Silverchair -Rockin' The Ballroom

By Andy Secher (Hit Parader)

When many of us think of silverchair, images of the 15-year-old sensations that first rocked the rock world to its very core back in 1995 instantly spring to mind. Well, it's 1999...not 1995...and the members of this platinum-coated Australian power trio aren't wide- eyed kids anymore. With the appearance of their latest disc, Neon Ballroom, vocalist/guitarist Daniel Johns, drummer Chris Joannou and bassist Ben Gilles have clearly staked out their own piece of turf in the rock and roll world. This time, thanks to songs such as Anthem for the Year 2000 and Emotion Sickness, a more mature, complex and compelling band has emerged-- one that despite the group members more grown-up style, has lost none of its rock and roll spirit. Perhaps no longer will direct comparisons to the likes of Nirvana and Led Zeppelin be drawn, as they were when earlier discs Frogstomp and Freakshow were released. This time around, silverchair have proven that that certainly have what it takes to make a long and lasting impact on the hard rock scene.

Hit Parader: Is there any special significance to the album title Neon Ballroom?
Daniel Johns: We had so many different titles that we considered at one time or another. We were looking for something that was memorable and that reflected the music we were making. Neon Ballroom allows us to try and communicate our music on a more advanced level.

Ben Gillies: We think that is presents a very strong image. When you hear the name Neon Ballroom a lot of mental pictures pop into your brain. It's also nice because it kind of has an element of "new" to it, and an element of "old". We like that because our music has the same qualities--- there are some very new things in out music, and some older classic rock elements as well.

HP: You mention the "new" aspects of your sound---what has been influencing you in recent months?
BG: I've been listening to a lot of dance music--- but cool dance music. I like things like Crystal Method and Prodigy, things that have a lot of energy. I don't know if those have really had that much of an impact on silverchair's music but perhaps some of it has rubbed off.

Chris Joannou: I guess I'm the guy whose listening to the old stuff. I still love my Zeppelin albums. There's something about classic rock that I find very appealing.

DJ: I've been very interested in a lot of the hardcore music from the early 80's--- bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat. That's very exciting music. I've also been enjoying things like Kate Bush and REM. But the funny thing is that for the six month period when I was writing poems that eventually became the lyrics for this album, and then when I was writing the music itself, I didn't listen to any music because I didn't want to be influenced by anything except nature.

HP: Daniel, you mention your poetry. How many poems did you write for the lyrics on Neon Ballroom?
DJ: There were 112 of them (laughs). I love writing poetry. The difficult process was narrowing them down and finding which ones lent themselves to the songs we wanted to do. A song like Emotion Sickness came from my poetry, and that song is the highlight of my life--- something that I feel is totally original and totally different.

HP: You're all 19 now--- no longer kids. How do you feel this album reflects your growth?
DJ: We've seen the world--- at least some of it. We've been able to experience things that very few people our age get to do. That has to have an impact on the way you look at the world. We're in a very unique position of being young people as we approach the Millennium. That's very exciting to us--- a song like Anthem for the Year 2000 discusses that.

BG: The album reflects what's going on in our lives. That's the biggest thing. We're out of school now, and a little more away from our parents control. This is the first time we could go into the recording studio and not have to worry about some school assignment between songs. That makes a big difference in the way you approach things. A song like Emotion Sickness is probably something we couldn't have played a few years ago because it's very complex and really took a a lot of concentration on out part. We do feel older--- in fact we're all a bunch of old geezers now.

CJ: We really were young when the first album came out. Sometimes I wonder exactly how we did it with so many other things--like school-- playing a big role in out lives. Now music is the only thing we focus on--we're much more committed to it.

HP: On your past albums there were so many comparisons to bands like Nirvana and Zeppelin. How bothersome was that?
DJ: It was annoying at times, but only when people attempted to dismiss us for supposedly being similar to other bands. That's really so silly. Every band has something unique to offer. People should look for those qualities, not the more superficial similarities. BG: A young band has to expect things like that to happen. Unless you come along with a style that is so different, like KoRn has done, you're bound to be compared to your influences. We were actually kinda of proud of that. But by the time you get around to making your third album, you've begun to establish who you are as a band. Hopefully when the fans hear the songs on Neon Ballroom--- they'll say, "Hey, that sounds like silverchair."

HP: As you look back over the last four years, are there certain moments that stand out in your memory?
CJ: One that stands out for me is when we were part of the Australian Big Day Out festival. I remember us being on stage and looking up and seeing this one guy who had climbed to the top of a light pole that must have been 100 feet in the air. he had a rope or a piece of chord, and he was swinging out over the crowd during our set. We were so amazed that we almost stopped playing.

HP: As you go on the road now, you'll have three album's worth of material to choose from. That should provide some needed variety.
CJ: Oh, yeah. You can get real tired of playing some of those songs every night. It;s great having a whole new album to play. It keeps things very fresh and very interesting. I imagine it;s also given a new twist or two to some of the older things as well.

DJ: We're very excited about this material, so we're obviously looking forward to playing it. I wrote these songs after we got off the road last time, and we took 3 months to record them--- which is like six times longer then we took to record Frogstomp. There are elements to these songs that will be a real challenge to play on stage every night, but that's a challenge we're certainly looking forward to.