First things first. When chatting to The Living End drummer Travis Demsey, an account is needed on the state of guitarist Chris Cheney, who was recently injured in a car crash. “Chris is doing pretty well. He’s sitting at home recuperating now. He’s got three pins in his hip, his kneecap and thighbone I believe. I think he’s going real stir crazy. He can’t even play the guitar because he can’t even rest it on his leg so he’s just sitting there watching DVDs,” Demsey reports.
Needless to say the accident throws out The Living End’s plans until such a time as Cheney has recovered. Essentially they were going to work on their new album but as far as for when that happens… “We’ll know by about January because that’s when with the aid of crutches he’ll be able to walk again. We’re on hold until then and we’ll see what the doctors say and how Chris is going, and if he’s going okay we’ll reschedule to make the album early next year. We’d already started on that and we’re still working on the album even though we’ve gone our separate ways and I think it’s going to be a very interesting album to say the least,” Demsey says.
“I think in hindsight, it is horrible that Chris had an accident, but I think this is going to be the best thing for the band anyway. I think that the beauty of our band is that the lyrics the band sings about I think are very grass-roots. They weren’t like she loves me issues or let’s take drugs issues. I think everyone could relate to them. I think after two and a half years straight, I don’t think we would have had anything to sing about that was quite grass roots.
“Remember we’re living in a different universe to most people. We live in a bus then we go straight to the gig and we do the gig. Then we get back into the bus and drive to the next gig. You do that for so long conversation runs thin. It always centres around you or the person right next to you and we don’t even know what’s going on in the world because we don’t see the news for that long. I didn’t want that appeal to be lost from the band and I felt if we had have made the album now the lyrics would have been a bit more whiney and I don’t like it when rock bands get like that. ‘Oh it’s so hard.’ There are more important things in life. I want people to think of our band as people that hopefully did good but never let it get to their heads and always stayed in touch with what they were really about from the beginning. And I think we will.”
So it looks like that next time we see The Living End will be when they emerge with a new album. In the meantime though so we don’t forget about them, they’ve released their Dirty Man single. Interestingly it also contains a B-side of the Dilli All Stars covering The Living End’s track Revolution Regained. “Apparently they liked that song so much and what it meant that they decided to do a cover,” Demsey recalls. “They just did it off their own bat and then when we were looking for B-sides and we were struggling because a lot of the songs we were going to use as B-sides we’re going to cut up and maybe use on the new album, experimental type stuff. So we were running short of having anything of quality we thought. Our manager said this is what the Dilli All Stars have sent me, they wanted to get your approval. We heard it and we were like wow, that’s pretty flattering that anyone would go to the effort to cover one of our songs and do a remake of it. That must mean a lot to them. What a good cause and everything so we thought let’s put it on the B-side.
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? Travis: 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. Travis: 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? Scott: 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? Travis: 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. Chris: 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? Chris: 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? Chris: 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? Chris: 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? Travis: 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.
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.”
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”.
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!”
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’s two week stay in New York to mix the Roll On album was hardly a working holiday. They put in long hours at the studio five days a week with the odd visit to various Irish pubs their own respite. Then three days before they were due to fly out in a state of near exhaustion the Rock Gods smiled down and they landed tickets to see AC/DC at Madison Square Garden. The trick was they had to get there in time.
“We were stuck at the studio because we had to listen to a mix before we left,” recalls player of the big bass Scott 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, f..k! 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 cab through the middle of New York. We were like three possessed men.”
“Three possessed, pissed and stoned men!” clarifies drummer, Travis Dempsey between mouthfuls of an early afternoon steak. “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!”
“We had to leave before For Those About To Rock“, sighs singer and guitarist, Chris Cheney. “We had to get back to the studio because I had to finish off vocals and stuff. My fault. I’ll take the rap for that.”
To worship is only proper but the fact is The Living End are fast racing up the steps of the very Pantheon that has housed AC/DC for so long. But that’s no great surprise. You could tell there was an X factor about The Living End from day one. Right now with the Roll On album they’re simply hard to ignore. They’re a more quietly political Clash at the Capital Theatre. Midnight Oil on the last night of the Stagedoor Tavern. Radio Birdman at Paddington Town Hall in December 1977. Who’s Next era Who in reduced three piece mode from the Kids Are Alright movie. All mod cons Jam. The Manic Street Preachers in pre and post Richey mode. The Undertones and The Skids’ Scared To Dance album. Put simply, these guys are out to save your lame-arsed soul and in the process lift you off the ground a few centimetres without you even realising it. I swear that’s exactly what took place en masse at Livid when they launched into a tearjerking fist in the air version of Sunday Bloody Sunday by Ireland’s own Clash.
