1999.01 - Recovery Magazine
Date: January 1999
Author: Benedict Watts
Featuring: Chris Cheney
The Brave New World Of The Living End
Chris Cheney's life has changed quite a bit in the last year. His haircut is a little different, he's given up his part-time job, oh yeah, and with his two mates in The Living End he's also become one of Australia's biggest rock stars. Chris recently had a bit of a chat to Recovery and talked fame, fortune and hairstylin'.
Chris doesn't really feel comfortable talking about the massive success the Living End has achieved in next to no time. When asked how his life has changed in the last year, he simply says: "My hair's a bit longer." So that's it, nothing else comes to mind - sold-out crowds every night and a number one album maybe? "Well, a few other things have happened, we've sold a couple more records I think," he adds with a chuckle that suggest he may have sold a few more CDs than he's letting on.
"I don't want to say too much or it might all fall to pieces," he then comments to explain why he's playing down the Living End's rip snorter of a 1998. "We tend to underestimate everything all the time - like how many CDs we've sold. And we never think people are still going to turn up at gigs and stuff. But I prefer it that way, prefer to always be sort of doubtful and still trying a lot rather than just sitting back and going, 'Well cool we don't have to worry about selling records or if people turn up to our shows'."
Get a haircut and get a real job
So what do Mr and Mrs Cheney think about their pride and joy working his way into that crazy world of rock & roll. Do they want young Chris to grow up and get a real job? "No, they're pretty proud," says Chris. "They've always been pretty supportive, they've always been big lovers of music. When we first started off I was playing fifties stuff and they loved that sort of music because they loved it when they were young. It wasn't like we were playing death metal and they were like, 'Oh, what's our son getting himself into?' It was never like that. Now they're just like, 'Great! If you can do it and make a living out of it and you enjoy it, go for it'."
Everybody knows about the Living End's rockabilly influence, but what makes them really rock is the way they crank it up with some punk power. "Punk is a big thing at the moment, and although we've come from another background where we really wanted to be able to play our instruments well and write, we also have the punk mentality of playing hard and fast," explains Chris. Unlike many punk bands who just pump out the same three chords over and over again, Chris think people should get into his band because they they show a bit more musicianship than most punk bands, and they also have a fresh image. "I think there's just not enough bands around at the moment trying to play really well and doing lead breaks and bass solos. I think the kids just like the combination of that and the punk attitude and because we use different instruments and we look different to all the other bands - the whole attitude and the look is different."
What's with the hair, man?
Back in 1993 when Living End double-bassist Scott Owen and Chris were in a haircore rockabilly band called the Runaway Boys, they had big fat pompadours (they're those big quiffed-up 50s haircuts). These days it seems their quiffs are getting smaller with every show. "I don't really think we've got rockabilly haircuts that much any more. Scott's still got one, sort of, but me and [drummer] Travis have got kinda messy quiffs," says Chris before revealing the secret of his stylin' new scruffy look. "We don't run the comb through our hair as much any more."
The living what?
With their anthem "Prisoner of Society" topping the charts, in the space of a couple of months Chris, Scott and Travis went from being virtually unknown to being the most sort after band in the country, with crowds knowing the words to all their songs and mobbing them after shows. Chris says he found the whole experience very strange, but also totally cool. "It happened sort of quick really, I guess," he remembers. "I look back on it now and it's kind of weird that there's so many people that know the name the Living End. Whereas beforehand, no one knew who sand "Prisoner Of Society". Now people are putting the name first which is kind of cool, rather than them just knowing the song."
And what about the packs of devoted fans who now come up to them after every show?
"We always make a point to talk to anyone who wants to talk to us," declares Chris with dedication. "Kids always ask about why we play the music we do. I guess it is kind of strange for them to see three guys doing what we're doing 'cause there's just no one else doing it."
Are yooze rich 'n stuff?
Having played to packed houses constantly (except for when they recorded their album) for the past year and having the "Psioner Of Society/Second Solution" go double platinum, the Living End surely wouldn't have empty piggy banks. Yet Chris says they haven't been bathing in champagne or buying 18ft yachts. "The only benefits we sort of have is that we've been able to give up our part time jobs, which we all had up until nearly a year ago. That was really cool because it was like 'Wow, we can just play music now and sort of earn a living from it'. Other than that we haven't really done anything. We're all still living in the same places."
I like your old stuff better than...
The Living End have unashamedly moved away from their rockabilly origins to a sound which is more punk, more pop, and incidentally more commercial. So has this crossover seen their old rockabilly mates label the band sell-outs? "We've been pretty lucky," says Chris. "I think that scene is a little more grown up than the punk scene. When we started moving away, there was a few people who were kind of like, 'We don't like your new stuff', but they were never like 'Fuck you sell-outs'. That's what happens in the punk scene and I'm glad we haven't had to put up with it."
"It's all about doing what you want and doing different things and new stuff," he enthuses. "It was kind of strange that people would say 'Why are you mixing different things in with it', when it was because of guys like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis mixing rock 'n' roll and country that came up with rockabilly in the first place."