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Out of the Wind

An Exclusive Belltower article
By Anon.

(Reprinted with permission)

We've been waiting so long. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Sick of that song yet?

"It drives you nuts?" Dave Dobbyn laughs, "That was the plan. Good one. I'm sorry about that."

In the last four years he has primarily been the family man. He and wife Anneliesje have two children: Grace is 4 and nearly at school, while Eli is 3.

Good Old Testament names you might think?

"They came out of the wind one day."

An easy conclusion to draw is that Dobbyn listens to the wind a lot. He also "plucked from the air" the line kill the Princess, put her out of her misery, which the Internet Belltower site suggests was prophetic of Princess Diana's death.

And, if you're playing with a terrible metaphor anyway, there must have been some fair gales blowing around Auckland recently. His latest release, The Islander, features 13 tracks, culled from more than 40 songs. Most of them in the last 18 months.

"I rented a studio room, just office space around the corner so I can separate home from work slightly. That was good, because I just made sure I put the hours in over and over again."

The album itself was recorded at Neil Finn's home studio.

"It pulled up at the right time because Neil was headed off to New York for four months so the studio was sitting there doing nothing. He gave it to me for a while... which was very handy."

But Finn still had the opportunity to play on the album. Finn produced Dobbyn's last album, Twist, and Dobbyn scored a hit with ENZSO covering the Split Enz classic Poor Boy.

Just how close is the connection between these popular singer-songwriters?

"Well as close as you can be when you're both really busy doing your own thing. He (Finn) is quite meticulous in his work and he puts in the hours, so he's always busy doing something and I'm always busy doing something, but it just happened we could meet in the middle so it was really good."

Meanwhile, Eddie Rayner is putting together a sequel to ENZSO. And why turn your back on a winning formula?

Dobbyn recorded the Neil Finn song The Devil You Know in mid-May.

"I was singing it, with an orchestra, on the day Frank Sinatra died. I won't forget that one in a hurry. So my performance is somewhat Sinatra-esque.

"It just happened to be that day. But it was good because it was a great feeling to sing. I used to listen to Frank Sinatra all the time when I was a kid and use to sing along. I always loved his phrasing of stuff. He was a master at it. I think it must have rubbed off, because I sing really lazily. But I don't have any of his taste in fashion, and you can keep that Las Vegas lifestyle."

But the task now is to promote The Islander. This will involve a fairly swift tour of the country in October and November, and then it will depend on how well the album is selling.

The Islander was released on the Columbia label, which is English-based, so a few concerts in London are definitely on the cards.

"I've kind of got to be there when the album is released. And of course we're going to get a release in America as well, like the last record. But hopefully this release with a capital-R rather than a little-r.

"It's hard to know. We'll get some sort of release in the United States and Canada, but at what stage I couldn't tell you.  There's a lot of interest and a lot of good will there"

A more in-depth tour of New Zealand is possible in January, followed by WOMAD concerts in South Africa, Adelaide, and New Zealand.

"I don't think I'm doing Sweetwaters, they haven't offered me enough money," he bursts out laughing. "I don't even think they've asked me... I just thought I'd say that."

Dobbyn showed he was no technophobe in 1995 when he broadcast an Auckland concert over the Internet. He confesses to not having a huge knowledge of the net but enjoys surfing the web.

He laughs at the thought of sites building user profiles, suggesting he would be something of a challenge.

"I've got such eclectic tastes that I would be getting really obscure country music on one hand and hip-hop on the other hand. So they couldn't build a profile."

He admires the way such sites as CD-Now and work though, but has never purchased from them.

"I think that'll be the way you end up buying your CDs anyway," he said.

In fact, he can foresee the day when whole albums will be released on the Internet.

"We'd be mad if we didn't. I think it's going to be that ubiquitous pretty soon. You can't escape it really, it's just so convenient. You can find out what's available, you can sift through the sites and just scroll for hours on end.

"I have. But mainly just looking around. I don't get time to listen to music. I have kids. I just make the stuff."

Now, at 41, he prepares to emerse himself in his work again. There is a film score on the horizon, and an album with former Dudes guitarist Ian Morris. The latter is tentatively called Six Billion Satellite Universes and could be on the shelves in six months or so.

"We just have to find time to do it. We've already started writing things, but every time I go around to his place something comes up."

They, like the rest of us, will be interested to find out what the sound will be like.

"There's going to be a fair bit of experimentation. A lot of pop stuff but, you know, stuff where we don't have to worry if we rape a few genres and get a bit trashy on it."

In the meantime, however, Dobbyn will be plugging The Islander.

"I'd like to think I'll be touring a lot with this record. Then I just put the hard graft in and at least I would have given it my best shot. They say you go out and do a 10 week tour of some crazy part of the world; then your life falls to pieces and you pick it up again."

His other baby is a computer-based studio.

"I'm teaching myself that stuff. I'm not a boffin really. I just try to find my way around. It's a solitary thing. But making records is really what I like doing. I just want to do them a lot quicker. The Islander was a pleasure to do.

"I feel pretty driven these days. I'm writing a lot of stuff. There's always stuff lying around waiting to be played."

His music has changed significantly in his career, something abundantly clear in the Dave Dobbyn Collection. His sound has matured even from there. But was it intentional?

"I never really think about my style changing. I don't really think I've grown up in any way particularly.

"I think perhaps I am a bit more thick skinned. Nothing bothers me too much these days... well, a whole lot of things bother me politically and so on, but as far as everyday life is concerned I'm pretty plugged in there.

"I think when you turn 40 you make a few decisions and you don't suffer fools as gladly as you used to. Or at all. It's kind of a signpost where you say 'OK, I'm going to let everybody know how grumpy I really am'."

After more than 20 years in the music industry, Dobbyn is virtually a household name. But he balks at the thought of being called a New Zealand rock icon.

"I find it slightly scary when people say that, because it's one step away from being labelled a survivor or something. Which usually means you're about to die." He laughs. "So I'm a bit suss on labels."

"I meet a lot of people I wouldn't normally meet. It never gets to be a drag, I just see it as part of the job and it's good fun. It has its up sides, but I don't really wallow around in it particularly.

"I mean NZers are pretty down to earth, so if you start flying off the ground in any way, shape, or form you usually get reminded to get back down here with the rest of us pretty quick. Tall poppies and all that.

"I'm not really motivated by that now I have a family. I've just been working away at the craft of song writing and music."

Something, his fans will attest, he is getting really rather good at.

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