Chris Joannou: Rockin’ And Riding For Headspace

When you go into “indefinite hibernation”, it’s understandable if you disappear off the radar for a bit and don’t get up to many activities.

And – at least in the public’s eyes – that’s exactly the case with Silverchair bass player Chris Joannou. While bandmates Ben Gillies and Daniel Johns have popped up over the last year with a scattering of solo exploits, Joannou’s been keeping a pretty low profile.

But that’s about to change – as Joannou dusts off his motorbike and joins a selection of Australian music, sport and modelling identities for Headspace and Big Day Out’s epic road trip initiative, Rock N Ride.

Beginning on Sunday at the Gold Coast Big Day Out, Joannou will trek with Phil Jamieson, Paul Mac, Jake Stone, Adam Zammit, Nathan Hindmarsh, Kate Peck, Merrick Watts, Steve Andrews and Julie Jamieson on a five-day journey throughout four states, to raise awareness for youth mental illness.


On the way, they will stop at various Headspace centres across the country to mingle with fans, play a few songs and chat about the mental health issues young people face such as depression, anxiety, bullying, and drug and alcohol problems.

The trip will wind up at the Adelaide Big Day Out on Friday, January 25 – just in time for Jamieson to jump on stage and perform his set at the festival with his band Grinspoon.

Joannou got involved in the ride after having a chat with founder and Big Day Out CEO Adam Zammit. Having previously done work with youth mental illness through his own charity, Nathan’s Bequest (named after his cousin who committed suicide a few years ago), Joannou was only too happy to saddle up for the ride.

“There were a few conversations floating around that Phil wanted to ride from Gold Coast to Adelaide, and then Adam was keen and put together this great purpose behind doing it,” he said.

“I’ve done quite a bit of work with my own charity, which does a lot of work with mental illness as well, so when Adam said it was all for Headspace, I was like, ‘absolutely’.”

Joannou believes that the ride is an ideal outlet to spread more awareness about youth mental illness and reach out to those who may be suffering from its symptoms.

“It’s definitely an issue in Australia… the numbers around some of the stuff is ridiculous and it’s one of the biggest killers of young people between 18 and 25 years,” he said.

“And I think being able to engage with that age group through a bit of rock ‘n’ roll and motorbikes will make it a bit easier for people to start opening up and get help.

“There’s a lot of stigma attached to conversations around mental illness, so we’re trying to remove that and visiting a lot of Headspace centres along the way, which will be fantastic.”

Speaking of rock ‘n’ roll and motorbikes, at most of the stops on the route, Jamieson and a few of the other musicians on the trip will stage some impromptu performances. But don’t expect Joannou to join in the travelling family band.

“I’ll probably introduce him (Jamieson) or something like that, but I won’t be wielding an axe, the basses are staying at home for this trip,” he chuckles.

However, Joannou has confessed to working on a bit of music in his downtime from Silverchair, along with focusing on his boutique beer line, Lovells.

“I’m still working on other music projects… I’ve being working on one with a mate for some time now, it’s enough to keep me busy and out of trouble.”

Whether we’ll ever hear anything from this project is unclear though. As Joannou said, it is “something we are working on for the sheer love of music, really”.

As for his Silverchair bandmates, Joannou said he hasn’t spoken to frontman Daniel Johns for a while, but recently talked to drummer Ben Gillies about “catching up for a beer when he’s next in Newcastle.”

And while there’s no immediate plans to do work together anytime soon, Joannou said a Silverchair reunion will happen “when it feels right”.

“Who knows, the book is still open, nothing’s closed. When it feels right, something will happen,” he said.

“There’s no plan, there’s nothing penciled in, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

“(The break) is nothing new for us. Every time we’ve had breaks, everyone’s been busy doing other projects, and I think it’s a really healthy approach.”

For now, he’s pumped to be taking action on a cause close to his heart through Rock N Ride – and have a great time doing it as well.

“I’ve ridden down to Adelaide and all over the place before… there’s something about riding in a big group with other people, it feels amazing. Everyone’s so excited to get out on the road and get cracking.”

“Headspace has done all this amazing work in terms of setting up all these facilities and supporting all these services, so it’s great to be raising so much awareness for them on this ride along the way.”


Sunday, 20 January

Departure from Gold Coast Big Day Out

Monday, 21 January

Headspace Southern Downs – Connabarabran

Tuesday, 22 January

Live performance at NSW Central West Headspace, live performance at Riverina Headspace

Wednesday, 23 January

Live performance at Headspace Bendigo, live performance at Headspace Swan Hill

Thursday, 24 January

Live performance at Riverland Headspace, Live performance at Murraylands Headspace

Friday, 25 January

Arrive at Adelaide Big Day Out

For more information on Rock N Ride 2013 visit the official website or the ride’s Facebook page. To learn more about Headspace, click here.

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