Modern Artillery Tour

Author: Unknown

Hard times and conflict have been key ingredients in some of rock’s finest albums. Inner and outer turmoil have given albums such as Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks an edge and passion that has catapulted them to legendary status. For Melbourne trio the Living End, their third and best album, Modern Artillery, was the result of a trying two years that would have killed off many other bands. With their first release, in 1998, success had come easily. Their self-titled debut, propelled by the instant teenage-angst hit Prisoner of Society, is still the highest-selling debut album by an Australian band, with sales of five times platinum (350,000). On their follow-up, Roll On, they set out to prove they had more to offer than infantile pop-punk bands such as Blink 182. They showcased their playing skills and revealed influences ranging from the Clash to the Everly Brothers. But it was all a bit clever and convoluted, and in the end didn’t satisfy their fans – or themselves – as much as their debut.

When it came to writing the next album, after touring Roll On for most of 2001, they hit a brick wall. First, frontman Chris Cheney’s car was hit head-on by a car travelling on the wrong side of the Great Ocean Road between Aireys Inlet and Fairhaven. Enter 12 months of hospital, rehabilitation, crutches and a walking stick. Then, in February 2002, drummer Travis Dempsey quit, citing a lack of interest in touring. This was a serious problem for a three-piece heavily reliant on group dynamics. When Cheney resumed walking, they found a replacement drummer in Andy Strachan. They flew to Los Angeles to record Modern Artillery, but were held up in customs for four hours with visa problems and almost weren’t allowed into the country. The recording went over time and over budget. “The curse of this album …” Cheney says with a sigh at an Melbourne pub.

But the band’s perseverance has been rewarded. The fans haven’t forgotten them. The album debuted at No.3 on the ARIA album charts and has so far sold 50,000 copies; they received a hugely positive response on the Livid tour; and they had about 3000 people – including many new fans – pack out HMV in Bourke Street for a recent in-store appearance.
“It’s not ideal to have a break like that with the roll that we were on,” says Cheney. “We had so much momentum, and we’ve probably lost a bit of ground, but I’m so thankful about the overwhelming response we’ve had with our gigs and the in-store.
“I still get really excited about the idea of this band. I think it’s such a valid kind of band. I still don’t know why there aren’t more bands with double basses and whatever else we’ve got. There just doesn’t seem to be anyone else around doing what we’re doing. There’s a whole generation of young kids that weren’t around a few years ago who find it exciting, and I’m glad about that, because I still find it really exciting.”

Some of those new fans who packed out HMV caused $4000 damage as they tried to get close to their heroes.
The band spent hours signing autographs for the devotees, including a woman with a fresh tattoo of the band who asked them to sign their names around it so she could return to the tattoo artist and get the autographs marked permanently.

Double-bassist Scott Owen reckons their young fans connect with the band’s energy and honesty.
“Kids can see through bands who get up there and put on the show-pony thing. It’s an ageless thing when guys are up there just getting off on it. We sit around kind of quiet all day, and we’re not really outgoing as individuals, but we save it all up for the stage. We feel like little kids when we’re up there playing – like you’re a four-year-old who can just run around with your hands in the air and just be normal. It still feels like that.”

With all the drama, it’s not surprising that a sense of mortality, darkness and introspection pervades Modern Artillery. There are references to the Tampa affair and disillusionment with both sides of politics (Who’s Gonna Save Us was written in response to the bickering within the ALP), but it’s far from a political manifesto. In fact, Cheney is becoming increasingly apathetic.
“I know that you’ve got to get involved and you’ve got to see what’s going on, because you can make a difference, but I struggle to see how anything’s really going to change. It’s the same with the whole George Bush thing – (in the end) they’re going to be dead, we’re going to be dead. Is there really anything that’s going to change? It’s laughable, so that song is like, ‘Who’s going to be leading us down the garden path next? Who’s going to be telling us what we can and can’t do, and does it really make any difference at the end of the day?’. You do have to make a difference in your own lifetime, and find your own happiness and make your own right decisions, but I still just don’t know whether the big problems, like the war, are going to change. I can’t help feeling that these guys (politicians) are saying, ‘We care, we care’. They care about the pay packet at the end so they can retire. They’ll get a good life out of it and they’ll die, and everyone else will just keep struggling.”

