Almost halfway through their epic Retrospective Tour, The Living End began the Sydney leg looking match-fit and ready to set the Hi-Fi ablaze.
Openers Even were happy to acknowledge their role as the “support band” and were aware most punters had little interest in their set, but they made sure to pick songs that contained a lot of stomp and some pretty impressive guitar licks. With a history that stretches back even further than The Living End’s own 15-year career, the Melbourne guitar-pop trio delivered their tight rock and sweet harmonies and then got out of the way. A video montage put the 2008 release of White Noise into some historical context before The Living End launched straight into the opening moments of How Do We Know?. Considering how ubiquitous White Noise’s singles became it’s easy to dismiss this album as the band’s most commercial and therefore least fiery, but played back-to-back these songs highlight the ferocity that made the record so appealing in the first place.
Raise The Alarm and White Noise may have been the hit singles, but Make The Call and Loaded Gun (surely the band’s AC/DC moment) lit the crowd up with their savage riffs and Scott Owen’s powerful bass playing. At times the mix seemed to smother frontman Chris Cheney’s vocals, normally a strong part of the live show, but there was very little to fault otherwise.
The trio – Cheney, Owen and drummer Andy Strachan – were joined by Melbourne icon Adrian Lombardi to provide additional guitar at the back and were more subdued than usual in their stage antics. Owen’s feet stayed firmly planted on the stage and there was only one Cheney scissor kick, but this tour is a mammoth undertaking for any band let alone one whose entire catalogue is played at breakneck speed. Cheney did confess to drinking a chai latte onstage when a cheeky punter suggested he scull. But even without its normally showier aspects, The Living End live experience remains one of the best Australian rock’n’roll can produce.
Earlier this year The Living End hatched a plan to play their six albums start to finish in a series of weeklong engagements around the country. Double bassist Scott Owen tells Tom Hersey about the ins and outs of such an audacious idea.
“I don’t know where this idea actually came from!” The double bassist laughs about The Living End’s seven-nights-in-each-city tour. “No one in the band seems to want to take responsibility for making the initial suggestion to do an album a night over a week.”
Immersed in the thick of rehearsals for the tour, Scott Owen, The Living End’s affable double bassist, is growing to realise the magnitude of their decision to hit up the capital cities around Australia to play the band’s entire discography live over the course of a week. Owen sounds entirely cognisant of the fact that the tour is going to be a massive undertaking. So why exactly did the band take on such a mammoth assignment?
“We were thinking about what fans might want and we came across this idea that we should play the songs that we don’t usually play,” he explains. “Then we also had the idea ages ago to do a show where we would just play our first album or just play our last album, something where we’d just do an album start to finish, so we sort of combined the two ideas and then it just seemed to grow and grow into what it is now, where we’re just playing everything.”
With six albums spread out over a decade-and-a-half, playing everything is no easy feat. The average headlining tour might require a band to learn 14 or 15 songs; for The Living End this aptly-titled ‘The Retrospective Tour’ has required them to get just about 80 numbers fighting fit.
“We started rehearsing the stuff about a month before the first show, but leading up to that month it was pretty frightening, thinking, ‘Shit, how in the world are we going to learn all those songs?’” Owen laughs again. “Because we had to learn about eighty songs, and alot of them we’ve never played live, and a lot more we haven’t played live for years… We were all thinking how this was going to be a mammoth task. But then we got into the rehearsal room and it was a really enormous surprise to find out how much the information about those songs was still alive and kicking around the back of our brains. It all came back quite easily, and when it came back it brought with it a whole bunch of memories as well. So it’s been a really, really great experience going back over all of those records.”
The nostalgic ride accompanying this process of going back over all of their material has been incredibly rewarding for Owen and his bandmates, namely of course guitarist/vocalist Chris Cheney and drummer Andy Strachan. It’s even allowed the guys to gain a new appreciation for some of the numbers that were never their favourites.
