Silverchair's Ben Gillies

Silverchair's drummer, Ben Gillies, has been with the Australian grunge band since its 1992 birth as the Innocent Criminals, in Newcastle. Gillies is one of three former schoolmates (the others being singer/guitarist Daniel Johns and bassist Chris Joannou) who are still with the band, which released Neon Ballroom earlier this year.

Benjamin David Gillies was born October 24, 1979, to a plumber and school-cafeteria volunteer. He began jamming with his classmates in his garage and laundry room. In 1992, the band officially formed as the Innocent Criminals.

Two years later, the Innocent Criminals' demo tape was chosen in an Australian talent contest conducted by a music television show and radio station. As the first-place winner, the band won a day in a recording studio and the chance to make a video for their winning tune, "Tomorrow." The video was pivotal in helping the Criminals land a record deal with a Sony subsidiary label.

At the age of 15, the bandmembers (who changed the group's name to Silverchair after a misspelling of Nirvana's "Sliver" and You Am I's "Berlin Chair") issued their debut LP, Frogstomp (1995). The album, a mature hybrid of Pearl Jam and Nirvana, earned Silverchair global fame.

"Tomorrow" was a #1 smash in Australia and became the fourth-best-selling single in the country's history. The LP also went platinum in the U.S., thanks to the popularity of "Tomorrow" and "Pure Massacre."

Freak Show (1997) received better reviews than the group's debut album but didn't sell as well. It included such tracks as "Freak," "Slave," "Cemetery," "The Door" and "Pop Song for Us Rejects."

Neon Ballroom was Silverchair's first LP recorded after graduating high school.

"It was a lot better for us, a lot easier to focus, because we didn't have to think about only one or the other," Joannou said of the difficulty of being both student and rock star.

Neon Ballroom included "Emotion Sickness," featuring David Helfgott, the classical pianist whose struggle to overcome a debilitating nervous disorder was dramatized in the Oscar-winning 1996 film "Shine."

The LP expanded the band's sound beyond its grunge origins, on cuts such as "Ana's Song (Open Fire)." But the single "Anthem for the Year 2000" (RealAudio excerpt) was more characteristic of Silverchair's earlier sound.

Gillies' hero is late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.

Silverchair is now touring the States with Blink-182.

Other birthdays on Sunday: Bill Wyman (ex–Rolling Stones), 63; Jerry Edmonton (Steppenwolf), 53; Dale Griffin (Mott the Hoople), 51; Steven Greenberg (Lipps, Inc.), 49; Perry Lee "Tiny" Tavares (Tavares), 45; Rowland S. Howard (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the Birthday Party), 40; Monica, 19; the Big Bopper, born J.P. Richardson (1930–1959).