The Living End
Author: Polly Coufos
After a long and enforced lay off The Living End are set to make their way back into the country’s music venues and into your hearts. Perth will see the Melbourne based three piece for the first time in two years when they take their place in the lineup for Big Day Out 2003. It will most likely be the last time for quite a while too for soon after the national tour the band (guitarist Chris Cheney, bassist Scott Owen and new drummer Andy Strachan) head to the US to record their third album, which is scheduled for release later this year. Cheney has always been seen as the band’s designated leader. Rising with the popularity of pop punk The Living End were a typical near-on-10-years-in-the-making overnight success. Fortuitous the timing may have been, there was always much more about this band than their peers. Prisoner Of Society took rockabilly back to a time when the Stray Cats played with edge as well as fire and Cheney’s playing drew praise from all corners, especially The Offspring. Following the release of album number two Roll On, the band spent a lot of time Stateside and had just returned home to spread the word locally when in September 2001 Cheney was involved in a road accident which left him with a badly broken femur. During the time off the band’s then drummer Travis Dempsey left the fold and so it is a slightly new and definitely reinvigorated The Living End which will release new single One Said To Another next Monday, January 20.
Going on a profile from your website it appears all your interests seem to be totally involved with music. Is that true?
“Yeah, well they kind of are. I don’t know whether I am narrow minded or I just try to bring everything that I like into it, which is probably more to the point, you know as far as I always did art at school and was always interested in that and did a bit of drama and I think being in a band sort of gives you the opportunity to do all that, as far as art work and t-shirts and poetry and lyrics and just expression. It doesn’t get much better I suppose being in a band if you want to do those sort of things so we are pretty lucky really to be able to do that and get paid for it.”
The new single One Said To Another sounds distinctively like The Living End. Is that something consciously planned?
“I don’t think that it is something that we over think. I think we do want to try and sort of keep things sounding natural and from the heart and that comes down to writing songs I think and also just performing shows and everything. We would never sit down and really analyse our sound, we have never really had to and I am glad that we have never had to get the whiteboard out and try think of how we are going to move into the next stage of our career or whatever. I think it just kind of happens naturally. I think that bringing Andy into the band has probably made a slight difference, but as far as I can tell it’s a good thing, ’cause we are really happy with the way that he plays and I think that as a unit we play better than what we ever have and so it’s a difficult question, I think it is something that people on the outside can probably see more so than us but all reports have been good so far and we just sort of stuck to our guns and do what we do best. But at the same time trying to improve in certain areas, so maybe that will affect the sound.”
Let’s go with Andy for a minute. How has the changeover been?
“Well, it’s been really great actually, it’s been a breath of fresh air and it probably could have gone either way, especially with a three piece with bringing in an extra member. I don’t think that you can ever tell how it is going to turn out.”
Especially with Travis, because he was such a visual part of the show as well as obviously playing the drums…
“Yeah, exactly and I think that Andy knows that he has come into a band where he has probably got big shoes to fill or whatever but it is definitely going in the right direction. There was probably a stage there where we probably thought that this was going to be really difficult, but I don’t know whether it is luck or hard work or what but he is fitting right in really well and he is playing. We have done a couple of gigs, we did some small pub shows just sort of unannounced where we could get up and play the new songs that we had learned that week, and it was great. It was sorta full house and I think he proved to a lot of people who were there to see what would it be like, to prove that he can cut it. I just can’t wait to get out there and do it properly.”
So, I know that you are coming over here for the Big Day Out. Is that going to be the opportunity for most people to see you?
“Yeah, we are not doing another tour probably until we get back from the States, we are going over there in February to record and then we will probably come back over here and probably do a proper tour of our own. At this stage that is the only chance.”
So who have you lined up as producer?
He did Blink 182, Jimmy Eat World and a bunch of pop punk…
“Yeah, and that is not really our cup of tea even though we are likened to those sorts of bands, but I think that without saying anything against them I think we’ve got a bit more to offer as far as versatility and whatever. You know, that is only one part of us is kind of fast punky stuff, but we definitely want to keep moving in a different direction and try lots of different stuff, but you know he has done a range of things and we have spoken a couple of times on the phone but we haven’t actually met him in person yet, but he seems like a really nice guy.”
Is it a daunting prospect? Is there a point that you can say, like, “two weeks, if there is no sign of life by then, it’s not worth it, not what we thought it would be, we’ll back out,” or is the scheduling so tight that you need to go over and it needs to be done and it needs to be released?
“Well, the schedule is tight but it is our schedule. I suppose we want to get it out quicker probably than anyone, ’cause we’ve got songs ready and we are all set to go but I suppose if it wasn’t working I would just pull the pin with him ’cause you are stuck together for a while and you have got to get along and more importantly I think he has gotta be there to offer ideas and suggestions when we get stuck. I figure that if we have got our stuff together, as far as what we have got and where we are headed and songs and so forth then the idea of him is to maybe just add a little guidance. I don’t want to rely on him. I think that we can pretty much produce our own albums if we had to, but yeah it’s a risk each time I s’pose, but I figure any of those guys at that level are going to have done enough albums to be pretty easy going I would think and to try and adapt to each band. And he loves the band, he has seen us before and was really excited to do it, so it has gotta be a good thing.”
