Worse Is Better

Author: Steve Bell

Life has been really busy for The Living End.

They’ve been plugging away overseas pushing their second album Roll On to an ever-expanding audience, and now they’re returning to play a headlining tour of Australian capitals. And there’s no respite in sight for the hard-working three-piece – they’re straight back to the States after these shows to hit the road supporting Green Day, followed by some Warped shows and then festivals in Japan and Europe.

But as affable frontman Chris Cheney explains, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Up until now, it’s been really hectic – or it’s felt really hectic – and I think it’s about to get worse, in a sense. I guess worse is better in a way, if you know what I mean. We’re pretty run off our feet.

“But it’s all good stuff. We’ve kind of been just in America up until now, which has been really fun, but we’re really looking forward to going back to Japan and Europe and stuff. We’re playing the Reading and Leeds festivals, which will be good, but I think the Australian tour should be fantastic because we haven’t played here for a while and it being our home crowds and everything. I mean AC/DC was the last thing, but that wasn’t our show.”

While Australia remains the band’s main priority, they’re excited about the prospect of building their profile even further on foreign shores, especially in America where over the years very few Australian bands have been able to replicate their local successes. The fact that they’ve already toured there extensively means that this time the band can knuckle down to the task at hand without the aura and mystique that accompanies first visits to foreign stages.

“I think the shine has been taken off a little bit,” Cheney agrees. “I think the first time you go over there is so exciting and the first couple of shows you played are just like when you’re starting out here, I suppose. There’s a certain kind of innocence or something and being really nervous about playing in a different country. Now there’s a different kind of thing, you know: ‘Are people going to turn up to the show tonight?’. Back then, we knew people weren’t going to turn up [laughs].

“But now we’re pulling quite a few people over there, more than here, obviously, because of the population. We’re playing pretty big venues so it’s exciting in a different way, it’s more sort of nerve-wracking now.”

The Living End have worked hard for their successes to date, so they’re not going to take their first overseas breakthroughs for granted.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate so far. Whether it gets any bigger or not I don’t know, but it’s certainly looking like the venues and everything like that are going to get better. And people are genuinely taking an interest in the band, fanwise. Without everything else, that’s the fun anyway, getting up there and playing to people who like what you’re doing.

“It’s never been easy since day one with the band. It’s always been a struggle, but in a good way. We’ve always had to fight for what we’ve got. We started off managing the band ourselves and all that. And when you get the rewards you seem to appreciate it more. And it’s the same when we go over there, just getting nervous before you go on, stuff like that. I think after the gig it makes you appreciate it more and it makes you work harder.”

Being on the road does have its advantages. For instance, it lets the band members embrace their main passion – music and other bands.

“Every time we ever get a day off, we either go and see a band or we go and find out where the local music shop is and go look at guitars or just buy CDs,” Cheney laughs. “I’m just a sponge for music; I hope that never dies. It is harder now to listen to music than before the band got anywhere.

“When you start to learn a few chords and learn your way around the guitar, you can’t really listen to music in the same way anymore because you end up trying to dissect it and it drives me nuts. It’s good to step out of that and be a punter. It’s very hard to, I kind of envy sometimes people who don’t play a musical instrument because they take music for what it is and not how it’s constructed.”

One thing that’s been obvious to those who have followed the band for a while is the way they’ve embraced each challenge and subsequent success with a real enthusiasm and passion.

“I understand how people can get sort of jaded in this industry and I never did really understand that until probably writing this last album,” Cheney reflects. “Up until then it was great, I thought so innocently like ‘It’s all about the music and you’ve got to be genuine’ and all the stuff that’s just kind of natural anyway.

“But then you get an insight into the music industry and the way people play with other people’s lives, and you can get very jaded by it and I can understand that now. But you’ve also got to be sort of happy within yourself, I think, and remember why you got into the band in the first place.

“To me, that was sort of to play guitar and write music, so whenever I get a bit kind of ‘How come this band’s on the radio?’ or ‘This is fucked that we’re not as famous as them’ or whatever, stupid things like that, I think ‘God, don’t even think about that’. We’re lucky to be where we are.”

The Living End play Arena this Sunday Jun 10 (over 18s) and Monday Jun 11 (all-ages). Roll On is out now on EMI.

Living And Learning

Author: Michael Duffy

Despite ongoing success at home and a growing fan base away, The Living End are still pupils and the “Dacker” school of crowd control. MICHAEL DUFFY reports.

Two children aged no older than 12 lunged for their buzzers on children’s television game show Download last week.

Even though only three letters had been exposed, they immediately knew the answer to the hidden band’s name – The Living End. Now touring the US with a band curiously named Flogging Molly, upright bassist Scott Owen is genuinely astounded at hearing about their mention on the mid-afternoon children’s show.

“It’s quite a benchmark isn’t it?” he says.
“It’s kind of a mind-blowing thing. Three or four years ago it didn’t occur to us that this sort of thing could happen.”

