Tasmania Goes Into A State Of Emergency With The Living End
They’re all over your TV, on your radio, and now in SAUCE. Bassist Scott Owen gave us a Tasmanian exclusive in the lead-up to their gigs down here.
It’s been noted that the recording process for “State Of Emergency” was quite stressful. Can you explain why that was and how the making of this album differed to its predecessor “Modern Artillery”? What pressures does a band experience when they commence work on a new album? Recording is always stressful for many different reasons, the concurrent one being that we always stress that we are getting the best ideas down tape in the time we have and not leaving stones un-turned. This is a pressure we put on ourselves. Time is always a stress for us too. For some reason no matter how much time we allocate ourselves we always seem to be rushing at the end and having to go overtime which is not a good thing for a clear head when trying to assess what we have done and gather some perspective near the end of it.
Why did you choose to work with Nick Launay (Midnight Oil, Silverchair, Nick Cave) as producer this time around? We used Nick on “Roll On” and he proved to be a big asset on that album, especially in the sounds he was able to get using pretty traditional recording techniques. In the studio he has a way, I think, of getting the most out of a band playing together rather than layering the rhythm tracks too much which I felt was a mistake we made on “Modern Artillery”. He also has a well of ideas when it comes to song arranging, which we need because we have millions of ideas on this and he was able to hear out and filter a lot of the ideas flying around the room when it becomes confusing. On top of that his experience making all styles of music is valuable and his energy and enthusiasm in the studio rarely slows.
The “All States Of Emergency” tour is your largest national tour to date and incorporates some towns you’ve never performed in before. What’s it like playing to a new regional audience and how do these shows differ from major city gigs? I always find that regional audiences are much more enthusiastic than city audiences with the exception of our hometown, Melbourne. I think the fact that regional audiences aren’t spoilt with an option for many gigs and venues means that when gigs happen in those areas there is more excitement and it becomes more of an event. I love doing these long tours because you really fall into a habit of playing every night that builds up your own energy the longer it goes on and by playing every night we become more and more tuned.
You’re a band that seems to cater well for the all-ages market, how important is the all-ages audience to you? Over the years we’ve continued to appeal to young people so it is very important that we do gigs for them too. I think it great for a young audience to get an affinity with live music in this day and age where it is easy to be entertained without going out and being social.
How do you keep the pace up? What do you guys do on the road to maintain the high energy levels required for your dynamic and demanding performances? Nothing specific really. I guess our philosophy is that we really do want to put on a great show every night so that means whatever you during the day can’t be anything that will put the gig in jeopardy so we TRY and do whatever we can to look after ourselves.
What’s your fondest memory of Launceston? I remember a long time ago when we did a tour supporting Jebediah and we played at the Saloon Bar. It was really packed to the brim and everyone was jumping up and down so much that they created a giant hole in the floor. The security put a giant wooden box over the hole so no one fell in it and everyone spent the rest of the gig stage diving off it. It was one of the wildest things I have ever seen.
The Living End play Launceston’s Albert Hall on the 15th September & Hobart’s City Hall on the 16th of September.
With their last album, The Living End figured near enough was good enough. This time, they set the level they wanted to achieve and wouldn’t accept anything less.
“You can always improve, and I thought with the last album the songs were there, but perhaps it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been,” muses The Living End’s vocalist and guitarist Chris Cheney. “So this time it was a case of trying to write much better songs and really get something special. Get a mood for each song and get each song to really carry itself properly, which I think we did. I think we nailed it in a way that we hadn’t done before, and it’s just because we were relentless about it.”
One of the things that jumps out about their new album State of Emergency is the strong sense of melody. It’s something that’s always been present with The Living End but it’s even more so with the stirring lines on the likes of Nothing Lasts Forever and Order of the Day. “I always search for that ‘chill factor’, I call it. When you hear a song and you get that chill from it or that spine tingling moment,” Cheney explains.
“Bands like Radiohead are masters of doing it in those special moments in a song, and for me, quite often that comes in a melodic sense over anything else, over a sonic or arrangement sense. To me it comes down to just maybe the way a chord moves up from another chord and the melodies over the top, and it’s just putting it in the right order so you get that kind of rush from it. I spent a lot of time on that with this album, just making sure the songs were as hard hitting as they could be. If it’s going to hit you in the heart then it really comes and gets you.
