It was 11am Perth time and Travis from The Living End was feeling a little weary. A combination of playing late, getting up early and partying with 20 friends from Warragul and Drouin till 7.00am, had meant the lad was not up to his sticks this morning.
For local Gippsland people Travis admits that Warragul can indeed claim him as a famous son,
“At least for the first twelve or so years,” he says, “then Neerim South where I attended the local high school”.
Considering the size (or lack of) Neerim South once a logging town is now a 5 second drive through in the car. So is Trav famous?
“No I think that if you play footy you become more famous in Gippsland”.
What about the local secondary college?
“I attended four high schools in the Warragul area, I guess you could say I was a trouble maker at school. I got the boot from a few schools. I was out from Warragul High School at Year 7, Neerim South I was out at the end of Year 10, then I went and did an apprenticeship, quit that, then went to Marist Zion College where some of my friends were going. I only lasted four months before I was out, I then went to Warragul Technical School for nearly the full school year before that finished too”.
“I hung around town for a few years trying to get bands started and working a day job in Warragul. I then got an apprenticeship in landscape gardening and horticulture. I did that for a few years. I then decided I had to bite the bullet about starting a band and move to Melbourne, people there weren’t serious and dedicated as I wanted to be. I mean people were serious until their work, their football training times, or they were doing something at the weekend. That was fine with those guys but I didn’t want to do anything else with my life. I just wanted to play the drums and get as far as I could do with it. So it was a move to Melbourne in 93/94/95. It started all over again. Making new friends and starting in crappy bands. I worked my way out. In 95 it started to really happen, I was doing a lot of drumming in Melbourne, I got picked up by these two guys. They came into the music store I was working and basically said ‘We know you can drum, do you want to join our band?’ It went from there.”
Early readers of The Buzz might remember that Travis wrote a series of drumming articles back in 1995.
Chris recently said that he hadn’t seen any downside to being popular, does Travis feel the same way towards the tremendous success that is The Living End?
“The only downside to fame is that you have no private life. If you walk into a supermarket people want an autograph and all this sort of stuff, but generally were a pretty smart band. The only publicity we do about ourselves is about the music generally. If we talk to a magazine or do something with TV it is always playing live music or talking about music. You won’t see us this side of a Pepsi can, Nike etc. A lot of bands take the easy way and get sponsored. I think it taints their music a little bit. It’s just a code of ethics. With punk rock especially and were into the 70’s punk rock, not so much the skater punk rock of now, which is all about logos. The Punk we grew up with like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Who, it was the music that made them famous apart from their exploits after the show! We just decided that we wanted the music to speak for itself. People can see that. We don’t do many TV appearances, we don’t do turkey things like shopping centre appearances or stuff. Real music fans see through it and I like the fact that people can say ‘Oh, they’re a really big band and I don’t even know what they look like!’ I can walk around Melbourne and people don’t even recognise me still. It’s a good thing because I still have my anonymity you know. I’m a typical Australian guy, typical Australian height, typical Australia build. Nothing flash. Unlike some major acts, The Living End are what they are. Each member of the band is into their own style. I always think it is important to look a little bit left of centre, not just for the hell of it, but if that is the way you are inclined, you should do it and not worry about what people think. I just really like the 70s yob punk look from England type of thing. It’s what I generally tend to wear. We can still wear our clothes walking around Rosebud, but say if you were Marilyn Manson, people would be like ‘Oh my goodness!'”
The Living End are strong supporters of Gippsland and Travis’ home town. They have played in Warragul a couple of times, plus headlined acts further south.
“It’s important to be proud of where you come from,” Travis states. “For all Gippsland’s faults, there’s a lot of pluses too. A lot of people who don’t know Gippsland as a whole tend to look at it as a place where stupid redneck dumb people live. It’s not that way at all. When you live there it’s a whole different way of living to the city. I certainly don’t want to forget how I grew up or what friends I had or what I did for entertainment, because it was a hell of a lot different and carefree and easy going than what it is now. Just going to swim in a dam for example.”
So what is Travis’ fondest memory about growing up in Warragul?