But for the past three years at least, life has been “rolling on” at an incomprehensible pace for the Melbourne trio.

Though the group has been together since 1994 and achieved national popularity in 1996 from the release of its self-titled debut album following its tour with Greenday, The Living End still seem to be everywhere.

In June the group will tour Australia during a two-week break from working in the US, where it is building a formidable reputation. “We’ve been playing to crowds of between 500 and 1500 people and this time we’re headlining,” Owen says.

“Last night we played in LA at a place called The Places which holds 1450 people.

“We’re happy, we always think back about how it took us years to play somewhere that big in Australia – so it’s great.”

And Owen says the Australian novelty factor seems to count for little in the US. “I don’t want this to come across the wrong way but I think Americans are too vain to really notice we’re Australian or really care where we’re from,” he says.

Meanwhile, the group has not been neglecting Australia, touring regularly and giving generous time to the nation’s media.

Recently, a new demographic was introduced to The Living End’s infectious rock when it supported Aussie rock legends AC/DC on its national tour in January.

“When we were asked to do it there was no way we were going to say no,” Owen says.
“Who would say no to AC/DC?

“That’s something we’re going to take to the grave… to rock music they’re going to end up being as important as Buddy Holly. We’re going to be able to look back and tell our grand kids we played with them.”

Once the group had overcome its awe, Owen says The Living End learned some important lessons from the “Dacker”.

“There were these big stadiums, entertainment centres and tennis centres and the places were only half full,” he says.

“We thought stuff it, if people are going to be just finding their seat while we’re on, we’ve only got half an hour, let’s play the best set we can. Make the people go away with something more than just having seen a band they’ve loved for 10 or 15 years.

“(But) no one else can get out there and do it the way AC/DC can. To have that impact you have to get out there and feel that no one can do what you do quite like us.”

The Living End will perform in Adelaide on June 3 at Heaven II Nightclub with Lash and Area 7

On The Roll With The Living End

Author: Glenn Fowler

Prior to catching The Living End at The Garage in Glasgow, I had the opportunity to speak with Chris, Scott & Travis about the current tour, the new album and what they think about being compared to other bands. Among other things.

How has the UK tour gone, and what have been your highlights?
The tour has been sold out at almost all of the venues almost every night. We’ve been to England before, but this is the first time that we’ve played in Scotland. We haven’t really been promoted that much over here, but people are still showing up at our shows. So all of the hard yards that we are putting in touring and playing is paying off and that is what The Living End do best, we’re not so much a radio band.
Chris: My standout memory would be lack of sleep. No, hang on. That’s every tour!
Travis: The sold out show at the London Astoria is hard to top. – To sell out such a famous rock and roll venue as quickly as we did and a month before we played there was awesome. The Astoria wasn’t just full of Aussies either, the locals had come along to have a listen as well. Up to the Astoria gig we had a few problems with equipment and stuff, so the Astoria was just a killer gig for us.
Scott: The gig with Aerosmith in Munich was pretty memorable. Aerosmith had heard about us somewhere and asked for The Living End to do the support for a warm up show before they went on tour. The Aerosmith guys didn’t play as much rock and roll as we thought they would, more bluesy stuff. But Aerosmith are really good at what they do.

The new album has a lot of variations.
We were going to make the album more eclectic, but we made a conscious decision to make it how we have. Each song grows on you rather than being an instant hit and all of the songs sound different. So that way you don’t get sick of the whole album as it all sounds the same and you will still have a favourite song in a months time, but it will be a different song. The next album we hope will be more of everyone’s outside influences.

How do you generally work when writing and recording an album? Do you have a formula that you work to when recording?
Last year we started writing and recording Roll On and then we started touring, but the next time we will break it up a bit. Spend some time at home, then back on the road to break up the writing thing. We had heaps of songs for Roll On, so we weren’t suffering from a lack of material and we had heaps and heaps of songs that we had confidence in. But being at home for as long as we were while recording just makes it even harder to be away from home for this long now.
Travis: We haven’t had a holiday for a couple of years and sure we were recording the last album at home, but that meant 4:00 am finishes. Then get up early to have a life, see girlfriends, pay bills etc. and be back in the studio by 12:00 lunchtime and the same process again day after day.
Chris: We did some shows while we were at home, but it didn’t feel like we’d had a break at the end of that and now we are back on the road for this tour.
Travis: We released the album earlier in Australia to get a head start there. Then started shows in November, so we’ve been going for 4 months now.

How do you deal with the Clash and Green Day comparisons?
We could be compared to worse bands. But both bands are diverse, so it’s a compliment. The Clash were very eclectic, so that’s a good comparison. And Green Day do their stuff well, but they concentrate more on the style that they play. To be compared to both outfits is almost a contradiction in itself.
Scott: We have a powerful punky element as well, so I think that it’s weak to compare us to Green Day. But if we sound like The Clash, then which point in their career do we sound like because they changed so much and sounded different on each album.
Travis: They have to label you as something. But those bands paved the way to make punk more commercial. Punk is very educated about the world and politcal differences, where rock and roll is just about music, drugs and girls. Punk rock has a message. There are a hell of a lot of differences between the personalities of the Green Day guys and us. I would say that we are more like The Jam than anyone. But all in all we are The Living End.