“I’m just a fan of really well crafted pop songs, I suppose, whether it’s the Beatles or Burt Bacharach or whatever, and I think it’s a real art, and I’ve been trying to improve on that. I think certain people are born with it; very few I reckon. A lot of people probably sit down and do draft after draft of a song and just write thousands of songs until you get to the point where you start to know what’s going to work and what isn’t. I felt that I got to a point with this album where I could do that a lot easier.”
This melody could arise from the fact that the songs are written first on an acoustic guitar. This is something the band has always done, which is surprising considering they’re known for mostly being the rock band that they are. “It’s kind of weird for us. We’re known for being more a live band I suppose than a band on record, which is what we wanted to turn around with this album, but all our songs are born that way. You can play any of our songs on an acoustic guitar and I think they sound good because they’re written from that point of view,” Cheney says.
“It’s like with all the fast songs and all the fancy guitar playing, it’s all irrelevant. People always ask about it, but to me if you don’t have a song, if you can’t put two chords together and a nice melody and hit someone in a way that brute force doesn’t, like the physical thing about a gig, if you can hit them in another way, it’s so much more important. That’s probably been our weakness, even though we’ve had melodic songs. I want to write songs that stand up to The Police and U2 and stuff like that, which is kind of weird coming from our background because we started out as a rockabilly band where it’s not really about the songwriting prowess, it’s about the energy.”
This energy was the first thing on display from the album when they released the first single What’s On Your Radio. But for those touting a return to the old style Living End with this new album, one will find an album that’s very diverse. There are traditional Living End belters such as the aforementioned What’s On Your Radio or We Want More, to poppier numbers such as Nothing Lasts Forever. Whatever they turn their hand to though, it sounds like The Living End. It seems with State of Emergency, the band has found a style that is all their own.
“We kind of chose that because I think we needed to come out with something that showed the energy of the band and re-establish ourselves as a high energy act,” Cheney says of releasing What’s On Your Radio. “But it was a difficult decision as well because I’m more proud probably of some of the slower songs on this album, and that comes more from a songwriting point of view, and you want to show that to people, but at the same time we didn’t really want to confuse the issue at first and I think we’re always going to be that high energy kind of band. I can’t see us going too mellow in any sense, but at the same time I’m really proud of some of the slower songs on the album. I think they’re single worthy and equal contenders, and that’s never been the case with us really, other than maybe All Torn Down. People think of our signature sound as being this hundred mile an hour punk rock stuff, and I’m really glad we can go in a different direction and, I think, pull it off.”
A good case in point of the different direction will be the next single Wake Up, an anthemic number that lays off the throttle, but very much has the “chill factor” Cheney was talking about earlier. As mentioned before, the album is full of these melodious tracks such as the likes of No Way Out and Nothing Lasts Forever.
“I don’t know where it comes from,” Cheney says of his sense of melody. “It probably goes back to my childhood I suppose, what you listen to and what was on the radio and what your parents played. But for some reason I’ve always been fascinated by really strong melodies and really strong hooks. I can remember mum and dad playing Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Hot August Night as every parent in the ‘70s did; even like Meatloaf and Little River Band I loved when I was five or six years old, and I can only assume that it goes back to that. As much as I like seeing a band rocking out on stage and having a certain aggression to them, it bores me after a while if there’s no song.”
The Living End: 2006 Jack Awards Best Live Band Nominee
In the lead up to the Jack Awards, the only publicly voted awards for live music in Australia, The Drum will grab a few thoughts from various nominees. This week it’s The Living End.
The count down to the Jack Awards have begun…Got any hot dates or outfits planned for the Black Carpet this year? “I don’t really like dates…I’m more of a sultana kind of guy.”
What’s been your most memorable experience at the Jack Awards in previous years? If you haven’t been yet…heard any good rumours? I’ve only been once which was last year. Tommy Lee was there, we played and I won an award so t gets the big thumbs up for me.
