Doing What They Do Best

Author: Unknown

It’s easy to forget just how familiar the Living End have become on the Australian musical landscape. While the last month may have been the calm before the storm of the release of new album State of Emergency, as anyone who saw the band tear up the main stage on the recent Big Day Out jaunt can testify, they have a plethora of material that can’t help but connect.

Mostly written at home and then brought into the rehearsal room and worked on, State of Emergency returns to the Melbourne born-and-bred trio the energy that was missing on Modern ARTillery. “Some of the songs took a few months to work on, some of them came together really quickly, and we basically spent a month in a rehearsal room doing demos and all that kind of stuff, and fine-tuning the songs and trying as many ideas as we possibly could,” is how double-bassist Scott Owen explains it. “Before we recorded the album we did do a couple of ‘secret’ gigs to try out the new material.”

Late in 2005, the band ended the year by playing secret shows as the Longnecks – a ruse that didn’t last very long as the band was quick to find out as shows in Melbourne and Sydney sold out in quick fashion. “We called ourselves Glen Waverly and the Mentones once,” Scott says. “They were basically for the purpose of seeing how they felt to play live and seeing what people thought.” He understands that the band’s rabid fans were always going to chase them down in any guise. “It was kind of a sigh of relief at the end of the gig, as the reaction seemed to be pretty good,” he says of the crowd verdict on the new tunes. “It was pretty nerve-wracking getting up there and playing a whole set of new songs.”

State of Emergency was recorded in the relaxed atmosphere of Byron Bay, with the band spending four weeks there, then more recording back home in Melbourne in bits and pieces. It meant that the band’s original plan to get in and out of a studio in quick time (spending three weeks in total in the studio) was thrown out the window, and instead State of Emergency became one of the band’s most intensive recording experiences yet.

“We wanted to do it really quickly and really raw, with minimal overdubs,” he comments, “but when we got into the crux of recording we soon realised that it was actually going to take a lot more work than just belting it out. Basically the songs have a few overdubs and a few little ideas and enhancements that go on top of recording, but we figured that the songs warranted more than having a live sounding thing.”

It’s resulted in State of Emergency being quite a long album, with the twelve tracks on it whittled down from an original choice of fifteen. “It was just too hard to let some of them go,” Scott admits. “When it comes down to that final culling process it’s a really difficult thing because you become so attached to them, and it’s so hard to leave anything off. Then after we’d finished making the album we went into the studio and belted out a bunch of stuff so we could use it for b-sides and the last song on the album, “Into the Red”, is actually one of those songs.”

The Living End demoed a lot of material to make sure that nothing was left by the wayside, with the band working hard on getting the most out of all the songs, with Scott explaining that the final number of demos totalled around the 40 or 50 mark. “We always end up with that much material, and then there’s just the enormous culling process.”

Modern ARTillery by comparison was not nearly as enjoyable an experience for the band, with it being very much geared around the demands made on the band by their American record label, Reprise, from whom they have now parted ways. Now the Living End are back to being free agents.

“We are going to the States in March for the South By Southwest festival,” he says of the band’s overseas ambitions. “We’ve never done it before, so it’s going to be fun to see how it all goes. It’s always got an amazing bunch of bands and everyone who goes says it’s amazing. Apparently every shop or restaurant in this little district in Austin turns into a venue for the week.”

The plan after the BDO run is to do a national tour around May, with the attitude being that the Living End simply want to get out there and back in people’s faces – they love it, their fans love it, and radio has certainly loved “What’s on Your Radio?”, the first single from State of Emergency, garnering the band the sort of chart positioning not seen since the halcyon days of their first record and singles like “Second Solution” and “Save the Day”.

“I think it’s stayed in the charts for longer than any of our other singles as well,” confirms Scott, “so that’s a good sign for us to be this far down the track and still be able to stay in the modern chart. It’s a good feeling!”

The band’s first EP, For Your Own Good, came out way back in 1994. But of course to the band it doesn’t feel that long – it doesn’t seem like a decade ago that the band were THE band on the rise, when everyone wanted to be their “Prisoner of Society”.

“It feels like a lot has happened over the years, but we still don’t feel like an ‘old’ band. We’ve always got devilishly handsome looks on our side,” he deadpans.

The Living End’s State of Emergency is out now.

The Living End’s Big Day Out Ignites Their Big Year

Author: Michelle Feuerlicht

Leaping onto the Big Day Out main stage wearing boxer shorts would usually land you in the arms of security guards. Unless, of course, it’s Australia Day, you’re festival stalwarts The Living End and you’re rocking hard in underwear adorned with the Aussie flag to the rapturous delight of the Sydney crowd.

