Interview: Savage Garden (Daniel Jones)
Between 1996 and 2001 singer Darren Hayes and musical comrade and instrumentalist Daniel Jones proved an powerful force in music. Making up pop powerhouse Savage Garden, Hayes and Jones delved deep into the pop well to emerge with some of the most infectious, superbly written and impeccably executed hits of the nineties. After the release of two studio albums, 1997’s self titled release and 1999’s Affirmation, Savage Garden racked up a solid handful of hit singles that formed the bands enviable repertoire and legacy including To The Moon And Back, Crash and Burn and The Animal Song as well as their million selling US number one hit Truly Madly Deeply and power-pop debut, I Want You.
But, like many before them and like many that have and will follow in the fickle world of pop music, the band disbanded long before the time with Darren heading into solo territory and Daniel deciding to hang up his guitar and live the quiet life, away from the bright lights of the music world.
Despite no hints at a reunion any time soon, the band have released a brand new hits collection, The Singles and we were able to have a chat with both members of the successful musical duo, separately, about the new compilation, their impressive career and the future of Savage Garden. Following on from our chat with Hayes, we caught up with Jones where we discussed his view on the bands career and disbandment as well as his views on the future of Savage Garden and whether a reformation would ever be on the cards. Here is what Daniel had to tell us…
Brendon Veevers: Hey Daniel, how are you doing?
Daniel Jones: I’m great thanks!
DJ: Visiting family in Brisbane. I love to bring my kids back here to get to know my parents as often as I can.
BV: Your former life as part of a multi-million selling duo is resurfacing in the coming weeks as the Singles collection of Savage Garden is set for UK release. The record is a collection of highlights from the Savage Garden vaults. What is the drive behind releasing this new hits collection and why now?
DJ: It was a suggestion from the label. I was ok with it given the fact the content on it made it special. For a real fan, it has some real value on it.
BV: There are a lot of hits contained within the Singles collection and so many songs that hold so many memories to so many people all around the world. Do you yourself listen to Savage Garden much or are those memories – including listening to your SG records – something that you keep in the vaults?
DJ: I do not listen to my own music unless I hear it on the radio or in shopping malls by chance… Then I usually just smile at the memories that come to me.
BV: Your first record, in my opinion, and I’m sure an opinion shared by many, is one of the finest pop records ever released. What are your fondest memories of putting this record together and thinking back to the mid nineties – did you ever believe, as the songs from that collection were being written and recorded, that the record would be the catalyst to what would become such a successful career for the two of you?
DJ: While success seemed a long way away at the time, when we wrote To The Moon And Back, it was then I thought to myself this could be a top 40 hit. I am so honored and blessed to say I was right! I always felt people would connect with the lyric and the emotion of the music. That combined, was the real winning formula for Savage Garden.
BV: We realise that both yourself and Darren have grown apart over the years and so the topic of reforming has seemed out of the question. Is that still the position for your both? What would it take to get the two of you together again for a new album or tour?
DJ: Over the last few years I have approached Darren 2 or 3 times to do something new and some new writing together and he declined my offers. I loved the writing aspect more than the touring part but I guess its hard to have one without the other. I also think Darren had to remove himself from me and separate Savage Garden from his solo career, so I assume he felt it hard to ever go back to Savage Garden.
BV: With the release of the Singles collection, you have been involved in promotion for the compilation which isn’t something that you have been heavily involved with in the past. How have you found the promotional process and getting involved in interviews and talking about your Savage Garden years again?
DJ: I don’t mind doing a bit from time to time. What I didn’t love was the 12 hours a day of interviews talking about myself back in the day. I think labels can burn out artists very quickly by never wanting to say ‘no’ to people. They’d also put the guilt on us if we tried to say it was too much. Darren seemed OK with this more than I was; he never said no. However, I felt our work load was over the top and it quickly made me resent the expectations from labels and, especially, publicists.
