Interview with silverchair's Ben Gillies

By Randy Osenenko (Footsteps Magazine)

Ben Gillies in New York, July 1996As many of my friends already know, I have become quite a fan of that talented Australian band known as silverchair. What follows is a short interview I did with their drummer, Ben Gillies, via fax in July 1996. I would like to thank Ben for taking the time to answer my questions, and my gratitude goes out to the band's fine manager, Mr. John Watson. One of my requirements for total devotion to a band is that they must have a cool manager. Pearl Jam and silverchair are certainly overqualified in that department.

After John Watson read the last issue of Footsteps, he wrote back to me regarding the Rolling Stone quote we had printed that was attributed to silverchair's Daniel Johns. (Hey, do we ever doubt Rolling Stone? You bet we do!) I am very pleased that he gave me permission to quote directly from his letter:

    "One more thing, I noticed that in the issue you sent you reproduced Daniel's (kind of negative) quote about Pearl Jam which originally appeared in Rolling Stone magazine. You should he aware that this is a genuine misquote. Daniel was trying to say that silverchair don't really sound like Pearl Jam anymore, but it came out that they don't like Pearl Jam anymore. As soon as this quote appeared in Rolling Stone we faxed Pearl Jam's management to set the record straight because they have been very good to silverchair ever since the two bands crossed paths in Australia last year."

And now onto the Ben Gillies interview:

Q. How does audience reaction affect your performance?
A. "The audience is usually the main thing that makes the difference between a good gig and a shitty one. If there's a hell mosh then you can't help but get into what you're playing. But if everyone's just standing there with their arms crossed you usually just get bored and it's not as much fun for anyone."

Q. Is it still fun playing now or has it become more like work?
A. "It's still usually fun playing gigs -- it's the best part of being in a band. Occasionally you'll do a show where things are stuffing up and it's not much fun but normally it's good. We don't play that many shows because we've got to go to school and stuff so it's not really like gigs ever get to be a job for us."

Q. What was the best show and the worst show you've done?
A. "The best show would probably be different for each of us but for me it was the one we did in Dallas last year (The Bomb Factory) just because the onstage sound was really together and the crowd were right into it. The worst show would probably be this festival we did in France. We didn't play until about 1:30 a.m. and all the crowd were stoned or something because they just stood there staring at us like we were aliens or something. It was really weird. We ended up doing about a 25-minute version of Israel's Son just to piss them off!"

Q. Are the new songs and lyrics darker?
A. "Some of the new songs are definitely heavier than the stuff on the last album but some of it is heaps poppier as well. I mean, there's some violins and stuff on one song and a sitar on another one. Lyrically though, most of the new stuff is pretty dar. Then again, so were most of the songs on the last record. It's just that we all really like kind of dark, depressing songs rather than bouncy, happy songs about love and stuff."

Q. You seem to hate being interviewed by MTV's Kennedy, is that right?
A. "She's kinda weird! But we don't hate her or anything. I think it's just that the two times she's interviewed us -- once at the Reading Festival and once at a Chili Peppers show -- we've been standing there somewhere where all these people were watching us being interviewed and it was really embarrassing. You just feel like a dickhead standing there with all these people looking at you answering questions so it's not really been a problem with her -- it's more about the situations we've been in while we're talking to her."

Q. Overall, what were your impressions of the U.S.?
A. "We haven't really got to see that much of America because when we're touring there's always interviews to do or whatever, but the things I like most about America are the food -- nachos! -- and the roller coaster at Magic Mountain. The thing I liked least was the cold weather when we were there in February -- it's much better in summer."

Q. What do you think about censorship?
A. "I don't really know too much about it but I guess people should normally be allowed to decide for themselves what they listen to or watch."

Q. When is Chris going to start joining in on the songwriting?
A. "It's not like Chris isn't allowed to join in writing the songs -- he just hasn't really come up with anything yet. Maybe on the third album he'll come up with some stuff that's right for the band. Who knows?"

Q: If you could jam onstage with any living band, who would it be?
A. "Page and Plant -- although I'd probably shit myself because nobody could ever fill John Bonham's shoes."

Q. When will we hear you or Chris sing?
A. "Trust me -- you don't want to hear that!"

Q. What did you think of Jeff and Mike from Pearl Jam when you met them at Reading?
A: "They seerned like really good blokes -- they weren't up themselves like some big rock'n'roll dudes seem to be. Their manager was really cool, too. He got us these passes which let us watch Neil Young from the side of the stage which was really good of him." [Randy's note: The Kelly Curtis Fan Club grows larger every day!]

Q. Are you planing to do any other covers? How about a version of Waterfalls?
A. "We already do Waterfalls actually -- we put the makeup under our eyes and everything. No, I'm just kidding. When we first started playing we used to do lots of covers -- Jimi Hendrix, Zeppelin, all sorts of stuff. We keep talking about relearning a few of them so that we can do a different one each night when we're touring -- that way, every show would be really different. Maybe we'll get it together by the time touring for the next album gets going."

Q. Are there any questions you wish journalists would ask you instead of the ones they actually ask?
A."Yes. 'Would you like to stop being interviewed and go down the beach instead?' Actually, your questions have been different from the normal ones so that's good."