Rip It Up

Still Rollin’ On

Author: Robert Dunstan

Melbourne-based rock ‘n’ roll trio The Living End (Chris Cheney on guitars and vocals, Andy Strachan on drums and Scott Owen on double bass) were over in the US when we spoke to them over the telephone but, by all accounts, were having a ball. But there’s no rest for the wicked because as soon as they returned home they would then be embarking on another national tour which neatly coincides with the release of a new single, Nothing Lasts Forever, from current album, State Of Emergency.

To that effect, it was arranged that we speak to Chris Cheney and when we chatted to him we discovered that the rockin’ trio was out in the west Texas town of El Paso.

“We’re just sitting in our bus by the side of the road,” he began with a laugh. “We don’t have a room to stay in, but at least we get to have a shower today.”

Have you seen the ghost of Marty Robbins in El Paso?

“No, no, we haven’t seen Marty’s ghost,” Chris said of the long-gone country songwriter who won a Grammy in the early ’60s for the song El Paso from his classic Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs LP. “We’ll keep a look out for him though.”

The trio were having a ball over in the US.

“Yeah, it’s been the best tour we’ve ever done over here,” Chris said. “The shows have all been really, really good and we’ve been playing really well. It’s been a real blast.”

The band just completed the US Warped Tour at which they gave an impromptu performance in a car park as the tour ended with Herbie, of the band Valient Thorr, also joining them.

“It was a big barbeque and we just played a whole load of Chuck Berry, Stray Cats and AC/DC songs,” Chris said. “When we first began playing, that was all we ever did – Chuck Berry and Stray Cats covers – so it was a real release to go back to all that. We just did cover songs to earn money to record our own material. But playing covers is a great way to learn how to write and then play your own songs.

“And the whole Warped Tour was great,” Chris then enthused. “We did four and a half weeks and it was great.

“The only problem was the heat,” he then sighed. “There’s a heatwave over here in the US and, honestly, I’ve never felt anything like it. It’s just so harsh. You step off the bus and it just hits you. So we were only doing half hour sets on the Warped Tour and that was enough. If we had played any longer we would have passed out. There’s a lot of sitting around so you tend to hit the grog.”

It seems like the bandm which scooped up heaps of trophies at the recent Jack Awards, have had a new lease of life with the release of State Of Emergency.

“It might seem like that to the general public, but to our fans – it’s not like that at all,” Chris said. “But I suppose with this album, more so than any of the others, we seem to have reached a whole new audience. And I don’t quite know why that is. But there seems to be a whole crowd of people coming to our shows who are seeing the band for the first time. There are lots of younger people coming along.

“And that’s also helped our confidence,” he then added. “We feel very rejuvinated and that’s probably coming across in our live shows.”

And how’s your drummer, Adelaide’s Andy Strachan travellin’?

“Oh, he’s goin’ alright,” Chris laughed. “Andy’s our resident coffee maker here on the bus because he used to work in a cafĂ© back in Adelaide so he knows what he’s doing.”

Once the trio have completed their Australian tour, they will be off to Japan.

“And then we go to Europe so it’s going to be pretty non-stop until the end of the year,” Chris announced. “But the reaction towards the new album has been so good that it’s a really great ride. It’s not like we’re trying to flog a dead horse with State Of Emergency.

“And we’re also touring the UK with [Boston’s] Dropkick Murphys and [Atlanta’s] Less Than Jake so that’ll be fun,” he added. “We know all those guys as friends. And we’re also playing in Ireland which’ll be fun because we’ve never played over there. We have some Irish fans so we can’t wait for that.”

Over the years the master guitarist has guested on few albums – notably with Kasey Chambers and Sarah McLeod – and Chris said it was something he quite enjoyed.

“It’s such a nice thing to do because it’s good stepping out of The Living End,” he considered. “When I played with The Wrights it was a real blast and sometimes I think it would have been nice to just be a guitar player and do things like that. And it’s great for your own playing to jam with other musicians.

“And one day I’d probably like to do a country album,” Chris then revealed. “I love country guitar – it’s one of my great loves and I also love bluegrass – and there’s a lot of songs I’ve written that’ll never end up on any TLE albums.”

Are you working on any new songs as a band?

“We’ve got a few ideas and there are also some songs left over that didn’t finish up on State Of Emergency,” Chris said. “But we tend to find that we always like to push ourselves and do something that’s fresh. So, apart from one or two, they may not ever surface.

“But it’s still only early days as far as the rest of the world is concerned for State Of Emergency,” he added as we wound up our conversation. “It’s only just been released in the US, so we’re now working on that. But we get on so well as a band – we all have the same crazy sense of humour – that it’s always a lot of fun.”

The Living End play The Shores Function Complex at West Beach on Sat Sep 9 and Sun Sep 10 with End Of Fashion and Red Riders.