BV: The release of the Singles collection has meant that you have had to dive back into the vaults and back into that popstar mode to a certain extent. What feelings has the whole process sparked for you having been, as some may say, ‘off the radar’ for such a long time?
DJ: When the unreleased song She turned up, I heard some things I had totally forgotten about. Bits and pieces of songs I don’t even remember writing. It was quite an emotional experience for me.
BV: Since splitting, Darren has led a successful solo career. Have you kept up to date with Darren’s solo work or do you keep your distance from music altogether?
DJ: I heard Spin and really liked it. But to be honest, I didn’t really follow much after that. I didn’t connect with it so much after that. I prefer more commercial music.
BV: It’s fairly well known that the reason for the end of Savage Garden came with your decision that touring and recording wasn’t something that you felt you wanted to be involved with anymore. Would you say that this is an accurate portrayal of the bands disbandment and what can you tell us to shine some further light on the final days of the band?
DJ: I loved so many aspects about the industry… but, I hated the fact I had to give up my life for it. In hindsight, I became a slave to my dream. I didn’t realize at the time I would feel that way. I loved a lot about our time at the top but I felt I needed to retreat for my own well being. I effectively walked away from huge amounts of money for happiness. For me, happiness is priceless.
BV: Now that a number of years have passed since the bands disbandment, do you look back on the decision to end Savage Garden’s time together as one that you still feel was absolutely crucial or would you like to have done things differently?
DJ: While I miss some things about those days, I have no regrets and look back very fondly. I am blessed to have had such a wonderful time and great success. I couldn’t ask for more than that.
BV: Having achieved so much success together and having created such a phenomenal body of work alongside Darren, does it feel strange to be estranged from one another?
DJ: Sometimes. But we are really different people. I still have so much respect for him as a person and an artist but we were always different. We were friendly but never really friends. We were two artists creating together!! That’s what I think made Savage Garden so special.
BV: What would you say you miss the most about the Savage Garden years? Is there anything that you miss doing or is there any aspect of the popstar lifestyle that you miss?
DJ: Some of the parties where we could just let go and enjoy! But, I still have those moments from time to time… Just without risking ending up in the news…!
BV: Looking back over your catalogue, what would you say is your finest work in terms of songs? What is your favourite Savage Garden recording and why does the track hold such a special place in your heart?
DJ: For me, To The Moon And Back. That song was so hard to get it sounding the way I wanted it. I/we got it in the end. Nothing good comes easy I guess. I do like that song.
BV: What do you regard as the biggest achievement of Savage Garden and what would you most like Savage Garden to be remembered by or for?
DJ: Songwriting and the few songs we had that climbed the charts. A small body of work, but a special one, I guess. I’m proud of it to this day.
BV: Do you think that the Savage Garden songs have stood the test of time?
DJ: 2 or 3 of our songs I think are somewhat timeless. I still hear those today so I guess after 20 years, they have held up well.
BV: Following the disbandment of Savage Garden, you went on to live a very different life than Darren; private and quite reclusive when compared to your time in Savage Garden. What are you up to these days?
DJ: At the moment, I’m just traveling the world with my wife and my 2 girls. Life is great, interesting and fun. I am happy.
BV: Do you still write and record songs or have you left that musical part of your life in the past?
DJ: For the moment, I’m not writing any music. I miss it at times but I’d need to have a real reason to write again.
BV: You found success in Savage Garden at a pivotal time in music – the pre-digital era. Since Savage Garden’s disbandment, the industry has changed significantly. What are your views on the evolution of the industry over these past 15 years. Do you think its heading in a positive direction and how do you think success is quantified now that album sales have dropped and physical is going out the window?
DJ: The industry has changed but it is what it is, I guess. A lot of things have changed over the last 20 years. I think you just have to adapt if you want to play a part in anything on this planet.
BV: Thanks so much Daniel – as a big fan its been an absolute pleasure.
DJ: Thank you!
Savage Garden’s brand new compilation The Singles is out now. You can also check out our interview with Darren Hayes where we talk Savage Garden and The Singles here.