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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Darren Hayes

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

He was once a superstar as part of Savage Garden, having achieved huge international success in the late 1990s, before going on a solo musical career. Darren Hayes is now a humble independent artist (not withstanding the huge monies earned in those previous golden days, mind you) who has just released a double album “This Delicate Thing We've Made” on his own Powdered Sugar label. The tremendous success he has achieved now allows him greater freedom of expression, as shown on this album, and not having to conform to the business rules of today's music industry. Darren recently visited Melbourne for a short time before getting ready for a big Australian tour in October, and I had the pleasure of meeting him again.

I saw you perform at Manchester Lane, Melbourne back in March when you came to Australia for a series of intimate shows, and I noticed how happy and content you looked – at total ease with everything…

I am surprised how people noticed that because I always thought that I was a pretty good actor. Most lead singers are performers. I was quite sad for a long time, but it’s amazing how having peace in your heart and a solid relationship can make you better at what you do. It’s good to be full of joy.

It was also interesting that you did those shows, at Manchester Lane and The Basement, to test the new material, something you wouldn’t have done previously…

Willy Williams can take the credit for that. He is designing the upcoming tour for me. He’s been working with U2 since they were a band in the back of a van. He made me do the gig at the Sydney Opera House in 2006. He sat me down years ago and said, “You need to tour more, play live more, you don’t do it enough.” He was encouraging me with my next album in mind. He said to play residencies which I did in London – playing twice a month for the last six months – at places like Manchester Lane. He said to try the new songs out, gauge the reaction, and I did. It was a great exercise and made me feel confident about the record and own it before it hit the shelves.

A double album of 25 tracks is a rare thing to release these days. Was it simply a matter of wanting to express your freedom?

There are lots of s**t double albums that get released. Usually it is because the artist can’t edit themselves. They can’t decide what they want to do. This was always designed as a double album – a side 1, a break, then side 2. I loved the idea of a concept; to go back in time and fix what was broken. I’m happy now. How did I get happy? Let’s go back and look at the choices that I made. That’s the basic idea of the album. In many ways, it was my rebellion against the rules of the music industry. Everything is about less, less, less. I felt strongly about not condescending to my audience. I made this album with the mindset that it could be the last thing I ever did, so let me go out with a bang. Obviously, it won’t be, but that was my intention. I don’t what to be indie and simple. I want to be indie and technicolour and extravagant – something you wouldn’t expect of an indie record.

Will you have a vinyl release of the double album?

There will be a limited edition vinyl quantity. We mastered it for vinyl and it sounds great. It’s not a very loud record. It’s a dynamic record.

How do you think the Australian general public view you these days?

I hope I get viewed in a more complex way. That’s why I spoke about my childhood because it was informing my records, and in my songwriting, yet people weren’t attributing that to me. Songs like “Two Beds And A Coffee Machine” from Savage Garden was a song about my mother. “Gunning Down Romance” is a song about sadness. The image of me in public was very much at odds with who I was in my private life. I want to emulate the kind of career that Annie Lennox has had or any of the singer-songwriters who have lasted and survived. That connection with them is that you know what they’re speaking about is genuine. That was my decision to open up about everything – from my sexuality to my childhood. To give my records a foundation of honesty. So I would hope that it’s been handled sensitively and not scandalously.

You have several excellent songs that could be singles. Have you mapped out any other possibilities?

“Me Myself And I” is the next single. I hope “Casey” is a single as well as “How To Build A Time Machine”.

How do you feel being independent – free of those record company executives and radio formats?

I never even shopped this album to a major label. I had Angel Records (through EMI) approach me in the UK. I said no. I didn’t want a record deal. The major label system is not ending, it’s over. Even now, Madonna has signed a deal with Live Nation. It’s a march away. My single “On The Verge Of Something Wonderful” was sitting Top 10 in the UK – an independent artist – on my own label. No massive marketing budget. I just have a career, a reputation and a fanbase behind me. This record is the best thing I’ve ever done but a major label would never have taken it on.

How long did the recording process take?

The recording process took three years. Initially, it started off with me writing songs, being quite confused with how my sound was going to be. I threw much into the rubbish bin. When I wrote “How To Build A Time Machine”, that was the lynchpin of the record. I rang home and said, “I’ve either lost my mind or I’ve written one of the coolest, exciting things I’ve ever done.” Once I went with that feeling, it all started to flow.

You have the grandiose elements of side one and the more sedate slower-paced tracks on side two. What will audiences see at your live shows?

Like you said, some songs will have me at the end of a catwalk with a spotlight and a guitar. Otherwise, this is the biggest production I’ve done since 2000, the final shows of Savage Garden. This stage has been built in Australia, identical to that currently in London at the Royal Albert Hall. We finish in London on October 3 and we don’t have enough time to ship it over. So we decided to build another one. It is designed by Willy (Williams) of U2 fame, who just finished the George Michael tour. Our stage brings the album cover to life. There are moving parts, costumes, backing singers, etc. Like the album, it seems very extravagant, but the whole point of the show is that it’s very real. It’s very much the fact of having to go back in order to go forward. It’s the Time Machine tour and doing it in a theatrical way.

You’ve been a prominent member of the Myspace online community. Tell us the impact of it for you?

It has changed my career completely. I had the No.1 most viewed music video in the UK recently. Myspace allows me to communicate to all my fans in one hit – to say that I’ve got a new video out – and they’ll all go and watch it. I found new music fans in Myspace. I physically read and respond to all my mail – takes two to three hours a day. This is grass roots stuff. This is how you do it. It has changed my career. It’s fair to say that I lost a lot of old Savage Garden fans. The ones who stayed have been incredibly patient and are open-minded in following me through. There is a new fan of my age who loves electronica or experimental – artists who take risks or have indulgences in their records.

How has the response been in the United States, remembering how well Savage Garden did there?

I’ve had a great response. We’ve just got Borders Books & Music to feature the album in all 2000 of their stores across America. It’s been done without any major label backing. I’m looking to head over there next year.

Are there still any burning ambitions?

I feel “spent” after three hard years making this record. I adore it though. My next goal is this tour. I want to promote this album for two years. It will be time to then reinvent it again. This record is so lush and produced. The next thing would be quiet and simple and acoustic – chick songs!

“This Delicate Thing We’ve Made” is available through Powdered Sugar Records.

Darren Hayes Australian tour dates:

October 13, 2007Burswood Theatre, Perth
October 16, 2007Civic Theatre, Newcastle
October 17, 2007State Theatre, Sydney
October 20, 2007Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
October 24, 2007 Arts Centre Concert Hall, Melbourne
October 25, 2007 QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane

For more information, visit

www.darrenhayes.com