Walking The Black Cattle Dog

Author: Bob Gordon

The Living End’s Retrospective tour will open this week in Perth, dominating the Rosemount Hotel from Thursday. November 1, until Wednesday, November 7, as the band play a selected album each night in entirety with support along the way from Sons Of Rico, The Growl, The Novocaines and the Gyroscope DJs. BOB GORDON speaks with vocalist/guitarist, Chris Cheney.

Take a good look at the photograph on this page. That’s The Living End pictured recently in their rehearsal space, getting things together for their exhaustive Retrospective tour which will seem them setup stumps in each Australian city for a week playing the entirety of their six albums. That’s one busy room.

“It sure is,” echoes vocalist/guitarist, ChrisCheney. “That’s the shot with our sleeping bags at the side and it’s pretty much like that. We’re living and breathing the TLE catalogue. There’s worse things in life I suppose. I’m not sure what they are, but I’m sure there is.

“I’ve got 80 songs going around in my head at the moment. It’s all a bit overwhelming (laughs).”

In recent months Cheney and co. have been busy studying a course called The Living End 101. Cheney may have written the curriculum, but there’s still plenty to be learnt.

“There is,” he says. “It’s bringing back a lot of memories, learning all the songs. It’s one thing to relearn the music and relearn the arrangements – because some of them we haven’t played since a long time ago – but what we’re finding is that we’re always going, ‘remember that time when…?’

“That’s what music does, doesn’t it? It transports you to somewhere. That’s been a lot of fun.”

While the notion of tour undertaking complete setlists of the band’s albums, arrived as a whole notion to the public, the idea germinated as a more specific pursuit.

“It manifested from the triple j Hottest 100 Australian Albums Of All Time that they did,” Cheney recalls. “Our first record [1998’s self-titled LP] came number #4, which just completely blew us away. So we thought, ‘let’s acknowledge that and play a night at The Corner in Melbourne and play the whole album’ because it’d been so long since we played a lot of songs from that record and we’d never done the get-up-and-play an-album-thing before. Then we thought we’d do that in every state and it snowballed into thinking, ‘why not do a tour with all of our albums?’ because they’ve all been reasonably successful.

“We’re lucky that each album we’ve done has done really well. It’s been above and beyond what we’ve ever expected. We’ve managed to make a career out of this which we’re pretty proud of and we never expected we would. So we wondered if the want would be there and we could actually do that – play six consecutive nights in a city and fill the place. It’s looking like we are because it’s selling really, really well. I guess there’s different generations of people who got into different records.”

Looking back, it’s always seemed to be that The Living End could find new fans with new albums, something their good mates You Am I sadly haven’t been able to do.

“I know what you mean,” Cheney considers. “We’ve been very lucky like that, we’ve always had a couple of songs off each album that have gotten played on the radio, which has helped. It hasn’t just been an album put out with no singles off it. We’ve managed to get consistent, solid airplay which is nice, but we’ve also worked bloody hard.

“We’ve always tried to leave the stage and have people go, ‘fuck, that was great’. Not go, ‘that was a bit average, they’ve kind of gone off the boil’. We’ve always tried to make sure that we were relevant so I think once you’ve got a live reputation for yourself, you should uphold that with obviously putting out records that are relevant as well. So it’s a bit of luck and a bit of old-fashioned hard work, I guess.”

Of the shows, the band are performing seven nights in each city for their six albums, including two for first LP.

“The first record is like a seminal album for us,” Cheney notes. “I’m not ashamed to admit that; as much as I probably prefer other albums I can see why people hold it very close to their heart. It was of its time and it had an energy and enthusiasm and it just kind of exploded when it came out.

“So those nights have sold very well, but I think State Of Emergency and Roll On are doing well too. I think in each city there’s only a handful of tickets that are still available for certain nights. I couldn’t be happier with the reaction it’s had.”

While the notion of such an extensive exercise as the Retrospective tour could well lay the ground wide open for what happens next, Cheney is not daring to think into the great beyond.

“Not really, no,” he contemplates. “The other thing with a tour like this is that it could be absolutely disastrous. Retrospective tour… I guess it can sound daggy but I promise you but it’s not, the songs just sound slamming. It’s never a good idea to look back, it’s much better to look forward, but having said that we haven’t really looked beyond this tour now.

“We figure that if we get a bunch of songs that are worthy we’ll do it, but I’m in no real hurry at this point because it’s been a three-year cycle for so long, we’ve just done album/tour/album/tour/album/tour so I don’t care about disappearing for a little while, perhaps. But you never know, it could be the thing that ignites the inspiration again.”