You’re up against Grinspoon, Wolfmother, Cut Copy, End Of Fashion and The Mess Hall in the Best Live Band category…what do you think your odds are? “I think those guys are all good, I just don’t think they’re as good as us! Ha ha…I’m a bit biased after all! Truthfully I don’t know but we just enjoy getting feedback from a live audience and we’re not concerned with being a hype band. We will let the public decide.”
What’s going on? Releasing the single Wake Up, getting a national tour up and on sale, working on new merchandise ideas, negotiating a Japanese record deal, and attending the South By South West Music Festival in Austin, Texas/ I’ve also been overseas to secure interest from US labels for the album.
Stuck in the middle I’m the middle person in all communication for everything. It’s tough to keep everyone focused. Communication is the key word in management.
Time to reflect When Chris (Cheney, lead singer and guitarist) had his car accident in 2002 everything came crashing to a halt. It made me realise what is important in life. The band had to start all over again.
The highlight Definitely this album, State Of Emergency, debuting at No. 1. Everyone worked so hard on this record.
Scott Adams (SA) has a bit of a chat with The Living End’s Andy Strachan (AS) about thier latest LP “State of Emergency”…
SA: Hi Andy, how are you? AS: Bloody good.
SA: Good to hear! We’ve only got a small space in BMA so I won’t keep you very long – just a few questions… first thing… this album, which I think already is my favourite Living End album… AS: Thank you very much!
SA: That’s alright – I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot today (it’s five in the afternoon) AS: No, no… you’d be surprised. But I feel that too. I think we all do. I think we’re on to a winner.
SA: Definitely. For me it’s… you’ve still got the recognisable melody there but it’s a harder, more organic sounding album – less pop punk. AS: Oh, thank God man – that’s exactly what we set out to achieve – that means so much to hear from someone (outside the band) that has heard it! That’s a great thing!
SA: It’s quite ‘British’ sounding to me. I get bits of, um, almost like Squeeze in there, and Madness – were you listening to that sort of stuff while you were writing the album? AS: Um – look, we’re all very influenced by British music. I love Madness, The Stranglers, The Clash… the list goes on – and Squeeze too! (Squeeze) was a band that we just all went, a couple of years ago, fuck yeah! I remember all that stuff! So yes, there were definitely those influences in there, and the producer we worked with, Nick Launay, is, um, I guess you’d call him a Pom, I don’t know, he lives all over the world…he’s worked with John Lydon… all sorts of interesting people so he brings a feel from that side of the fence. What you’re saying is good to hear man, thank you!
SA: Well, I’m ‘a pom’ from that era – maybe I can hear those things a bit more than other people! AS: It’s a great thing to hear – I’ll pass all this stuff on!
SA: If you hadn’t have said that and backed me up so conclusively I was going to say that maybe the sound was a reaction to spending so much time in the US on the last record? Were you trying to make a record that didn’t sound like an American sounding record? AS: Well, yeah. That’s again a very good point. I suppose “Modern ARTillery” turned out completely the opposite to what we anticipated or wanted; because we were so heavily involved with the American record label we listened to them too much. So we worked with an American producer who produces very American sounding records. It was a bad choice… in hindsight.
SA: It’s still a good record though? AS: Yeah… it’s great, fine, but that’s not what we’re into. We’re into organic sounding records, we’re into playing live as a band and capturing moments on record, whereas (“Modern ARTillery” producer) Mark Trombino was about “let’s record the drums first, and then the bass, the guitar and then I’ll fix it all up with pro tools…” Man, that’s not how to make a record! SA: Sure. AS: So, again you’re spot on! The whole emphasis on this one was to have the three of us getting into a room – that’s the only way Nick likes to record. Capturing the band as we play! We use more aggressive sounds, the drum kit doesn’t sound like a synthesizer – it breathes! There are ugly notes on there… and a nastiness to it that you don’t get through the modern techniques. And that’s exactly what we were going for.
