Interview with Daniel Johns

By Murray Engleheart (Rip It Up)

Silverchair's Daniel had a lot on his mind. He and the rest of the band had been off school for the past six weeks and the first week back had a string of exams in Maths, History and English. He also had a major artwork project to get moving and no ideas of how to push it along. The nerve endings of the rest of the country -- at least those who witnessed it -- were still buzzing and crackling about silverchair's storming performance on the otherwise yawnsome, real rock action free ARIA Awards of Radio Birdman's New Race with Tim Rogers of You Am I. Even Meatloaf was impressed.

"We'd practiced New Race once," said Daniel, who'd attended a Newcastle band competition earlier in the day.

"Tim [Rogers] had just practised it by himself too. Then we got together and played it. The first time we got it right. We were going 'Yes!' We only practised for about an hour and thought, 'Yeah, that's all right.' Then we just ended up playing these Led Zeppelin and Who covers. Shit, it was funny."

Not Zep's Dazed and Confused for half an hour, surely?

"Yep," he chuckled. "Not for half an hour, about 15 minutes. I did the singing. It was really bad! It was so funny. We were going to cover one of Birdman's songs a long time ago, like about two years ago. We were going to do Aloha Steve & Danno but we couldn't do it," he laughed.

On the other side of the planet silverchair continue to burn with a brilliant blue Bunsen flame. They just sold out a show at the Whiskey in Los Angeles, literally in a minute, more than four weeks before the show, and their frogstomp debut is in the elite upper reaches of the U.S. charts.

Daniel, in the most pleasant way possible, is totally unfazed. I mean, totally.

"We're just another band to me," he shrugged. "Another Australian band."

The crowning achievement of their achievement is a five-week North American support slot for Red Hot Chili Peppers which kicks off in November. Daniel has checked out some of the venues they'll be playing, including New York's hallowed Madison Square Garden, but was more excited than rattled.

"We're probably going to be nervous on one or two of them," he responded. "Just for the first two or something."

The band's tour diary to date has been stunning, apart from one interview in Europe where a journalist let slip that the magazine's last issue had Take That on their front cover. Daniel freaked.

In Georgia, U.S.A., where silverchair first came to the attention of the Americans via an Atlanta radio station, the band was greeted with a sea of cigarette lighters when they walked on stage and they weren't even the headlining act.

"We supported the Ramones. That was fun. There were 20,000 people in this big amphitheatre thing. They were legends. They were hell men. We didn't get autographs, we just got photos. It was real bad though because we were all standing up against a mirror and they took the photo so you can't really see it. The biggest bastards," Daniel laughed, directing his mock anger at the photographer.

They also met Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament and Mike McCready at the Reading Festival in the U.K. and, much to Daniel's delight, ran into Soundgarden's Chris Cornell in the same area backstage.

"We were really kind of nervous. You know when you're talking to someone who you really like and you forget everything you want to say. I was just going, 'Hi,' and Chris goes, 'Hi." Then I went, 'Oh fuck, I don't know what to say.' I wasn't going to go, 'You're real cool man,' so I said, 'Can you sign this?' I got him to sign this bank withdrawal card and he filled it all in and everything. It was a classic. Chris wrote 'Tough Guy' for his name and the withdrawal was for like three million dollars or something."

"We also played in Seattle. Seattle was hell fun. Kris Novoselic from Nirvana came and watched. He was sitting on the side of the stage with his girlfriend. He was talking about the dentist for ages. He kept telling us about his toothache! It was so funny. Kris is a good guy as well."

Then there was a free show silverchair played at the Santa Monica Pier in California. Ten thousand people showed up but unfortunately there wasn't enough power to run the PA properly and it collapsed during a song. They left the stage while the fault was being rectified but when they returned, the wattage was only operating on half capacity.

"Then, at the end of the last song, someone chucked a bottle and it hit me right in the eye -- a glass bottle. So we finished the song and just walked off. I went to hospital and got stitches and everything and came back and our sound guy was complaining about the PA and shit. It was so funny. It was heaps good fun. Everyone was just going off and stuff but everything went wrong."

Daniel carries nothing special with him to keep his personal karma and that of silverchair on the positive side. Not that anything associated with the band has had anything to do with luck.

"Lucky charms would be bad," he said. "I never really got into that stuff because I always think if I get a lucky charm and take it everywhere then I'll lose it because I always lose stuff. If I lose it then I think I'll have bad luck. So, if I don't have one at all, nothing can happen."

According to Daniel, silverchair don't really give out autographs in the traditional sense either. But it's got nothing to do with them being "rock stars."

"We can't [give autographs] because we don't really have autographs," Daniel said. "We just write our name."