Interview: Seb Hunter

Much like the staff here at State, Seb Hunter loves music, and he loves to write. He also loves a challenge, and lives his life in a state of perpetual indie love-in, playing in two different bands and listening to the latest pretty little things. Or, for two years, listening to only classical music (almost), and trying to explain to us what all the fuss is about in his popular, comic book Rock Me Amadeus. In short, Seb is very much our kind of guy, which is why we thought we’d ask him about life as a successful freelance writer in your mid 30s, who still acts like a 16 year old. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the musical Dave Gorman’¦

You describe yourself as an indie kid who never grew up. What makes you so into music? Do you think you can carry on being an indie kid forever?
I suppose I’ve just never lost that wide-eyed, child-like passion for music which inspired and waylaid me so much as a youth. A lot of people reach a point in their lives where music just sort of stops, and their musical tastes never really develop from that point onward, their listening has been frozen in perpetual aspic. I’ve been lucky / cursed to be as excited by music as I was when I was 15. In fact probably more so. And this is a very tiring / tiresome state of affairs, yes. It feels like I’m always chasing my own tail – trying to catch up with my listening, to get on top of the piles and the downloads and the CDRs and the God knows what else.

You have a comedy band… how does that work, and what kind of music do you perform?
Ah, you refer here to my teenage metal band, Winchester’s finest, the Trash Can Junkies. My first book, Hell Bent for Leather, documents my spectacular failure to make it as a rock musician, and this band’s copious failures feature prominently. We reformed the band for the launch party of the book, which was great fun and profound and moving and all of that, but then unfortunately afterwards got kind of carried away with ourselves and continued to play -hilarious’, and -ironic’ gigs, which nobody enjoyed, not even ourselves anymore. That joke wasn’t funny anymore. And it’s still not. We are available for weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals, you name it. Owen, our singer, strips down to his pants whilst dressed as a fairy. It’s sort of his -thing’. It’s horrific. In fact I really wish you hadn’t asked this question. I feel sick.

What about Crater – do you have serious ambitions, or is it just a bit of fun?
Ah yes, Crater is serious; indeed it’s almost the perfect antidote to the above. We are a non-idiomatic electroacoustic improvising trio, which means we just make it all up as we go along. Usually guitar, bass and drums. All improvised. You might call it musical expressionism. We’re not doing it to get famous. Which is fortunate, if you’ve heard us, since it’s all somewhat leftfield. You can hear more here:

Who inspires your writing… or are your schemes just crazy ideas you think up after a few pints?
Good question. They always seem like good ideas at the time. It’s only afterwards that I realise that, for example, spending two years writing a book about classical music for people who don’t like classical music (Rock Me Amadeus: When Ignorance Meets High Art, Things Can Get Messy) might not be the most sensible or commercially-minded idea I’ve ever had. And then after that a book about spending two years doing as much and as varied volunteering work as I could find. Very sexy, very commercial, I don’t think so. I am basically a complete liability to my own career. Which makes things difficult, obviously. I am very happy now just to be told what to do. Like a child.

You clearly hated classical music before you started out on Rock Me Amadeus… what made you decide to learn about it anyway?
I thought it was a good idea at the time. Educational, you know? Was it possible, with two years’ complete and total immersion, to feel as passionate about classical music (which I knew nothing about) as I did about the rock music I’d loved all my life? It was like an experiment. An experiment that frequently went horribly, horribly wrong.

Be honest…. do you actually like classical music now? Or is it just something you felt like you had to go through?
Completely totally honestly I adore classical music now. I understand it. I know what I’m listening to. I have context. In fact probably 40-50% of my musical listening is now classical. Crazy, huh? So even if my incredible, amazing, hilarious, masterpiece of a book sold precisely fuck all copies, at least I now have this. Yet more music to completely obsess over.

Did you start to see the connections between classical and your own taste in pop/ rock music?
Musically not so much, but insofar as extreme, rampant egomania, then yes, very much so. Beethoven / Bono – both unbearable, up-themselves morons. Harpsichord or Hammond organ, show me a musician and I’ll show you a self-important, puffed-up twat. And therein lies the magic! It’s a fair exchange, at the end of the day. Fair dos.

Your more recent book was about being a better person… did it work?
I reckon. At least I hope so. A little. I’m still very involved with a local asylum seekers’ visitors group, which provides very basic humanitarian assistance to some of the most disenfranchised members of our communities. Some of the other stuff I did was less rewarding, however. I was bullied by a 70 year-old in Oxfam, banned from a zoo, attacked by a -prisoner’ in some cells on an army base, badly damaged my knees, was mocked generally by busloads of pensioners, and fired from my local hospital radio station for swearing live on air. Even though I didn’t actually swear, I was joking about shagging the nurses. That’s not swearing! I’m still very bitter about this.

What would you recommend our readers do if they want to be better people?
1. Set fire to the Daily Mail wherever you see a copy lying about.
2. Buy a copy of my excellent new paperback How to be a Better Person.
3. Read it.
4. Ignore everything in it.
5. Go and do something useful instead, such as popping down your local newsagent and setting fire to all their Daily Mails. They won’t mind.

We heard you’re about 2/3rds of the way through your next book. Tell us about it….
I’m adopted, and as soon as our first child was born a few years ago, I suddenly and for the first time, felt a profound desire to trace my birth mother and father. So the book documents this process. I hired a private detective and all of that. It’s been very full-on, very nerve-wracking, terrifying really, to be honest. But incredible too. And writing about this has been wonderfully therapeutic. It’s made sense of some of the weirdness. And there has been plenty of weirdness. There continues to be weirdness. In fact just a few weeks ago I learned that I’m actually Scottish. Which is a funny thing to learn at 38 years old. Hoots!

As published on, March 2010.

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