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.

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.”

The Living End

Author: Unknown

One of Australia’s most prolific and loved punk bands, The Living End are stopping off in Laurieton on their national “Staring Down The Highway Tour”. Focus chats with double bassist Scott Owen…

Hey Scott. It’s been 23 years of music for The Living End, and you have been there for the whole ride … How did you and Chris get together?
Well, we both have older sisters that are the same age; our sisters were at high school together, and Chris and I were in primary school. So, our sisters would hang out together, and that is what introduced the Cheney family to the Owen family. Chris and I were like the annoying little brothers; whenever there were get togethers with the Cheneys and the Owens, Chris and I would hang out and do kid stuff.
We went to high school together. I was learning piano and he was learning guitar, so at 14 – 15 we started playing music together; that’s where it all began – and we just haven’t stopped.

And what inspires writing now, compared to those initial days?
Lyrically, Chris does most of the writing, so it’s hard for me to comment. Lyrically he (Chris) has gone more – particularly on this last record – from writing songs that are political commentary, I guess is probably the bets description for it, and just singing about things – social things, political things, and stuff like that. The change, or “shift” if I was to pull a pun, is now with this record it’s all sorts of personal stuff for him that he has written about.
Musically, nothing has really changed, in that we wrote songs back then musically and stylistically  for the same reasons as now; but our style has changed, because we’ve grown over the years and been exposed to all different kinds of music and appreciate music that when we were younger never thought we would.
Basically, with the writing and style of our band, we have always just wanted to be the type band we would want to be fans of. So, we approach songs with the bands we’re into in mind, saying “What would our peers do?”, or, “What would our idols do with this piece of writing – how would they interpret it?” That’s the style and the chemistry of the band, and that’s just developed over the years as our taste changes.

Prisoner of Society was such an iconic song when it came out; at what point did you know this was going to become an anthem?
We didn’t, really, until it sort of happened. When we did the single, there was no real grand plan of world domination at that point; it was just a single that we recorded and had printed, so we could take it out on tour and sell it and try to make some money. I guess it was when Triple J picked up the song and started playing it, then they started getting requests for it and they started playing the absolute s*** out of it.
We were on tour with Jebediah, supporting them on a national tour at that point in time. It was during that tour that people started getting to the gigs earlier to see us, becausethey’d heard that song on the radio and were going gangbusters about it.

What would you say has been the biggest highlight of The Living End’s career?
That’s a tough question. We’ve had some pretty big ones – playing and touring with AC/DC, which happened many years ago, we played at the AFL Grand Final last year, that was a massive highlight, we opened up for the Stray Cats; that was a bit of a weird come full circle experience. We played with the Rolling Stones – they’re always the highlights, playing with this band or that band … Bands that we had never thought we’d play with. If we had told our teenage selves that we would be opening up for the Rolling Stones one day, we would have laughed – but it happened!

Thanks Scott.

Don’t Miss The Living End on Wednesday 15th March at Laurieton United Servicemen’s Club. Supported By Son Of Jaguar & The Bennies. Doors 7:30pm for an 8pm start. 18+ EVENT.
TICKETS PRESALE: $45, DOOR SALE: $50.

Green Carpet

Author: Steve Bell

The stage adaptation of Green Day’s American Idiot album is coming to Brisbane, and the two real life rockers playing antihero St Jimmy — Chris Cheney and Phil Jamieson — talk to Steve Bell about transitioning from one type of stage to another. Cover and feature pics by Terry Soo.

For many years East Bay punks Green Day relished their typecasting as snotty-brat teens, espousing the virtues of anti-values like apathy, self-loathing and narcissism with a scathing humour that suited their high-octane pop-punk perfectly.

As time passed, however, and they became a massive deal on the world stage, both their music and their world view matured to the point where their 2004 seventh album American Idiot — a sprawling conceptual piece penned by frontman Billie Joe Armstrong — was lauded upon its release for its articulate appraisal of the various malaises afflicting post-9/11 suburbia. It peered presciently at how the typical troubles associated with youngsters coming of age were being exacerbated by both insipid government and the corporations controlling mass media — magnified by a general all-pervading sense of disillusionment and lethargy — with these forces combining to potentially push a whole generation off the rails.

