Hunters & Collectors were an Australian rock band, formed in Melbourne in 1981, led by principal songwriter Mark Seymour. They were noted for songs such as "Throw Your Arms Around Me", "Talking to a Stranger", "Holy Grail", and "Say Goodbye", and were renowned as one of the best live acts in Australia until they disbanded in 1998 .
The band took its name from "Hunters & Collectors", a song by the German band Can on the album Landed. As that suggests, the original band was influenced by the Krautrock genre and the productions of Conny Plank, featuring strong percussive influences, noisy guitar, and driving bass lines. The sound was in the vein of Remain in Light, the Talking Heads album of 1980.
The band was also noted for its distinctive logo, a H & C symbol, where the "&" was twin snakes entwined around a hunting knife, a variation of the Caduceus which first featured on the Human Frailty album.
(guitar & Vocals
), John Archer
(bass), and Doug Falconer
) met at the University of Melbourne
in the late 1970s. They formed a casual band called The Schnorts (playing cover versions), followed by the more ambitious The Jetsonnes (with a female lead vocalist - Margot O'Neil - who later became a journalist with the 3RRR
program Talking Headlines
, and later a reporter with the ABC
The first version of Hunters and Collectors included Seymour, Archer, Falconer, Geoff Crosby (keyboards), Greg Perano (percussion), Ray Tosti-Guerra (guitar), and Robert Miles, their sound engineer and art director. (In an unusual arrangement, Miles was credited as an equal part of the band's output. He stayed with the band throughout their career.) Tosti-Guerra was later replaced by Martin Lubran, then by Barry Palmer.
As lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter, Seymour--the older brother of bassist Nick Seymour of Crowded House--was the linchpin of the group. In the mid-1980s, he was romantically involved for a time with Do-Re-Mi lead singer Deborah Conway. Archer and Falconer are widely regarded as one of the best rhythm sections ever to emerge from the Australian rock scene .
Hunters signed to White Label, an offshoot of Mushroom Records, and their self-titled debut album was produced by Sydney-based engineer-producer Tony Cohen. Their first single, "Talking to a Stranger", was accompanied by an influential music video directed by filmmaker Richard Lowenstein. The band decamped to Germany in 1983, where they recorded the follow-up album The Fireman's Curse with Conny Plank.
In 1983, they briefly disbanded, but reformed later in the year without Lubran, who left the band due to ill health. This line-up also featured keyboards
and a three-piece horn section. With Greg Perano's departure from the band (later to form The Deadly Hume
), the band began to pare back their art-rock
pretensions of their earliest albums, although they retained a muscular, bass-driven sound, rounded off by the band's distinctive horn section. Mark Seymour
's lyrics became less abstruse and more focused on the twin themes of the fraught personal relationships and the politics of the day.
The first album featuring the new line up was The Jaws of Life (1984). The title of the album, plus the cover art and the opening track, 42 Wheels all referring to the murder of 5 people by an intoxicated, outback trucker, Douglas Crabbe. Again produced by Plank, the album was recorded at the old Can studio by Rene Tinner. Although it spawned a classic underground single, "The Slab", The Jaws of Life didn't make much headway for the band on the commercial music scene. However relentless touring, limited but constant airplay on the (then Sydney-only) radio station Triple J plus some video play on Countdown and other music video shows fostered Hunters & Collectors a devoted following on the Australian pub scene.
Their breakthrough commercial success in Australia came in 1986, with the release of the album Human Frailty, which featured the single "Throw Your Arms Around Me", as well as other fan favourites such as "Say Goodbye" and "Everything's on Fire". It was at this point that the band signed a parallel deal with I.R.S. Records for North America. "Throw Your Arms Around Me" remained one of the most popular songs in Australia for years, being voted number 2, 2 and 4 on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 1989, 1990 and 1991 (Prior to 1992, songs from any year were eligible for inclusion in the hottest 100.)
The next album, What's a Few Men?, was released in 1987, and featured the singles for "Do You See What I See" and "Still Hangin' Round". The latter song was deemed to be too "Australian" and cut from the American configuration of the album, retitled Fate, in place of three other songs recorded for this version, including "Back on the Breadline". (The recent re-issue of What's a Few Men features all 15 songs from these two versions.)
Guitarist Barry Palmer (ex-Harem Scarem) joined the band in 1988. Ghost Nation was released in 1989 and featured the singles "When the River Runs Dry" and "Blindeye", and Hunters & Collectors supported Midnight Oil on that band's North American tour of 1990. Although the band struggled to find success in the US and elsewhere, they maintained their status in Australia as local favourites.
The compilation Collected Works was released in 1990, with a re-recorded version of "Throw Your Arms Around Me", and a single, "Where Do You Go", was produced by Nick Sansano and released in late 1991.
Peak of success
In 1992, Hunters & Collectors recorded the album Cut
with the producer Don Gehman
, and although the relationship was apparently strained at times, due to Gehman's combative working methods, Cut
became the band's most successful album, retaining a balance between the band's artistic core and its commercial ambitions. It was marked by the anthemic single "Holy Grail
", inspired by Napoleon
's march to Russia in 1812 but also reflecting the band's own flagging attempts to "crack" the American market. The song is often put in context with the AFL (Australian Football League). It was Channel 10
's theme song for their AFL coverage from 2002 until 2006, and was sung by Seymour at the 2002 AFL Grand Final.