“On stage is where we let it all out”, says double bass player Scott Owen. “We’re pretty calm and pretty relaxed kind of people most of the time.

“That’s our outlet”.

In their 11-year career, The Living End have racked up a quintuple (five-times)-platinum album, two platinum albums and five gold records, won three ARIA awards and have played at three Big Day Out festivals. But say they still get a buzz playing to the huge crowds, which this year in Sydney topped 55,000 people.

“Getting up on the big stage and being able to play in front of that many people … is just an incomparable feeling”, says Owen. A highlight of the festival is also the chance to catch new music and meet the artists behind them, he adds.

“Some of my best memories are just stumbling across bands on other stages that I’ve never heard of before,” he says.

The Flaming Lips and Dan Kelly are two acts he says he’s discovered by just walking past them, and both “blew him away”. This year, the main attraction is the White Stripes because, as Owen says, he finally understands their appeal.

“When I first heard about the White Stripes they didn’t really strike me that much I think it was their looseness, it bugged me a bit.

“Being a musician I tend to find it easy to pick faults in other music, but now the more I’ve listened to them, I finally got it.

“The charm in their music is its imperfections and is the rawness and the humanness of it rather than it all being perfect”.

This philosophy is one The Living End have taken with their new album, State of Emergency (out February 6) which captures the energy of their renowned live acts and allows for an edgier, rougher feel.

“We just recorded the bass, the guitar and the drums all together and without being too finicky or too picky, we just went for the one that sounded like it just had the right vibe”, says Owen.

“We were trying to be really conscious that there’s no point in being technically correct if it just doesn’t have some kind of atmosphere about it.”

For a band who have been described as rockabilly, punk, rock, yet don’t fit into any specific category, State of Emergency takes it further with influences from bands in the British new-wave indie dance scene such as Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand.

“We’ve just become so much more aware of other music that’s out there since our first album”, Owen says, admitting that they hope their fourth album will help them move past their 1997 hit ‘Prisoner of Society’.

“I reckon that’s probably every band’s attitude about their biggest song”, Owen says.

“We still enjoy playing it, it’s still one of the most challenging songs musically, for me especially… it’s still one of those ones where I really have to physically and mentally battle to keep up with it. But it would be nice to have a song that was a bigger hit than that”.

After their disappointment with the outcome of their last album, Modern Artillery, Owen says they hope State of Emergency will be their masterpiece, and send them on the path of other bands like Green Day who succeeded in outdoing a huge album (Dookie) with an even bigger one a decade later (American Idiot).

“The songs feel like your children,” he says. “You get so attached to them and you think these children are going to grow up to be world leaders.”

With the Big Day Out tour, a new album which has already garnered considerable interest with first single ‘What’s On Your Radio’ and a trip to the United States to join the South by Southwest festival, this might very well be The Living End’s year in the sun. But don’t worry, Owen assures us they won’t be lightening up.

“We want to make sure we do what we do best while we can,” he says. “There’s plenty of time in the future to make softer music but now is our time to be working our asses off and playing energetic music, which is what we want to do.”

The Living End

Author: Miriam Kauppi

Scott Owen, Double Bass and Vocals

Which talent, not related to music would you most like to have?
I’d like to be a magician.

What magic would you do?
Not black magic, that’s for sure.

Just rabbits out of hats?
And making things disappear.

What’s your greatest extravagance?
Beer. Beer is extravagant, isn’t it?

Not in your line of work, I would have thought it was mandatory.
Well it is, but it’s extravagantly mandatory. Not many people get to drink every day.

Imagine you could put together the ultimate supergroup. Who would be in the band you would most like to watch?
Paul McCartney on bass, Joey Costello (Queens Of The Stone Age) on drums, Elvis Costello on guitar and lead vocals, Brian Setzer (Stray Cats) on lead guitar, and Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) on piano.

And what song would they cover?
Blue Suede Shoes, by Elvis.

What is the best advice anyone has given you about music, and who gave it?
It was Chris Cheney (lead singer, The Living End) and the advice was to practice, practice and practice. We were in high school together and he’s already been studying guitar for a long time. We both discovered rockabilly music, which no one else was listening to at the time. We just fell in love with it and thought, ‘let’s start playing it’.

Were you studying upright bass at school?
I was actually learning piano when I was at school. I didn’t see a future in a band as a piano player. I thought bass was more appropriate.

