History is repeating for Split Enz fans.

ENZSO, the groundbreaking musical event in which the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra performed hits by the Kiwi supergroup with a host of local pop stars, has been recreated to celebrate its 21st birthday.

Keyboardist Eddie Rayner has put together ENZO, a new take on the 1996 musical event, featuring an "Enzemble" of him and three other Split Enz members plus 10 classical musicians, with singers Rima Te Wiata, Rikki Morris and Phil Madsen.

The concerts will be a musical trip down memory lane for fans of the band, which included at various times Rayner, Finn brothers Tim and Neil, Chunn brothers Mike and Geoff, Phil Judd, Paul Hester, Noel Crombie and Nigel Griggs.


Rayner said audiences will hear "every song they know, from Message To My Girl, I Hope I Never, I Got You, Dirty Creature, Six Months in a Leaky Boat, One Step Ahead".

"The songs have seeped into public consciousness and they are classic songs," said Rayner, 65, who was with the band from 1973 until its break-up in 1984.

Split Enz had 10 albums in the NZ music charts top 10, including four at No 1 from 1980-82 when it also had three make No 1 in Australia. The band, which played from 1972-84, also charted in the UK, US and Canada.

Eddie Rayner playing with Split Enz. A lot of the band's hits are still played on the radio today. Photo / Supplied
Eddie Rayner playing with Split Enz. A lot of the band's hits are still played on the radio today. Photo / Supplied

"There's a lot of [the band's hits] still being played on the radio. God forbid, I go to the supermarket every day and I'll hear a Split Enz song without a doubt."

ENZO, which played at Melbourne's Hamer Hall arts centre in November, features Mike Chunn (for the Auckland concert) and fellow former Split Enz members Paul Crowther and Michael Barker (drummer for the band's last tour).

It is "more like a traditional dance hall band" than the 1996 ENZSO, Rayner said.

ENZSO, which Rayner started, featured singers including Tim and Neil Finn, Dave Dobbyn and Annie Crummer, backed by the NZ Symphony Orchestra and NZ Youth Choir. It toured the country and spawned an album which went to No 2 in New Zealand and No 4 in Australia.

Rayner, Split Enz' keyboardist, also contributed to the writing of several of the band's songs including My Mistake and Six Months in a Leaky Boat.


His first band was Hungry Dog, which a mate asked him to join after he left Pakuranga College.

Split Enz' recognisable styling helped propel them to stardom. Photo / Supplied
Split Enz' recognisable styling helped propel them to stardom. Photo / Supplied

Without an instrument at the time, he caught a bus into town and bought a $200 combo organ on hire purchase to launch his musical career.

He played for a number of groups including Space Waltz, which had NZ No 1 single Out On The Street in 1974, before joining Split Enz.

Despite their international success, band members remained grounded, Rayner said.

"We weren't a band in the traditional kind of rock band sense. There were never the excesses that you read about with other notorious bands.

"We were pretty tame I think. I guess we were so straight that we were completely wacky."


But Rayner suspects the toll of years of touring – with "not having had a home, travelling different time zones" - resulted in him being plagued by panic attacks.

"I had my first panic attack [and] I became another person," he said.

"Prior to that I'd been very, very happy… affable, easy going, congenial… and excited about the future.

"But with these panic attacks… it felt like I had been possessed or somehow my body had been invaded by some black, dark, evil force. And it went on for years."

He can vividly recall his first attack, in 1977.

In Brisbane for a concert that night, he was about to eat dinner at a hotel, "and bang, this thing hit me".


"I just thought, something's invading, I've got to go, and I jumped up and I ran. And I ran and I ran.

"I must have run for a couple of [kilometres] around the streets of Brisbane trying to get away from something that I felt was trying to get in."

New Zealand band Split Enz in 1976.
New Zealand band Split Enz in 1976.

He said he went to medical professionals and tried alternate therapy to rid himself of the attacks, which occurred daily for around a decade, lasting for minutes to hours.

Eventually he came to realise the attacks "would always go away [and were] never going to kill me" and they "slowly, slowly just went away, over a period of a couple of years".

Rayner said it was initially hard when Split Enz broke up.

"It was a little bit like losing your family… I felt a little bit rudderless.


"I certainly missed the camaraderie and the laughter and the jibbing between friends, and the hoaxes."

His musical reputation was such that Paul McCartney invited him to play keyboards on his solo album Press to Play released in 1986.

"I can just remember me, Phil Collins, Pete Townshend, Eric Stewart from 10cc, Carlos Alomar from David Bowie's band and Paul McCartney, all in the same room playing as a band. It was unbelievable."

Rayner started his own band The Makers and was "a permanent side guy" for Crowded House for three years.

More recently he was musical director on New Zealand Idol.

Rayner, whose son Harley is one half of dubstep duo Mt Eden, is also now part of band The Magnificent Seven along with Jordan Luck and Peter Urlich. "Our repertoire is Split Enz, [Th'] Dudes and [The] Exponents."


He has been mixing 70 recordings of Split Enz playing live in venues around the world. He released 30 in album Live, Alive Oh, and plans to release the remaining 40 in an album early next year.

Split Enz reunited in 1986 for a Greenpeace benefit concert, in 1992 for a 20th anniversary tour, and appeared on TV in 2002 to celebrate their 30th anniversary. They also toured in 2006 and in 2008.

But Rayner doubted there would be another reunion. "Everybody's got too much going on in their lives."

Neil Finn has joined superstars Fleetwood Mac.

Rayner still felt close to his former Split Enz members.

"I just feel incredibly privileged really to have been part of that collection of creative minds."


• The group play tonight at Christchurch's Isaac Theatre Royal , and in Auckland at the Civic on May 18.