Cheney admits that being holed up in his living room for months on end left him with too much time to contemplate his own existence, and the result is more personal reflection in his songwriting.
“There was a lot of thinking, a lot of over-thinking and over-analysing, and I continue to over-think and over-analyse things now, especially ‘inside’ stuff. When you’re young you just live and get on with it and don’t think about it, and I suppose that’s why a lot of those earlier songs were about other things.
“And I’m at the age when you start thinking, ‘What’s it all about? What does it mean? Where am I heading?’. I didn’t end up as bad as some people do. It’s the trauma of the accident that makes you start thinking, like, ‘Why didn’t I die?’.”

Cheney says the album’s epic closing song, The Room, was partly inspired by being confined and partly by the film The Shawshank Redemption, in particular the character who works in the library and kills himself because he can’t stand the thought of being released into the world.
“I find that a fascinating subject – whether it’s a prisoner or an animal, if you release them into the wild, they can’t survive. We had lost a drummer and lost some ground. There was that apprehension that we were on a good thing, and then we lost some ground and had the feeling that things weren’t going to be as rosy as they were, and maybe we didn’t make the most of it while we had it.”

Now that they’re back on their feet, literally and metaphorically, the band have recently returned to the pub circuit, with gigs at Geelong’s National Hotel (with the Persian Rugs) and Fitzroy’s Evelyn Hotel – the pub at which they cut their teeth for about five years before their anthems catapulted them to arena status.
“Five years ago we were struggling to get gigs at the Evelyn and fill it. I remember we did our first EP launch there, and back in those days we were still calling friends from school saying, ‘We’re playing a gig. Can you come down?’, and walking around all night putting flyers in everyone’s windscreens. So now it’s surreal to play a one-off gig there and heaps of people can’t get in. You forget about the harder times.
“At the National it was like the old days. It was crammed and sweaty and people were almost hanging off the rafters. That’s where our show comes from, and I think we’re a slightly different band when we do that. It feels more aggressive and a lot more rock’n’roll. They’re the gigs you remember as a fan, and a band, too. There’s nothing to rely on – you just go out and do your best.”
Owen adds: “When you can see the back of the room and you can see a guy at the back, standing against the wall on a chair going like this (throws his hands in the air and pumps his fists), then you must be doing something right. You can see it in their eyes and there’s a strong connection.”

These days, the band feel as at home in a stadium as they used to in a small pub. At October’s Livid Festival they were one of the few bands that managed to transcend the lack of stadium intimacy.
“Because we’ve been playing big venues for a while, like the Green Day tour overseas, where we thought, ‘We’re a three-piece; we’ve got to try and fill up the sound and the stage’, it sort of comes easily now,” says Cheney. “It’s fun playing the Evelyn, but I don’t feel any more naked on the big stages, because that’s all we’ve done recently – lots of big, outdoor festivals.”

And then there was the AC/DC support. Cheney acknowledges that many in the crowd were keeping an eye on their watches for the main event, but they won over plenty of fans.
“All of our favourite musicians are their (AC/DC’s) favourite musicians – we’re just 30 years apart,” says Cheney. “They grew up listening to Little Richard and all that rock’n’roll stuff – they’re just like a bar blues band, but they’re considered the world’s greatest heavy metal band. It’s just a ’50s boogie-woogie sped up and played a lot louder.”

Ultimately, the Living End are a live band, and Cheney says he wanted this album to translate well in the live arena.
“Lyrically, I wanted it to be more direct and easier to understand, and musically to have less fat. We wanted to get from A to B directly, rather than going, ‘We can do all this tricky stuff and that will lead us to there’. It’s kind of easy sometimes to put in all these stops and diminished chords, just musical bullshit, to link stuff, rather than thinking, ‘How can it go there naturally, so the listener doesn’t have to stop and think about it?’.
“The listener just wants to listen to it and enjoy it, which is something we’ve forgotten a bit in the past – thinking about songs from a musical point of view rather than a listening point of view, which is why I admire bands like Oasis, because it’s a lot harder to do than what it sounds. All the great songs are so simple.
“I look at bands like the Jam and stuff, and where they took their music, with well-crafted songs with substance and depth, which have stood the test of time, and after you write a song like Prisoner of Society, you want to write something with some longevity to it, because it can be seen as a throwaway song. That’s the way I see it, anyway.”

