From Here On In – The Singles 1997-2004

Author: Mike Wafer

The Living End / From Here On In – The Singles 1997-2004

Chris Cheney has to be one of the best guitarists, singers and songwriters in Australian music. His melodies are always supremely catchy, his riffs and solos superb blends of rockabilly, blues and rock and the pop song formula (verse, chorus, verse etc) never over or under-done. The biggest, and possibly only, flaw of The Living End is their absolutely appalling lyrics. The band’s love of acts such as The Clash, or perhaps their desire to become them, lead to extremely outdated and utterly bullshit ’77 London working class punk gibberish that has no relevance today. If it weren’t for the lyrics then every song of these 14 blisteringly catchy singles would be regarded as classics, rather than teen-demographic tunes of token ‘fuck society’ rebellion. In short, no one takes this band seriously on the issues they address, which is sad, because their heart is in the right place, but the difference between The Living End and, say, Midnight Oil is a matter of articulation. Chris Cheney’s voice is so crisp and clear that ignoring the lyrics is hardly easy, but as soon the band let their instruments take the driver’s seat it is dead easy to remember what is loveable about this band.

This singles collection is well worth owning, as there is not a bad song on it, just keep it out of reach of school kids or it might rev them up to dye their hair, rip their jeans or, heaven forbid, vandalise a phone box.

The Living End’s New DVD From Here On In

Author: Unknown

Beginning with the promised new single, an angry ska tune titled I Can’t Give You What I Haven’t Got, they slam through a show that would have Holly and Cochran – and probably Wes Montgomery and Kurt Cobain, too – dancing in their graves.

Within three frantic songs of lightning licks and hollered choruses, Owen’s jacket and tie have disappeared, along with every other inhibition in the room. “There’s not gonna be much small-talk tonight,” Cheney tells us when he draws breath. “We haven’t played here in far, far too long, so we’re just gonna churn ’em out, OK?”

Hey, no problem. Save the Day, All Torn Down, Prisoner of Society, Roll On, Pictures In the Mirror, One Said To the Other, Second Solution, From Here On In … In fact, all bar one of the 14 songs on the imminent singles collection are dusted off and beefed up on shuffle play.

The message is loud and clear. The Living End’s latest album, Modern Artillery, is barely a year old, but it’s already just a part of their legacy. And, give or take a short acoustic breather midway through the gig, just as in their teenage days as a Stray Cats tribute band, this game is all about setting the stage on fire.

Rewind a week. Cheney is sitting in the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda, about halfway between his home and that of his childhood friend, Owen. He’s upbeat, partly because he’s just bought his first house. And, with no American commitments for the foreseeable future, he’s likely to spend some time in it.

“I’m kind of disappointed,” he volunteers before his first beer is half drunk. “I don’t wanna talk (down) Modern Artillery at all, but I’m kind of disappointed, because that should have been a masterpiece. That’s what I was trying to write, and it wasn’t. And there were so many factors involved (asto) why it wasn’t and it angers me and … it’s a regret, in a way.”

So what went wrong? “America. The American record company (Warner Reprise) not trusting us. New people working for the company who didn’t sign the band and therefore didn’t realise what we were capable of and didn’t let us do our thing.

“We were in a very precarious position. If we didn’t do what they wanted we wouldn’t have had an international deal, and you have to weigh that up with artistic integrity. So we had to bend a bit, try and meet them halfway. In the end, when I listen to the album …” he tilts his head dubiously. “It’s not what I had in my head, you know?

“This has been a huge thing for the band,” he says. “We haven’t spoken about it much, because I still think it’s a good album, the songs are strong, but it should have had the ‘X’ factor. It was time for us to make a great album.

“But anyway,” he says with a shrug. “It was pretty hairy times after the accident, with Trav leaving, and all of a sudden we’re on tour and writing songs, and we didn’t really get a chance to settle in. We were straight in the deep end.”

There were few doubts about new drummer Andy Strachan’s suitability for the gig. The 2003 Big Day Out was a “baptism of fire”, as Owen puts it, which he handled spectacularly well. By October ’03 the trio were back to first-division festival status, stealing Livid from the White Stripes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

After an extensive summer tour, though, Australia was on the backburner as they tried to pick up where they left off in America. Prisoner of Society had been a radio hit there in the late ’90s, and the band’s second album, Roll On, sold even better than the first.

But rock’n’roll fashion won’t wait. In March and April, the Living End played third on the Aussie Invasion bill across the US with the Vines and Jet. Neither of those upstarts existed when the Living End LP sold five times platinum in Australia in ’99 and, as confirmed by a handful of early-bird reviewers, neither had comparable stage skill or live energy.

