Interview: Savage Garden (Darren Hayes)
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. First up is Savage Garden front man, Darren Hayes. Here is what he had to tell us…
Brendon Veevers: Hey Darren, how are you doing?
Darren Hayes: I’m doing great. Sitting down listening to the rare occurrence of Los Angeles rain, where we now live.
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?
DH: My concern has always about legacy. With a band like ours, aside from the sound, the most unique thing about us was that it was such a short period of time. Just two albums. This was a way to feel like I was doing something to present the music in the best possible light to audiences who grew up with us and wanted to re-live some great memories.
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 Savage Garden records – something that you keep in the vaults?
DH: I never stopped touring or playing the songs live, so for me there has never been a break. I always listen to a brand new album while it’s being recorded and once it’s mixed, but rarely again after, including my solo material. But I think because I had 15 years of touring without Daniel, I remained fond of the songs because they became a part of my whole story.
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 and Daniel 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?
DH: I’m a dreamer, and I have to say that the first time I heard I Want You on a giant desk in an amazing recording studio I think I knew. Sometimes the universe conspires to make your dreams come true, and the trajectory of that album was like a rollercoaster. It just went so quick, so fast and so high.
BV: She is a special demo that has been included on the Singles collection as the token unreleased song closing out the hits. Why did you decide to go with She for this collection?
DH: Because there aren’t any left over Savage Garden songs, and after all this time, it felt like it belonged as a part of the legacy. It captures our songwriting in a very early period, when we knew we had the ability to write something more sophisticated but without the experience to know how. I love it for that reason.
BV: What do you recall about the writing and recording of this track? What was the main inspiration behind the song?
DH: It’s about the relationship between women and men. Lyrically at least, from me I have a reverence for women, especially my Mother and Sister. So I was trying to express how that unconditional love is like a magic in some ways.
BV: Are there many other songs in the Savage Garden vault that are yet to see the light of day that fans might expect to be released in future years?
DH: There really aren’t. There are a collection of ideas and bits and pieces long forgotten. This was the most complete song we felt comfortable sharing.
BV: We realise that both yourself and Daniel 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?
DH: I’ve never changed my opinion about reforming. I honestly wouldn’t even know where to start or why. Those reunions are often purely for financial gain, not out of respect for the fans. I adore our fans, and my fans who have stayed with me, and they know how I feel on the matter. It feels like a lifetime ago.
BV: Having achieved so much success together and having created such a sublime body of work alongside Daniel, does it feel strange to be estranged from one another?
DH: Not at all. In fact the opposite it true. It was such a short period of time together and I continued on touring and making records, that honestly it would be impossible to even think of that dynamic again. It was a short burst of creativity, a crazy ride and then life moved on. I’m very thankful for the collaboration, but it’s been such a long time I don’t miss it.
BV: As one of Australia’s most successful exports and one of the defining duos in pop music history, you accomplished a hell of a lot during your years as Savage Garden. What would you say you miss the most about the Savage Garden years?
DH: I miss the music industry. Back then it was prosperous and there were budgets for promotion and music videos and all of the creative things that go along with records. I feel like radio was much more open to random songs and music was valued more.
BV: If there was anything that you could change or do all over again to change the course of history for the band and the relationship with Daniel, what would it be?
DH: I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a perfect record. The music is bigger than both of us.
BV: Looking back over your catalogue, what would you say is your finest work in terms of songs? What is your favourite Savage Garden song and why does the track hold such a special place in your heart?
DH: I think my favorite song we ever wrote is called Two Beds and a Coffee Machine. It was the first time I felt as a songwriter that I let 100% of my true self come through. It’s a very personal and emotional song and that shaped me as a songwriter beyond the end of the band. So I’m quite grateful for it.
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?
DH: There are lots of wonderful records and awards and figures, but the thing that I’m proud of is I’ve been involved in the soundtrack of people’s lives. That’s a very high compliment and a wonderful thing to know.
BV: Do you think that the Savage Garden songs have stood the test of time?
DH: Of course!
BV: Following the disbandment of Savage Garden, you went on to record as a very successful solo artist and you have released several albums of your own. We haven’t seen a new record from you since 2011’s Secrets Codes and Battleships. Are there plans to return to the studio and stage anytime soon?
DH: I have no idea. I’ve never planned out my career like that. I’ve spent the last three years studying improv comedy and writing in Los Angeles, and I’ve explored many non-musical things, especially acting. People interpret that as ‘retiring’ but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m an artist. Always have been always will be. I’m sure music will fit in to my path at some point again but today is not that day.
BV: You have been kept busy with the your podcast series, He Said He Said. Can you tell us a little about this and why you decided to get involved in a project like this?
DH: That was a fun experiment. We recorded 52 episodes of a podcast that is probably unlike anything you’ve ever heard. It was a wonderful experience, but had become like a full time job so I’ve benched that at the moment. But it was lots of fun and I’d like to do more podcasting again for sure.
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?
DH: I hate that music has been devalued and that as a society we value the device more than the content. It is what it is. I think the music industry was too late on the digital game. Instead of litigating they should have been collaborating. Apple was smart, scooped up the interest and decided songs should be 99c. I think that moment cheapened music in a sense. At the same time, fans love music more than ever. So who knows.
BV: So, what’s next for Darren Hayes – what projects, plans, music, podcasts or miscellaneous projects can fans expect in 2016 and beyond?
DH: I’m always working on stuff, always working on dreams. 90% of my experiments never make it to the public because they are just part of my education. So you’ll have to wait and see.
Savage Garden’s new compilation The Singles is out now! Check out Part 2 of our Savage Garden interview in a few days when we catch up with the other half of the band, Daniel Jones.