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End Of The Beginning

Author: Lauren McMenemy

The Living End has overcome a near-death experience and the walkout of a founding member. Now, it is ready to reclaim its place atop the Oz rock heap, writes Lauren McMenemy.

For more than a year, it seemed like the odds were stacked against the Living End, one of Australia’s premier rock outfits. The band had been on top of the world, with hit albums, sold-out tours and inroads overseas. Then the world came crashing down.

Frontman Chris Cheney almost lost his life in a car crash towards the end of 2001. Unable to walk, it put an end to the band;s plans for recording and touring. Then, just as Cheney was mending, drummer Travis Demsey walked out. Back to square one.

But bass player Scott Owen says the band never lost sight of the dream.

“We knew that we were definitely going to go on, but it did seem like the odds were stacked against us,” Owen says. “It’s all a bit of a blessing in disguise… I can say that now – I didn’t think that when it was happening.

“They say everything happens for a reason, and when Chris had his accident, we really hadn’t had any time off for a long time, so it was a bit of a blessing in disguise in that we were actually forced into a break.

“We were pretty much ready to just go into the rehearsal room and start making new songs and get straight back out on the road again. We were all pretty tired by that stage because we had been going so hard. So it meant we got to have a bit of a rest.

“I’m sure it wasn’t anywhere near as enjoyable for Chris as it was for me and Travis but, yeah, that worked out for the best; it meant we got to sit down and reflect for a little while.

“And then Travis leaving – it was something he had to do; it just wasn’t working out for him personally. Now we can look back and it all happened for the right reasons, and we’re in a much better place for it.”

Andy Strachan, formerly with Pollyanna, stepped behind the skins, and the Living End was granted a new lease on life.

“We all feel really refreshed,” Owen says. “All that stuff that you miss when you’re out on the road all the time – like just seeing family and friends and stuff – it’s been good after years of touring to just have that back for a year. Now the batteries are recharged and we’re ready to go out and do it again.”

It seems the public are ready for it as well – the band released a B-side, What Would You Do, to Triple J late last year and as a welcome back present for the boys, it went straight to the top of the youth station’s internet-voted countdown, the Net 50.

“We didn’t really know what people were going to think,” Owen says. “It was nerve-racking putting out the first thing and waiting to see what would happen. We were over the moon about that reception.”

Phase one was complete. Phase two is now in gear – the first Living End single proper in more than a year, One Said To The Other, is in stores this week. A local headliner slot on the Big Day Out tour is in progress. Plans are afoot for recording a new album.

“(Songwriting is) all we’ve had to concentrate on, so there’s a hell of a lot of good stuff there,” Owen says proudly. “The biggest problem’s going to be picking out which songs go on the album because there are so many that we’re married to and we like so much. It’s not a bad problem to have.”

It seems now it’s all falling into place – and the Living End couldn’t be happier. “It’s a pretty daunting thought to think that we’re going to be walking out on stage in front of that many people, and I guess the expectations are going to be pretty high,” Owen says of the BDO.

“It seems like it’s going to be very nerve-racking but – and I hope this doesn’t come across the wrong way -we’re all pretty confident at the moment. We’re feeling pretty good. We’ve had a whole year to just really put ourselves under the microscope and figure out what we’re doing and how we can do it to our full potential.

“We’re just ready to go. It couldn’t happen soon enough.”

One Said To The Other is out now through EMI. The Living End plays at the Big Day Out next Friday.