No End In Sight
Author: Zoya Patel
Chris Cheney from THE LIVING END would be forgiven for being cocky. After over a decade in the industry as the frontman of one of Australia’s most loved bands, with several platinum albums under his belt and an ARIA for Best Rock Album to cap it all off, Cheney could probably spit into the phone and I’d still be grateful he’s even bothering to talk to me. Luckily, he’s not the spitting type, and instead seems genuinely chuffed when I mention I’m excited to be chatting to him. “Wow! Really?” he says, sounding surprised. “That’s nice to hear. I love the enthusiasm!”
With such a never-ending string of achievements, bagging a spot on triple j’s Hottest 100 Australian Albums of All Time might not be too exciting for Cheney. When I speak to him it’s a week before the final list is revealed, and The Living End’s self-titled debut from1998 is pegged for a spot in the Top 20 (at time of publication it has since been revealed that The Living End placed at number four on the esteemed list!).
Cheney seems, if anything, sheepish about the honour. “This is going to sound terrible, but I’m kind of embarrassed by that record. It’s a really popular record with people, and it was a product of its time, really,” Cheney admits, sounding almost guilty. “It sounds ridiculous to me, when I hear it now. It just sounds like three guys trying to play as fast as they can… like the whole record is on helium!”
There’s definitely a feeling of change in the air when it comes to The Living End, so it comes as no surprise that they might want to move on from their past successes in the hope of future glory. The band’s latest release, The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating is rife with themes of cycles and change, not least of all in the title itself. “The title for me just sums up the feeling throughout the record,” Cheney explains. Recording the album coincided with a particularly difficult time for Cheney, as his father was terminally ill, and unfortunately passed away not long after recording was wrapped up.
“I got to play him the record which I was really happy about, because he was always a really big fan of the band,” Cheney says. “So the idea of the album title for me was that I felt likeI was entering a new era in my life, a new phase. As much as Idon’t like change, and I don’t like things to end, it’s inevitable, and it’s part of life.”
The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating is about finding positives in change and acknowledging that things move on despite themselves. “I hope that in a negative thing, you can find something positive,” Cheney says. “For me, it was that [my Dad] wasn’t in the pain he was in anymore – that’s the positive I could find in a negative situation.” Not all of it is optimistic, though, and Cheney is the first to admit that there are definite trends of cynicism that run through the album, in particular through tracks like Resist that deal with the concept of not being able to fight anything, or change a situation. “I think I’m getting to a stage in life where things don’t always turn out for the best like they do when you’re a kid and everything seems to come up roses,” he laughs.
It’s about learning to make the best of everything life throws at you, though, and that’s certainly another key theme throughout the album. With such wisdom to impart, and such an obvious ease when it comes to playing live and dealing with the industry, I can’t help but think of Cheney as a sort of musical Yoda – he was there in the ‘90s, he saw what it was really like! (Yeah, I know, I’m ridiculously young. So sue me).
So, have things changed drastically since The Living End were first starting out? The band have played the ANU Bar about a million times, and are coming back on their upcoming tour to support the new album. Does it feel totally different each time? “University crowds have generally just been really out of control at most of our shows over the years, and that’s the best crowd to play to,” Cheney says. He diplomatically doesn’t mention the often terrible acoustics of the ANU Bar, instead just asking, “Is that the one with the really low ceiling? It’s a bit of a hot box!”
The tour promises to be a particularly good one, which is what we’ve come to expect from The Living End, who are renownedf or their excellent live shows. Cheney assures me that they won’t disappoint. “We’ve been rehearsing this last week, and the new songs sound great; they’re just enormous, and they work so well playing them live!” He enthuses. So, if it came down to it and he was forced to only play one Living End song live for the rest of eternity, which would Cheney choose to endlessly rock out to? “Oooh…,” he sighs. “Tough question… tell you what – it’d be West End Riot. It’s a good melting pot of influences. It’s a bit of a signature tune for us. It’s got all the elements of what we do in one song, and it’s a song that I look forward to playing live, because it just goes off every time. So if I had to pick one, I’d probably go with that one!”
Well played, Mr Cheney. Well played.