�I MET a miner in the Western Desert one night after a show in Onslow. He was 62, lived in Caloundra and had been travelling across the country every two weeks for the last 17 years �to work in this hole� as he put it. I said, �Why don�t you stop�? �Because the money�s too good,� he said.�
Mayday, Mark Seymour�s latest album with band The Undertow that released last Friday, addresses notions of home.
It is filled with Australian stories like the Two Dollar Punter who �shook the hand of the smuggler� for the hope of a better life, the boy who might not have a home but has a footy team in Football Train and the WA miner who has spent 17 years as a fly-in, fly-out worker �halfway between hell and nowhere�.
�I think the FIFO story is pretty interesting,� Seymour said.
�It�s particularly germane to Western Australia.
�We started going over there a lot and doing mining towns and camps.
�We ended up in some very, very rough places and playing to itinerant workers� and I ended up conversing with people who were in those places and that song emerged from that experience.
�I like the idea of documenting a particular time in history, especially given that�s quite a contemporary scenario and having direct contact with people who come up to me out of the audience often bears fruit for me.�
Mayday is Seymour�s first album since Hunters and Collectors� reformation and tribute album Crucible, which led to the band performing at the AFL Grand Final, with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and The Rolling Stones and a tour that won the 2014 Helpmann Award for best Australian contemporary concert.
So where did he find the time to create an album that he says was �the hardest record to make and definitely the most personal�?
�I deliberately set out to get the writing underway at the beginning of last year, well earlier than that, because I could see this Hunters thing looming,� he said.
�It was so full on that I pretty much didn�t do anything else but we really bedded a lot of material down prior to that.
�We just went about it in a fairly left-brain way, booking in rehearsal rooms anywhere and saying �Let�s just get together and play�.
�It really loosened up my songwriting, so I was knocking things up on the iPhone just with an acoustic guitar and throwing ideas at them and as a consequence the songs structurally are very simple.
�A lot of them are quite blues-based, inverting three chords and I just sing over them � keeping things very rudimentary and it just merges like storytelling.
�It�s melodic rap so it�s very loose and simple but live, it�s a really effective way of writing songs because they�re very easy to translate in front of an audience.�
Mayday is also a political record.
�It�s important to maintain open conversation with people about politics because we�ll end up being ripped off otherwise,� he said.
�I believe society can be improved and our general condition can be made better and the only way that�s going to happen is through conversation and dialogue between ordinary people, however that happens.
�People don�t have to agree with me of course, but if the conversation is shut down or stopped, or we narrow down what we�re prepared to engaged and discuss in public, then I think we�re in trouble.
�Broadly speaking, I just think I�d like people to really listen to the record and to try and absorb what the stories are about and to appreciate the musical chemistry of the band � it�s pretty bloody good.�
To celebrate the release of Mayday, Seymour and The Undertow � made up of Cameron McKenzie (ex-Horsehead), John Favaro (ex-Badloves) and Peter Maslen (Boom Crash Opera) � will perform a string of theatre shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
He said they plan to come to Perth at a later stage but �in a different incarnation�.