Roll On is a very guitar oriented album.
Hellbound had lots of guitar riffs and lead breaks on it, as does the new one, but I think that we are just playing better now. We are definitely more rock rather than rockabilly these days. So the guitars have come to the forefront more. The songs on Roll On were intended to be more simple and therefore easier to play live. But I don’t think that they came out that way, but there are certain bits that are more straight ahead rock and guitar. Pictures In The Mirror may be more complex but basically it’s a rock song. Where as some of the rockabilly and psychobilly stuff that we’ve done in the past just doesn’t sound big and powerful enough in comparison.

Are there songs that you’ve recorded and you wished that you hadn’t?
Yeah, there was a track on the Hellbound EP the ninth track and it’s a daggy sort of song. There were problems with the pressing of the album and 500 copies were pressed wrongly. If you own one of the 500 copies you’re lucky, because they go for big bucks on eBay and I don’t even think I have one!
Travis: I don’t think that we’ve done our best work yet, so there will always be something that we wished we hadn’t done.

How have you been received in the UK and US?
I feel that we’ve got more in common with the UK Rock and Roll scene, we probably aren’t gimmicky enough for the US market, but they are still listening to us.
It feels almost like a cult thing, like when we first started in Australia. The people who are showing up at our shows are more fanatical over here and playing smaller venues is refreshing. Don’t get me wrong though, we love playing to 40,000 people as well.
Scott: We are generally treated the same in the US as the UK, but California’s a little bit different, because we get some more radio airplay. So there at least we have more of an audience.

Do you find song writing an easy process?
I find song writing very difficult. It’s really fun but lots of work and when it;s finished it’s a big relief. I find that it’s the human factor coming through in the music. The lyrics just come out in my thought process, and now people think that’s our thing but the next album might be totally stupid.
What you want with rock and roll is for people to get lost in your little fantasy world. We always try to have double meanings in our songs, so that if you want to read something into it you can.

You tend to play a lot of covers. Why, when you have so much of your own material?
We try to do things a bit left of centre. It would be very obvious if we did a punk rock song. But maybe we should, as we haven’t done one yet. It’s a bit of light heartedness and to have fun. It’s also just so that the audience has fun, cause you just can’t buy fun.
Chris: We used to be a cover band and knew 300 odd songs. It would be cool to throw in a few more now, but we are trying to promote us. We mainly throw in cover versions to try to vary the nightly routine and keep it interesting. Otherwise we would come off stage thinking, ‘Well we played the same thing again.’

The Living End are far from routine or uninteresting and the songs from Roll On are showing a greater maturity in both musicianship and song writing. Thanks to Chris, Scott and Travis for taking the time out to have a chat.

The Living End – Roll On

Author: Unknown

Don’t get me wrong — this Aussie version of “punk” isn’t punk as we know it in the states. It’s more like a commercial stab at punk — an attempt at making punk approachable — sort of a kinder, gentler Rocket From the Crypt.

Or my opinion has been clouded by the fact that they’re a product of Australia, a country that’s brought us such wholesome entertainment staples as Mick Dundee, Men at Work, the 2000 Olympics, Olivia Newton John, Survivor II, AC/DC, Mad Max and those lovable ‘roos. Isn’t punk suppose to be about rebellion, anarchy and anger? How could anyone possibly be angry living in the sun-drenched world of Foster’s Lager and cool, throaty accents that drive chicks mad?

That said, the trio, which includes smooth vocalist Chris Cheney on guitar, Trav Demsey on drums, and Scott Owen on upright bass, knows how to create pop-punk songs that are so ingeniously catchy, hook-filled and downright fun, they’re impossible to resist. Kind of like punk for people who like the idea of punk, but don’t really like to listen to it. Their music has more in common with Def Leppard than the Sex Pistols. We’re talking quick, clean, punk-esque rock, exquisitely produced and played by a trio that’s as tight as a tic and very aware that their strong suit isn’t making a point, but playing hook-filled, sonic fireworks.

Even when try act tough they come off loveable. Though each track seems to start in punk mode, it only takes a few moments before the pop bleeds through. The jumpy “Riot On Broadway” owes a lot to its shout-out chorus; drunk anthem “Carry Me Home” starts off like Wango Tango-era Nugent or early Aerosmith; the chorus on “Dirty Man” would fit right in on a John Wesley Harding CD, while “Silent Victory” sounds like something off Hi and Dry.

What separates this from greasy kids’ stuff like Blink 182 and Pennywise is that these guys have been around a lot longer, and it shows. In other words, you’re not gonna feel embarrassed listening to it in your office, though you might get some strange looks when you can’t help but turn it up.

Let There Be Rock!

