Smash Hits 1986 Interview
A strange and wonderful John Archer interview for Smash Hits magazine.
Author: Megan Edwards, Smash Hits magazine.
Date: 2 June 1986.
Original URL: Prehistoric Sounds,http://prehistoricsounds.blogspot.com/search?q=hunters
Hunters and Collectors have been around for just over five years now. Most of those five years have been spent in Australia where they’ve been trying their hardest to make the sort of music that they believe in as well as records that sell. For some reason this has been no easy task as the band’s bass player, John Archer, explained to Megan Edwards.
But look, what’s this? Goodness, the Hunters have got a top 40 single! Perhaps time to start asking all those questions about what colour socks they wear and what they like eating for breakfast! However…
“Things like that don’t really matter,” says John Archer, the blonde-haired bass player. “They are simply not important and have no bearing on the quality of the music at all.” Oh dear, looks as if this is going to be a fairly serious interview.
So why does the generally desired “celebrity band” denomination have so little or virtually no appeal to Hunters and Collectors? (Phew!!). “Well,” explained John, “I saw us on the cover of a national magazine the other day and that worried me for a while. I don’t think that we are a celebrity band yet though. It would put too much pressure on us as individuals, but what it would really mean is that we’d have to keep our feet planted more firmly on the ground than ever before. Being involved in all that pretentious business means that we’re put into a dangerous position. If we don’t stick together and keep things in perspective, there is every chance that our music will suffer.”
So you wouldn’t like to be the Australian version of Duran Duran? “No! They’ve got no idea what’s going on. I saw John Taylor on television recently and he was talking about his latest video and he was saying that all he wanted to do now was to make music for films because he was into the “visual” side of things, because he saw himself as a ‘visual’ thing. He just has no idea of what normal people do anymore. No idea. He just lives up in the clouds. He’s gone. He’s so rich that he’s become removed from whatever reality should be. If we ever get to that position – God help us!”
John was still intrigued by the fact that their single “Say Goobye” has made quite an impact on the hit parade. I wondered how he fely about being admitted to the sacred “top 40” club. “It’s novel,” he said with a chuckle. “Obviously, we’ve never had one before. We don’t know what to think. I don’t really understand it because our music hasn’t changed that much so it’s a bit strange from our point of view to see radio stations playing it. It’s nothing to complain about but it’s strange. We’re very interested to see what happens with the album.”
Ay yes, “Human Frailty”, the rather fab long player that deals with themes of a particularly “urban” bent, of love of life, of social injustice and introspective mourning. So John, are humans frail? “Yes, but they should admit it. Frailty is not a weakness, that’s what humanity is all about. It’s OK to show that you have flaws and vices and that you can break down and be hurt sometimes. And this is what we are trying to say on the album. A macho type person would probably feel like denying the frailty within but this is so wrong. If you do that you’re like a horse with blinkers on. You’re not seeing what makes life important.”
I wondered who John and the rest of the band (Mark Seymour, Doug Falconer, Jack Howard, Robert Miles, Jeremy Smith and Michael Waters) were aiming their message at. It’s difficult to establish what sector of the community are loyal Hunters’ fans. “I presume that the people who come and see us in the pubs are over 18, but I guess that’s not really true these days,” said John. “It’s impossible to tell who they are, it was only possible about five years ago to characterise our audience. I know that the age range is surprising.”
“We’d love to encourage a younger audience if we could. We feel sure that they could get something out of what we do live as well as from our lyrics. But we really don’t have the opportunity to reach them. All we do is play supporting roles to bands like Midnight Oil and Icehouse. We’re not big enough ourselves to say “Hey, let’s play Festival Hall in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon.”
“Young people are great because they’re still so inquisitive and we could benefit from their curiosity. I’m finding these days that a lot of people around my age are a little jaded. ‘Kids’ are great because they are very willing to try something new.”