“In the first week that we were rehearsing we were trying to tackle one album a day,” Owen continues. “And in that week it was just a barrage of memories – every day there was something completely new. And as we kept rehearsing there would be tons of memories coming to us on a daily basis and I think that the whole experience has sort of changed how we feel about a lot of the stuff on our records. We’ve always been a band that has our own favourites on a record. But now, even the stuff that wasn’ tour favourite when any given record came out, now there’s this novel factor about going back and revisiting them. That stuff is really enjoyable to play now with all this hindsight, and the songs don’t feel like the chore to play like they used to, because it’s all new again.”
Pouring over all of The Living End’s records, from 1998’s self-titled debut to last year’s The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, Owen has found himself discovering trends within the band. When asked about what specifically he’s noticed about the evolution of the trio’s music, he replies, “I guess what we’ve done with our music over the years is become a little bit more wise about writing, so the songs have gotten a bit simpler over the years.
“I know the songs on the first album are very simple, but then we kind of went on this mission after the first album to try and prove that we could play more complicated music and different styles and do different things with our songs. And that was our mentality for the next couple of albums, and then it feels on the last couple of albums we’ve started to rein ourselves back in again, and made the music more simple.”
In addition to all the work The Living End have had to do preparing for this upcoming run, ‘The RetrospectiveTour’ is made all the more interesting because it also represents a very unique situation for a touring band, giving fans a chance to vote with their wallets. Sure,there were tickets sold for the entire week of shows in each city, but fans also had the choice of only getting tickets to see the albums they wanted to. It seemed fairly courageous for The Living End to put themselves in a situation where they’d have their entire catalogue, directly, quantitatively, critiqued by fans.
“Yeah,” Owen chuckles, “it was really frightening putting tickets on sale for this tour. Because if not many tickets sold it would have been a pretty huge downer for us. Like, we were going to go to all the trouble of doing this tour and we could have found out that people didn’t actually give a shit. So we were really, really relieved and excited about the response that it’s had. Like in Melbourne what started off as seven shows is now twelve or something. Yeah, there are a couple of records where the tickets haven’t sold as well, and you can’t help but think, ‘Hey, what’s wrong with people? Didn’t they like that record?’ But overall we’re awfully chuffed about how people have been responding to the idea, it’s really been pretty flattering actually.”
As its namesake implies, this tour – from the inception of its idea, the long rehearsal process and then actually trekking around the country for each week-long engagement – has been a rare chance for introspection for The Living End, Owen even believing that it’s led to the band finding a deeper insight into themselves. But after all this looking back, has it led The Living End to look forward?
“None of us are sort of ready to hang up the boots and retire, I can still see us making music for years and years, and playing music for years and years, but we don’t really know what the future holds in terms of when the next album will be or anything like that. And I guess that’s another reason for this tour; there’s no better way to know how you want to move forward than all this friggen’ looking back!”
Author: Tony McMahon
Danni Carr, singer/songwriter with edgy country outfit Mr Cassidy, explains to Tony McMahon that timing was an important factor in releasing her band’s terrific new record, Mountain Side. “We’re pretty thrilled and excited about its release,” says Carr. “Initially we were going to record a full album but started running out of time. Scott Owen, our bass player (from The Living End) was preparing to leave for rehearsals before embarking on a mega-tour around Australia and we wanted something to be able to promote before we played at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January next year. My second baby is also due to arrive in March, so we thought let’s just get something out there and get some momentum happening.”
As far as what Queenslanders can expect from the band’s upcoming show, it seems there’ll be awesome supports, an onstage get together and a return trip.
“We’re playing with The Starboard Cannons at The Joynt, which we’re really looking forward to. We’ve done a number of shows with these guys and they’re amazing! We usually end up doing a few songs all together on stage, which is heaps of fun .We’re also aiming to get up to Brissy and Goldy for some shows around January after Tamworth.”
Mountain Side’s title track was, apparently, written over a bowl of muesli and recorded later that day. Carr takes us through the process.