It was an ambitious move by Green Day (and Armstrong) but one that paid handsome dividends, reviving the band’s career and leading to a stage musical adaptation of American Idiot that opened on Broadway in 2010, winning two Tony Awards. It took all of the songs from the American Idiot album— as well as a few from 2009 follow-up 21st Century Breakdown — and moulded them into a compelling narrative, one as pertinent now as it was back when the songs were penned.

Now Brisbane theatre company, shake & stir, are bringing an exclusive Australian production of the “punk rock opera” to QPAC, and for the pivotal role of St Jimmy (at times performed by Armstrong himself on Broadway) they’ve tapped two genuine Australian rock stars — Chris Cheney (The Living End) and Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon) — to play the character in separate stints, but both of whom are currently preparing together to inhabit this somewhat nefarious character.

“Whether St Jimmy is a saint or not depends on your definition of saint,” Jamieson reflects, “but I don’t think so — he’s a villain. He’s the musical villain.”

“That’s what drew me to the idea of actually being able to pull the role off, I think, I don’t have to go outthere and play Mr Nice Guy,” Cheney smiles. “I can just dig the heels in a bit, and get a bit gritty with the character. He’s the one who sort of leads the lead character Johnny down the path of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

“[Johnny] starts out as this squeaky clean kinda teenager, and then you see his descent into debauchery. So there’s some pretty harrowing scenes: for all of Green Day’s crazy, kinda wacky punk image, there’s some really dark lyrics in there.

“It covers universal themes but also correlates back with what’s going on in America right now, with the madman at the controls, it’s like history almost repeating itself. But there is that timeless theme in the musical, with these kids trying to get out — trying to escape and find a better way — and tripping up wildly.”

Both Cheney and Jamieson were well acquainted with Green Day when American Idiot first came out — especially Cheney, given that The Living End supported them on the Australian Insomniac tour in 1996 — but both remember being taken aback by the album’s strength.

“I loved the record when it was released, I thought it was really, really impressive back in the day,” Jamieson gushes. “I went and saw the tour — I think from memory old mate here [points at Cheney] might have got up and ruined a song with them when I saw them, a Clash song. In the wrong key. But I was really impressed by it.”

“They were in the wrong key, I wasn’t,” Cheney laughs. “So I thought it was their best work,” Jamieson continues mischievously.“I mean I loved [GreenDay’s 1994 breakthrough third album] Dookie — so did the world — and then Green Day did what they did and I sort of wandered off. I guess you can become a bit complacent about acts after a while, you go, ‘I know your tricks, I know those bits, ‘ but then they brought [American Idiot] out and I was, like, ‘Wow, okay, I don’t know all your tricks. It’s a really, really impressive record.”

“Billie Joe’s always been a huge fan of The Who and rock operas and all that — he’s got a Jesus Christ Superstar tattoo on him — so it’s kind of cool that a writer like that could embrace it and put it into the form that he did,” Cheney reflects. “It’s a cracker of a record. It’s not easy to write songs that are linked — it’s like the second side of Abbey Road [by The Beatles] or something, the way that all of the songs were linked together.I love that sort of thing, it’s like the nutty professor or something, but it’s not easy to do.”

Both leads are really looking forward to their first major theatrical experience, even if they’re a tad overwhelmed by the quality of the Australian cast around them.

“I’m not an actor — obviously — and what I found when I came here is that the cast are all ‘triple threats’, for want of a better term — they can sing really well, they can dance really well and they can act really well,” Jamieson tells. “So it became a bit of thing where I was fairly terrified going to rehearsa l— I think I might have psyched myself out a bit. But it’s very daunting. And the piece is also quite challenging. It’s great, though, it’s really fun and it’s really quite a moving piece — it’s definitely not 42nd Street, it’s more like Les Mis. It’s sad, there’s some really, really moving parts.”

