Hunters and Collectors – Human Frailty Interview
A promotion only interview LP to accompany Hunters and Collector’s 1986 album “Human Frailty”.
Released In: [USA]
Release Date: September 1987.
Australian Chart Position: (Promo only).
Availability: Moderately rare. Not available new.
Version: IRS American cassette/LP version.
Album length: 18 minutes, 45 seconds.
ReplayGain loudness: N/A.
- About the ‘live’ nature of Human Frailty
- About versions of “Throw Your Arms Around Me”
- About the emphasis on vocals
- About “Say Goodbye”
- About Mark’s role in Human Frailty
- About “Dog”
- About “Finger”
- About melody in Human Frailty
- About “Stuck On You”
- About “99th Home Position”
- About politics and “Is There Anybody In There?”
- About production and lyrics
- About “Relief”
- About commercial radio airplay
- About younger audiences
- About acceptance of Human Frailty
- About Mark and writing
- About poetry in lyrics and music
- Radio helper 1
- Radio helper 2
Q: Human Frailty is a very live album. Was this done intentionally to let radio listeners who may not know Hunters and Collectors material get some sort of insight into a Hunters and Collectors live show?
Mark: What we’re attempting to do with this record is to reach a radio audience, which we’ve never done before. But umm, the way I see that is that, umm, there’s almost like this kind of chasm between the pub circuit and music in radio land. It’s like people make a sort of psychological decision that what they are hearing off the radio isn’t what they recognise in the pubs and it’s possible to have a sort of split musical personality. Where, you know, if you maintain your live strength then there’s not reason why it just can’t keep going. It’s like trying to maintain some sort of continuity between how the music is written and how you develop it on record. That’s basically what we’ve attempted to do on this record. Like ay Goodbye, we play Say Goodbye exactly as we recorded it, it’s exactly the same. And the same with “Throw Your Arms Around Me” and every song on this record. Every arrangement is a live, organic arrangement. You know, it’s basically what Hunters and Collectors play, except we’ve, umm, we’ve taken more trouble over production.
Q: “Throw Your Arms Around Me” was released last year as a single with minimal production. On “Human Frailty” it has been recorded – which version do you prefer?
Mark: I like what we’ve just done, I like the new version because we umm, spent a lot more time ahh, bringing the voice out so that the warmth of what the lyric was expressing was more obvious and more apparent and more direct. The older version, although it had a certain ambience about it and clearness… the voice, I did the whole vocal in one take, so it’s like right back there, and it doesn’t sound like me being confident about what I’m doing. I wanted the lyrics in this record to sound really confident and strong, you know, because I’d sort of gone to a lot of trouble to try to state the most simple prosaic things as clearly and as uncomplicated way as possible… so I wanted them, I want them to be like that.
Q: Mark, your vocals on “Human Frailty” are a lot more confident with more emphasis places on what your voice is doing than on previous Hunters and Collectors albums.
Mark: Well John Archers bass playing and Doug Falconers drums sound the way they do because both of them have refined they way they play over a really long period of time, you know, over a five year period. Every time we’ve gone in to record they’ve always been really accomplished and confident about how they wanted things to sound whereas I’ve always tended to take a fairly oblique view of recording in a studio. So that the way the bass and the drums sounds on this record is, like, it’s as natural to us now as the way the drums and bass sound on the last record. Whereas with what I’ve done, is I’ve just done, I’ve tried to make my voice as strong as that, as strong as the basic band sound is and on previous records it hasn’t been. It’s been fairly, I’ve done bad vocal tracks and let them slip through because I’ve taken a fairly oblique view of the whole thing, you know.
Q: Mark, lyrically, “Say Goodbye” is a very sensitive song and in some ways reverses the sexual gender. Is it possible for you to write from the woman’s perspective?
Mark: I don’t think you can, you know, basically adopt another persons personality and obviously, but what you, I think what is possible is for you to reflect on the aspects of a relationship that you might be having that are about compromise and sensitivity. The kind of sensitivity you’re capable of feeling even thought you’re a man, you know. It’s bringing those elements out in, those sentiments out in lyric writing about love, are often construed as being feminine qualities when it fact they are not specifically feminine, they are qualities that a man or a woman are capable of bring out in order to make a relationship work. ‘You don’t make me feel like I’m a woman anymore’, that line, I mean I’m, what I’m trying to do, I’m not really trying to swap roles, I’m just trying to make, just point a finger at the whole irony of how two people can lose touch with each other… just by taking each other by granted or just sort of letting a situation develop over a long period of time and not really taking much notice of it. So, it’s sort of like an ironic switch in a way, you know, and I’m actually trying to reverse the situation, not really trying to be a woman, I’m just trying to quote, you know, and make it apparent that, as the male in the partnership has basically been totally blind as to what the situation was developing towards, you know. And suddenly this thing happens to me, I come home and I’m bombarded by all this frustration and what am I going to do about it, you know.
