not that familiar in Europe – we’ve only been there a couple of times…but there’s a definite difference. The British are a lot more reserved and a lot less willing to accept new things – they’re a much more conservative nation that the United States. I think Americans as people tend to be much more greedy to consume new things, just because of the way their society is geared. In terms of our personal benefit, it’s much more rewarding to come here than it is to go to Britain because they’re less prejudiced here.”
(A quick glance at my watch and I realise that my ‘lunch hour’ is up. The talk quickly turns to future plans of releases and tours”)
“We don’t tend to make plans – it’s really more a short term sort of thing, you know. Out music isn’t so commercial that we can afford to ‘count our chickens’ so to speak. So what we do, basically, is whatever we do next year is going to depend on how things are at the end of this tour. Right now, we’re recording an album. We’re definitely coming back here again to tour.
“I would like the band to go on for as long as possible basically. And because for me, personally, it’s a great environment to work in creatively because I get the satisfaction of seeing ideas that I come up with translated into physical terms and getting out in front of an audience and playing it. As long as the band is still powerful, can still play and really excite in shows….
“We’ve all got alternative interests. But the thing about our band is that everybody writes music in one form or another for the band – types of music that is – everybody has creative input. I doubt very much I’d be probably interested in pursuing a solo career in music or writing as such. The way I see it, when you’re tight involved in the industry – you’re in the middle of it. The more I’ve spent doing this, the more I’ve found that the most satisfying creative environment to be in is the band, rather than being solo. There’s a lot of tedious promotion work that has to be done and if you were doing a tour to advertise yourself I would say it would be pretty one dimensional. I’d be pretty bored with it.”
Thankyou to Stephen for typing out this article for us all to enjoy!