Andrew Denton is one of the nation’s best interviewers. He’s a master at the underrated skill of segueing so gently and politely into controversial territory that his subjects don’t realise that they’re revealing their innermost secrets on television until it’s far too late.
And that didn’t quite happen tonight on his new Channel 7 show, accurately called Interview, because his subject, Daniel “Him Out Of Silverchair” Johns, has the air of someone who has done more therapy than they’re comfortable with and will never say anything unguarded again.
He was fidgety, he was visibly nervous, and every answer was preceded by a long, thoughtful pause. And as the interview progressed, we understood why.
So if you’re reading this hoping to get the goss on the end of Silverchair (or the Dissociatives, his project with Paul Mac) or his shortlived marriage to Natalie Imbruglia, then you might need to look elsewhere.
In fact, Johns was giving a masterclass in what someone with crippling anxiety looks like when they’re successfully holding it together in public. And to his considerable credit, he made that point himself – and used it to explain something which doesn’t get talked about often enough.
When Denton asked about Johns’ DUI and public intoxication events in 2015 and 2016 and whether it indicated an addiction problem, Johns’ response was impressively candid.
“I wasn’t well, but it wasn’t what people thought it was,” he explained in the interview’s most telling moment. “I have had a pretty serious anxiety disorder for 15 years and it got really bad at a point, I was not coping and I didn’t know how to deal with it.”
And yes, there was an alcohol problem, but that it was a symptom: “I was medicating my anxiety with alcohol, a lot, and I didn’t know what it was. I was misdiagnosed a lot of things,” he said.
And there’s a happy ending, of sorts: a diagnosis, treatment, “…and now I am a perfect specimen.”
In short, this was an interview that probably didn’t tick all the boxes for the EMI publicists working on his new Dreams project with Sleepy Jackson/Empire of the Sun mainstay Luke Steele – but as a public acknowledgement of what it’s like to live with a mental disorder, this was a powerful piece of television.
And if you’re feeling it too, get yourself to Beyond Blue as your first step.