Tim Finn and Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera combine talents in lockdown on Caught By The Heart

COLLABORATION: When COVID hit, Tim Finn felt the urge to reach out to old friend Phil Manzanera on the other side of the world.

COLLABORATION: When COVID hit, Tim Finn felt the urge to reach out to old friend Phil Manzanera on the other side of the world.

TIM Finn and Phil Manzanera have a 45-year personal and music relationship that's traversed genres, hemispheres, now the internet.

It was Manzanera - back in 1976 at the height of his band Roxy Music's popularity - who invited Finn's New Zealand art-rock outfit Split Enz to England so he could produce their sophomore album Second Thoughts.

"It was fun hanging out with him in London because he was in Roxy Music and very well connected to the arts scene and theatre and music," Finn remembers over a Zoom call from his home in Auckland.

"We'd go out with him to a gallery opening or some club he goes to that was the coolest club in London, it was just a real eye-opener and very exciting for us coming from New Zealand, even though we'd been via Australia.

"We were still pretty green and he was our sophisticated friend who'd take us into places."

Over the proceeding four decades the relationship became one of contemporaries. Although the pair hadn't seen each other since 2011, when the pandemic hit in March 2020 Finn, 69, felt compelled to reach out to the London-based Manzanera, 70.

"We don't keep regular contact so I sent him an email as we went into lockdown, as I knew I would be wanting to do something, and various things were being cancelled that I had planned in terms of live appearances and theatre projects," Finn says.

"I sent him an email and said, 'have you got any slow Latin grooves?' Because Phil grew up in Cuba and he's very connected to the South American music scene, so I thought that's where I'll start because I've always loved that stuff and I'll see what happens."

Manzanera began emailing files to Finn full of chords, beats and rhythms. It sparked a spate of creativity in Finn as he set about expanding the Roxy Music guitarist's sketches with melodies, lyrics and arrangements.

The result is the album Caught By The Heart, an eclectic collaboration between Finn and Manzanera spanning rock, pop, prog, Latin, reggae and classical.

Finn describes the process of writing and recording the album in opposite time zones as "a 24-hour cycle".

"I found it quite liberating," he says. "It was really fun to send him something and he didn't know where I was gonna go next.

"When you write a set of chords and you put it over a beat you probably have a vague idea of a tune in your head, but because I didn't know that I went somewhere else. So it's the unexpectedness and surprising nature of working like that which is one of the best parts of it."

Caught By The Heart was also a family affair for Finn. His son Harper, 23, and daughter Elliott, 17, provided backing vocals.

"They were around more because of lockdown so if there was a harmony to be sung they'd come in and do it," he says. "It was relaxed and casual, really. I loved what they did. It's always great to work with family.

"During lockdown I'm sure many families started doing all sorts of things together they don't normally do, whether it's just playing scramble or walking the dog.

"That's one of the few upsides of this whole thing."

The Finns aren't just any other family, though. They're unquestionably New Zealand's royal family when it comes to music.

Together Tim Finn and his younger brother Neil, 63, have penned dozens of pop-rock classics with Split Enz, Crowded House and their solo projects including I Got You, I See Red, History Never Repeats, Weather With You and It's Only Natural.

Neil's sons Liam and Elroy have forged music careers of their own and both officially joined Crowded House as full-time members for the album Dreamers Are Waiting, released earlier this year.

Harper Finn, who is blessed with his father's mad professor-like mop of hair, has also continued the Finn family tradition in recent years by releasing a series of piano-driven electro-pop singles.

Tim Finn glows like a typically proud father when asked about his son's musical prowess and whether he's helped him deal with the expectations of having a famous dad and uncle.

GUITAR MAN: Phil Manzanera became friends with Tim Finn when Split Enz supported Roxy Music on their 1975 Australian tour.

GUITAR MAN: Phil Manzanera became friends with Tim Finn when Split Enz supported Roxy Music on their 1975 Australian tour.

"I haven't helped him much with that particular thing because he's just got to go in there and make his own way and he's done it really well I think," he says.

"He's been dignified about it and he sees it as a positive. He sees he's part of a lineage and he's very proud to be in there. It hasn't caused him too many obstacles and there's such a big age difference between us and even between him and his cousins Liam and Elroy Finn, so he's got his own little lane to work in.

"He does play me stuff when he's writing an early version and his mother as well, as we both love to give him feedback, I suppose.

"He's very generous like that and he invites it, so it's nice. I get a kick out of it.

"When you've done it for as long as I have, nearly 50 years, it's really nice to feel confident in what you're saying, have a confident opinion about something."

Caught By The Heart isn't only new material from Finn and Manzanera.

The duo, plus Split Enz's Noel Crombie and Eddie Rayner, have used a Split Enz demo uncovered from the Second Thoughts sessions in 1976 as the starting point to record a 10-track album called Forenzics, due out in 2022.

Tim Finn and Phil Manzanera's Caught By The Heart is out now.

This story Finn splits magic with Manzanera from opposite Enz of the world first appeared on Newcastle Herald.