The Men & The Myth
Positive early article and interview with Mark and Doug.
Author: James Manning, RAM.
Date: 6 August 1982.
Original URL: N/A
A White Label press release for Hunters & Collectors lists the artists in alphabetical order – no pop-star egos please.
John Archer – Bass
Geoff Crosby – Keyboards
Doug Falconer – Drums
Martin Lubran – Guitar
Robert Miles – Live sound
Greg Perano – Percussion
Mark Seymour – Guitar/Vocals
And yes, the band’s mixer is a Hunter and Collector.
Doug Falconer – “The Age Weekender listed us recently as a “happening band”. We are all things to all men.”
In the relatively short time that Hunters & Collectors have been together they’ve risen to a position where they could be called the ‘hippest’ band in Australia. They have aroused the passions of wordsmiths across Australia (and even a few in the UK) into lengthy tracts of verbose overkill. And from those who haven’t yet got on board, there have been curt accusations. Someone even went so far as to say that they held their audience in contempt, which the band thought (justifiably) ridiculous when I brought it up in our interview.
But perhaps Myth is an incorrect measure of what has gone on over the past 15 months. A myth is something beyond the proof of the Real. And with the release of this band’s first album, any hint of mythmaking should be dispelled. The six-track album (which comes with a bonus two track EP) is a strong and sure footed documentation of what this band was doing six months ago. (Due to what we will call ‘red tape’, it has taken this long to get released.) Sure, the material may be a little dated, but it is nevertheless a fair representation of the Hunters & Collectors sound.
The word hype is often used and is perhaps more indi8cative of the sensationalism that Hunters & Collectors often found themselves surrounded by. My dictionary reckons hype to be – “A deception, racket or publicity stunt.” OK, if it’s a racket, who is involved? Obviously not the record company, as the band was without one until quite recently. The band itself? Not very likely. Although they think they’re pretty food, they could hardly be bothered about spreading the word.
The only other elements in this equation are the fans and the critics. Two groups that, in this country at any rate, cannot be separated – save for the occasional exception. What these people have done is to jump on the Hunters & Collectors wagon, almost to the point of busting it (On the credibility stakes at least).
Word of mouth has run rampant in Melbourne (and perhaps along the eastern seaboard) that these guys are great.
By now the great stampede has slowed. Hunters & Collectors have settled comfortably into the rock scene, where they hold the mantle as our most capable innovators with the possible exception of our absent friends, The Birthday Party.
Onstage, the Hunters & Collectors sound is decidedly funky. The material is characterised by John Archer’s bass, Doug Falconer’s drumming, and the sound of a gas cylinder being struck. Their songs are long, and three quarters through a set, one begins to understand why some critics say that the material tends to blur. Or in short, it tends to all sound the same.
Arrangements had been made with drummer Doug Falconer to speak to the band on a Sunday afternoon. Doug lives in a modest house in one of Melbourne’s more fashionable streets. He drove across town to a ramshackle dwelling, which serves as the band’s practise studio.
Present during the interview were Doug, Geoff Crosby, Mark Seymour and newcomer Martin Lubran. Lubran who replaced Ray Tosti-Guerra on guitar, is the band’s only line-up change since Hunters & Collectors’ inception.
Doug started talking about the past 12 months: “We really packed a long into one year. It seems longer. Not a couple of years or anything, but about 14-15 months!”
The long delay in getting the band’s first album released was due primarily to the inferior quality of the cut on the master, which was done at the A&M studios in California. When it came back, no-one was happy with it. But by the time it was decided to re-cut it, a number of the single Talking To A Stranger had been distributed. If you managed to get one of these, then you have a genuine ‘Collectors’ item.
Doug talked about the album – “It’s getting to the point where I can’t be objective about it. I’ve been living with it for so long. Consequently, I can’t tell whether it’s good or bad.
“The actual recording took only ten days of studio time. And it’s taken seven months to shape the studio tapes into an album. It’s ludicrous. Far too long, and we won’t let it happen again. But because of the strange contractual set-up we’ve got, we were responsible for the whole thing ourselves until we gave the White Label the masters.”
I asked Doug how different the White Label is from Mushroom records.