“I haven’t performed in theatre since Year 12 drama but I tell you what, though; I reckon I’m always acting when I’m on stage anyway!” Cheney laughs. “I’ll see some footage back and go, ‘Who the fuck is that guy?’ So while I do think that this acting caper is a stretch for the two of us, obviously, maybe it’s not that much of a stretch. I feel like when you get on stage I become this other thing anyway, and we’re playing the kinda rock’n’roll guy in this show so it’s not really a huge leap.”

And both of these acting newbs are at pains to point out that you don’t need to be a veteran theatre lover to dig American Idiot. “It’s not just for the theatre goers, it’s for the rock’n’roll fans,” Cheney stresses.

“It’s definitely worthy and will be a lot of fun,” Jamieson agrees. “It will be loud and they will be serving alcohol, but it will be in a theatre. And there’s some really funny theatre moments in the performance which are a bit kitsch — which I love — then there’s some full-on rocking out and some dark, incredibly moving moments as well. I can’t wait.”

Getting Idiotic
Both of the rockers playing St Jimmy believe that there’s alot more discipline required for acting than when they’re on stage playing music with their bandmates.

“In my first run-through I put my wrong hand on something, so that destroyed the whole piece,”Jamieson recalls. “So I’m trying to get my head around staging, and being really disciplined about where I put my feet.”

“Yeah, in a rock band — especially my band anyway — I can kinda go off on a tangent, and the other guys will just follow,” Cheney continues. “Here, those other 20 kids in there are not going to follow if we decide to mix it up halfway through a tune! Nor would the band!”

Jamieson — who takes over as St Jimmy after Cheney’s run concludes — has been in the fortunate position of seeing a full run-through, and was floored by the calibre of the cast.

“It’s pretty impressive — they don’t hit any bum notes, not that I’ve heard,” he marvels.“They leave that to us. They never hit a bum note, which is annoying, and they know all their choreography and they’re always right… It gives me the shits. But they’re actually incredible, just seeing how well the cast act it out and how well they sing it, and how much emotion they put into it — that’s worth the ticket price alone, regardless of us douchebags.”

Monkey Business

Author: Daniel Cribb

Aussie rock staples The Living End took a dangerous approach when recording their new album — one that resulted in some conflicting feedback at first. Frontman Chris Cheney tells Daniel Cribb all about the “daunting task”.

The Living End have been such a prevalent influence on the Australian music scene since the mid-’90s that it can be a bit hard to believe that frontman Chris Cheney has spent the better part of the past five years living in LA. The shredder fell in love with the US when he flew to New York for three months in 2010 with his family to write the band’s last effort, The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, and things took off from there. “After that, we just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be good to try base ourselves overseas for just a couple of years or three years, four years,” Cheney begins from his Californian abode. “It’s sort of still a temporary arrangement; we’re just kind of playing it by ear at this point,” he adds.

There’s no shortage of opportunities over in the States, which is why he’s probably spent so much time there. Regularly taking advantage of the smorgasbord of gigs available at any one time, he caught The Damned at iconic venue The Roxy a few nights earlier. “I actually play in another band, The Jack Tars, over here which has got Captain Sensible from The Damned in it and Slim Jim Phantom from Stray Cats and Mike Peters from The Alarm, so it’s sort of weird being in a band with those guys when you grew up listening to their music.”

It’s a similar relationship between The Living End and their longtime Aussie heroes Cold Chisel, which sparked the flame that turned into new album Shift. After a studio collaboration in 2014 with Jimmy Barnes, the band joined him around the country for A Day On The Green, which is when their seventh LP came to life through a means completely foreign to them.

“We were doing A Day On The Green and there’s so much time in between — they’re only weekends those things — so we just thought we might as well jump into a studio during that time and just throw some ideas around and not really put any pressure on as far as having to have songs; just get in there and press record, which is a pretty daunting task.

