The Living End

Author: Peter Hodgson

The music industry has changed. In some ways that sucks: bands don’t make money off recordings any more, audiences are fragmented, the album-as-art-form is under siege from the quick-hit single in a way we haven’t seen since the mid 60s. But in amongst the tumult are plenty of good things: bands are making themselves more accessible to fans than ever, they’re touring more, and they’re playing more unique and interesting venues. Case in point: the Twilight at Taronga and Melbourne Zoo Twilights concerts presented by ANZ. This year’s series has already featured the reunited george, Warpaint, Killing Heidi and Paul Dempsey, and next to take the stage are The Living End, with Dan Sultan and the String Sirens, supported by Gabriela Cohen.

“It’s such a different thing,” The Living End drummer Andy Strachan says. “I’ve never been to one of these shows but from all reports it’s amazing. Such a cool, chilled out vibe and a nice way to see rock’n’roll. We’re going to set the tone to fit into the environment a little more as well. We did a little photo shoot with some little llama-lookin’ things that were quite amazing. They were jumping all over us and being all affectionate and adorable. The zookeepers have the best job in the world. They seem to really love what they do and the animals seem really happy.”

So what kind of preparation goes into planning a show at a zoo? It’s gotta be different to a sweaty pub gig. “We’re gonna have elements of both, I think,” Strachan says. “The idea was to stretch ourselves a little bit and we’re going to do a bunch of stripped-back versions of songs. We have a couple of special guests. Dan Sultan is going to join us in Melbourne and we’ll have Josh Pyke and Jimmy Barnes in Sydney to jam with us. We’ve got a string section that’s going to join us for a few songs. It’s very, very different for us and a bit of a challenge, to be honest, but we’re really looking forward to it.”

From a logistical standpoint, Strachan will be playing a smaller kit: an 18” kick drum, a choked-up muffled snare drum with one cymbal and a pair of hot rods. “There’ll be acoustic guitars, and obviously Scotty’s bass is pretty much an acoustic instrument anyway, so we’ll be playing up that bluegrass kind of element. And I suppose that’s the challenge, at the end of the day: if it sounds good on an acoustic guitar and someone tapping along on their lap, when a song translates well in that way then it’s a good tune. But we really haven’t done this before. We’re just going to have as much fun as we can with it, and hopefully bring the house down.”

After these shows are in the rear view mirror, The Living End are hitting the road for an extended Australian regional tour. “We’ve got a bunch of shows coming up,” Strachan says. “We go straight into a regional tour to places that we haven’t been in seven or eight years. We’re going to Cairns, Geelong, Woollongong, places like that which we don’t often get to. We’re playing some proper rock’n’roll pub shows, and then a bunch of shows in Europe, a massive show in Hyde Park with Green Day, Rancid and a bunch of other bands and we’re very fortunate to be a part of that. Then we’re going to Spain, a festival in Canada and all sorts of places. And then I’m sure there’ll be another lap of Australia or maybe some festivals after that. There’s already talk of doing another record but when that happens, I’m not too sure. There’s still some fuel in the tank.”

As for the Zoo Twilights, the series continues with Kurt Vile, Tegan and Sara, Martha Wainwright and The Specials. All proceeds from the summer concert series go towards the zoo’s conservation work: Zoos Victoria have been fighting the extinction of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, playing a key role in the recovery of the species, increasing community awareness and building programs to reintroduce it to the wild.

The Living End

Author: Anna Rose

Taronga Zoo
Saturday March 4

“Let’s give thanks to the weather gods for making the rain stop,” cracked TheLiving End’s frontman Chris Cheney partway through his Taronga Zoo set. Indeed, an outdoors show in the middle of one the wettest weeks of the young year was never going to be the live experience the band’s fans are used to.

But it wasn’t just the weather that was altered: everything was different, from the venue to the audience demographic to the altered, family-friendly setlist. And yet did all that change serve a good show?

Smoke drowned the stage as the group kicked things off with ‘Moment In The Sun’, an ambient opener accompanied by a string quartet. But things soon got heavier as ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door’ merged into ‘Raise The Alarm’.

That said, Taronga Zoo quickly proved to be the wrong venue for a group of The Living End’s ilk. Only the most diehard of the band’s fans squashed themselves against the perimeter of the stage, forming an impromptu moshpit, while the rest of the audience remained huddled on picnic blankets.

