> interview <|
by Peter Green, 2nd April 1998
Peter - Tell us about the recording of your first solo album-it started in your basement studio in NZ, then moved to New York. Why did you make the move to NYC?
Neil - It's like when you've been rehearsing and playing in your bedroom for months and you have to go out and actually play to an audience at some point. It felt a bit like that with the record. I was having a great time in my basement, have a few friends drop by and just getting down to it. But I was in danger of dithering for about another six months because I was in NZ and everything was a little too easy. So, I wanted to go to NYC where there would be studio time ticking over and a bit of an urban enviroment and you get to listen to your music in the context of a bigger picture.
Peter - Did any news songs come from going to NY?
Neil - All the songs were written before I went to NY, they were all worked on before I went to NY, but they all come up in energy level, because I get there and put them up and they sound introspective to me. They would sound like they were done in a basement, which they were. Everytime Sebastian Steinberg put some bass on the tracks it just sounded more lively and deeper and fatter. I'd put a few drum things on and worked up a few loops which made them a bit more exciting.
Peter - How does Sebastian rate as a Bass Player? (I direct this question to Nick Seymour who just happens to be in the room).
Nick - It's a huge bass sound. I was really stunned at how big that bass sound was. I thought it had something to do with Neil's compressor.
Neil - He thought it was me. I should have told him "yeah I just found this new technique." Actually it's mostly Sebastian - he plays double bass, which was a fun thing to watch.
Peter - Was there a regular recording schedule in New York?
Neil - We had a (recording) schedule in Crowded House, except nobody kept to it. (laughs) There was a schedule (in NY). We'd get to the studio at about 11.00 or 12.00 and work till about 9.00 or 10.00. We didn't do any New York hours, working up to 3.00am. I've got a family. If you have a family you just get used to waking up early and going to bed early. That's the way you like it after awhile, and that's the hours I work.
Peter - I heard that "Spirit of the Stairs" might not make the album.
Neil - It's not on the album.
Peter - Why is that? How do you pick the songs that don't go on?
Neil - I was trying to strip the album down to 12 tracks because I thought 14 was too long. I got so sick of trying to cut the numbers down because I felt too affectionate towards the little creatures. I didn't want to loose them. In the end when I got the final mastered version of 14 songs, I sat down and listened to it in my basement, and I thought "OK, this is my final judgement," and the only song to me that didn't fit was "Spirit of the Stairs." But, I'm very fond of it; it will appear somewhere. Perhaps it's because it's one song that predates Crowded House breaking up and I have a strange association with it or something.
Peter - After the success of Split Enz and Crowded House, is it hard to change direction musically and do something fresh? Do you listen to different styles of music or surround yourself with different people?
Neil - Sort of do it and hope that it falls together on the way somewhere. I didn't really have any clear impression that it should be this, that, or the other. I didn't have a band when I started the album; that was the major difference. Instead of starting with a rhythm track, bass, and drums and guitar, I'd start with a loop, or atmosphere, or an octagon, or chamberlain and that would immediately make the track feel different. So, in many ways the atmospheres came first and the rhythm tracks came later. I added bass and quiet a bit of drums near the end. I think that makes it different.
Peter- I heard that Liam played on the album. How do you feel, as a parent, about him choosing a career in music?
Neil - I'm not worried about that. As long as he's happy, that's the thing. He loves playing music and he's good at it. If he wants to make a career out of it, I'm sure he will. He's very capable. No way did I push him into it, and I'm not going to stop him.
Peter - You've put together a band. Who's in the lineup?
Neil - Robert Morroe on Bass, Nile "Herbie" Mackin from Cork, Ireland on keyboards, and Michael Barker on drums.
Peter - Which of the new songs have come up the best from the recent live gigs you played at Tabac in Auckland?
Neil - I love them all. (laughs) No, they all worked well live the other night. We did 12 of the 13 and they were sounding good, I think. There's a couple of songs that'll need extra colour here and there. "Dream Date" is a bit of a scorcher live.
Peter - You're in Melbourne to play on one of Hessie's Shed shows. What are your expectations of Paul having his own TV show?
Neil - I think it's about time. I hope it goes well for him because he's a good natural performer. I have no idea what to expect because I haven't seen a thing yet.
Peter - You're about to start a hectic promotional and touring schedule. How does it feel to be doing it again?
Neil - I'm excited. It will be great. I love playing live. That's what I'm shaping up for and I'm really happy with my record. Things are great at home. Everything's cool. Life is good.