“I’ve always had songs to bring in and we’ve always wanted to be prepared, so there was a certain danger by doing that that it would be a failure and that we would come out with nothing.”

It was because of that creative shake-up that some of the material on the new album is a little different to what fans may be expecting. While upbeat rock number Monkey saw a return to their roots, follow-up single Keep On Running received some mixed reviews from fans on social media. “For The Living End to release a song like Keep On Running, I think a lot of people were just like, ‘What the hell is happening,’” Cheney explains. “It’s just not what you’d expect from us; there’s no solo in the middle, there’s no overly energetic slapping bass. Even though we’ve done lots of things, I think people forget we have a pretty diverse range of tunes and albums over the years.

“There was just an initial kneejerk reaction I think, people wondering what the hell we were doing with a full string section and it’s a very pop kind of melody, but I’m quite proud to go out with a song that people don’texpect. What’s the point of coming out with something that’s just The Living End by numbers, it just doesn’t excited me.”

Gearing up to head home for the band’s first headline run in five years, Cheney cast his eye on local talent as they chose tour supports; a exercise that proved an inspiring process and will see The Living End on their toes as they sweep across the country in June. “I’m really excited by all those bands like The Smith Street Band, Royal Headache and The 131s; they all just seem hungry, edgy and everything that I love and I find it really inspiring.

“I’m sort of making sure I’ve got my shit together for the tour because I know that [support bands Bad//Dreems and The 131s] are going to be forces to be reckoned with. There’s just bands out there that are no bullshit; just laying it down and they’re damn good, they’re not hiding behind anything, it’s just raw rock’n’roll — how it should be.”

Monkey Business

Author: Daniel Cribb

Aussie rock staples The Living End took a dangerous approach when recording their new album — one that resulted in some conflicting feedback at first. Frontman Chris Cheney tells Daniel Cribb all about the “daunting task”.

The Living End have been such a prevalent influence on the Australian music scene since the mid-’90s that it can be a bit hard to believe that frontman Chris Cheney has spent the better part of the past five years living in LA. The shredder fell in love with the US when he flew to New York for three months in 2010 with his family to write the band’s last effort, The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, and things took off from there. “After that, we just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be good to try base ourselves overseas for just a couple of years or three years, four years,” Cheney begins from his Californian abode. “It’s sort of still a temporary arrangement; we’re just kind of playing it by ear at this point,” he adds.

There’s no shortage of opportunities over in the States, which is why he’s probably spent so much time there. Regularly taking advantage of the smorgasbord of gigs available at any one time, he caught The Damned at iconic venue The Roxy a few nights earlier. “I actually play in another band, The Jack Tars, over here which has got Captain Sensible from The Damned in it and Slim Jim Phantom from Stray Cats and Mike Peters from The Alarm, so it’s sort of weird being in a band with those guys when you grew up listening to their music.”

It’s a similar relationship between The Living End and their longtime Aussie heroes Cold Chisel, which sparked the flame that turned into new album Shift. After a studio collaboration in 2014 with Jimmy Barnes, the band joined him around the country for A Day On The Green, which is when their seventh LP came to life through a means completely foreign to them.

“We were doing A Day On The Green and there’s so much time in between — they’re only weekends those things — so we just thought we might as well jump into a studio during that time and just throw some ideas around and not really put any pressure on as far as having to have songs; just get in there and press record, which is a pretty daunting task.

“I’ve always had songs to bring in and we’ve always wanted to be prepared, so there was a certain danger by doing that that it would be a failure and that we would come out with nothing.”

It was because of that creative shake-up that some of the material on the new album is a little different to what fans may be expecting. While upbeat rock number Monkey saw a return to their roots, follow-up single Keep On Running received some mixed reviews from fans on social media. “For The Living End to release a song like Keep On Running, I think a lot of people were just like, ‘What the hell is happening,’” Cheney explains. “It’s just not what you’d expect from us; there’s no solo in the middle, there’s no overly energetic slapping bass. Even though we’ve done lots of things, I think people forget we have a pretty diverse range of tunes and albums over the years.

