Savage Garden

Savage Garden

“I think there was an aspirational quality in music to escape and become something else,” Darren Hayes tells Apple Music of the inspiration behind Savage Garden’s 1997 debut album. “My own version of that was escaping bullying. I was escaping childhood trauma, violence at home. But also my sexuality—that was just bubbling up and I wasn't sure who I was. Looking up to the world stage, my idols were superstars like Michael Jackson, George Michael, Madonna, Prince, INXS, and I hoped that we would do something like that one day.” Despite only releasing two albums, Hayes and producer Daniel Jones created a legacy that has far outlasted their years as a duo. And while they couldn’t have known it at the time, they nevertheless aimed high. “When I speak to young artists today, I always say that you have to think you're capable,” he says. “It's a willing madness that you enter into, because the stakes are so, so high, and the probability of you succeeding are so tiny that you have to suspend disbelief. It’s not arrogance, it's just this really beautiful, willful naivety. I remember moments of what I would call my mortal life, I’d go from working as a substitute kindergarten teacher to my night job at a video store to working at Myer, to a record store, and I had that dream inside me the whole time.” Below, Hayes talks through the stories behind each track on Savage Garden. To the Moon & Back “This has one of the most complete instrumentals that Daniel ever wrote. It's such a beautiful, haunting piece of music. I was a big science fiction fan; I loved Blade Runner. I wrote it from that point of view, or the idea of what it means to be human. That idea of yearning to express your emotions and your feelings and for that to be legitimized. There was also someone in my life whose persona was very standoffish and who pushed everyone who loved her away. But I could see underneath that hard shell, there was so much pain and all that stuff that I identified with—mum never loved her much, daddy never kept in touch, these are things actually bothering this person.” I Want You “I have such a soft spot for this song and it just keeps coming back. It's based on a dream that I had where I fell in love with a boy. And when I woke up, I missed him. I didn't know how I would ever feel that feeling again. I had this almost beautiful melancholy, romantic grief. I remembered everything about this boy who I'd never met. The smell, the kiss, the feeling, the butterflies in my tummy, all that stuff. And so I spent about a week mourning that feeling. I used to think, ‘Maybe if I go to sleep, I'll see him again.’” Truly Madly Deeply “A really sincere and special and emotional song. There was something really emotional about the combination of this very naive intention and a very deep feeling, which was how I felt when I was living in a one-bedroom apartment in Kings Cross, with Daniel Jones, making this album. We were incredibly poor—I remember we used to save money by sleeping in late. Often the recording sessions wouldn't start until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, so we would always skip breakfast and get lunch and then maybe something cheap from the grocery store for dinner. But I would sleep a lot of the weekend away just to save money. I'd only just gotten married and I was away from my wife. I was a 22-, 23-year-old baby in this new marriage; I'd never lived outside of my own city before and was genuinely just lost and sad. I wrote that song for her, about my wife and how much I missed her.” Tears of Pearls “In the early 1980s, there was this huge soul influence on music. By the time the ’90s came around, when this record came out, a lot of that had been removed and we were now fascinated with sampling. Music was either incredibly grungy and rock-based and coming out of Seattle, or it was angry, spiky, industrial electronic. And I wasn't really into that. My taste in music was much, much more electronic and synth-heavy than Daniel’s, so I was always trying to sneak in references—the New Romantic period, Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys, George Michael, those blue-eyed soul singers who were raised on Motown Records. I think in some ways it’s a queer thing—there’s a quality to soul music that speaks to the heart of pain in anyone. So a lot of this sound comes from that and the dream world of this record. It's full of all these metaphors; it’s Camp with a capital C. It's everything that I was into back then. I was a wannabe goth. I wore velvet and just really immersed myself in the theatricality of being a pop star. In a lot of ways, this song was just a vehicle for that. It was just an excuse for me to twirl around onstage.” Universe “A lot of this record, when I’m speaking in the first person, lyrically, is really just ‘Wow, I’ve got all these big feelings, I don't know who I am. I didn't know what's going to become of my life and I'm just going to jump in the deep end.’ And it might be why that record connected the way that it did with young people. Because when I looked out into the audience, I saw young people that looked like I did and they dressed like I did. It was when the internet first exploded and chat rooms first exploded and you could have this kind of identity and you could hide behind an avatar. That you could express what you really felt. ‘Universe’ is talking about that. It’s a song about second-guessing your own emotions and just really young, youthful love, innocent, naive love, and insecurity, which we were all buckets full of.” Carry On Dancing “I. Am. Obsessed. With. This. Song. There's a full stop after every word! So the name of the band came from a line of dialogue in an Anne Rice novel, The Vampire Lestat. I was a young Brisbane goth, or so I thought, though I wasn't into rock music, I didn't like goth music and I didn't smoke clove cigarettes. But I liked ruffles. I didn't like sunlight. I was a vegetarian. I dyed my hair blue-black. And this song to me always sounded like a vampire's ball. It just sounded like this feeling of just walking into, like, the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland, only it was yours.” Violet “I think you can hear our love of INXS in this song, although unsuccessfully, because whenever you try to imitate your idols, you fail miserably. We're obviously huge fans of the band, especially the guitar playing and the simplicity of when it was just bass drums and guitar. Michael Hutchence, to me, really sang like a soul singer. And I was a big Prince fan as well, so there's a Strat guitar that you can hear in there. There's a love of Prince, love of James Brown, INXS at the root of the song. And lyrically, again, like ‘I Want You,’ it's this trippy aspirational metaphor. I don't really know what I'm talking about, but I think it was a burgeoning sexuality. I had a lot of emotions, a lot of drama budding up inside me. A lot of theatrics, I think. And I had nowhere to put them but into the way I dressed and the way that I wrote lyrics.” Break Me Shake Me “This sounded very different before we got to the mix. The engineer decided to mute all of the instruments but the bass and the finger snaps in the verses. And it just transformed it into a different record. When it was originally conceived, it sounded much more like a live band. Grunge music was really, really huge and it would have made sense at the time, but it just wasn't us. To this day people still say it sounds like a Michael Jackson record, which is a huge compliment for me. Lyrically it’s about an argument I’d had with one of my best friends from school—she's still my dear friend to this day. So I wrote this really nasty song, being really dramatic. And I remember having to call her up and saying, ‘Listen, I don't feel this angry anymore, but I just want you to know I've written this really angry song about you.’ We still laugh about it.” A Thousand Words “This was the first song ever that Daniel and I wrote together. At the time, our covers band had come to a dusty road where he and the other guys had been offered a contract to go out to Uluru and play at a resort for six weeks. I was not going to do that, because I hated the heat. I said to Daniel, ‘I don't think I can do this anymore. But I would be interested in being in a band with you.’ He loaned me his Ensoniq keyboard and a manual and said, ‘If you learn how to play this keyboard, I'll be in a band with you.’ Meanwhile, the band U2 were coming to town, so I dyed my hair black, I got my ear pierced, and I was obsessed with Achtung Baby. So when he came back, I hadn’t learned the keyboard, but I knew the drum sounds that I liked. We went through this JV-1080 drum machine and Daniel programmed this industrial drumbeat, because at that point, I was planning on being this alternative rock god. It’s about the same person [as ‘Break Me Shake Me’] and this argument, but sonically, Daniel really managed to understand what it was that I was showing him and what I was trying to achieve.” Promises “I openly admit that it's my least favorite song on the record. This album is actually the second track listing—the original Australian release started with ‘Carry On Dancing’ and it did not have this song on there, it had a song called ‘Mine.’ Our US label at the time were very conservative and they were worried—there’s a line in ‘Mine’ where I said, ‘I'll bear all the crosses and the crucifixes you can provide.’ And they didn't want me to have any crucifix mentions. So they decided to take that song off the record and instead put this song, which we didn't really think was going to make the cut, on there instead. A lot of fans love this song, and for a long, long time I didn’t perform it. But I did a New Year's Eve show in London and I did an acoustic version of the song. And I'm happy to admit that I was wrong. It's quite the catchy pop tune.” Santa Monica “The first time I ever traveled overseas was to America. Our budget at the time was something like $20 a day, which included meals, but we went to Las Vegas, Disneyland, and ended up in Santa Monica, which turned out being the only place that I loved. I remember walking around the promenade and really feeling like an outsider. Really understanding, ‘Wow. I'm just an ant on this huge globe.’ And here I am, I’ve got this record that's in the can but it hasn't been released yet. I’ve got all these big, big plans, but I don’t know if it's going to happen—if, when I get back from this trip, I'm going to go back to my three jobs. I don't have any answers. At the same time, the internet had exploded and the Internet Relay Chat was a thing. That’s where I’d started to make online friends and I had a persona. And that's what that chorus was talking about: that on the telephone line, I can be a supermodel or Norman Mailer and you wouldn't know the difference. It was speaking to that disconnect that we all felt in the ’90s, about how we could have communities all around the world where we could find people that were into our tiny, unique idiosyncrasies, yet we were also 10,000 miles away. But I was also thinking about what I was on the verge of embarking upon, which was 'I'm going to become him. I'm going to become the lead singer of this band and I'm going to get to escape into my superhero's character.'”

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