I'm right on the water at Eastern Beach. It's an old 60s house and my studio is in the rumpus room. The view out of my window is just beautiful. Especially now, in summer. It's stunning. Swims and walks along the beach are regular occurrences.
Tim [Finn] and I were up at his brother Neil's place one day and Tim blurted out that he thought we should do something together. I thought, "Yep, I'd love to." I love working with Tim. He's fun to work with, very open and not particularly controlling. The last time I worked with him was probably 10 years ago.
He had this idea of using small snippets of old Split Enz material as a starting point to construct new songs. This really appealed to me so I had a go at one and sent it off to Tim. Within what seemed like minutes Tim had written lyrics, recorded them and sent them back. We had a song really quickly. It galvanised us into action. I think we finished about 15 songs in that manner.
Tim's credited the Forenzics idea to Brian Eno, in a way, but the funny thing is I don't think Tim was there at the time. We were in the studio doing a rhythm track for a song called Walking Down a Road from Split Enz's second album Second Thoughts in 1976. We were at the point where it's just piano, bass and drums and Eno, who was a good friend of [producer] Phil Manzanera because they were both in Roxy Music, happened to pop in. His first comment was, "It sounds great. Leave it the way it is. I love this!" Of course, we took no notice of him but relating the story to Tim, he was impressed by it. It stuck with him all these years.
Even back then, Eno was the guy who held court. People would sit at his feet and listen to him expounding on various concepts and things. He had that aspect to his nature. He drew a certain crowd to him, the art crowd, and we were lucky enough to fall into that genre so we were accepted by him and his lot. We used to often find ourselves at parties where he'd been found in the corner holding court, a whole bevy of young ladies sitting at his feet.
Back then it was very difficult to define Split Enz. The punk movement, bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols, Siouxsie Sioux and people like that, used to come to our gigs but they weren't quite sure about us. I think they loved aspects of the band and hated aspects of the band. They didn't like the music, I don't think, because it was too sophisticated and you had to be a good musician to play it, so they didn't want to know about that. But they loved the look, especially the haircuts. This was around 1976. I'm not going to say we influenced the mohawk, the unusual haircuts that the punks used to have, but you have to ask yourself the question, don't you?
Growing up there was always a piano in our house. Dad was a great piano player. He was one of those players who sounded as if there were two people playing. But Dad didn't teach me anything and he'd only ever play behind closed doors. I had a few piano lessons like everybody does when they're 8 years old. I went through that for several months and thought I was going to be quite good but I lost the vibe. I got into athletics instead.
It wasn't until I was expelled from secondary school that a friend said, "Let's form a band." We hopped on the bus, went into Queen St and I bought a Vox organ on hire purchase. I paid $200 and bought it because The Animals and The Doors had one. They sounded great but when I played it, it sounded horrible.
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Around 1971 I moved to Christchurch and bought a little upright piano from a secondhand shop. I spent the year teaching myself by ear from records and trying to gain as much knowledge as I could. That's how I learned the art of being a piano player.
Coming back to Auckland, Split Enz was around and we kind of knew each other. I was in a band called Space Waltz and even though I loved playing with them, I secretly wanted to be in Split Enz. There was something about their sound that I loved.
When they needed a keyboard player they asked me to come to a rehearsal. I joined the band that night and the rest is history. I was very torn at the time and feel guilty to this day that I didn't stay with Space Waltz. But I was so happy to be in Split Enz. I felt like I was home.
Tim and I have spoken a lot about playing some Forenzics shows and both of us concur that we don't want to go out as a rock band and play loud on huge stages. We'd have to play some of the old stuff but this new material is not a rock show. It would be smaller and, I guess, more age-appropriate.
We'd love to go out and play live but who knows what's going to happen.
*As told to Karl Puschmann
Forenzics, the new project from former Split Enz members Eddie Rayner and Tim Finn, releases the debut album Shades and Echoes, on February 4.