The Living End’s two-month, 29-date Modern Artillery tour hits the Palace, St Kilda, on Friday; Brass Monkey, Narre Warren, on Monday night; and 21st Century, Frankston, on Tuesday night.

It’s A Living Thing

Author: Craig New

With a new album, a new drummer, and currently in the midst of a huge national tour, The Living End are back, and at their blistering best.

There’s nothing more frustrating for a music fan than their favourite band taking a leave of absence that lasts for over a year, just when it seems their hard work is finally paying off. It’s even more frustrating for the band themselves when that break is the last thing they expected.

So it was with Melbourne rockers The Living End, who were forced into a hiatus throughout 2002 after vocalist/guitarist Chris Cheney’s well-documented and brutal car accident that nearly cost him his life. But, as the old saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining, and it was during this break that MODERN ARTillery, the band’s third and most accomplished release, was created. Following 2000’s Roll On, it’s more solid songwriting, a return to their roots with a breath of fresh air that highlights the band’s passion.

“It’s really hard to describe how that happened,” laughs Cheney. “We’re so close to it that I don’t really know any more what the bloody thing sounds like! I guess the freshness thing is just to do with Andy [Strachan, drums] being in the band now, and to do with all that we went through, that once we went into the studio to make this album. We were like, this is it, take no prisoners. I think we had a bit of a point to prove with this one, we couldn’t just ease back in. We had to make sure that we had a good bunch of songs and do it properly or we’d risk losing all that we’d built up.

“I think the songs are a lot better than what we had for Roll On. They were more written from the perspective of trying to impress people with the musicianship. With this one it was all about having more simple kind of songs, but still keep the listener’s attention, which is hard to do without a lot of fancy stuff going on. There’s still a little bit of that, but as you can hear, it doesn’t dominate the songs, there’s a good song underneath everything else first.”

And as self-deprecating as Cheney can be at times about his own songwriting abilities, there are fans everywhere around the world who would argue otherwise.

“The good thing now is that I don’t have to worry about [songwriting], and I think that the trick is just letting it come when it comes,” Cheney ponders. “I just don’t think you can force yourself to write a song, let alone a good one, if you’re scratching your head and trying to force things. I don’t know, maybe I’ve just got high standards, but I don’t find it the easiest task in the world – but I probably make it hard for myself because I’m always trying to write the next epic song or something! I’m always wanting it to have lots of hooks and lots of weird chords, I don’t know – just trying to surpass what I’ve done before I suppose.”

Modern Artillery

Author: Sam Vinall

The Living End 
Modern Artillery

When one listens to a record from The Living End, to a certain extent one knows what to expect: brilliant musicianship and songs that make you want to get up and fight. ‘Modern Artillery’ provides this all, with breathtaking guitar solos and The Living End’s trademark early eighties rockabilly style, but ‘Modern Artillery’ is both impressively diverse and, when compared with previous album ‘Roll On’, a lot more straightforward.

‘Modern Artillery’ has already spawned the singles One Said To The Other, the anthemic Who’s Gonna Save Us and the early eighties inspired Tabloid Magazine. These are all great songs, especially Who’s Gonna Save Us, which contains what I believe is probably the best guitar solo on the album (which sounds a little like the solo from Hotel California in the way it’s layered).

There are also a surprising number of ballads like Jimmy, Putting You Down (which, if I might go out on a limb seems to me to have elements of Ween and Rod Stewart. So there), the alt-country-sounding So What, and (what I consider to be the best track) In The End. One comparison I could draw from all of the ballads was to Australian stalwarts You Am I; but for old school fans of The Living End there is still plenty of faster tracks like Hold Up, What Would You Do and End Of The World, so you don’t have to worry.

The Living End – MODERN ARTillery

Author: Lauren McMenemy

The Living End

After singer/guitarist Chris Cheney faced death and won in a car accident, and then founding member Travis Demsey quit just as they were getting back on track, things could have gone pear-shaped for the Living End.

And while, thankfully, things didn’t – with new drummer Andy Strachan moving seamlessly into the fold – that thought seems to dominate much of their third album.

“Will we be remembered?” Cheney asks in Maitland St, while on the epic closer The Room it’s “I wonder if the world is just the same”.

Then there is the one that gets right to the heart of the Living End: “Rising up from the ashes/you know we never meant to burn…”

If their self titled debut was the raw introduction and Roll On its slick, polished sister, MODERN ARTillery is the definitive Living End album. The perfect meld of what has come before, it also has diversity which was needed if the trio was to prove itself still relevant.

