Fan Club – News Update From Mark
Ghost Nation fan club update from Mark Seymour.
Author: Mark Seymour.
Date: November 1990.
Hunters & Collectors are strange… a strange mixture of Homeric delusion and a work ethic that defies explanation. Luminaries from the record company have been heard to ask, in abject frustration, “In God’s name, what are they doing now?”
Months have passed when the boys have wondered themselves. I myself have bleerily gazed upon the debris of an empty bandroom and truly believed that I had made an awful mistake. The Wagga Wagga Australian Rules Club seems to have this effect with amazing regularity. We keep playing there, so we only have ourselves to blame. But don’t let me paint too bleak a picture. We had glamerous beginnings. Our popularity has grown steadily, especially with the release of “Ghost Nation”, our most recent album. It’s just that, when you’re the last to leave the bandroom at the Wagga Australian Rules Club, the accolades never seem to be enough, you ask yourself the question, “Why am I doing this?”
Pop music is like real estate. It’s an area where entrepreneurialism is at its purest… or, as in our case probably its worst. Believe me, we have done some dumb things. I remember asking John Archer, in the cabin of the truck, somewhere west of Ceduna, why we stuck together… and like Mr Spock he answered “loyalty and friendship”; hardly the most Rock ‘n’ Roll response, but then again we’d just returned from England where we’d discovered that Rock ‘n’ Roll means virtually nothing. That was our second mistake. Our first mistake was not to regard ourselves as a Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the first place. In the beginning we were supposed to be something else. Exactly what remains a mystery to this day… How about an autonomous collective of intellectuals reflecting on the end of the world? Yes, those were heady times.
But a lesson was learned from those months spent languishing in London. We discovered ourselves… In 1983 we returned to Melbourne… The collective bubble had burst. Several musicians bailed out and the rest of us went down to the pub to find out what we were doing wrong. The “Jaws of Life” album was the result.
We returned to Germany to record this one… A gesture to Conny Plank and again there was something perversely Homeric about going to such extraordinary lengths and distance just to put this one together. The “Jaws of Life” was a desert album, perhaps one of the first, it was about the tyranny of distance and a culture that was still wrestling with it’s own identity… the last frontier… and a machine that is used to pry people loose from road accidents.
Anyway, the experience was new and the music was basic hard Rock ‘n’ Roll. We’d witnessed the exploits of two Sydney bands, “X” and “Sardine”. We toured briefly with “X” and Doug ended up married to Stephanie, the keyboardist from “Sardine”. Needless to say, these bands had a profound influence on our sense of style and energy. We ‘relocated’ in the pubs and started looking around at the place we were living in.
“Human Frailty” followed in 1985. I discovered melody with this one, though singing was still a bit of a problem. But the constant touring was doing us good. It’s funny how people were saying, even back then, that the pub scene was on its last legs. The very idea that pub culture was a thing of the seventies was a thing of the eighties! The idea that live music is dying has become part of rock mythology in this country. Only thing is, when it’s been your bread and butter for ten years you tend to take a slightly different view. “Human Frailty” was our first commercial album.
In 1986 we started touring in North America. “What’s A Few Men?” came next. This record coincided with our discovery of the western suburbs of Sydney.
The touring schedule was growing at an alarming rate. Terms such as “road-face” became part of the vocabulary. Crew came and went, I discovered, with renewed vigour, how stimulating cabin fever can be. One afternoon John and I engaged in what began as a minor physical skirmish, which eventually destroyed the interior of a rehearsal room. As I recall, things were reasonably friendly until someone expressed their surprise at the fact that I was winning.
Yes, Homer would turn in his grave. The only problem we seem to have is that everybody wants to be Ulysses. Robert Miles has to tied to the mast occasionally. We tell him it’s for his own good, of course. Our drummer Douglas ha a marvellous capacity to cope with stress. He sleeps. Jeremy and Michael play gold. Barry meditates, or so he says; none of us are sure actually, he won’t let us watch. I go running in between bouts of beer drinking with Barry, and as for Jack, he just seems to disappear sometimes; “long walks” he calls them. I have my doubts. And of course there’s Mr Spock himself, John Archer. Like a visitor from another planet, you always get the feeling with John that he just landed. His recent response to Switzerland was odd to say the least. He claims to have scaled the mountain behind the hotel… several thousand feet. I’m talking one huge mother of a hill. The only opportunity he had was between sound check and show. Maybe he levitates occasionally. Despite the rigorous schedule, the constant grind and travel, it’s amazing how good we are getting at getting away from each other.
Since ’86 the international circuit has become a permanent part of our lives… culminating in our most recent touring effort with Midnight Oil around the western world… especially Germany. The Ghost Nation album was our biggest commercial recording both home and away. It’s success was accompanied by a new kind of cabin fever. Bunks, bus drivers, bus dunnies that don’t work, being a support band, Midnight Oil’s road crew, French Discos, German punters (they’re mad), the midnight sun… and lots of blank spots that are better forgotten.
Anyway, right now we’re back home again, writing songs in a rehearsal room somewhere in South Melbourne, making sense of where we’ve been and planning for the next round of gigs… sometime in the New Year… see you then…