“My hubby (Ash Grunwald) and I were sitting having breakfast one morning and he picked up my banjo and re-tuned it to an open G and started strumming this really cool riff. I started singing the chorus and we were really getting into it. We pretty much had the song finished before we got to the end of our muesli! We have a studio under our house so we thought, ‘Let’s just get down there and get it recorded; (a) before we forget it and; (b) before Ash takes off on tour again’.”
The Living End are a third of the way through their massive Retrospective Tour, in which they’re playing all six of their albums to sold out crowds in five cities. They were conducting final rehearsal when Muso’sGreg Phillips caught up with the band.
It couldn’t have been more straight forward. The original idea was to play their debut album in its entirety at a gig or two. But the more the band and management talked, the bigger the concept became. All six albums, all cities and let’s take a swag of support bands along for the ride. Th e Living End’s Th e Retrospective Tour has become one of the most successful Australian tours by a local band, ever. As gig after gig sold out, the band were hunkered down at Melbourne’s Deluxe Studios bringing to life the 80 or so songs from their back catalogue. Again, it would have been much simpler to take one set of standard TLE gear out to nail these songs, but that’s not The Living End’s way. “We want to try to play the albums as true as possible,” said bass player Scott Owen. Guitarist and TLE main man Chris Cheney agrees. “When there are 80 songs to learn, we don’t want there to be 80 songs with the same guitar tone for every single tune.” Such fastidiousness comes at a price though. Not only did they have to go back and learn the back catalogue, they also had to try to recall what gear was used on each track. “We’ve been like, ‘I can’t remember what delay that was, put the record on!’ So we’d tweak it and try to match it.”
Chris has dusted down some old guitars for the tour and is keen to give them some stage time to help emulate the original album tones. “I have an old 1962 Double Anniversary Gretsch which is just beautiful. It’s kind of like an old car, when it’s up and running. It’s nice but it takes a little bit to get going and doesn’t really compete that well with my newer Gretschs. I’m dialing in a few little sounds here and there on my effects board but otherwise it is still pretty bare bones. It’s still a basic rock n roll foundation and not many effects… a lot of delays! Scott is also excited to be hearing Chris rip out some classic Living End riff s. “It’s awesome to hear all of that stuff again,” he said. “Chris is being fucking shy, he’s rather meticulous about his effects and getting them all perfect like they are on the record.”
Their gear has actually changed over the years, as they discovered during rehearsals. “I was looking at a photo of Scott and I and our first drummer playing at the Yarraville Hotel back in about 1993,” recalls Chris. “I had two Fender Twins behind me, a Tube Screamer and a digital delay pedal, which I used to adjust the increments on as I went. Now I have this pedalboard in front of me which basically has a whole lot of buttons on it which are like patches, which then go back through like a brain, which then engages certain pedals and delays and it is very convoluted. Basically, now I am running like a C3PO-like Millenium Falcon pedalboard! We started out with a direct line in, maybe a delay pedal, Chuck Berry style and it’s kind of gone more U2 as we have gone along. I’m [pretty] strict in getting the delays right. Some of the songs depend on that. My biggest thing is that I can’t remember half the shit that I was playing with on those earlier records. We’ve got an extra guitar player now, Adrian Lombardi, so I not only have to learn what I used to play, but I have to learn the overdubs too. He’ll be like, ‘How are you playing that bit?’ and I’m like, ‘Dude, I don’t know… I’m just trying to figure out my own bit.’ Adrian has been our touring rhythm guitar player now for almost two years.”
It’s not just Chris and his original guitar tones which needed to be recreated. The same issues befell bassist Scott and to a lesser degree drummer Andy Strachan. Often it took a flick through photo albums to find clues as to what gear they were using at any given time. “Those old photos that I found, you had three milk crates and you had that cube on top, another little speaker on top of that then a tweeter thing,” Cheney recalls of Scott’s bass rig. “It looked like a little robot. That was like ‘93, ‘94, we were just out of school and you went through a lot of pickups.”
