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Neil Finn: Secret God (from One Nil, 2001)

Neil Finn gives the impression he's happier than he has ever been. This year he's been around the country playing solo shows in small venues with contributions by ring-in local musicians, billing them as the Band of Strangers.

Soon he starts a five-night stand at the St James in Auckland with a guest list that includes Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, a couple of the guys from Radiohead, Johnny Marr from the Smiths and others. He's then off to Britain and also has Australian shows mid-year with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Oh, and his album One Nil released this week has already gone gold in New Zealand. He is a happy man very much at ease with his private and professional life.

"Everything I'm doing this year is completely unique for me and different to each other as well," he says with a broad smile, "so there's something wondrous in that. I've embraced my freedom and am thinking, I can do anything - so I might as well do it all.

"It's good to feel the strong passion for it. At this point it's not as career-based as it was, it's experience-based. I want my records to be heard and am ambitious for them, to a degree. But I'm also not creating ridiculously punishing schedules for myself, I'm leaving spaces. The idea was to do less this year, but to put more energy into each and they would be the more powerful for that.”

What follows is a transcript of a free-wheeling discussion taking in his early days in Split Enz, his Crowded House career, song writing and some specific memories.

Once again you are doing all this stuff all over again, the media, days of interviews both at home and abroad.

Yeah, I'm sticking my hand up, and it's good. Last year I didn't think I'd have the energy for it because it was a difficult year, with my mother [dying] and all that. But I've found a real burst of enthusiasm for the whole thing really since the year started.

Is that because the One Nil album is finished and you can read it as a compete entity and see what it was you think you were getting at?

It's more that it's lead me into another phase which I'm happy about. When you are making a record you're somehow out of the loop and in the musical process, but there's this real transition period where you have to take deep breath and say, "It's all about to start, have I got the energy for this?" I just wanted to put it out and start work on the next record.finn2

But in a way those processes are very valuable because once you get out and about you realise music lives in the moment and it's your performance on stage that night or whatever and suddenly you find new life in songs you got sick of. Or you get an idea of what you want to do next time, and you meet people and have experiences and that's what informs the next phase. And I'm really enjoying that, I'm particularly enjoying the performance. Every time I open my mouth at the moment I feel I've got to give it every ounce of energy I've got.

I take from what you say there have been periods where you haven't enjoyed performance?

Not many actually, but particularly lately I've realised the only thing I can be certain of is if I give everything I've got every time I open my mouth, whether it's a rehearsal or whatever, that the chances are the music will be good. I can't really manipulate anything else. I can do the press and the promotion and the videos and all that stuff, but I can't determine how any of that's going to be received or how the record's going to go down. But if you can open your mouth and mean it and deliver it to the maximum, then good things come of it.

You said "another phase" do you mean the phase of doing the live thing or ... ?

Yeah, having a record out. In a way I feel like with the recent university tour, the Band of Strangers, this gig coming up [a five night stand with various guests including Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder at the St James in Auckland, starting Monday April 2, 2001] and a tour in July in Australia with the Australian Chamber Orchestra that everything I'm doing this year is completely unique for me and different to each other as well, so there's something wondrous in that. I've embraced my freedom and am thinking, "I can do anything, so I might as well do it all!"

There's a soundtrack also [to the New Zealand film Rain, with Edmund McWilliams]?

I did that at the end of last year. I feel good.

You sound almost surprised?

I shouldn't be, but it's good to feel the strong passion for it. Because there are things that conspire to make you slip into a comfort zone which is easy to do, or go, "What's my motivation?" At this point it's not as career-based as it was, it's experience-based. I want my records to be heard obviously, and am ambitious for them to a degree. But I'm also not creating ridiculously punishing schedules for myself, I'm leaving spaces. The idea was to do less this year, but to put more energy into each and they would be the more powerful for that.

