Daniel Johns Reflects on ‘Frogstomp’ + Shares His Thoughts on a Silverchair Reunion
It’s a common story: A few teenagers want to start a rock band, they grab their instruments, lock the door, and crank their amps up to 11. While the majority of those stories never amount to much, there will forever be one story (among a few others, of course) that stands the test of time -- that of Silverchair.
Three 15-year-old boys in Australia wanted to make loud, raw rock and roll, so they did just that, and after signing a major record deal with Sony, they released their debut album, Frogstomp, in 1995. The disc reached No. 1 on the Australian Recording Industry Association charts and has been certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. With 20 years of support and crystal clear evidence, it’s easy to call the record an international success.
Since Frogstomp, Silverchair released four more full-lengths, each one with a more evolved, experimental sound. Four years after the release of their last LP, Young Modern, the band decided to call it quits, entering into an “indefinite hibernation.”
While most mammals that go into deep sleeps each winter eventually wake up refreshed and ready to take on the world, Silverchair are still rooted in slumber; frontman Daniel Johns, though, is far from it.
Still celebrating the release of his debut solo LP, Talk, we had the opportunity to chat with Johns recently about his new musical direction and what the future holds for him as an artist -- you can read the first part of our interview with Johns here.
Now, in the second installment of our chat with him, Johns shares his thoughts on the 20th anniversary of Frogstomp, what his Silverchair bandmates have been up to since 2011 and what his (brutally) honest thoughts are regarding a reunion. Check out our exclusive chat below:
Frogstomp turns 20 this year. In 2015, you're celebrating the release of your debut solo LP and you seem very open about what the future holds. But when you were a teenager and you signed with Sony for a multi-record deal, I have to imagine they directed you down every path with little flexibility, for good or bad. That flexibility you have now probably didn't really exist in 1995. If you could go back to your mid-'90s self and give him advice before signing with Sony, before releasing Frogstomp, what would you tell him?
That’s a bit of big question. [Laughs] There are a lot of things that maybe I didn’t do right or maybe I wasn’t aware of that I should’ve been, but I kind of feel like everything that has happened to me has happened for a reason. I honestly feel like had it not been for a lot of those experiences that I had as a kid and going through all that stuff, I definitely wouldn’t be the same artist that I am today. At the end of the day, that’s what I want to do with my life -- I want to be an artist, I want to be ambitious, I want to try stuff. I think being famous at that young age kind of made me feel like, for the rest of my life, I had to legitimize that success. In a lot of ways, it gave me a lot of drive, whereas a lot of people might’ve just rested on that forever. I did the opposite -- it made me want to be better.
As fans hear the evolution of the band’s sound, that’s obvious. Silverchair never held on to the sound of Frogstomp.
Yeah, thank God. [Laughs]
You guys were teenagers when you went into the studio to record that disc. How long did it take you to put it together?
That record, I think we were 14 or 15 years old, and I’m pretty sure it took nine days.
Was it just the three of you crammed into the studio doing it all live?
Yeah, that’s the thing that I do really like about that album -- it sounds exactly like we sounded. There was no big American producer calling the shots behind the desk and telling us to do this, this and this. It was literally this guy, Kevin Shirley, who was a great producer, just saying, “I want it to sound like you guys, but I want it to sound really f---ing loud and I want the guitars really f---ing loud.” So to me, I was like, f---ing yeah! The songwriting might not be genius, but I think sonically, the performances are really good. It’s really honest; it’s just three Australian kids thrashing it out in the studio and that's exactly how it sounds.
That has to be what every 15-year-old kid wants to hear: “Let’s just do it loud.”
Yeah, do it loud and make the guitars really, really heavy. That was a dream. [Laughs]
Four years ago the band officially went on hiatus. Do you stay in touch with Ben [Gillies, drummer] or Chris [Joannou, bassist] at all?
I haven’t really spoke to them in awhile, but there’s no real reason behind that. I’ve just been working really hard on this record. After we wanted to take a break, we just went in different directions. Chris has a bar and restaurant thing that he’s running now, and Ben has moved to another state. They went off and did their things and I just put my head down and really focused on the next phase of my music. I guess that’s part of the reason why we went our different ways in the first place; we all had our different priorities. I really only ever gave a s--- about music and the other guys were, I guess, moving on to more "adult" interests. [Laughs]
During the first part of our conversation, you mentioned it a couple times, that Silverchair "ran its course." But for me, as a fan, I always hold out hope that there might be a reunion, or a tour, or a one-off show, or something ... is that kind of thing ever on your radar?
I never like when people just say, “Oh yeah, it could happen.” To be honest, I doubt it’s going to happen. To be really honest, I don’t want to string people along because that’s just f---ing bulls--- ... I strongly doubt it will happen. If something miraculous were to happen down the line that wasn’t about getting together for a tour because we need money, then it’s possible. I feel really proud of where Silverchair ended up and there’s a bunch more s--- that I want to do that doesn’t involve being in Silverchair. We’ll see. Once that’s exhausted, we’ll see where we’re all at.
Throughout your career -- starting at such a young age, battling personal demons, the band breaking up, you heading down the solo path -- what’s been one of your biggest obstacles as an artist?
Professionally, that’s a pretty easy one to answer. My biggest obstacle was being pigeonholed, especially in America, as the guy from Silverchair that wrote Frogstomp when he was 14 years old. I feel like I worked really f---ing hard to get away from that. I’m proud of the fact that I never really exploited that part of myself and I always pushed myself to be a better writer.