Like most musicians, Scott has always been on the quest for a perfect stage sound but for someone who plays a double bass, it’s never been easy. “It always been a major thorn in my side, playing an instrument in a manner it wasn’t supposed to be played,” said Scott. “Then getting it to be amplified and sound like a quality instrument on a rock‘n’roll stage, is a real mission. I’m always getting closer and closer to what I’m seeing in my mind. It’s hard. It’s not like going into a guitar shop and saying, ‘I’ll have that sound’. It’s something that I have to make up. I went through all these weird and wacky ideas of getting the pickup inside the bass, mounting pickups inside them in which case you need to cut a hole in the bass to get in there. There’s been one luthier who has tended to my every whim with [the] double bass over all the years I have played, Ben Puglisi, and I appreciate him so much. Even when I have ideas like, ‘Why not cut a hole in this section? He’s gone, ‘Man, you are going to regret that so much one day… I’ll do it for you just to appease your curiosity but you’re going to fucking regret it, I swear to God.’ A year later I’d bring it in and ask him to patch that hole up but yes, it’s been an endless search.”
For Cheney, the quest for the perfect sound is part and parcel of what being in a rock band is all about. “You’ve got to search for those things because there wasn’t a template for what we were trying to do at that early point,” he said. “There’s parts of us that wanted to be this but also a modern rock band, not a traditional rockabilly band – we want to be able to play at volume. I’ve got extra struts in my guitars from trying to play at high volume… extra things that I have put into my guitars over the years to try to handle the fact that we’re this rockabilly band that wants to be Th e Who!”
Looking back, Andy Strachan believes he has gone smaller and quieter with his drum kit. “My drum tech and front of house guys over the years have said to me, ‘You don’t need cymbals that make your eyes bleed’, but that’s what I thought back then,” he said. “On the Big Day Out stage or whatever, I thought you needed cymbals that were louder then amps. You don’t. That’s what microphones are for, so that’s the only lesson I have really learnt. Other than that, I try to get new drums to sound like vintage drums. They’re all thin shells, mahogany and maple. It’s a Pearl Masterworks kit. Masterworks is apparently like … whatever you want. Their idea is that they’ll build you whatever you need. To that degree, they’re right on the money and will pretty much do whatever you want. Instead of having 8 ply maple and 3 ply birch, I go for 4 plys of mahogany with maple blue rings and that’s as close as I have found to a vintage drum kit. I try to make them sound as old as possible. The cymbals are a big thing I learnt. They’re thin and quieter cymbals and actually sound a lot better, especially when you have the vocal mic open, like a Z Custom is just going to bleed all over the stage and ruin the front of house guy’s day. That’s where it all stemmed from, the front of house guy and drum tech saying that it doesn’t have to be that loud. Th e snare drum either; you can play quietly and let the mics do the work. With the cymbals, Zildjian K Hybrid Crashes is what I have been playing, quite thin but 18s and 19s, 21” sweet ride which is what I have been playing for five or six years now; and a pair of 15” Hybrid hats, K Lights so they are quite thin – way quieter than they used to be. I used to play all Z Customs and A Projections, cymbals which tore your ears apart.” As the beers chugged down and the memories become more vivid, the guys revelled in stories about how the band has given them the opportunity to meet some of their musical heroes, and how bizarre it has been that some of them such as Richard Clapton, Brad Shepherd, Daryl Braithwaite, and Neil Finn bother to come backstage or even compliment them on their music. After all these years and a new record breaking tour, it seems Th e Living End deep down are basically just music fans. “It’s why we’re here,” said Chris. “It’s gotta be why we’re here: a) because we are patient, b) because we are ambitious motherfuckers and c) because we are music lovers. We still get along. We have been through everything a band could possibly go through. We’ve been through drug issues, girlfriend issues, issues where I don’t want to see you or be around you, musical direction issues. We’ve been through everything like that and we are still around. A lot of bands don’t have that patience. We’ve always felt that we can go on and do something a little better.” Andy’s eyes light up too and chips in. “There was a moment a couple of weeks ago and we were playing How Do We Know and it felt fantastic. The whole rehearsal went for about five hours playing together and going, ‘Yeah, that was fine’. Then there was this magic moment where, even after all this time… we have played that song a thousand times but it just felt so exciting and so good. That’s what it is all about… those moments.” “It’s not about the accolades or how many payers or much merch we sold,” Chris says in summary. “It’s really about, ‘Shit that felt good when we played’. You hope that never leaves you.”
