Recently the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA as most know them, asked iconic Australian band Hunters & Collectors to change their name. This issue Questioning looks at the “request”, and where Hunters & Collectors really got their name from.
So … this sounds like a bad publicity stunt …
Yep, that’s how it feels to me too.
And you are feeding the publicity machine why?
Because it’s a spectacularly bad publicity stunt.
OK, let’s step back for a second. What did PETA want Hunters & Collectors to do, and why?
PETA wanted Hunters to change their name, because they believed that it could potentially be seen as both supporting and encouraging duck hunting.
Did Hunters & Collectors get their name from their love of duck hunting? Do they even love duck hunting at all?
Early attempts to contact Hunters & Collectors about their passion for duck hunting have gone unanswered. But it is relatively well known that the band took their name from a song by German band Can, off their 1975 album Landed.
Right, now we are getting somewhere. Who were Can, and why did a Melbourne band name themselves after one of their songs?
Can were one of the most influential bands of post-war Germany, combining styles as diverse as avant-jazz, rock, funk, glam, electronic and world music into an eclectic blend. The band are considered to be some of the forbearers of Krautrock, heavily leaning on the trademark motorik beat, but their material dives far beyond just one genre or style. Other than the aforementioned Hunters & Collectors, bands such as Spoon and the Mooney Suzuki have named themselves after songs or members of Can.
Right. So, what were Can’s opinions about duck hunting? Were they firearm fiends?
After some extensive research, BMA can find no links between Can, or any of their critical members, and hunting. The band are usually considered to firmly be members of the counterculture of the time, and drummer Jaki Liebezeit later suggested that the band’s name could stand for “Communism, Anarchism, Nihilism.” Not exactly the characterisation of mad hunters.
The song ‘Hunters and Collectors’ itself does mention shooting, but it appears not to be in the context of hunting animals, but perhaps bad people. Most importantly, the song refers to the hunters and collectors all coming out at night, whereas duck hunting primarily occurs during the morning and afternoon flights of ducks. It is, however, an extremely dope song that everyone reading should check out.
So the song ‘Hunters and Collectors’, and subsequently the name of the band, is not about duck hunting?
Almost certainly correct. Short of an interview of the remaining members of Can, BMA can’t be certain about this, but it is highly unlikely.
Wait, that song was from 1975? When did Hunters & Collectors pick their name?
In 1981, a few years after Landed came out.
So … why did PETA wait until now to make the request?
I have no idea.
I mean, the band hasn’t released anything recently, have they?
Nope, no original albums since 1998. They still tour infrequently, but they really haven’t been a continuously going concern for about two decades. Since then, frontman Mark Seymour has kept himself quite busy releasing around eight studio albums in that time, none dedicated to duck hunting (at least according to BMA’s research).
The timing seems a bit off …
Well, it must be noted that PETA Australia didn’t even exist until 2008, a solid 33 years after Can released the song and 27 years after the Hunters picked a name. But since then the band has played at Sound Relief, the AFL Grand Final and won a Helpmann Award for Best Australian Contemporary Concert. So yeah, they probably could have picked a more appropriate time too.
But asking a band who doesn’t really exist much anymore to change their name?
Yeah, it’s an odd one. It’s the sort of move that alienates those sympathetic to their causes (such as vegetarians like me), and gives the impression that the PR battle is far more important than creating substantive change on the issues that they care about. By moving to the “stunt” end of things, it merely leads the public to trivialise the (in my opinion) fair causes that they fight for, and push the real message to the margins. And to call it just a cheap joke insinuates that the original call was funny, which … yeah, it wasn’t.
It’s both dated and doesn’t make sense, the Holy Grail of shithouse joke construction …
If it was 35 years ago and topical, and relevant to what their name was actually about, and delivered in a format other than a staid press release forwarded to just about every media outlet in the country, and written well instead of shabbily … then it might have worked. Maybe.
But didn’t PETA write a column in the Adelaide Advertiser claiming it was a success?
They did, but it wasn’t. PETA claimed that the campaign was never meant to work, and it was successful because it got people talking about duck hunting – although a scan of comments sections carrying the original story barely mention duck hunting at all. Indeed, most mention the “PC culture” and tone deafness of the press release. Which again takes away from the seriousness of the issue at hand, and distracts real debate about the legality and ethical quandaries around duck hunting.
So the takeaways here are …
PETA needs to become friends with some comedians, everyone reading this should listen to some Can. And some early Hunters & Collectors. If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that I got to write about Can, and hopefully a few more people got to hear how good they are. And Mark Seymour can write a tune or two as well.
So PETA did a good thing then …
Dammit, yes. But also no.