Old flame, new spark

Old flame, new spark

By Australian singer-songwriter Darren Hayes belts out passages from then and now
  • Published 5.10.04

Old flame, new spark

You fell Truly Madly Deeply in love with this Australian singer-songwriter as the cute frontman of Savage Garden, who went on to reinvent himself with a solo album titled Spin in 2003. His dalliance with the sound waves continued and now he?s made another splash with his new album The Tension and the Spark, which has seen the international superstar setting off in a totally new sonic direction.

Here, Darren Hayes replies to a host of questions fired by Sangita S. Guha Roy over email.

From Savage Garden to second solo album, how has the journey been?

It?s been four years since the last Savage Garden concert in South Africa in 2000. I wouldn?t want to re-live those years again! It was a lot of hard work, pressure and expectation that I felt going from a successful band to a solo career.

In some ways I think I was on automatic pilot for my first solo album. I knew there was a lot to prove so I just worked hard and didn?t look down! Looking back, it was a very stressful time for me in my life.

To take you back in time for a bit, what were you aiming for musically with your work in Savage Garden?

It was crazy. I was a boy from Brisbane, Australia, poor as poor could be and never even left my own city. All of a sudden, 20 million record sales, number one in America, people screaming out for you. It?s an incredible high and very surreal experience. When I was with Savage Garden, the number of CDs sold, how famous I was and whether I would make it to the top, The Tension and the Spark speaks about all that.

I became a popstar because I wanted the whole world to love me, but I?ve realised that self love will fill any void or need.

Your new effort, The Tension and the Spark, follows the hugely successful Spin. Did having such a strong debut create pressure?

Truth is, I just didn?t want to make a record. I finished touring, with Japan being the last show, and I was bored. I was done with music and I became very cynical about the industry and Top 40 radio. I didn?t even want to look at music for a while, and did a course in screen-writing.

I was living in San Francisco so I got back to yoga, bought myself a mountain bike and a puppy, and started living my life. And incidentally, I started making a record without realising it.

It would be really difficult to cross the benchmarks set by Spin, especially in terms of vocals. Did you have to take a fresh look at your style because of this?

No. I think I have just evolved and grown, as anyone should. Once again, what would be the point in doing exactly what I?ve done before? I think this record just shows growth.

Who are some of the artistes who have influenced your work in the new album?

I have a true love of the music these people had been associated with ? Bjork, Madonna, Massive Attack ? to name a few. So I really wanted to explore the influence they could bring to my songwriting and performing.

And of course, I loved working with the producers of this album ? Mark Stent, Marius De Veries and Robert Conley.

Has your approach to songwriting changed since the Savage Garden days? Do you co-write with a lot of others?

It was a lot more freeing. In the past, I tried not to offend anyone with my music, but this time around, I don?t mind so much if someone doesn?t like the songs. When I recorded Unlovable, I had a lump in my throat. It was moving, but I wasn?t sure if people wanted me to write those type of songs.

Relationships and changing emotional landscapes were at the core of your writing in Spin. Does The Tension and the Spark further expand on these themes?

When I say that this album is autobiographical, I cannot stress on this enough. It?s almost uncomfortably personal at times. I definitely wanted to reinvent myself, in as many ways as possible.

I think I had lost my passion for music and I wanted to be inspired and reinvigorated by working with people who would challenge me. I pushed myself very hard and didn?t allow myself to feel ?safe?. The fact that the record is electronic is almost incidental to me. I think it?s a record that is deeply personal and sparse ? and electronic second.

Insatiable was the obvious single from Spin. Any song in the new album that you think will make that kind of impact?

Popular... it?s my favourite track in the album.

Is The Tension and the Spark your take on the creative process?

The record is about my childhood and my psyche. Why now? Because I can?t lie anymore. There?s been a hefty element of honesty in my music, but with this, it was overwhelming. All these feelings and thoughts I tried to hide away manifested themselves as songs.

What do you think the future of popular music is going to be like?

Music is growing everyday. The styles keep changing... and this is a good thing.