Silverchair's Ben & Chris: The Interview

By Adam St. James (Circus Magazine)

Rehearsal is in a small room above Ben's dad's car out in the garage. The band gets together about once a week. After school Ben and Chris will probably go surfing. Daniel might take his dog for a walk on the beach. Then they're all going to South America to play a few shows with the Sex Pistols and Bad Religion in front of about 20,000 people.

Such is the life for members of silverchair, from Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Drummer Ben Gillies, bassist Chris Joannou and singer/guitarist Daniel Johns live two lives -- one completely typical for teens just about anywhere. The other is so unlikely it boggles the imagination.

While they're more likely to ride bikes than to drive home, they're getting used to limousines everywhere else. Stardom is still new enough to be a trip to one of Australia's most successful bands of the past decade. The group's debut album, frogstomp, sold millions worldwide.

Now they've released the follow-up called Freak Show and it's a killer. The album's 13 tracks show the band rocking as hard as ever while becoming more adventurous with Indian instrumentation, backward tape loops and orchestration. "It was just the way the songs sounded," says Joannou, explaining the band's motivation to spruce up their driving rock. "Like when they were played on guitar you just listen to 'em and you think, "That has that kind of sound that would sound good with string or whatever."

Tracks like the single Abuse Me, Cemetery, The Door and Roses are sure to become fan favorites and will probably score massive airplay during the next few months.

What was the first music you listened to?
Chris: Led Zep.
Ben: Yeah, Zeppelin.

Is that the stuff you first started learning?
Ben: Yeah. Pretty well. As soon as I heard John Bonham, he's like my favourite drummer, and that's who I was trying to play like.

How about on bass, John Paul Jones? Other guys?
Chris: Yeah, well, he didn't really stand out on the bass, because he played the organ and acoustic guitars and everything in the band. But as soon as I heard Les Claypool I was like "How did he do that?" But that's not really what I aim for, so far.
Ben: Yeah, get out!
Chris: I sort of just...I don't know.

I don't hear a lot of the slapping end of Claypool's style in your playing.
Chris: I think we tried to get more of a Tool or Korn sound with the bass end of this album. On the first album we were kind of disappointed with a few things, like the kick drum and the bass. On this album we really focused on that.

How do your friends react to the success you've had?
Chris: They're all right. We've sort of had the same friends for years and years and years.
Ben: They don't really care. If we were selling like 20 million all around the world, or just playing in their garage, they couldn't give a shit.

Do you ever play parties in their garages or anything?
Ben: No, not really. It's just like, you know, we can go play in front of 30,000 people and we wouldn't give a shit. We wouldn't be nervous or anything. But if we played in front of our friends we'd be like really embarrassed and really nervous. So we don't do it.

Do they ask?
Ben: No. Well a few times when we were first starting, when our EP first came out in Australia, a few people would be like, "Come play at our party." And we were like "No way." Too embarrassed. With our regular shows, they're people you don't know and you'll never really see 'em again so you don't care what they say.

How has all this affected your lives?
Ben: We've got our home life where you go to the beach and go to school and parties and hang out with our friends. Then you've got your second life...
Chris: It's all spread out on the planet.
Ben: Your second life is planned out for you, traveling around the world playin' big concerts and coming to hotel penthouses (looks around the hotel suite where the interview is taking place.)

Do you still have to deal with school?
Chris: Yeah, we're still in school. They're gonna start a tutor. We've never had one before. So normally it's just been like, when you get back...
Ben: Catch up.
Chris: You missed a bit.

Don't you miss like, months and months?
Ben: Yeah, but you've just got to try and catch up.

So does school really seem to matter to you guys at this point?
Chris: Well, we've only got one more year to go, so it'd be stupid not to get it out of the way.
Ben: I don't think we're gonna be like rocket scientists or anything.

So do you look forward to graduating high school?
Ben: Yeah. When you're on tour you're always worried about, "Shit, we've got school when we get back." But at least when we finish you can just say. "When this tour's over I can just go back and relax and do whatever I want." And you can go back and start writing music.

Where do you guys see yourselves 10 years from now?
Chris: Not rocket scientists.
Ben: Hopefully still playing in this band. If not, we'll be playing in another band, or sitting at home getting fat, sitting in front of the TV. Eating hamburgers, going to the beach.

[Thanks to Amanda for the transcript.]