This was followed in 1994 with Demon Flower, which was dominated by themes relating to the politics in the state of Victoria, particularly the economic rationalist policies of Jeff Kennett. A double live album, Living ... In Large Rooms and Lounges, was released in 1995, with one disc consisting of an acoustic set at the defunct Continental Cafe in Prahran, Melbourne, and the other being a more typical pub performance. Juggernaut, their last studio album, was recorded and released in 1997, and featured the single "True Believers".
Hunters & Collectors embarked on their final tour of Australia in 1998, with the last concert being performed at one of their favourite venues from over the years, Selina's at the Coogee Bay Hotel, Sydney. This gig was recorded for posterity and released on CD and DVD as Under One Roof, and the band retains a reputation as one of the premier acts in Australian rock music history.
Subsequent to the group's disbandment, Mark Seymour and Jack Howard have both pursued solo musical careers. Barry Palmer is now a producer/songwriter and was the subject of the 2005 reality TV
series The Hit Game
. In the mid-nineties he was a member of the band Deadstar
"Throw Your Arms Around Me" has been performed by many bands and individuals, including Crowded House, Pearl Jam, and Australian singer and comedian Paul McDermott.
On July 14 2005, Hunters & Collectors were inducted into the Aria Hall of Fame at the Plaza Ballroom alongside Split Enz, Renée Geyer, Normie Rowe, Smoky Dawson, and The Easybeats.
- Hunters and Collectors (White Label L42002, 26 July 1982) AUS #21
- The Fireman's Curse (White Label L38066, 6 September 1983) AUS #77
- Jaws of Life (White Label L38222, 6 August 1984) AUS #89
- Human Frailty (White Label RML53205, 7 April 1986) AUS #10
- What's a Few Men? (White Label RML53253, 16 November 1987) AUS #16
- Fate (White Label D30455, 1991) [new version of What's a Few Men?]
- Ghost Nation (White Label TVD93314, November 1989) AUS #10
- Cut (White Label TVD93364, 6 October 1992) AUS #6
- Demon Flower (White Label TVD93401, 16 May 1994) AUS #2, NZ #9
- Juggernaut (White Label MUSH33081.2, 26 January 1998) AUS #36, NZ #48
- World of Stone (January 1982) AUS #50
- Payload (White Label X14002, December 1982)
- Living Daylight (April 1987) AUS #41
- The Way to Go Out (CD, video, DVD) (White Label L27148, 6 May 1985) AUS #76
- Living ... In Large Rooms and Lounges (White Label D98017, 27 November 1995) AUS #45
- Under One Roof (live) (White Label MUSH33176.2, 11 November 1998)
- Collected Works (CD, video) (White Label TVD93338, 19 November 1990) AUS #6
- Natural Selection (CD, 2CD, DVD) (Liberation BLUE034.5, 13 October 2003) AUS #40
- Mutations (CD) (Liberation BLUE027.2, released 2005) [B-Sides and Rarities album]
- Talking To A Stranger (1982) AUS #59
- Lumps Of Lead (1982)
- Judas Sheep (1983)
- Sway (1983)
- The Slab/Carry Me (1984)
- Say Goodbye (1986) AUS #24
- Throw Your Arms Around Me (1986) AUS #49
- Everything's On Fire (1986) AUS #78
- Is There Anybody In There? (1986)
- Inside A Fireball (1987)
- Do You See What I See? (1987) AUS #33
- Still Hanging 'Round (1988)
- Back On The Breadline (1988) AUS #37
- When The River Runs Dry (1989) AUS #23
- (Turn A) Blind Eye (1990) AUS #42
- The Way You Live (1990) AUS #75
- Love All Over Again (1990)
- Throw Your Arms Around Me (1990) AUS #34
- Where Do You Go? (1991) AUS #33
- Head Above Water (1992) AUS #64
- We The People (1992) AUS #70
- True Tears Of Joy (1992) AUS #14
- Holy Grail (1992) AUS #20
- Imaginary Girl (1993) AUS #82
- Easy (1994) AUS #38, NZ #38
- Back In The Hole (1994)
- Drop In The Ocean (1994)
- The One and Only You (1994)
- Higher Plane (1997)
- Suit Your Style (1998)
- Debris (2003)
The 'classic' Hunters and Collectors lineup (for the last ten years together):
- John Archer - bass guitar, P.A., backing vocals (1981–1998).
- Doug Falconer - drums, percussion, programming, backing vocals (1981–1998).
- Jack Howard - trumpet, keyboards, backing vocals (1981–1998).
- Robert Miles - live sound/mixing, art/design (1981–1998).
- Barry Palmer - lead guitar (1988–1998).
- Mark Seymour - lead vocal, lyrics, guitar (1981–1998).
- Jeremy Smith - French horn, guitars, keyboards, programming, backing vocals (1981–1998).
- Michael Waters - trombone, keyboards, finance (1981–1998).
Additional early members
- Greg Perano - percussion (1981–1983).
- Geoff Crosby - keyboards, artwork (1981–1985).
- Ray Tosti-Guerra - guitar, backing vocals (1981–1982).
- Martin Lubran - guitar (1982–1983).
- Andy Lynn - trumpet (1981–1982).
- Chris Malherbe - trumpet (1981–1982).
- Nigel Crocker - trombone (1981–1982).
- Liner notes from album releases, in particular Mark Seymour's notes on the Natural Selection and Unnatural Selection compilations.