Where Do You Go? (M Seymour) 1991 and True Tears of Joy (M Seymour) 1992 and Holy Grail (M Seymour) – Hunters and Collectors 1993
The Hunters were evolving from their period of Krautrock-influenced esoterica into a blue- collar pub rock band, taking cues from Ian Rilen’s band X and delivering sharp, hard-driving energetic music which connected with their growing army of stalwart fans in the beer bans of Australian suburbia.Successive albums had marked the new direction that the band were charting, Jaws of Life (#89 in’84), The Way To Go Out (#76 in ’85), Human Fraility (#10 in ‘86), What’s A Few Men? (#16 in ’87), and Ghost Nation (#7 in ’89) had generated classic singles which signposted the band’s journey towards rock and roll immortality – Throw Your Arms Around Me, Do You See What I See?, When The River Runs Dry, and Where Do You Go? – the latter song was lifted off the band’s seventh studio album Cut, recorded at the Festival Studio (Syd) and the Platinum Studio (Melb); co-produced by American Nick Sansano and the band. The rest of the Cut album was produced by American Don Gehman who had previously worked with Jimmy Barnes, John Farnham, John Mellencamp and REM. The introduction of electronic percussion and drum loops into the mix certainly added a commercial sheen and lustre to the song, it charted #30 and the album #5 for the Hunters most successful single and album thus far.
At this time the group comprised Mark Seymour (guitar/lead vocals), Doug Falconer (drums/vocals/programming/percussion/and tape loops), Barry Palmer (lead guitar, below), John Archer(bass), and the renowned multi-instrumentalists “Horns of Contempt” – Jeremy Smith (French horn/keyboards/guitar/vocals), Michael Waters (keyboards/trombone), Jack Howard (trumpet/keyboards/vocals) and Robert Miles (live sound and art design).The journey that had taken Hunters and Collectors from being somewhat marginalized, Krautrock devotees, to become Australia’s greatest pub-rock exponents had involved some considerable soul-searching along the way, certain band members felt that the recording of Cut had compromised the band’s sound and general creative aesthetic in a quest for hit songs.Hunters were always a fiercely independent artistic collective, who were only slowly inching their way towards a degree of commerciality, which involved some painful compromises, and an awkward collaboration with American producer Don Gehman (above), who was more attuned to a creative dynamic, focused on tapping into mainstream chart success; he was blissfully unaware of the band of social democrats who had descended into his world, to cut a record. The Hunters had started out craving obscurity, they showed contempt for flashiness, image-building, hyperbole, and rock God vanity, they were likened to a trade union with their job demarcations, vote-taking, and minute-keeping – Gehman was bemused, he said he thought they were “a bunch of Communists,” and this was said with no sense of irony, given the acknowledged irony deficiency amongst Americans.Gehman quickly zeroed in on Seymour as the main songwriter and creative force within this group, an accurate assessment, but very much at odds with what other band members had come to expect. The song-writing- by- committee approach had prevailed for many years, so what was this smart-arse Californian doing going off with Seymour and the French horn player (Jeremy Smith, above) and writing songs, or indeed creating music when most of the band hadn’t even turned up at the studio! Gehman was actively corrupting the gestalt that had been created within the group over a decade ago.True Tears of Joy was the fourth single lifted off the Cut album in November 1992 and became the highest-rating single by the band when it reached #13 in January 1993, the song is a simple ballad and unusually restrained both vocally and musically. Mark Seymour has described the song thus in liner notes to their compilation album, Natural Selection “She’s standing at the gate about to depart for Tokyo, to pursue dubious employment. She doesn’t want to go, doesn’t know why she’s going, runs off…tears streaming down her face. Hardly joyous. That came later.” The lyrics reflect the duality of emotions felt by the couple who are parting “Passion is your weakness/ But you feed it every day/ Like a moth to the naked flame/ You just can’t keep away/ You twist the truth, then you turn the other cheek/ Everybody knows it’s just salvation that you seek.”
The song intros with drums, bass and guitar, Seymour is the only band member featured in the promo video, walking through a forest, autumnal leaves gently falling, Michael Waters keyboards outro the song, it was a sensitive reading of a lover’s lament from the pub rockers.The fifth single lifted from Cut was the anthemic Holy Grail, a song partly inspired by the semi-fictional novel The Passion by Jeanette Winterson about Napoleon’s march into Russia in 1812, wherein Seymour likened the carnage, brutality, and megalomania of that military campaign, with the internal dynamics of the band, and he saw the new album, and Holy Grail, the standout single on the album, as the ultimate salvation of the band.
Frustrations had built up inside the group about their failure to crack the US market, and the internal tensions contingent upon working with a new producer in Gehman were palpable, but he had the hits to prove it with REM, Mellencamp, Jimmy Barnes, Diesel, and he was being paid a lot of money to deliver a radio-friendly, hit record, for the band. Seymour has described the making of the album Cut as “excruciating”, and Holy Grail reflects that anguish and his determination to remain true to his personal quest as a musician “I followed orders/God knows where I’d be/ But I woke up alone/ all my wounds were clean/ I’m still here/ I’m still a fool for the Holy Grail…”.
Seymour had dreamt about Winterson’s book, and envisaged band members in the uniforms of Bonaparte’s Old Guard, falling by the roadside, wounded, and dying, Seymour took his ideas to Doug Falconer who developed a drum loop, chords were played, and Seymour sang along acoustically, Gehman took Seymour and Jeremy Smith into another area where the producer played with chord shifts and melodic options, and lyrics evolved, later that night Holy Grail was complete.
The song is catchy and Michael Waters piano chords at the intro weave in and out of the song in a sinuous loop, Robert Miles on bass and Doug Falconer on drums provide the rhythmic spine of the record with trumpet flourishes by John Howard at the bridge and the outro, Seymour’s vocals are powerful and dramatic. Remarkably it barely survived the band’s internal culling process for selecting songs for release, Hunter fiercely defended the song and prevailed, even though it was only the fifth song released as a single off the album.
Holy Grail became a classic song, despite the fact, that it only charted #16 at the time, and then sporting broadcasters appropriated it, flogged it, and almost turned it into a boring bogan chant. It has been compared with Boston’s hit of 1976 More Than A Feeling but the link between Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and Boston’s song is more obvious.Mark Seymour would return to the MCG on Grand Final Day (above) on no less than four occasions in ’98, ’02, ’09 and ’13 to perform this song which has become synonymous not only with AFL football, but the broader community who embrace our national game as they embrace Don Gehman’s “bunch of Communists”, who have become an endeared musical icon.Cut the album charted #5 and the band followed up with Demon Flower in 1994 for their most successful album when it hit #2 locally. Internal politics had moved lead guitarist Barry Palmer to a dominant position during the recording sessions with producer Nick Mainsbridge, Seymour disliked the new direction the album had taken as he observed “It was a heavy brooding record, full of psychotic metaphor, human agony, melodies suffused and mostly lost. Arrangements half-written then jammed and the guitar out front. Not a commercial sound or song anywhere.”The group would disband in 1998, after issuing the album Juggernaut, and completing a farewell national tour. In 2005 the Hunters and Collectors would be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame, reunion performances began around 2009 and surprisingly another studio album, Crucible (#3 in 2013) was released, after eighteen years.