Forenzics Interview: From Eno to Enzso

Forenzics Interview: From Eno to Enzso

Forenzics 2021
(Image supplied)

Although Brian Eno never officially worked with Split Enz, a passing comment in 1976 has now led to the band’s latest spin-off project. The seeds for Forenzics, a collaboration between Split Enz alumni Tim Finn and Eddie Rayner, were sewn in Basing Street Studio, Notting Hill when Eno dropped by to see his former Roxy Music colleague, Phil Manzanera. While it was Manzanera in the production chair for the Enz’s second album, Second Thoughts, it was Eno’s excitement over an unfinished recording that acted as an inspiration for Forenzics’ 2022 debut album, Shades And Echoes.

“When Eno came down to Basing Street Studios, it was just myself, Paul [Emlyn] Crowther our drummer and Mike Chunn the bass player putting down the rhythm track of the song Walking Down A Road,” keyboardist Rayner recalls. “Eno commented, ‘Just leave it like that, it sounds great like that, don’t touch it!’. We were rolling our eyes, because little did he know there was still the kitchen sink – and more! – to go on it, but that particular interlude with him in the studio stuck with us for years."


Split Enz 1980
(Image supplied)

Eno, who during the ensuing decade would find a new level of acclaim as a producer and collaborator with artists including David Bowie, Talking Heads and U2, walked out of Split Enz’s life soon after this conversation, but the idea of repurposing Split Enz song fragments stayed with band members. It was during Split Enz, Crowded House and Fleetwood Mac member Neil Finn’s 2018 birthday party that the concept came back into focus.

“Tim and I saw each other at Neil’s 60th and he said to me ‘We should do a project together,’” Rayner says. “By and large we don’t have a hell of a lot to do with each other musically, but we have reconnected in a really good way. Tim brought up the Eno story and thought that would be a good song to start with: 'Let’s go back to what Eno said about the piano, bass and drums on Walking Down A Road and see if we can develop that into something new'.”

The resulting song, Walking, opens Forenzics’ debut album Shades And Echoes with flourishes worthy of the hallowed Enz catalogue. Other album highlights include Shut The Door, where the opening bars of Split Enz’s 1979 single Give It A Whirl are co-opted to stunning effect, and the minor chord beauty of Strange Stars, which finds inspiration in 1975’s Mental Notes track Under The Wheel. While the conceit was a novel one to kick off the sessions, Rayner admits not all Shades And Echoes songs replicate the formula.

“People have grabbed onto this particular aspect of the album, but in actual fact, only half the album has the ‘shades and echoes’ of old Split Enz stuff, then the rest is new material. A large part of the album is short snippets of Split Enz songs we felt perhaps might have originally been underused, where we felt we could add rhythm tracks and new melodies over the top.”

Phil Judd, Rayner’s former colleague in both Split Enz and 1980s combo Schnell Fenster, earns a co-writing credit on Forenzics’ single Chances Are. Judd’s music has been overshadowed by other issues in more recent years, with the musician briefly imprisoned for breaking a restraining order and also pleading guilty to stalking schoolgirls in 2009.

“Well Phil’s always had issues, let’s face it,” Rayner admits. “I’ll say it again: the guy’s a genius, but he probably struggles a bit socially. Since he lives in Melbourne and we live in New Zealand we don’t have much to do with each other, but with this Forenzics album, we thought we should do it officially, so I believe we contacted him through his publishing company. He was open to us using bits of his songs. Chances Are was inspired by Phil’s unusual style of 12-string acoustic rhythm guitar he’d play at the beginning of the Split Enz song Spellbound. I chopped it up and used it as the inspiration, but by the end, I realised the song didn’t need the original sample anymore.”

To add a further throwback to the recording of Second Thoughts, Rayner and Finn called on Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera to produce Shades And Echoes and add guitar textures. During the New Zealanders’ initial sessions with Manzanera in 1976, some Split Enz members were alleged to have joined Bob Marley, who was working on Exodus in the same recording facility, in sampling some ganja.

“Are you accusing me of smoking weed?” Rayner laughs. “There was a little episode that happened, but it had nothing to do with me... I wasn’t particularly interested in reggae at the time.”

When I Like Your Old Stuff spoke to Rayner in relation to his well-received 40th-anniversary remix of Split Enz’s multi-platinum True Colours album in 2020, he mentioned taking Kate Bush out for a coffee during the recording of Enz’s Second Thoughts follow-up Dizrythmia. The Auckland-based musician has recently uncovered a postscript to his original 1977 story.

“The funny thing is I found a letter from Kate I had completely forgotten all about. I was looking for something else and I found this lovely card. Exactly what is in the letter might have to be the subject of another interview, since I can’t quite remember off the top of my head.

“It was probably, 'You’re just so amazing, Eddie. I’ve been thinking about your body',” he jokes.

Discussion about possible Forenzics live shows leads Rayner to the enticing topic of a final Split Enz tour.

“Tim and I have been talking about the possibilities of Forenzics going out and playing gigs, but I think the same would apply to any Split Enz gigs: we wouldn’t want to go out and play the songs in the way we have [in the past]. A few of us would want to do it in a completely different way, whether that’s unplugged, with all-new arrangements or maybe a little like Enzso with an orchestra. Split Enz haven’t spoken about it, even though there have been a lot of opportunities presented to us. The main reason is we don’t want to be a pale imitation of what we used to be.

“If we are going to play again live, we would want to have all the energy and character of Split Enz, but done in a more age-appropriate way. I think Tim kind of agrees, but never say never.”


forenzics vinyl
'Shades and Echoes' Vinyl.

Get Shades And Echoes on Vinyl & CD here.

Listen to Forenzics on Spotify:

Listen to Forenzics on Apple Music:

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