Chris Cheney

Author: Jesse Shrock

For some time in this country, the name The Living End has been synonymous with infectious rock anthems, and blisteringly tight and rocking live performances. Recently sharing the spotlight with Jet and The Vines in the Aussie invasion tour in the USA, it seems they are no longer a treasure that Australia can keep quietly to itself. But, as singer/guitarist Chris Cheney told me, having success abroad only increases the appetite for a raging home crowd.

You recently took out the gong at the Jack awards for best lead guitarist. What do you think they look for when judging these awards?

I’m guessing that it’s whoever’s got the longest… (laughs) careful… I’m guessing whoever’s got the longest guitar lead on stage… I don’t know. Whoever’s the most flashy, or whoever can play the most notes in five seconds, or something. It was really nice but it was hard to kind of analyse. It’s weird to win a lead guitar player award, because there’s only one guitar in our band, and I try to do both. (rhythm and lead) I don’t know how to take awards like that.

It seems like every time I se you, you’re playing the same guitar…

That’s a Gretsch White Falcon.

What else, if anything, do you play?

I am a bit of a Gretsch nut because if you want to play in a Rockabilly band which is what we where when we began, you have to play a Gretsch guitar. That’s what Brian Setzer and Eddie Cochran played. But also people like Malcolm Young, Billy Duffy from The Cult, Dwayne Eddie… all the guys that I thought were really cool, great looking guitar players, and great guitarists in general, played Gretsches. So for me, I just fell in love with the look of them and the sound of them.

Are you one of those players that like the organic, straight into the amplifier sound, or do you use digital compressors and distortions?

No, I’ve got a switching system, which basically allows me to go straight into the amplifier for a 100% signal, until I engage the pedal. I really love that mixture of the AC/DC sound, and maybe Pete Townshend or something, and I think it’s imperative to keep that really stringy kind of zingyness in the top end of the sound. I’m a big fan of not having it disintegrate through having a number of pedals.

What amplifiers do you use now?

I use Wizard amps. They’re a Canadian company. They’re 200 watt heads, and I got them when we were touring in Australia with AC/DC. And it’s their guitar tech, he just calls himself Rock “Wizard” funnily enough, it’s his company. He just goes into production when he’s not touring with them, which is not very often. I was using Marshalls up to that point and he just gave me a couple (Wizards) to try one night, just to show them to me, and I was absolutely blown away. They had this really warm sound, and had a bottom-end thump that just knocks you to the back wall, but with this really clean, nice top end on it. I think his words were that it was a cross between the spongy-ness of a Soldano, but with the ringy-ness of a Hi-Watt, or a really nice Marshall. Since I’ve got those, I’ve never turned back.

You’re about to release a Greatest Hits selection, is that right?

It’s just a collection of singles released between ’97 and 2004. I don’t like to call it Greatest Hits, because to me that signifies a stale patch in a band’s career, or perhaps the end of a band’s career (laughs). We did demos of 15 songs just last week… So to me it’s just the best of the first three albums. It’s just a good way of tying up that period, and moving on in a fresh new direction.

And will that ‘fresh new sound’ feature a lot of variation from your trademark punk/rockabilly sound?

Oh, definitely. I even think that the last album there was really only one song on there that was part of the punk/rockabilly thing. I think we’ve really moved away from that, and that we can do that if we want to or if we have to, but that there’s really much more to the band than just that. It’s easy for people to tag us with that, because they see the double bass, and they see the solos… but I think people have to realise that underneath all that there are these crafted Pop songs, and that I put a lot of time and effort into working out idea son songs.

I was at last year’s show at The Palace, (Melbourne) and it was a bloody ripper. I know all fans claim to have seen a band’s best show and all that, but I remember you closing the show by saying you “hadn’t played a show like that in a couple years”…

Yeah… and I don’t know if that was because we hadn’t played in Australia for a couple years, or what it was. But it was definitely one of those gigs. I know it’s terrible to say, but I always hope to do a good show in Melbourne… to the home crowd.
It’s nice to play them everywhere else if you can. But if you don’t play well there, you get bottled off stage or something. It’s a pretty ruthless kind of town, sometimes, and we cut our teeth here playing to those kinds of audiences. But I feel that now, since the last six months touring in America and stuff, and having more gigs under our belt with Andy. I really feel like we’re firing on all cylinders. And I really can’t wait to play back home again, to an audience, hopefully, that’s responsive like that. I think that they’ll notice a huge difference… that we’ve got a newfound hunger. We’re mad for it!

The Living End will be touring nationally in October.