Q: As a lead singer, guitarist, lyricist and poet of Hunters and Collectors, “Human Frailty” revolves very much about you. Is this album your personal statement?
Mark: It’s not an attempt by me to sort of present Hunters and Collectors as my little bag. It’s more a question of what the band and I have learnt to express over a long period of time. I mean, we couldn’t have made this record three years ago because we just basically didn’t know each other well enough as people. See, the way we operate, it’s always been a fairly cathartic process song writing. I mean I’ll come into the studio, the rehearsal studio with a lyric and a melody or a vague melody and gradually over this period of the last few years, the other guys have got to know me well enough to recognise what direction I wanted or what sort of thrust I wanted the music to move in on this particular occasion. Even though these lyrics on this record are very personal and they are basically my story, umm, they wouldn’t have the expressive power that they’ve got if it wasn’t for the fact that all the other guys are tuned into the same issues. Like, I’ve always written lyrics about a group of men together, you know, I’ve always made that a real point. Like, even right back in the first couple of EP’s, the lyrics I’ve written are about Hunters and Collectors and a group of men driving around the Australian countryside. You know, and gradually, as time has gone on, I’ve recognised that the growing confidence of the band musically until we’ve reached the point where we can write an album about the most prosaic themes but in a way which is quite credible. It’s very rarely you hear that to happen. You know, like, the idea of men expressing things about male sexuality in the eighties, there’s this really big taboo about heavy metal, you know, heavy metal is the no-no of the eighties. It’s really easy to sort of like identify with that side of things if you don’t treat it seriously. And that’s basically because most rock groups don’t treat the whole issue of love seriously. They don’t treat it as though it is something that is really important. You know, it’s like, you know, you can easily fall into the trap of just sort of listing a series of cliched phrases together but you’re reading romantic novels and tying them together and putting a backbeat too them and they’ll see. You know, because that’s what everybody does. But to take on the theme, the basic theme of what, of all this, and try to make it, you know, give it as much expressive power as you can is a different thing altogether and it’s very difficult I think. Most bands take a long time to get to the point where they can do it, you know, or they never do it or they are just a bit shy of it.
Q: In the song “Dog”, you portray yourself as a dog. Why?
Mark: Why am I the dog? Well actually it’s not a, it’s a fairly traditional theme in R and B, that the singer will put them self into, turn themselves into an animal, like, try to put themselves in an animals perspective if they are talking about love. Because so much of, a lot of love is based on really instinctive things, you know, obviously. You know, and at that particular point in the process of writing lyrics for this records I wanted to try to convey the idea of being completely subservient, like having a master, you know. And umm, “Say Goodbye” is like coming home, from the human point of view and there’s actual dialog between the two people but with “Dog” it’s like the same idea but the, it’s like, the same situation except that the person who’s speaking is completely subservient and just waits to be summoned, and then when the gate swings around in the second verse, the dog walks in and the hands preferred and the dog starts licking the hand and the hand is the hand of the lover. It’s just another way of looking at another aspect of the same situation as is expressed in “Say Goodbye” or a few of the other songs on the record.
Q: The track “Finger” is a very sexual song and appears to be describing the messy space in which you live.
Mark: Well once my bed was described by one of my girlfriends as like a rats nest. She said you’d never know what you’d find in there, you know, so I decided I’d try to write a song around the idea of describing a bed like a rats nest and then I sorted of expanded on that into try to describe my entire room is like a rats nest, you know, so that’s what the song is about.
Q: Melodically, “Human Frailty” has broken new ground for Hunters and Collectors. Has that been a conscious thing?
Mark: Yeh, after “Throw Your Arms Around Me”, I, well, that song included, I started trying to write with chords using piano or guitar to, and sitting down and not worrying so much about the rhythmical side of things first, like in the more traditional song writers type role, you know. Whereas in the past I would always sort of come into rehearsals just with a lyric or maybe a vague idea about a baseline and that would be as far as it would go. Whereas now I tend to be more concerned about how to structure of the words against the melody. I’ve already determined before I’ve shown the band and that’s, like, basically I came around to that after I wrote “Throw Your Arms” because I got more confident on that side of things.
Q: You’ve never been afraid to experiment with other people’s material and this time you’ve recorded “Stuck On You” which was written by Ian Rilen who had the band Sardine a few years ago.
Mark: The basic idea we’ve had about putting a cover on the record, this one, the last one, was to just see how Hunters and Collectors could treat the way somebody else expressed a similar theme to what we’ve got, you know, like “Stuck On You” is basically about the same sort of things as a lot of the other songs on this record but because it was written by someone else it has got a different approach in terms of arrangement and melody. Buy “Stuck On You” has got a very, a really basic simplicity that we normally wouldn’t use in our songs, you know, we tend to have a sort of oblique way of working things out which isn’t obvious whereas “Stuck On You” has got a really sort of, it’s almost like a country and western song.
