Silverchair, Born Show-Offs

By Arnie Foster (Hit Parader)

Tell Daniel Johns that's he's a star, and he'll just shrug his shoulders and offer a half-hearted grin. Inform silverchair's charismatic vocalist that his band's music has grown markedly on their second disc, Freak Show, and he'll self-consciously shake his mane of blond hair. State that Daniel has now emerged as one of the top pin-up attractions in the hard rock world and this Australian native will only roll his eyes skyward and shoot back a look of mild disgust. There's no doubt that Mr. Daniel Johns is a man of few words-a rocker who truly would rather let his music do the talkin'.

But before anyone begins to view these various reactions as merely the programmed reponses of another conceited, self-possessed, been-there done-that Rock God, just remember that Daniel Johns is now all of 17 years old. How would you feel to be just 17 and already have two soild years of experience in the glaring rock and spotlight under your belt? It's been Livin' Large for Johns and equally freshed-faced bandmates Chris Joannou and Ben Gillies from the moment their debut disc, frogstomp, sailed past the double platinum sales plateau back in 1995. And considering that the rapid-fire success that has come their way, these still-wet-behind-the-ears lads from Newcastle have handled it all rather well. But when it comes time to discuss their new music, the impact that success has on their lives, or the various artistic influences that have helped them shape their latest batch of tunes, they quickly rivet back to being teens who'd much rather be out on the beach or tooling around with their cars than talking to some magazine hack or television jaw jockey.

"The new music is good; we like it," Johns said, " We spent a lot more time writing the songs and recording them this time. Last time it took us about three weeks, this time it was about nine weeks. We didn't want to rush ourselves, and we didn't see any reason to do things faster than we did. I don't know if taking more time makes the music better or not, but we think it turned out better this time."

Granted, not exactly words designed to change the course of the universe. But at the same time, Johns does seem to possess an innate ability to cut right through the chaff to reach the heart of the matter-at-hand. Unlike so many previous (and current) rock frontmen who would instantly take to regaling anyone within earshot with hours of personal insights on subjects ranging from their secret tour grooming habits to the cosmic significance of their vocal techniques, Johns prefers to keep his responses simple, straight-forward and to-the-point. Only when one veers off the beaten track a little bit and discusses Daniel's new car, or his dog, does the singer/guitarist's eyes truly light up. That's when his tongue moves into second gear and words begin to emerge more easily from, as one teen-oriented publication lasciviously called them, "his pouty lips."

"Oh yeah, I love my car," he exclaimed. "It was one of the first things I picked up when we got back from touring last year. It's really fast, though I don't want anyone to know that I really go fast in it. I like getting my dog and then driving down to the beach. That's one of my favorite things in the world. After spending so much time on the road over the last couple of years, and being surrounded by so many people almost all the time, it's good to be able to get away for even a few hours with just your dog. You get time to think a little that way and try and get a hold on everything that's happened. It's great to have your dog along when you're thinking. You can always trust your dog. You know why they love you and why they respond to you, probably because you feed them!"

Unfortunately for Daniel and the other members of silverchair, lately there's been precious little time for life's simple pleasures. Since the release of Freak Show in February life for these boys has been a non-stop whirlwind of activity. This action first saw the band criss-crossing the globe by plane late last year, and now sees them doing the same thing by bus as they launch what promises to be a year-long world tour (with time off to finish their school classes, of course) that may see them perform in front as many as half a million fans from Sydney to San Francisco before it's all over. Johns admits that silverchair is looking particularly forward to getting back on the road this time -- away from the watchful gaze of their parents and road mangers. Now that they're all "men", he hopes the won't be treated in the same "childish" way by their friends, family and handlers, and that they'll be given room to explore life on the rock and roll tour trail to its fullest extent.

"It got a little boring having a hamburger and a coke at the hotel when everyone else was out having fun," Johns said. "But we're not 15 anymore. That makes a difference. We've learned so much and grown up so much over the last two years. We're not looking to go crazy every night or anything like that. But we don't want to feel like our moms have to watch over everything we do."

Whether or not their mothers will again accompany silverchair on the road -- as they did in 1995 is till a hot topic of debate among the band's members and their families. The moms certainly want to go ("they really enjoyed the shopping," Johns relates) while the boys would understandably rather be left alone -- or at least in the more-than-competent care of their top-flight road crew. So are silverchair going to graduate from burgers and a soda to bimbos and beer on their sophomore tour? Are these Aussie aces ready to make the big move from comic books to X-rated movies in the back of their tour bus? The band insists that such idle chatter is mere speculation-though Johns does state in his typically low-key fashion that the chance to live a "more complete" life on the road would be a cause worth fighting for... even with their parents.

"We've each talked about it with our parents," he said. "And they've been kind-of all right about it. They finally understand that this isn't some crazy hobby we're doing. We're actually making some money and seeing the world. They're quite not as worried about us as they were a few years ago -- at least that's what they're saying. They know that we can take care of ourselves out there, but they still don't like the idea of us being off on our own. I guess we'll end up compromising somehow, that's the way it usually works out for us. We're big on compromise... as long as we win out in the end."