I've often wondered about that, there are some people whose tour schedule or diary is full for the next two years and I wonder how it must be to live like that, knowing whim or fancy is never going to enter your life for the next two years. Or the best idea could be presented and you couldn't act upon it because you have so many commitments.

There's pros and cons: the pro is it's better than sitting around waiting for something to happen. It was classic when Coldplay came through recently because obviously they have had an incredibly big trajectory last year from nothing to mega. And you could see them all reeling. They had a great time when they were here because they felt they were stepping outside a little bit, but you could tell they were like stunned mullets and I recognised that in their schedule.

When you are that age and that happens it's real easy to find you are doing it constantly because everyone says, "There's this great TV show which has opened up and you've got to do it." You just end up adding and adding - but it's exciting and when you are young you should just go for it. The only problem is they kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

It's easy to look at a schedule and think it looks alright, but living it you realise you've created hell for yourself. I think a lot of good people have gone down because they've been milked by record companies and management, not always evilly, but sometimes. But nevertheless it can sometimes kill creativity and people lose the will, because they didn't envisage it and all the romance has gone.

Some people can write in that lifestyle and if you can embrace the lifestyle, remain single, and not abuse yourself too much it's a bloody good way to live. But most people seem to crave stability and a base. There are a few people like Bob Dylan who still tour the planet, and I'm a great admirer of that. At some point he has decided that's his destiny, it's what he likes to do. To some degree I've gone for a balance.

You seem to have a good balance at the moment? 

It's been an evolving thing - I like the fact I'm working at home and recording. Some people think that's potentially not a good situation, to be working and living in one environment, but I've found it really good. The main thing is to be open to the people and places you are, and that could be anywhere. People can write great things in a shack in the middle of nowhere or in a garrett in the middle of the busiest city in the world. It's a matter of whether you are open to the experiences you are having.

Within a family there's the whole dynamic of all life. I think if you do embrace the rock'n'roll lifestyle with the clubs and fashion shows and models and so on, there's not a lot to write about in that world. There's not a lot happening underneath the surface.

Mick Hucknall [of Simply Red] writes about how shallow models are! 

As if we didn't know that already. But everyone chooses their own path and in some ways I've made my life difficult for myself because I was trying to have my cake and eat it too, but it's worked out brilliantly. This year has been great so far and although I'm not sure it's crystallised into a clear notion of what direction I'm heading, there's something between the university orientation shows and these shows [at the St James] and the ACO which feels really right to me, that this is where I should be. I'm at sea, but the best comes out when you are out of your comfort zone. whistle

Would it be fair to say the last album [Try Whistling This] was a solo album, but One Nil is a solo album with collaborators? 

Yeah, there was more of an influence from other people at the beginning of this album. The last album obviously I had other people playing on it, but I started it on my own. This album as a result has more consistency. Whether it's a better album or not I won't know for a few years, but it feels a little more at ease with itself.

It sounds like in trying less hard you are achieving much more. 

I hope so, it felt like that to me at the time. Of course it's hard for me to see it in the way anyone else sees it, but the tracks which pleased me the most are the ones I was least fussy about and just happened with a band in a room in a kind of old fashioned but wonderful way. A good band. Wow, what a concept.

And we were once told guitar bands were on their way out. Is there a future in that? 

There's definitely a past in it! People keep speculating whether we've seen the last of the great four-piece guitar bands, I tend to think not. It's just there are other genres which have become just as vital. In fact in terms of youth culture the dance scene is possibly more influential these days, certainly in New Zealand. There are some very exciting things going on in that sphere. Not that there isn't with bands but there are probably less examples of great New Zealand bands at the moment than there are great electronica acts.

You also have to listen to electronica in a slightly different way and because there is more effort the rewards are greater. 

Yeah, I think there's more going on than I'm aware of it and stuff that I like, I don't chose to listen to it that much at home but I like songs, and there are songs within that sphere. It's great music for doing something to, like having a bit of a paint. If you've got ambient electronic going in the background it creates an fertile atmosphere.