Q: “99th Home Position” conjures up mental pictures of barn dances.
Mark: What the songs about is umm, I came across this little book on square dancing that was published in the fifties, just a little sort of a magazine, that was, it was about introducing square dancing to Australia in the fifties. It just described all the, umm, the terms that you use when your calling a square dance, one of which is the home position, which is where each couple starts at. And you circuit around the room and that’s where they all should return to. On the bottom of every page in that book there was this little NB, this little note, which said the man should always make sure that he brings his girl back to his home position cause if he ends in hers there’s going to be trouble. Like it’s really, like, and I just thought, this was in the fifties and if you published something like that now it would be construed as incredibly sexist, you know, but because of the sort of whole, the way sex roles were defined in those days it was very straight forward and no one questioned it and you could get away with saying something like that. I mean, it was sort of completely innocent, but I just found it so ironic, you know, that something like that could be thought of as perfectly normal. But I thought I’m going to write a song about, umm, the home position. Like, the lyric in that song is about, no matter how many women the man goes off with and no matter how many men the women goes off with, if they are together, then they always have got to end up back in the same place. It’s a bit of a spoof on, you know, sexual liberation and being emancipated sexually.
Q: “Is There Anybody In There?” is fairly political in it’s lyrics. Are you a political person? Do you go out of your way to write political lyrics?
Mark: I’m very politically concerned about the state of the world and ahh, I see politics as pervading every situation in life but I don’t, when it comes to my lyric writing, I don’t deliberately sit down and try to write political lyrics as such because they don’t always come to me. I mean I always write things according to whether they’ve come to me on the spur of the moment. They’ve got to be there in front of my mind before I write them down and even though I do have political ideas I don’t go out of my way to try and write political lyrics all the time because I’m more concerned how good the lyrics are rather than how important, rather than the actual issues. I’ve always found that it’s more important to give equal weight to how good the lyrics sound and how spontaneous they are as it is to, what they are about. I mean, it’s really important the content of the lyric, but the two sides of it have to equally strong. I mean, I often read political lyrics written by bands and singer that just are lousy lyrics, you know, they are just bad poetry and I would rather not compromise on that level. Whereas, like, there is a couple of songs on this record that have political overtones, like “Is There Anybody In There?”. That was about sitting in from of a television and deciding after going through, all the way through 1985 and constantly being bombarded with all this violence and desperation, Ronald Reagan lying.
I decided that I didn’t want to have anything to do with the television any more and I now don’t have a television. You know, I just picked it up and one day I decided that’s it, I’m finished with it. Because all it does for me is, if I watch television constantly, I just get depressed. You know, it just turns you into this blob, you know. What I do for my news is I get the Age in the morning, that’s basically what I do. With the Age I can pick what I want to read, like, I’ll read the world news and I’ll read the front page, I’ll read what I thinks important for my life. But when I’m watching the television I haven’t got any choice because it’s just coming at me all the time. So, with, “Is There Anybody In There?” I just picked a grab bag of the most strongest images that came to me over 85 like the dying children in Ethiopia and umm, Ronald Reagan’s press conferences and a couple of other things and I just put them all in verses and then every time the chorus came around it was like I’m picked up the television, shaking it and going “Is There Anybody In There?” and realising that there isn’t.
Q: “Human Frailty” is better produced than previous Hunters and Collectors albums and lyrically you set new standards in so far as you don’t have to read between the lines for meanings of the songs.
Mark: Well I think this album’s got a much broader message to a larger group of people than the previous records we’ve made. The previous records we’ve made I’ve, I’m really proud of, but they’ve been a lot more metaphysical if you know what I mean. They sort of tend to be a little bit more cryptic and you have to sort of read between the lines to work out what they mean. Whereas with this record and with all future records, mainly because of our growing confidence, we want to make statements to people that they can treat as honest and personal.
Q: “Relief” is almost domestic politics.
Mark: It’s about a woman, a middle aged woman, who is totally embroiled in her domestic tasks, so much so that she doesn’t, can’t possibly have the same kind of concerns that I, I mean it’s sort of like me saying to everybody, you know, it’s all very well to be concerned about he nuclear arms race or be concerned about global politics or whatever when you turn around and look at someone who’s sort of like got their hands buried in underneath the dishes in the sink and they just totally, that’s their, they are just so busy, they are so occupied with tasks that are being demanded or being made on them that they just hadn’t got the time to think about anything else. It puts a perspective on things that, lots of other things on the record that, where, you know, you listen to “Relief” and you go well, I mean how seriously can you afford to me taking yourself, or myself in this case.