The Nick Launay (Midnight Oil, INXS, Silverchair) produced Roll On puts to bed for good the Stray Cats and first Clash album comparisons the band have had to grin an endure for the last few years. If you close your eyes you can see Cheney doing windmill sweeps across his strings, Dempsey destroying his kit and Owen swinging his double bass over his head in the cracking title cut. Then there’s the wind burn speed of Carry Me Home, the dub thud of Blood On Your Hands and more Angus n’ Mal riffage in Silent Victory.
But for all that rockdom for Cheney it was Launay’s punk credentials that made him the man for the job. For Owen it was his work with the bassist’s beloved Midnight Oil. “When we met him on the tour last year, the West End Riot tour he said then that he worked on The Jam’s Sound Effects album and he grew up in London in like ’77 and was a punk rocker. It’s pretty hard to believe when you look at him now but apparently he had all the leather and the spikes and all that sort of stuff and he used to go and see The Clash and saw all those bands. So it was that and the fact that he worked with them and he knew our background.”
Actually it was the once spiky Launay who ironically ended up smoothing out what was originally going to be a highly confrontational not to mention controversial album.
“There was a bit of a period when we first started rehearsing the new songs and it was I think almost a rebellion against what we’d done on the previous album because we didn’t want to redo what we’d already done. We’d done the three chord Prisoner Of Society thrash kind of thing. When we got together with Nick we kind of neatened it all up. But there was some pretty freaky sort of stuff. Like a lot of the songs were just like rollercoasters, all over the shop. I think that was just trying to break out of the mould that everyone kind of put us in. Oh yeah, they’re a rockabilly band that play kind of punk stuff. And there’s just so much more to it. But I think it’s turned out to be a pretty natural progression. It doesn’t sound too far out but it does sound like a step on.”
“It’s eclectic but we tried to keep the eclectic bit to bits that weren’t essentiall to the song.” adds Dempsey. “That’s the beauty of a good song. I think that’s why sometimes we get maybe compared to The Clash because they managed to incorporate good pop melody a la The Rolling Stones or The Beatles with the attitude of what they were all about and still made it sound fresh and exciting again even though let’s face it it was twelve bar boogie.”
Exciting, tough and celebratory the album is but it wasn’t all cheers and beers in the making although there was plenty of the latter involved.
“Halfway through I was like, F..k!” admits Cheney. “I started to really doubt the band for like the first time ever. I’ve never before doubted the band. I’ve always been like, f..k yeah man, we can play before anyone, after anyone, we don’t care. I knew we always had something valid to offer but halfway through I couldn’t really step away from it and see it clearly anymore. I was like maybe it’s not coming together. I don’t really know. Nick kept saying, It’s fine! It’s fine! it f..king sounds great! At the end of it I was like, yeah it does. He was right. I’m just a bit of a stresshead.”
The Living End top the bill at Homebake 2000 at The Domain on Saturday December 9. They also play The Metro on Thursday December 7. Roll On is out now thru EMI.
From the outside, Melbourne’s Sing Sing Studios is an unremarkable building. Located down a quiet suburban street in the inner city suburb of Richmond, it looks just like any of the other faceless warehouses that threaten to squeeze out the small selection of tiny, weather beaten bungalow houses that intermittently line the street. There’s nothing to suggest that, behind two hefty wooden doors, The Living End are slaving away on the follow-up to their 1998 multi-platinum, self-titled debut album.
In fact there’s nothing to suggest there is a studio here at all. There are no flashy cars in the street – the chosen accessory of any self-respecting rock star – just a few beat-up Holdens, one a station wagon with a Bodyjar sticker and a back seat that looks like it’s carried way too many drums, guitars and amps. The studio’s rubbish bins, currently sitting on the footpath, are the only indication that there is any sort of rock ‘n’ roll activity in the vicinity – neither contains food scraps, but both are overflowing with Melbourne Bitter stubbies. This must be the right place.
