:: CREAM MAGAZINE ARTICLE - Australia - April 2002
Will the Real Darren Hayes Please Stand Up?
"If I can make people think about the person next to them, and if I can make you go home and f**k your partner, then that's great, I've done my job."
Once the more prominent half of Savage Garden, Darren Hayes has gone and done a George Michael on us, and is now happy solo. His new album Spin is brimming with brilliant pop tunes, and in interview these days, he seems a lot more relaxed. That is until Cream boldly goes where other magazines dare not to tread? Interview by Antonino Tati.
Hi Darren, how are you?
D: Good actually. I'm just hanging out in my house in San Francisco for a couple of days (before) I go to Miami tomorrow. And any day I'm home is a good day.
What is it you like about living in San Francisco?
D: I've been in America for four years now. Lived in New York for one of those years, and I loved it, but it was very hectic. That's where I wrote a lot of (the last Savage Garden album) Affirmation. That was a kind of difficult year in my life. I was coming out of my marriage, and I was, you know, basically alone. It was the first time I've lived away from Australia, and living in a city that - prior to September 11 - was very unforgiving, a very difficult place to be lonely in. And when we recorded Affirmation with Walter (Afanasieff) I stayed in his guesthouse in San Francisco, and my whole life just kind of turned around. It was a very positive environment, hence the title Affirmation. I said I wanted to live here and I've been here for three years.
Did you hold back on releasing your new album after the September 11 tragedy?
D: Everyone held back on everything. Movies, fashion, albums. My album was done in August of last year. The creepy thing is in the title track, Spin. I'm talking about the (war) in Jerusalem and how messed up the world is, and how maybe music can make you forget about your problems for a minute. When I listen to that song now, that's pretty much what I feel about the power of entertainment in music since September 11. The only thing I changed was the release date because we decided 'What's the point of putting out an album when the whole world's attention is focused - where it should be - on humanity and healing?' And I was going to release an up-tempo song but I decided to go with something that was a bit smoother; a bit soothing.
You were predominantly in the limelight when you were one half of Savage Garden. Does it feel odd to be doing the promotional thing solo?
D: This stuff feels completely normal because as you know I always spoke to the media. It was entirely my duty and I did every single interview and most photo shoots. The only time we really worked together was on concert tours. The weird part for me is songwriting and producing. Because the incredible thing Daniel (Jones) and I had together was our collaboration musically; the connections and the magic that we made when we wrote songs and produced together. So the first time I (wrote and produced solo) was a bit strange. It makes you question your validity and your input. But I think it was a necessary process, one that I had to go through, and that he had to go through. His label, and him producing and signing an act, and me doing a solo record; we definitely throw ourselves into the deep end.
Do you find it surreal hearing your voice on the sound system in a bar or in a club?
D: It's surreal when I'm in my car in America and my song starts, and the DJ goes (puts on mock American twang) 'This is Darren Hayes.' I blush because I'm so used to being Savage Garden, and when I hear my name?first of all they pronounce it with that American accent and that's a bit bizarre. Apart from that, I'm getting used to the public side of it, I'm getting used to being branded as a person as opposed to a band.
I sort of had this vision of you in a club, with someone chatting you up and asking you what you do for a living. And you say, "I'm a singer," and they go, "Oh, that's sweet, what jazz bar do you work in?" or "what weddings and parties have you done recently?" And then your song comes on from the DJ booth, and you go, "No, this is me singing." That could be quite a trip.
D: I'd love to say I'm in a club, but usually I'm in the canned fruit aisle at the supermarket and my song will come on.
With regard to your anonymity, are you happy being more of a 'voice' in America than a 'face?' Everyone's heard you on American radio, but do you want to be seen more on shows like Letterman?
D: I've never been someone that really coveted celebrity. Twenty million records (sold) by Savage Garden and yet most people don't really know who I am or what I do when I walk down the street. I probably get stopped once a day but certainly since I stopped dying my hair black, it's been an incredible disguise.