Not even Chris Cheney and Scott Owen, the founding fathers of The Living End, could have foreseen the journey their little band would undertake. They formed the group in a Melbourne high school, and got their big break supporting Green Day on their 1996 tour, before releasing their breakthrough double A-side ‘Second Solution’/’Prisoner Of Society’. When they appeared in the mid-‘90s, grunge was slowly suiciding, and rockabilly hardly looked set to take its place. But The Living End had far more than catchy hooks and punk-infused rockabilly up their sleeve; masterful musicianship and a killer stage show cemented their place in the Australian rock landscape. What followed was three number one albums, six ARIA awards, and a whole lot of fans.
After close to 20 years in the game, the band are embarking on The Retrospective Tour, which will see them in Sydney playing all six studio albums in full over seven nights (the self-titled debut will be played twice). “Because of the nature of this tour, there’s a hell of a lot of rehearsing to do,” bassist Scott Owen says, as he takes a moment out from the rehearsal studio. “There are a lot of songs off our records that we haven’t played live for years, and some we’ve never, ever played live. We had to put about a month aside to dust out the cobwebs and try and get the memory banks working again and physically relearn all of those songs. Rehearsal has never been such a huge part of a tour as with this upcoming tour. We really wanna do all those old albums justice; we don’t wanna just get up only half knowing what we’re doing.”
The rehearsal process hasn’t just been a technical venture; as the band have revisited every song from every album, the memories have come flowing thick and fast. “It’s been an enormous trip down memory lane and actually a really pleasurable experience,” he says. “The songs eventually do come back – the memory of how to play them – but with that comes all the memories of where we were when we recorded them or toured them, or when they were written.”
By all accounts this is a mammoth undertaking, but The Living End have never done things by halves. Owen laughs when asked whose idea this actually was. “No one’ll actually take responsibility for this idea. Everyone’s blaming each other,” he chuckles. “It started off like, ‘Let’s go out and play the first album’ – it started off like that and then it grew into this monster of an idea that no one really remembers who came up with… Before we started rehearsing it was quite frightening, because [there was] no way of knowing if we’d be able to learn all of these songs. We started thinking it was a stupid idea and why the hell were we doing it, but as soon as we got into the room and started playing, it was surprising how much muscle memory kicks in. All those songs are buried way back there somewhere.”
While Owens is proud of all that his band has achieved, the preparation for this tour has given them some time to reflect on the music they’ve created – and occasionally question their artistic motivations. “Roll On, our second album, particularly brought that up,” he says. “The first album had songs that we’d had for years and worked on a lot live, and then when it came out we toured heaps – and as soon as we finished touring we went straight back into the studio to make another album. We had this point to prove. Everyone thought we were this three-chordpunk-and-rockabilly novelty act, so we had this bee in our bonnet: we wanted to prove we could actually play our instruments, and that we were into all of these different styles of music. So we recorded this monster of an album that had a ridiculous amount of parts in every song, and the whole thing was just such a marathon that now that we’re playing it again there are moments we look at each other like, ‘What the hell were we thinking?
“But ya know, all the records have their place in time, and we believed in them all when they were coming out. Because we’re not the sort of guys to sit down and listen to our albums – don’t look back, just look forward kind of thing – the one unforseen circumstance with this is that I’ve been able to go, ‘You know what? I actually really like this band.’ That’s a pretty cool experience to have this far down the track.” The tour makes sense given the mammoth career these lads have had, but fans could be forgiven for thinking that this could be some sort of farewell; there’s certainly a feeling of finality to a retrospective tour. And even Owens isn’t entirely sure whether that’s the case. “It sort of does have that feel to it,” he says. “To be perfectly honest we just don’t know. I could see us playing music until we’re really old men, but you never know what the future holds. We don’t have any plans to stop soon, but we don’t have any plans for the next thing at all either. We’ll see what happens. I guess I don’t know how to answer that, apart from [saying that] we don’t have plans to split up, and we don’t know what the future holds.”