Once inside the building, things take on a marginally more impressive bent. The walk to the complex’s premier studio – The NEVE room – takes me down a corridor lined with gold records, which opens out into a kitchen and eating area that would fit nicely into any designer catalogue. Next is a games room, which offers a series of distractions from the pressures of recording such as a ping-pong table, snooker table and dart board. Another corridor leads from here into the NEVE room, and it’s from behind the glass door entrance to this area that The Living End’s frontman Chris Cheney appears.
Looking to all intents and purposes like a young English punker with his flat cap, black jumper, red tie and brothel creepers, he offers his hand and smiles. “G’day, I’m Chris, come on in.” Within seconds we’re standing in the main control room of Sing Sing Studios watching producer Nick Launay (Silverchair, Semisonic, Midnight Oil) splice together some tape. It’s a dark room making the dazzling array of lights on the mixing desk seem even more impressive. A poster of The Clash hangs above the desk, a Clockwork Orange poster on the far right wall. Bass player Scott Owen – the picture of elegance in his grey suit – stands up from one of the two well worn couches that line the back of the room and introduces himself, beer in hand.
Both Cheney and Owen are openly friendly. Chris immediately offering me a drink while a rough mix of one of the band’s new tracks thunders out of the studio speakers. “How’s it all going?” I enquire. “It’s slowly getting louder!” smiles Launay, looking disturbingly like a mad scientist at work on his latest creation. Behind him, a large window looks into the actual recording studio, revealing a perfect view of drummer Trav Demsey’s back as he sits at his kit, randomly attacking the skins. Inside the studio it looks like a bomb has hit – at one end is Demsey’s gold coloured kit, surrounded on both sides by two long petitions. Leads, drum skins, microphones and drums are strewn across the wooden floor, a grand piano sits in the corner (“We only use it to play chopsticks,” assures Owen), and a mirror runs along one side of the room. Two smaller rooms lead off the studio – one houses Owen’s double bass, the other a selection of vintage amps and Cheney’s guitars. Poster of various heroes dot the walls – The Clash, AC/DC, Supergrass, Bill Haley And The Comets for starters. “That was Nick’s idea,” reveals Owen. “He said we should put some things up that will inspire us.”
After everyone has a drink in their hand (Demsey a Coke, Owen and Cheney a 500ml can of Classic Bitter each), we plonk some chairs in the middle of the mayhem and settle in for a bit of a chat to discuss the past, the present, and the future, as told by The Living End.
The past two years has been an amazing period for this trio. On the strength of one album they became megastars in Australia, circumnavigated the globe four times, played prestigious festivals such as Reading in the UK and the Warped tour in the US, accompanied The Offspring on their first jaunt around American arenas, and discovered that some of their idols such as Brian Setzer (former singer-guitarist with American rockabilly legends, the Stray Cats) are big fans of the band.
Their travels also gave them the opportunity to make a lot of friends around the world – and a few enemies. Their run-in with Eminem at the Warped Festival in particular has become the stuff of legend. “That got blown right out of proportion,” scowls Demsey. “The Warped tour has two stages, and they run back-to-back. Eminem was playing right before us on the other side of a field, and he had such a huge crowd over there that when we were about to start there was no one there for us. I had a microphone and said, ‘We’re The Living End from Australia, we don’t sing about raping women of being tough,’ and i called him a wanker and a fuckhead, and it got people over. The next day the rumour was that he was very offended that he’d done nothing to us but we’d cussed him out, and I thought this guy can’t take a fucking joke. “So the next day I said, ‘Eminem, you’re a fuckhead’ in the mic in front of everyone, and the next thing I know he’s got people on his entourage saying they’re out to get me. I was like, ‘Dude, it’s a joke. It’s the Australian way to hang shit, it’s a fun thing to do.'”
Given that the band have been toiling away with Launay for 12 hours a day, six days a week over the past month, and still have another three and a half weeks ahead of them, the globetrotting escapades of 1999 seem like a lifetime away. “We’re definitely trying to move on from the last album,” starts Demsey. “We idolise The Jam, The Clash and the Sex Pistols, but it’s been done, and we could not beat that. So we might as well do our own thing and add the stuff we’ve been listening to over the last 18 months – everything from Wings to Midnight Oil, AC/DC, even Primal Scream. We’ve tried to use all those ideas and still make the album rock hard, but have a lot of musical parts in there that make sense, they’re not just in there because they’re tricky. We want to be as simple as the Sex Pistols, but people who really know music will go, ‘Yeah, that is punk rock, but it’s punk for today.'”