Author: Jude Winston

On December 31, 1973, AC/DC played their first gig at Chequers, A Sydney nightclub. Two years and two days later, Chris Cheney, from The Living End, was born. By Jude Winston.

Despite the fact that they are, literally, a generation apart, AC/DC and the Living End share a spirit that more than bridges the gap. Both stand at the forefront of a great Australian tradition – no-bulls#*t rock & roll.
It might seem an odd scenario at first: one of the greatest straight-down-the-line rock & roll bands ever joining forces with a rockabilly/punk revivalist outfit to play Entertainment Centres throughout Australia. In truth, there is a little irony in the arrangement. When AC/DC first made the move to England, they landed right in the middle of the punk movement. True to their no-bulls#*t image, the Acadaca lads thought the punk thing was a whole load of bollocks, as Malcolm Young explained recently to Mojo magazine.
“We were always saying, ‘We ain’t a punk band, we’re a rock & roll band.’ We were tougher than any of those punks. We used to sit there laughing at these guys who were supposed to be able to bite your head off, thinking, ‘We could just rip the safety pin out of his nose and kick the s#*t out of him.'”
That’s probably fair enough, but despite Malcolm’s disdain for the Johnny Rottens of the world, the situation in 2001 is a little different. Firstly, Chris Cheney from the Living End is a great bloke – which, depending on who you ask, isn’t necessarily true of Mr Rotten. Secondly, for all the Green Day there is in the Living End, there’s also a lot of the Who, Midnight Oil and AC/DC. As Chris explains to Esky, it wasn’t much of a stretch for Malcolm and his little brother (lead guitarist Angus) to see exactly where the Living End are coming from.
“I’ve read things before where Angus has said stuff like, ‘Johnny Rotten is a whingeing prat,’ back when they were playing the Marquee and the Pistols were playing the 100 Club,” explains Chris. “But I guess as much as we’re influenced by the Clash and the whole punk thing, AC/DC can see that we love Little Richard and Chuck Berry as much as they do. They see a little bit of that in us you know – we’ve definitely got that rock & roll vibe as much as our political edge.”

It doesn’t take a degree in musicology to know that AC/DC have had a massive influence on music over the last 27 years, nor to see how that in turn has touched bands like the Living End. From the gritty, blues-based sound of the early years to the more metallic attack of their later material, AC/DC have written and recorded some of the most solid rock tunes of all time. Songs like “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Back In Black”, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and “Highway To Hell” have become legendary; as much a part of modern music as the Beatles, black T-shirts and recreational drugs.

Although many people believe AC/DC’s best years were those fronted by legendary maniac Bon Scott (who died in true rock & roll style, choking on his own vomit in January 1980), they are one of the few bands in history to replace a lead singer and continue on to bigger and better things. Brian Johnson took over from Bon for AC/DC’s smash Back In Black, only six months after the original vocalist’s death, and the band never looked back. To date they have sold about 100,000,000 albums. Not bad for a group with three chords and one guitar solo.

AC/DC also have the distinction of being one of the first bands to piss off the moral majority in the US; without a doubt the Marilyn Manson of their day. Their 1979 album Highway To Hell got do-gooder-know-it-all-loud-mouthed Americans foaming at the mouth – apparently lines like “Hey Satan, payed my dues/Playing in a rocking band/Hey Mama, look at me/I’m on my way to the promised land/I’m on the highway to hell” weren’t good for the souls of young children. Of course, AC/DC treated the whole situation as a bit of a joke, and Malcolm recently made the comment: “Some places you would go to play and these people would picket and try to get your show stopped. But in the end we won out. At one point they were telling kids to burn their AC/DC records, and I said I don’t mind because I know one thing – they’re buying them. And if they burnt them then they’ve probably bought them again by now.”

Given the extent of the AC/DC history, it is probably no surprise that for Cheney, their music has been a pretty constant presence throughout his life. In fact, the guitarist claims that Acadaca might very well have been his first taste of music.
“I was in primary school, in about grade two,” reminisces Chris. “There was this time where they decided to have this concert at lunch time. You paid 20 cents to go in and these grade sixers were set up like a band. Now, grade sixers look really big when you’re that small, and they had these cardboard guitars and flannelette shirts and one of them had like this flat cap on. They mimed AC/DC and even though they weren’t playing, that was the first even band experience for me. I’ve never forgotten that and it was worth every cent.”

It’s pretty obvious that this initiation to the world of music has had a lasting effect on Cheney. The Living End’s album Roll On oozes the classic rock spirit that AC/DC played such a big part in developing, and shows that behind the Clash influence and rockabilly trappings there is a very serious dose of rock in the ‘End boys. With songs like “Pictures In The Mirror” and “Roll On”, the Living End prove they are the real McCoy, part of a long and solid line of no-bulls#*t bands.

“Touring the last album we tended to listen to a lot of Rose Tattoo and the Who and AC/DC and stuff and I guess all that had some kind of influence on the direction we wanted to head with Roll On,” explains Chris. “We didn’t really write on the road, but when we stopped touring I guess all that had some influence of the direction we wanted to lead.”

