You don’t have to rub your crystals, or read your rune stones to know that these days, The Living End shows should have ‘BEWARE!’ written over them. Alongside Shihad and 28 Days, they are one of the best live acts in Australia. When they hit the stage, they explode with a chemistry. Last month, they put in a killer set at Homebake, in Sydney before 20,000 people. Soon, they’ll play one of their dream gigs – opening for AC/DC during their Australian visit.
“We’re such big fans, we were stoked they thought we were even worthy of opening for them,” enthuses big bass man Scott Owen. “We saw them at Madison Square Gardens in New York, when we were mixing our album. We got delayed in the studio because we weren’t happy with a mix. Then on the way to the show we were stuck in a traffic jam, so we had to run there. The woman at the box office said our tickets weren’t there, so an argument started. We had to leave early, just before “For Those About To Rock” because we had to get back to the studio.”
The End sold 600,000 copies of their first album The Living End, following hard touring through North America, Europe, Britain and Japan. Owen says one of their best gigs was at Reading Festival in England, before heading off to London for a Beatles tour and buying up clothes in the mod stores in Carnaby Street.
Chris Cheney, Scott Owen and Travis Demsey are not ambitious about having a No. 1 in America or becoming the biggest band on the planet. “Like us, the music is blue collar working class. That’s what Australians relate to the most, not like the ’80s when the fans expected musicians to be larger than life.”
Once their money started to roll in from the hits, they merely bought instruments and houses for themselves. They have no hobbies, because as kids they lived and breathed music. The first album put them in the pop-punk category.
But the new album Roll On widens their base and shows them off as musicians. It touches jazz, reggae and blues while still powering on “Silent Victory” and “Carry Me Home“. The three admit that when they started work on the album, they panicked. After playing the same set for 18 months around the world, suddenly they were in the studios needing to make new music. Was there only one great album in us, Chris Cheney wondered. But after a few weeks, the juices started to flow. While recording they put up posters of The Stray Cats, Supergrass, The Clash and the movie A Clockwork Orange for inspiration.
“There’s nothing like a shot of Paul Simenon smashing up his guitar (from The Clash’s London Calling album) to give you a jolt of rock and roll,” Owen chuckles.
Spiritually, though, the heart of the second End album lies more in the power tries of the ’60s, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Led Zeppelin and The Who. Some tracks like “Staring At The Sea“
and “Riot On Boradway” indicates lots of improvisation, with all three throwing in their ideas rather than relying on Chris.
Interestingly, during The Living End’s jams onstage, it is jazz freak Travis who takes the lead, not the guitarist. I ask Scott if Travis is the best musician in The ‘End?
“Trav knows everything about drums. At the same time, Chris has been playing guitar since he was in primary school. He’s so versatile, blues, rockabilly, AC/DC, Bon Jovi. It keeps things interesting for us. We’ve learned our strengths and our weak points.
Check out “Carry Me Home“, a technically hard song that still has attitude and energy to show how advanced they’ve become as players.
Who was the last band The Living End had a bust up with? “I don’t think we ever had one. We’re pretty non-confrontational. If anyone says anything nasty, we don’t care!”