Dyed your hair black? I though your hair was recently dyed blonde. What natural colour are you?
D: I'm blonde. This is hilarious. I've dyed it black for years.
But you've exaggerated it blonde for the current album cover?
D: No, no. I mean I've had some highlights in it over the last year or so. I spent, like, five weeks on Byron Bay a year and a half ago, when I stopped dying my hair black. At the end of the Affirmation Tour I just kind of grew it out. Before we did the (new) album cover, I had pictures of myself where I looked like Leif Garrett. My hair is curly and light. For me, my whole image, my hair and everything; I wanted to stop pretending on so many levels. I didn't want to be a character. I didn't want to have a costume. I didn't want to be the person that I thought I had to be. I just wanted to sing the way I wanted to, write music the way I wanted to, and to look the way I wanted to. But it's been hilarious to read about the fascination with my head!
Regarding your public image, there was a lyric on the last Savage Garden album about you believing that beauty magazines promoted low self-esteem. How did you get away with being profiled in those same beauty magazines?
D: The thing about me is that I always talk about being comfortable with who you are. That's why I got into yoga. It taught me to really love who I am, my body, flaws and all. If I have a tummy, rather than just sit there my whole life and go "You know what, I wanna have these perfect Brad Pitt abs," It's more like, "You know what, this is what the universe gave me." I always talk to younger people, especially about the beauty myth. About the fact that there's a lot of fancy lighting, airbrushing, stylists and stuff to create what you think is a pop star. I'll be thirty this year and I want to be well presented, but I want to look like a 30-year-old man.
Philosophizing about the beauty myth, doesn't that kind of go against the ideals of the Seventies that we grew up with and that we were subjected to? You know, The Bay City Rollers, Gary Gutter, and all that glam?
D: I think there's a difference between perfection and entertainment. As you've seen, I completely embrace showmanship. You come and see a show and it will be extravagant, fun, poppy, bright, bold, while my new album is neon, it's theatrical; it's romantic; it's extravagant. That part of it I'm completely comfortable with so long as everyone knows that that's when I'm entertaining and that that's (done) with a wink. But when it comes to things like surgery, liposuction, the whole Hollywood thing, and the way everyone acts in LA, I'll never stop criticizing that. And I'll never really embrace that. I think it's fake and I think people now respond to sincerity more than they used to.
Have you ever gotten up and done karaoke in front of a group of friends?
D: I've been kicked out of Karaoke bars.
But your songs are highly played karaoke tracks.
D: Yeah, but I was singing someone else's tune, probably I Will Always Love You in my Whitney Houston impersonation. I was taking the piss, and I was hitting the high notes, and I got thrown out. It was a couple of years ago in Kings Cross somewhere. It was ugly.
I'd like to play a lyrical game now. What I want to do is throw some song titles at you and I want you to pretend that these are University thesis paper titles and to see if you can give a sub-title to each of them?
D: A Spiritual Journey Uniting Philosophies of the East and West of Today's Society.
Everybody Wants To Rule The World
D: The difficult Years: Intense Studies of Pre-Pubescent Youth in Impoverished Urban Neighborhoods.
Hungry Like The Wolf
D: Plaget's Phases of Attraction Beginning From Desire and the Journey Toward Complacency.
D: An Investigation Into the Subversive Behaviors of Sixth and Seventh Graders.
Language Is A Virus
D: The Art of Erotic Storytelling and Its use in Coercion.
D: Is Consumerism the Modern Religion?
If You Love Somebody Set Them Free
D: An Examination of Bondage.
Okay, we'll go back to actual questions now? Have you ever done bondage?
D: No, to be honest, it kind of scares me. If I was into bondage it would have to be with, like, satin or something. I want sweet lovin'
So no leather for you?
D: Not unless it's on tour for a bad Elvis impersonation.
Do you find it fun making pop cultural references in songs?