Obviously the AC/DC lads are more aware of the influence they have had on the rock scene – they are without a doubt Australia’s biggest band, and even on a world scale, their influence has been profound. The list of people happy to sing their praises is almost as long as their discography, and the compliments all revolve around one major factor – their honesty.
Maynard James Keenan (Tool and A Perfect Circle) summed up the rock world’s attitude to AC/DC when he spoke to Esky earlier this year. Asked what his favourite Aussie band was, he didn’t even have to think about it.
“AC/DC. They are just so right. There’s not bulls#*t. When you look at some other bands who have tried to do the rock thing – bands like Poison or Motley Cue – there’s just no comparison. All the other bands try too hard. With AC/DC there is no trying, they just do.”
The attitude of AC/DC to this sort of respect is pretty much what you would expect – a shrug of the shoulders, a little grin and a wise crack. When Esky asked Angus how he felt about the influence issue, he was pretty straight up.

“It depends if they call us a good influence or a bad influence,” laughs the guitarist. “But, yeah, I think it’s good. I just hope they pick the good bits out of it, because my influences are people like Chuck Berry, and if they can get that out of it, they can’t go too far wrong.”

Behind all the humility and one-liners (we also asked Angus what he thought AC/DC’s greatest legacy would be and he wheezed, “Getting a leg over.”), the AC/DC story is a lot more than myth. They have proven for almost 30 years that you don’t need to be flashy or phoney, just be yourself. Angus once tried to explain it by saying, “I think we do what we do well, whatever it is that we do.”

But with the benefit of a different perspective, Cheney summed it up well.
“Maybe AC/DC is drinking music, but at the end of the day those guys aren’t stupid. You know the music they play is just stronger than words can describe – it’s just that powerful.”

The Living End

Author: Tom Phalen

The Living End

While Australian retro-rockabilly-punksters the Living End aren’t as cute or funny as Green Day, as politically articulate as The Clash or even as retro- rockabilly as The Stray Cats — all bands they greatly admire — their Foster- sized sense of self coupled with an engagingly innocent social and personal outlook makes them more winning than they might otherwise be.

Still young — guitarist Chris Cheney, double bassist Scott Owen and drummer Travis Dempsey are all in their mid 20s — they’ve been together almost five years with a couple of EPs and a platinum selling single — the opening track “Prisoner of Society” — released in their homeland. Living End is their American full length debut and it has the comfortable instrumental polish of a band that has bonded. Stylistically they’re rooted in rockabilly, but they make excursions into punk, ska and, in the case of “Bloody Mary,” a song about a girl who slashes her wrists in public to garner attention, the reverberated psychobilly of The Cramps.

Lyrically, they take a working class, i.e. complaining, view of the world, whether it’s the trials of a typical teenager on “Prisoner,” the social separation of the caste system in the “Street Fighting Man”-style of “West End Riot,” or just the tedium of a brutal, dead end job in “I Want A Day.” These are universal gripes and told in simple, near monosyllabic terms. “Well we don’t need no one to tell us what to do,” sings Cheney, “Oh yes we’re on our own and there’s nothing you can do” are Everyman sentiments, and it’s there the band is most convincing.

Where they get in trouble is trying to tackle subjects still beyond their scope. On some, they’re successful. “Second Solution” has the urgency of a death row convict running out of time. “What I want to say is will I die today?” pretty succinctly sums things up. And in “All Torn Down,” which rails against the destruction of hometown landmarks in the name of progress and gentrification, the same also holds true. It isn’t the first time a band has said, “I see the city and it’s grown into a big machine. The streets are freeways and the parks are just a memory,” but here it’s stated concisely.

But “Monday,” the story of the schoolyard massacre in Dunblane, Scotland, is far too similar to The Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t like Mondays.” While Cheney’s heart may be in the right place, the comparisons are distracting, and his song lacks the compelling melody and arrangement of Bob Geldof’s chilling portrayal of sociopathic behavior.

However, the instrumental “Closing In,” which finishes the record, exudes nothing but mood and emotion. The simple structure and engaging theme suggest surf guitarist Dick Dale channeling Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite composer Bernard Hermann. It’s meatier than most of what we all heard in Pulp Fiction, and shows real promise and direction.

The Living End might not be all that, but the potential is definitely there.

Author: Unknown

It was 11am Perth time and Travis from The Living End was feeling a little weary. A combination of playing late, getting up early and partying with 20 friends from Warragul and Drouin till 7.00am, had meant the lad was not up to his sticks this morning. 

For local Gippsland people Travis admits that Warragul can indeed claim him as a famous son, 
“At least for the first twelve or so years,” he says, “then Neerim South where I attended the local high school”. 
Considering the size (or lack of) Neerim South once a logging town is now a 5 second drive through in the car. So is Trav famous? 
“No I think that if you play footy you become more famous in Gippsland”. 
What about the local secondary college? 
“I attended four high schools in the Warragul area, I guess you could say I was a trouble maker at school. I got the boot from a few schools. I was out from Warragul High School at Year 7, Neerim South I was out at the end of Year 10, then I went and did an apprenticeship, quit that, then went to Marist Zion College where some of my friends were going. I only lasted four months before I was out, I then went to Warragul Technical School for nearly the full school year before that finished too”.

