From A Hunter To…?

Old article with departed Hunters and Collectors member Ray Tosti-Guerra.

Author: David Harlock.

Date: ~ 1982.

Original URL: (None).

 

Article Text

When Ray Tosti-Guerra left Hunters and Collectors in April, he was replaced by Mark Burlan. His departure from the band went unheralded, much in keeping with the band’s philosophy.

In between rehearsals with his new band and playing in his father’s Cabaret Band, he took time out to speak with HSVII.

Unlike almost every successful Australian band, Hunters & Collectors have achieved their remarkable success quickly, easily, and with no thanks to commercial radio. And perhaps most importantly, Hunters has managed to retain its credibility in an industry where selling out is almost a pre-requisite to success and critics are quick to equate the two.

Within three months of their first performance they became the first band to be signed by the Mushroom offshoot, “White Label Records”. It is rumoured that White Label was created for Hunters. The contract has to date produced a 12″ EP, a 7″ EP and an LP with bonus 12″ EP. They are presently working with an English producer on another EP.

Because of the ease with which Hunters gathered their success, many people in the music industry felt that the band had not “paid its dues”. As a result, the band has become the object of bitter back-biting.

“I’ve been playing in bands since I was at High School. As 23, I was the youngest member of Hunters and most of the others had been involved in bands for longer. A lot of people don’t realize that before Hunters’ Mark Seymour, Doug Falconer, John Archer and I played in a band called ‘the Jetsonnes’ for about 12 months until September 1980. We had a small but strong following. Once Hunters was formed, we worked hard at it, some of the members had professional careers which were abandoned to enable dedication to our music. Success didn’t come as easily as some may have you believe.”

The other members of ‘The Jetsonnes’ was vocalist, Margot O’Neil, present whereabouts unknown.

‘ The Jetsonnes’ played a hard fast brand of pop-music: a combination of ’60’s and ’80’s sound but with rather lame female vocals. It would appear that the style couldn’t be further removed from the primitive rhythms that has characterized the Hunters’ music. But even then, Tosti felt that the band displayed a particular interest in the use of percussion and rhythm.

When The Jetsonnes eventually disbanded, Mark Seymour was involved almost immediately with his brother, Nick Seymour, in a short-lived band.

The evolution of Hunters and Collectors followed.

“In December 1980, Mark and Geoff (Crosby) started writing fundamentals for songs. At the time I didn’t think they had it in mind to form a band and it was really quite experimental. They approached me and asked me to add some guitar and vocals to what they’d come up with. John and Doug from The Jetsonnes were approached to do likewise with bass and drums and Greg Perano was invited to add percussion. Eventually, we started arranging the songs and working like a band and Hunters was formed.”

Their first performance was on 15th May 1981 at the Seaview Ballroom in Melbourne. It was a benefit concert for Snake from ‘Snakefinger’, who had been afflicted with a heart attack. Also with Hunters and Collectors were, of course, Snakefinger minus Snake, and another band, whose name Tosti couldn’t recall.

“There was some talk in the audience that ‘The Jetsonnes’ had reformed but I don’t think that many of the audience knew anything about us. Some even thought we were two bands. During that first performance, I felt a bit apprehensive because the audience was so quiet. But when we finished, we were over-whelmed by the enthusiastic response we received.”

Much of the Hunters’ reputation came from their exciting and vibrant live performances. They have exposed themselves to a wide audience in places as diverse as coastal towns, outer and inner suburban venues and the capital cities. Except, (how unusually) in Perth! But where-ever and no matter what type of people have comprised the audience, they have always managed to captivate and involve them in the Hunters’ music.

It seems that much (h)as been written about Hunters in an attempt to define their style, their music, their success, the air that they exude. Certainly one thing is evident and that is that they are not the archetypal band in many respects.

Since its inception, the members of Hunters have professed a kind of democracy to their writing, recording and live performances, whilst retaining individuality within the band. They rejected the almost compulsory ‘frontman’ that characterises almost all bands. On stage, each member is important to the visual effect of the band. To date, they have produced their records with assistance from Tony Cohen and more lately, Jimbo.

“Each member of the band contributes to the writing in a creative sense. Often one of the members would come out with a vocal line, a guitar or bass or a rhythm or beat and our songs would be composed by everyone around that. Similarly, we even regarded our mixer as an important member of the band.”

Of the recording to date, Tosti was not pleased with the first EP, recorded at the Richmond studios in Melbourne.

“We played very sloppily on that record and the production and mix was poor. It was our first attempt at producing a record and we obviously had a lot to learn. Furthermore, it took too long to release and we had great hassles with the printers over the covers.”

” I was much happier with the LP, even though that, too, took a long time to release. It was recorded at Armstrong’s Studios in October 1981 where the facilities were better than those available at the Richmond Studios. We played much better, we’d learnt about production and hence, I think, the end product was better.”

White Label Records have now seen fit to have the band work with an English producer. Mike Howlett was invited to produce their recently recorded EP. Howlett will be known for his work with “Gang of Four”, “A Flock of Seagulls” (!), and “Blancmange”. As a performer, Howlett might be remembered as a member of “Going”. The future is likely to hold greater success for the band and overseas tours are being moored.

In April 1982, the success story for Hunters stopped as far as Ray Tosti Guerra was concerned, at least. He decided to leave the band.

“Even when I left the band I was uncertain why. At the time I thought it might have been because I felt the music of the band was going in a direction I didn’t want it to. I discussed my feelings with the other members of the band and when I told them I wanted to leave, they understood why. There was no animosity about my leaving or causing me to leave.”

” I still think about why I left the band, although I have no regrets about it. Upon reflection, I think I wanted to start my own band. I wanted to concentrate on vocals. There were lots of reasons, I think.”

Tosti maintains considerable contact with the band. He joins with them from time to time and saw them work during their recent recording with Howlett. He is also working with a view to producing a studio single.

Almost immediately upon leaving Hunters, Tosti started forming a new band and his first member was his brother, Tony. But Tosti wasn’t in any rush and the line-up took four months to complete. The latest addition, guitarist Phil Jones, joins Ray on guitar and vocals, Tony Tosti-Guerra on percussion and keyboards, Paul Jankovskis on bass and drummer Michael Rumph. Other than Ray Tosti, the members of the band have had little or no experience in the business. Whilst it wasn’t designed that way, Tosti was gratified that the band would inject new blood into the music industry. In line with his days with Hunters, he feels the new band is forming along the same “democratic” lines.

I was fortunate to be present at one of their rehearsals. Now their music has not unexpectedly reminiscent of “Hunters”. Even Hunters have been criticised because their music tends to blur, so at least in the early days of the new band, similarities may be excusable. In light of the different directions that Ray Tosti leads us to believe the band will adopt, the effect that Howlett will have on at least Hunters’ recorded sound and the scope for variety that the format of the bands will permit, by the time Ray Tosti’s new band has established itself an interesting contrast may eventuate. Indeed I felt that there was greater variety in the rhythm and heat of the new band in the five or six songs I heard than I have been able to perceive in Hunters’ music.

But what did Ray Tosti think of it all? Was he concerned that he would be judged in the light of “Hunters and Collectors”?

“There are undoubtedly some similarities between the two bands. The pre-occupation with rhythm and percussion will speak for itself on that point. But I don’t feel that we will be all that similar. In fact, I hope to play one of our first gigs with “Hunters and Collectors”. People are always going to draw comparisons between the two bands and playing together may help to highlight the contrasts. I really don’t think we will sound too much like Hunters and Collectors.”

 

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