“There was just an initial kneejerk reaction I think, people wondering what the hell we were doing with a full string section and it’s a very pop kind of melody, but I’m quite proud to go out with a song that people don’texpect. What’s the point of coming out with something that’s just The Living End by numbers, it just doesn’t excited me.”

Gearing up to head home for the band’s first headline run in five years, Cheney cast his eye on local talent as they chose tour supports; a exercise that proved an inspiring process and will see The Living End on their toes as they sweep across the country in June. “I’m really excited by all those bands like The Smith Street Band, Royal Headache and The 131s; they all just seem hungry, edgy and everything that I love and I find it really inspiring.

“I’m sort of making sure I’ve got my shit together for the tour because I know that [support bands Bad//Dreems and The 131s] are going to be forces to be reckoned with. There’s just bands out there that are no bullshit; just laying it down and they’re damn good, they’re not hiding behind anything, it’s just raw rock’n’roll — how it should be.”

The Living End – Shift

Author: Dylan Stewart

It’s been five years between drinks for one of Australian rock’n’roll’s most-loved trios, The Living End. 

Having spent their 20-plus years shifting from punky upstarts to veritable A-listers, Shift is just that; a change of direction. The problem is, it’s hard to know which direction that is. The record, while featuring a number of solid moments – see the ballady Keep On Running and sturdy rockby- numbers Up The Junction – lacks any consistency in voice. Occasional guitar flourishes keep things interesting, but opener One Step gets the album off to a very poor start and TLE struggle to right the ship from there.

Shifting Sands

Author: David James Young

When a writer sits down to compose a text, he or she decides to write in one of three voices: first person (“I did this”), second person (“You did this”) or third person (“They did this”). The Living End, for the majority of their 20-plus years as a band, have spoken in first-person narrative. The twist, however, is that their abstract ‘I’ has always been a part of a greater group, their ‘we’ (lest we forget their most famous lyric is still “We don’t need no-one like you to tell us what to do”). On Shift, The Living End’s first album in five years and seventh overall, this perspective inverts, as lead vocalist and guitarist Chris Cheney turns his lyric-writing onto his own life. There’s no other phrase for it: this time, it’s personal.

“That was one of the big changes that came with writing this album,” says Cheney from his home in Los Angeles, where he and his family have lived for the past few years.“This is definitely an ‘I’ album, after writing so many ‘we’ albums over the years. It wasn’t difficult to write, though – it was the only thing that was coming out of me as I was working on this album. It’s not a concept record, per se, but a lot of it does pertain to the same sort of thing. It all comes back to a few things that have happened in my life in recent times.

“It was a difficult time to get through, but on the other side of it I just sort of spewed forth everything that had happened to me with a pen and paper. I knew that I couldn’t water it down. I knew I couldn’t change it for anyone. It would have been criminal to do that. It wouldn’t have been true to the music we were making. I’ve sugar-coated and sidestepped things in the past. This shit needed to be said.”

Fans of the band last saw The Living End in action in 2014, when they did a mix of intimate club shows (some of their smallest in years) and co-headlining dates with previous collaborator and old friend Jimmy Barnes for A Day On The Green, the outdoor afternoon shows held at regional wineries. At this stage, casual mention was made of working toward new material, although there was nothing yet to show for it. “What we were doing [was] taking any days we had off,” explains Cheney, “and getting into our studio space in Melbourne. We had all this time, we figured we might as well lay something down.

“We decided not to take in any complete songs – rather, we scraped together every little riff and every small idea we had lying around and threw them into the mix. We just hit ‘record’ and went for it. After a week and a half, the spark was well and truly alight. It was nerve-racking at first – it had all the potential to be fucking awful – but it came together in this spontaneous burst of energy.”

