Men tend to be reluctant to admit they have an eating disorder, but in the late ’90s, Silverchair front man Daniel Johns publicly discussed his battle with anorexia. The band’s 1999 single, “Ana’s Song,” is about his fight with the disorder.
He’s a much loved rock’n’roller who’s married to one of the world’s most beautiful women. But singer Daniel Johns has finally revealed the horror behind his teenage anorexia – a condition which nearly left him dead.
Johns has admitted he was close to suicide a number of times as he battled the eating disorder in his late teens. It is the first time the singer has spoken at length about his anorexia, a problem which is affecting increasing numbers of teenage boys in Australia.
Speaking about his hatred for food during the worst stages of his illness, Johns told ABC interviewer Andrew Denton: “I could somehow convince myself that apples contained razorblades and wouldn’t go to restaurants because I thought every chef in the world wanted to poison me.
“It [food] was just the enemy. I just hated the look of it, the smell of it. If anyone talked about it, I’d leave the room.”
In an interview which airs on Enough Rope tomorrow night, Johns gives blow-by-blow details of his psychological suffering, which prompted doctors to warn him repeatedly he was going to die. At his lowest weight, the singer was just 50 kilograms.
“Kinda when I stopped eating was on our second album, just as it felt like everything was so out of control,” he told Denton in the pretaped interview. “The reason I think [I did it] was just to gain control.
“I have a theory because I was being beaten up a lot by people outside of school, it was almost like if I could make myself sick enough they’d take sympathy on me.”
Johns became so seriously ill he was treated for anorexia nervosa, but it took him some time to take doctors’ warnings seriously. “I don’t know how I pulled myself out of it,” he told Denton. “I think I definitely got scared by the second or third time a doctor told me I was dying.”
Johns said he wrote the songs for Silverchair’s Neon Ballroom (released in 1999) in the midst of his anorexia battle. “I wrote . . . Neon Ballroom in that time where I hated music, really everything about it, I hated it. But I couldn’t stop doing it and I felt like a slave to it.”
The singer admitted he had considered suicide. “There was three or four years of my life where I hated myself and you know, would have quite happily ended it. But I’m just not like that anymore . . . like [I’ve] got this amazing life, amazing wife.”
These days Johns, now 26, is happily married to singer Natalie Imbruglia and preparing for a tour with his new band the Dissociatives, formed with Paul Mac.
He is the picture of good health, which is remarkable given his private battle with anorexia and his relatively public battle against reactive arthritis only a few years later.
“The arthritis just went from bad to worse and went through all the bones in my body, through my spine, up into my neck,” he told Denton. “I just couldn’t move . . . I couldn’t have a shower because it felt like I was cracking my spine.”
After more than 12 months of rehabilitation treatment, Johns made a full recovery. He married Imbruglia at a ceremony near Port Douglas earlier this year and credits her with providing emotional support.
“It just makes everything more pleasurable when you’ve got someone that emotionally is there to rely on,” he told Denton.
Johns, who said he is likely to record another album with Silverchair, will start his first tour with the Dissociatives this week, with shows starting in Tasmania on Tuesday night. He will be back on stage in Sydney on June 19 and 20.