Hard Word with Chris Cheney
It’s been a hard day’s night for the Living End of late, as they embraced the cross-country US touring that goes hand in hand with the huge support their American label, Elektra, has offered them in those territories. Playing both the Vans Warped festival and the Offspring’s national tour put the End in front of thousands of Americans. Relieved to be home and headlining their own tour once again, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, Chris Cheney, gives us a lowdown on Australia’s greatest new hope.
How are ya?
We’ve all been pretty OK, just cruising. A couple of beers each day keeps the doctor away.
But does it keep the psychologist away?
No, it brings them a lot bloody closer.
Do you have a tour anecdote?
Well, I got heat exhaustion and food poisoning at the same time and had to blow out five of the Vans Warped dates. It was more the heat exhaustion, because we played three really hot gigs in Dallas, Texas, of all places.
What does heat exhaustion feel like?
Oh, man, I remember playing onstage at the third gig and the sun was just on my forehead and I’ve never felt it that bad before. I came off with a headache, and I thought, ‘Oh well, I’m probably just tired.’ It was 1pm and I’d only just woken up. I felt like I was gonna die. The heat was unbearable. And I’m just a weak Australian.
Are the people who brought you over there happy?
The big mean record company? They’re pretty happy, but they obviously want us to go back. We’re gonna go back in January. I’m pretty happy with it. We gave it all we could give, we played really good shows to huge crowds and got a good reaction at each gig. We did a lot of sold out club shows, interviews, went on MTV. From our end there’s not a lot more we can do. As far as a groundswell goes, I think it’s really happening.
So who was the biggest rockstar on Vans Warped?
Eminem. He didn’t mingle with anyone at all. The guys in Lit are pretty Las Vegas rock, very ’70s Elvis. Or Warren from the Vandals, taking his clothes off all the time. It’s insane. They had a party on Ice T’s bus one night, and because everyone was wearing clothes, Warren decided he’d be the white runt running around nude.
What did Trav get up to on Warped?
He had a running war with Eminem. Eminem went overtime and we had to follow him on the other stage. Everyone was waiting for him to get off, because he really wasn’t going that well on the tour. So when he finishes playing Trav’s like, ‘Screw you Eminem! You’re not welcome in Australia!’. Then we get this word from his bodyguards saying it’s not appreciated. There were no fists flying. Even Kerrang ran a story on it. The Living End versus Eminem – who would win in a fight. He came out ahead because he’d have knives and machine guns and all that, and we’re like, bar-room brawlers.
So what are your thoughts on the Republic issue? Do you think we should lose the Queen?
Well, I love England, I gotta tell ya. I love London, great place, great atmosphere. But I think we can handle ourselves. We should become a Republic. I don’t think it’s any disrespect to stand on our own two feet. I don’t know how much difference, honestly, it’s going to make. But everyone sees Australia as being its own country anyway, not really connected.
What’s your idea of hell?
It sounds so rockstar-ish, but coming home from a gig in a country town, getting to your hotel room with two minutes left before room service closes. And ordering the Mongolian beef and finding it’s totally crap.
Describe yourself in five words.
Clutz. Daydreamer. Sensitive. Jovial, most of the time. And, erm… Indecisive.
What expression are you using too much?
Probably ‘Dog-Arse.’ If I don’t like something or it’s not up to scratch I’ll go, ‘That’s dog arse.’
Did you get yourself into any cultural clashes when you were in the US?
Well, you know, they hate Vegemite. We took our own with us, and they think it’s like, axel grease or something. There’s always clashes with the Yankees. They think we’ve got five bands, 25 people and a whole lot of kangaroos in Australia and that’s it. They have no idea.
What did your career adviser at school suggest you be when you grew up?
Definitely not a musician. I don’t think they held much hope for me really. I was definitely told to stop thinking about music, the usual story, and get on with the work. I actually never went to a careers adviser, but they probably would have suggested that I buy a shovel, because I was going to spend the rest of my life standing on the side of a road somewhere doing roadwork.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that you’ve done onstage?
Oh dear me. Well I’ve fallen over and stuff plenty of times, that happens to everyone. I jumped off the drum riser one time in Geelong and just fell fair and square on my arse… Um, at Livid I canned Qantas from the stage for wrecking our double bass, when in actual fact we flew up on Ansett. Scott’s pants fell down on Recovery, I felt embarrassed for him, as he stopped during “From Here On In,” pulled up his pants and did up his belt. [Ruefully] Live TV!
You missed both Ben Lee and Lindsay MacDougal (Frenzal Rhomb) kicking their leads out on national television while you were away.
That’s a young player’s error. I’ve done that. I did it, quickly plugged the lead back in and thought, ‘Fuck, what an idiot, I won’t do that again.’ Then I stepped back and did exactly the same thing straight after.
You took your girlfriend with you for some of the American touring. Do you have a favourite lonely road song for when she can’t come?
As I look out at the highway and dream about my girl? Not really, she was with me most of the time, because we were away for so long. It was probably a bit of a break for both of us. It was more like, let me put on Midnight Oil so I can think about my homeland.