There are more melodies among the punkabilly anthems – even a hint of country-influenced steel guitar.

MODERN ARTillery is an impressive outlook from one of the tightest, most inspiring outfits in the country. This is The Living End’s finest hour.

Cheney Reaction

Author: Julian Tompkin

It may have taken an horrific car accident and the departure of mate and drummer Travis Demsey from the band, but Chris Cheney, frontman for The Living End, has finally taken a second to stop and enjoy the success he’s experienced thanks to the only job he’s ever known. But, back with the band’s third longplayer Modern Artillery, it’s also given him a fiery hunger for more. No one could have seen it coming. Cheney had witnessed the band he’d formed with bassist Scott Owen at high school in the mid-’90s turn into big business, with a self-titled debut album that quickly broke all rock records in this country, going five times platinum after its release in 1998. With two record deals ­ Reprise in the US and EMI in Australia ­ The Living End, along with drummer Travis Demsey, soon found its punk/rockabilly songs of disenfranchised youth become the soundtrack for a new generation of rock kids, from the streets of Melbourne, to Berlin and Tokyo. Between world tours the band found time to record the second installment of The Living End story, 2000’s Roll On album. While less immediate than its predecessor, Roll On possessed enough of that iconic neo rockabilly charm that distanced The Living End from its contemporaries to continue the unstoppable momentum of one of Australia’s most successful bands. It was time for album number three but a car crash soon changed everything. Cheney was to spend months in rehab, unable to play guitar while his injuries healed. He cried, he hurt, he drank but mostly he thought ­ he thought a lot. And he suddenly noticed a few important facts he’d managed to evade in his rock-star existence, like the fact he’d never made time to enjoy his success. But, more importantly, he realised he wasn’t getting any younger and the band was yet to make the album that had the potential to really break The Living End internationally. Cheney decided it was time to rectify that. However, during the course of the forced break the other band members also had time to think. Owen was well and truly prepared to execute Cheney’s grand plan, but Demsey wasn’t and he handed in his resignation. Maimed but determined to move on, the band recruited Adelaide lad Andy Strachan, warmed up on the 2003 Big Day Out tour then packed the bags, bound for LA to record under the pomp and polish of Mark Trombino (Blink 182, Sum 41) ­ breaking with a tradition that always saw the band record in Australia. Couped up in a cheap hotel, The Living End toiled for three months, finally completing its most diverse, yet polished work to date. Gone is the customary double bass solo and the half-hearted anarchic catch cries, and in is large melody and lush production. But at the heart of the album is what’s become Cheney’s main impetus behind Modern Artillery, best summed in the evocative Maitland Street: “Will we be remembered? Or lost in history?”. As Cheney says, that’s a question that only time will answer, and he has his doubts. But above all of that he knows he’s finally created the album he’s always dreamed of making, and that, he reckons, is enough. The Living End tours WA in November, concluding with Rock It on Sunday, November 23.

It’s a term often bandied around, but in this case it’s true: It’s been a while between drinks. 
“Yeah, we recorded the damn thing back in February, and started writing it the previous January/February, so it just feels like we should’ve written a movie or something but we didn’t. It’s so crazy; Metallica take that long to write their albums, not The Living End ­ not at this stage of our career.”

Why didn’t it come out earlier? 
“It’s just been one thing after another really. It started obviously with me having the car accident, then Trav leaving. It’s kind of due to no one in particular, it just seems to have been the curse of this album. And then some tapes got lost ­ just everything seems to have taken twice as long, but I think they say good things come to those who wait.”

That meant plenty of time spent at home ­ did that send you mad? 
“Yeah ­ especially this last year, it did get a bit like that; leaning too heavily on things I shouldn’t have been doing. It was extremely frustrating ­ this is all I’ve done since high school, because I finished high school in ’92 and we started the band in ’91, me and Scott, and that’s all we did for like 10 years. Through doing that you do sacrifice a lot of the family stuff, and friends, so when it all came to a grinding halt I was tearing my hair out at home, really frustrated at sitting around and not having all those wonderful things I’d had before, and in a way it was probably good because it forced me to do something else other than the band. But it also made me realise I don’t want to do anything else other than the band (laughs) ­ so then you have an extra beer a day and it just escalates from there I suppose”.

