The Hunnas still have more to give: A Profile interview with Mark Seymour
A brief interview with Mark Seymour relating to the reformation of Hunters and Collectors.
Author: Cobba, The Footy Almanac.
Date: 2 December 2013.
It’s the 22nd of March in 1998. The Hi Fi Bar on Swanston Street is at capacity. On an unusually hot night, the lights dim. The sweaty crowd waits in anticipation. With eight band members, the classic ‘big’ sound from the Hunters and Collectors blasts through the room for the very last time. Then the band broke up.
It’s been 15 years since they last toured, but the Hunters and Collectors still hold a defining influence on Australian rock music.
Australia-wide, the collective took audiences on a journey as they evolved from experimental post-punk into a tight-knit powerful group with percussive anthems, noisy guitar, and driving bass lines.
The Hunnas, as they came to be known, created a strong live following, fronted by Mark Seymour, that took Australian rock and roll to new places.
A down to earth bloke, Seymour has just about seen it all. Over 1200 gigs. Over one million albums sold, with 19 hit singles and seven gold albums.
“The reputation of the band – its iconic status, so to speak – was built up over constant touring, just this relentless approach to getting out there and playing for years and years and years. It was very much about being in a pub and having thousands of people jammed into a room, with this big, incredible sound,” Seymour said in an interview with A Day on the Green.
So fitting it is, that 15 years later, 15 artists collaborate to produce a tribute album ‘Crucible,’ that travels through some of the most memorable tracks the Hunters have produced through the years.
“It’s fantastic. The record company planned it really well, its got the right combination of artists and people are really liking it so far,” Seymour says.
In his home studio, old photos decorate the walls. Guitars lie on the couches, gold records in frames. This is where Mark is at ease.
“The album is charting. I can’t believe it,” he says with a grin. But despite his contentment, Mark admits he can’t fully claim its success: “I had absolutely nothing to do with it,” he laughs. “We were all a bit twitchy about it in the beginning, and at the start I never really took it that seriously. We let the record label make the decisions and do the work.”
It sounded strange that a band, so commanding over its own music didn’t want to be an influence on its own tribute album. But according to Seymour, it wasn’t as easy as that.
“We were asked to be involved. The band was questioned who would be on their wishlist, and there were like 80 names on the bill. It was ridiculous with eight members. Then everyone started arguing who would be appropriate and who wouldn’t, so within about a week it was decided that the label was going to handle it.”
A self-obsessed fan of covers himself, Seymour says they are just more than playing the chords and singing the words. “You’ve got to find something in the song that resonates with you personally on an emotional level.”
“You’re singing it, and it has got to make you feel like it was your song in the first place. I call that ‘owning it’, you control it and you do whatever you want. Reinvent it in your own style.”
It’s one thing that Seymour has been adamant in his music, the importance to feel yourself into the song.
“I find performing songs, it’s different every time you do it. If you are really engaged in the performance, things happen by accident, things ‘pop’. We jam, we let things go and usually takes its course for the better.”
Seymour and the Hunters, have also been in the news recently following their performance as the half-time entertainment for the AFL Grand Final. Despite it being the fourth time he has played the stage, Seymour says he still gets tense in front of a large crowd.
“I was pretty nervous. There’s a lot of media pressure around the event, and a lot of expectation surrounding the performance,” he says. “I was just very relieved when I was finished.”
With the announcement of a comeback tour earlier this year to coincide with the release of the album, the mighty Hunters will be performing ten ‘A Day on the Green’ concerts nationally and two special theatre shows in Melbourne and Sydney.
But it’s not as if he has been out of tune. Since the split from the band in 1998, Mark has been constantly recording and performing as a solo act, releasing seven albums in that time.
“I loved doing my solo stuff, but being in a band is a lot more fun. I just like the power and energy of a band. I think it suits me more.”
However, it looks as though those days are numbered, with this comeback tour being a “limited-time only” venture for the group.
“I’m just not interested in writing with the Hunters and Collectors anymore, that has definitely had its day. I reached a point when the band was still going, and it felt like I was pushing a rock uphill, it was just hard work.”
Sitting there in the small but cluttered studio it was obvious Seymour still fells a certain amount of hostility with the band. It’s apparent that much of the decision to reform was driven by the release of the tribute album, and to give the best for their loyal fans.
“The thing about the Hunters and Collectors is that with eight members, every decision is so democratic it’s painful. Everyone has their opinion about everything. Just going back to it, just seems really frustrating. A lot of it just drives me nuts.”
For all the arguments aside, the ‘second-coming’ of the Hunters and Collectors is one of excitement that brings back a lot of fond memories for Seymour.
A band with a legacy of music that made people sing, dance, and come together, has been revisited and reinterpreted by their admirers more than 30 years from where it all began and for the generations of music fans that will follow.