“We just grabbed on with both hands and said, ‘Look at this,’ ” Cheney says with a grin. “I just thought, ‘We’re third on the bill, they’re calling us the Aussie rock veterans – even though we’re only a couple of years older! – so let’s go out there with all guns blazing.’ I mean, we do that every gig, but that one we really tried to put a stamp on.”

Cheney and Owen both speak fondly of the tour, of the bands jamming AC/DC and You Am I tunes backstage and enjoying the beery camaraderie that defines young Australians abroad.

But Owen points out the fundamental difference that usually saw The Living End retiring to their bus first. “Our gig is so much more demanding than their gigs,” the double-bass player says.

“For starters, we’re a three-piece band and they’re both four-piece. And our songs are so complicated and demanding. A lot of their songs are just kinda strumming and they get to lay back. They’ve got time to think. We’ve got time to do nothing except concentrate.

“We know from experience that if we have too many beers under our belts, it’s almost impossible to get through the gig. And it’s just not enjoyable. The reward for us is actually playing tight and getting all the dynamics to stand out and be strong.”

That reward wasn’t enough on the Blink-182/No Doubt tour that followed. The Living End were all but ignored, Cheney says, not only by two monster American bands with “separate bodyguards and separate buses and separate rooms”, but by hundreds of thousands of 14-yearolds straggling into the arenas.

“This band sells itself live,” he says. “We thought, “If we can get over there and get ourselves in front of people, we can screw all the industry crap.’ There’s no shortcuts for us, it’s just about getting in front of people, and that’s the only way we know. But if the people aren’t there …

“I just wanted to go home,” he says. “I thought, ‘These people are not getting it and they’re not interested.’ “

Unfortunately, that was increasingly true of the American record company. Modern Artillery was the last in a three-album deal with Warner, and the band were given a friendly handshake when the crucial monster hit failed to materialise.

Meanwhile, an album ostensibly tailored for the US market had fared less than brilliantly in their neglected homeland. Does all that time in America feel wasted in retrospect?

“Ah, some of it does,” Cheney says. “(Warner) were given a band that I think you can sell to anyone. This band has got something that immediately appeals to people visually, and we write songs that aren’t too hard to listen to and, yeah, they fucked it.”

Cheney reveals that I Can’t Give You What I Haven’t Got, the first of two new tracks on the singles compilation, was largely inspired by the Warner US debacle. Bringing It All Back Home sounds like the other side of the coin. It’s a development that Strachan, for one, is less than distressed about.

“If I had my way, we’d just tour Australia and Japan,” the drummer says, his hair still soaked after the Peninsula gig. “We’re not in a big hurry to get back to America, I don’t think. We’re all pretty keen to concentrate on Australia for the next year, get a new album out. I just love touring here. You can get good food, for a start. America’s really dodgy that way.”

Owen’s ambitions are similarly pragmatic. “For me,” he says, “selling records and playing to bigger crowds is only important because I’d love to be able to do this for the rest of my life. I don’t have massive ambitions to be a household-name rock’n’roll star. I don’t have that desire. Creating, expanding musically, that’s the most important thing to me. There’s nothing else I really think about. Ever.

“I’m not upset about the American thing, because it brings perspective back to us. Rather than them having a plan and us saying, ‘OK, what do you want us to do?’, finally it’s time to say, ‘What do we want to do?’ “

There’s little doubt that EMI Australia is looking to reclaim lost ground with the CD and DVD retrospectives. Largely due to their US focus, The Living End’s local sales graph has charted a steep decline since what Owen calls their “freak” debut.

“I don’t care, really,” the bass player says jovially. “I’m sure that behind management and record company doors it’s an issue, but personally, look, sometimes I try to think about it, but it doesn’t have that much of an effect on me. I am genuinely happy just getting up there playing gigs.

“As long as we can fill pubs like the Palace and the Corner, pubs I like to go see bands play, I’m happy. And as long as I think we’re making good music,” he shakes his head, “that’s so much more important than the climb.”

For Chris Cheney, the shift in global perspective began three years ago, when he woke with his leg in pieces at the foot of a cliff near Fairhaven.

“I’m definitely a lot more easygoing,” he says. “I care less about what other people are thinking. I just want to make myself happy, make sure we have good songs and the band plays well.

“I’ve always said (the accident) was imperative to the band. It had to happen and it gave us all a chance to rethink. I dunno if the last album was a true indication of that, but the new stuff we’re writing and the headspace we’re in – I dunno, it just feels fresher and newer.”

As is often said of Bob Dylan’s mysterious motorcycle accident of 1966, if the crash hadn’t existed, perhaps it would have been necessary to invent it. Certainly, after the record-breaking success of The Living End’s debut, downhill appeared to be the only direction to go. But that depends on which way you’re facing.

“That was never intimidating to me,” Cheney insists. “I’m so glad I never got sucked into that idea, ‘This is my first album and it’s a masterpiece.’ I can see it’s a special kind of record, but come on,” he says with a cocky grin, “that was just the beginning. We can do so much better than that.”

