Interview with Chris Joannou
By Alex Rich (RockNet)
The mighty silverchair is Australia's answer to Pearl Jam, only
younger. The trio from down under is now on the road for a short stint
with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
As the band prepares to hit the road in the U.S., their album has just about reached Double Platinum - not bad for a bunch of long-haired teenagers from halfway around the world.
silverchair bassist Chris Joannou was nice enough to give RockNet a call all the way from Kangaroo country...Yes...Australia!
RockNet: When and where was the band formed?
Chris Joannou: About four years ago, we were just playing in Ben's garage. After school we would come back to Ben's house and muck around.
RN: So tell us who's in the band and a little about each member.
CJ: Daniel (Johns) plays guitar. Ben (Gillies) plays drums. Then there is me, I play bass and we're sixteen and seventeen years old. We all go to the same school and have known each other for years.
RN: Where did you guys get the name silverchair from?
CJ: From two song titles. One, Berlin Chair, which is an Australian band's song and Sliver.
We were requesting songs on the radio and someone wanted to request a Nirvana song and we didn't want it, so it was a toss up and I wrote down silver and chair instead of sliver and chair.
RN: How did you guys get signed?
CJ: We entered a demo competition and a record company called Murmur came up and saw a little gig of ours and it just went from there.
RN: And who are your guys influences and who is the band modeled after, if anybody?
CJ: We don't have it modeled after anyone, but we listen to a lot of New York stuff like Korn and Helmet and also Rollins and Tool, things like that.
RN: The name of your debut album frogstomp, where did it come from?
CJ: It was off an old record, titled "Frogstomp." We liked it and thought it was good, so we used it.
RN: About recording the album, how long did it take? Who produced it? Where did you record it?
CJ: It took about ten to twelve days. Kevin Shirley recorded it and produced it. It was all done in a studio in Sydney.
RN: I was checking out your songs today and most of them have a dark feel to them like Pure Massacre, Suicidal Dream and Madman to name a few, yet the album closed with a real upbeat number Findaway, is that by design? Were you trying to end in an up note?
CJ: No, we didn't really put them on in any order, we just threw them all on. The pace really didn't bother us that much.
RN: Findaway is really Green Day, Ramones like?
CJ: Yes, we thought we needed a song that was a bit faster and sort of a bit fun.
RN: The U.S. has really taken to you guys, close to two million albums sold. What do you attribute that to? Why do you think you guys are so popular over here?
CJ: I don't know. I guess because we're young and we have some integrity in our music, but I really don't know.
RN: Do you feel MTV has played a big part in your success?
CJ: I think so. When they play the video clips, and stuff like that, it helps a lot.
RN: I saw you guys on MTV's Alternative Nation. Do you consider yourself an alternative band?
CJ: Not really.
RN: What was it like to play the MTV awards on the roof of the Radio City Music Hall?
CJ: It was very different. It felt sort of like we were gonna drop over the edge. It was funny for a while.
RN: Were you guys up there for long?
CJ: We played two songs, we were up there for a fair while.
RN: You guys had a small set back on the Red Hot Chili Peppers dates, with Chad Smith's broken hand. Soon you guys will finally get some tour dates with the Chili Peppers, are you looking forward to that?
CJ: It's not an extensive tour, were only going for two weeks. It still should be fun.
RN: What's the biggest crowd you guys have played to?
CJ: There's a festival here in Australia called The Big Day Out, about 15,000.
RN: I hear a rumor you guys had to make some school arrangements to go on tour. Is that true?
CJ: Not really arrangements, sort of like when we're home we're at school, sort of like that.
RN: Some people say silverchair is a bunch of young punks who didn't pay their dues and got fame handed to them. What do you have to say to them?
CJ: Well, if they want to think that, it doesn't really bother us. We've worked very hard, played a lot in the garage rehearsing, stuff like that and played the small clubs around Newcastle here for a while. I think we just got lucky in the end, That's what I think.
RN: Now tell us about the Australian rock scene. The last we heard from out of there was that the Screaming Jets were the big thing and then they weren't. Tell us about Ammonia, the band you are bringing to L.A. with you.
CJ: Ammonia is from Perth in Australia and they are really good. There going to release a single over there called Drugs, it's a great song.
RN: So whatever became of the Screaming Jets? They were going to be the next big thing.
CJ: They just released another album here in Australia.
RN: What else is cool in Australia? What is the scene like over there?
CJ: It's sort of like a bit of alternative pop rock sort of, with Magic Dirt, Mark of Cain, You Am I and a lot of bands like that -- underground, not huge like Pearl Jam or anything. There's a lot of places for people to go and see shows.
RN: What do you foresee for the band's future?
CJ: Well, I don't know. Could be good, could be bad, could be average.
RN: In closing, is there something you would like to say to our readers and to your fans?
CJ: Well, if you see a record of ours, you can buy it if you want, but you don't have to, because you might hate us.