Neil Finn

Neil Finn Official Website

Walls, Tunnels and all the Rest

Hi there,

I’ve been travelling here and there for the last two weeks, ended up here, halfway round the world to perform more shows with up and coming band Fleetwood Mac. We opened the tour in a beautiful outdoor arena in Berlin, surrounded by a forest, a place which had been originally built as a place for Nazi rallies to be held. We walked to the stage along an underground corridor which was built in the shape of an arc in order that no one could get a clear shot of the Fuhrer from either end. The back of the stage was a formidable stone wall which had once been fitted with gun turrets for picking off rabble-rousers.

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Over the years, many great artists have played in this arena and resurrected it for good and peaceful purposes, but being there in that place does remind you in a sobering way of the extraordinary transformations that can take place in the zeitgeist over decades.

While in Berlin, we visited a famous bunker near the train station which was designed by Albert Speer. It was built in a grand architectural style with marble panels (now residing in Russia) applied to concrete walls three metres thick, meant to withstand the aerial bombing and be a lasting monument to the might of the German Empire. Such was their supreme arrogance and grandiose vision. The building did prove to be resilient, unlike the Empire.

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During the following years in what became East Berlin, the bunker was secretly used to house bananas which only the upper echelon of the Communist Party could enjoy. Ordinary Germans might only get to have a banana once a year but those privileged defenders of the state were slicing them up for their cereal every day.

Once the wall came down, this building for a short while was the most famous techno, rave, fetish and sex club in Berlin. Those flat concrete walls must have amplified those oonst oonst beats, shrieks and howls into a soundtrack worthy of Dante’s Inferno, sensory overload, transcendental horror and euphoria? In any event, all were welcome, a good night out if you were in the right mood, so I am told.

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The bunker has now been transformed into a private art gallery showing the contemporary art collection of Karen and Christian Boros. The interior has been remodelled into an amazing exhibition space and there are many fascinating works of art on display. Most of these carry conceptual layers of meaning for which it is helpful, or in some cases essential, to get a guided tour to understand. This inspired reformation of the building’s original intent is, from the outside at least, a “readymade" artwork. You can really feel the intensity of the structure and its purpose and history as you wander the corridors inside.

On the top floor is an exhibition of work by a Brazilian artist by the name of Paulo Nazareth. He has spent many years walking though Africa and other continents in bare feet with no money, no bank account, no phone. He wants to have no choice but to connect directly with people everywhere he goes, to find work, to find shelter, to be fed. Every now and again he sends postal packages of work to his art dealer, e.g his worn and weathered tunic on which he has stitched a few words and a simple route map of his journey. His life and his choices are an impressive artwork of uncompromising, single minded will. I thought of him the next morning as I complained to room service about them not having sent up any butter with breakfast. This contrast of choices and circumstances had never seemed so apparent.

So this letter is in a part a travelogue, but mostly I’m just passing on a realisation that we need to be vigilant, self aware, always looking to make art that is transformational, allowing all the people to share a vision and pursuing a vision that’s good for all.

Sie kommen, sie kommen
um eine Mauer zwischen uns zu bauen
Wir wissen, dass sie nicht gewinnen werden

Thanks

Neil

Elroy

Hi there,

This week I will enthuse about an album of beautiful songs that was created by our son Elroy and is released on Friday. Somehow I must steer a course between natural pride and admiration for what Elroy has achieved and not overdo the praise to the point of embarrassment. Let me just say that I do truly marvel at the unique textures, chords and melodies that grace his record. It's a really deep album with mysterious and alluring atmosphere. I love it and I think you might enjoy it too.

Elroy is launching his record tonight at Neck Of The Woods in K Rd, Auckland, with a wonderful 6 piece band. I know it will be a brilliant show (I heard them rehearsing) and I dearly wish I could be there but alas we are in LA.

Sharon, Liam and I have performed a cover of one of Elroy’s beautiful songs, “Worth The Wait“, in honour of the occasion.

I’ll embed his new video here next week (EDIT: It’s here now. See below.) I am also including links to the album stream for your listening pleasure: iTunes/Apple Music , Spotify, and Bandcamp.


…...Oh, and a random incident, half time at the Aria Music Awards 2016.

Love

Neil

The Game of Small Gains

Hi there,

I thought I would give you a few insights into my personality, not giving away all the juicy stuff which I will save for my memoirs, but some context for why and how I make decisions.

I have come to realise I can behave in unpredictable ways when greeted with approval or disapproval. Sometimes I recoil from praise and embrace scorn. Why on earth would I be that perverse, but there’s something empowering about knowing the worst anyone can say about you, getting annoyed about it, imagining some withering sarcastic response but then consigning it to the trash.

With my own music I often seem to sabotage my best laid plans. Why would I ruin a good chorus with an arrangement that conceals the hook. Crowded House is a brand that conjures up good will, we made it with hard work and good spirit, but I have had a contradictory relationship with the success and perception it created. We were the band that some reviewers felt compelled to make excuses for liking. We weren’t consuming enough drugs or projecting enough drama or darkness or something but we liked the idea that your Nanna could enjoy us. In fact, Run DMC made the comment when we had a rap battle with them that their mothers were big fans. It may have been a diss but we were delighted.

I have a real suspicion of holiday resorts. That kind of luxury, detached reality, cocktails by the pool, cool music playing, an air of sophistication that seems to whisper “You're going to die one day,” with spa attendants in white uniforms bearing fluffy towels.

Steely Dan has the same effect on me, an overabundance of major 7th chords and super slick arrangements. I know it's good music but it disturbs me.

Yes, I have a degree from the university of perversity. If you tell me "You should just do Crowded House music all the time,” I will start work on Pajama Club. I also have a mild phobia of group activities. If I go to a yoga class, as I once did, and everyone has to introduce themselves to each other, I won’t go again.

The Game Of Small Gains is a great way to pass time in crazy gridlock freeway traffic. You spot a prominent vehicle in another lane and set about making a series of small manoeuvres from lane to lane in order to get ahead of that car. At no point are silly risks taken, but with skill and patience, small gains can be made and immense satisfaction taken. It's much more enjoyable with a passenger on board. They can be of great use with a well timed “Now!” The ultimate prize is to pull off a “sneak“ down an exit lane, just returning to the traffic before the off-ramp. The Greenlane exit “sneak" on Auckland's Southern Motorway is a kilometre and a half of plain sailing… it’s glorious!

OK, a couple of new musical obscurities for you.

Go well good folk

Neil