Merewether’s most famous drummer, Ben Gillies, now calls Melbourne home, but he will never forget where he came from.
The co-founder of Silverchair, along with Daniel Johns, grew up in the Newcastle beachside suburb, first playing as a rap duo in Year 3 at The Junction Primary School. “We would take our denim jackets off, and spin them around and sing these silly-ass rap songs,” Gillies recalled with a smile over a coffee at One Penny Black in Newcastle Mall over Christmas.
It was in Year 3 that Gillies took up the drums, with Johns learning the guitar a year later. It wasn’t long before they started to make their own music, asking friend Chris Joannou to join them and play bass.
Dan says, 'I had this really weird dream last night. I dreamt we were playing this gig to like thousands and thousands of people'.Ben Gillies on Daniel Johns when they were called Innocent Criminals
“Dan [Johns] and I used to sit around and say ‘We’re going be the biggest band in the world. We’re going to do this and going to do that,” Gillies said.
“One day he walked past my house and he came in and he says ‘I had a really weird dream last night. I dreamt we were playing this gig to like thousands and thousands of people’. I go, ‘f – – – ing hell, that’s really weird because I had exactly the same dream.’ ”
Gillies, whose wife Jackie is a psychic, has had time to reflect on that event almost 25 years ago. “I don’t think I’ve actually ever told anyone that,” he said. “It was quite a significant moment.”
The dreams became reality as Silverchair took the world by storm. The band’s first single, Tomorrow, went global, and the band so far has sold more than 9 million albums.
On May 25, 2011, the band announced they were going into “indefinite hibernation”.
Joannou now runs The Edwards restaurant and pub in Newcastle West.
Johns has released a solo album.
The Gillies have started an alcoholic beverage company, La Mascara. Jackie stars on the reality TV series The Real Housewives of Melbourne.
Gillies still has music running through his veins, though, and has plans to release a solo album in 2017. He’s almost finished recording in Byron Bay with producer Jordan Power, a former Maitland resident.
Gillies’ Silverchair cred will always be a part of him. Although Johns’ was credited with writing most of the material on the band’s later albums, Gillies has writing credits on early hits Tomorrow and Pure Massacre.
As for the possibility of a Silverchair reunion, Gillies said: “I’m up for it.”