After that? 
“I hung around town for a few years trying to get bands started and working a day job in Warragul. I then got an apprenticeship in landscape gardening and horticulture. I did that for a few years. I then decided I had to bite the bullet about starting a band and move to Melbourne, people there weren’t serious and dedicated as I wanted to be. I mean people were serious until their work, their football training times, or they were doing something at the weekend. That was fine with those guys but I didn’t want to do anything else with my life. I just wanted to play the drums and get as far as I could do with it. So it was a move to Melbourne in 93/94/95. It started all over again. Making new friends and starting in crappy bands. I worked my way out. In 95 it started to really happen, I was doing a lot of drumming in Melbourne, I got picked up by these two guys. They came into the music store I was working and basically said ‘We know you can drum, do you want to join our band?’ It went from there.” 
Early readers of The Buzz might remember that Travis wrote a series of drumming articles back in 1995.

Chris recently said that he hadn’t seen any downside to being popular, does Travis feel the same way towards the tremendous success that is The Living End? 
“The only downside to fame is that you have no private life. If you walk into a supermarket people want an autograph and all this sort of stuff, but generally were a pretty smart band. The only publicity we do about ourselves is about the music generally. If we talk to a magazine or do something with TV it is always playing live music or talking about music. You won’t see us this side of a Pepsi can, Nike etc. A lot of bands take the easy way and get sponsored. I think it taints their music a little bit. It’s just a code of ethics. With punk rock especially and were into the 70’s punk rock, not so much the skater punk rock of now, which is all about logos. The Punk we grew up with like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Who, it was the music that made them famous apart from their exploits after the show! We just decided that we wanted the music to speak for itself. People can see that. We don’t do many TV appearances, we don’t do turkey things like shopping centre appearances or stuff. Real music fans see through it and I like the fact that people can say ‘Oh, they’re a really big band and I don’t even know what they look like!’ I can walk around Melbourne and people don’t even recognise me still. It’s a good thing because I still have my anonymity you know. I’m a typical Australian guy, typical Australian height, typical Australia build. Nothing flash. Unlike some major acts, The Living End are what they are. Each member of the band is into their own style. I always think it is important to look a little bit left of centre, not just for the hell of it, but if that is the way you are inclined, you should do it and not worry about what people think. I just really like the 70s yob punk look from England type of thing. It’s what I generally tend to wear. We can still wear our clothes walking around Rosebud, but say if you were Marilyn Manson, people would be like ‘Oh my goodness!'”

The Living End are strong supporters of Gippsland and Travis’ home town. They have played in Warragul a couple of times, plus headlined acts further south. 
“It’s important to be proud of where you come from,” Travis states. “For all Gippsland’s faults, there’s a lot of pluses too. A lot of people who don’t know Gippsland as a whole tend to look at it as a place where stupid redneck dumb people live. It’s not that way at all. When you live there it’s a whole different way of living to the city. I certainly don’t want to forget how I grew up or what friends I had or what I did for entertainment, because it was a hell of a lot different and carefree and easy going than what it is now. Just going to swim in a dam for example.”

So what is Travis’ fondest memory about growing up in Warragul? 
“Probably living with all my friends. I moved out of home when I was fifteen and living with all my mates in Drouin at the time. Every day was just debauchery. You’d wake up in the morning and there would be girls you didn’t know sleeping in the lounge room that were from out of town and friends of someone. They’d be told they could crash at our house. There’d be cars that had skidded across our front lawn and wound up in the letterbox. It was just a madhouse. We were just young guys living life. As you get older you start to put too much emphasis on what you have and what someone else owns. When you’re eighteen and got no money and living in the country you make your own fun.” 
So was there a particular hang out in Warragul? 
“Not really, Warragul is not really a hang out place, mates houses. Everyone has a garage, a backyard, dad’s pool table, everyone knows someone who has a damn you can go swimming in. I rode motorbikes, played football a bit, did a bit of boxing, you make your own fun.”

The Living End have come to success the hard way. For a number of years they played under the shadow of the larger than life (and now very sadly defunct The Fireballs), all the time slowly building their strength and skills. So why did The Living End move on while The Fireballs fell down? 
“The Fireballs were playing a pretty intense metal meets rockabilly and I think that it was a very sub-cult type of thing. Although Chris and Scott were born and bred in the rockabilly kind of stuff they quickly discovered that a great song is more important than playing fast. We’re big suckers for bands like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, the Clash and Oasis. Bands that you can sing along to, so we started putting more emphasis on good songs incorporating our background musically.”