What I'd like to do is take you through what might be considered pivotal songs of your career and hear how you reflect on them, and we do lead to the new album. It would be churlish to not mention it. 

Yes, it would be quite nice to be able to refer to it.

So really it's just what comes up for you when you hear these songs. Random memories or whatever - but answer me this first: when was the last time you sat down and listened to an Enz or Crowdies album or Try Whistling This? 

Not recently. I had a phase a year or two ago where I listened to them, but I don't often. I hear them, on the radio by chance quite a lot.

Do you recognise them instantly? 

Funnily enough I don't. If I'm with [wife] Sharon she says, "Oh, there you are," but I often don't recognise them. If they're on at the supermarket and it's sort of ambient I'll take a while to pick up on it. They do take you back to specific memories in some way, how you did it or how you wrote them or what you were doing at the time.

Alright, first one then: Give it a Whirl with Split Enz from the 1979 album Frenzyfrenzy

I wrote it initially as a piece of music, just music, on acoustic guitar. It was at Chorley Wood [Hertfordshire] when Noel Crombie and I were living, in Split Enz' most broke but musically fertile year, 1978. I did it at 3am, Noel was lying on his bed and I thought he was asleep but after an hour - and I'd done a little overdub, we used to work between two cassette recorders, you can hear some of them on my website - and then Noel went, "That's good." I thought he was asleep!

A month later we did the rehearsal and totally transformed it into a big rock anthem. Tim wrote the words in the main, I think he may have written them all, I can't remember now.

You are a person who writes phrases which stick for people, and that phrase made me wonder whether you were thinking at the time, "Maybe I'll just give this, the Split Enz thing, a whirl and if it doesn't work out I'll go back to Tech in Auckland and become a plumber or something."? 

At that point I'd actually only just started to become okay, I'd been in Split Enz for a year and half being useless apart from a few vocal harmonies. I'd just started to play guitar a bit and that was the first song of mine Split Enz did. I remember it very fondly. We didn't play it live much, it was a hard one to get the right attitude for, but one of the delights of my musical life was hearing Shihad play it at Sweetwaters. They did a stonking version of it.

What's the worst version you've ever heard of someone doing one of your songs?

There's been a few. There's an Italian version of Don't Dream It's Over which is pretty bad, particularly because they rewrote the lyrics. I gave them permission because when the idea came across my desk I thought "That'll be funny!" I'm not sure if it was a great thing to do because in Italy there are probably fans of mine who were appalled that someone would take such liberties. The lyrics were something like, "I'll puff on my cigarette as you stroke my long hair." I don't know if I'm accurate with that, but somehow it became Don't Dream It's Over. That was bad. I've got a copy at home somewhere.

I Got You from 1980's True Colours? colours

I think Tim came up with title. We were sitting around in Rose Bay, Sydney writing for what became True Colours and feeding each other titles. I can't remember if I gave him a title - maybe Nobody Takes Me Seriously? But I might be wrong about that. But he gave me I Got You and I remember writing it pretty much in one go, always thinking the chorus was kind of weak and the verse was better.

At some point I thought I'd have to figure out how to make the chorus better. But when we rehearsed it, it felt really good straight away. Certainly when we recorded it there was big excitement hearing it back in the speakers - mostly because [producer] David Tickle used to play the stuff back at ear-splitting level. We knew it was pretty good but I didn't realise it was a hit until the first time I heard it on radio, and immediately recognised it was going to be pretty big - and that came after a meeting with Michael Gudinski of Mushroom who said, "I don't think there are any hits on it, but we'll give it a good shot anyway."

Is there an early song of yours where you thought, "Wow, I'm a songwriter, I can actually do this"?

