Dirty Young Men

By William Cummings (Hit Parader)

It hasn't taken the boys in silverchair long to establish their reputation in the rock and roll world -- in both good and bad ways. To many, these teen-aged Australians have brought a much-needed breath of fresh air into the hard rock arena, with their Seattle-inpired odes and powerful riffs representing the latest wave in rock's every changing evolutionary process. To others, however -- especially a number of folks who need to deal with these guys on a daily basis -- vocalist Daniel Johns, bassist Chris Joannou and drummer Ben Gillies have already become baby-faced prima donnas -- demanding, difficult, desensitized Rock Gods who only want things their own way.

Perhaps this quick step from wide-eyed teens fresh from Down Under to world weary, limo-riding rock stars isn't that difficult to imagine when you consider what the last year has brought forth for the members of silverchair. Since the beginning of 1995, when each band member was all of 15, they've seen their cheap, home-made demo tape win a national Aussie radio contest, their debut single, Tomorrow, reach the top of the charts in their native land, and their premier disc frogstomp become a world-wide phenomenon, selling over three million copies in the process. In addition, they've sold out their own club tour from coast to coast and become pin-up cover boys in virtually ever rock rag from Boston to Bangkok. That would seemingly be enough to make anyone's head spin, let alone the heads of these three still-wet-behind-the-ears rockers.

"None of us ever really considered what it would be like living on the road and being away from home for so long," Johns said. "We all dreamed of what it might be like being in a successful band, but what really happens isn't like what you imagine in those dreams. So many people want your time -- there are so many other things to do other than make music. We're just not used to being pulled in three directions at once. We're just used to listening to our moms! But we're doing our best to enjoy all of it -- and we are enjoying it."

While they're still far too young to live the quintessential rock and roll lifestyle (heck, they're too young to even hang around in most of the clubs they've played), the members of silverchair have quickly adapted to the various predilections that constitute life on the road. With their recent tour with The Red Hot Chili Peppers bringing them face-to-face with crowds ranging between 10,000 and 20,000 on a nightly basis, these fresh-faced rockers have been force fed life in the music industry lane. Yet, despite all the hoopla that's come their way -- as well as the incessant demands from the media for their time and energy -- Johns insists that he and his cronies are still just three school kids out to have a good time. After all, he says, why would anyone want to while away time in the classroom when there are rock shows to perform?

"What could be better than playing music with your friends, and missing school while you're doing it?" the blond vocalist said. "Actually, we all just came from spending time with our tutor -- that's what we get to do for fun! Most bands run around getting drunk and having a party, we get to study for out mathematics finals. To be honest, I don't really care about school any more. I'm already doing what I want to do. I put up with my tutor and taking the tests because I promised my mom I would do it. But if i bomb out, I don't care."

With an estimated group income exceeding $5 million for 1995 alone, it seems safe to say that the members of silverchair shouldn't have to worry about supporting themselves if, in fact, they do end up flunking out of school. After all, what would you rather be; a struggling high school student busting his butt in order to potentially land a $15,000 a year 9-to-5 gig, or a teenage rock star whose financial future already seems secure? Tough choice, eh? But it's not the amount of money they're making, or the degree of fame they're attaining that has delighted the members of silverchair. Their greatest thrills so far seem to come from simple things like staying up past midnight and meeting some of the rock stars they admired while they were first learning their licks.

"We've had the chance to meet some other musicians, and they must think we're either stuck up or idiots," Johns said, "We just kind of stood there and didn't say anything. We met Jimmy Page and Robert Plant during the festival in Germany, and of course they didn't know who we were, but we certainly knew who they were! We were intoduced to them, and all we did was shake their hands and walk away. What can you say to them? We did sit on the side of the stage and watch them play, they were unreal."

While it's certainly nice to know that these 16 year-olds hold the proper degree of respect for their rock and roll elders, it should be fascinating to see if silverchair's initial impact on the rock world lasts for even a fraction of the time enjoyed by the likes of Led Zeppelin. In this age of fast-come/fast-go rock celebrity, these Aussie aces have just begun to consider their next step up the always treacherous rock ladder of success. Often it seems as if a band that enjoys the degree of instant and wide-spread acclaim won by silverchair is destined to never repeat their initial glory, no matter how hard they try, Such thoughts are thankfully the last thing on these adolescents minds -- thought the band members insist that they're determinded to make their second album a major step forward from the straight-ahead simplicity featured throughout frogstomp.

"We started working on the new songs late last year," Johns said. "And our initial plan was to go back into the recording studio in April. But then the Red Hot Chili Peppers tour got delayed because their drummer hurt his wrist. That whole tour was moved back about two months, and that moved our recording schedule back about two months as well. We'll be getting in to record probably in June, and hopefully the new album will be finished by September. We want it out by the end of next year, just so we can go back on the road during (the Australian) summer vacation."

[Thanks to Katie for the transcript.]