A Hard Reign
Fireman’s Curse era interview covering the Europe experience and aftermath.
Author: Richard Guilliatt, The Age.
Date: 21 October 1983.
Original URL: N/A.
For a while there it seemed Hunters and Collectors could do no wrong. In only two years he band had established itself as one of Australia’s most popular live acts; a contract with Virgin Records was signed and the band headed off to London with every expectation of cracking the UK market.
One year later, the prospect of ever working and living in England again would make any member of Hunters and Collectors turn pale. The trip was a commercial failure, the contract with Virgin will be terminated, and shortly after returning to Australia, guitarist Martin Lubran came down with glandular fever.
The only tangible result of the whole affair is a new album (“The Fireman’s Curse”), which songwriter Mark Seymour candidly says he is disappointed with.
Hunters and Collectors records have never been satisfying. What established the band so quickly in Australia was its powerful ensemble playing on stage.
In England, as the band soon discovered, powerful ensemble playing doesn’t count for much unless you have the right videos and marketing ideas. Despite constant touring, often in a state of extreme poverty, Hunters and Collectors failed to make an impression with English critics and audiences.
Despite this, the band will return to Germany soon to record a follow-up LP with the German producer, Conny Plank, who worked on “The Fireman’s Curse”. Next month the band also tours the US for the first time.
If nothing else, the European trip has given Mark Seymour very definitive opinions about Virgin Records and the music industry in general – as this edited interview shows.
“The basic thing was the Virgin wanted us to go over and record a commercial album, based on the fact that they had been told we were a big band here. They assumed – blind to the fact that the culture is totally different – that it would happen in England as well.
We had to know enough about “the biz” to know how to market ourselves, how to give them a complete sales pitch. We’d got to the stage of having a level of popularity here, based purely on live performances, and it just didn’t occur to us that we’d have to do anything like that.
It was basically really depressing. We made a big mistake signing to Virgin, but that’s water under the bridge now.
It’s an old idea, but the wealth in England is in the hands of a small group of people who’ve got a HELL of a lot of money. That’s why a company like Virgin will put Â£200,000 into the marketing of an album – it’s nothing to them.
I find it really intimidating, actually; just the amount of control mass capital has over rock music. It’s gone too far. It’s like a blanket that’s muting rock music.
It’s like pouring all this trash down people’s throats. It’s a corporate sound that everyone’s buying into.
I know this probably sounds dumb, but I’ve come full circle and I really think all that stuff is a collective decision made by people with a lot of money. I mean, there’s a certain few people pulling the strings. There are two sides, and you’re either on this side or on their side.
People talk about making subversive money, like Malcolm McLaren…. I don’t believe that. That’s just tripe. What you’re doing is making a lot of money and working out how to do it cleverly. You spend a lot of time reading up on your French intellectuals and how they would argue their way out of making a lot of money for the sake of it. And you come up with this God Almighty Beautiful Theory.
The real essence of rock music is passion. It’s just really pure, and there’s so few people who can get that.
On this record there are a few songs that are just technical exercises, and they came out because we were confused. But I reckon there is a Hunters and Collectors record and it’s about something very Australian. And every record we’ve down has touched on it in some way.
I think one of our strongest essences our music has is its flawed character – that what we’re trying to do, we’re not quite achieving. For example, a lot of our songs really plod, have this walking pace. And when we’re playing well our whole set is like a walk; it invites people to move, but doesn’t quite.
It’s been said about our music that we’ve got one song and we play it extremely well. And our whole set is like a song – you start at one end and finish at the other. At times we play gigs that are total cathartic and there’s a certain element, something quite mysterious that you can’t put your finger on, which lies between all the people in the band. That’s something you desire, but you can’t actually know when it’s going to happen.
It’s an ensemble, it’s like an orchestra. It’s an exercise in the ability to coordinate, and I think that’s what people found so intriguing about us in the first place.
Because it’s like an example; people see Hunters and Collectors because they want to try and get into that idea. And although it’s not a particularly outrageous, world-beating idea, it is something that impresses people and inspires them. That’s what we’re going to pursue until we break up.”
Where and when: Hunters and Collectors will perform tonight at The Venue, Upper Esplanade, St.Kilda, and tomorrow night at the Eureka Hotel, Geelong.
Thankyou to Gary for typing out this article for us all to enjoy!