“Probably living with all my friends. I moved out of home when I was fifteen and living with all my mates in Drouin at the time. Every day was just debauchery. You’d wake up in the morning and there would be girls you didn’t know sleeping in the lounge room that were from out of town and friends of someone. They’d be told they could crash at our house. There’d be cars that had skidded across our front lawn and wound up in the letterbox. It was just a madhouse. We were just young guys living life. As you get older you start to put too much emphasis on what you have and what someone else owns. When you’re eighteen and got no money and living in the country you make your own fun.”
So was there a particular hang out in Warragul?
“Not really, Warragul is not really a hang out place, mates houses. Everyone has a garage, a backyard, dad’s pool table, everyone knows someone who has a damn you can go swimming in. I rode motorbikes, played football a bit, did a bit of boxing, you make your own fun.”
The Living End have come to success the hard way. For a number of years they played under the shadow of the larger than life (and now very sadly defunct The Fireballs), all the time slowly building their strength and skills. So why did The Living End move on while The Fireballs fell down?
“The Fireballs were playing a pretty intense metal meets rockabilly and I think that it was a very sub-cult type of thing. Although Chris and Scott were born and bred in the rockabilly kind of stuff they quickly discovered that a great song is more important than playing fast. We’re big suckers for bands like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, the Clash and Oasis. Bands that you can sing along to, so we started putting more emphasis on good songs incorporating our background musically.”
Known for their catchy tunes that just seem to get stuck in your head (who can forget Prisoner of Society or Pictures In A Mirror?) do the guys themselves ever come out feeling they just want to pull the plug and let the tunes drain out?
“It’s hard sometimes when you have been recording them for a week straight, then they get stuck in your head. Playing them live is a release for us. We do a lot of waiting around. You play that hour on stage and you really let things go. We change our songs every night. We believe in ourselves enough that we’ve got the musicianship enough to take the songs in a different direction. Last night we did different versions to some of our songs the night before. We pride ourselves on being a punk band that can actually play. For a three piece band each member can hold their own. You’ve got to believe in yourself don’t you? If people come and see us live they really get shocked at how powerful we really are.”
Following along tried and true punk ideals, do many of the songs actually have a social theme to them?
“We try and walk the fine line between out and out rock and roll-ism, which is escaping your weekend blues of listening to a good band and hanging out with friends. The lyrics are deep and meaningful and if it influences one sixteen year old to go and look something up on the internet, that’s great. It’s good to make people aware of things without preaching to them. As much as we never set out to become role models for anyone, we just wanted to play good music. I think in certain aspects you are role models because you’re in the public spotlight. We would like to do more good than bad. The typical image of rock and roll as being heaps of girls and drugs and smashing up our equipment. That’s for wankers. We’re playing music for music’s sake. I’m the sort of person who’d smash up a hotel room whether I could afford it or not.”
Being a strong exponent of English rockabilly compared to American rockabilly, where does Travis see the difference lying?
“American rockabilly is based on the whole fifties concept with slick back hair, girl in balloon skirt, hotrod. The English rockabilly was more of a bastardised version. They took rockabilly, sped it up a little bit and played it punk style. They didn’t care about the cornice, but about the music side of it. The Aussie rockabilly scene took its lead from the English side which combined the ferocity and passion of punk and the cornice of rockabilly. We really like the British invasion of rock, that’s our thing. Now the band has changed direction again, were going for a good rock and roll band that plays really well. The Who or The Clash, AC/DC. The next album will see us change even more, judging of what we’ve been playing even now.”
The Living End are touring with AC/DC round Australia shortly.
“I think its really cool, but I’m not really phased by it. We’ve just done so much touring with big bands over in America and Europe that we’re completely used to playing in front of 15,000 to 20,000 people a night. It’s come full circle for me. The first drum kit I ever got I played Heatseeker by AC/DC, that’s what I grew up playing the drums to and now fifteen years later that’s who I am playing with.”
So what’s the deal with America? For The Living End there seems to be this love/hate relationship with the place?
“With no Barnsey type father in the wings fluttering protective wings, the guys with a solid management structure and sound musical skills behind them made it when. I’ve got to tell you that when I left Warragul and moved to Melbourne, I paid my bond and deposit and I sat in the house with no furniture and no money for like six months at least. It would have been easy to go back to something I knew, furniture, family, friends around you. You can always go back to a job in a country town, but I just had to stick it out because I knew that there was nothing there for me anymore. Apart from a great town to live in I had to do what I had to do for me”.