Savage Garden on stage before their demise.
Savage Garden on stage before their demise.

The rift that destroyed Savage Garden

There was always something about Savage Garden's split that felt very final.

The Australian pop band's career was tight. The duo only made two albums, their self-titled 1997 debut and 1999's Affirmation, each of which spawned an American number one single: Truly Madly Deeply and I Knew I Loved You.

Twenty years since they last recorded together, a half-dozen of the band's hits are still played in high rotation on radio stations worldwide.

In terms of sales, Savage Garden are inarguably one of the most successful bands of all time, selling 23 million records before crashing and burning around the time their single Crash and Burn was climbing the charts.

Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones met in 1994, after the latter placed a "vocalist wanted" ad in Brisbane street press.

The vocalist was to front a covers band hitting the Gold Coast pub and club scene, but the pair soon split off from the others and built a catalogue of original material.

They sent out 150 demos to record labels around the world, and got only one bite - from legendary Aussie manager John Woodruff, who negotiated a number of savvy licensing deals that ensured the band would be a priority act in various markets around the globe.

By the end of the century, they were coming off the back of two number one albums and an exhausting world tour.

The whole experience had affected them both differently. Hayes was born for stardom while Jones hated everything that came with it. They had completely different plans for the future. Savage Garden was over.

Their split seemed premature to fans and industry alike. Jones was the one who initiated it, although Hayes was the first to formally announce it, telling Australian journalists, "That's it, Savage Garden is over" during 2001 interviews.

That was it, although Jones found out through his dad, who saw a television report of Hayes' declaration.

An awkward telephone call was made, in which Hayes "was very apologetic", a press conference was held and Savage Garden were officially finished.

"We're still good friends," Jones assured Billboard at the time.



Although the pair have maintained there is no bad blood, there's no denying Jones pulled the rug out from Hayes at the peak of their career.

And there was no personal falling-out to blame, no juicy fight to sink our teeth into, just the reasonable truth of the matter: Jones hated the lifestyle.

He hated the constant touring, the spotlight, all of it. His shadowy presence in every Savage Garden clip foreshadowed his reticence towards stardom.

It was all too much and, in numerous interviews since, he has dismissed any suggestion of a feud.

"The one thing I never wanted Darren to think was that it was personal against him," he insisted in 2015, while restating the reality.

"I never loved the lifestyle of the band or the existence of touring. I've never said anything other than that."

In truth, Savage Garden split well before Hayes announced it.

Things seem irreparable the week before their second album, Affirmation, came out.

Jones was so unwilling to commit to the circus of international touring and promotional duties that the album was almost scrapped at the eleventh hour.

Jones was bargained with: if Hayes did all the publicity for the album - the tireless promotional flights, the press junkets and phone interviews - then Jones would agree to a tour.

Jones stayed, the album sold eight million copies and the pair never recorded together again.



Hayes believed initially that he and Jones would continue writing songs together for his solo career after Savage Garden was off the road. It soon became apparent this wasn't going to happen.

Not daunted, Hayes released Spin in early 2002, a disco pop album that aimed to contemporise him as a solo artist, much as Michael Jackson had done in 1979 with Off The Wall.

As an artistic statement, it was strong. Sales, however, weren't a patch on Savage Garden, with the album selling only 118,000 copies in America.

His 2004 album The Tension and the Spark took a darker electro turn, and sold even worse. In 2006, his record company Columbia dropped him; the following year he self-released his third album.

A 25-song double-album which heavily features a 1983 Fairlight synthesiser, it remains a marker of what Hayes later described as his "rebellious streak". It didn't sell either.

After the dissolution of Savage Garden, Jones built his own recording studio, and started a record label, Meridien Musik.

During this period, he launched a band named Aneiki: a duo that he formed, signed, wrote songs with and produced - but wasn't a member of. It was the ideal set-up for a man who shunned attention and wanted to bury himself in the minutia of studio life.

Aneiki's single Pleased To Meet You was the most-played song on Australian radio in 2002, and for a while it appeared that Jones' pop radio smarts were readily transferable.

Aneiki, however, disintegrated after only one album. Jones co-wrote a Bachelor Girl song that same year, then abruptly quit the music industry. He married Kathleen de Leon from kids group Hi-5, and moved to Las Vegas to flip real estate. Music remains a hobby.




Throughout the years, Hayes has often seemed testy about any mention of a possible Savage Garden reformation, snapping at a hopeful Daily Telegraph writer in 2007, who segued from the topic of a Spice Girls reunion to suggest a similar thing.

"No, never. I once said I'd only do it if it cured cancer, and that's still how I feel," Hayes said.

This was during press for his double album, and despite the '80s synth his music was lathered in, he wasn't exactly in the mind frame to wax nostalgic. Or maybe he didn't wish to discuss the Spice Girls.

By 2015, he had softened on the idea, now choosing to take Savage Garden reunion queries as "a huge compliment" while remaining resolute. Basically, it's just not gonna happen.

"The thing with a band is it really is a marriage," he explained at the time to

"In our case we had a marriage that ended in divorce. People don't get married by accident and they don't get divorced by accident. There are reasons why musical relationships are magical and those same reasons are sometimes why they can't last.

"I don't think we would have stayed disbanded for however long it's been if that was an accident."

This week, Jones mentioned on Australian radio that the duo no longer had a friendship.

Speaking to 97.3's Bianca, Mike & Bob, Jones said he and Hayes last saw each other a few years ago, at their ex-manager's wedding, and "just acknowledged each other".

"I still love the guy dearly. We are just different people," Jones said.

"There's no wrongdoing. It's just different directions and different people. We just don't have a friendship anymore or working relationship."



Things end. Things crash. Things burn. Hayes, meanwhile, seems to be planning an entirely new act. He last released an album in 2011, quit touring in 2012, and from 2013 studied in relative secret at The Groundlings, a renowned Los Angeles improv school that spawned Jimmy Fallon, Adam Carolla, Daryl Hannah, and Conan O'Brien.

In 2015 he launched a comedy podcast, The He Said He Said Show, in 2015 with comedian Tim Stanton, a Groundlings friend. Music seems to be the last thing on his mind.

Not only is Hayes not entertaining the creation of any new Savage Garden material, but he has actually amended his will to ensure that whoever ends up in charge of his estate doesn't release any posthumous material.

When he and Jones were forced to pull a 1994 demo named She out of the vaults in order to bolster yet another Savage Garden compilation album, Hayes bristled, referring to the joy of his tight catalogue as akin to the "feeling of leaving a perfectly arranged dinner table".

The truth of the matter is, both members of Savage Garden have no interest in reforming, but more vitally - they know they simply mustn't.

They also know that any comeback would ultimately be disappointing. The brevity of their career is a major part of the appeal. As Hayes said, the same qualities that made it magical also informed its demise.

The fact they made millions of dollars from the band, and continue to see hefty royalty cheques from continued interest in their catalogue, ensures that the quality of their legacy will never be compromised by a misguided cash grab.

They won't ever ruin it, because they don't need to.

To give Hayes the final word: "We left it in perfect condition."

Daniel Jones with his wife Kathleen De Leon and children Keira and Mikayla.
Daniel Jones with his wife Kathleen De Leon and children Keira and Mikayla.

- Nathan Jolly is a Sydney-based writer who specialises in pop culture, music history, true crime and true romance. Follow him on Twitter @nathanjolly

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