"Neon Ballroom" Interview with Silverchair
Triple J:How did you feel after recording your latest album Neon Ballroom?
silverchair:After we finished Neon Ballroom I really wanted to play again, whereas at the end of the Freak Show tours and stuff, I was sick of playing and really didn't want to play for a about a year. But after Neon Ballroom just wanted to get back to a stage... I was really enthusiastic about playing live again. So I think it was the perfect break.
Triple J:And that enthusiasm came once you finished the album? The new album?
silverchair:Yes, definitely, as soon as we started rehearsing and they sounded good it was like, yeah, okay cool lets do it.
Triple J:When did you finish recording Neon Ballroom?
silverchair:Probably about August I think, we recorded for about 6 weeks in July and then we did mixing later in the year in LA.
Triple J:Have you still got the same excitement about the album? You said when you came out of the studio you were feeling good about it... how do you feel now about six months on from that?
silverchair:Yeah I still really like it. I had a really clear picture of what I wanted to do in the studio this time around, so I'm really happy that it was documented and that it came out exactly how I pictured it.
"I just wanted to do an album, which, just really did everything differently. I just wanted to approach everything in a different way".
Triple J:And what did you picture before hand?
silverchair:I just wanted to do an album, which, just really did everything differently. I just wanted to approach everything in a different way. I approached the lyrics a lot differently, I wrote most of the lyrics in a poetic form first, then I wrote music around the words, and then made them more lyrical as time went by. In the past we've done music first and then wrote lyrics over the top. I also wanted to use a lot of orchestration, lots of different instruments, make it sound really kind of authentic and traditional ballroom sounding... but on the other hand I wanted to use some really futuristic sounds and kind of combine the two.
Triple J:And that’s hence the title Neon Ballroom?
silverchair:Exactly. There are a few songs that are in-between, like Do You Feel the Same and Point of View. They are, kind of, straighter rock songs because I didn't want to totally alienate people.
Triple J:What percentage do you reckon is old silverchair on this new album?
silverchair:I wanted to really keep what I thought were the best elements of silverchair. Like the first two silverchair albums I really liked, they sounded really fresh and energetic, it didn't sound like we were, you know, bitter about the industry or any thing... it just sounded like we just wanted to let out frustration through music or whatever. It just sounded really real, and I wanted to keep that. But in terms of actual musical style, I think there are only about 3 or 4 songs, which you could actually say 'yeah that sounds like silverchair' .
silverchair:When we finished the Freak Show tours last summer, or whenever it was in 97. I sat down for 2 weeks, and I was just writing poems and thinking of ways that I could approach the next album musically. And I really just wanted to, you know, I had a very clear picture of exactly what I wanted, and then I started writing according to what I'd pictured.
Triple J:How did it go sort of translating that to the other members? To Ben and Chris? And describing what you wanted in your head?
silverchair:Well when we finished the Freak Show tours we were actually scheduled to have a year off. So Ben and Chris were just doing a lot of surfing and chilling out, and I was chilling out, but I was, we all have pretty different ways of relaxing. I like to just sit at home and write and watch movies, and they like to go on safaris and surf and stuff. So I don’t think they realised I'd been writing for all that time. And then I just told them that I'd written these songs and showed them, and they knew they were different but they really liked them and got into it and I told them what I wanted to do and they were into it.
Triple J:So you didn't have to twist their arms too much?
Triple J:Did Ben collaborate with you much at all on this album it sounds like you've done most of the song writing?
silverchair:The only song that me and Ben wrote together was 'Spawn Again' but that wasn't written in the same period of time that the rest of the songs were written, that was written probably eight months before the rest of Neon Ballroom. I guess it's the same structure as the original Spawn version before it was re mixed. So we just pretty much re recorded it and people hadn't heard the original version before.
"that was really good getting David Helfgott to play. That was one of the best days of my life... It's my favourite song ... and to have someone like that play on it was just amazing."
Triple J:The remix that came up on the Spawn album - did that open up your eyes to new ways of working? Or new ways that silverchair could sound? silverchair:Yeah it did but I'd been opened up to that before when Paul Mac re mixed Freak. I'd kind of thought of a different approach to our music, but so many bands now are doing the whole electronic thing - there's nothing wrong with it, I like a lot of it - but I just didn't want to be a part of that. I wanted to do something different.
Triple J:I think a lot of people when they heard that track from Spawn they might of thought "Ah well this might be a sign of what they are going to do for the third album"...
silverchair:That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted people to think that. I wanted the last 2 releases to be electronic songs so that people thought that was what we were going to do and then open Neon Ballroom with something like Emotion Sickness which is so orchestral and un-techno.