The Living End will be premiering a slab of Shift in the live environment this June on a capital city tour alongside Adelaide pub rockers Bad//Dreems and Melbourne punks 131’s. Cheney is especially vocal about his love for the former. “I actually caught them while they were over here in the States,” he says. “They’re just fucking great. They’re a raw rock’n’roll band with a uniquely Australian edge, and I think that’s really special. It really harkens back to the pub rock glory days. It’s important to us to support bands like that, just like we were supported when we were first starting out. You’ve got to support a scene that supports itself.”

The Living End were formed back in 1994 by lifelong friends Cheney and double bassist Scott Owen for little more reason than to play Stray Cats covers and have fun. They, along with drummer Andy Strachan, who has been with the band since 2002, have gone from selling out pubs to theatres to arenas and back again, earning legendary status within contemporary Australian music and a cult following overseas.

Over the 22 years of The Living End’s existence, some bands have come back and others have disappeared entirely. There are few, however, that never left in the first place. Such is the case with Cheney and co. The secret to their longevity? “We’re not interested inplaying it safe,” says the frontman succinctly.

“We’ve never taken the easy road – probably to our detriment at times, some might say. When we did the Retrospective tour a few years back, that was one of the hardest things that we’ve ever done. That comes down to pure ambition, hunger and the willingness to outdo ourselves. We’re always trying to prove that we’re more than our last album or our last hit. Recently, I’ve found myself drawn to the craft of songwriting, probably more than I ever have been before. I’ve been working at it every single day, trying to hone in on the craft. I’m always chasing the kind of songs that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I don’t want to be in a tired old rock band – and I don’t think we’re in any danger of that happening at this point.”

Between The Greens

Author: Daniel Cribb

The Living End have been such a prevalent influence on the, Australian music scene since the mid ‘90s that it can be a bit hard to believe that frontman Chris Cheney has spent the better part of the past five years living in LA. DANIEL CRIBB reports in the lead-up to the trios Perth show at the Astor Theatre on Thursday, June 16.

The shredder fell in love with the US when he flew to New York for three months in 2010 with his family to write the band’s last effort, The Ending Is Just the Beginning Repeating, and things took off from there.

“After that, we just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be good to try base ourselves overseas for just a couple of years or three years, four years’,” Cheney begins from his Californian abode. “It’s sort of still a temporary arrangement; we’re just kind of playing it by ear at this point,” he adds.

There’s no shortage of opportunities over in the States, which is why he’s probably spent so much time there. Regularly taking advantage of the smorgasbord of gigs available at any one time, he caught The Damned at iconic venue The Roxy a few nights earlier. “I actually play in another band, The Jack Tars, over here which has got Captain Sensible from The Damned in it and Slim Jim Phantom from Stray Cats and Mike Peters from The Alarm, so it’s sort of weird being in a band with those guys when you grew up listening to their music.”

It’s a similar relationship between The Living End and their long-time Aussie heroes Cold Chisel that sparked the Between The Greens flame that turned into the new album, Shift, to be released on Friday May 13. After a studio collaboration in 2014 with Jimmy Barnes, the band joined him around country for A Day On The Green later that year, which is when their seventh LP came to life through a means completely foreign to them.

“We were doing A Day On The Green and there’s so much time in between – they’re only weekends those things – so we just thought we might as well jump into a studio during that time and just throw some ideas around and not really put any pressure on as far as having to have songs; just get in there and press record, which is a pretty daunting task.

“I’ve always had songs to bring in and we’ve always wanted to be prepared, so there was a certain danger by doing that that it would be a failure and that we would come out with nothing.”

It was because of that creative shake-up that some of the material onthe new album is a little different to what fans may be expecting. While upbeat rock number, Monkey, saw a return to their roots, follow-up single, Keep On Running, received some mixed reviews from fans on social media. “For The Living End to release a song like Keep On Running, I think a lot of people were just like, ‘What the hell is happening?’” Cheney explains. “It’s just not what you’d expect from us; there’s no solo in the middle, there’s no overly energetic slapping bass. Even though we’ve done lots of things, I think people forget we have a pretty diverse range of tunes and albums over the years.