Known for their catchy tunes that just seem to get stuck in your head (who can forget Prisoner of Society or Pictures In A Mirror?) do the guys themselves ever come out feeling they just want to pull the plug and let the tunes drain out? 
“It’s hard sometimes when you have been recording them for a week straight, then they get stuck in your head. Playing them live is a release for us. We do a lot of waiting around. You play that hour on stage and you really let things go. We change our songs every night. We believe in ourselves enough that we’ve got the musicianship enough to take the songs in a different direction. Last night we did different versions to some of our songs the night before. We pride ourselves on being a punk band that can actually play. For a three piece band each member can hold their own. You’ve got to believe in yourself don’t you? If people come and see us live they really get shocked at how powerful we really are.”

Following along tried and true punk ideals, do many of the songs actually have a social theme to them? 
“We try and walk the fine line between out and out rock and roll-ism, which is escaping your weekend blues of listening to a good band and hanging out with friends. The lyrics are deep and meaningful and if it influences one sixteen year old to go and look something up on the internet, that’s great. It’s good to make people aware of things without preaching to them. As much as we never set out to become role models for anyone, we just wanted to play good music. I think in certain aspects you are role models because you’re in the public spotlight. We would like to do more good than bad. The typical image of rock and roll as being heaps of girls and drugs and smashing up our equipment. That’s for wankers. We’re playing music for music’s sake. I’m the sort of person who’d smash up a hotel room whether I could afford it or not.”

Being a strong exponent of English rockabilly compared to American rockabilly, where does Travis see the difference lying? 
“American rockabilly is based on the whole fifties concept with slick back hair, girl in balloon skirt, hotrod. The English rockabilly was more of a bastardised version. They took rockabilly, sped it up a little bit and played it punk style. They didn’t care about the cornice, but about the music side of it. The Aussie rockabilly scene took its lead from the English side which combined the ferocity and passion of punk and the cornice of rockabilly. We really like the British invasion of rock, that’s our thing. Now the band has changed direction again, were going for a good rock and roll band that plays really well. The Who or The Clash, AC/DC. The next album will see us change even more, judging of what we’ve been playing even now.”

The Living End are touring with AC/DC round Australia shortly. 
“I think its really cool, but I’m not really phased by it. We’ve just done so much touring with big bands over in America and Europe that we’re completely used to playing in front of 15,000 to 20,000 people a night. It’s come full circle for me. The first drum kit I ever got I played Heatseeker by AC/DC, that’s what I grew up playing the drums to and now fifteen years later that’s who I am playing with.”

So what’s the deal with America? For The Living End there seems to be this love/hate relationship with the place? 
“With no Barnsey type father in the wings fluttering protective wings, the guys with a solid management structure and sound musical skills behind them made it when. I’ve got to tell you that when I left Warragul and moved to Melbourne, I paid my bond and deposit and I sat in the house with no furniture and no money for like six months at least. It would have been easy to go back to something I knew, furniture, family, friends around you. You can always go back to a job in a country town, but I just had to stick it out because I knew that there was nothing there for me anymore. Apart from a great town to live in I had to do what I had to do for me”.

Roll Models

Author: Unknown

You don’t have to rub your crystals, or read your rune stones to know that these days, The Living End shows should have ‘BEWARE!’ written over them. Alongside Shihad and 28 Days, they are one of the best live acts in Australia. When they hit the stage, they explode with a chemistry. Last month, they put in a killer set at Homebake, in Sydney before 20,000 people. Soon, they’ll play one of their dream gigs – opening for AC/DC during their Australian visit.

“We’re such big fans, we were stoked they thought we were even worthy of opening for them,” enthuses big bass man Scott Owen. “We saw them at Madison Square Gardens in New York, when we were mixing our album. We got delayed in the studio because we weren’t happy with a mix. Then on the way to the show we were stuck in a traffic jam, so we had to run there. The woman at the box office said our tickets weren’t there, so an argument started. We had to leave early, just before “For Those About To Rock” because we had to get back to the studio.”

The End sold 600,000 copies of their first album The Living End, following hard touring through North America, Europe, Britain and Japan. Owen says one of their best gigs was at Reading Festival in England, before heading off to London for a Beatles tour and buying up clothes in the mod stores in Carnaby Street.

Chris Cheney, Scott Owen and Travis Demsey are not ambitious about having a No. 1 in America or becoming the biggest band on the planet. “Like us, the music is blue collar working class. That’s what Australians relate to the most, not like the ’80s when the fans expected musicians to be larger than life.”

Once their money started to roll in from the hits, they merely bought instruments and houses for themselves. They have no hobbies, because as kids they lived and breathed music. The first album put them in the pop-punk category.

But the new album Roll On widens their base and shows them off as musicians. It touches jazz, reggae and blues while still powering on “Silent Victory” and “Carry Me Home“. The three admit that when they started work on the album, they panicked. After playing the same set for 18 months around the world, suddenly they were in the studios needing to make new music. Was there only one great album in us, Chris Cheney wondered. But after a few weeks, the juices started to flow. While recording they put up posters of The Stray Cats, Supergrass, The Clash and the movie A Clockwork Orange for inspiration.