What is the secret to The Living End’s success?
In the beginning we had a lot of drive. We would play the supporting gig at a small pub and then think, ‘one day we want to headline here then move on to bigger and better things’. We still have the same attitude. I think that is the most important thing about this band., we are all willing to put in as much hard work as it takes because we love it.

The Living End’s new album, State Of Emergency, is released in February 2006.

The Living End – State Of Emergency

Author: Jason Lowe

The latest offering from The Living End, State Of Emergency is perhaps their most accomplished yet with a new maturity and diversity to accompany their familiar and uniquely identifiable sound. There are not as many frenzied moments in that speeded-up-rockabilly method though it is still employed (and successfully), in the first single ‘What’s On Your Radio’ as on previous works, and in its place is a more polished pop-rock feel with a range of melodies and tempos. The catchy hooklines are still there, and there’s plenty of punk power remaining but the lyrics create stories in an ‘All Torn Down’ fashion more often than on earlier albums. The successful combination of garage rock with great pop sensibilities and a touch of ska brings to mind the joy of the first two Australian Crawl albums. Every song is enjoyable but among the highlights are ‘Long Live The Weekend’, ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, ‘One Step Behind’ and ‘Order Of The Day’ as well as the powerful title cut and the opening track ‘Till The End’. Perhaps the band feels this is the start of a new chapter in the their history after the era-closing compilation released last year.

State Of Emergency

Author: Kristy Mills

The Living End. An early bastion of the 90s Aussie Punk Rock surge that to this day remains one of the biggest rocking scenes we have. Kristy Mills caught up with double bassist, Scott and drummer, Andy to talk about the new album, State Of Emergency.

They championed the Oz punk/rock movement with their blend of rockabilly meets punk, performing anthems for the youth. (“Prisoner Of Society” will never be forgotten among so many others).
And now, pushing forward, a new album for 2006 and a whole barrage of other influences in the mix. State Of Emergency is a diverse mix of rock with their staple Living End punk sound. Scott sums it up, “Back in the day we were more heavily into punk bands like the Clash, the Pistols, it was when Greenday first started happening and they were really heavy influences on the band. The only other major influence was rockabilly jams.
Of course this was a long time ago and of course we’ve changed. Now we’re more heavily interested in many more different kinds of music, not just punk. We started off liking rockabilly, then punk came into it and then we found the Beatles and as you grow older you find all these different kinds of music… You grow and you change and that’s why this album doesn’t sound like our first album.”

While it doesn’t sound like their first album, the band chose to go back to the producer of their second album, Roll On, to really establish that live sound in this recording. “We were really happy with the sounds we got on the second album,” Scott explains. “The guitar slams and all that kind of stuff. It’s the way he captures sounds and also his old skool attitude.” Andy, who had not recorded with him before, cuts in, “He’s punk rock in the sense that he gets live tracks from the band. Instead of the American way of doing it these days – of recording drums first, putting bass on and the nguitar – essentially it’s not a band playing live, it’s just parts put together on a grid in a computer, whereas Nick’s all about old skool two-inch tape and getting the three of us in a room at the same time playing the same song.” It really pays off, as you can hear the throbing live element loud and clear.

According to the band, the strength of the album lies in its diversity. Scott says, “We’ve covered a lot of different moods and styles but I think that’s a good thing. “What’s On Your Radio” is very much old skool Living End and it’s really fun and it’s up and exciting, it’s great to play live and that’s one thing. Then you’ve got “Black Cat” and “Till The End” that are the in-your-face, dirty rock n roll songs. And then you’ve got songs like “Wake Up“. In my opinion that’s one of the best songs. I think the lyrics are really fitting for what’s going on in the world.”

“Lyrically it f***king hurts,” Scott continues. “It’s about something really big. About what’s going on in the world today. ‘Wake up to the generation, Suicidal education/ It got sold to our generation…’ It’s this generation and our kids and the future its completely changed now forever because of 9/11, the London bombing…”

But while it’s political, it’s not the band standing up on a soap box telling us what to think. Scott’s very clear about that. “We’re not about telling other people what their politics should be or telling people what our politics are even, ’cause we’re not Midnight Oil, we’re not ipolitical activists, we’re not those kind of people, we’re just f***king normal dudes. We’re just trying to make people think about things. I reckon that’s the best way to present things to people – as an idea, a conversation point.” And on the other hand, he points out, “It’s not showing people disrespect by making a song where the lyrics are about nothing at all either… We’re not Peter Garrett, but we’re not just thinking about chicks all the time.”

