New Zealand music extraordinaire Eddie Rayner can only be described as a creative tour-de-force. From redefining pop music in the 80's as the keyboardist in Split Enz, to selling packed out arena shows, writing orchestral scores as part of the Enzso project to recording an album with Paul McCartney, Eddie is a prime example of a kiwi doing things his own way.
Hi Eddie, it's been a while. What are you up to nowadays?
I've just recently moved from Auckland and near to the beach into a fabulous property and I’m fortunate enough to have a studio in my new home as a place to jam and record new music. Recently I’ve been experimenting with the idea of getting different personalities into a room and letting loose. We focus on building empathy towards one another as musicians and our only prerequisite is that nothing is written prior to the session. The excitement is palpable and when we come together you can feel our united passion towards the project, which is evident in the output. Literally everything is created in the moment, and whilst it’s often very raw, it gives me material that I can craft into finished music. In addition to these jam session, I'm currently working on an album to sample and remix old Spit Enz songs as a basis to create new music. I’m working with Tim Finn, Noel Crombie and Phil Manzanera (who was the guitar player in Roxy music). It's very exciting, the music sounds seemingly familiar but also super fresh. We started out doing this project to create something for our long-time fans, but I can see now that it might have a more universal appeal. Keep your ears open!
What would you describe as the highlight of your career to date?
I have so many, I don’t even know where to start, and it’s not always the ones you might initially think of. I vividly remember specific gigs, like one of the first ones I ever played in Wellington which is so clear in my mind because of the adrenaline and the excitement. It was a long way from playing to 100,000 people at the MCG in Australia, but both are equally as important. But I have to say my ultimate career highlight was being able to record an album with Paul McCartney, Phil Collins and Pete Townsend. To be in the company of such esteemed and brilliant musicians was humbling and inspiring, and I was fortunate enough to stay with Paul for about 4 weeks so also had the privilege of meeting the wonderful Linda McCartney. It’s interesting to reflect on this, as whilst it was a career highlight, it wasn’t a musical highlight. They tend to come when you least expect them, playing in towns you’ve never heard of with people you’ve never met. That’s why I love what I do.
What would you be doing if it wasn't for music?
When I left high school, I felt rudderless and didn't know what I wanted to do, so basically ended up trying out a whole range of menial jobs like building, labouring and even working in an abattoir. I’d do these things for money but had no idea what direction my career would go in until I literally just fell into music. Back then, if you were involved in the arts, basically your only option was to become a teacher. I certainly didn't want to be an engineer or a plumber or anything like that. At the time, a friend of mine asked me to come and join his band and when I proclaimed that I couldn’t actually play any instrument, he persuaded me by telling me they were the same. Once I had that motivation, I put my mind to it and started teaching myself to play the piano and even though my dad was a piano teacher, I never received any formal training. I had a innate proclivity towards music and it eventually caught up with me and I found what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I’ve never looked back.
Being a New Zealander, in your own words, what makes this country special?
Not only in New Zealand geographically is it stunning, but thanks to the fact it’s underpopulated you can always find yourself back in nature, which is wonderful for feeding the soul. Plus I find that New Zealanders are a special breed of people and I find them generally to be soft, gentle and moist. More than anything, New Zealanders believe in giving people a fair go which is why I think Isle of Eden has been so successful.
What's your biggest regret?
I definitely don’t have any career regrets to be honest, like most people, I’ve made mistakes but I’ve learned and grown from them. Personally, I should have become a vegan and gone to the gym and never touched alcohol or smoked, but that’s beside the point.
Advice to budding musicians nowadays?
Sometimes it annoys me that at our schools, children are constantly pumped this message to follow their dreams. What I always say to people, follow your passion. It gets pumped out through schools and I see it happen constantly that people chase their passion and become dissillusioned adults. I always told my kids to figure out how to pay the bills first and then go chase your passion. If you want your life to be relatively easy, figure out a way first to pay the bills, but also don't lose sight of that dream. If you are lucky enough to turn your passion into something that can pay the bills that is amazing. I'm not saying to not follow your passion, but keep it in balance. Back in the days when I started, there were records to sell, gigs to play. It was a very different time.