It really has been an eventful, if not life changing, few years since the last album with both your accident and Travis’ departure from the band. It’s a bit of a philosophical question but is The Living End the same band Australia knew a few years back? 
“Well I think we have the same intensity, I would say, and renewed enthusiasm for playing shows but I think we’re a little bit different in our approach. I think we’re a lot more focused now and a lot more direct I suppose. Not that we were ever mucking around but things kind of happened in a natural, organic way. We were very lucky in the sense that it just got bigger and bigger and bigger with the first album, and then we started touring the world, and then the second album everything was sort of turning into gold. And having this break has made us realise that we’re pretty lucky I suppose, and not take it for granted. So I think now we’re a lot more; everything we do we try and do 180 per cent and really make it count and make sure we’re proud of everything that goes out.”

Was there always a burning determination to get back to the stage? 
“It’s been pretty intense, well it was for me. After all that we’ve been through and then to come back with an album that was not quite there I just wanted to make it the best album that we could possibly make and every song I was writing I was putting everything I had into it. I just didn’t want to put up with second best; even like school work and all that sort of stuff was never my forte, it was never my greatest achievement so I figure that I’ve got this opportunity in this band to do something really special and I don’t want to screw it up. So when it comes to songwriting and playing guitar and being in the band we really do try and give it all we’ve got. Scott and I were the same, we never did our homework at school, we weren’t academics by any means but we got through it ­ we just figure we’re good at this so let’s really give it all we can and show different sides of the band and make sure we keep moving in a forward direction.”

How do you do that? 
“Just try and make sure we don’t have any loose ends and trying to enjoy it at the same time. Just trying to be the kind of band that we would want to go and see, that we would be into ­ which is how we started out, trying to form the ultimate band, with double bass and a Gretsch and influenced by punk rock and rockabilly and jazz. All that sort of stuff we were trying to do back then still trying to do now, and I never want to lose sight of that and go “Yep, that’s it. We’re the greatest band ever ­ we can’t improve now”. There’s always room for improvement.”

With all that time off to think there must have come a point where you just totally freaked yourself out? 
“Yeah, that’s the thing. We’d never really stopped to really look around before, and although I was always proud at what we’d achieved, I’d never kind of sat down and counted the gold records (laughs) or anything like that. I thought with this album it’s time we were seen as a band that can write good songs ­ I think people have this preconception, a gimmicky kind of thing with the double bass and it’s pretty energetic and we give it all live, and it’s very visual ­ but that’s only one side to us. I mean most of the people we listen to are really great songwriters, like Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson and You Am I, whoever. So we want to be seen as that too. So that was the plan with this album, was to go “Right ­ these songs are going to be better than any other songs that we’ve written”, and I think they are and I think that’s the strength of the album, it’s not the double bass solo which has just been done to death. I’m happy that the foundation behind every song is a strong one.”

Each song on Modern Artillery is a song in its own right, with its own identity, providing for The Living End’s most diverse album yet. Would you agree? 
“I guess it’s a different album from what we would have made if we hadn’t had that time off ­ that’s obvious. And getting older I suppose, probably a bit more maturity makes you try focusing on your weaknesses perhaps, and I think that’s been a bit of a weakness of ours in the past.”

It’s obviously The Living End, however songs like Jimmy, In The End and The Room are as far away from Prisoner Of Society and Second Solution as the band could get. Are we seeing the real Living End for the first time? 
“I think you’re definitely seeing another side to the band, whether that’s always been there or not and it’s only surfaced now I don’t know. Songs like The Room is something that I’d like to do more of in the future, but again that’s just me being selfish and personal in saying “Well, why can’t I write a song like that? Why are other people allowed to do it and get all this praise?”. It’s kind of like “We’ll show them that we can do that kind of thing too”. I guess I don’t mean that in a negative way, I just mean it like we just want to try and cover as many things within our career as we can. As long as it sounds real and as long as we do it properly. You have to be very careful; there’s nothing worse than a band that tries to do interesting stuff and just doesn’t pull it off.”

