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Silverchair: View Are You?

15 January 2002 | 1:00 am | Craig Mathieson
Originally Appeared In

silverchair play the Blue Stage from 6.45pm at the Big Day Out, Gold Coast Parklands on Sunday. The Greatest View is in stores January 28.

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Somewhere in Sydney, just outside the door of a nondescript rehearsal room, a few lucky eavesdroppers are loitering with the greatest of intent, sizing up the sounds emerging from inside. Silverchair are preparing for their return to the live stage on this year’s Big Day Out festival, so a live set is being vigorously hammered into shape, key crew members are flying in from various cities and there are even unconfirmed reports that drummer Ben Gillies has been out jogging as part of the Newcastle trio gearing up to return to the public eye.

“I’ve been doing some walking, but I wouldn’t call it jogging,” notes Gillies with a laugh. “It’s on the cards though, because you have to get in shape when you play live, especially when you haven’t done much for a couple of years.”

Gillies is, as ever, being somewhat sardonic. Silverchair have been active in recent times, but as is their wont much of what has occurred has taken place in private. When Silverchair release a record, we all tend to know about it; when the band are in recess, apart from the odd paparazzi sighting of frontman Daniel Johns, their profile is so U-Boat low they barely register on pop culture’s radar.

2002, from the Big Day Out onwards, will be a matter of the former. The Greatest View, the lead single from the band’s fourth album, Diorama is already saturating the airwaves. On December 21 last year, when the song was delivered to radio, Johns, Gillies and bassist Chris Joannou were sitting in the offices of their management finalizing plans for the coming campaign. At 11am they started flicking from station to station, curious to see if anyone was playing it. From one tuning to the next The Greatest View was a one-song monopoly.

“I think it’s been two and a half years since we’ve had a new song at radio,” says Joannou, “So it felt like a long time between drinks. But now we’re just back in a room, playing, and the old songs are coming together. We’re champing at the bit to play gigs.”

The Greatest View is one of three or four cuts from Diorama that Silverchair will be previewing on the Big Day Out. The album stems from a solid year of preparation in 2001, beginning with extensive writing before moving onto recording sessions in Sydney (“We never seem to make it to those studios in the Bahamas,” laments Joannou) with producer David Bottrill (Tool) and then mixing in Los Angeles.

“For us, it was quite long, but considering the amount of actual recording and mixing involved it was done reasonably quick,” explains Gillies. “That’s the best way that we work, because there’s no point doing 40 takes without feeling, we’d rather do five of the best you can and have the energy and excitement on the tracks.”

The single – which has one b-side, Pins In My Needles that will not be available on any other release – hits stores on January 28, the day Silverchair bring the poise to the Melbourne Big Day Out. Tentatively scheduled around dusk, the festival marks their return – under greatly different circumstances – after seven years away from the annual summer behemoth.

When the group played the side stage in 1995 they were teenage tyro’s surfing the phenomenal success of their first two singles, Tomorrow and Pure Massacre. Anyone who witnessed their set on that run, a scene-setting blend of mayhem and riff-rock as thousands crowded the limited space, will have vivid memories, and Silverchair themselves are no different.

“It was unbelievable, we weren’t long out of the studio, or long out of the garage for that matter, and we were playing to 10,000 people trying to cram into a space that could hold about half that,” recalls Gillies.

“It was mindblowing – people hanging off light posts and jumping off roofs,” adds Joannou. “In Sydney there was one guy who climbed right up this giant spotlight pole near the main oval and just started hanging off it like a monkey. Crazy bastard.”

“I went to another one in Melbourne when I was on holiday with a bunch of friends,” he recalls, “but I was pretty hammered that trip and I can’t remember much.”

Playing festivals is a way of life for Silverchair. Their last live outing was a year ago, playing to a quarter of a million Brazilians, at Rock in Rio and they’ve spent several Australian winters in Europe, on the extensive summer festival circuit. With Diorama not due for release until around May, the Big Day Out serves as an exclusive taste of what is to come as Silverchair’s extended touring family reunites.

“It’s going to be straight down the line rock & roll,” promises Joannou. Gillies is just as enthusiastic, even if he has a new concept for mischief lurking. “In the next few years we’re up for long service leave for doing ten years on the job with Silverchair,” he announces. “I’m looking forward to that almost as much playing the Big Day Out.”