JUNE 2002. By Joe Matera.
When SILVERCHAIR unveiled their latest studio effort, entitled “Diorama” in April, it sold more than 50,000 copies in its first week of release. It was officially certified gold, after entering the Australian top 40 charts at position #1, matching the chart-topping feats of all three previous SILVERCHAIR albums, “Frogstomp” (1995), “Freak Show” (1997) and “Neon Ballroom” (1999). “Diorama” sees the band making a huge leap forward both artistically and musically. The fusing of heavy rock with orchestral flourishes, which first surfaced on “Neon Ballroom” is taken one step further on “Diorama” ( the title means ‘a world within a world’). This time, the band brought in legendary Beach Boys and U2 collaborator Van Dyke Parks to contribute orchestral arrangements on three of the album’s tracks, “Across The Night”, “Tuna In The Brine” and “Luv Your Life”, with guest spots also by Paul Mac and Midnight Oil’s Jim Moginie.
Silverchair’s return to the music scene after a long hiatus, has been peppered with critical acclaim for the album thus far. “It’s all been overwhelming with the response we’ve gotten so far” enthuses silverchair’s bassist Chris Joannou to Australian Musician’ s Joe Matera.
“We had the record pretty close to our chest for like a year and to finally get it out there and the response it is getting is just unreal. I think there’s quite a few things that contributed to it apart from us, that we are growing up and becoming men and been making music for awhile now, and the fact that we took some time out with no touring. Normally when we’ve made records, it was on the back of touring and then going straight out again, while this time there was no tour. It was just like we’re going to make a record with no demands and that sort of stuff”.
Joannou explained that the freshness and overall optimistic vibe of the album can be attributed to the break the band decided to take during 2000, which saw them become precariously close to splitting. “It definitely came to the point where we knew we just had to have a break, though we didn’t know how long it was going to be. I think we had become tired of touring, and dragging our arses all over the place and to just take that time and get a bit of normality in our lives, and get back to basics and allow the urge to come back again, to really want to get out there and just play. Now the feeling’s great, even at rehearsals it’s quite a buzz to get out and play. Only one of us has got to be down and that affects everybody because everyone feels for each other. We’re all in great spirits and having a ball again”.
When vocalist and guitarist Daniel Johns brought in the working demos to Diorama, how did the band react upon hearing the direction that Johns wanted to take? “We were excited and amazed and just couldn’t wait to go in and make this record” replied Joannou. “Bit by bit he just started to play us demos and we started learning them and started to play them with the band and it all started to evolve, and the songs just became the band. It was really a great way to warm back into it again. It was really cool even in the studio where it was really relaxed. We spent quite a long time just the three of us, rehearsing the songs and getting them right and getting the feel for them so you didn’t have to actually think about what you were playing, so it could all come naturally.”
Was there any concern then that the direction the band were taking on Diorama would alienate some of its hardcore fans?
“I’m sure there will be some people out there that won’t get into it that much” expressed Joannou, ” But I mean, there’s a lot of people out there at the same age who are also growing up as well and are kind of growing with the band, and there might be some people out there who’ll find some new interest in there.”
When the band entered a Sydney studio in June last year to begin recording, producer David Bottrill (Tool, Peter Gabriel) was brought in, with Johns assuming the role of co-producer. So how much influence did Bottrill bring to the whole recording process? “I suppose he just brought in his little touches” explained Joannou. “We all learned a fair bit about arrangements with him as well and he’s just got a really good ear. The production of it, I really like. Daniel’s really talented and he did a great job co-producing.”
The record also sees Johns bringing his newly acquired Rickenbacker 12-string into the fold. “It sounds great” enthuses Joannou, “I don’t think they’re being heard that much lately, so it was kind of fresh. I really like them and the guitar itself has a vibe as well. I know he [Johns] had a 12- string before, but he never really thought of bringing it into the band before this.”
So what gear did Joannou use for Diorama?
“I used a few different things” he recalls, “Like my old Ampeg flip top B15s, which I’ve used pretty often. I’ve used them on every record, they’ve just got that certain sound which is amazing. I also used Ampeg cabinets which were miked up not too loud in the studio. I seem to pretty much use the same gear all the time but just change basses around, which for me is basically a G&L L-2000 but sometimes I do use an old Gibson. Apart from maybe a bit of distortion here or there, I’m not huge on effect pedals I suppose, because I just like it nice and warm and let it do it’s thing. There’s also different tunings all over the record like the regular D sharp tuning that we’ve used before, and standard tuning. There’s other weird tunings too which honestly, I can’t remember now.”
Once the recording was over, the band found themselves left with a bunch of tracks that didn’t make it onto the finished album. Will these ever see the light of day? “There’s a few that we did do” reveals Joannou. “We did all the B sides as well while we were there recording, but I couldn’t tell you in total. There’s a few lurking around for B sides and soundtracks and whatever happens later on in the year.”
Looking back over his entire career with silverchair, would Joannou ever think of going back and changing something? “No not at all!” he responds. “We never really started out to be where we are today. It was quite fortunate really that everything just fell into place and it all ended up happening, it’s been quite an amazing experience over the past eight years. We’re just glad that we can get out there and play and still have fun. I loved it all. I believe we all have them [experiences] for a reason and I’m willing to take it all.”
With the amount of experience and success that Joannou has had so far and at such a young age, does he have any advice for aspiring young bass players who dream of following the trail blazed by silverchair? “I don’t know” he admits. “I’ve never been fancy or anything, so my advice would be just to get into the groove and lock in the best as you can. Just go with the feel.”
Finally what is Joannou currently listening to for inspiration himself? “We’re probably all really different in what we would listen to” he muses. “I mean Ben [Gillies] has a thing for that James Brown stuff! I’ve been listening to a bit of Angie Stone lately, who’s pretty cool, and I actually pulled out Soundgarden’s ‘Badmotorfinger’ recently which I hadn’t heard in a long while. That’s a really great record. I also really like Ken Gormly, the bass player from The Cruel Sea at the moment.”
Once June comes around, the silverchair camp moves into overdrive with a national tour before they head overseas in support of Diorama. The record is officially released internationally in July. It’s been three years since the boys from Newcastle last toured the States and if the initial response garnered by the record so far is any indication to go by, then silverchair are going to be very busy indeed, for a long time to come.
JUNE 2002. By Joe Matera.