Back in the Day (1997-2000)
Savage Garden – the duo of singer Darren Hayes and guitarist and keyboardist Daniel Jones – were a pop phenomenon of the late 1990s. Formed in Brisbane, Australia, they saw their two albums of bubbling electro-pop and wistful soft rock, Savage Garden and Affirmation, top charts around the globe and sell more than 20 million copies.
"It sounds arrogant, but that was exactly what I thought would happen," says Hayes today. "We had the arrogance of youth, the self-belief that comes with having never failed. I see Lady Gaga today and my attitude was exactly like her!
"That whole time is just a blur now but there were some crazy highlights. I remember recording in LA, flying my whole family out and hiring a stretch limo for them to be driven around in all week. Then there was singing with Pavarotti. That was just extraordinary…"
The Wilderness Years (2000-2010)
Savage Garden split just after the millennium and Hayes went into a period of personal upheaval – a divorce, followed by coming out as gay – and launched a decidedly hit-and-miss solo career. His first two solo albums, Spin and The Tension and the Spark, sold moderately well.
"I never expected their sales to eclipse Savage Garden," he says. "Fame and success are fleeting things. I didn't mind selling less. My label, Sony, didn't feel the same!"
By 2008 Hayes was recording a two-disc concept album called This Delicate Thing We've Made and putting it out on his own independent label. "It was about travelling back through time in a time machine to say sorry to the people I'd hurt in the past," he explains. "I had an inkling making it that it might not be hugely commercial."
Yet even this project was the height of business acumen next to its follow-up: an experimental album called We Are Smug that Hayes made with a friend, Robert Conley, and gave away as a free download. "Why did I do that?" he ponders now. "Because I could! It was my last f***-you of strangeness and creativity."
There followed a spell as a mentor on Australian X Factor. "I'm not at all snobby towards those shows," he claims. "If they were around when I was starting out, I'd have gone on them – but I'd have lacked the confidence to see it through. What was I like as a judge? Pretty soft: I kept wanting to put people through…"
Where is he now?
Hayes has now signed to a major label for the first time in five years and is poised to release a new album, Secret Codes and Battleships. Its infectious electro-pop anthems and heartfelt ballads could be, well, Savage Garden.
"I made it because I felt like I wanted to be accessible again," he admits. "I wanted to lose the self-indulgent fat and get back to my fighting weight. If any of my solo albums are ever to break through to the mainstream, this would be the one.
"There have been times I have felt lost, in my career and as an artist, but now I just want to do my best – and I have. I admire artists like Kate Bush, Annie Lennox and Peter Gabriel who have the tenacity to stick around. From now on, that is what I intend to do…"