SA: There’s a line in your press release that came with the record, where Scott says you were surprised by the amount of kids that came out on the last tour… do you think they’ll be frightened off by the sound of this release? Because it doesn’t sound like anything else they’re hearing at the moment? AS: I seriously hope not. I guess there’s always that chance but… (lead off )‘What’s On Your Radio’ has got a great reaction so far, the kids seem to like that – going by those reactions I think we’re pretty safe in assuming that they’ll at least listen to it… which is all we can ask! But Scott’s right, there’s a whole new generation of kids coming to shows that we’d like to focus on, do some under age shows. Hopefully they will just give the record a chance – everything you’ve said about the record is spot on, and hopefully other people will agree if they just take the time to think about it the way you have…
SA: If you can get them to see you live, if they see the new songs played live, you won’t have any worries… AS: Live is our big strength – exactly right again! We’ve just got to play as many bloody shows as we can!
SA: Which brings me to my next question – you’re all getting older now, are there any plans to scale down the touring after a decade on the road for the band? Or will this record be toured as hard as the last one? AS: No. We not the kind of people to sit back and wait for things to happen. You have to be proactive in this industry or you’ll die. People will forget about you… we still get a big kick out of playing live, we’re aware that that’s our strong point, we’ve still got a few good years in us yet!
SA: I ask because it seemed to me that, on the “Best of” compilation DVD interviews, Chris seems a bit weary of the whole thing. At least that’s the way it comes across. Maybe that can be manifested as ‘I don’t want to tour as much as I used to’? Maybe he was interviewed on a bad day… AS: There are certain points… we spent a long time in America last year, going from shithole to shithole, with a few good shows in between and, more than everything, it’s mentally draining, touring.
SA: Especially when it’s not ‘your tour’? You did a lot of supporting in America… AS: We did one tour on our own, which was great, but the majority of the time was with other bands, which is fine… at least you’re still playing to people which is the thing. But the industry can get you down. You deal with the political bullshit you have to deal with and play the best shows you can play.
SA: Fair enough! AS: Yes!
SA: Anything else you’d like to say? AS: I don’t know! I think it is our best album, I hope people will be surprised, maybe shocked in a few places… there are a few curve balls in there. Give it a chance – go and buy it!
SA: Well I’m off to let the neighbours hear it again now! Thanks a lot, and good luck with the record! AS: Thanks Scott.
The Living End’s magnificent “State of Emergency” is out now through EMI, kids. Go! Buy!
The Living End – who have had at least one song in every Triple J Hottest 100 since 1997 – are currently tearing around the country as part of the Big Day Out. The Melbourne-based trio are also about to release a new album, State Of Emergency, and we chatted over the telephone to Adelaide-raised drummer Andy Strachan. We began by asking if playing in his home town in front of some 30,000 people was in any way daunting.
“No, it’s always a complete blast,” he reckoned. “I love it. To come home to Adelaide is always a blast and having family and old friends around is great. “Having said that, I’m not sure if mum and dad will come to the Big Day Out.” Andy then added with a laugh.
TLE’s double bass player, Scott Owen, has suggested to me that the recording of State Of Emergency had been a little stressful. “Yeah, it was,” Andy quickly confirmed, “but stressful in a good way. And we can now sit back and listen to the new album and know that all that hard work has paid off. We all feel that way after being locked away in our own world making the album.”
Does the album feature any guest players? “We got the horn players from Hunters & Collectors to play on a couple of songs and there’s about 15 kids, whose ages range from about 15 through to five, singing on our new single, Wake Up.” Andy revealed.
How many songs from the new album will feature during your Big Day Out set? “We’ll do about two or three,” he said. “We’ll do What’s On Your Radio because that’s been out for a while now and we’ve been doing it in our live sets and we’ll also do Wake Up and perhaps one or two more. But we don’t want to stray too far from the pitch with new material.”
What bands are you looking forward to seeing? “Gee, there’s so many,” Andy sighed. “I’m really keen to see Franz because I like their album and I’m told they are a really good live band. And you can’t go past Iggy. That’ll be a highlight for sure. Then there’s the stupidly good musician bands such as Cog, Shihad and The Mars Volta. So it’s going to be bloody good and I’m going to try my darnedest to get around and see everyone I possibly can.”
