Neil Finn
        L.A. Weekly August 26 1988

What are the hazards of living in "a state of permanent sleepiness"?
Probably that I'm in danger of turning around to the record company and saying, "Blow out everything." Because we haven't really stopped since the last record, and there's a whole promotional thing stretching out ahead of us, and all I really want to do is play gigs. It's a very regimented lifestyle, especially considering how it's thought of as liberating and free -- you get all of the rigors of travel with none of the leisure. I am prepared to put an awful lot of effort into it, but I'm starting to think that if I'm really as ambitious for our music as I say I am, I probably should be making life a little more conducive to creating a little less to answering the demands of publicity schedules. I think it can become counterproductive to the music, and ultimately you're nothing if you're not playing well.... I've really opened the door here for the tone of the interview, haven't I? Don't write it like, "A tired and vindictive Neil Finn speaks from a London hotel" -- it's just that the old machine has got the better of me for a few weeks, and I intend to do something to make sure it doesn't have a permanent effect.
Do you feel "successful" now?
Well, there's the success that comes from having a hit record and watching it climb the charts -- that is exciting -- and then there's the success of feeling you've written a good song and maybe connected with a few people. And that's not really that reliant on getting out and being on every TV show in the country, as much as it is being careful to preserve what it is that makes people enjoy your music.
Have you ever written a song you were later sorry you wrote?
[Laughs.] There's probably been a few, but once you write them, you've got to just accept the fact they were made. I don't believe it would be good to censor myself. There was a tricky song on the last record about the suicide of one of my family members, and that was a pretty sensitive topic in family circles for a good few months, and I guess there were times I wished I hadn't had to confront that. What I'd like to do.... I mean, there are moments when I look at what I've written, and I think there's something much much bigger that I'm capable of, and now I'm looking to write songs with a more ... resolved feeling in them. I think a lot of my songs tend to be quite confused, because I'm pretty confused most of the time. [Laughs.] I'd like to resolve a few of my conflicts and be able to write about that. It's good to have conflict in a song, but I think you can be confrontational and positive at the same time.
Do you think that because you write pretty melodies and that you've got a "good" voice, it's harder for people to hear your work as serious?
The fact that it's pop just reflects my taste in music, really. I like a good melody and a good sing-song; I love singing at parties harmonizing with friends. It's that jangle of notes that is my main love for music rather than the backbeat or the groove. I take that very seriously, and I don't see that it's any less real than an urban, raw, kind of streetwise music.
What do you reckon the last 10 years would have been like if you hadn't been drafted into Split Enz?
I quite often think about that, actually. I was lucky to be in a happening band at the age of 18; I suppose I could have been sitting on my ass doing nothing for years, floundering around in New Zealand. It was a chance to get out and about, experience the world at a young age. But on the other hand, I inherited a whole set of aesthetic values that weren't necessarily ones I would have developed on my own. Split Enz suffered a bit from too many ideas being stamped onto a humble little song, whereas Crowded House is more the idea of playing something with spirit. And maybe I missed some hard times that would have been good for me. Because even though Split Enz weren't a hugely successful band, t here was a whole infrastructure, management, roadies. I never had to lug my gear up six flights of stairs. I don't know whether that makes me a less rounded person.
Is it a problem being in a position to be constantly patted on the back?
It's easy to become an asshole, if that's what you mean. A lot of people are prepared to take a lot more than t hey should from you because you're important to t hem -- because you're making them money, or they admire you. So I can see how easy it would be to use that position I probably have my moments, although I think I'm fairly careful about it. I do actually wish people would tell me not to be stupid a bit, because I do tend to panic or have radical notions and feel like canning the whole thing, and I'm taken quite seriously when half the time I wish someone would just tell me to to look at things with a bit of perspective. I think the band is quite good at that. It's an Australian trait to not become too carried away with yourself.
How has your relationship with Nick and Paul changed, if it has?
We're getting to know each other more; we're a bit more tolerant of each other And as a band we're a bit more sure of ourselves, and that helps the personal side of t hings as well. I was actually pretty nervous about the whole thing for the first year or so, even after we recorded the first album; I had t his feeling in the back of  my mind that we weren't really a band, we were just making an effort to be.
Any thoughts on approaching 30?
Approaching? I'm there, mate! I turned 30 two months ago, and I can tell you, it's all true what they say. Life goes through a big change.
How has it changed for you?
I don't know that it has actually.... Well, it's more confusing, because in some respects you're leaving youth behind, but you're still young enough to want to hang on to it a bit. I'm  more relaxed about certain things; and I certainly know what I believe a bit more now, even than I did a year ago. Around 30 a lot of people start to confront a few of the larger issues, and life suddenly takes on a certain sadness involved with realizing that you can expect happiness, but only in doses -- that there's a sadness that's always present. And some of my songs seem to be becoming a bit like that; t here's a sort of melancholy side to them these days. Because as you start to become more clear about what you believe and what's important to you, there's also that feeling of youth slowly on the wane. But I still feel pretty young.
When are you happiest in your job?
Definitely on a good night onstage. And then that moment when you finish a song and suddenly discover you have something quite substantial. And you carry that around with you for a few days, spinning in the back of your head, and it's almost more special because no one else has heard it yet. and it feels like you've made something with its own life, like you could wander off tomorrow and never be seen again, and there'd be something around to mark the spot -- like people writing on rocks, "I was here."
Robert Lloyd


Robert Lloyd 1988/2010