Behind the Making of Crucible

Great article on the making of the Hunters and Collectors tribute album, Crucible.

Author: Christie Eliezer, The Music Network.

Date: 14 August 2013.

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Article Text

When a teenage John O’Donnell began discovering Australian music, it was around the time that Hunters & Collectors were emerging. He loved how they sounded “different” and how the single and video to Talking To A Stranger were so groundbreaking. He went on to see them live 30 times.

Fast forward: he became a music journalist, then an A&R director for various companies and finally the head of EMI Music Australia. It was he who put together the star-studded trilogy albums of Neil Finn and Tim Finn back pages: He Will Have Their Way, She Will Have Their Way and They Will Have Their Way. These album sold a total of 450,000 units in Australia, followed by a sell-out tour.

Two and a half years ago, Mushroom founder Michael Gudinski contacted him about curating something similar with Hunters & Collectors. They agreed it was about finding quality artists to work on a compelling body of work, and giving them the time to find something special create something different to the originals’ spirit. “It had to be special, not an album of covers.”

As curator, O’Donnell had a wide ranging source of material. H & C had two different eras – the early art-industrial funk, and the slimmed down melodic rock. Not all the artists knew H&C’s full history. The atmospheric This Morning, an overlooked gem from Human Frailty was one that neither Missy Higgins nor Matt Corby knew. “That got them intrigued and excited about reinventing it. (Their version) is much less epic in its arrangement but more epic in its vocal performance especially from Matt. He was troubled by how to interpret it, it was a different song for him.”

Neil Finn and Eddie Vedder’s team-up on Throw Your Arms Around Me marked a full circle. Finn did it onstage with Crowded House, Vedder heard it on a Crowded House bootleg and began to do it himself. Both took the time to meet up in a studio in London to record it in the same room.

Paul Kelly toured many times with H&C, and indeed worked with H&C leader Mark Seymour on a soundtrack. Kelly opted for True Tears of Joy. He wanted input from MC Urthboy, who in turn brought in hip hop colleagues Elgusto of Hermitude and indigenous activist Jimblah. Kelly wanted Emma Donovan from the Black Arm Band. Their version, says O’Donnell, is “an urban soul sound (with) a gospel feel.” Again, it’s different from what you’d expect.

Birds of Tokyo’s Talking To A Stranger is another shift – “a really industrial-arty claustrophobic rock sound which really works for that song. I know they had a great time producing themselves.”

Crucible is out next month. Whether a tour comes out of it remains to be seen. But already The Living End have been playing Say Goodbye in their set, while Something For Kate do When The River Runs Dry. Others are working their interpretations into their live shows for summer.