Andy is also looking forward to The Living End playing Loxton’s Jim Beam Hand-Picked festival in early April. “I thought Hand-Picked might have been some kind of boogie festival until I realised they were talking about Oranges and stuff,” he said [with his joke being completely lost on me until I transcribed our taped interview]. “We love doing those types of shows and getting out to places we might not normally play,” the drummer concluded.
Well it’s that time of year again, the Big Day Out is just around the corner and magazines like this one are shockers with interviews with bands saying how stoked they are to be playing such a mammoth festival. But the lads from enduring Melbourne rockabilly outfit, the Living End, have even more to be excited about. Not only does the group feature on the BDO bill, they’re also releasing album number four – State Of Emergency – the day the tour ends. From his Melbourne home, the group’s bassist Scott Owen eagerly explains why the next month is set to be huge for the band.
“We’re all just taking a bit of time out to relax at the moment. It feels like the calm before the storm.” This is a storm that has been building since late November when the band released ‘What’s On Your Radio’, the first single to be lifted from the new album. While the track has been successful on regular rotation at radio and music video stations around the country. Owen explains that it’s not necessarily an accurate indication of the sound of the new album. “It’s not an album full of fast energetic songs like that – it’s a pretty varied kind of album,” he says. “You’ve really just got to hear the whole thing.” “To us the songs all seem much stronger than anything we’ve written in the past, it’s stepped up a notch. It’s not really greatly different to any of our other albums in terms of style, it’s just that the songs are so much stronger. We’ve learned from making all the other albums that you’ve really got to try not to leave any stone unturned, so we worked much more thoroughly on this one than any of the others.”
And if Owen’s anticipation is anything to go by, the hard work has paid off. “There are certainly a lot of nerves involved,” he says. “I reckon there are actually more nerves involved with this one than any of the others, although I probably say that every time we release an album. I feel better about this one, I’m more confident about this one than any of the others – it’s a good feeling but it creates a lot of pressure too. It’s going to be a real relief to get it out, we’re really looking forward to finding out what people think.”
The new songs have been tested, but in a unique way. The lads got together and played a few small ‘secret’ shows under a different name – the Longnecks. The guise meant that the group could be sure that the responses were based purely on the music, untainted by any fandom and expectation. “It’s always good playing to an unsuspecting audience,” says Owen. “It helps remove some of the pressure. This way we can be a bit more anonymous, so you don’t have all these people coming out just to hear what the new songs are like. It means we can decide as we’re playing whether the songs will work in front of an audience, you know, which bits are working and which bits are a bit rough. And it’s fun to play in smaller venues to smaller crowds; it’s a lot more intimate.”
But for the next few weeks all that intimacy will be thrown out the window as the band embarks on the Big Day Out tour, where they’ll play to thousands of punters in just a few weeks. “We’re really looking forward to the tour, and we’ve been practicing hard. We always seem to play the BDO after we haven’t played many gigs. When you’re touring you get up to what feels like battle speed, but it’s hard to get straight to that level after not having toured properly for a while. But it’s alright, we’ve done it before.”
After the tour, the group will head overseas to play some shows in Japan and the US – including the much hyped South by Southwest showcase – before returning home for a full-scale national headline tour. The storm begins.
The Living End play the Melbourne leg of the Big Day Out on Sunday January 29 at Princes Park. State Of Emergency is released on February 5 through EMI
The Living End… Did we ever doubt that they would just keep getting better? I am sitting with Chris Cheney, Scott Owen and Andy Strachan, undoubtedly the most disciplined punk trio in Australia, sipping drinks on the terrace of a chic cafe. The tone is relaxed and the mood – something of a rarity for the guys – is self-congratulatory. And with good reason. When The Living End first re-united with Roll On producer Nick Launay, their vision for the album being planned consisted of two and a half words – live ‘n’ raw. But, in the course of production, there was a mutual recognition that the songs they had were worthy of more. Now, they’re releasing an album that arguably represents the zenith of their sound – both the raw power and the more subtle elements.
