Acting Freaky

By Bennie Bjorkland (Hit Parader)

There are three members of silverchair. For those well initiated with the inner workings of this platinum-coated band of teenaged Aussie rockers, such news borders on the mundane -- of course there are three members of silverchair. But for those not quite as aware of the internal structure of this pubescent hit machine, at times it might appear that silverchair is comprised of vocalist/guitarist Daniel Johns and a pair of sidemen. It is Johns' face that usually accompanies a magazine feature on the group, and it's his voice that routinely conducts the band's press interviews; for some young Daniel has become silverchair. In truth, bassist Chris Joannou and drummer Ben Gillies have rarely gotten the attention they deserve. But with the release of silverchair's chart-topping second disc, Freak Show, which follows on the heels of their breakthrough effort, frogstomp -- all that seems to be changing. Ben and Chris have been far more up front this time around, gladly sharing the interview microphone with Daniel and smiling for the camera every chance they get. With all that in mind, we're happy to present this special interview with silverchair's two "other guys" -- Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou.

Hit Parader: What lessons have you learned by the success you've enjoyed over the last few years?
Ben Gillies: I learned a lot about people. When you get the chance to tour as much as we have, it really opens your eyes. It really has been a great experience to get out there and see some of the world.
Chris Joannou: I learned that short hair is easier to take care of than long hair. Now that I cut my hair shorter, I can just get up and go in the morning. I don't have to worry about getting up with a big mangled knot in the back of my head.

HP: Do you both agree that Freak Show is a rather radical departure from frogstomp?
CJ: I think it really sounds different... better! We took three weeks to make this one, while the last one only took us nine days. And, more importantly, we felt like we had an idea of what we were doing this time. When you're in the studio for the first time, you tend to run around like a bunch of little idiots. This time we approached it with a more serious and knowledgeable approach, though we did have much of the same atmosphere in the studio both times -- it was a lot of fun, a lot of joking around.
BG: This album has a lot more variety on it. It's got a punk song, and a real long song that's like six minutes, and it also has loud and soft stuff on it. It's even got strings and timpani. There's just a heap of different stuff on it.

HP: On frogstomp there were so many comparisons between silverchair and Nirvana. This time it sounds like there's more of a Zeppelin influence.
BG: There are a couple of songs, especially Petrol and Chlorine and The Door, that kind of remind me of Zeppelin. But we weren't really going for a Led Zeppelin sound, but that's just the way they turned out. As it happens, I am a big Zeppelin fan, so any comparison is greatly appreciated. I've got their posters on my walls and all of their albums, but this is a silverchair album.
CJ: Last time, we did hear a lot of comparisons, so I imagine we'll hear some this time as well. That's OK. We know it's a big step forward for us, and that's all that matters.

HP: Let's talk about some of the new songs. Pick out one or two that you particularly like and talk about them.
BG: OK, let's start with the last track on the album, The Closing. Since it's called that, it's a good way to close the album. It should be easy to mosh to. I wrote all of the music for that one myself, and I came into practice and I showed Daniel what I had done. We just started to jam, and then he started singing. They were the same kind of stupid words he always sings, but it sounded good! It just came together. Another one I really like is Lie To Me. Daniel's really influenced be Minor Threat, and most of their songs go for like a minute, two minutes. So one day we came into practice and we said, "Let's write a song." And then Johnsy goes, "Aww, I've got this riff," and he just showed it to us. Then we all started playing and after a few minutes he said, "That's the song." And that was it.
CJ: It's hard for me to pick one. I like 'em all. They're all really interesting.

HP: So are you guys completely finished with school now?
CJ: No, we still have classes. But to me, school just sort of fills in the time between out music things. It's more of a social thing. We don't think it's that important, but other people seem to think it is. It's a nice change of pace for us. It's a lot slower. When we're on the road, everything happens so fast. One day we're in one city, the next we're five hundred miles away. It's kind of nice to wake up in the same place every day and know that you're going to school. It's nice to have that kind of routine again.
BG: It's nice to be back with people we've known for a long time. They don't treat us special. They're interested in knowing what it's like in certain places, but we're not some important band to them -- we're just three guys they've known all their lives. It's good fo us to stay in touch with all those people.

HP: Has it been hard to shift back from a more rigid routine to the wild and crazy routine of rock and roll?
CJ: No. It's more fun. With rock and roll we just work at what we really enjoy. It's not homework and we don't have to worry about getting up at 8 in the morning. But it's OK.
BG: We're trying to enjoy every part of our lives right now. Why shouldn't we be enjoying all of this?

[Thanks to Katie and Jinni for the transcript.]