AUSTRALIAN ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE ARTICLE --- December 2004
By Stu McCarney
If you call two million album sales a failure, ex-Savage Garden singer Darren Hayes is about to bounce. No-one understands the mercurial world of pop better than Darren Hayes. In lateČ2002, Hayes graced the office of Sony Music HQ in New York and played his debut solo album. Spin, to his A&R rep. As Hayes recalls, "He stood on the top of his toes of his desk, did a Michael Jackson twirl, pointed at me and said, 'You will win a Grammy, this record is fucking brilliant!"
In case we need to remind you, the record bombed. OK, so maybe it didn't quite bomb - it did sell two million copies internationally - but in cold commercial terms, especially when stacked against the 27 million albums he shifted with Savage Garden, it didn't match expectations. It was a tough time for Hayes, but it was also a career-defining moment.
"All the smoke in the world was blown up my arse," he recalls. "I was told that I would be the next coming of Christ. Only that person became Justin Timberlake and I was this person just sort of straddling two camps ... I was trying to make a kind of electronic record, but I was really safe about it and I made a pop record. I was completely blanded out in every possible sense, including my styling. I came across like a blond version of a Stepford Wife.
"I was responsible for that," he adds. "I was so caught up in the momentum of my career and so terrified to offend anybody, I relied on the one thing I thought would make everyone happy - which was to write hit songs and hit the high notes. I think I forgot what people want from an artist - they want you to take a risk."
And, strange as it may sound, Hayes' success with Savage Garden was built upon an element of risk. They were never a band of their time. They struggled to get a record deal, and when they released their self-titled debut in 1997, their brand of melodic pop was yet to become standard radio fare. Yet their self-belief paid off, and by the end of 1998 their "Truly Madly Deeply" single was the most-played song on U.S. radio.
It was this faith Hayes returned to while making his latest record, The Tension & The Spark. Excited by what he was listening to (Phoenix, Bjork, Air), and not inspired by anything on commercial Top 40 radio, Hayes began working on what he then regarded as a Gorillaz-styled side project. Not even Sony knew what he was doing. Self-financed and recorded in his bedroom in his London apartment, The Tension & The Spark is a raw and bold foray into moody, experimental and dark electronica. Its lyrics are as confessional as Hayes has ever been, exploring sexuality, relationships, fame and his childhood. It's the antithesis of Spin. If it's not a hit commercially, it could well be regarded as career suicide.
Produced by Marius De Vries (Bjork, Madonna) and Robert Conley, the husband of his personal assistant, the album was also mixed by Mark "Spike" Stent (Bjork, Massive Attack, Depeche Mode) - which Hayes sees as his greatest masterstroke.
"Mark had said no to me many times in the past, and only agreed to doing this record because I flew myself to London six months beforehand with five demos. He thought it was so obnoxiously ballsy of me to come up to get one more rejection, that he literally gave me five minutes," he says. "Two songs and one minute later, he told me he was blown away by my bravery and he couldn't believe a pop artist was about to risk everything for this album."
Source: Rolling Stone Magazine Australia
Big thanks to Lyn for typing out this article and for the scan
Darren Hayes Articles 2004