“It’s yet to be seen. They haven’t had a chance yet to establish themselves as a separate entity. But it’s very much a part of Mushroom obviously. The decisions are all made by the same people. It has potential to be quite different and quite exciting.
“The deal with White Label was only finalised during the recording of the album. We signed in between recording and mixing. We are signed for three years, and there is no option clause at all. And we are only signed to White Label in Australia.”
There was a short lived story going around Melbourne last year that Hunters & Collectors first album would be called FUCK GOD. DOUG: “People will believe anything, it’s amazing. Someone came up to a member of the band and asked what the album would be called. And he just said, ‘Fuck God.’ And before we knew it, it was written up in VOX. And Gudinski was on the blower asking if it was all true!”
I asked Mark if all the hype surrounding the band had affected them at all. His short answer – “No.” Did he think the band had anything to do with it?
“We’re had something to do with it because we existed. We also had something to do with it because we were the best band around at the time. And people loved jumping on the bandwagon.”
DOUG: “I personally think it is very dangerous, because a lot of good bands don’t survive it. The important period is just after the hype. In between the hype and the backlash, there is a lull when no-one is writing about you. Once you reach a certain level of success, like we have, the only response people can have is a critical one. They can’t respond by saying we are fantastic, because it has already been said.
“It might sound trite but our harshest critics are ourselves. We know when we are playing well or when we are shithouse.”
Silly question time. I asked the band how they would respond to that statement that the band has displayed a certain contempt for their audience.
DOUG: “Well, that’s just an opinion that someone had on a given night.”
MARK: “YOU can’t take something like that seriously. I think it’s a really silly question.”
DOUG: “Some people could have got that impression in the beginning because we appeared so confident. What they don’t know is that we were often very nervous.”
I was interested in the period when the band stopped playing ‘inner-city’ gig and moved into the more mainstream venues. Was this a planned move?
DOUG: “No, it was just a natural progression for the band. It wasn’t a conscious rejection of the inner city. People make too much of this big barrier between the inner suburbs and the outer suburbs.”
MARK: “People who live in the outer suburbs don’t give a flying fuck about the difference. The only people who articulate on it are people from the inner suburbs.
“The people in the inner suburbs suffer from the ‘cultural cringe’. They are trying to create some cultural environment in this arid wasteland!
“We all have to tolerate the fact that the suburbs are out there. If a band is playing the inner city and they move out to play to the other people in the suburbs it is thought that they have corrupted their art. You know, ‘if yobbos can like this band then there must be something wrong with them’.
“And all the rhetoric about a band comes from the inner-city. There’s no-one out in the suburbs who’s particularly interested in writing for magazines.”
The band’s music is usually described as funk: I wondered if there was much though given to what the material should sound like.
DOUG: “There is a lot of thought given to what the material is going to sound like. But not in terms of whether it is going to be funky. It can be very dangerous predetermining a sound. A lot of people do it, and I think it’s wrong.
“For new material, the music usually comes first. We have just a melody or a bass line and we work on it from there. This often happens in there.” (Doug points to the small rehearsal room full of equipment and lined with egg cartons.)
“It can be a long, laborious process. But we usually end up with satisfactory material. Mark writes most of the lyrics as he sings them. But Greg and Geoff write now and then.”
What about thoughts toward an overseas market?
DOUG: “The music is sufficiently wide-ranging to be acceptable anywhere. It’s probably something we haven’t thought about as much as we should have. Basically what we are trying to do is keep our options open.”
We talked about how the band would promote an album. Doug said he thought the media could be used a lot more effectively. He thought it was only as restrictive as the use allowed it to be.
MARK: “We tend not to organise things. Someone might come along to us with an idea, and we’ll say yes or no.”
DOUG: “We are a lot less contrived than people might think. We don’t calculate each move.”
MARK: “I get a little bitter about the way people talk and write about us. Because most of it is bullshit. And most of it stems from the notion that we have augmented and controlled the whole thing around Hunters & Collectors. The only reason I think it appears like that is that we do things professionally.”
MARK: “We are like a litmus test. If you like Hunters & Collectors, you are part of that group. If you hate us you are part of another group. And most people like or hate us. Nearly nobody is indifferent.”
“We are just a rock band.” (Anon.)
Thankyou to Stephen for typing out this article for us all to enjoy!