Strictly Silverchair Ballroom

By Murray Engleheart (Beat Magazine)

OK so Nostrodamus got it wrong. So far anyway. But if the place had gone Boom! a few weeks back as the old sage predicted all those centuries ago silverchair could be well pleased with their achievements thus far. Their third album, Neon Ballroom positioned them squarely a a smart and highly muscal force not just a skillful phenomenon. It also provided them with the Anthem for the Year 2000 single which the perspective of time might well view as their generational edition of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. The cream has been that the subsequent world tour for the album which all but wraps up after their coming Australian dates with a few weeks in Europe has been virtually sold out. Hell, it'd all be almost supernatural if it weren't such damn hard work.

"Scully from the X-Files is a bit of a fan," says drummer, Ben Gillies from Winnepeg, Canada where the band were taking part in travelling Edge festival with Hole, The Offspring and a cast of tens of thousands. "That was a bit of a surprise. We went to this little photo shoot that they were doing and she came up and said hello. She said, I'm really into you guys, I've liked you for a few years. I was like, cool! She had a bunch of CDs with her and she put ours on. She said to us while we were there they were shooting a bit of an episode and that if we wanted to go down and have a look we were welcome. So we did. That's where we met David Duchovny. We had a gig that night and we invited them along and they actually ended up coming which was pretty surprising."

For Gillies the most significant indicator of the band's standing and success comes from much closer to home than any L.A. movie set. "The good thing for us was when the tickets for the Australian tour went on sale. We saw the ticket sales and when little things like that happen it's kind of like it gives you a good kick. You go, Holy shit! There's lots of frigging people coming to see us play! It's pretty amazing." The band's musical territory of late and indications of their intended horizons are just as startling. The structure and arrangement of songs like Cemetery on the Freak Show album indicated that this was one outfit who were adamant that they were going to give any and all expectations of them a hell of a run for their money. As a result they can seamlessly appear on that recent and otherwise mighty ordinary Clash tribute album, have a slot on the Godzilla soundtrack, cast out something like Ballrom's Ana's Song [Open Fire] or Miss You Love, flatten you with the same album's Satin Sheets and firmly command full attention in each instance.

The direction and influence absorption of the band that originally graphically idolised the Seattle school and the likes of Helmet [to the extent that Daniel Johns quite rightly wanted the same gear rig as everything louder than everything else guitarist, Page Hamilton] is now virtually impossible to pinpoint let alone plot with any rough degree of accuracy. "In the past a lot of influences were very obvious," admits Gillies. "but to be quite honest now I don't think any critic around the world could possibly pick what we're listening to because it's just everything. Over the last say, year and a half, two years or so I don't know, something happened to all of us. We just kind of went spastic! We listen to anything and everything, we don't care. If we think it sounds good.

"Actually, I used to be a bit of a closet Madonna fan. I'd liked her for yonks but it was kind of like, yeah, Madonna, yeah, whatever. Then a while ago I was like, bugger that! I think she's cool! So I went out and bought all her albums and on one tour I think I brought that I think it was the Immaculate Collection? With all the hits on it? And the guys were like, what are you doing? I like Madonna! They're like, Oh my God! It was funny. They accept it now."

So given the moves the 'chair have made over the course of three albums does Gillies have more of an insight thanmost on what it was that drove the Smashing Pumpkins to make the artistic schitzo switch from Siamese Dream to Mellon Collie and finally Adore?

"It's hard to say because they might have a different kind of motive behind their's I guess you could call it. The reason we did that was we wanted something fresh and something new and we wanted to try and do something different that not many people were doing. So yeah, I guess they were trying to do the same thing."

So exactly what does a band that has such broad tastes these days play before they hit the stage and the lights each night? "Actually the last couple of shows we haven't really done it in the past but Chris [Joannou] has brought his little speakers and CD player along and we just put o whatever's good psych up music. Usually Zeppelin's a bit of a favourite. It always kind of gets us psyched. Have you ever heard of a band from New Orleans called The Meters? The funk band? When we come offstange we put the Meters on and just chill." Speaking of the mighty Zep does Gillies still like to see himself reflected in his drum heads as a young John Bonham or has that self image faded with his changing musical tastes? "Oh no!" he replies clearly horrified. "That's the one thing that will never ever change. John Bonham is my biggest idol ever He's the man. Any Led Zeppelin song you turn it on and the drums are just so fat and hae got the best groove. It's the best. You can't beat him. No-one can beat him.

"Actually I met John Bonham's daughter. I didn't even know he had a daughter. Her name was Zowie and she was like the spitting image of him. It was at an L.A. gig at the House Of Blues. Chris came up to me and said, Zowie Bonham's here and she wants to meet you. And I was like who? Bonham? And he goes, yeah, Bonham as in John Bonham's daughter. I was like, you're joking! I was so excited! I went up to her and I was trying to contain myself. The funny thing was all I wanted to do was ask her about her Dad but I felt pretty bad doing that so I was trying to mix it up."

So with all the band's success have there any close encounters of the supermodel kind? Gillies seemed somehow to be almost waiting for the question. He fired back his response immediately without a flinch.

"Well, I consider my girlfriend a supermodel."

silverchair are performing at Melbourne Park on Thursday August 12 with guests Placebo and Pre Shrunk. New seats ahve been released and are selling fast! Book at Ticketek. This will be the largest capacity headline show silverchair have ever played in Australia.

[Thanks to Alex for the transcript]