“It’s a lot more advanced musically, we’ve just gone crazy on trying to have really good parts and make it rock,” adds Cheney. “But first and foremost the songs have to be good; if it doesn’t sound good on an acoustic guitar we don’t go much further with it. All our favourite bands have great songs, we’re not caught up in the whole technological thing, we just want to be able to song along with it.” Tentative song titles include Uncle Harry (“about and Uncle of Trav’s we caught pissing in the bath one day,” laughs Cheney), Blood On Your Hands, Al Capone, Shut The Gate, Roll On, and Killing The Right.
Killing The Right is an anti-racism sort of song, inspired by being in Atlanta and seeing this black guy getting arrested up against a cop car and feeling very weird because we’re white,” explains Cheney. “Just walking down the street and not seeing any white people, and it was kind of like reverse racism, and I’d never seen it before. It’s a little bit more confrontational than anything on the last album. I think a few of the subjects are, dare I say it, more grown up.”
Prior to this interview, the band were busy rehearsing, working on a chorus for a new song tentatively called Maitland Street. Keen to hear how the new material is sounding, we decide to stop talking so they can start rocking. Before they can focus on their instruments completely, though, they have a quick photo session to attend to.
“That’s more of a Beatles pose,” quips Demsey when Massive‘s photographer John Stanton tries to position each member for a photo. “And I’m more of a Rolling Stone.” The trio spend much of the session cracking jokes, both at each other’s and their own expense. “What do you notice about this, Trav?” asks Owen as both he and Cheney use their guitars as props for a photo. “That I’m not holding an instrument,” responds Demsey, inviting a thousand drummer-musician jokes that for some reason don’t materialise. “No, that I’m playing my double bass left handed,” snarls Owen. “I didn’t even know you played double bass,” quips the drummer. Boom boom.
While the band are busy striking a variety of poses, it provides the perfect opportunity to talk to Launay about the album and what The Living End are like to work with. “I find them great, the whole youthful kind of thing,” he smiles. “It’s part of the music and what we’re trying to do, make it sound very, very exciting, but they’re just naturally like that. Trav in particular is constantly up and cracking jokes and in your face. And that’s what this band and their music is all about.”
Launay has dubbed the band’s music “progrockabillypunk” (a tag the band don’t agree with), because the new material is so tricky and takes so many twists and turns. “The arrangements on the last album were pretty amazing, but on this album they’ve just gone to town,” he says. “In fact one of the things we’ve had to do was just simplify some of the songs that were completely over the top, and we’ve managed to leave all the best parts of that. And I think it’s going to shock people because the playing on it is just fantastic.”
That much becomes clear as we head back into the studio to watch the band trying to perfect the new chorus. Cheney stands face-to-face with Owen showing him the chords, while Demsey bangs his drums randomly waiting for things to start. “We might bear witness to the birth of a new chorus,” I mention to Owen before they start playing. “Yeah, you might also bear witness to a pile of shit!” he chuckles. Within moments Owen is plucking his bass tentatively and watching for Cheney’s instruction, while the singer yells into a microphone that’s plugged into an old, distorting speaker. The band are using the most basic amplification because they can’t use headphones to rehearse, and the sound is, as a result, not the greatest. “This is the worst guitar sound in the history of everything,” growls Cheney. “I hope you’re not taking notes about how bad this sounds,” he smiles in my direction. I am, and it doesn’t sound bad at all. Sure, sonically things could be better, but the song itself is rousing stuff – part AC/DC stomp, part punk rock attitude; the chorus they throw in is as anthemic and uplifting as you’d expect. Even with the primitive equipment, it’s easy to tell that this is another Living End classic in the making. The band plug away for another half an hour, chopping and changing melody lines and arrangements, before deciding to leave it for a while. We retire to the control room, where Launay is cueing up a track the band worked on the night before called Shut The Gate. Kicking off with an ominous blues boogie riff, it takes a few rhythmic twists and turns, Cheney’s vocal snarl sounding as catchy as it does vitriolic, before climaxing in a rousing gang chorus of “SHUT THE GATE!” It’s a short, sharp number and proves that neither Launay’s, nor the band’s claims that this is going to be a somewhat complex but intensely rocking album are unjustified.