It’s funny to think of anyone sticking up a Hunters and Collectors picture on their wall. Mark Seymour, the band’s lead singer, is not a “pretty” sort of lad and to be truthful, the rest of the crew are not very glamorous. Nor are they much like those heavy metal heroes that are so popular with Smash Hits readers. The Hunters are somewhat imageless, apart from a vaguely masculine kind of thing and people sometimes think of them in terms of their clothes – or their singlers. Does this matter, has it got any bearing on the music? Will John comment?
He did! “We’ve always had trouble with our image and most people say that we don’t have one. If it happens to be a hot night or something and a couple of us have just happened to put singlets on, all of a sudden – we’ve got an image! Or at least to people who are trying to write about us. They just have to pick on something! If singlets are the only unifying thing they can see, then that’s the image. It doesn’t mean anything to us at all. We just don’t care about that aspect of the thing.”
Hunters and Collectors love Australia. John does too, although he has lately become troubled about some of our social developments. Like the identity card issue or the lack of money that the Federal Government is giving to the anti-drug cause. Still, Australia is “home”, Pretty shortly, the Hunters are heading off overseas again to see what they can do for themselves. An exciting prospect to be sure, although the band has experienced some degree of difficultly on previous visits.
“We haven’t had a great deal of luck overseas before,” John verified. “There are people over there who know about us though. We’ve decided that we’d be crazy to do a tour on that basis however. We’re not famous and we can’t expect to tour by ourselves. We shall have to be a support band. We need a sympathetic billing.” That covers America, but what about England and Europe? “We’ll go to England but only briefly. Then we’ve probably go to Germany and Scandinavia. We’ve had a surprisingly amount of interest from some of the Scandinavian countries. We’ll do what we can really. We can’t plan it in advance. It’s going to cost us a lot of money – that’s for sure.
“Touring isn’t always an enjoyable experience. Usually we’re far too bust working far too hard to really get out and enjoy the new countries we find ourselves in. But it’s always interesting. You really do get to feel a new atmosphere around you and you can learn from that. America is exciting and dangerous. Some of the members of the band have been in kind of life threatening situations, muggings and things like that.”
“They’re great live” is something that is often said of the Hunters and the band themselves think so also. To we poor people who don’t get up on stage and play before thousands, it seems difficult to work out how a band knows when they’ve played a good show. John tells, “You can tell you’ve played well when everybody smiles! When we smile and the audience smiles at the same time we know that everything is fine. It just happens. Or it just doesn’t happen!
“One of the biggest problems we have,” continues John, “is trying to get that live feeling and atmosphere onto our records. You see, just recording a live show works without problems. We have the right balance of sound to consistently bring in the audience. But, when you’re looking at a studio album you’re looking at something that can’t possibly incorporate the same sorts of sounds. A good producer helps and can add the ‘push’ to the studio sound to make it into the live sound.”
I see, I think! I was kind of interested to see what John thought of the pop scene in general, the pop shows on the telly and the (gulp) pop magazines. “I think that inherently they’re a good thing. But the thing that tends to go wrong often is that the bands that are presented by such magazines and television programs don’t have a clear enough idea of themselves to be able to present themselves on them in a different way. Take Countdown. If the production people don’t know what kind of set, lights, etc, that a band wants, they’re bound to apply the same standard production techniques to them. They’ll settle on a convenient approach. The bands don’t seem to have enough input. I know that when we went on Countdown, they were not prepared to hear us say ‘look, can we do it this way?’ They were completely taken aback and that surprised me. They were not unwilling to help us but they seemed surprised that we had such ideas.
“I don’t know if magazines are any more open or not. I don’t know whether or not bands ever state the approach they’d like taken in a written piece, but I guess that not many bands do. This can lead to journalists using one standard technique for every interview. We therefore sometimes feel a bit hesitant about committing ourselves to this aspect of the industry.”
Oh well John, we’ll ask you one more question. Where do you think the band will be in 10 years time? “Australia,” said John. “Dead. I think it’s unlikely that we’ll stay together for that long, but I never thought we’d be together for as long as we have been already.”
So there we have it. A serious and sensible interview. The world is indeed full of miraculous, mysterious things. Like the John Archer Breakfast Mystery. I wonder just what he does have for brekky?
Thanks to Prehistoric Sounds.