Editors’ Notes “I don’t think we thought about anything,” Daniel Johns tells Apple Music. “That’s the beauty of Frogstomp. It's all heart, which is what I like about it. There’s nothing really from the head, it’s completely visceral. It’s not overthought, it’s just energy. I think that’s what connected with people.” Few albums affected 12- or 13-year-old Australian kids in the ’90s as much as Silverchair’s 1995 debut. The Newcastle trio's grungy teen angst was intense, unfiltered, unrefined. Frogstomp was simple enough to instantly gain thousands of high-schooler fans, angry enough for their parents to hate it, and heavy enough to earn fans twice their age, all over the world. “We didn’t know that we were gonna be a big band, we didn’t know we were gonna get signed,” Johns says. “We were just three little punks who’d go surfing, and we’d come back and jam. Then the next thing you know—famous.” Frontman and guitarist Johns, along with bassist Chris Joannou and drummer Ben Gillies, were only 15 when they wrote Frogstomp, leaving a permanent mark on Australian rock. But it wasn’t just their homeland that fell for the trio from Newcastle, a coastal city about two hours north of Sydney. In a matter of months, the group—who formed in 1992 when they were 12 years old, originally under the name Innocent Criminals—went from winning a competition to record a video for “Tomorrow” to coverage in local street press and magazines, to a major-label deal and sold-out shows in the US and UK, all while still in high school. Here, Johns dives into the stories behind each song on the album that changed it all.

Israel’s Son
“It was always one of the only tracks off Frogstomp that I wanted to play live, even when we got to Young Modern or whatever the last Silverchair tour was. I don't know what it is about it. People seem to get off on it, and it's really fun to play. I always liked the sound of Frogstomp, and how we sounded as a band. The thing I hated was some of the lyrics. I kind of cringe sometimes. I probably should have done a better job there, but at the time, we didn't know it was going to be that big. We were like 13, we were a garage band in Newcastle. So I'd just write things that I thought were mildly nonsensical for lyrics, and not really give a shit about the outcome, because I didn't think anyone was going to hear it. I don't think it's a great secret that there's some lazy lyrics in there.”

“It's no secret that I'm not the biggest fan of this song. I still kind of recoil when people go, ‘Fuck, I love that one.’ I just don’t really get why. Don't get me wrong, I like the song. It's that lyric thing again—I've always had a love-hate relationship with the whole record. I think it’s just the immaturity of the lyrics. Like, 'Oh, shit. What? What are you talking about? What's the water? What's the problem with the fucking water?’ Obviously it’s a really special song for me. It started everything for us. So, you know, I don't dislike it. It bought the house.”

“I kind of like this one. It’s one of the first songs that me and Ben Gillies, the drummer, did where we kind of explored moving tempos, changing genres in the middle of a song, that kind of thing. I think it’s one of the embryos for what happened later in our career, in terms of the moving textures and shapes, all that stuff. That was our first attempt at being clever. The first time we kind of tried to be real musicians.”

Pure Massacre
“That was one of the ones we really focused on when we knew that we were making a record, when we were in preproduction with Kevin Shirley. I remember him helping us flesh that out and turn it into a song, rather than just like four riffs in a row. I remember him being quite helpful with that one, and then I think the American record company liked it as a single. I remember we did a couple of clips for it, we did one in Sydney—we were like 14 or something, with a bunch of grunge kids, headbanging, classic. And we did another one for America, I remember that being a big deal.”

“I don't think we played it live post the first couple of tours for Frogstomp, because it used to make kids cry. I remember playing it and just going, ‘Fuck. I don't want to play a song that's going to make girls cry.’ It’s about domestic abuse and all that stuff. At the time, I knew a lot of people who thought it was really helpful. I remember reading fan letters and stuff when I was a kid, but I couldn't stand seeing people cry. I was getting letters written in blood, it was just like, ‘Shit.’ Sometimes you tap into something that you don't really think is going to be that deep, or that pertinent. So I always found it too awkward to play, after a bit. It’s great that it helped people who were going through some really heavy shit, but I don't like making people upset. I like making people feel something, but I don't want them to go through trauma.”

Leave Me Out
“That's one of my favorites off the record, because it's just so dumb. It's like, simple, Black Sabbath, I’d figured out how to drop my guitar tuning down to D, and I was like, ‘Holy shit.’ It was unintentionally kind of based on ‘Sweet Leaf’ by Black Sabbath—you can kind of hear how similar it is, but we didn't do it on purpose, I can assure you. I remember we toured with Cypress Hill and the Sex Pistols once, and the Cypress Hill guys just loved that song. Every time we played that live, they were like, ‘This is a jam.’”

Suicidal Dream
“It's another one that really tapped into the kids, at the time, because we were kids as well. They were going through shit, and I was singing about stuff that they were going through. That became too much for me. When people start going, ‘I tried to kill myself a million times,’ with their wrists cut, that was too much for me. I know what I was trying to say. I wish I was more articulate at the time, but that's all that I had. It's no secret that I've gone through some mental health shit. That was the first time I was starting to dabble in those lyrical fields; that was probably the start of it. Lyrically, Frogstomp was really embryonic. I can see where I was trying to go, but I didn't quite get there with the lyrics. I think on Freak Show, I started to get a bit more of a take on what I wanted to say, and then from Neon Ballroom onwards, I started to get better at articulating myself. I remember I used to just lay on the floor. I was still obviously living with my parents. I used to just lay, and just listen to demos on my Walkman, and write out lyrics on the floor, while my family were eating dinner. It was literally just something I'd do as my hobby, but I guess that was my version of therapy. I really gave a shit about what I was trying to say, but I didn't ever say it right.”

“I dig this one. I just like how psycho we sound. It sounds like we're having a tantrum, which we were. It was like, ‘Can we just write something super fun, and fast, and heavy, and can I not sing for a sec, so we can just dance?’ We did a version with lyrics for a B-side, and I remember just thinking it’s still so much better without my stupid voice on it. Because it was just a thrash song. I remember the kids used to go mental if we played it live. There would be carnage. There were people hanging off poles, jumping off balconies.”

“That's when I first heard that band Helmet. I was obviously pretty young, but my next-door neighbor—she’s actually probably responsible for getting us signed—always had really, really dope taste. She got me into Soundgarden. Got me into Helmet, Beastie Boys. She played me a Helmet song, and I was just like, ‘Fuck!’ I went straight back to my bedroom, I wanted to write something that sounded like that. And ‘Undecided’ was the result. I remember loving how it was heavy music that wasn’t violent. I always loved that—metal bands that weren't trying to be tough. They were just fucking cool. Helmet were the best with that. I used to fucking talk about Helmet all through my career when I was a kid. I just thought they were gods. Them and Soundgarden.”

“I hate it. It's the only one that I genuinely wish we didn’t do. I don't understand what I was thinking, I don't know why I did that. It sucks. It's just horrible. It gets half a star—out of a possible 30. I'm just being honest, I really fucking hate that song.”

“I think that was actually the very last track we wrote for Frogstomp. And to me, it’s the first pop song that I wrote. I remember Kevin Shirley, the producer, he had a really young son who ended up going and getting all our awards at the ARIAs that year because we didn't want to go and get awards. We sent his son up, because he looked like an even younger version of me. Anyway, the crappy drum solo at the start is Kevin's little kid. At the time I think he was maybe five, or six. He was sitting on Ben's drum kit, and we were standing around going, ‘Yeah, man. Just keep hitting the drums.’ That's the only drum solo we've got on any Silverchair record, and it's not from the drummer.”


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