2001.03.27 - Virgin Mega Magazine

Virgin Mega Magazine

Date: 27th March 2001
Author: Linda Koffman
Featuring: Chris Cheney & Travis Demsey

 

The Living End Just Livin' It Up

"I love punk rock, but I'm over it!" proclaims Trav Demsey, fiery drummer of The Living End. Huh? For a band that's been considered a Warped Tour dream machine and the Aussie gift to punk these days, his reaction will make anyone's brows scrunch. "I've listened to as much Clash and Sex Pistols—last year, everyday, just all the time. Now I'm onto a whole different trip, and I think we can do this or that style justice too."

Demsey's verbal divorce from the genre that the band's most associated with, emphasizes one truth: on their sophomore album Roll On, The Living End are not punk. Well, at least not entirely. Throw in some fierce rockabilly, ska, jazz and classic rock, and you've got yourself a good Living End salad soaked in a dressing of Billie Joe Armstrong attitude and Stray Cats stylin' instrumental whirlwinds. After all, what punk band has a bassist that climbs his standup bass and swings it around during gigs?

Beer bottles abound and the guys are chillin' in their hotel on the night after the trio's sold out show at The Roxy. Bassist Scott Owen is MIA, while visibly worked, singer/guitarist and lyricist Chris Cheney is the mellow one tonight, staring off as Demsey's enthusiasm continuously takes charge of the conversation.

"We jumped from this little sort of rockabilly/punk band in Australia to becoming huge rock stars there," says the animated drummer describing the band's sudden rise following their self-titled debut in 1998, which went multi-platinum Down Under with the radio hit "Prisoner of Society." "I mean, it sounds ridiculous because we don't think of ourselves as rock stars, but it [success] hasn't ended and we're already on a year tour again!"

“We've been very lucky because we've traveled with a lot of bands like Rancid, The Offspring and those sort of cats,” Demsey notes. “They're all from the area that we're from—they just wanted to be in a band and have fun and camaraderie. It got bigger and now they're world famous rockers who haven't changed. I look at my life and I go, ‘House, dog, girlfriend, a car that starts with a heater, sparkle drums: f**kin' pretty good.' As much as it's grueling at the moment, it's f**kin' good.”

Cheney chimes in. "Even when we did the AC/DC tour I thought, 'This is gonna be the highlight, this is gonna be the ultimate thing!' And though it was really great, it wasn't that much better," the frontman recalls of opening for his elder Aussies.

That's a pretty big statement to make, considering AC/DC are legendary rockers and The Living End are barely releasing the second album of their careers. "I think because we've experienced so much and we are pretty content with what we've got, it can't really get any better," Cheney rationalizes. Rather than playing the numbers game—whether in age, records or awards, what's important is that these fresh blokes are establishing themselves as the new national rock act.

They may be hot shit back home, but let's face it, here they've got some work to do. Although, it must be a relief to come to America where you're not mobbed as the greatest invention since velcro. "Yeah," both solidly agree with that Aussie twang.

Far from vain, The Living End remain down to earth, intensely passionate about music, real people and … vintage instruments? “They're like my best friends,” Demsey adoringly speaks of his '75 Ludwig Sparkle Kit. “I've been going through a traumatic process at the moment," he laments over leaving behind his classic drum set for new digs on the road. "I'm still just getting this horrible torment like it's not me. It sounds ridiculously wanky, I know, but there's something about old instruments. They tell a story,” he muses, like a lost kid longing for his parents.

Meanwhile, Cheney's love for his guitar is just as apparent. “I hate the fact that I'm the singer,” he emphatically begins. “I wish I could just let my hair down and party on, but I can't because it effects the throat too much. I prefer sitting down and playing the guitar—that's my sort of therapy and relaxation. And I just think I'm a much better guitar player than singer.”

Delving beyond just full throttle power chords, intricate musicianship is what sets The Living End apart. “We try and blend it,” Cheney breaks it down. “I don't like to come across too wanky even though I love practicing my jazz modes and finger picking. It's good to have a balance. It's not about effects and playing a million miles an hour. That's got its place, but it's good to be able to write a song and have melody for christsake, whatever happened to melody?”

So what's next in The Living End's musical evolution? Despite the tight, textured Roll On just hitting shelves with a refreshing power and complexity, the band's already itching for more. Demsey explains. “The second album we had to say again to the world, ‘Hey, we're a rock band from Australia!' Third album I say f**k it, let's walk the plank,” the drummer declares just as forcefully as he lays down his sticks. “F**k commercialism. We've already bought our houses, I'm happy with life.”

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