There were two phases to that actually. I knew I could write a song when I was about 15. I wrote a few for a tour where I opened for Split Enz and did them solo and they went down well and I thought, "Yeah, these are pretty good pieces of music." But obviously when a song like I Got You becomes a big hit you realise there's something a bit magical going on and that means other people really get it. That was a wonderful feeling, we were really excited at the time.

There were a few aspects that were uncomfortable in way, being in Bourke Street Mall on a Friday night in Melbourne and having 15 schoolgirls pursuing you through David Jones. That was slightly disconcerting - but exciting in its own way as well. It's one of those things, when you get the teen thing going, there becomes a whole other level to success.

I've had a glimpse of it at a few points in my career but luckily never been trapped in that mode. It's been years since I've had screaming. Actually I lie, on the last concert tour in Dunedin there were screaming girls. It didn't happen anywhere else in the world. But on the first gig there there were screaming girls, they were mostly screaming for Liam though.

History Never Repeats? Is this one of yours which you have heard so often if you never heard it again it would be too soon? 

No, I like History Never Repeats. I played it recently with Jim Moginine [of Midnight Oil] and Wendy Melvoin [of Wendy and Lisa] on guitar and it was just awesome. So it's a song I actually quite like still. I wrote it in Perth, and everybody in the world called it History Repeats Itself. (laughs) At the time no one could get into their heads it was History Never Repeats. I think it's a good slogan for my current mindset, trying to make each year distinctive from the last.

I don't remember much mythology around that one. I remember playing it to Andrew Snoid when he was in the Swingers and him being really blown away by it. But then me at the same time listening to them do True or False on the Swingers' record [Practical Jokers] and being completely in awe of it. So there's always these situations where you exchange music with people and theirs sounds so much better to you - but it's the same for them though.

Can you pick a hit? 

I can pick for other people better than I can for myself. There are certain songs which are undeniable. The first time I heard Nirvana I knew that was going to be a huge hit, although I wouldn't have picked it as being as big as it was. Most of the time it's hard. I'm really not very good at picking my own songs. The big pop hits don't come along every time anyway, but albums have a life.

You've been at this long enough to observe the craft. Could you actually sit down and write a hit, swallow a whole lot of pride if necessary, and just do it?

There's two answers to that really. It's not like I sit down and try not to write a hit. Every time you sit down and write you have to imagine it might be a hit in order to will it into being. It's not that I'm thinking about other people listening to it when I'm writing it, but you have to convince yourself there's something great about it. But if I sat down and deliberately thought I wanted to write a hit and it would have a formula about it then you wouldn't be worried about the words being a bit trite or simple - because that tends to work and you're not giving people too much information to absorb.finn3

I've sometimes thought it would be quite fun to try and do that, and get somebody else to sing it. But I really don't know. I'd like to think I could because it's not rocket science. If you allow generic to be part of the formula, that it doesn't have to have anything distinctive about it, I probably could combine a few songs and make it. I don't know if I'll ever test the theory. I'd like think that I'd mine a vein of my own which became of the time, not deliberately but happened in an organic way. Then a hit would be very appealing, you'd feel you got there by some natural process.

You could write a hit for someone anonymously and a critic would rubbish it by saying "Finn-esque, derivative" and give it two stars.

Yeah, the good thing about where I'm at is also the bad thing. The good is there's a certain goodwill and longterm association [with me] that runs quite deep for a lot of people, and I recognise and really appreciate that. I feel lucky to have that. But when you've been around for a while there's also that thing of, "Well, what else can you give? How can you update this?" because you've settled in to a good-old-Neil zone in your life.

Do you feel like you are Uncle Neil? 

I suppose at times, not to linger on it. I don't have a craving to be one of the kids anymore. I'm comfortable with my own skin. But I also want to resist the temptation of the industry to put you in the age-ist bracket. They do that a lot. I hear [radio station] ZM was saying Don McGlashan was too old to play. I don't know if that's true, but if it is what an appalling way to talk about it. Saying the song doesn't suit us is one thing, but to say someone's too old is another.