When Bryget Chrisfield joins frontman Chris Cheney, double bassist Scott Owen and drummer Andy Strachan on the eve of their current, marathon Retrospective Tour, she learns the band originally planned to call it, “The Living End – Tears Of Joy, Waves Of Emotion”.
“Oh look, I’m gonna come straight out and say this,” The Living End’s frontman Chris Cheney pauses for effect while his bandmates clutch their beers in anticipation. “I’m expecting tears.” Drummer Andy Strachan exhales, “Oh, that’s so much better than I thought it was gonna be.” Cheney is referring to how he expects the crowd to react during The Living End’s current Retrospective tour, which sees the trio play all six albums, back to back, over 39 dates nationwide. “I’m expecting tears of joy, waves of emotion. That was what we were gonna call the tour: ‘The Living End – Tears Of Joy, Waves Of Emotion’. Then we went, ‘Er, maybe just Retrospective.’” Sadly, they’ve already printed out the T-shirts, so this slogan won’t be emblazoned across them, but Cheney has a light-bulb moment: “We might get some hankies made up, though. As you walk in you get a hankie.”
Once double bassist Scott Owen gets involved, it’s an in-jokefest. “What are we saying?” Cheney observes. “We spend too much time together, clearly! Well we were gonna have a day off today and not see each other, but here we are back at the pub, two pots in.” Owen disagrees with the picture Cheney is painting of their band as boozehounds: “No, we haven’t been going to the pub! We used to go to the pub every day for lunch, but we haven’t been to the pub at all. We went to the pub once two days ago out of the whole month [of rehearsals], so we’re like boy scouts.” Does this boy scout-like behaviour include working out to get match-fit for the tour? Owen stresses: “Yep. Fuck, yeah!” Cheney chuckles, “As he rolls a cigarette.” Owen defends: “Yeah, I’ve been riding my bike to rehearsal everyday.” “Andy, you’ve been doin’ a bit of Zumba,” Cheney teases. “Mind you, we do six-hour rehearsal days. That’s one of the things in the back of our mind is the stamina and the endurance, ‘cause seven nights is a lot – and different sets – so it’s gonna be brain-strain as much as anything else.” Owen directs the spotlight back Strachan’s way: “Andy spends hours running away from screaming women every day.” Cheney chuckles and continues on this theme, “He’s all four of The Fab Four in one!”
On the reasons behind tackling this beast of a tour, Cheney ponders, “I think it was just basically trying to do something that was gonna cause some kind of controversy, that it was actually gonna be a talking point, like, ‘Wow, are they really gonna be able to do that?’ We were the first ones to ask the question, you know, ‘It’s such a challenge, let’s just throw ourselves into it. What’s the worst that can happen?’” And how many songs across their six albums would they anticipate have never been played live before? “There’d be at least – half would you say?” Owen estimates. Cheney counters, “It’d be a bit more. I’d say, like, fifty. I mean, I think we’ve had to learn seventy-nine [songs] in total – not had to learn, but that we’ve been rehearsing. That is the catalogue: seventy-nine or eighty or something.”
“Let’s call it eighty,” Owen interjects before Cheney continues, “And of that I reckon over the past few years we’ve fallen into the trap of kind of playing maybe eighteen or ninetween or twenty of those; let’s say twenty.” Owen turns to Strachan: “So that leaves – you do the maths.” The drummer confesses, “Yeah, I’m not very good at maths.” Cheney: “[There are] quite a lot that we haven’t played very often. Some songs like Putting You Down and things like that, which we’ve never played live, you know: you write them, you rehearse them, you record them, you mix them and then that’s it! You never sort of go back to it, so there’s a few of those.” Revisiting these during the rehearsal period brought certain songs into focus that Owen labels “real tough customers”. “There’s one called Nowhere Town that’s been probably the biggest tough customer, hasn’t it?” Strachan concurs: “Yep, absolutely.” Owen muses, “Why the hell we’d have such a difficult song to play and then, three-quarters of the way through the song, go, ‘Let’s put a key change in! Just so we have to learn it in another position as well.’ But actually, it’s great – it’s a really fun song.”
