Interviews Music

Crowded House don’t dream it’s over

“It’s nearly 20 bloody years ago?” laughs a surprised Nick Seymour when I remind him that Crowded House last visited South Africa in 1993.

“I haven’t been there since, so I’m expecting some changes,” reasons the affable bass player on the line from his home in Ireland. “Last time I was in Cape Town I did hook up with some of the locals and went surfing, so when I get back there I’m definitely going to want to get a wave or two. One of the things is being able to say you’ve surfed in South Africa when talking to South Africans here in Ireland or Australia. And one of the benefits of touring is being able to surf internationally.”

But expect to see Seymour out of the water too.

“I have these little routines that I do while touring that takes in things like cycling and visiting galleries,” says the man who painted each of Crowded House’s album covers.

“I always want to look in the national galleries to see what they have in their collections and see how much money the public purse is able to throw at art. That’s always a good sign of a dynamic culture.

“And the quality of their bread,” he deadpans in his still-thick Australian accent. “As long as there’s no sugar in the bread I think they’re alright. South Africa probably has some really good bread.

“Actually, the last time I was there I copped onto Rooibos tea – I’d never had it before and it’s been in my kitchen ever since.”

Bread and tea? Shouldn’t we be talking sex and drugs?

“Tea and toast are a very big part of Crowded House,” laughs the man who co-founded the band with singer Neil Finn and drummer Paul Hester in 1985.

“In Johannesburg we’ll be playing in what I’m led to believe is a fairly impersonal theatre attached to a casino. So perhaps we might actually fill the arena with the smell of toast before we play to make people feel a little more comfortable,” he grins.

“As a band we’d always make the time for tea breaks and have a little ritual surrounding our tea drinking. And drinking tea is another find of a good culture. It’s my only criticism of the United States – I think all their problems would be washed away with a nice cup of tea,” he laughs.

Tea, no doubt, played a part in Crowded House’s reunion three years ago – a move that seemed unlikely when Finn binned the band in 1995.

“I thought breaking up the band was a mistake,” says Seymour. “I thought at the time we were poised to be one of the biggest bands in the world and that was something I’d always wanted to be in. It was a huge motivation for me, growing up in regional Australia, wanting to be in a band that could take on the world and I felt at the time that we hadn’t reached our nadir or had in fact realised my childhood ambition. So I was pretty pissed off, as it turns out,” he admits.

Still, he was pleasantly surprised when Finn invited him to work on his solo album – which ultimately morphed into the Crowded House reunion album, ‘Time On Earth’.

“We had maintained a friendship based around the enduring legacy of having toured so much together and lived so closely together,” explains Seymour. “I think we rediscovered our friendship and then when he rang me and asked me to come down to new Zealand and he’d pay me to play on his new record, I said: ‘Fine, how much?’. And it was great negotiating with him actually because I kept saying: ‘No, no, don’t be silly, ooh that’s too much Neil, you cant afford that’ and he kept suggesting these amounts of money that I’d never received as a session musician, which was fantastic.

“So I got a lovely cheque from him to play on his record and next thing you know he asks me to start the band again and I’ve stopped being paid,” he laughs.”That’s possibly the only downside to getting the band back together,” he keeps laughing.

And unfortunately the reunion came too late to incorporate Hester, who committed suicide in 2005.

“We really do miss Paul as a friend,” says Seymour. “It’s the enigma of Paul that we either loved or loathed while he was around, but we certainly miss him.”

His absence is not the only change in the reunited Crowded House.

“We’re probably a lot more gastronomic than we ever were,” Seymour offers. “That’s not to say Neil has learned to cook particularly but he really does enjoy the repartee and fine wine. He really does enjoy it. He’s a different guy in the sense that he will actually sit comfortably in a restaurant and patiently wait for the main course and eat it, and drink the wine with you, and imbibe good storytelling. Back in the day he never had time for that – the band was an agenda that sadly was keeping him from his own family and he was always really impatient to get things forward moving, constantly.

“The band has a little more time now to enjoy our privilege and good fortune. That’s not to say we’re all about to get gout and struggle to get in the tour bus,” he laughs again, “but we do enjoy the incredible privilege that we have and allowed us a global audience.

“We’re all natural show offs so we enjoy it.”

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