The band has broken with tradition here and decided to record this one overseas. What was the premise behind that? 
“Just because we had the opportunity to, I suppose. I’d always wanted to do something like that overseas and it just felt like the right time we should get away from distractions here, really focus. We had Andy on board and we wanted to get him really feeling like part of the team, just go over there and really get our heads down and get on with the job. But in hindsight I don’t think that was the perfect environment because it was just kind of boring a lot of the time, because we were stuck in Burbank at the Holiday Inn for three and a half months ­ it had karaoke every Friday and Saturday night and after we finished recording it was kind of too late to go anywhere so we’d just sit in the bar and listen. It was the same people every week for three months, these same six people who went to the Holiday Inn and got up and sang songs. It was a little bit like Groundhog Day, I thought we were never actually going to ever get back to Australia again. It kept going on and on and on.”

You worked with Mark Trombino, how was that experience? 
“He was pretty good, I wouldn’t say he was the ultimate combination really but I’m not sure whether there ever is. I think one of the things that we originally wanted to work with him for was the fact that he could maybe bring a slickness and maybe a bit of his, I don’t know, give us a big sound and maybe something different to what we’d had before. That if we brought to the table our looseness and roughness that we try and get across live ­ it’s pretty ragged sometimes ­ we figured if we could meet half way; and that’s kind of what we did.”

That slickness was obviously a move that had the international music market in mind? 
“I suppose so, I think it’s a little cleaner than the last album but there comes a time we’ve made lots of trashy EPs and that was one of the challenges, to maybe make a good studio album; get in there and work with overdubs and work with layering. I admire the garage rock revolution but at the same time it’s probably kind of cool that we’re doing our own thing; that we haven’t tried to get on that boat, even though we come from similar backgrounds. We’ll just see what happens. I don’t know what to think about the international thing ­ we’ve given it all we can and we’ve played some pretty big venues and got a bit of a name for ourselves but it’s hard to say whether this will translate. We’re just going to go over there and do what we’ve done before and really give it all ­ it’s probably the last chance we’ll have, so who knows. This is a business in a way that we’ve built up since high school and it would be great to try and take it, I mean we’ve done so well in Australia why can’t it work overseas as well? I couldn’t care less really about the worldwide acclaim or the money, I just think it would be great to be able to tour this band for another few years around the world.”


Author: Unknown

The Living End met a dedicated fan when they did an in-store at HMV’s Bourke Street store in Melbourne. A girl came from a tattoo parlour with their logo inked on her back, and asked them to sign around it so she could get their signatures tattooed as well. All up a strange arvo for the band. Over 1,000 people turned up, and lurched forward when the End started to play, knocking over CD racks and the mixing desk.

Best Of End No Accident

Author: David Nankervis

There must have been times when The Living End thought fate was against its recording a third album.

The three-piece punkabilly juggernaut, with huge record sales and support gigs with AC/DC and Green Day, came to a grinding halt three years ago. Now a lot of soul searching later, The Living End is bac with its latest album Modern Artillery, released tomorrow.

The lay-off was both unplanned but not unwelcome – at least in hindsight.

After non-stop touring and recording, singer/guitarist Chris Cheney was involved in a car smash on the Great Ocean Rd, Victoria, in September, 2001.

Recording sessions and promotional tours were put on hold as Cheney spent months in rehab. Songwriting, however, was going full steam ahead with Cheney writing 50 tunes from which to select for the new album.

“Then as soon as we finally got back in the studio, our drummer Travis (Dempsey) quit,” bassist Scott Owen said. “For me, that was a harder setback than the car accident.

“The enforced lay-ff with Chris’ accident was a bit of a blessing in disguise because we had been touring a long time and working really hard.

“To be able to get back into a normal routine helped us realise what we had achieved and helped us recharge the batteries. But when Travis left, I took it personally. I wondered why he had quit and if it was something I was doing wrong.

“But at the end of the day, I think he was just daunted by the prospect of more years on the road.”

That’s when Adelaide drummer Andy Strachan stepped into the breach.

“I was worried if we could get a drummer who would fit in as well and play as well as Travis,” Owen said.

“This is important for any band but even more so with a three-piece. But there has been no problem. Andy is such a solid drummer, I feel our music is stronger than ever.”

With the extra time under the group’s belt, there is no doubt Modern Artillery is the band’s best album.

The time spent concentrating just on songwriting has produced a more mature record with songs such as The Room a departure from the traditional Living End sound.