D: I think it's necessary for people to understand that as much as I'm a romantic and an idealist, the whole reason I'm here (in the US) is that as a kid I was fascinated with pop culture, especially within the US. The first time I ever came here I took an instant camera and took pictures of M&M's in grocery stores. I was fascinated with the number of Acid Reflux commercials on television, and things like that. This nation that sells candy and the worst food in the world to drug institutes involved in..you know..all it does is (promote) remedies for the food you're eating. The great thing about pop music at the moment is that it's all about salvaging through the wreckage. You just pick up bits and pieces and little glittery objects; and place them back together into some kind of original form. That to me is where we're at.
Even to the point of referencing lovely Britney Spears in one of your new songs?
D: Yeah, I wanted to give Britney a break. I admit that I bought the Stranger single. Does that make me uncool?
No, it's actually an affirmative, isn't it?
D: Maybe, who knows? But the reality is that my song is like, you know, 'What if I told you this, this, this and that, all these things about myself, would I still be worthwhile? Would you still love me?'
On a pop referential note, I find it interesting that there was one track you had on the first Savage Garden album that referenced Versace and other haute couture labels, and on this album you make reference to a Samsonite suitcase instead of a Louis Vuitton. I thought you would have been more of a Louis boy?
D: Maybe this boy's changed? Maybe I'm just a bit more wary.. You know, it's funny, on that first record I had no idea what I was talking about. When I'm referencing all those designers? Now that I do know what I'm talking about, I'd rather just dump it into my Samsonite bag.
But you're going to Miami tomorrow. What about all the label name-draggers there? Do you not go for that label-laden, shindig party scene?
D: Well, it depends who's there and it depends what you're into. Most of my friends are people within the industry, but they're probably like, line producers. They're the first assistant director on the video set as opposed to the director. It's probably a working class mentality, but I'm not an elitist. One of my best ever, and he literally blows my mind. (Photographer) Alek Keshishian is another great friend of mine. He just did the video for Insatiable.
And he directed Madonna's In Bed With Madonna.
D: Yeah, I mean, I've definitely surrounded myself with people who stimulate my mind, as opposed to (mocks wannabe famous person) 'My profile's in the Who Weekly!'
With your profiles, do you find you have to hold back sometimes when talking to a particular market about your personal life, your love life, etcetera?
D: No, I think it's pretty obvious. I'm across the board. Very, very open about my music, about what I do for the career, and from the very beginning of this - from six or seven years ago - you won't see a picture of my family, you won't see me talking about my love life, you won't see what the cushions look like on my couch. I use someone like Bono as an example. I mean I don't really know what's going on in Bono's life, but I really respect him. To me, it's about longevity. I'm not interested in prostituting my private things. I've sold enough records, why would I need to do that?
But surely Bono stands for something; as a metonymic and good example for a one-time marginal community, let's say, the Irish? Is there anything you feel responsible for, being in the limelight?
D: I think I feel responsible and famous for preaching love. I get the shit taken out of me for it, and I also get celebrated for it. I'm an idealist, I'm a romantic. Ever since September 11, I can't say it enough, what I do, there's an innocence to it. Sometimes it can look calculated, but the reality is it's very sincere and it's simple. If I can make people think about the person next to them, and if I can make you go home and f**k your partner, then that's great. I've done my job.
There's a song on your new album Strange Relationship that appears to talk about the ups and downs, the give and take. Is that what you want, as strange relationship?
D: I think in so many ways it describes most of my relationships, from the relationship I have with my manager who's my best friend, to the relationship I had with Daniel?.romantic relationships the push and pull, the crazy roller coaster ride; the attraction to the distraction to the destructive nature of it all. Songs like Creepin' Up On You? have I ever stalked anybody? No. But is it in my heart of hearts? Probably, I think given the right stimulant, I can become that person.
Darren, we can keep this off the record if you like. I was having drinks once with your manager friend Leoni and she said you were ready to come out of the closet?
D: You can print whatever you want. You can print my reaction. I don't care. But I think it's disappointing. I'm gonna go. I'm gonna get someone to send you this book (The Four Agreements a book about gossip and the impeccable word) and I'll get Leonie to phone you, probably right now. Bye.