Happy Camper Mark Seymour Talks Touring

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Jun 28, 2017

Caravan holidays as a child and bleak motel rooms on tour with Hunters & Collectors would be enough to turn any rock star five-star. Not this one. 

Where did you go on your last trip?

I went to Kilcunda, about 1.5 hours south-east of Melbourne on the edge of Woolamai. I always do it alone. It’s a beachside town, very small, but back up behind it are these little dairy farms and winding roads. I go up there on my pushbike and absolutely smash the hills and destroy myself. You get these views of Wonthaggi and the coast stretching all the way around to Phillip Island.

What was your typical childhood holiday?

My parents were teachers so we grew up in country towns around Victoria, moving between schools. We had caravan holidays when I was a kid, at Port Fairy, Point Lonsdale and Wye River. As we became teenagers, the novelty started to wear off but early on I loved them. On the Wye River, the hillside was festooned with tiny holiday cottages, the river wound between a narrow gorge that led down to the beach and the caravan park was kind of perched on a bend in the river. 

Where would you most like to take your kids?

They’re too old now [Eva, 23, and Hannah, 20] but we do go to Arrowtown, an old goldmining town in New Zealand. My wife [artist Jo Vautier] and Eva were born in New Zealand so there’s a family connection. My brother-in-law lives on a farm in Arrow Junction, north-east of Queenstown. It’s in a valley with big open pasture and glacial lakes... We usually camp out on his property for a couple of weeks and the whole family gathers. I often do a gig there at Christmastime, fairly homespun, in a tiny little bar. The locals just show up – we don’t promote it or anything – and the girls get up and sing as well.

Do you wander the streets or check maps?

I’m very GPS. I enjoy driving and reflecting and the GPS is a kind of compulsive thing. Turning it on and just following instructions connects something in my subconscious – but let’s not go there. For a while I had a TomTom and I downloaded the voice of Ireland. She used to say [in an Irish accent], “No! You’re not listening to me! You’re not turning left!” That amused me but now I stick to Google Maps.

Have you ever been on a road trip?

My career is built on travelling between towns so I’ve never made the conscious decision to drive as a specific way of holidaying. I’ve done the Nullarbor Plain, east to west, from Melbourne to Perth in one go – which probably isn’t legal. Lots of sleeping in wayside stops and takeaway food. I wouldn’t do it again.

Do you prefer luxury or rustic travel?

The world is divided into campers and non-campers and my wife is definitely not a camper. When we travel, she does all the booking and has really good taste. But if I’m alone, I sleep a little rougher. I like camping.

Is there a place that was a culture shock?

The United States is always challenging. I used to jog a lot; I’d point myself in a direction and find myself in places that were quite confronting. I remember jogging through the south of Dallas... and seeing all that poverty. 

When you walk into a hotel room, what’s the first thing you do? 

I have a set routine. First, I populate the bathroom. Then I get out all my notebooks, which I carry wherever I go, and put them on the table. I just throw things everywhere like I’m living there. Motel rooms can be bleak and I’m moving in and out of them a lot. I’ve stayed in some absolute fleapits.

What do you like to find in the minibar?

Just beer, really. I like Coopers Pale Ale.

Is there a city you could have given a miss?

Dare I say London? I know it’s probably changed but I lived there for almost a year in the early ’80s, when England’s economy was on the bones of its arse and the IRA was active. The band [Hunters & Collectors] went through this dreadful period, a crisis of identity, and we didn’t have a lot of money. I remember doing these labouring jobs in London, working illegally essentially.

Which destination was a surprise to you? 

At my first gig in Cairns, I wasn’t expecting much – I toured Queensland a hell of a lot and thought it was just another town on the coast – but those gigs are always interesting. They’re a dynamic, diverse crowd... and an attentive audience.

If you could be anywhere else in the world right now, where would you be?

Stockholm, probably; I love Sweden. Hunters & Collectors toured and had some pretty decent chart action there for a while. Stockholm is beautiful and old and has an enormous amount of style. The Swedes are intelligent and respectful and don’t think twice about breaking into your language, which I find incredibly humbling.

Are you over the constant travelling?

No, I enjoy travelling; I grew up doing it. I like moving around and I love driving. Otherwise I’d have stopped doing what I’m doing. Travel is such a big part of the job. 

SEE ALSO: Catching up with Peter Garrett