Access All Areas, On Tour with Silverchair

By Robyn Doreian (Metal Hammer)

In London it's been snowing like a bastard, and areas of the city have been cordoned off as a result of yet more bomb scares. But tonight silverchair are playing miles away, so who gives a shit!

The backstage area of the gig at Manchester University is tiny, consisting of two rooms the size of wardrobes. silverchair are lucky enough to have a radiator in theirs, but American support band Everclear got a real bum deal. As well as their shoe box-sized dressing room simulating the Antarctic regions in temperature, it also acts as a walk-through passage for anyone wanting to get out front to the stage. No privacy and no heat -- welcome to England!

silverchair have just flown in from Chicago, where they've been the support act for the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the past two weeks.

The Aussie trio are jet-lagged to hell and barely know what day it is. "We've only been here for sixteen hours, so I don't really know what's going on," comments frontman Daniel Johns. "I know that the last time we were in England we were totally unknown, which was good. We like coming to Europe as no one knows who we aree, so we could do what we wanted, and the gigs were really small club shows, which were fun."

In America it was pretty much the same story, the only difference being that they've sold over a million records Stateside.

But there was one fan who sent in a letter detailing 267 things she would do in order to meet silverchair. They included such perilous acts as listening to the Hootie and the Blowfish album and saying that she actually liked it, and cutting her dad's toenails and eating one of them. Surprisingly, only two out of the list were of a sexual nature. Unfortunately she failed to meer the band. But nonetheless, silverchair loved the USA.

"I really liked Los Angeles," states Daniel. "I wanted to go to Huntington Beach, where KoRn come from, to see what it was like, but we didn't get there. They are unreal! They were playing with Ozzy but we didn't get to see them. We met them a few times and they were really cool. KoRn are on the same label as us, and we went out to dinner with them and they were nice people."

But silverchair have no such anonymity in their home country. Daniel relates the story of how his picture made the front page of a daily tabloid newspaper with rhe heading: "How the billion-dollar boy spends his day."

"Yeah, that was pretty shit," recalls the guitarist. "These photographers hung around outside my house the afternoon before it happened for about four hours. I couldn't go anywhere, so I was just waiting in my room for them to fuck off.

"Then the next morning I was going to school and they were outside in the same car and I recognised them, so I just bolted around the corner on my bike. They stopped and ran out with cameras and shit, and I was like... Fuck!

"I went to Ben's house, and then they appeared at the school gate taking photos as I was riding in, and I was really pissed off about it. I made a promise to everyone that next time -- if there is a next time -- I'll go and smash their cameras! I'll stack my bike straight into them and claim it was an accident!"

Smoke wafts from a cluster of patchouli incense on the table in silverchair's Manchester HQ. Their rider consists of what you would expect 16-year-olds to drink: copious amounts of mineral water, Coke 7-Up, V-8 and Lucozade NRG -- or as Daniel refers to the latter beverage, "a fruit energy explosion" (mainly because every time he opens a can it explodes all over him!)

In the comfort of their backstage shoe box, Daniel knocks out a few Slayer and Sepultura tunes to both amuse himself and bolster his sadly lacking metal credentials.

"Chaos AD is the only Sepultura record I've heard," quips Daniel. "I don't mind that stuff, but it's a bit heavy for me. I'm a bit old for that kind of thing. I did my death and thrash metal thing when I was eleven. I used to love Metallica and all that, but I am kind of out of that phase."

The Aussie trio take the stage for an hour's worth of soundchecking. At 5 p.m., there's already a handful of student fans in the hall, armed with frogstomp CDs for autographs.

Both guitarist Daniel Johns and bass player Chris Joannou should be getting a commission from LA noise monsters KoRn for advertising: Chris sports a KoRn beanie over his newly shorn locks, and Daniel has a rather large sticker on his guitar (which he acquired from hero Page Hamilton from Helmet). It becomes more than apparent that they are one of silverchair's favorite bands.

Ben Gillies spends an inordinate amount of time tuning his drums. Daniel reckons that he has the loudest cymbals in the world, and goes on to say that when they play live, they "should be called Ben's Cymbals and silverchair!"

Gig time arrives, and Daniel changes into a crumpled white shirt and Pierre Cardin tie. Ben is determined to put on his heavily autographed T-shirt, much to the objection of Daniel who claims it stinks! The drummer does in fact put it on, and does in fact stink!

Tonight's show goes down a storm. England is finally taking to what some would term a trio of 16-year-old upstarts from Australia. But the truth is that they've been slogging it out in Ben's garage since they were 12.

There's no sex, drugs or, for that matter, terribly much rock'n'roll after the show.

"When I come off stage, I don't really feel much like talking to anyone for about half an hour," explains Daniel. "I just want to sit and calm down for a bit. When you are on stage, particularly at the end of the gig, you get really hyped up. I get really pissed off when you've finished a gig and all these people walk in.

"We'll just go back to the hotel, hang out for a while, watch a movie and go to bed. Tonight I think I'll be staying up for a while, because I work up at 12:30 because I'm jet-lagged.

"After this set of gigs it's over to Japan and then back to school for about 10 weeks, but we'll be doing a gig at Easter time at the Sydney Showgrounds to about 15,000 people with a couple of other Australian bands.

"I was reading this book last night for school, and have read about 107 pages in about two weeks, so it's kind of going all right. It's about 430 pages long. I don't even like reading. I just hate it!"

Such is the life of the world's youngest rock stars...