Silverchair Learning their Craft

By Wayne Thomas (Hit Parader)

It's the question that silverchair's vocalist/guitarist Daniel Johns has heard over... and over... and over again. It rattles through the ever-clever caverns of his brain when he sleeps, it confronts him at nearly every turn when he's awake, and it serves as his constant travelling companion, no matter in which exotic port-of-call he may be. That question has become his nemesis, his sparring partner and his best friend all rolled into one. It's a question that may eventually turn out to be his legacy, but it's also one that cries out to be asked of the most successful teen-aged hard rockers of the decade; "Are you ever concerned that your greatest success may have come when you were only 16 years old?"

While he repeatedly tried to dismiss this query with a haphazard shrug of his shoulders and a devil-may-care shake of his trademark blond hair, there's little doubt that young Mr. Johns constantly considers the inner meaning of that question. After all, what do you do for an encore when your first album -- initially released when you and your band were all of 15! -- makes you an international superstar, and your second solidifies your place in rock's upper echelon? For anyone such thoughts would weigh heavy upon their rock and roll soul, but somehow Daniel, along with his equally young bandmates Chris Joannou and Ben Gillies, have managed to handle the potential problems associated with becoming too big, too fast and too young an age with all the grace, uplomb and skill that they've continually exhibited through their chart-topping music.

"I don't think that our age really has that much to do with it," Johns said. "Either it's good music or it's not. There isn't any chart category for rock and rock bands made up of musicians in their teens, is there? I don't hear anyone going, 'Hey, that's really good -- for a 25-year-old.' The fans aren't going to spend their money on music that they don't like no matter who's making it or how old you may be."

The recent facts regarding silverchair speak for themselves. Over three million copies of their out-of-nowhere debut disc, frogstomp, have now been sold world-wide. Nearly two million copies of their latest effort, Freak Show, have moved out of record stores from Sydney to San Francisco. The band's two headlining tours have packed concert halls wherever these young Australian rockers have appeared. And their barely postpubescent faces and pearly-white smiles have made them Grade-A, teen-dream poster gods to a generation of young girls who seem to worship every move they make and every breath they take. Certainly life has been sweet for these still-only 18-year-old Newcastle residents. They're finally out of school, away from their parents' protective eyes, and free to enjoy all the myriad (and occasionally slightly sordid) benefits that rock stardom can provide.

"Things are a little difference now, but we haven't gone too wild," Johns said. "On our first tour, everyone really watched over us very closely. We couldn't go anywhere, or do anything without someone on our crew -- or one of our mothers -- being there. This time things are quite a bit better. It's still not the kind of thing you read about with most rock and roll bands. But now our days are at least more exciting then eating hamburgers in our hotel rooms. We've managed to get out a bit and enjoy ourselves -- even if our road managers are still very much present."

Life on the often demanding tour trail has proven to be lot more fun this time for silverchair -- and seeing the group perform live has been a lot more fun for their ever-loyal fans, as well. Even the boys in the band will admit that at certain moments during their first North American tour they appeared a bit stiff and unsure of themselves while they stood under the harsh glare of the spotlight. There were times when they understandably felt more than a little uncomfortable on the Big Stage with up to 20,000 pairs of eyes staring intently at them, devouring their every movement. This time, however, the silverdudes have taken to performing on stage like the proverbial fish to water. Their movements and actions as they play appear far more fluid and natural. Daniel's between song banter seems far less labored. And it actually appears like these guys are having some fun up there!

"We're learning new things every day," Gillies said. "When you're young, sometimes you think you know everything. But as you get a little older, you begin to realize how much more there is to learn. When we first went on the road, we felt that we had good songs, and that we played our instruments well. We thought that was enough. Now we've learned a little about staging and showmanship, and it's made it a much better experience both for us and for the fans."

Their fans certainly have appreciated every action that silverchair has taken -- both on-stage and off -- over the last few years. silverchair's popularity throughout the world has grown precipitously over the last 12 months. Now the attention of many fans -- and the band members themselves -- has begun to slowly shift towards the future, to the time when silverchair will begin work on their all-important third album. The group is well aware that following their surprising initial success, their second disc received a veritable "free ride" from the rock scene. But they also realize that in all likelihood it will be disc three that forever cements silverchair's role as either temporary players upon the rock stage -- or as permanent fixtures in the minds and hearts of fans everywhere.

"The bands we admired we're groups that made great album after great album," Gillies said. "That's what groups like Led Zeppelin did. I'm certainly not comparing us to them in any way -- but they were an influence. You have to learn from your influences, and I think we have. We want to be doing this ten years from now -- maybe even 20 years from now. We know how important every album is. We're not just a bunch of kids anymore -- we're a rock and roll band that people expect some great things from."

Thanks to Kathy Andrews and Tigerlily's silverchair Jungle.