When the band emerge from the studio in just under a month’s time, they’ll head to New York to mix and master the album with supreme knob twiddler Andy Wallace (Jeff Buckley). After that, who knows what lies ahead for the trio? “We didn’t expect what happened with the last album,” marvels Owen, “and because of that I don’t know what to expect now. I’d be just as happy to do what we did for the last two years. I’ve got a hunger for it to be bigger and better, though.” Is this the album to make The Living End global megastars? Silence. “Possibly,” muses Owen. “Who knows, how can you say?” snaps Cheney. “it’s to do with the timing, the songs …you look at the stuff riding the airwaves and it’s all that boy band stuff, there’s just no rock ‘n’ roll. There’s definitely a market for what we’re doing, it’s just a matter of whether it clicks.” Till things start clicking, The Living End will have their fingers firmly crossed.
Their new album will be available from HMV in October.
The Living End have gone from relative obscurity to one hit wonders to Australia’s band of the moment.
“It’s impossible to compare it to the hype of silverchair or other Australian bands that have done very well,” said Living End vocalist Chris Cheney in the lead-up to the release of what became the bands’ number one charting debut album. “It’s impossible to say, ‘Yeah, we’re in that situation now.’ You can’t get a grasp of it, so why even bother.”
“We would be amazed if a band like You Am I even knew our material,” adds drummer Travis Dempsey. “We would look up to a band like that and go, fuck, it would be good to be as big as them.” “Or as good as them” Cheney concludes, without false modesty.
It has been a big year for the Living End, as Cheney’s highlights list indicates. At the beginning of the year they were Australia’s most hyped, still in confusion thanks to a sudden influx of interest from record company types, many of whom had already passed on plenty of opportunities to sign the band
“If they’re not interested in a song like ‘From Here On In,’” says Cheney, “when that had all the elements that worked for us, if they couldn’t see it then, as far as I’m concerned they can’t see it now. They’re just jumping on the bandwagon”.
Mid-year they were in denial of the hype. “Really?” said Cheney when informed that the debut album was inspiring calls in the line of ‘greatest Australian album ever.’
By the time they’d appeared at the ARIAs in October, headlined their own sell-out tour with Area 7 and made Number 1 in the charts, there was no ignoring the fact. They won the ARIA for best-selling single ” over 150,000 copies, without any help from a major record company. “it’s good when bands have some hype about them,” Cheney shrugs, “as long as they can back it up.”
Highlights of the year included Cheney’s meeting with his all-time favourite star, Brian Setzer, formerly of Cheney’s much loved Stray Cats. After all, the Living End started out as a Stray Cats covers band named after a Stray Cats tune, the Runaway Boys.
“Everyone was like, ‘Did you just freeze up?’” says Cheney. “He was pretty cool about it, really. We told him we were on this (Vans Warped) tour and he said it was cool to see a band mixing punk and rockabilly.”
Cheney listed their US tour with the Vans Warped travelling punk rock festival as a highlight, but compared to their local tours later in the year, it was tough going.
“Playing in America to no people really kicked our arse,” says Cheney, with a hint of exhaustion. “Playing to ten people, you just have to really play your arse off to impress them, because there’s no vibe otherwise.”
It’s been a hard day’s night for the Living End of late, as they embraced the cross-country US touring that goes hand in hand with the huge support their American label, Elektra, has offered them in those territories. Playing both the Vans Warped festival and the Offspring’s national tour put the End in front of thousands of Americans. Relieved to be home and headlining their own tour once again, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, Chris Cheney, gives us a lowdown on Australia’s greatest new hope.
How are ya? We’ve all been pretty OK, just cruising. A couple of beers each day keeps the doctor away.
But does it keep the psychologist away? No, it brings them a lot bloody closer.
Do you have a tour anecdote? Well, I got heat exhaustion and food poisoning at the same time and had to blow out five of the Vans Warped dates. It was more the heat exhaustion, because we played three really hot gigs in Dallas, Texas, of all places.