I just want to say that I’m a long-time fan, I have all your albums, and I honestly think State Of Emergency is your best yet. It’s already on my shortlist for best albums of 2006. SCOTT: We don’t even need to do the interview now, do we? Cos’ we’ll just stuff it up. CHRIS: How do you top that? It’s all downhill from there… That’s a pretty big statement, but if you went out of your way to say that at the end of the year, we’d be rapt. SCOTT: Maybe start the interview with that quote. ‘Qite possibly the best album of 2006… or of all time.’ ANDY: You could leave out the ‘quite possible’. (Everyone laughs.)
Chris, when I spoke to you earlier about where you were going from your Singles Collection, you said you planned to move forward with a ‘fresh new sound’… CHRIS: Oh, really? That’s a bit gay, isn’t it?
So does this album really represent a ‘new’ sound? Or just a couple twists on the ‘old’? CHRIS: Definitely the latter. There’s a sound to the band that’s steeped in classic rock and roll that I think works for us, and we’d be crazy to mess with that. I probably meant more in the song writing department and the arranging and stuff… Rather than just having ideas, following through with ideas. Like, if we were going to try something really different to what we’ve done before, actually pull it off. Do it so that it can be a strong point of the album. With this album, I think that the more different songs could be singles, which is great for us. You know we have a trademark kind of sound that I think everyone associates with us – kind of energetic, and punky-sounding. But I think some of the stronger songs off the album this time are the ones that are a bit slower, and more melodic.
Would you say there is a return to the ‘anthemic’ sound of your first album? ANDY: Maybe… We did try and approach every song with the idea that we would play ’em live for the next two years. SCOTT: That’s just something that we’re really into – the whole anthemic thing. I guess we still like just shouting those choruses! CHRIS: I just like every song to be as powerful as it can be. Like in the end of No Way Out, when it’s got that big kind of crescendo, that hits with this big climax at the end of the song. If it’s going to be that kind of thing, it’s got to be almost terrifying at the end of it. So when we have songs that have that anthemic kind of quality, we tend to make them really over the top.
I remember once when you were asked about what you consider to be the consummate rock band, you said ‘Midnight Oil’. So was Nick Launay’s involvement with Midnight Oil’s seminal work one of the reasons why you started working with him in the first place? SCOTT: Well, it had a lot to do with it for me, because I’m such a huge Oils fan. To me, they were like Led Zeppelin without the hippie stuff. Their production is really heavy… especially in Red Sails At Sunset. There’s lots of really different, out-there sounds going on in their songs, like weird bass and keyboard sounds, and stuff like electric drums on that album. They were like a real band, but they were also god-like because they could make these really bizarre sounds come out of their instruments. It was like a magical thing. So yeah, being able to work with the guy who did that was just full-on. When we first worked with him on Roll On, I just spent hours asking him questions about the Oils. But it’s not just Midnight Oil. The good thing about Nick is that he comes from London in the 70’s, when The Pistols and The Clash and The Jam were taking off. He was part of that scene, and he lived that life back then. And then he’s done all kinds of albums… INXS, Nick Cave. His repertoire is so diverse. He’s not narrow-minded in production.
Starting with the original idea of making the album as ‘live and raw’ as possible, was it a grudging adjustment to put the extra production touches on songs like One Step Behind, Wake Up etc… SCOTT:I reckon that was us rebelling against (Modern) Artillery, because that was so well-produced, as far as slickness and neatness goes, man. We’ve really got to make a rough and ready-sounding album, because we know we have that in us. But with the songs that we were choosing as our favourites for the album, (we knew) as soon as we started pre-production that it wasn’t going to be a raw, straight ahead rock and roll album. It was going to be a more complex kind of thing. And it just kept unfolding and unfolding, to the point where it got to horns and kids choir… CHRIS:I think it would be really one-dimensional of us to just go and make an album full of Second Solutions or something like that. I think other bands do that and they do it well – you’ve got the whole ‘New Rock’ scene. There’s a part of us that does that, but I also think that the reason why songs like Nothing Lasts Forever and Wake Up end up getting written is that we do that well also. It would be a real shame to stifle that, and go ‘Well, we shouldn’t have songs like that.’ So it was very easy to say ‘let’s bring in some horns’ and ‘let’s bring in the kids on that part.’
