1999.03 - KAOS2000
Date: March 1999
Author: Philip Anderson
Featuring: Chris Cheney
Archived from: http://www.kaos2000.net/...
The Living End came from Australia to conquer America with their infectiously catchy blend of punk, rockabilly, and melodic pop (who could resist bopping their heads to "Prisoner Of Society"). After appearing on just a few dates last year, they were back as a main act on this year's Van's Warped Tour '99. After interviewing bassist Scott Owen at the end of last year, we were able to get a hold of guitarist/singer/songwriter Chris Cheney during one of their stops on the latest Warped Tour, in Oakland, CA in July, to get his views about the band, the songs, and touring with a punk festival.
K2K: How long have you been on tour now?
CC: Well, we've been in America basically since February. Really sort of nonstop since we were here last time which was last June . We haven't really had a break since then.
K2K: You did the last Warped Tour [in 1998]?
CC: Yeah, we just did the first ten dates.
K2K: Why did you play so early today? How is the rotation of the bands on the Warped Tour?
CC: Well, it's different every day. I think each morning the tour managers have to go and find out the playing times and it's just switched around every day. It's kind of a ballpark, each band kind of knows when they're playing within a certain, sort of, time frame.
K2K: I saw you open for the Offspring and I must say that I like the way you guys handle yourselves during problems (referring to bass mishap of broken strings).
CC: We have that many problems that it's just a blur. It's because of what we play. We play old instruments because we like the sound of them and we like the look of them. They're not made to be played hard every single day. We have a few problems now and then but it's worth it because we get to look cool.
K2K: Are the old instruments more for image then?
CC: No. The double bass was more for image in the early days because Scott didn't play electric bass anyway. He went straight from piano to double bass. The only reason we got that was because we liked the Stray Cats and we liked that whole '50s kind of image. So we said, yeah, we'll get that. I just use Gretsch guitars because a lot of the old '50s guys used them and I just like the sound of them. It's a combination of both.
K2K: Do you think that you'll ever switch over to other instruments that are easier to play?
CC: I've thought about it. I really like the fact that I don't use the standard Marshall gear and whatever everyone else uses. The last feelings that I had, because my amp actually blew up, and so it's much easier using this gear. I'm like, "Well I guess there's a reason why everyone uses all this high-tech new quality gear. It's because it works well and it's tough.
K2K: I heard that people are going back to pedals and other vintage stuff.
CC: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think there's a real resurgence with pedals, especially vintage ones and stuff. It's a real collectors kind of thing. I love pedals. I've never used like a pedal board.
K2K: Do you do most of the writing? What's "Bloody Mary" about? Is it a true story?
CC: Yeah. "Bloody Mary"? Yeah, it's a true story. My girlfriend used to work at a company in Australia, sort of a risk-management company for a big shopping center. There was this girl and she would go into this shopping center quite frequently and lock herself inside the toilets. She would scream for help like she was a suicide, "If you come in here, I'm going to do it!". They would burst in and then she would try to cut them, she would turn on them. The cops actually knew who she was. She was quite a known felon. I think her name is Rachel or something.
K2K: What do you try to write about? Do you have a plan or is it lyrical to start?
CC: Sometimes I come up with a title to write a song around. I really like songs that have sort of really cool themes about them. A lot of the old Clash songs and Jam songs were just really great, well-told stories. A lot of times it just sort of happens like that, I see something and think, "That would be cool to write about." It's just different every time. I don't have a formula.
K2K: Do you try to fit lyrics to the music or write the music first?
CC: Once again, it's different every time. I've got a stack of guitar riffs, about 100 guitar riffs, and a notebook filled with lyrics. I could probably match them up but I just haven't found the right one for each thing yet. A lot of the time I'll just have a cool verse and a cool chorus.
K2K: The jazz song, "Closing In", was brilliantly written. Did you write that for a college class?
CC: Yeah. Thank you. I studied music at a place called Boxhill Tafe in Melbourne, Victoria [Australia]. It's like a college. It's a Tafe course, they call it. That was one of my various assignments. I took a three-year course there. A little jazz and that sort of stuff. I wanted to bring a new angle into the band and didn't want to just play rockabilly and stuff. It was kind of bit more punky back then, not so jazzy and swingy. We just adapted it and said we should put that on the album because no one does instrumentals these days. I'm a big fan of the Shadows and the Ventures and all those bands. We just thought it would be a nice finish to the album. Something different. We knew that a lot of people wouldn't like it or would think that's it's a bit self-indulgent, but I just thought it's a cool spy sounding sort of sound. I'm always working on tunes like that. I want to do a really fast kind of thrash banjo country hillbilly song or something.
K2K: Your songs sound like, when they start, they're going to be one style, but don't always stay that style.
CC: Yeah. That's not always intentional though. I write the song and it might have a sort of punky kind of feel. When it comes around and you add the double bass to it and all of the sudden it has a rockabilly kind of edge to it. I'll do a lead break then and all my lead breaks sound like Scotty Moore on speed or something. I just love country and pop. My choruses are always poppy and the rest is kind of a trashy kind of verse. I guess that's what gives us our own style but it's not an intentional thing. It just sort of happens that way.
K2K: What will the next album be like? Have you started writing?
CC: Yeah, yeah. To start with, trying to write on the road is an absolute nightmare to begin with. We've got quite a few songs left over from last time and I've written quite a few but we've got a bit of time under our belts so I'm going to write like mad. It's a cliché but, we do want to go on. We definitely don't want to go over the same ground that we've already done. We love bands as diverse as Radiohead and Supergrass, so for us to do something like that is not really too much. Our audience might go, "Aw, they've changed.", but it's really in us to do that. Maybe some keyboards to fill out some songs.
K2K: How's your live show reception been?
CC: It's getting better and better. Since February, we've started out on the Offspring tour and we were getting a really good reaction, but we could tell that people were like, "Who are these guys?" and blah, blah, blah. People sort of knew "Prisoner Of Society".
K2K: People who like Offspring now are sort of mainstream though. I guess your stuff could be mainstream as well.
CC: Well, in Australia it kind of is. It was never like that. When we were starting out, we were the alternative to the alternative. People were listening to Nirvana and we were playing 1950s music, going crazy. People were like, "Goodness, this is not my sort of cup of tea." Now it's kind of turned around. Our songs have done really well in Australia and we're sort of mainstream. We still play sort of punk style, rough and guts. By no means are we mainstream. But our songs have caught on. That's the Beatles thing. The love of a pop song. I guess that crosses over.
K2K: If you had a chance to jam with somebody onstage, who would you do it with? One dead, one alive.
CC: Alive, probably Jerry Lee Lewis would be a hoot. Dead, probably John Lennon. Just to hear the man sing.
K2K: Strangest thing that's happened to you on the road.
CC: I can never think of anything. To tell you the truth, we haven't really gone after any sort of mischief or anything. On the Offspring tour we were on the bus and we just sort of traveled around. The Vandals though, they're completely nuts. Warren ate his shoe today. He had his whole foot in his mouth while doing an Eddie Van Halen style solo. The craziest thing in America to us is The Vandals.