You only did two shows to promote Roll On in Perth. Your accident put paid to any roadwork for a long while. How much did that hurt the album?
“Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, so we never really got a chance, we were supposed to come home (to Melbourne) to do a video clip for the Dirty Man single and various other things, and then it obviously all happened and that was it for that album. I also don’t think that it was a very easy listening album. It was difficult in a way but we planned it that way because we wanted it to be a bit of a challenge, and not just this instant throw away pop thing. We have learned that this was a monster after we had created it, as far as reproducing it on stage every night, so it was good in a way because we learned and so with this album we have left it wide open, people don’t know what to expect.”
Have you had periods where you have just cursed your bad luck?
“Definitely. The bottle always gets you through though (laughs)… Yeah, we have ’cause we, I mean people have bad luck all the time and our bad luck is nothing compared to what some people have. I mean that (the accident) is bad luck, but I don’t know, I think it is something that had to happen in a way ’cause we had been pretty much touring constantly since 1992. Me and Scott formed the band and we had never let up really, it was just a continual thing which just kept going from strength to strength and it was almost like we couldn’t put a foot wrong, every EP sold better than the previous and the album went crazy and we got to tour all over the world and all of a sudden it came to a grinding halt, which I think in a way has been a good thing after all this time. It made us stop and probably think about it a bit more and appreciate it and take a bit of time to really put some good solid work into this album so in hindsight I wouldn’t want to go through it again.”
How is your health?
“Yeah, it’s pretty good now. Yeah I am sort of all up and about now. You wouldn’t know that anything had happened other than a few scars here and there but otherwise I can’t complain at all.”
While you have been off, you have had a small part in a very successful Australian album, Kasey Chambers’ Barricades And Brickwalls.
“Oh yeah Crossfire. That was a little country album wasn’t it? Yeah, well that was great doing that, we did that when we were touring with AC/DC, that was how long ago that was ’cause we actually went to the studio after one of the shows with AC/DC that night and did it with Kasey. That was great, we had sort of met her a few times before that and knew that she was a fan and she wanted to do a song. We were rapt ’cause I am a huge country fan anyway and most of my favourite guitar players are all country players from the ’50s and ’60s, so we just went and did that and she wanted us to play as we do, she did not want us to play like a country band or anything, that is the cool thing about her I think. She is willing to move with the times, so to speak and yeah she is an incredible singer. She just nailed it basically on the spot there and then, we only did probably a few takes. We wanted to get a live feel and she sang a live vocal with it. Yeah it was great, it was a great experience and of course it has gone onto sell gazillions.”
You were set to play it together at the 2001 ARIAs weren’t you?
“Yeah we were. It was all hooked up and we were really sorry that that never happened and then it’s funny because we got over that and then Kasey was here a couple of months ago when she did a big tour and I was going to get up and play at a Melbourne show with her but I had to get the rod taken out of my leg that week so that didn’t happen either, so who knows, maybe in the future. We’d actually love to do an album with her, a full album at some stage. We have talked about it with her ’cause we’ve got so many left over songs and so has she and I think it would be really good just to sort of see the collaboration and show different sides of what we both do. We have spoken about it a bit and it’s just a matter of getting time, ’cause we are just starting to get under way again and I think that she is just winding down again with the new baby and all. You never know.”
How typical of the new material is One Said To Another? Who produced the single?
“Lindsay Gravina, who did the first album. That came about just because we wanted to try again something that was so totally opposite to Roll On, we wanted to just get back to a three piece sounding song that had all the rawness and everything that we liked about the first album, that perhaps we lost a bit on the second, so we figured who better to do it than Lindsay and we got along so well the first time and it was great ’cause he has got so many good ideas and he does keep it raw and it’s all about the passion and everything which I think that you can sort of forget about if you have got too many options in the studio and too many buttons to push, you can sort of forget about getting the song down and getting the heart into it and he’s really good at keeping you grounded there and keeping the little mistakes and new ones and whatever.”
It sounds like you are down on Roll On. Many people love that record…
“That’s good. You know I’m probably a bit too negative about it. Maybe in time it’ll grow on me. I mean I wouldn’t know the last time I listened to it. I just think that we have probably tried too hard to distance ourselves from the whole Prisoner Of Society three chord punk rock thing, but in a way I’m really glad that we did do it and we did try and completely outdo ourselves because people really liked it I s’pose and it left this one wide open and we don’t really know what we are going to do or anything including us I s’pose but I just think that maybe some of the rawness of the band is probably lacking a little bit, but that’s alright. I’m glad we did that album and it was still a good experience.”