Silverchair's Daniel Johns
Silverchair lived most of 1995 and 1996 on the road. These teen-aged
rockers transversed the globe from Australia to Austria as they brought
the multi-platinum sounds of thier debut disc, frogstomp, to
During that time, band members Daniel Johns, Ben Gilles and Chris Joannou reached an interesting conclusion; touring was rather like being an old-time carnival, and if that was the case, the three of them were definitely that carnival's freak show.
It wasn't that these barely-post-pubescent Aussies acted in a particulary strange manner (they, in fact, spent more time in thier rooms downing hamburgers and cokes than causing the traditional brand of rock and roll mayhem), nor was it their cherub-cheeked apperance that made them feel like freaks (actually, they all ended up being teen-rag pin-up boys by the time the tour was over).
Apparently, it was the feeling of being caged in and stared at by millions of adoring fans around the world that provided these boys with their freakish sensation. How fitting then that silverchair have decided to title their all-important second disc Freak Show. Recently we discussed the album's title -- along with many other topics -- with Johns during a brief stop-over in New York.
Hit Parader: What particular significance does the title Freak Show have for the band?
Daniel Johns: Freak Show is just a good theme for any travelling rock and roll band. The title, the cover art and the whole theme of the album kind of work together well. It's hard to get used to people treating you differenly just because you're in a band; they expect you to act a cetain way because they see you in a magazine or on television and they expect you to be different. We're just regular people, just like them. They don't want to realize that.
HP: How do you feel the band has grown during the two years since frogstomp came out?
DJ: We've grown in a lot of ways. We've matured as people, and the music has matured as well. We wrote so many of the songs that were on the first album when we were 13 or 14, and by the time we finally got around to recording them we were kind of sick of the entire lot! This time everything was taken to another level -- I like this record a lot more than the first one. Every song on Freak Show was written and recorded within an eight-month period, so everything was much fresher, and we were more enthusiastic towards making the album.
HP: Did working in a rather quick manner give the music a different feel this time?
DJ: We recorded most everything in just three weeks. And yeah, there is a very different feel this time. The music is darker and more diverse, and the lyrics are better. I'm four years older than I was when I wrote a lot of the first album, and there's a big difference being 13 and being 17. Having seen the world and experienced a lot more, it adds a lot to your music. It would have been sad if the music hadn't changed on this record, don't you think?
HP: Did you ever find there was a lot of pressure on your shoulders due to the success of the first album?
DJ: Not really. I think we've kept most of the same attitude towards things that we've had since we've been in a band. The whole idea of us getting together was just guys [who] wanted to play some music and have some fun. Any pressure we did feel we get to take out in the music. It's a real release for us. It's one of the best parts of being in a band like this; if you're feeling a little angry or whatever, you can just blow it off through the music.
HP: It does sound as if there's a lot more anger and aggression on this album.
DJ: I tend to write lyrics when I'm in something of a depressed mood. I don't know why that is, but I'm better able to put my thoughts into words at that time. Maybe some of that attitude is why the songs are definitely angrier this time. When I'm feeling good about things I'd rather be out playing with my dog or going to the beach. But when I'm feeling a little depressed, that's when I tend to pick up my guitar and begin to write.
HP: We don't mean to get too personal, but with two hit albums, successful world tours and tons of fame, what the heck do you get depressed about?
DJ: (Laughing) I guess I shouldn't really use the word depressed as much as the word moody. Everybody goes through moods. I just tend to write best when I'm in something of a bad mood. I don't know what causes them. But it has given the music on this album kind of a dark quality, which is surprising because none of us is a very dark person. I think we're all relatively nice people away from music -- we tend to let all our darkness out through our music.
HP: Do you equate good rock and roll with anger?
DJ: Well, yeah. I reckon that any rock and roll is anger to some extent. That's one of the basic ideas of rock, that expresses a kind of anger that is inside all of us at one time or another. Of course there are bands out there that are really fun and up-beat. But I think a lot of young people enjoy getting their anger out through rock and roll so they can basically enjoy the other aspects of their lives.
HP: Does it concern you at all that some of the material on Freak Show may just be too heavy for the people who bought frogstomp?
DJ: You make it sound like we've turned into Cannibal Corpse or a band like that! It isn't like that at all. It's definitely not too heavy or aggressive. We're not writing songs about going to war and killing people. A song like Learn To Hate talks more about how silly hate is -- it certainly doesn't make people hate anyone. People just tend to hate someone else just because they might have different interests, or different beliefs. It's all so silly.
HP: What's the single best part of success as far as you're concerned?
DJ: Probably getting a cool car. I bought a XP 66 Ford which is a real rockin' car. It's my idea of a real rock and roll mobile, and I love driving around in it. Sometimes I take my dog and we drive down to the beach and just hang out. That's cool. If people see me and want to say hello, I say hello back. I'm still just Daniel from Newcastle.
[Thanks to Kathy Andrews for the transcript.]