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Mark Seymour Interview


Hi Mark...it’s been a while, how long since your last album?

It’s been three years since my last full studio recording of all original material but in that time I have released two studio recordings.

How did this album come about and where was it recorded?

I had a go at it at the beginning of last year and there’s a couple of tracks that came from that session but it’s really just been in the last few months that I have begun unearthing ideas for songs. Songwriting being what it is...a pretty nebulous activity it’s just taken me a really long time to come up with the right material... I am pretty happy with this collection, they are all pretty tense emotional songs covering a very wide spectrum of ideas and influences, there is a very strong country and blues influence, I think Westgate kind of hinted at it but I’ve really gone a long way down that path with this record.

Where was it recorder?

Essentialy it is recorded live we got a studio here in Melbourne and we recorded it all in a 3 day session.
What kind of music were you listening to at the time you were recording?

What were you listening to at the time?

A pretty broad spectrum of stuff like Muddy Waters, I got to the stage where I started thinking about what motivates songwriters and where ideas come from. I was sitting in front of my computer a lot in the shed and I was telling songs, I would start working on an idea and I would start tracking that because I have the technology here and after about a day on a song, being in there for about 4 hours I would play it back and I would just hate what I was hearing, I would have access to all this technology and was playing it back and I just thought why am I creating demos here in this room on my own why cant I pick up the guitar and knock an idea together make sure I can sing most of it and then takle it to the band and say here it is, I just thought I am not going to make these ideas to sophisticated and that’s where I ended up listening to a lot of older music, this is around the second half of last year...listening To Muddy Waters, Tom Waits a whole lot of stuff and Steve Earle being a big favourite of mine and songs that came from that tradition where the basic elements are really simple not trying to complicate arrangements and I found that when i took them to these guys they generally made choices that were uncluttered and simple that the song had to work in a little room we rented in St Kilda and we started jamming, their choices were always simple and I took my cues from that....so it’s been very refreshing and has very much a band feel on the album..

Is it good to be working with a band again.

My first two solo albums I wrote on my own and I am essentially still doing most of the writing alone but I am no longer trying to completely resolve ideas alone. So I have been writing songs and then taking them to the band  and finding that it changes in the course of it’s production process. People move feels around or the production engeineer might say let’s change that chord, you konow stuff get’s changed in increments and that is not necessarily a bad thing ...but i was just abit over myself spending hours alone and not actually really getting that excited about it. It’s great having that stimulus of a group around you.

I have been playing with the same group of guys for several years now just in the course of booking gigs so they were all around me so when we were doing things like soundcheck we would be out on  the for 3 or 4 days and I might have an idea in the back of my mind and I would just start playing whilst we were soundchecking and they would just join in and it kind of came from that too. I would look across at Cam (Marks’ long time producer and sound guy) “sounds pretty good” .... and he goes “ yeah” so there’s a lot of spontanieity in that and it kind of accrued over time and eventually we booked a tiny room in Barclay St in St Kilda and we would meet there one night a week and just play and so it evolved over time.

Does songwriting get harder over time?

It’s hard to know but I don’t think it does, I think it depends on what stage of life you are in really...I look back on Hunters and Collectors songs there is only really a handful that people remember, there is really a lot of the other songs that have disappeared, I hate to say it but a lot of them weren’t very good, the ones we always ended up playing in the last couple of tours where the set was just full of all these huge songs that the crowd loved ...but we had been on the road for 17 years, we had made 10 albums and you know we just played the best material that had been accumulated over a very long period of time...I don’t think my strike rate is any better, I think you just need to accept what your mind is going to do that the best ideas really are deep within your soul they just come from a very hardcore emotional place and you just gotta accept that when it happens and a lot of the time you have just got to wait and I struggle to be patient I must say its not one of my strongest qualities, I think really it has a lot to do with it and sometimes inspiration just arrives and knocks on your door....

The theme of this album is the undercurrent of life that we are all riding on and in a way throwing us all around and we just have to accept it when it does I suppose it’s about mortality really.

Funniest thing to happen on tour?

I remember that i used to jog home from gigs and I remember we had a two night stint at selina’s which was a huge bar at Coogee Bay that would hold about 3000 people and I would literally put my running clothes on and get somebody to take my kit back to the hotel and I would walk back onto the stage five minutes after the show had finished and the crowd would still be there and I would walk out in my shorts and singlet climb down over the front of the stage and walk out through the audience and nobody would even know it was me...it was an ongoing joke that I would always do it at the Coogee Bay Hotel... I think they thought I was a roadie, it was like a dare and nobody looked twice at me.

That could be an indication of how much Hunter’s crowds drank?

That’s true that has been said.

Worst thing to happen on tour?

One time I got locked outside a hotel in my underpants I sleep walked out the door. I had been drinking red wine with some friends and I exited the hotel room door instead of the toilet...I had got up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet and I went out my room door and couldn’t get back in so I went out through the fire escape and then couldn’t get back into the building and there was no one around, i ended up banging on the glass door of the hotel on the street trying to get someone’s attention, eventually in the end a security guy came out but I had already spent about 30 minutes in the cold in my underpants.

Best thing about being a musician?

Being at the age where I am at now and given that my kids are growing up and I know a lot of other dad’s I think that I have to say the flexibility of my time is the best thing, I think the work hours are really good.

What advice would you give young musicians?

I know its basic but try and work out if you can write songs or not, its the most important thing to do. Kid’s become acquatinted with instruments quite young and if you really want to have any success in the kind of business I am in then songwriting is where you will make the money and if you don’t have that skill then you have to work out what kind of other avenue you might want to take but it’s a good idea to have a sniff at that and start giving it a go.

How has the internet changed the music industry?

Compared to where i started off it has changed the whole fabric of the music industry. Just recording has changed in so many aspects. One of the subtle changes that has occurred is the notion of an album as a collection of songs that has a story or a narrative in it that’s virtually non-existent now, it’s virtually irrelevant even though I still make albums that I like to think they have some cohesion to it, but I think that’s a bit esoteric now I don’t think it matters because people listen to the songs quite randomnly. Once you put your songs onto an Ipod it doesn’t matter what order you hear them in people don’t even listen to albums they just listen to random shuffle....all those artistic parameters or framework that people like me work within probably don’t matter and thats kind of scary but thats just real....My tastes have broadened as a consequence of that, I don’t listen to the radio at all anymore, my ideas and influences in music have broadened, when I was  I was always chasing what was current and although I am still interested and listen to a lot of indie music I really like especially US its not the only thing I listen to....and I don’t see whats current as defining me as a writer. Thats got a lot to do with the digital aga as well when you talk to kids about what they are listening to they have much broader tastes then we did they know who Elton john is or they might be listening to the smiths...I don’t know where kids are sourcing their music but they just seem to have much broader influences.


Mark Seymour's new album is out now and signed copies can be purchased online from HERE