Will you be using this album to revive your ‘Aussie Invasion’ notoriety overseas? SCOTT: Well, after the Big Day Out, we’ll do South By Southwest in Texas, and a show in LA, and sort of touch base over there again. We haven’t got a deal over there, so we’re basically of going over there with a shopping trolley to try and find the best one. Then we’re going to japan – same deal. We’re looking for a deal over there as well as playing some festivals. We’ll come back and tour Australia, then by that time we’ll have a good reason to go back and spend a few weeks in a bus touring around the States.
Chris, you are known for holding yourself to notoriously high standards in the studio. Have you ever been satisfied with your first version of a song, your first take on a solo, your first go at anything? CHRIS: I don’t think I’m that sort of person. But I might go; ‘oh, that’s not good enough, that’s not good enough…’ and then come back to the first one! I just don’t think we’re that good where we can have a canvas, and paint, and go; ‘Voila! That’s it! It doesn’t need any more work…’ I just think; ‘Okay, that’s pretty good. But I’ll fix that there, and I’ll re-sing that.’ We’re willing to do that. I don’t want to ever get to the point where we’re being told; ‘you’d better do that again…’, and we say; ‘No, no, no. We have created. Let it not be touched.’ I think it’s a really dangerous thing to do. But at the same time, we can be pretty confident sometimes. We can go on stage, and be like; ‘Yeah, we’re gonna rule this festival!’ So it’s about keeping a level head, I suppose.
And is confidence what you’re feeling now? CHRIS: I do feel confident about this album, now that it’s all said and done. Because I feel like absolutely drained, completely, over it. We gave it everything we could, and there’s no regrets. I really feel like, we’re as happy as we’re ever going to be with this one, and I think you can hear the results. ANDY: It was a fucking nightmare, putting ourselves through the nitty gritty of it… all the fine details. We just spent days and weeks and months deliberating. But it paid off because now we can actually feel comfortable about it. SCOTT: And I reckon we could go out and play the whole album from start to finish in a live environment, not even consider playing any other songs, and it would still work. Obviously we wouldn’t forget about all the other songs, but I would feel 100% confident and happy to do that.
Which talent, not related to music would you most like to have? I’d like to be a magician.
What magic would you do? Not black magic, that’s for sure.
Just rabbits out of hats? And making things disappear.
What’s your greatest extravagance? Beer. Beer is extravagant, isn’t it?
Not in your line of work, I would have thought it was mandatory. Well it is, but it’s extravagantly mandatory. Not many people get to drink every day.
Imagine you could put together the ultimate supergroup. Who would be in the band you would most like to watch? Paul McCartney on bass, Joey Costello (Queens Of The Stone Age) on drums, Elvis Costello on guitar and lead vocals, Brian Setzer (Stray Cats) on lead guitar, and Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) on piano.
And what song would they cover? Blue Suede Shoes, by Elvis.
What is the best advice anyone has given you about music, and who gave it? It was Chris Cheney (lead singer, The Living End) and the advice was to practice, practice and practice. We were in high school together and he’s already been studying guitar for a long time. We both discovered rockabilly music, which no one else was listening to at the time. We just fell in love with it and thought, ‘let’s start playing it’.
Were you studying upright bass at school? I was actually learning piano when I was at school. I didn’t see a future in a band as a piano player. I thought bass was more appropriate.
What is the secret to The Living End’s success? In the beginning we had a lot of drive. We would play the supporting gig at a small pub and then think, ‘one day we want to headline here then move on to bigger and better things’. We still have the same attitude. I think that is the most important thing about this band., we are all willing to put in as much hard work as it takes because we love it.
The Living End’s new album, State Of Emergency, is released in February 2006.
The Living End. An early bastion of the 90s Aussie Punk Rock surge that to this day remains one of the biggest rocking scenes we have. Kristy Mills caught up with double bassist, Scott and drummer, Andy to talk about the new album, State Of Emergency.