The Living End play at the Palace in St Kilda tonight, and tomorrow at 2.30pm (under-18s only), with Dallas Crane supporting. The From Here On In CD and DVD are out separately this week through EMI.

New Beginnings

Author: Michael Dwyer

The Living End have returned from the US – and they’re in no hurry to go back, writes Michael Dwyer.

It’s a wet Wednesday night in Moorooduc, and a long line of parked cars snakes up the highway past the Peninsula Lounge. Inside, the windows are steamed up and the floor is heaving with midweek revelers.

The Living End are on the comeback trail. Again. This is their first show in Victoria after almost a year spent – sometimes misspent – overseas.

Freshly relieved of their US record contract, the Aussie rock phenomenons of ’98 are taking stock with a double DVD and a hits album titled From Here On In: The Singles 1997-2004, and renewed attention to their home base.

The fans’ anticipation is thick in the air, but the atmosphere is nonchalant compared to the electricity in the band room.

Drummer Andy Strachan is wide-eyed and restless. Bassist Scott Owen stands meditatively upright, fingering a sleek grey jacket with broad black lapels.
“Nine bucks from the Salvos in Mentone,” he says. His black shirt and skinny white tie complete the kind of outfit that defines the Living End’s retro-cool edge in a scene replete with skatewear logos.

Minutes before show time, singer-guitarist and songwriter Chris Cheney darts into the room, a blur of spiky black hair, red western embroidery and eyes smudged with mascara – or maybe fear.

Nervous? “Nah,” he says, too dismissive to be convincing.

Any new material tonight? “Yeah,” Owen says with a smirk, again indicating his jacket.

Just the new single, then? “Yeah, just the single, that’s all we’re playing,” Cheney jokes, his sneakers marking time on the carpet. “We’re going back to the package-tour days where you just play one hit and get off.
We tried to get Alan Freed to introduce us, but . . .”

As long as I think we’re making good music, that’s so much more important than the climb. But, yeah, the legendary American DJ who popularised the term “rock’n’roll” 50 years ago has been dead for 40.

The reference is typical of Cheney’s headspace. He may have spent most of ’04 touring America with Jet, the Vines, Blink-182 and No Doubt, but he’ll always feel a stronger affinity with Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. The tragic fate of those pioneers was almost his, too, when he cheated death in a serious car accident on the Great Ocean Road three years ago.

His long recovery is history now, as is the subsequent untimely resignation of drummer Travis Demsey. But the Living End are still chasing the momentum they lost at the bleak end of 2001. And this, as always, is how they do it.

Triple M Planet Rock

Author: Unknown

MMM – Chris Cheney from The Living End in the studio with me right now. I know you guys get asked this all the time, but how did you come up with the name The Living End?

CC – We were called the Runaway Boys before that, which we thought was a pretty dorky kind of name and we wanted to change it. And I was at a friend of mine’s house up in Queensland and we had a lot to drink one night, and decided to put this old rock and roll movie on called Rock Around the Clock, which is just one of those old black and white rock movies with Little Richard, Bill Haley and all those kind of guys performing in it. And then we watched it, and at the end it says “The End” and then that kinda parts and “Living” appears in the middle with a question mark. We were just so drunk that I just thought “Maaan that’s a great name for a band” and woke up the next morning, and um…you know…sort of…throwing up…*laughs* and I remembered the name, so I thought “ok, that’s gotta be a sign”. So y’know, I loved it coz it was such a neutral sounding thing, it didn’t particularly mean anything at all, I just thought it was a great title for a group.

MMM – Typical rock star, just getting drunk and coming up with a name, I love it.

***

CC – G’day this is Chris from The Living End on Planet Rock with Turbo. This week I’m playing some of MY favourite tunes. One of them is a current song by a band called Eskimo Joe, and the song’s called Older Than You. Their song writing and their craft of songs in general is just out of this world, and they’re really amazing at what they do and they’re a special band I think *song starts playing, Chris rushes* and here it is! On Planet Rock, Older Than You – Eskimo Joe.

***

MMM – Thanks for sticking around man

CC – Pleasure…..treasure.

MMM – Now I’ve heard that you guys have become pretty close mates with Jet, and you even got on stage at the Forum in Melbourne recently to close their gig with a cover of an Elvis Presley classic.

