Put Your Band in the Air, Interview with Chris Joannou (Cover Story)

By James Struber (Rave (Brisbane))

Chris JoannouSilverchair are big. Actually, make that huge. They have sold millions and millions of albums all over the world, toured the rest of it and probably made a packet of money. When bands get big, sometimes egos develop, sometimes when bands don't get big they develop too. With the success that silverchair have attained, in such a short space of time, I was expecting to have to combat an ego the size of their sales figures, so it was a pleasant surprise to talk to bassist Chris Joannou. No trace of an ego, no snide comments about other people, just a young guy who has just bought a car (and sold millions of records).

Australia is plagued by tall poppy syndrome. Some pissed off (and generally unsuccessful person) has to take someone down with them. silverchair have copped their fair share of this, and I ask Chris if this bothers him at all.

"I think that everyone gets that for the entire period of time that they are in there. I don't think it matters who you are, you are going to get bagged by someone. It doesn't really bother me if people say that I'm a dickhead or something like that. I just say, 'Oh well, I'm a dickhead then.'"

Much news was created a short while ago when Chris -- wait for it -- cut off his hair. Yes, that's right, this teenage boy cut off his hair. Does it feel weird to have your entire life under the microscope for all to view?

"It gets a bit over the top sometimes, it was just a haircut, you know? Big deal, everyone gets a hair cut..."

And what about walking past a magazine rack and seeing your own face on one of the covers?

"It's a bit of a buzz. On the other hand, it's like, 'Am I being a wanker, or is it cool?' You just don't know. It's all a part of it."

So how does a song come about for silverchair?

"Well, some of them have come about when, one song [The Door] was a really slow sort of thing and we hated it, but we kept playing it and just sped it up and it sounded better and then it ended up on the record. Daniel had that song for a couple of months, it got the name 'The Poxy Song,' we sped it up and it sounded great."

silverchair spent about a month in Festival studios in Sydney recording new tracks.

"That's where we did Frogstomp, our first album, it just had heaps of toys and heaps of stuff happening all the time."

And how long did you have to record Frogstomp?

"Nine days."

So was it a bit better this time around?

"Because we had a bit more experience with our amps and knew what sort of sounds we wanted, and knew what we were doing, we took the time to actually do it properly."

And do the songs differ from the first album?

"They are a bit more mature. We have taken a fair bit more time in the way the songs have been put together. We had more pre-production time, just running over the songs and making sure they sounded right and that there wasn't a way they would sound better. I think that helped a lot, the fact that we could go in and all we had to worry about was playing it properly and getting the good sounds."

Without trying to make so much of a deal about it (everyone else already has), I ask Chris how old he is.

"Sixteen going on seventeen."

I tried to think of when I was sixteen going on seventeen, the stuff that I was doing, and I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in Chris's place. And at the ripe old age of twenty-four, I felt old. At "sixteen going on seventeen," Chris has experienced a lot of stuff. He has toured around the world and the rest of that stuff, but what does he see himself doing for the rest of his life?

"I don't know. I'm the same as all those other sixteen-year-old kids who don't know what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. If things are happening, silverchair could go for years, something could happen like what happened to Led Zeppelin or something like that or we could just die out in a year or so."

All this is said without a hint of pretention. It's just a young guy, pipe dreaming aloud about what could happen to him and two of his mates, the only difference being that it has pretty much happened already.

sign in front of Newcastle High School What about furthering his education? (Chris has one more year of school to go.)

"University was never in the cards. I think it is there if you want to be a lawyer or something like that, which I don't plan to be because I don't have the brains."

Is it hard being at school still?

"Sometimes it is, if we get a bit behind when we are away, we get a tutor when we get back so we can catch up."

What about after being famous rock 'n' rollers having to come back and be in fear of detention?

"I don't think that it matters, because we have been at the school for the last six years and no one really pays any attention to it. I don't think we have missed any exams, we just have to make up for missed class time."

I ask Chris if he had any other goals in life.

"I would like to be a mechanic. I like working on cars. I don't want the band just to finish and no one know aboutit. It would be good to be remembered."

I don't think there will be any problem with that.

Chris Joannou at the Big Day Out, 1995 I wasn't sure about how to finish this article. Usually it is with a funny quote or an off-the-cuff comment from myself or the band. I guess the sentence just before this one was that, but that just didn't seem to be enough. It's not like anything I say is going to make or break silverchair, it's just that I was amazed by Chris's attitude. Let's be honest about it. Here is a sixteen-year-old guy who is in one of the biggest bands in the world.

Sure, they weren't ground breaking when they first came out, but there is plenty of time for that. If anyone would be expected to be a rock wanker it should be one of these guys. I have met people in a lot smaller bands who have way bigger heads for absolutely no reason. I think a lot of bands should have a think about where they are, and what they have done, and instead of slagging silverchair off, they should maybe try and learn a bit more from them.