Notes on a life in music, from Split Enz to Play to Strange
A rollercoaster yarn about Mike Chunn's years in the ground-breaking band Split Enz, but also the powerful story of how he dealt with a crippling mental health issue and went on to become one of our most influential music identities.
Mike Chunn is a music legend who has been involved at almost every level of the New Zealand music industry for decades. Along with Tim Finn and Phil Judd, he was a founding member of Split Enz, playing the bass on their first three albums. While he loved the stage, life on the road was a different story: unbeknown to his bandmates, he suffered frequent panic attacks and debilitating anxiety, triggered every time he left Auckland. After five years he reluctantly left the band.
In 1977, Mike co-founded Citizen Band with his brother Geoffrey, but left that band after three years for the same reason. It wasn't until 1981 that he discovered the name of his illness: the phobic disorder agoraphobia.
Mike went on to become general manager of Mushroom Records NZ, signing up artists DD Smash and Dance Exponents; later he was general manager at Sony Music Publishing NZ. From 1991 to 2003, he was the Director of NZ Operations for the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), where he was instrumental in setting up New Zealand Music Month - an integral factor in Kiwi music gaining airtime on commercial radio.
He went on to be General Manager of Mushroom Records NZ, where he signed DD Smash and The Dance Exponents, and was the General Manager at Sony Music Publishing NZ. From 1991-2003, Mike was the Director of NZ Operations for the where he was instrumental in setting up NZ Music Month which was an integral factor in the increase of Kiwi music played on commercial radio.
In 2004, Mike co-founded Play It Strange, a highly respected and successful charitable trust that supports young New Zealanders in their songwriting ambitions. He is currently CEO of this trust.
Mike was awarded the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to music and men's mental health in 2013. He is also an observer trustee of the Sir John Kirwan Foundation. He lives in Auckland.