“There was just an initial, kneejerk reaction I think, people wondering what the hell we were doing with a full string section and it’s a very pop kind of melody, but I’m quite proud to go out with a song that people don’t expect. What’s the point of coming out with something that’s just The Living End by numbers, it just doesn’t excited me.”

Gearing up to head home for the band’s first headline run in five years, Cheney cast his eye on local talent as they chose tour supports; a exercise that proved an inspiring process and will see The Living End on their toes as they sweep across the country in June. “I’m really exited by all those bands like The Smith Street Band, Royal Headache and The 131s; they all just seem hungry, edgy and everything that I love and I find it really inspiring “I’m sort of making sure I’ve got my shit together for the tour because I know that (support bands Bad//Dreems and The 131s) are going to be forces to be reckoned with. There’s just bands out there that are no bullshit; just laying it down and they’re damn good, they’re not hiding behind anything, it’s just raw rock’n’roll – how it should be.”

Living & Learning

Author: Zoe Radas

Instead of returning to rally-cry roots, Chris Cheney mined his personal travails to inform The Living End’s new album, Shift.

The great thing about The Living End is that when they leap into the air, you never have any question about whether they’re going to land. Melodies and rhythms fling outwards but always snap back, like rubber bands (not rubber balls). It’s the pattern in the raw product that’s kind of baked into the trio’s bones, and it’s all the way through new album Shift – even though the release sounds incredibly different from their previous work, and thematically, it’s brand new territory.

“I felt like the more honest and real that the lyrics seemed to be, the better the song was going to be,” says singer and guitarist Chris Cheney. “It just felt like it would be doing a disservice to the songs, I reckon, had we dumbed them down. It’s the warts and all and it can be a bit ugly, but that’s life, huh.”

Cheney and his bandmates Scott Owen (bass) and Andy Strachan (drums) are interested to see how these tracks will grab the minds of listeners, considering the former’s move to the introspective; paradoxically, it could be more inclusive. “We’ve always written in the third person, and weren’t too literal with our lyrics. And I think that’s more isolating,” Cheney says. “We’ve got a lot of these real rally cry, sing-along, anthem tunes, and in a way you almost hand them over to the audience – at some of our gigs, they take the lead vocal. But I really feel like people are going to connect with this album and with the band. They’re going to hear stuff that doesn’t really sound like The Living End.”

Single Keep On Running is acutely moving and hopeful, with minor chords scattered throughout the sweet parts. Cheney says it began as a collaborative session with a mate whose children “get along really well” with the singer’s own offspring. “We’d been saying for months, ‘We should crack a couple of beers and write something together,’ and one day we finally got around to it. It was almost, I don’t know, sort of like talking to our kids: ‘It’s all going to be OK. There’s going to be some pretty heavy times, and you’re going to go through some sh-t, but it will work out.’ Yeah, when everything’s going great, there is that bittersweet thing of, well, for how long, until it turns sour? But I think that’s the beauty of a song like that. You’ve got to just live in the now, don’t you. So yes, it’s our Chariots of Fire. Inspirational moment,” he chuckles.

From the inspirational to the emotive, one particularly stand-out cut is With Enemies Like That. The true quality of Cheney’s voice is baldly laid out in its melodies, and there’s absolutely no leaning on laurels of nostalgia or phony feelings; Cheney’s assertion that this is “an ‘I’ record, not a ‘we’ record” filters through all its parts. Perhaps it comes from the band’s newly discovered, inherent sense of selection. “You’ve just got to find the right perspective,” Cheney says. “For whatever reason, we seem to have a better perspective and a better way of stepping back, looking at the songs and deciding on what they needed. And sometimes that was less,” he explains.

