Zaine Griff is a Romanticist.
No need to look up the word to define this statement in any traditional sense. It is the essence, imbued in all of Zaine’s work, in a career spanning over 3 decades.
As a recording Artist, Composer and Performer, a Poet, Playwright and Actor, or, whether as an artistic collaborator, Zaine has the gift of transforming the simplest ideas or melody, into something elevated and heady. Romantic…
From early beginnings with New Zealand rock band Human Instinct, Zaine knew early on, that his destined path would begin at the heart of the music scene in the UK. Propelled, he travelled there and built a highly credible career as a gifted and sought after bass player. Quickly moving from playing with Kevin Aryers (Soft Machine) to recording with reformed 60’s luminaries and legends; The Kinks on ‘The Misfits’ album.
He knew quickly however, that being in the backline would never fully allow him to unearth his true creative potential. He restlessly set about building his own band and soon learnt there were others sharing a similar vision to upturn the powerful, gritty, but grim tones during the Punk era of Thatcherite Britain.
Paying homage to the inspiration of the artistic greats of the group of 6 in Paris, Antonin Artaud and Rimbaud, he was drawn to working and studying under the great Lindsay Kemp, notably as an actor/dancer, performing in his legendary work; ‘Flowers’. It was Kemp who initially inspired Zaine to ‘go solo’ in 1975.
He was soon introduced to Rock-God producer Tony Visconti by Nick Mobbs, the head of Automatic Records with whom Zaine signed his first record deal. Visconti being a veteran of countless Bowie albums and a multi-grammy award winner. The stage was literally setting itself for what would become the platform for his first release Ashes and Diamonds. Although the album originally started with Colin Thurston (Duran Duran’s producer) at the helm, the decision to work with Tony soon became an obvious one.
Ashes & Diamonds ignited ‘Zaine Griff’ and saw Europe and Japan grow an appetite for his unique blend of pop, rock and performance art. A certain gentleman who added a great deal to the sonic tone and colour was Hans Zimmer. At that time a nascent producer and permanent keyboardist in Zaine’s residency band at the legendary ‘Venue’ in London’s West End. It was to prove a fruitful, inspiring and long lasting creative relationship.
Following this release, Zaine and his band worked directly with David Bowie, re-recording 3 tracks; Space Oddity, Rebel Rebel and Panic in Detroit. Space Oddity peaking at #1 in the UK charts in 1979.
The creative impetus upon him and chart success under his belt, he re-signed to Polydor Records and began writing his second album, based around a set of visual poems. This time, Hans Zimmer took the co-production seat (as well as providing significant keyboard work). The sound of Figvres, taking on a more electronic and moody European setting.
Recorded in Britain but mixed in Munich, collaborators included Kate Bush (also a student of Lindsay Kemp) and Yukihiro Takahashi of Japanese pioneering electro-legends Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Zaine went on to write and provide vocals on Takahashi’s solo album ‘What me Worry?’ with the much covered track This Strange Obsession, performed by the legendary Ronny.
Artwork and a striking visual identity for ‘Figvres’, was created by design icon Peter Saville (New Order and far too many others to list) drawing heavily from the albums artistic references. Zaine and Richard Haughton directed the video for the title single Figvres, which echoes the slightly decadent, nostalgic feel of Saville’s interpretation.
The visual stimuli that prompted the albums creation culminated in an exhibition at the Ebury Gallery, in Victoria, London with works being purchased by non other than Elton John. Zaine was becoming a multi-media artist in the truest sense.
Others had also started to take a lot of notice in Zaine’s presence in the press, on the dancefloor and on the stages around Europe. Ultravox , now household names around the world, had also become close friends and collaborators as did electronic legend Gary Numan. Zaine contributing vocals on Numan’s Berserker album.
On album #3 with another music production legend; John Punter (Roxy Music, Japan). At the same time, recording further tracks with Midge Ure from Ultravox in his new studio in Chiswick, London.
The first single Swing was released in 1983, backed with a B-side cover of an Ultravox original B-side (to #1 hit “Vienna”) Passionate Reply.
The album was not completed (not yet anyway) and living true to his words, ‘The Vanishing Man’, seeking different horizons, left London and returned to New Zealand in 1984 after over 10 years.
He soon met up again with Billy Kristian (who had contributed bass on live performances in the UK and on ‘Figvres’) at his studio in Auckland who produced 3 new tracks. This story would continue later.
Zaine opened ‘The Jazz Palace’, a not for profit venue created to unearth talent and young people of the city an opportunity to perform while at the same time giving proceeds to help those in the local community.
Musically for Zaine the writing had never stopped, but it was not until a visit to Prague in the Czech Republic that the muse was again with him and he quickly set about working again with Billy Kristian at his studio in the North Island of New Zealand.
It was here the Child who wants the Moon was recorded and mixed, seeing Zaine’s true return to form, with his first international release in 27 years.
Returning to London in 2011 to reconnect with friends and collaborators, he found a renewed vigor, especially following reviews of the album and true to form, The Vanishing Man, Zaine Griff is again in the studio for album #4 with Split Enz/Crowded House keyboardist, arranger and producer; Eddie Rayner.
Zaine Griff; ‘The Romanticist’, the ‘Vanishing Man’ has returned.