Cheney offers: “You know what? I think it’s one thing to book a tour like this and just play all those songs, but we didn’t wanna bluff our way through and just sort of play it; we wanna actually [punches the table to emphasise each word] nail every single song. That’s where the nerves kinda crept in for me, it was like, ‘Holy shit! I don’t wanna just play track five and kind of get through it.’ We wanna slam it – every single album, every song – which is just an enormous amount of work, because you’ve gotta know the songs backwards and really do it properly. ‘Cause, you know, we‘ve built up this reputation as a live band that, ninety per cent of the time, has a pretty good show – just because we’re anal like that. So it’s like, ‘This could be our undoing if we don’t pull it off.’ [laughs] So we don’t want that to be the case. Each album that we do, there’s gonna be a handful of people in the audience who, you know, whatever track number seven is – that’s their favourite song,” Owen explains, “and that’s gonna be thehighlight of their night. So I wanna make sure we’re not just bluffing our way through [those songs], we wanna actually do them all justice so all those pockets of people are happy.”
“People that were, like, fifteen when our first record came out,” Cheney points out, “by the time the latest one came out, like,some of them might even have their own children – it’s quite bizarre. So there’s gonna be all different generations of people: People that got into State Of Emergency might have hated our first record. And then we’ve been lucky enough that we’ve got all these different generations of people [who] get into our records.” Babysitters will be in high demand, then. “We should have a crèche,” Owen jokingly suggests. “We’re doing our under-18 gig on the last day: we’re doing two shows,” Cheney explains, surprising Strachan: “On the last day!? Really? We’re gonna be so tired.”
Melbourne rockers The Living End are about to attempt one of Australian music’s biggest undertakings: playing seven nights in a row in each capital city, playing a different Living End album in its entirety each night. Frontman Chris Cheney talks more about the upcoming tour.
Considering there are six cracking Living End albums (including their barnstorming self-titled 1998 debut, which the band will play twice at each stop), the tour has to be The Living End’s biggest of this magnitude. “I think it kind of is!” Cheney agrees. “What I’m finding is that it is a different sort of workload. It’s one thing to say we’re going to go out on tour and take pyrotechnics, back-up dancers and singers – not that we’ve ever had that – but that’s on a different scale. This is grand on a whole other level; having to learn 80 songs and the fact that we’re playing seven nights in a row. It’s enormous, but there’s something enormously exciting about it for us.”
It must be great to have so much love from the fans to support this concept? “We’re still a little way out but the whole tour has sold incredibly well. There are some nights that have sold better than others and the initial idea was to celebrate our first record. Then the idea came along to do all our records, but then we wondered if anyone would come to the State Of Emergency or Modern Artillery nights. We thought they probably would as each album has done well on its merit. with successful radio singles off each album. The tour has sold really well and different generations of fans were around for different albums, which is an amazing thing the way it is unfolding.”
Cheney laughs when it’s suggested he might go spare spending a week in Adelaide. “I don’t think I’ve ever spent a week in Adelaide but I’m looking forward to it. I know you guys cop a bit of stick down there but I’ve always been very partial to playing in Adelaide. Ever since we were first out of high school we played little gigs there and we’ve always gone down well there. Having a South Australian in the band [Andy Strachan, drums], it has always been one of those consistent places for us. It sounds like I’m trying to sell it, but I can assure you I’m not – I’m legit and Adelaide is a special place for the band.”
Are you planning to get out and about or sit back and count the cash? “Counting the cash shouldn’t take too long! Andy has friends and relatives there and I have a lot of friends and relatives there too so it will be nice to go out and see them. Normally it is a quick beer after the show and keep moving.”