I may be wrong and that might be a misquote, but it certainly happens at Radio One in Britain. I would fall into the too-old-to-play on Radio One. That's stupid quite frankly.

Most people on the planet are not one thing or the other and radio assumes through their marketing and research we have an easy listening audience from 20 to 45 who only likes this, or they have an alternative audience who only likes that. In actual fact there are a huge amount of people who listen to a bit of everything.

What do you listen to, [campus radio] 95bFM, Classic Hits or some station you've tuned in to on the Net? 

I only ever listen in the car and I have it set between bFM and the National Programme and every now and again I listen to [rock station] Channel Z - but it's a bit teenage, but I hear [son Liam's band] betchadupa on there - and it's good to hear your son on the radio!

Moving right along: One Step Ahead from the 1981 Enz album Waiata a.k.a. Corroboree? waiata

I wrote that in a hotel room in Melbourne. Noel Crombie actually wrote a set of lyrics for that because I was having trouble, and he wrote this really funny stuff. I think it's somewhere in my memorabilia files. Noel used to write in a very phonetic way. I did use one of his lines: "One step ahead of you, makes it hard to move" or something like that. It was a bit of a magic moment in the studio when we got that one. Eddie [Rayner] had some wonderful keyboard parts in there. We mixed it at Farmyard and I remember the mix being really exciting. That is all I remember.

So far when you've spoken about these songs you've remembered specific place, time and so on. 

I probably remember where I wrote most songs.

So you don't write over a period of time, the genesis of a song comes very quickly? 

Mostly, although sometimes bits sit around for years and become re-joined with other bits. But One Step Ahead? Yeah, I wrote that in a hotel room and I've still got the tape. In fact the tape was on my website of the writing of that, with me blah-blah-blahing, just a scratchy old cassette recording. But it was written in one go. Not all the lyrics. The main phrase of most songs comes and somehow the other lines ... I always want to convince myself that I'll finish all the lyrics at one time because it makes it a helluva lot easier. But usually when I've written something I'm so flush with excitement I'll go off and have a cup of tea as a reward and by the time I come back the song is in a different zone.

Mean to Me from the first Crowded House album in 86? 

It was two songs we flung together in LA before the first album. The verse was something I'd written on a tour of New Zealand I did with Dave Dobbyn under the absolutely shocking moniker of the Party Boys. Mike Chunn and Peter "Rooda" Warren were on it too. We played Palmerston North and I was sick as a dog and this girl turned up from America.

She'd written to my parents to say she was coming to New Zealand and was a massive Split Enz fan and would it be possible for me to meet her and it would just be the fulfillment of a dream. It was a really over the top letter. As it turned out I met her in Palmerston and I was sick and only had 10 minutes with her and we sat and talked.

Then I came back an hour later and she was dancing with Gary McCormick (laughs) and so I wrote those lines in which I did intimate that they'd got it on, as it were. I don't know for a fact they did, but she bailed me up in LA about three years later and was most upset because I'd intimated in an interview she'd got it on with Gary. She swears she didn't. I felt chastened by that.

But the verse was inspired by that and the chorus was an old piece of music I'd had from years before and [producer] Mitchell [Froom] heard me play it and said, "That would go well with that" and he's usually very good at that sort of thing. We did the rhythm track after all the others. Me and Paul [Hester] just played the rhythm track on our own for the sake of ease.neil_closeup

It's interesting writing about somebody's life and putting it in a song. I spoke to Richard Thompson recently and he said he was always trying to write a piece of music that would mean something to someone's life. But to actually write about someone's life that's a whole other thing. Which brings us to Hole in the River which is an intensely personal song about the death of your father's sister. 

Yeah, I've only done it a few times, writing directly about events. Mean to Me was one and Hole in the River was another. I still rate the song as being really good. All the lyrics came in one go and obviously it was about a tragic family event. It was a difficult thing and it didn't go down very well within the family. It wasn't well received and I understand completely and totally, and sympathise with their point of view.