Q: How important is commercial radio airplay for Hunters and Collectors musical growth?
Mark: It’s basically essential for a number of reasons. The foremost in my mind is that I think it’s time that we reached a wider audience or an audience beyond the 19 to 23 year old age group, you know, who go out and see bands in pubs. Because we’ve been playing in pubs for so long that’s we’ve watched like almost an entire generation of pub goers stop going, who are our age. People my age don’t go out and see bands anymore and I just sort of started realised ‘I’m still doing it’, I’m still writing songs for the same reasons as I was writing them six, seven years ago and I figure, well, umm, ‘who am I writing them for?’. Surely I, if I’ve been doing it for this long I should be reaching people like my mother, you know, people from all age groups, you know. I should be able to sort of communicate with people who just don’t necessarily go to pubs. I’ve watched audiences change in front of me, you know, when we perform, I’ve watched new faces come and old faces go. I’ve seen it happening so much that I’m just thinking, why not try to write songs where you can be heard on radio, where Mum can hear you in the kitchen and you know, like, kids can hear you late at night in their bedrooms who can’t otherwise go out and see bands in pubs because they’re under age.
Q: When you talk with younger audiences who may be seeing you in concert for the first time, do you ever feel that they have a preconceived idea that Hunters and Collectors are a video band?
Mark: Definitely. That aspect of it too, they have a sort of, I’m not criticising them or anything, but they sort of tend to see a band in diorama type fashion. You know, as a square shape and there’s a bands up there like little dolls with mic’s, you know. I mean the only perceptions young kids have of bands before they actually see them is Countdown. When we went in there we were amazing by just how artificial that whole environment is really when you are inside it. They tended to be completely guideless about just what house music was about and I sort of figure, if those people, if young kids are going to start listening to Hunters and Collectors then we have a responsibility to make sure that we have a verbal explanation for everything we do. You know, if you present young kids with an album and a performer and a video and a song on the radio, they’ll accept it straight away. You know, they’ll decide they like it or they hate it and that’ll be it. If they like it they’ll buy it. And 99% of how the industry operates is on the whole thing, you know like buying a block of chocolate of the chocolate stand at the railway station, you just buy it because it’s there. So I just basically want to make sure that every step of the way we go, when asked why we do things in a particular way, that we have an explanation for it, you know, and those kids deserve to have an explanation as well.
Q: Are you at all apprehensive about how Human Frailty will be accepted?
Mark: Apprehensive in the sense that we are going through a period of transition and I feel aaah, fairly isolated from people. But umm, I think once the album comes out, you know I think it’s mainly because we’ve been waiting to come out over such a long period of time, it’s taken months, you know. It’s sort of of built up a certain amount of tension over time. But once the album comes out and we see what happens to it then I’m going to feel a lot more comfortable with things, you know.
Q: Is writing an instant thing with you?
Mark: Yeh, I do it all the time. I constantly do it. When I finish working on a lyric and it’s been put aside and it’s either going to be worked out as a song or it already has been. I like to, the next thing that happens to me, I’m always watching for things, you know, I never, I don’t sort of like put the pen down and wait for the next album to be made. I, I always sort of, I’m always looking out for things that are just going to happen to me in my daily life that I find interesting or ironic or whatever. So that I’m always, like, approaching the next song from a slightly different angle from the last one, but then if you look over a six month period there will be a, you know, gradual evolution that will tie them all together.
Q: Do you differentiate between a lyric that is poetic to be sung, and a lyric that is poetic to be written?
Mark: Definitely. Because I think that umm, and a lot of people out there of course who call themselves poets are going to hate me for saying this but I think that poetry as a written form is dead. I don’t think people are interested in it any more. I mean I’ll read written poetry, contemporary written poetry, it’s meant exclusively for the page and it doesn’t have any power because people don’t, people don’t absorb information about life that way anymore, they get it all, it’s either visual, aural and written but it’s always a combination of one or two elements, it’s never just one one, the written word on page. Like, the power of what you can do, poetically, in a rock group just leaves written poetry for dead, it just doesn’t have, you know, to be in the position I’m in, if you have poetic tendencies, it’s a lot more relevant to people and it’s much more interesting to them than the idea of going to some obscure little club and hearing people reading their poetry over a little rostrum, you know, which is the traditional image that people have of what poets are like.
Mark: Hi, this is Mark Seymour from Hunters and Collectors and I’ll be talking to you soon and tracking through our new album “Human Frailty”.
Mark: Umm, hi, this is Mark Seymour from Hunters and Collectors, and here’s another track from our new album “Human Frailty”.
Hunters and Collectors “Human Frailty” album track by track.
An interview with Mark Seymour.