Triple J:Yeah, very different.
Triple J:It’s a very ambitious song and of course you've got a fairly special piano player helping you out as well...
silverchair:Yeah that was really good getting David Helfgott to play. That was one of the best days of my life, just because that song means so much to me. It's my favourite song that I've ever written, and to have someone like that play on it was just amazing. Just being in there when he was recording it.
Triple J:Who came up with his name?
silverchair:Just the way I was describing the part that I wanted for the song. David Helfgott seemed like the perfect guy, I just wanted a really manic discordant piano part. Which kind of broke up, its so lush a lot of the strings are just so smooth and pretty and beautiful in parts, I wanted to have something which was unsettling so the discordant manic stuff was just David Helfgott's style, so it seemed to fit.
Triple J:It’s a great combination. What was he like to work with in the studio?
silverchair:He's excellent, he's so nice, he's just really loving and just sitting there and being cool.
Triple J:Did he have to hear the song a lot of times before he got into the right headspace to play something?
silverchair:Yeah, apparently he was listening to it a few times. He talks constantly so he is just talking and listening, for really long periods of time. But he played perfectly on it, we were all just sitting in the studio watching not believing that he was actually playing on one of our songs.
Triple J:What is Emotion Sickness about? You said before that it is 'your favourite song that you have ever written. What is it about that track that makes it so special?
silverchair:It's about any kind of mental disorder or problem. It's about depression or anxiety or anything like that. It's about trying to escape it without resorting to an anti-depressant or some form of pill.
What, confronting your demons?
Triple J:Personal experience? Or watching other people go through something like that?
silverchair: Most of it is personal, most of this album is - because it came from poetry. That’s how I express myself when I am going through certain phases if my life or in my head. I like to get it down in a poetic form, or just lyrics. So its all from personal experience.
Triple J:Do you feel like with the whole of this album as well you've open up a lot more?
silverchair:Yeah definitely. With the first two albums, because we were very young, when you are that age, and a male, it is kind of scary to open up too much because you've got to have this tough macho image, and you can't be too mellow. It's got to be big it's got to be fat and it's got to be cool and tough. But with this album I just kind of wanted to be totally open and honest and get everything out.
Triple J:Now that you're old 'has beens' you can afford to put your feet up and go this is what I reckon of the world. (smile)
silverchair: Yeah, exactly. (laugh)
Triple J:The expectation factor as well, I mean it must still weigh on your shoulders a little bit. People kind of expect silverchair to be, because you're still only nineteen I mean you haven't left your teens yet, you're still quite a young band, there must be a certain expectation factor attached to the group...
silverchair:Yeah I actually find that exciting, I used to feel really pressured by it and I think that took its toll on Freak Show. I didn't want to do something too dramatic because I didn't want to turn people off silverchair but I actually kind of find it a challenge now and I enjoy people expecting us to do some type of thing, expecting us to be what they want us to be, and then it's really good just to do something totally different.
Triple J:You must actually after you write each song go "I wonder what people are going to make of this one", do you?
silverchair:I didn't want to write the songs, but after I heard them recorded.... because usually I picture a song to be something and then when we record it, it changes somewhere down the line, it goes in a different direction... but with this album I really didn't want anything to change I wanted it to be how I pictured it. So when I heard it that's when I started thinking yeah I wonder what people will think.
Triple J:And what do you think people are going to make of Neon Ballroom?
silverchair:Some people, I think, the original silverchair fans that have grown with us since Frog Stomp, I think a lot of them will really like it, because they've actually grown with us as a band, and I also think some of them will really hate it, because they like the more traditional hard rock music that we played on the previous two albums. And I think new people that didn't like silverchair before might like it, and it really is different, so some people will like it and some people will hate it.
Triple J:I guess it's really hard to predict until you just whack it out there these days isn't it?
silverchair:Yeah exactly, that's why we wanted to release Anthem For The Year 2000 first, because although it's different for silverchair it is probably the closest thing to the previous silverchair tracks. So we didn't want to alienate silverchair fans with the first track and go yeah this is what we do now.
Triple J:'Welcome to our new direction' as they said in spinal tap. Is Anthem for the year 2000 a piss take?
silverchair:In ways it is, it's serious, but its like with Freak. I like to have a certain amount of irony in the lyrics and sarcasm, because I find with really angry songs, the best way to get a message across is to include some form of humour so people don't think you are taking yourself too seriously. It's just my view on what a lot of people I know think about politicians and the way the youth is being treated.