The Living End

Author: Unknown

I can still recall a night many, many moons ago, when I went to a gig at the Glenelg Lifesaving Club. It was the first time I ever saw or heard of a little band called the Living End. They were completely unknown and supporting the Numbskulls, and I thought they were awesome – I still do.

That night they certainly stood out from the crowd, sporting both a drummer that played standing up and an upright bass player. They’ve since lost the stand up drummer but have retained their trademark double bass. Scott Owen, the man behind that double bass, expains why he chose such an imposing instrument.

“I’ve been playing that thing since I was in high school, over ten years now,” he explains. “When I was in high school I just got right into rockabilly music and became obsessed with ‘fifties music, and that’s just the instrument you need. Back then when Chris and I decided that we were going to start playing 50s-ish rock’n’roll together it was just essential to have a double bass. I just couldn’t see that we could be a decent rockabilly band if I was going to play piano or something like that. I have actually tried a normal bass before and I am not very good at it at all,” he laughs.

More recently The Living End lost long time drummer Travis Demsey. “He just wasn’t up for the whole touring thing,” Owen shrugs. “Basically he wanted to spend more time at home. Our batteries were all pretty low when we finished touring at the end of 2001. We’d been on the road pretty solidly for a few years up until then and I think Travis had just had enough of being away from home all the time. He wanted to spend more time at home with his girlfriend and his dogs and lead a bit more of a normal civilised life.

“I love touring personally. I can’t think of anything I would enjoy more than getting out there and playing every night and experiencing different things from day to day. It does get really tiring though. There is the part of me that really loves it and then there is the part of me that gets a bit homesick now and then, but it only takes a couple of weeks at home before you realise nothing has really changed and you get that hunger back to just get out there and do it again!”

The Living End are well renowned for their level of musicianship and hence losing a member must have been like losing a limb, but Scott explained that the transition between drummers was actually quite smooth.

“We were pretty lucky actually. We met our new drummer Andy [Strachan] who is actually a South Australian boy, through a friend of ours who had played in a band with him before. As soon as Travis quit the band, this friend said that he knew somebody who would be perfect for us, a great drummer and a really lovely guy. We got together and it felt really good straight away as we got along really well with him, and it was the same when we got together in the rehearsal room: he was a really solid drummer and could play anything we asked.

“When we first met him, he was in the process of finishing up a tour with another band, he still had a couple of weeks to go on the road. In that time, Chris and I thought we had better just satisfy our curiosity and see what else was out there. We ended up auditioning about forty guys but nothing topped Andy. It’s a bit like buying a new car, even if you feel like the first one you see is the one you want you still feel like you should check some others out.”

Their new album, ‘Modern Artillery’ has some noticeable differences to its predecessor, ‘Roll On’.

“I think that on the new album, the arrangements are a little bit more simple and straightforward than the songs on ‘Roll On,'” Owen considers. “I think that at that time we felt like we had a point to prove, that we weren’t just the Prisoner Of Society, three-chord punk band that people might have thought we were. So we wanted to show the eclectic side to the band. That we could play fast, that we could play tricky stuff and that we could arrange our songs in bizarre ways. On the new album we have taken a more simple approach without the songs being any less interesting, but just a little more simple and direct I think.”

A Blessing In Disguise For Living End

Author: Unknown

Not many people would describe an accident which almost killed their best mate as “a blessing in disguise”.

But then, Australian rockers The Living End have come through such a torrid couple of years, maybe they’ve attained a new sense of perspective.

It’s been almost two years since the punk/rockabilly band’s singer and guitarist Chris Cheney was involved in a near-fatal accident which put the band out of action for months.

He’s since recovered and the band is now putting the finishing touches on their third album, believed to be named Modern Artillery, and desperately inching towards a long-awaited concert tour.

Getting to this point was tough going, according to double bassist Scott Owen.

Not only did Cheney’s accident force a debilitating break from recording and touring, but the band had to find a new drummer following the departure of Travis Demsey.

The trio had experienced so much together – ARIA awards, huge record sales, a relentless tour schedule – and Owen says he and Cheney didn’t quite know what to do with themselves when their old mate quit the band.

“It kind of felt like it was the end of the world,” he said.

“I guess it would feel different if we were a five-piece band, but when there’s just three of you and you know each other so well, it really did seem like the end of the world.”

Enter Andy Strachan, and all their fears about what would happen when a crucial piece of the puzzle disappears, vanished.