“There’s nothing like a shot of Paul Simenon smashing up his guitar (from The Clash’s London Calling album) to give you a jolt of rock and roll,” Owen chuckles.

Spiritually, though, the heart of the second End album lies more in the power tries of the ’60s, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Led Zeppelin and The Who. Some tracks like “Staring At The Sea
and “Riot On Boradway” indicates lots of improvisation, with all three throwing in their ideas rather than relying on Chris.

Interestingly, during The Living End’s jams onstage, it is jazz freak Travis who takes the lead, not the guitarist. I ask Scott if Travis is the best musician in The ‘End?

“Trav knows everything about drums. At the same time, Chris has been playing guitar since he was in primary school. He’s so versatile, blues, rockabilly, AC/DC, Bon Jovi. It keeps things interesting for us. We’ve learned our strengths and our weak points.

Check out “Carry Me Home“, a technically hard song that still has attitude and energy to show how advanced they’ve become as players.

Who was the last band The Living End had a bust up with? “I don’t think we ever had one. We’re pretty non-confrontational. If anyone says anything nasty, we don’t care!”

The End Justifies The Means…

Author: Murray Engleheart

Murray Engleheart spoke to the boys from the End about their new album ‘Roll On’, U2, AC/DC and real rock ‘n’ roll…

Listen to me. This is important. The Living End’s performance at Livid in Brisbane in October before 40,000 plus bodies was right up there with seeing Nirvana and Metallica at the Hordern Pavillion in Sydney in 1992 and 1989 respectively. What made it all the more amazing was it was virtually the band’s first show in this country for the year and they pulled it off while testing new songs from their excellent Roll On album and a new in ear monitor system. But it wasn’t just the size of the crowd or the occasion that was daunting for the trio.
“The Cure, Green Day, Lou Reed and The Living End!” says still amazed drummer, Travis Dempsey of their prime billing position on the day. “And No Doubt. We just went, fuck! They’ve all sold millions in America and that’s when it really hit home.”
Exactly how hard it hit was saved not so much for the classic, Prisoner Of Society but a stunning damn near life changing version of U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday that had the massive audience singing at a volume that eclipsed the band themselves. “I said to (singer and guitarist) Chris (Cheney) I think we should do this song because it would suit his voice.” continues Dempsey. “I just think it’s a very political song. The lyrics and the way the drums are very Topper Headon. It’s very Clash, they’re much the Clash basically because that’s what their big thing was when they first started in Dublin. I thought fuck, I think we could do this song justice.”
That one straight out of left field song is a firm indication of the surprises that the band’s utterly killer Nick Launay produced Roll On album has for some folks. It puts to bed for good the spectre of the Stray Cats and much of the early Clash comparisons and replaces them with the Powerage crunch of AC/DC, the raunch n’ roll of The Sex Pistols and Rose Tattoo’s pumping working class anthem swing. Essentially it’s damn fine rock n’ roll which really has always been at the core of the band as opposed to simply punk rock. Dempsey’s typically straight up when it comes to what he wanted from the recording. “A fucking rock n’ roll album that proves to everyone that we’re no fluke. We’re very, f..king serious and if you don’t believe us listen to the album. There’s not many bands that are really, really playing good rock’n roll with good musicianship and great songs that you can sing along to. The process has had its benefits, like mixing the album in New York and finding that while you were in town AC/DC were doing a string of nights at Madison Square Garden. That night ironically turned out to be one of the most stressful of the entire trip. “We were stuck at the studio because we had to listen to a mix before we left.” recalls Owen. “We were like, ‘Come on (mixer) Andy (Wallace)! F..king hurry up and finish twiddling your knobs! We listened to it and we were like, fuck! We’ve got to talk about this! So we talked about it and then we were like, we’ve got to go! The support band had just finished and we had to get a cap through the middle of New York. We were like three possessed men.”
“Three possessed, pissed and stoned men!” clarifies Dempsey. “Then we got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. We’re like, sorry mate, we’re getting out here. He’s like, what? We’re like, Let’s go! We’re stoned and trying to run! Then we had to pick up tickets and they weren’t there! Oh, your names aren’t here. Yes they are!”

The Living End – Roll On

Author: Michael Owen-Brown

The Living End
Roll On (EMI)

When did The Living End transform into the heir apparent to AC-DC? The opening riff of Silent Victory sounds more like Acca Dacca than most songs written since Back In Black. It’s just one of a handful of driving hard-rock anthems on this latest album which are totally unexpected. More unexpected is that The Living End pulls off this potentially disastrous experiment with confidence and panache. Roll On is one of the most brash and catchy albums this year. The band’s superb musical abilities – particularly Chris Cheney’s blistering guitar licks – allow it to traverse various styles and tempos. Development in the band’s songwriting since it’s 1998 debut album is immediately noticeable. Perhaps some songs are too cluttered, but the album works brilliantly as a whole.