What does heat exhaustion feel like? Oh, man, I remember playing onstage at the third gig and the sun was just on my forehead and I’ve never felt it that bad before. I came off with a headache, and I thought, ‘Oh well, I’m probably just tired.’ It was 1pm and I’d only just woken up. I felt like I was gonna die. The heat was unbearable. And I’m just a weak Australian.
Are the people who brought you over there happy? The big mean record company? They’re pretty happy, but they obviously want us to go back. We’re gonna go back in January. I’m pretty happy with it. We gave it all we could give, we played really good shows to huge crowds and got a good reaction at each gig. We did a lot of sold out club shows, interviews, went on MTV. From our end there’s not a lot more we can do. As far as a groundswell goes, I think it’s really happening.
So who was the biggest rockstar on Vans Warped? Eminem. He didn’t mingle with anyone at all. The guys in Lit are pretty Las Vegas rock, very ’70s Elvis. Or Warren from the Vandals, taking his clothes off all the time. It’s insane. They had a party on Ice T’s bus one night, and because everyone was wearing clothes, Warren decided he’d be the white runt running around nude.
What did Trav get up to on Warped? He had a running war with Eminem. Eminem went overtime and we had to follow him on the other stage. Everyone was waiting for him to get off, because he really wasn’t going that well on the tour. So when he finishes playing Trav’s like, ‘Screw you Eminem! You’re not welcome in Australia!’. Then we get this word from his bodyguards saying it’s not appreciated. There were no fists flying. Even Kerrang ran a story on it. The Living End versus Eminem – who would win in a fight. He came out ahead because he’d have knives and machine guns and all that, and we’re like, bar-room brawlers.
So what are your thoughts on the Republic issue? Do you think we should lose the Queen? Well, I love England, I gotta tell ya. I love London, great place, great atmosphere. But I think we can handle ourselves. We should become a Republic. I don’t think it’s any disrespect to stand on our own two feet. I don’t know how much difference, honestly, it’s going to make. But everyone sees Australia as being its own country anyway, not really connected.
What’s your idea of hell? It sounds so rockstar-ish, but coming home from a gig in a country town, getting to your hotel room with two minutes left before room service closes. And ordering the Mongolian beef and finding it’s totally crap.
Describe yourself in five words. Clutz. Daydreamer. Sensitive. Jovial, most of the time. And, erm… Indecisive.
What expression are you using too much? Probably ‘Dog-Arse.’ If I don’t like something or it’s not up to scratch I’ll go, ‘That’s dog arse.’
Did you get yourself into any cultural clashes when you were in the US? Well, you know, they hate Vegemite. We took our own with us, and they think it’s like, axel grease or something. There’s always clashes with the Yankees. They think we’ve got five bands, 25 people and a whole lot of kangaroos in Australia and that’s it. They have no idea.
What did your career adviser at school suggest you be when you grew up? Definitely not a musician. I don’t think they held much hope for me really. I was definitely told to stop thinking about music, the usual story, and get on with the work. I actually never went to a careers adviser, but they probably would have suggested that I buy a shovel, because I was going to spend the rest of my life standing on the side of a road somewhere doing roadwork.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that you’ve done onstage? Oh dear me. Well I’ve fallen over and stuff plenty of times, that happens to everyone. I jumped off the drum riser one time in Geelong and just fell fair and square on my arse… Um, at Livid I canned Qantas from the stage for wrecking our double bass, when in actual fact we flew up on Ansett. Scott’s pants fell down on Recovery, I felt embarrassed for him, as he stopped during “From Here On In,” pulled up his pants and did up his belt. [Ruefully] Live TV!
You missed both Ben Lee and Lindsay MacDougal (Frenzal Rhomb) kicking their leads out on national television while you were away. That’s a young player’s error. I’ve done that. I did it, quickly plugged the lead back in and thought, ‘Fuck, what an idiot, I won’t do that again.’ Then I stepped back and did exactly the same thing straight after.
You took your girlfriend with you for some of the American touring. Do you have a favourite lonely road song for when she can’t come? As I look out at the highway and dream about my girl? Not really, she was with me most of the time, because we were away for so long. It was probably a bit of a break for both of us. It was more like, let me put on Midnight Oil so I can think about my homeland.