Rolling Stone Article
Everything you've read -- or more likely seen -- about prodigal
Australian musician David Helfgott is true. The emotionally fragile and
eccentric pianist, subject of the 1997 biopic Shine, communicates in a
ceaseless tornado of sentence fragments and incomplete thoughts, as
well as through an almost sublime mastery of the piano. It was that
paradox that confounded and intrigued silverchair and producer Nick
Launay (Semisonic, Girls Against Boys) during Helfgott's riveting
recording of Emotion Sickness, the six-minute opening opus on the
Aussie rock trio's new album, Neon Ballroom, due out in March.
"It was probably the most amazing day of our lives ... he's exactly like that," says Launay, referring to Geoffrey Rush's portrayal of Helfgott in Shine. "He has no inner dialogue at all. Whatever he's thinking, he says it. He never stops talking."
Launay wants to make clear that the title Emotion Sickness has nothing to do with Helfgott's condition, which doctors have described as a schizo-affective disorder, but rather frontman Daniel Johns' state of mind during the writing process. "Daniel wrote for three months and [the songs] are very, very heartfelt," he says.
Of the twelve songs on Neon Ballroom, seven, Launay says, have sonic similarities to the orchestral Cemetery from last year's Freak Show. "More sort of slower songs in some respects," he says, "but then they go really heavy in sections."
A Led Zeppelin-esque song, Launay says, is "really heavy and goes into really weird time signatures," and includes a melange of piano and strings.
Helping out on the keyboards is Jim Moginie, who plays guitar for Aussie peers Midnight Oil. "[silverchair] is definitely gonna get a keyboard player [for the tour]," says Launay. "I think they have to." Though Moginie's name came up as a possible silverchair touring keyboardist, it's more likely the band will choose a player closer to their youthful age range.
In contrast to the recording of 1995's frogstomp, which lasted four days, and Freak Show, which stretched just three weeks, Neon Ballroom was recorded over the course of a marathon two-month session in the band's usual Festival Studios in Sydney, Australia. The album title, according to Launay, was a natural for the "very big" feel the music conveys and the "later-Seventies sort of sounds that conjure up the image of neon lights."
Another twist on the album is the band's new spin on Spawn, a song originally recorded with British hardcore electronica act Vitro for last summer's Spawn -- The Album film soundtrack. The band re-cut a heavier, "way more rock" version of the song with car crash samples courtesy of remixer Paul Mac.
Overall, Launay says the album has a very mature sound "as if they were all forty years old" -- or at least their parents were.