Where do you go after a tour of this size – will it be hard to reel it back in next time? “We haven’t put a great deal of thought into it as it has been such a massive exercise already. This tour takes us right up to Christmas and then we’ll do our own thing before regrouping at some point. I can’t see any reason why we wouldn’t make another album. I can see how it may smell like a final lap around the country, but this is something we’ve felt like doing and the right time to do it now. After the last album I didn’t feel like there was any lack of ideas and there is the hunger to do another – [it’s] not the notion we better do another album. I feel we’re still on the same path and have a point to prove with each album.”
Will there be a live recording or DVD release to commemorate this tour? “As far as I know we’re going to try and document the whole thing. We’re going to film and record it like we have done in the past but we’ve never wanted to approve it, as the three of us cringe our way through an entire set and say, ‘Nah, fuck it – put in on the shelf. I can’t handle listening to this!'”
Is there a possibility of The Living End frontman Chris Cheney releasing a solo project in the coming years? “I’d very much like to think so. I have a heap of tunes lying around and a lot of ideas. This band is all-consuming and so full-on that it is hard to think about other things. It has been in the back of my mind for a while now and having done things like [He Will Have His Way’s Crowded House cover] Distant Sun and The Wrights was a good diversion I suppose. I’m not ruling it out!”
The Growl / Gryoscope DJs Rosemount Hotel Sunday, November 4, 2012
Despite the awful weather, The Rosemount was packed out from the get-go on Sunday night, gig-goers abuzz with anticipation, huddling near the heaters with a brew before the doors opened. A passer-by would hear snippets of excited conversation: punters sharing their favourite songs, albums, and live moments from one of the bands that defined a generation of rockers.
Gryoscope DJs kicked things off and got the crowd’s blood pumping with a set – an odd choice for DJs, but it worked. They pulled out all the Aussie rock classics, from Chisel to ACDC to more Chisel, and the crowd loved it.
The Growl fronted up next, taking to the stage with little ado. Though the six-piece have the ability to pull a massive crowd at their headline shows, it wasn’t exactly their kind of crowd on Sunday night, and it took a while to get everyone warmed up. Nonetheless, the group put on a stellar set, showing off their new material as well as the old dirty blues songs that put them on the radar.
The main event began a little differently than anticipated, with a short video depicting some of the main events in Australia in the early 2000s, some footage of The Living End recording and performing Roll On, plus the story of Cheney’s car accident in 2001, and their consequent break. It was a perfect opener, a reminder of what we were all there for – an album that, while sometimes overlooked, can hold its own in the back catalogue of The Living End.
The band bounded on stage to the roars of what sounded like thousands of people (but in reality, was a few hundred), and launched straight into Roll On, the crowd echoing the chorus, the band in fine form. The trio kicked off their Retrospective Tour in Perth, so this gig was their first time playing the Roll On album live all the way through – and they absolutely smashed it. Each and every song was tight, Chris Cheney killing the solos, Scott Owen making sweet musical love to the bass, and Andy Strachan gettin’ all sweaty behind the kit – they may have aged a little since they first wrote the record, and according to Cheney they “don’t smoke anymore,” but they still rock, hard. Carry Me Home and Silent Victory were particular standouts.
The camaraderie amongst those on the ground and onstage was magnificent. It’s tough to find a crowd where every single person is there for the band, no dickheads or haters allowed – but this was it, and the band knew it. Cheney and Owen bantered with the rowdy crowd like they were trading insults at a bar with old mates, and that’s part of The Living End appeal – no wanky-ness allowed. The trio finished on a song that, as Cheney shouted: “We never ever play,” – Uncle Harry – and the crowd completely lost it. It’s quite an experience to be part of a few-hundred-people strong crowd screaming ‘pissing in the bath’ with such fervour. To the guys and gals who dyed their hair red, to the dudes in the flat caps, to those who gelled their hair into Cheney-spikes and mohawks, to the punters dedicated enough to wear the signature studded armband, to those who bought four t-shirts and wore them proudly – you fucking rule. Roll on.