While Silverchair’s latest fallout has pulled focus, guitarist Chris Joannou has privately suffered a turbulent few years away from the spotlight.
The Newcastle-born bassist, 43, opened up about his little-known struggles during Part Two of ABC Australian Story’s A Silver Lining, which featured Joannou and drummer Ben Gillies discussing the rise and fall of the legendary Aussie band.
Former frontman Daniel Johns, who started Silverchair with Gillies and Joannou in 1992, declined to be involved in the two-part documentary, which coincides with the release of Joannou and Gillies’ memoir, Love & Pain.
Outside of discussing the “infighting” that caused the trio to break up, Joannou revealed a string of setbacks he’d personally suffered over the past five years.
It started when his beloved Newcastle restaurant The Edwards, which opened in 2013, burnt down in a ferocious fire in 2018.
The eatery became Joannou’s passion project after Silverchair broke up in 2011, with the musician transforming his father’s dry cleaning warehouse space into a trendy central coast hotspot.
“I was nicknamed ‘Truffles’ on tour because I always knew how to find a good restaurant,” Joannou said.
“But life took curveballs from 2018. Unfortunately the restaurant we worked so hard at had a devastating fire. It was just surreal.
“I went right back to those moment of uncertainty, and not knowing what’s going to happen.”
While The Edwards relaunched to much excitement a year later, Joannou had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. His wife Karissa was pregnant with their second child at the time.
“It was a soft tissue, sarcoma, stage four that travelled to my pelvis, spine and lung,” Joannou said.
“I was just forced to stop and think about death.”
Joannou sought treatment at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, where he spent several months fighting the rare form of cancer.
Gillies, 43, and his wife Jackie, who are based in Melbourne, got a hotel room nearby to spend quality time with Joannou during this time.
“We wanted to spend as much time as he and Karissa felt comfortable at the hospital, to try and make him feel a bit normal,” Gillies said.
“I’ll never forget what Ben did with Chris’ cancer journey,” added Joannou’s mother, Sue. “It showed true friendship.”
After three months of treatment, Joannou was relieved to be given the all-clear by doctors.
“I just felt so lucky,” he tearily said.
In a bid for a fresh start, Joannou sold his restaurant for more than $4 million, as well as his home in the Newcastle suburb of Carrington for $1.6 million in early 2022 and relocated to Coffs Harbour, where he now lives with Karissa and their two young children, daughter Odie and son Spence.
But tragedy hit again when Joannou suffered a heart attack in August that year.
“The doc said it was a bit of a doozy,” Joannou remembered. “I’ve got a couple of stents. I’ve got some damage to the heart from the severity of it.
“But I’m still here.”
Karissa added, “Chris was a true warrior throughout all of that … I still look back and it blows my mind.
“After his heart attack, I think that’s when he decided to do the book with Ben. It’s been a bit of a healing process for him to get his words down.”
Aside from writing the memoir, which comes out on September 27, with childhood bandmate Gillies, Joannou has been working at Karissa’s family’s motorbike business.
“Years of disruption left me searching for things that were grounding and steady,” Joannou said.
“I love riding motorbikes. It doesn’t feel like you’re going to work.”