They championed the Oz punk/rock movement with their blend of rockabilly meets punk, performing anthems for the youth. (“Prisoner Of Society” will never be forgotten among so many others). And now, pushing forward, a new album for 2006 and a whole barrage of other influences in the mix. State Of Emergency is a diverse mix of rock with their staple Living End punk sound. Scott sums it up, “Back in the day we were more heavily into punk bands like the Clash, the Pistols, it was when Greenday first started happening and they were really heavy influences on the band. The only other major influence was rockabilly jams. Of course this was a long time ago and of course we’ve changed. Now we’re more heavily interested in many more different kinds of music, not just punk. We started off liking rockabilly, then punk came into it and then we found the Beatles and as you grow older you find all these different kinds of music… You grow and you change and that’s why this album doesn’t sound like our first album.”
While it doesn’t sound like their first album, the band chose to go back to the producer of their second album, Roll On, to really establish that live sound in this recording. “We were really happy with the sounds we got on the second album,” Scott explains. “The guitar slams and all that kind of stuff. It’s the way he captures sounds and also his old skool attitude.” Andy, who had not recorded with him before, cuts in, “He’s punk rock in the sense that he gets live tracks from the band. Instead of the American way of doing it these days – of recording drums first, putting bass on and the nguitar – essentially it’s not a band playing live, it’s just parts put together on a grid in a computer, whereas Nick’s all about old skool two-inch tape and getting the three of us in a room at the same time playing the same song.” It really pays off, as you can hear the throbing live element loud and clear.
According to the band, the strength of the album lies in its diversity. Scott says, “We’ve covered a lot of different moods and styles but I think that’s a good thing. “What’s On Your Radio” is very much old skool Living End and it’s really fun and it’s up and exciting, it’s great to play live and that’s one thing. Then you’ve got “Black Cat” and “Till The End” that are the in-your-face, dirty rock n roll songs. And then you’ve got songs like “Wake Up“. In my opinion that’s one of the best songs. I think the lyrics are really fitting for what’s going on in the world.”
“Lyrically it f***king hurts,” Scott continues. “It’s about something really big. About what’s going on in the world today. ‘Wake up to the generation, Suicidal education/ It got sold to our generation…’ It’s this generation and our kids and the future its completely changed now forever because of 9/11, the London bombing…”
But while it’s political, it’s not the band standing up on a soap box telling us what to think. Scott’s very clear about that. “We’re not about telling other people what their politics should be or telling people what our politics are even, ’cause we’re not Midnight Oil, we’re not ipolitical activists, we’re not those kind of people, we’re just f***king normal dudes. We’re just trying to make people think about things. I reckon that’s the best way to present things to people – as an idea, a conversation point.” And on the other hand, he points out, “It’s not showing people disrespect by making a song where the lyrics are about nothing at all either… We’re not Peter Garrett, but we’re not just thinking about chicks all the time.”
It’s Chris’ songwriting that keeps the stylised politics in check, making cool songs that don’t always push the boundaries of thought, but which sometimes do, even though they’re up and fun. Scott says, “I think Chris’ lyrics and the way he writes is f***kin’ clever. He has a real way of saying things without talking about nothing at one extreme or without ramming it down people’s throats at the other extreme. He has a way of just conveying an issue or an image of something. Some people can write love songs like that or write break up songs that make you feel ouch, that break up must have really hurt. It’s the way the words are put together and you see it’s a really clear way of painting a picture of something that happened. Chris is better at writing about things that he sees in the world going on around him. He’s better at conveying those things…” And so that’s what you can expect. Songs that are fun, with a few that have a deeper agenda. Take from them what you will. So without further ado, welcome State Of Emergency.
The Living End – State Of Emergency
Plunging headfirst into the rock end of punk rock with this newest album offering by Oz icons The Living End, State Of Emergency gets to a rolling rocking start on the intensely great “Till The End“, one of the strongest tracks on the album, before heading down the familiar punk rock lane with their first single “What’s On Your Radio” further into the album. With a live edge that stands out pretty clearly from their last album and a stack of potential Oz hits, it gets better every time you listen. There’s more than enough traditional The Living End on it to satisfy the hardcore fans, but never a band to bore, the boys embrace plenty of new elements and influences to thrill and surprise. As the title suggests, there’s a touch of the political in songs like “Wake Up” but they’re not preachy, just tres cool.