Despite all the problems, Owen says Cheney’s accident “kind of had its pros and cons”.

His long-time buddy and the band’s co-founder went through the most gruelling time as he was forced away from his guitar for months.

But it forced the band to stop, breathe, relax and reassess their priorities.

“I guess the upside for the band was that we had just been working so hard for so long we never really had a break,” Owen said.

“It just forced us to … think about other things in life other than the band and music we make, which is always healthy, and I think we’ve come out of it more broad-minded and with a bit more understanding about what we’re doing all this for.”

The Living End’s renaissance is evident as Owen talks up the band’s upcoming gigs and it’s easy to see they are now just champing at the bit to hit the road.

“It was a little bit of a blessing in disguise, and it brings the hunger back, it gives you time to sit back, catch up on some rest and get back into it again.”

Owen says the high-energy band was teased by a smattering of gigs in January, which were meant to be a preview ahead of the new album’s release – but the inevitable polishing and finishing touches mean they’ll have to sit on their hands until about September.

The as-yet-untitled album is a typical offering from the three-piece outfit, “a mixed bag” of fast and slow songs and lots of high energy rock, he says.

“I think the songs are a lot more positive now, more feeling-based rather than topic-based, it’s a real positive feeling,” he said.

“I feel like we’ve had a couple of knocks and we’re still on our feet.”

But don’t think any of their political edge or satirical look on life will be lost in the wake of this newfound outlook.

“Lyrics are important, topics are important – it’s not worth singing unless you’ve got something to sing about – but songs can be pure fun as well,” he said.

That’s one thing The Living End’s fans will finally see again when the band bounces back onstage at Byron Bay’s Splendour in the Grass festival, on July 19 and 20.

Living End Loves Jebediah

Author: Lauren McMenemy

Home-grown acts have always been an integral part of the Big Day Out. Lauren McMenemy talks to just a few of this year’s Oz representatives.

On its third “very well-paid holiday” – that which is commonly referred to as the Big Day Out – Jebediah is having a blast.

“It works on many levels,” grins drummer Brett Mitchell.

“Absolutely,” agrees singer/guitarist – and Brett’s brother – Kevin. “I don’t think you would find a single band in Australia, or even overseas, that would say no to a Big Day Out.”

“It’s definitely got that kind of iconic status,” says Brett.

Get these two together and the jokes fly – more evidence that after eight years, morale in the Jebediah camp is going strong. This BDO, after its shot at the mainstage, the Perth outfit is playing on the smaller Essential Stage, and the crowds so far have been very receptive. “Maybe my memory’s not that good, but I think I’ve enjoyed doing the Essential Stage more than I ever enjoyed the mainstage,” says Kevin. “Because the mainstage has got the thrill of the sea of people, but the intimacy just gets completely lost.”

“The mainstage is like a status thing,” says Brett. “We’re happy to lose a bit of status for a bit of vibe.”

And with that intimacy and this year’s huge line-up, the Jebs are having the time of their life.

“I reckon of all the Big Day Outs we’ve done, this is the best one ever,” says Kevin. “The other ones we did were predominantly heavy metal – your Korns, your Marilyn Mansons – which, you know, isn’t really our schtick.” So that just leaves the seasoned BDO experts to give their tips to the kids heading to the Royal Adelaide Showground tomorrow.

“My special message to Adelaide would be almost a two-barbed message,” says Kevin

“Two-pronged, even,” interjects Brett. Kevin: “A two-pronged message. After today’s gig…”

Brett: “This is prong one.”

Kevin: “Prong one. After today’s gig being so amazing…”

Alas, Kevin’s prong could not be exposed, as The Living End’s Chris Cheney spies the band and – in what will later be revealed as deliberate sabotage – answers the advice question after much ado.

“Sunscreen’s a good one isn’t it?” asks Cheney.

“Oh damn, that was mine!” Brett is clearly unhappy.

Cheney’s sabotage over, he then makes his escape. After he leaves, the cheeky smiles come out.

“I hope you put in your interview the Chris bit,” says Kevin. “Because you don’t get your interview sabotaged by a member of the Living End every day.”

“And that was a deliberate attempt to poach publicity from us,” adds Brett.

So we’ll just lead off with the Living End, and have Jebediah as an afterthought? “Maybe your headline could be Living End loves Jebediah,” laughs Kevin. “Then people might read it.”