CC – That came about actually when we were on tour with them in the states back in March or something and we were playing uh..I think it was in Toronto or something…that particular show where it happened first. Like, they were playing and we were just watching side of stage and Nic kinda turned around and pointed and took his guitar off, and you know I did the usual thing of like “who, me?”. I was looking around to see who the fuck he was pointing at, but he was pointing at me and just sort of threw me the guitar mid-song and um, being an Elvis fanatic I obviously knew it and I think he kinda knew that. So uh, I got up and played and we did 3 or 4 of them over there, and then um when they played in Melbourne recently he called me up and said do you wanna play on it here. So yeah, I was rapped. You know, that’s the thing, we come from sort of different backgrounds but obviously we have similar influences, and it was cool to be doing that song in particular coz I think it’s 50 years since that song was recorded, and it’s arguably the birth of rock and roll right there in that song.

***

MMM – With me in the studio this week live it’s Chris Cheney from The Living End. You’re looking quite comfortable there, I hope you’re enjoying yourself.

CC – I am, I am.

MMM – Anyway, you were just mentioning before you were in the USA for a while last year and, uh this year as well…you just can’t stop really. But the end result is that the American record deal with Warner fell over I’ve read somewhere, and by the sounds of it, it wasn’t a bad thing.

CC – You know, I think we came to a sort of mutual decision to part ways, and coming from here and being signed to an American label, you know they want you to spend ALL the time there, and we’ve always been very wary of doing that, because we definitely want to not neglect what we’ve built up in Australia and stuff. So it’s a matter of finding a compromise. I dunno, as long as I think we can keep making music and play to our fan base, to me that’s the main thing. I just want to make sure we can be a self-contained unit, and no matter what albums come out on whichever label, you know as long as we can be a live band and tour I’m happy with that.

MMM – Ok well we’re gonna be playing the latest single from you guys coming up in just a few minutes but first, here’s something live from Nickelback. Isn’t Chad an ugly man, do you think so?

CC – He looks like the Paddlepop Lion, that’s great.

***

This bit was only about 5 seconds long, but I thought it was funny.

CC – Hi this is chris CHEENEY (note – he emphasised the EE sound deliberately. Hehehehe.) from the Living End and you are on Planet Rock.

The Living End

Author: Unknown

Riding high on sold out shows around the country, The Living End has decided to include three extra gigs in Brisbane and the Gold Coast later this month. The talented three-piece band recently returned from the US after touring with Blink 182 and No Doubt, bringing their unique sound back to Australia.

Since first appearing on our charts seemingly our of nowhere in 1996 with their hit ‘From Here On In’ the boys have come a long way, pumping out a stream of hits. Halfway through its comeback tour The Living End is focused on the future penning tunes for their next album, due next year.

How has the Australian tour been going?
Scott: Good. It’s been a pretty relaxed kind of tour. We haven’t done all the small towns like we usually do, we’ve just done major cities , but its been excellent. We’ve played really big venues which has been full. It’s been a really good response, especially to the new couple of songs. We also found out we have lot of young people in the audience which is great to see. We had a young audience five years ago, so its awesome to see we still do have young fans.

Were you surprised at how well received you were, given that you’ve been off the radar for a while?
It was a bit of a surprise, we don’t know what to expect anymore

You’ve recently released ‘From Here On In’ CD and DVD which is a singles collection and a look at The Living End’s career from the beginning – how does it feel to look back on how far you’ve come.
It was actually pretty weird watching the DVD for the first time. There is a lot of stuff on there that I’d completely forgotten about. It puts it all in perspective. When you are at the point where your three albums in and spent that whole time touring, its hard to remember what order things happened in and what the path was. It’s so easy to get tied up on day to day details. So yeah, its great, It made me feel good to see it all put into perspective. I’m not the kind of person to pay myself on the back and say well done. I’m more worried about what’s going to happen in the future. So it was good to see how far we’ve come.

Has the band changed much during this time?
I don’t think we’ve changed a great deal. We’re still into the same stuff we were back when we first starting making music. We’ve got a pretty similar idea to what good music is.

Two new songs are on the album, what influenced the decision to release these on there instead of waiting for a new one.
We are doing a new album early next year as well, but it seemed like a good idea. It (From Here On In) is a strong album, we have 12 singles on it and it just seemed like a good idea to tie up the past. We had all these videos full of stuff just sitting around for years and we thought ‘we’ve got to do something with it’ like make a doco or something. But its taken us this long to get it together, So now its time to move on and do other things.

You play the double bass, how long have you been playing and what prompted the decision?
I’ve been playing for 12 years. I was a big fan of the Stray Cats and rockabilly music when I was finishing high school. me and Chris really wanted to play rockabilly music and if we were going to have a rockabilly band we needed a double bass.

So what’s in store for the future of The Living End ?
All I know is that we’re recording early next year. We’ve already got heaps of new songs and we’re still doing demos at the moment. We’re going to keep writing and belting out new tunes. The well doesn’t run dry at all so there’s plenty of songs coming out. We don’t know what kind of direction it is going to take, that is something we never plan and let the songs speak for themselves. We are all pretty keen to have a musical shift and do something a bit outside of The Living End box.