Prisoner Of Australia

Author: Simon Topper

Considering The Living End’s series of sold-out shows across Australia late last year – playing not one, but each of their six studio albums in full – plus ongoing commitments to tours, festivals and a Melbourne recording studio, you’d be forgiven for not realising that frontman Chris Cheney and his family are now permanent residents of the USA. They relocated to Los Angeles over a year ago, with Cheney planning to try his hand at the role of Collaborator For Hire.

“I love being in the band, and The Living End has been the major part of my life,” he says. “But I especially enjoy the songwriting. After the past few years, it’s been more of a hobby for me. I was in New York in 2010 to write our last record and I loved it, so I thought why not come back for a couple of years and play guitar on different records and collaborate with different people?”

Most recently, he’s been talking with John Feldmann, who’s best known for fronting punk/ska band Goldfinger, now a producer working with acts ranging from The Used to Kelis. “He’s working with a band called Black Veil Bride. Now, it’s not particularly the kind of music that I’m really into, but it’s a different project, so I wrote something that I thought might appeal to them, and they’ve recorded that, and it’s ended up on their album,” Cheney says. “There’s been a lot of people who are aware of The Living End, and they’re kind of fans I suppose, so it’s been a way to put myself out of the zone of what The Living End does, because I like all different styles of music.”

So there have been a few interesting opportunities already – and there’d probably be even more, if Australia could just stop inviting him back so much. At the time we speak, Cheney has just arrived in L.A. after a month here, and before he’s even had a chance to catch up properly with his family, he’s on the phone to Australia again. “I was just back doing a couple of different things – TLE were recording for a Hunters & Collectors tribute they’re putting together,” he says. “Not sure if I’ve let the cat out of the bag on that one, but there you go. And I was producing a band in a studio I own in Collingwood … We moved over here in November 2011, and then I was back for a couple of months for Big Day Out, and then back for a couple of festivals and things like that, then back for three months for Christmas and the Retrospective shows, and now I’ve got to come back again in a month for Stone Music Fest. I just like to travel on planes!”

Playing high up the Stone Music Festival bill alongside names like Van Halen, Jimmy Barnes and Kings Of Chaos (featuring members of Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard and Deep Purple) must suggest to Cheney that The Living End has stepped into the world of rock veterans. “Well, it’s not something you really think about, until someone actually says it to you. When I think of a veteran, I think of an RSL tour, and we’re not quite in that age bracket yet,” he laughs. “I suppose we have been around for a while if you look back to the first album in ’98 or whenever, and it is an odd point that you reach and people start looking back, more so than thinking of you as the next big thing.”

“I remember when that first album came out,” he goes on. “There was that great hype and you think it’s going to last, and of course it never does, but I’m glad we’ve had almost two peaks in our career, with the first record, and then with White Noise. That was a huge thing for us, we went back and played stadiums and arenas which we never thought we’d do once, let alone twice. So to some people, it must seem like we’ve been around for some time now.” In terms of their Stone Music set, Cheney says that one of the best aspects of the recent Retrospective tour was the rediscovery of older songs that had dropped off the setlist over the years. “You do get to a point where there are tunes you’re more comfortable and familiar with, and obviously the ones on the radio always get the better reaction,” he says. “So you tend to stick to your comfort zone, which for a band can be a very dangerous thing to do. There’s a lot of aspects to what this band does, and we pride ourselves on the fact that we’re musicians, and we aspire to be a musician’s kind of band, and there are certain songs that may not have got a lot of radio play, but when we play them live, that’s the best moment in the set. So I haven’t thought about what the set’s going to be yet, but we just don’t want to play it safe. This band’s played it safe for a while.”