It’s Chris’ songwriting that keeps the stylised politics in check, making cool songs that don’t always push the boundaries of thought, but which sometimes do, even though they’re up and fun. Scott says, “I think Chris’ lyrics and the way he writes is f***kin’ clever. He has a real way of saying things without talking about nothing at one extreme or without ramming it down people’s throats at the other extreme. He has a way of just conveying an issue or an image of something. Some people can write love songs like that or write break up songs that make you feel ouch, that break up must have really hurt. It’s the way the words are put together and you see it’s a really clear way of painting a picture of something that happened. Chris is better at writing about things that he sees in the world going on around him. He’s better at conveying those things…” And so that’s what you can expect. Songs that are fun, with a few that have a deeper agenda. Take from them what you will. So without further ado, welcome State Of Emergency.

The Living End – State Of Emergency

Plunging headfirst into the rock end of punk rock with this newest album offering by Oz icons The Living End, State Of Emergency gets to a rolling rocking start on the intensely great “Till The End“, one of the strongest tracks on the album, before heading down the familiar punk rock lane with their first single “What’s On Your Radio” further into the album. With a live edge that stands out pretty clearly from their last album and a stack of potential Oz hits, it gets better every time you listen. There’s more than enough traditional The Living End on it to satisfy the hardcore fans, but never a band to bore, the boys embrace plenty of new elements and influences to thrill and surprise. As the title suggests, there’s a touch of the political in songs like “Wake Up” but they’re not preachy, just tres cool.

No Prisoners

Author: Tom Hawking

The Living End are moving on from a disappointing album the best way possible – recording a new one. “It’s probably good that we made Modern ARTillery, because we didn’t want to make another album like it”, they tell Tom Hawking.

It’s ten years since Prisoner Of Society brought The Living End to the nation’s attention. They’ve enjoyed a virtually unbroken run of success since, but the muted reaction to their previous album Modern ARTillery suggested that their momentum might have been failing at last. Singer/guitarist Chris Cheney has since said that he and his band weren’t particularly happy with Modern ARTillery and as such, the band’s new record State Of Emergency represents something of a crossroads for them and a chance to set things right.

At first listen, State Of Emergency is certainly a more accomplished-sounding album than its predecessor. It sounds like The Living End are again comfortable with what they’re doing and sitting down in a Chapel St cafe with all three members of The Living End, I wonder how they feel about State Of Emergency in comparison to its predecessor. Did the problems with Modern ARTillery contribute to a different approach with its follow-up?

Cheney seems happy to act as the band’s spokesman, his bandmates Scott Owen and Andy Strachan contributing the occasional nod of agreement or brief comment. About Modern ARTillery, the singer says, “An album is always an extension of where you’re at when you record it and I think for some reason that… Well we thought at the time and still think, that Modern ARTillery had really good songs on it. I just don’t think they were executed as well as they could have been and that was to do with us being in a weird spot at the time. Also, once we got to recording it, things got a bit weird with the producer. I just don’t think we were focused on the end result and so we ended up making some bad decisions.”

Conversely, he says, “With this album… well, it’s probably good that we made Modern ARTillery, because we didn’t want to make another album like it. The first thing we always try to do is to make sure we have some really good songs and we felt when we were writing and rehearsing it that we had some of the best songs we’ve ever had/ Then it was a matter of transforming them onto tape, capturing something specail and not losing focus again. With this album we worked harder than I think we ever did before and I think you can hear it.”

State Of Emergency also found The Living End re-engaging the services of producer Nick Launay, who last worked with the band on 2000’s Roll On. Cheney says that working with Launay again was responsible for the band regaining their focus, but only to a degree. “*obscured text* needed to have the material first and to have the three of us in the right frame of mind, playing well and all that sort of stuff. There’s only so much a producer can do – there are some great producers out there who have made shit albums, because if there isn’t a good band and good songs to work with, you can’t really do anything. To me, that’s what the producer should do: they should come in and add to the songs. You shouldn’t be arguing with them about parts, y’know?” He pauses and chuckles. “Which is maybe what we did on Modern ARTillery.”

Still, even with Launay back aboard, the making of State Of Emergency was a drawn-out process. The band were in the studio for several months and looking back, Cheney says, “I don’t know what took so long. I really don’t. There were some songs that changed a lot in recording – we were changing the lyrics, the arrangements, tagging on new intros and end bits, all that sort of thing. It takes hours and hours. And we were going for really good takes – y’know, we’d say ‘Right, we’re finishing at midnight tonight’ and at two or three in the morning we’d be still tracking. Still, we did that because we found we were getting results.”