Cathartic for you?

It had its own intensity. I basically wrote down what I was told and I was writing a piece of music at the time I was told, so it was one of those things which seemed to demand to be written. I suppose I could have chosen not to air it, but there was a compulsion to have what I thought was one of the strongest pieces of music around be out there. It has got some reticence and awkwardness about it. I would hope with the passage of time it has become what at the time I thought it was, the most positive way I could reflect on something which was tragic.

Truman Capote had that problem, "What did you think? I was always a writer." Do you occasionally think, looking at things in the family, "there's the genesis of a good idea here" but feel you have to put it maybe two steps removed to address it? 

It's a consistent consideration ... all those "con" words. Sorry, on a total tangent now, but didn't I read recently the American Nation of Islam believe that all words that begin with "con" are evil, and they are "white," like conspiracy, consistency ... I thought that was a fascinating notion. If a paranoid one. So anyway ... I'm able within myself to very easily think that once the song is written it's about him, the guy who is singing it.

It's not really about me or what's going on in my life at the moment. Generally anyway. There have been a few exceptions but people sometimes listen to them like bits of confessional and there are elements of truth in that aspect as well. But it almost always goes through a transition where I imagine myself as the person singing the song, not to deliberately cloud the issue but to make it more open-ended and less tied to a specific incident.

I like to incorporate different events into the one thing, the formula of truth and reality and in-between is different for every song, but there's always an element of all three. I have been uncomfortable when people assume my life is a certain way because they hear my songs. There's an awkwardness for people close to you if people are reading it like that. I'm not sure what to do about that because I've never been able to edit myself out of that zone.

I like the feeling the songs inhabit spaces that are difficult for people to talk about, and so they gain some degree of empathy or comfort from listening to them. The songs express emotions that are the awkward ones, the ones that are betwixt and between.

Has anybody approached you about doing an analysis of all your music and lyrics in the manner of Revolution in the Head, the book about the Beatles lyrics and music? 

No, not really. There are a couple of sites where the fans analyse them, but I've never looked at it because I don't really want to know. I'm happy they feel so strongly that they want to do it, but I don't want to engage in that conversation. I've always believed - and certainly in the early days - that I wasn't a natural lyricist.

There are people out there I admire much more than me, and I don't say that out of any false humility. But I think I've ended up with some songs I'd feel really proud of as lyrics but it's a battle for me to get them into that shape for me to say, "That's okay." It something difficult for me to get used to that they are okay. It means more to me now that they are okay, I like to be able to read them on the page and think at the very least they have a sense of atmosphere and place. Occasionally they come very easily, the best often come as a group. Sometimes I'm struggling on two lines for a month.woodface

The next one I'm asking about, Four Seasons in One Day from Woodface in 91, co-written with Tim, it sounds like it came very naturally. 

Yeah it did. The music was written first. I spent an afternoon in Melbourne one day playing an E-Max, a keyboard with string sounds on it, and I spent a day just writing string parts and playing piano parts. The music for both Into Temptation and Four Seasons in One Day happened at the same time.

They were part of the same piece at one point, and they are sister songs in tempo and atmosphere. When Tim and I started writing songs for the first Finn brothers record - which became Woodface - there was a day when I put that down and we threw lyrics at each other and they came very quickly. I can't remember whether it was his title or not, but generally Tim is very good with titles.

Private Universe from Together Alone in 93? It reminds me of that great George Harrison psychedelic line, "Show me that I'm everywhere, and get me home for tea." 

Yeah, a nice mix of the ethereal and the every day in that song. It's probably one of the songs I'm most proud of because it seems to have existed in many different incarnations. For instance on this last tour with the Band of Strangers in Wellington we did it with a cello, saxophone and slide guitar and me and it sounded amazing and beautiful.