The gig was uniformly too reserved, and the mood wasn’t exactly helped by a guest appearance from Josh Pyke. Joining The Living End for a couple of numbers, his music brought the tone of the show down immediately: only a few members of the crowd seemed to appreciate his presence, as smatterings of polite applause floated around as each song ended.

Though the nifty little bluegrass jam midset was impressive, it was one of the few moments in the evening where the bandr eally felt like themselves. Indeed, the energy only hit significant levels at the gig’s conclusion, when the End blasted through a Cold Chisel cover, ‘Rising Sun’, before closing with ‘Prisoner Of Society’. It was for those two songs that the middle-aged couples and their families shook off their hesitations to cheer and sing along, camping chairs be damned.

The Living End are a punk rock band, but at their Taronga Zoo show they seemed to brush closer to pop, meandering through a tame performance defined by a lack of the usual profanities and energy. Nonetheless, it was eventually an enjoyable show – but only by the final few songs.

Living Endlessly

Author: Natalie O’Driscoll

It’s a bit of a scramble when I’m put through for my The Living End interview, as due to some crossed wires I’m speaking with drummer Andy Strachan instead of bassist Scott Owen. Suddenly all my carefully prepared questions about Scott’s notorious double bass playing are useless. I try not to panic.

Fortunately, the laid back Andy takes it all in his stride.

“It’s all good,” he chuckles as I explain why I’m discombobulated. “We’ll make it work. I could probably answer some of those questions for him, anyway.”

So we chat about Scott’s double bass collection, and whether or not they need a bunch of Batman-style reinforcements due the bashing he gives them. They must, I’m sure.

“He’s got a lot, and they certainly do need to be hot-rodded,” says Andy.

“He’s got this guy in Melbourne who basically gets a bass and then rebuilds it for Scott. The bridges are all reinforced and stuffed with pillowy stuff to stop it feeding back.

“Essentially it’s an orchestral instrument being played in a loud rock n roll band, so they’re bastardised versions for sure.”

Andy is charming and down to earth as we shoot the breeze about the music industry and the craziness of 2016.

“It’s a real challenge to survive as a band or musician these days,” he says.

Of course many musicians didn’t survive last year, in a more literal sense. I wonder if any of them hit him particularly hard.

“They all did in their own little way,” he says.

“George Michael the other day – you just don’t expect it – he’s too young! Bowie was one of the ones that – you know in his genius he knew exactly what was going on and he’s having the last laugh watching the world.”

Back to living artists. The Living End have collaborated with a veritable who’s who of the Australian music industry, with Jimmy Barnes, Jet and Paul Kelly all working with one or more band members over the years. Andy has his own list of dream collaborators.

“We’d love to work with Josh Homme from QOTSA that’d be really fun. I love the way he creates. He’s obviously an incredible musician, and he doesn’t let the rules get in the way of a good song.

“Jack White would be really great. The energy he would bring, particularly with Chris’ guitar playing!

“I would do almost anything to get in a room with Neil Finn and do some work. Chris did a really great version of a Crowded House song. Neil Finn would be incredible.”

2016 saw The Living End release their seventh studio album, Shift. Peaking at No. 4 on the ARIA charts, Shift gave fans both a healthy dose of the driving rock that they expected, and also a slightly shifted (sorry!) perspective with some down-tempo tracks, pop melodies and even a full string section.

Introspective track Coma received critical praise, something Andy agrees with.

“I really like Coma, which is probably the most different track on the whole record.

“Then there’s Death, which that’s pretty ballsy and that was the song that sort of got the whole thing rolling, it felt like we really got a hold of something.”

The trio is bursting with energy following their long hiatus, and excited to be touring the new album. Andy mentions that his musical heroes all have one thing in common – that they’re having the best time doing what they do. I wonder if that is the key to The Living End’s reputation as one of the best live acts, ever.

“Absolutely,” states Andy.

“Every show to us – whether it’s for ten people or ten thousand – we get completely caught up in the whole thing. ‘Cause it’s a three piece band, there’s no room for anyone to be lazy. When it’s really locking it’s a pretty powerful experience.

“Still after all these years it’s the best job in the world.”