It’s perhaps this perfectionism that has contributed to the band’s relatively limited output over the years. Four albums in ten years is hardly prolific, especially for a band that work in a genre where their contemporaries tend to churn out an album every year or so. There have of course been well-documented obstacles along the way, Cheney’s near-fatal car crash foremost amongst them, but still – does it frustrate the Living End that they haven’t been more productive?

Cheney sighs ruefully. “We have though! We’ve written so many songs! We’ve always got three songs for b-sides and stuff. So yes, it does bug me at times that we haven’t had more albums. It seems that four albums in ten years isn’t that much and it isn’t. But the thing is that they’ve been successful albums, so we’ve end up touring for two or three years on the one album! It’s a double-edged sword, really – if we didn’t have that we’d be complaining, but at the same time I kinda wish we’d released a lot of the other stuff that we’ve written. I suppose that one day we will. You’re right though – we do spend a lot more time than bands likem say, Rancid. But then, I don’t see us as part of that whole scene at all. For the first album, we got caught up in that scene, but I’ve always seen us as a rock ‘n’ roll band, a band that approaches every song individually, rather than just slamming them out.”

Last year offered something of a respite from the constant touring. What did the band do with their time off? Cheney says, “Well the thing is that when we’re at home, people probably think that we’re having a lot of time off, but really, we rehearse pretty intensely when we’re coming up to do an album. We’re also always involved in the artwork for our t-shirts and all that sort of stuff and it kinda frustrates me a bit because it seems like we don’t play our instruments as much as we used to. It becomes like a business and I think you’ve gotta be careful at times that you still have fun with it and that it doesn’t take over, because there have been times when it has threatened to take over. When we finished school, we were playing every weekend, y’know; playing three or four gigs a week and I kinda forget what that’s like. When we go on tour, we enjoy it a lot because it’s back to doing that, back to just playing music.”

Ten years on, then, has the experience of being in a rock band for a living been everything that The Living End expected? Cheney says, “For me, sometimes it’s been harder than I thought it would be. But you guys” – he indicates his bandmates – “You guys would be the first to say that I make it hard for myself. There’s a business side of it that needs doing and I probably bring a lot of that onto myself. You have this fantasy – you see these popular bands, like U2 or whatever an you think, ;Wow, what a life!’ In reality, though, they’re working damn hard. Equally, we;ve never been afraid of hard work and in the last six months we’ve worked harder than we ever have. But the rewards are better these days than they ever have been ,too. I mean, we get played on the radio, we get to tour the world [and] we’ve got gold records, which we thought we’d never get. You can’t have it both ways.”

State Of Emergency is out now through EMI.

The Living End State Of Emergency

Author: Tom Hawking

When the Living End’s Best Of compilation was released last year, Inpress pondered whether it might signal the beginning of the end for a band who exploded ten years ago into the national consciousness with their double A-side Prisoner Of Society/Second Solution. The relative lack of success of 2003’s Modern ARTillery suggested that the nation’s love affair with the band might be coming to an end, with critics concentrating more on singer/guitarist Chris Cheney’s brush with death in a car crash than on the band’s music.

A listen to State Of Emergency suggests that any reports of The Living End’s demise have been very much exaggerated. It retreats from the airbrushed stylings of its predecessor Modern ARTillery and returns to doing what the band do so well -spiky, melodic, punk-influenced rock ‘n’ roll. While they’ve never painted with quite as broad a musical palette as The Clash, a band from whom they obviously take such a great amount of inspiration, they do maintain a similar commitment to transcending the strict, arbitrary limitations of punk in order to make great rock ‘n’ roll music.

Cheney has always been a great songwriter and there are songs on this record that the likes of Grinspoon would never conceive – cases in point include the wistful Nothing Lasts Forever and the melancholy No Way Out. Wake Up turns its attention to politics, managing to avoid flag-waving, chest beating sloganeering in favour of a mournful chorus that turns its ire on the education system, exhorting listeners to “Wake up to the manipulation/Wake up to the situation“.

Still, it’s in its most rocking moments that this album really shines. Perennial JJJ favourites, there’s plenty on here that should make sure that The Living End extend their unbroken run in the Hottest 100 poll into a tenth year next Australia Day. Long Live The Weekend has ‘radio hit’ written all over it and the likes of We Want More, title track State Of Emergency and first single What’s On Your Radio? have choruses and hooks that should keep mosh pits happy for years to come. All in all, it’s a welcome return for a band who have always been a cut above their snotty skate-punk contemporaries.