In terms of the catalyst for output, there’s got to be a spark, and sometimes the fiercer the better. “I don’t know many bands that can just get in there and produce greatness without any kind of friction,” Cheney says. “We all butted heads. There were some doozies. We know each other far too well, and that’s the reason you can say, ‘No, you get f-cked.’” An adjudicator came in the form of Woody Annison, long-time friend and live engineer of the band’s shows. “He knows how we want to sound live, and that’s always the initial idea of going into a studio – to try and catch that common energy,” says Cheney. “He was going to be great at being able to say, ‘You’ve done enough takes for that,’ or ‘That part’s fine, don’t squash all the energy out of it by trying to perfect it.’ Because that’s the danger: that you can get it really, really good and then it’s boring. But the only time we were disagreeing on things was because we wanted to find the best result,” he asserts. “And that’s definitely what we got.”

SHIFT’S GEMS

Up The Junction
There’s a totally synchronised breakdown at the heart of this belter, in which drums, guitar, bass and most importantly space are in complete unison. But it’s Cheney’s subtle harmonies and the timbre of his voice, which cuts through everything like a sweet vinegar, which is the kicker.

Staring Down The Barrel
In terms of vocals, this is the most astonishing of the tracks on Shift; were it played to you in isolation, you may not know it’s Cheney at all. His voice has a vibrato which rolls onto a meaner edge while Owen and Strachan provide a relentless, perpetual motion behind the aching lyrics.

Keep On Running
They say that any happy moment is inherently sad, because we’re aware that happiness is ephemeral, like everything else. That poignancy is captured perfectly in gentle oscillations between major and minor chords while Strachan kicks out little off-beat accents on the snare, and chugging strings complement the track’s hopeful feel.

Wire
In this cracker, pithy rhyming phrases are spat out, repeated, and spun around to reflect on themselves, and Strachan gallops his sticks ferociously across hi-hat and snare.

With Enemies Like That
Try keeping your willies together while listening to Cheney sing “Remember when there was no wrong or right, just a feeling in the night.” Never mawkish, this is genuine reflection all over.

Shift Review

Author: Chris Murray

Twenty-two years of playing seriously intense music (to varying critical and commercial success) hasn’t dampened the torch one molecule.
That unmistakable raw and middle-fingered energy is still front and centre in The Living End’s latest. Except, they’ve dropped the ‘Clash meets Stray Cats’ style pigeonhole; this is instead a dark, angry and furious record dripping with sweat, regret and a pain you have to punch through. Old school Australian rock, modern moods and frank authenticity fall from lead singer Cheney’s lips. Life As We Know It is a highlight amongst solid work that will see ample airplay and deserved success. Nice one!

The Living End To Tour New Album

Author: Unknown

Australian rock and roll kings The Living End have finally returned – refreshed, rejuvenated and with a brand-new swagger.

Having taken a five year break after the release of the ARIA award winning The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, The Living End today rightly reclaim the Australian rock throne with the release of latest single ‘Keep On Running‘ and the announcement of their seventh album Shift – which is out on May 13.

Keep On Running‘ is one of the most powerful songs of The Living End‘s career. Full of swelling strings and acoustic strums, it’s also a deeply personal song for The Living End frontman Chris Cheney, who co-wrote the song with his friends Dylan Berry & Stefan Litrownik during an emotionally turbulent period in his life.
“We all have moments where life is getting the better of us, but that’s when you draw strength and come out the other side stronger.” Cheney says.
The band also recently teased the album announcement with the release of the track ‘Monkey‘, which is vintage TLE – punk rock smashed into rockabilly creating the kind of amped up anthem that had fans salivating at first listen over the prospect of the album ahead.

The one-two combo of ‘Keep On Running‘ and ‘Monkey‘ highlight that Shift is the hardline sound of a band on the warpath. Pity the fool in its sights. The Living End has a history of tough talk. There have been riots, revolutions and resistance, and Chris Cheney, Scott Owen and Andy Strachan have never been afraid to break out the artillery.
What makes Shift so different is the unflinching candour. Shift is a first-person fight club.

The Living End have just announced an Australian tour to support the record, playing major theatres around the country and hitting Melbourne Friday June 24 at The Forum. Tickets are on sale now from Ticketmaster and the new single ‘Keep On Running’ is available now on iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music.