Members of Silverchair have finally lifted the lid on the reason behind their bitter breakdown, citing a major US performance that went horribly wrong.
A lot has been reported about the “bitterness” and “infighting” that led to the Australian rock band’s split in 2011, but exactly why they fell out has long remained the subject of confusion.
Now Silverchair, which featured frontman Daniel Johns, bass guitarist Chris Joannou and drummer Ben Gillies, have been thrust into headlines again with the release of ABC Australian Story’s A Silver Lining – which chronicles the rise and fall of the once-legendary Newcastle three-piece.
Part Two of the doco aired on Monday night, laying bare how the band’s attempt to take off in the US with a live TV performance triggered the beginning of their downfall.
Silverchair landed a spot on The Jay Leno Show to sing their smash hit Straight Lines in 2007, but the huge gig was marred by a struggling vocal performance from Johns who’d lost his voice due to alleged excessive drinking.
“Things came to a head when we did the Jay Leno show,” Joannou, 43, recalled. “We had been drinking reasonably heavily, all of us, and Daniel had lost his voice.
“It wasn’t our greatest performance, let’s just put it that way.”
Gillies, 43, dubbed the show a “trainwreck”, adding it marked the first time their partying antics “infiltrated” their music.
“Straight Lines had the potential to reignite Silverchair in the US, but then the train started to get a little wobbly on the tracks,” Gillies said.
“It was probably the first time that the drinking had infiltrated the performances and life on tour.
“I remember we started taking bottles of vodka and bourbon onstage, and then at the end of the shows we would be skolling from the bottles onstage.”
Silverchair’s tour manager at the time, Jake Denny, said the Leno performance was make-or-break for the song’s popularity on a global scale.
“That particular moment was meant to be a platform for, ‘How do we make this song as big in the US as it is in Australia?’” Denny said. “And it didn’t go to plan. I still have PTSD over that particular day.
“It was not a Daniel thing. It was all of us, and we all felt incredibly guilty.”
Johns, 44, declined to be involved in the documentary – which coincides with the release of Gillies and Joannou’s memoir Love & Pain – as he shared his side of the story on Sunday.
“I was asked at the end of filming to be interviewed about their contribution to the band and although I wished them all the best, I respectfully declined for one reason,” Johns wrote in a statement. “I haven’t been involved in the book nor am I aware of the contents. I’ve been asked on many occasions to read the book but haven’t been sent a copy, consequently I was uncomfortable being interviewed to help promote it.”
Elsewhere in the doco, Gillies remembered how he began to crumble in the months after Leno’s show, as the trio attempted to compose what would’ve been their sixth album.
“I can’t tell you the exact moment it all fell apart, it was like a slow and steady train that one wheel fell off, and then the other one fell off, and another panel fell off,” Gillies said.
“By that stage, I was a full blown alcoholic. I was hiding drinks. Some days, I’d start drinking first thing in the morning.”
Their partying ways, combined with the pressure of following up the success of Young Modern, their fifth album, brought relations to a boiling point.
Around this time, Gillies and Joannou suffered the “lowest point” in their friendship after having a messy argument.
“During the making of what would’ve became the sixth album, Ben just unleased on me about not being good enough, and I can be better and all this stuff, it just poured out of him,” Joannou said.
“It was the lowest point of my relationship with Ben.”
Gillies conceded he said “nasty things” to Joannou, which he put down to alcohol abuse.
“In that moment, our friendship kind of fractured,” Gillies said. “And that was on me, it was all my fault … You just do dumb s**t when you drink.”
But in order to fund their new album, the band was forced to embark on an Australian tour in May 2010, all while they were at rock bottom.
“By the time of our last show in Darwin, it was obvious things were pretty dire,” Joannou said.
“Where we were going from there hadn’t been decided, but it wasn’t looking great.”
Denny added there had been a lot of “infighting, arguments and pettiness”.
“The desire to get further away from each other was becoming more obvious,” he said.
“You could feel it was going to burst, and eventually it just gave way.”
After the tour wrapped, the band amicably decided to put things on ice and focus on other ventures, agreeing to “leave the door open”.
But a year later, Silverchair announced their “indefinite hibernation” in a press release. Gillies claimed they never discussed this decision in person.
“We never sat down, the three of us, and said, ‘Hey, I can’t do this anymore’,” Gillies said of their split.
“We owed it to ourselves to sit in a room together, face-to-face, and talk about it after 25 years. We owed it to ourselves to have that conversation. But that isn’t what we did.”
Gillies continued, “I felt disappointed in myself in the way that it was handled. It wasn’t closure.
“Silverchair should’ve gone out in a blaze of glory, arm-in-arm, celebrating everything that came before.
“For that to fizzle out and be nothing … That was incredibly disappointing.”
It comes after part one of the doco was last week removed from ABC iView under mysterious circumstances relating to copyright.
In response to the deletion of the episode, Johns shared a lengthy statement on Instagram on Sunday night, saying he didn’t want to approve copyright of his songs given he wasn’t aware of the nature of the memoir or the documentary.
“I was later asked by [ABC] via Silverchair’s label [Sony Music Australia] to clear 7 songs for iView (most of which were composed solely by me) to soundtrack a 2 episode series,” he wrote.
“One particular use related to Ana’s Song being featured as they discussed my battle with anorexia.
“I said to Sony and ABC that I would be open to approving all songs provided I received a copy of the book to ensure I wasn’t having my songs used to promote something I had no visibility on.
“I was told again that Ben & Chris would not give me a copy to read. That’s why the iView use was denied.”
ABC said in a statement that they had “negotiated with Sony Music to license the use of Silverchair’s music video clips in the program for broadcast and for ABC iview.”
The statement continued: “Each band members’ approval was required. While Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou approved the use, Daniel Johns said he would only approve if he had access to an advance copy of their book, which was not a decision for the ABC or Australian Story.
“We made two versions of the program, one for broadcast TV with video clips and one for ABC iview which contained no clips but only music.
“Because Sony has queried this the ABC has since taken down part one from ABC iview and is reviewing its position.”