The song lends itself to any number of arrangements. The first verse is very much connected to my childhood, being up this apple tree I used to climb and spying on the neighbours, and it's also very much connected to being in the house we had in Melbourne so there's a mid life thing too. But it's also about your whole life and how you create your private domain. I don't know that it has a clear narrative but it has a deep sense of atmosphere.

That comes back to what you said previously about the public and the private man, that the person singing is not the same as the person who wrote the song.

I'm always able to draw that line once the song is written, perhaps that makes it easier to not have to explain myself in the real world. Songs are an alternative reality, or they should be. They shouldn't be just confessional. There are people who write songs like that, but I think you start to wonder what the reality is they are trying to create: the one they've been writing about? There are people like Nick Cave out there whose public and private lives have been joined at the hip, and I don't find that a particularly attractive notion. I like his work, but I don't know if I'd like to be Nick Cave.

Suffer Never from the Finn album of 95? 

I wrote that in the basement here in Auckland with Tim. Whenever I'm writing with Tim it's always sort of drifting about together and then we find ourselves locked in the moment and it sounds good. It's kind of willing another line out of the air and sometimes it's him and sometimes it's me, and you get a really enjoyable process happening.

It's a love song about not wishing ill of women, wishing them strength and comfort and recognising they are the great earth mother. But that's over-explaining things too. When we put that down in the studio it was late one night and we'd had a few at that point and it was the first take. Neither of us thought we'd done anything but we came down in the morning and realised it was quite a wonderful performance. Which is not to say I'm encouraging anybody to over-indulge to create music, but that was one occasion where it did work.

Instinct, which I think came from one of the last Crowded House sessions? 

Not one of my favourite songs actually. There are others of the period which I think are stronger, Not the Girl You Think You Are is much stronger. I think the demo I did was good, I was disappointed in the recording. But it's definitely a song about breaking things up and following your nose. "I lit the match and saw another monster turn to ash."

You said to me once a long time ago that bands have a natural lifespan.

I think they do. There are bands that have a long life. I was very interested in the new U2 album from that point view, "Can they do it again? Can they reinvent themselves?" I think they did it brilliantly on Achtung Baby, and I have great admiration and respect for them generally. I think they've handled their career in a wonderful way. But I'm not a big fan of the new record because it feels to me it's kind of safe in way - and also strangely pop for them.

I only mention them because they have lasted the longest time at that high level and have managed to keep a nose in front of the opposition But I believe every band has a lifespan, we didn't have maybe as long as I would have liked with Crowded House. But I also believe in the sanctity of a line-up.

If the Beatles had gone on without John Lennon it would have been a disaster, they didn't so their legend is totally intact. I shouldn't pick them though, I've been burdened with that comparison for a long time.

I think when Paul Hester left the chemistry was different. We could have found another drummer and kept the brand name but it didn't feel like Crowded House anymore. Actually I'm giving him too much credit (laughs). But nevertheless we started together and there was something about the chemistry that really created a lot of excitement, live especially so. And he's a great drummer too.finn1

If Instinct was about lighting the match was the title alone of Last One Standing on your first solo album deliberate? 

Self-referencing you mean? The ideal thing for me with any song is to have two or three options as to how you could look at a title or a thing, that open-endedness.

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TERRY REID REVISITED (2016): Take me to the River, and to the other side

It's probably safe to say that unless you were there at the time or are an avid reader of the rear-view looking British rock monthlies, you've never heard of bands like Spooky Tooth, Steeleye... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

Facing down an avalanche of releases, requests for coverage, the occasional demand that we be interested in their new album (sometimes with that absurd comment "but don't write about it if you... > Read more

HERALDING A NEW CAREER: And who are you?

HERALDING A NEW CAREER: And who are you?

I no more expected to be a journalist than I did being a teacher. But there I was in 1987 leaving a teaching career after about 12 years in classrooms to start as a senior feature writer at the New... > Read more