Seymour celebrates 30 years of songwriting with live album

STILL MAKING MUSIC: Mark Seymour out the front of Hunters and Collectors. His new band, Mark Seymour and the Undertow, is headed for Brisbane.
STILL MAKING MUSIC: Mark Seymour out the front of Hunters and Collectors. His new band, Mark Seymour and the Undertow, is headed for Brisbane. Contributed

MARK Seymour has been juggling the big issues in recent weeks.

Pauline Hanson's One Nation landed in his sights when he was a recent guest on ABC-TV's Q&A, with the songwriter slamming the party as "bogus".

A couple of weeks before that, he found his band Hunters and Collectors making headlines for the sake of their name, when animal activists PETA chose to launch its anti-duckhunting campaign by asking the revered rockers to consider a revamp of their moniker.

Now it's back to the music.

Seymour has released a live retrospective of his career with Roll Back The Stone. There's 24 songs from 30 years of songwriting recorded over three nights in June last year at Melbourne's Bakehouse Studios with his band The Undertow.

From the Hunters' classics Throw Your Arms Around Me, When The River Runs Dry and Say Goodbye through to the destined-to-be-classic solo tracks Classrooms and Kitchens and Master Of Spin, the album emphatically and defiantly answers the question Seymour often finds being thrown at his direction at the supermarket or petrol pump: "What do you do now?".

Seymour started the selection of songs for this defacto "best of" at the Hunters' Human Frailty record through to his 2015 album Mayday.

"I left the early Hunters albums out of it. We once played The Slab with the Undertow and it was s***. It just didn't work," he said, laughing.

"It's a perfect Hunters and Collectors weird grind which came together the way the Hunters played at that time.

"A non-song kind of grunt and we did attempt it (with the Undertow) but with us, it sounded a bit wimpy."

For the party faithful, Seymour's reworked version of one of Australia's most-loved songs, Throw Your Arms Around Me, will be no surprise.

The artist added a verse of welcome to refugees and immigrants to the anthem a few years ago, about the time he was in the studio working on Mayday.

"That verse was inspired by that spate of handheld videos which came out with people yelling s*** on buses and trains which were real full-on," he said.

"I found them incredibly unnerving. I decided to write this verse about 'you can ride on my bus any time'.

"I think it was a line one of these punters used when they posted one of those videos.

"I wanted to have that verse in there when we did the Hunters revival in 2014.

"It felt like a good time to do it, to inspire a sense of community when racism seemed to be becoming a burgeoning political problem. People can take it or leave it. I don't really care whether people like it or not.

"I just felt like I had to do it."

Any fan of Hunters and Collectors will listen to Seymour's live versions with his other band through the prism of their own memories of them.

Yet the new treatments do provoke a closer inspection of a song such as Holy Grail which has been recast as a sports-rallying cry, particularly for AFL fans come grand final time.

The song was inspired by the band's bid for international traction cast in a Napoleonic metaphor, not the quest for a sporting win.

"I have made it as intimate as possible with this band. It's such a daggy song and I love that about it," Seymour said.

"If that kind of success happens to a song like it has with Holy Grail, I think it is kind of meant to, because it has that emotional simplicity about it which meant anyone could relate to it. And that is incredibly hard to do in songwriting."


Back To The Stone is out now. Mark Seymour and the Undertow perform at the Old Museum, Brisbane, on June 30 and July 1.

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