Freak Show & Tell
By Annette Basile / Photo By Tony Mott (Drum Media #371)"We kind of like to disassociate ourselves from the whole music industry," says Daniel Johns. "We just see ourselves as three average Australian teenagers playing rock music, and getting feelings out through music. A lot of bands wanna be part of the scene, and wanna be part of the industry. But we don't."
silverchair. Even the mainstream media, who remain strangely fascinated by them, know about the lower case 's.' But the trio, the result of a head-on collision between grunge and their parents record collections, didn't achieve their success via the hype of strategic marketing campaigns. Success grew from grassroots public demand. Although silverchair, as the guitarist/vocalist's above comments indicate, have attempted to avoid the Rock Star Trip, their fans and the media went ahead and made idols out of them anyway.
From teen mags to broadsheet newspapers. From metal publications to the independent music press. Virtually no silverchair angle has been left uncovered. Yet despite the library of existing press on the band, silverchair interviews have become a bit of a rarity.
When did you decide to limit doing interviews?
"From the start we didn't give many interviews, because of the whole hype thing. We didn't want to overexpose ourselves. But then, after we did our first big batch of interviews, we decided we're not gonna do too many. Because, I don't know, it kind of keeps an element of mystique about the band. I don't like giving too much away. I don't like everyone knowing everything about me. Everyone comes up to me and thinks they're best friends with me, because they know everything about me."
But if you don't give interviews, they'll probably make something up anyway.
"That's why we didn't stop altogether. We still wanted some real facts to be there, and not just crap."
Do you read your press?
"No, I never do. I used to, but it used to get me too angry. So I stopped, about a year and a half ago."
How do you feel about the teenybopper element, are they still a strong presence?
"No, they're a lot less prominent at our shows now. When we first started, it was like, 70/30 percent, girls to guys. It didn't bother us as long as they were there for the music, and not for anything else. But we got the feeling they weren't. So we got a bit cut at that. Over the last -- especially the last 12-15 months -- it's really changed. It's totally the opposite. The whole teenage girl thing... we don't care if they're teenage girls, as long as they're not the teenybopper type. They're not there for the music."
Perhaps the audience shift has something to do with the development silverchair showed with their sophomore effort, Freak Show. Still continuing with the anthemic thrash 'n' burn rock of frogstomp, Johns, drummer Ben Gillies and bassist Chris Joannou revealed greater diversity in style and dynamics. Johns agrees that Freak Show is "probably the whole reason" for the teenybopper decline. With the first album, he says, "people saw us as a teen novelty band. After the second album, they kind at realised that we were for real, and we're a real band. So they kind of started to take us seriously."
What are the plans for the next album?
"We haven't really discussed it amongst ourselves, but I would hope that the next album would be a lot more creative as we possibly can be with it Because we've had two reasonably successful albums, we don't really feel a great need to top them, or to have another big album. I just wanna do something that I'm gonna be really happy with, even through it's not as accessible to radio or anything."
How does songwriting work for you?
"I only really write songs when I'm in a dark, kind of depressed mood. I don't ever really write when I'm happy, because I'm usually out doing other stuff. I haven't written a song for a while. Usually I lust sit up in my room, and totally just write. A lot of people take like two weeks to write lyrics because they want to make them sound really perfect. But I just tend to write whatever's in my heart at the time, whatever's on my mind. So it's straight from the heart, it doesn't really bypass the brain at all! [laughs]"
Are you worried that you mightn't be able to top all these incredible experiences you're having in silverchair later on?
"No. I don't think we're ever gonna try and top them. I think it's just of something that we should -- when we've finished -- just look back on and kind of be proud of. But I don't think we'll ever say, 'OK, silverchair sold this many albums, now I'm gonna get in another band and we're gonna double it because we're older [laughs].' I think it's kind of good doing it so early. A lot of people leave school and say, 'OK, now I've got to travel the world and see everything before I get too old.' We're happy to be in Australia now that we've seen pretty much everything."
What do you think of the American music industry?
"I don't like it at all. I don't like the way Americans put musicians on a pedestal. Every band over there just seems in a big competition, trying to see who's the biggest, most famous band. There's a lot of bands that aren't like that, but it seems that there's a lot of bands who do it because they wanna be stars."
Earlier in the conversation, Johns was asked about being a vegan. He was slightly reluctant to talk about it, not wanting to appear "fascist" about his beliefs. Asked if he thinks that he might inspire fans to learn more about veganism, he replies, "I think it could... but I don't want to seem like just because people aren't a vegan, I think that they're a dickhead or anything. But yeah, I'm really into it if people decide to be a vegan because they've seen someone -- or they listen to someone's music -- who's a vegan. It's good." The source for the vegan question came from the Internet, where something else was also discovered, the ghost of an "I Hate silverchair" page.
What would you say to the people who've bagged silverchair?
"We don't care really. They can say what they want. It doesn't bother us at all. People can hate us or like us. We don't give a shit."
Right now, you're about to embark on the band's most extensive Australian tour so far.
"Yeah. We're taking our own lighting show and our sound production and everything. Because it's our last tour for a while -- next year we're having some time off -- we're just gonna make it as good as possible, and just play with as much intensity as we can."
You're playing in an aircraft hangar in Dubbo...
"Yeah, probably [laughs]. I don't know. We're trying to play a lot of small regional places."
silverchair are infamous for on-the-road pranks. Any new ones to report?
"Not really. Don't really play that many pranks -- not too much. We usually just go to bed."