DANIEL JOHNS/SILVERCHAIR – 1994 – 2018

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Aerial Love (D Johns) – Daniel Johns 2015.

 silver61Following the Johns/Imbruglia divorce in 2008 she duly linked up with A-listers Prince Harry, actor David Schwimmer, and Harry Styles (above), by 2014 she and Daniel were no longer communicating, and waifish model Louise Van de Vorst (below) had moved into Daniel’s Merewether home, with his loyal dog Sweep. silver66Other Silver-alumni were also spring-cleaning their personal lives, Ben Gillies had broken up with his fiancée  Hayley Alexander (below) and entered detox in 2009, while Chris Joannou had split with his live-in partner Sarah McLeod in 2006. silver72Gillies would marry Jakica (“Jackie”) Ivancevic (below) in mid-2010, but his mother refused to attend the ceremony, claiming that Ben was a drug addict and incapable of making rational decisions or supporting a family. Ultimately Ben would become better known as the husband of Jackie Gillies, psychic and star of the tacky reality TV show The Real Housewives of Melbourne.silver77Band members regrouped in 2009 to plan their follow-up album, Johns had just emerged from a period of writer’s block, and was keen to continue experimentation with instruments, synths, and electronica, but on his demos there was a notable absence of guitars, drums and bass, so much for the future of Gillies and Joannou, the drummer and bassist respectively in Silverchair. As the band were self-funding the production of their albums, they needed to do live performances, these were usually hits and memories shows at gigs like the Big Day Out, to raise funds, but enthusiasm for a sixth album was fading fast. By now Johns and Gillies had fallen out badly, the two mates from Newie no longer shared the same vision for their band, which went into hiatus in 2011, and stayed there, until a formal announcement was released on May 25 that the band had broken up. Gillies and Joannou had accepted the inevitability of the decision, the “golden rule” applied, he who earns the gold, makes the rules, Johns was now free to pursue new musical directions, he could afford to, his personal wealth was estimated at AUD$20m.

Johns would embrace the digital age with great gusto, he became reclusive and enjoyed being in his home studio, playing with his vocoder and smoking, he did compose a new marketing anthem for Qantas called Atlas, collaborating with the Aust. Chamber Music Orchestra, which merged the intimate strings and keyboard of classical music with various electronic sounds. There were no actual  lyrics, just Beach Boys-style crooning, opinion was divided, some praised its ethereal qualities, but others were less impressed,  negative on-line criticism of the piece included “This makes me want to hijack every Qantas flight I ever caught, just to make it stop”, in July 2013 Qantas dropped Atlas and quietly brought Peter Allen’s I Still Call Australia Home back onto its playlist.silver74In January 2015 Johns released his first solo album, entitled Talk, with NZ producer Joel Little, below, (Lorde, Broods) and four others, it was eight years since he had released a studio album, Silverchair’s Young Modern in 2007.  But there was no grunge rocker here, a newly-shorn and tattooed Johns was delivering music that merged  slinky electronica, sensuous rhythm and blues, with carnal soul, a kind of old school Marvin Gaye R&B meets the avant-garde R&B/Pop of Frank Ocean, the critics were divided, the first single lifted off Talk was the slow and soulful ballad Aerial Love.  silver73This song certainly distanced Johns from his past in a way that his Dissociatives venture with Paul Mac never did, the production was lush and welcoming, with a pulsing heartbeat that engaged the listener, while  embracing Johns future electronic-inspired soundscapes, Daniel’s yearning  falsetto was also right on the money, he  was moving forward “ Oh I’m ready…/ Gonna pull it all together/ Change my old ways/ Take a piece of the future.”silver40But Silverchair fans would have felt that Johns was deserting them, he had moved onto vastly different, more esoteric musical genres, the three chord grunge of Tomorrow was now a distant memory, replaced by a Justin Timberlake/Pharrel Williams kinda guy, but he was not the first musician to take off in a bold new direction, refusing to be held captive to the expectations of the past.

Peter Gabriel had departed Genesis and taken his left-of-centre avant-garde music in very different directions, first in a brilliant solo career and then as an influential figure in the nascent rise of World Music. Scott Walker (Noel Scott Engel, above left) had enjoyed success as lead singer with the Walker Brothers in the 1960’s and 70’s and taken a succession of power ballads into the charts, but he ultimately craved a broader musical palette, and embraced classical music structures and the Euromusic of Jacques Brel. In 1989 Michael Hutchence had stepped outside the INXS bubble to collaborate on the punky, hybrid electronica of the Max Q project with Ollie Olsen (above right). Most famously in 1965, Bob Dylan picked up an electric guitar and stunned the faithful at the Newport Folk Festival, but it would remain to be seen whether or not Daniel Johns by putting down his electric guitar, would have the same effect.

The album was launched by two headline concerts in late May 2015 as part of Sydney’s Vivid LIVE  arts event, held at the Opera House, and a raunchy promo video which was shot, partly by drone (aerial love, gettit), in the Sahara-like wilds of Newcastle’s Stockton Sand Dunes, by Australian director Lorin Askill (Sia, Flume, Chet Faker). In keeping with the slow-rolling beats, sultry vocals, and mature themes, the video sees a singlet-clad Johns slowly making his way through a desert with a host of genetically-blessed, real-life couples, writhing in the sand.silver76Aerial Love was Daniel Johns first solo hit, climbing to #21 locally, while the album Talk peaked at a creditable to #2 locally, but sold only 10,000 copies, it would  be another three years before Johns released any new material, and in the interim, his private life would become fodder for the tabloid press of the country.

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