A Living End To 2018 Gigs

Author: Luke Voogt

Aussie rock legends The Living End lead a dozen-strong line-up of alternative bands in a series of gigs at Torquay over summer.

Barwon Heads drummer Andy Strachan was thrilled to play on Boxing Day at Torquay Hotel.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve done (pub) gigs,” he said.

“Everyone’s generally pretty loose and ready for a good time – I think more bands should do it.”

The gig kicks off an Australian and New Zealand tour for the multi-ARIA-winning band.

“I’m super excited – there are waves almost everywhere (on the east coast),” Strachan said.

“We should do this as an annual event – go on a little a surfing trip.”

The band recently released new album Wunderbar, featuring the single Don’t Lose It.

Jimmy Barnes, Kacey Chambers, Eddie McGuire and Ray Hadley appear in the track’s video clip parodying talent shows. “It was the most fun we’ve ever had doing a video clip,”

Strachan said. “Generally, with video clips, there’s a whole lot of waiting around but this one was just hilarious from start to finish.”

TV presenter Tom Williams, a good friend of Strachan’s, turns the satire up to 11 as a corny talent show host.

“He’s such a charismatic guy and he doesn’t mind the taking the piss out of himself,” Strachan said.

Living End guitarist Chris Cheney plays Boy George-esque judge ‘Valentino’ while bass player Scott Owen plays a corporate producer.

“I don’t care what they do, they can fart into a lunchbox,” Owen says in the clip.

“I just want someone who’s going to make money.”

Strachan said “all fingers were pointed directly at me” to play third judge, the Delta Goodrem-inspired Alexis Dream.

Molly Meldrum plays an Elvis impersonator, while The Wiggles’ Murray Cook and Puppetry of the Penis also make appearances.

“We had to blur some of that,” Strachan said.

“There’s an adults-only version somewhere.”

The number of celebrities “snowballed” once Cheney phoned Barnes for the video, Strachan said.

“He says, ‘whatever you need mate, I’m there,’ in his Jimmy voice.

“We’ve done a lot of stuff with Jimmy in the past – he and Chris get along really well.

“If you had said 20 years ago you’re going to be mates with Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel … it’s so surreal.”

The Living End finished Wunderbar in a few “intense” months of recording in Berlin, Strachan said.

Cheney wrote most of the new album, which Strachan described as high-energy and “sonically different to anything we’ve done”.

“Chris has a song-writing gift … but we all chip in,” Strachan said.

The Living End

Author: Robert Dunstan

Last year was a big one for Australian rock trio The Living End as they toured Europe and the US under their own steam, did some shows in America as special guests of Midnight Oil and then came home to do another show with that band.

This year also promises to be another huge one for the band as they will kick it off by headlining a series of A Day On The Green concerts alongside American band Veruca Salt with Spiderbait, Tumbleweed and The Fauves being on the huge rock bill.

BSide Magazine chatted over the telephone late last year to drummer Andy Strachan while he was taking a break from a rehearsal.

“Yeah, we’re doing a gig for the NRL guys,” he says. “Funny thing is, I don’t know much about NRL and it’s a Triple M kind of thing. But we did a morning show for the AFL the other day.”

As Andy hails from South Australia – he was born and raised in Christies Beach and has now moved back after 25 years in Melbourne – we briefly discussed how NRL never took off in this state despite some major attempts before moving onto more relevant topics such as A Day On The Green.

“It’s an epic line-up and it’s going to be so much fun,” he suggests. “I’m really looking forward to it because it’s like a Big Day Out line-up. And, as that doesn’t exist anymore, it seems like the A Day On The Green guys have grabbed the concept.

“It’s also punter-friendly,” Andy enthuses. “It’s pretty relaxed and casual and we haven’t done A Day On The Green in Adelaide before although we’ve done a couple of interstate ones. And McLaren Vale is just such a beautiful spot with, arguably, the best wine in the world.”

“And I haven’t seen The Fauves for years,” he laughs. “Their Dogs Are The Best People is still one of my favourite songs. And seeing Tumbleweed again is going to be great. That will be epic. And fun. And we used to do heaps of shows with Spiderbait back in the old days but haven’t seen those guys for years. And I always though the two bands worked well together.”

Andy laughs when I mention A Day On The Green will be taking place on election day in Adelaide and that those on the electoral roll will be required to vote before heading to McLaren Vale.

“Maybe we can get a polling booth set up at the winery,” he then jokes. “People could have a couple of wines before they vote.”

Prior to joining The Living End in 2000, Andy was a member of various Adelaide bands before moving to Melbourne where he played with P76, Alcotomic and Pollyanna.

“I was with Violetine for a little while too,” he laughs. “But I was playing with Polyanna, who were about to wind up anyway, when I auditioned to join The Living End. I’d been recommended to them and then, when they asked me to join, I said, ‘You’ll have to wait a couple of weeks while I finish this tour with Polyanna’. So I literally stepped off a plane from Tasmania at the end of that tour and stepped into the rehearsal rooms with The Living End.”

The Living End released Shift in 2016 and launched it in Adelaide with two huge shows at the Governor Hindmarsh, but Andy says they are already in discussions about their next album.

“We had a fairly hectic run over in America – we just got back a few days ago – and prior to that we did a couple of European tours,” he reveals. “And while we were over in America, where we did a bunch of shows with Midnight Oil, we were talking a lot about the next album.

“So we’ll be getting together to do some writing soon and then look at what we’ve got for a new album,” Andy continues. “We actually feel pretty inspired at the moment because we’ve had such a good year. I dunno, but the harder we work overseas, the more it inspires us to continue. It feels really creative and I think that has something to do with playing night after night in America.”

Andy says that while touring overseas is good, the costs are considerable.

“We don’t make a million bucks out of it that’s for sure,” he laughs. “By the time you’ve taken in all the touring costs including airfares and stuff it doesn’t leave much. It all adds up but we put together some good shows and have a pretty loyal and quite fanatical following over there which helps. “And we generally play rooms that are comparable to the Gov in Adelaide,” Andy says. “There’s a place called Slim’s in San Francisco where we usually finish up a tour that’s very much like the Gov. It’s a well-run, dedicated, live music venue. And gigs at any of the House Of Blues venues are great to play as well.”

The Living End At The End Of The World

Author: Amanda VanElk

The announcement of the Day On The Green’s monster all-star 90’s line up for next March has everyone, including The Living End drummer Andy Strachan, feeling equal parts pumped and sentimental. The Living End, Spiderbait, Veruca Salt, The Lemonheads, Tumbleweed and The Fauves are touring 2018’s A Day On The Green- Australia’s last fully mobile music festival and Andy has a few things to say about his own taste in music, touring, and the wonders of Tasmanian seafood.

You’ve just finished a massive US tour, how are your energy levels going? Do you get more energised and inspired creatively by long tours or less so?
Oh man it was pretty gruelling by the end I think we’ve been hope for maybe nine or ten days now so body clocks are pretty much back to normal now which is nice but that was a pretty heavy run.

Do you tend to get personally inspired by longer tours or less so?
That’s a tough one, it’s pretty inspiring when you’re finished. As soon as you’re off the road you just wish you could go back on the road so it’s that catch 22 I s’pose. But it’s exciting to do all that stuff again and but it’s also great to be back home and I’m looking forward to playing shows in front of Aussie crowds again.

There’s a massive buzz down here around the announcement that you guys are touring Launceston for A Day On The Green next March. Do you think you’ll get any time to hang out in Tassie while you’re here?
Oh it generally doesn’t happen, we generally don’t have time anywhere we go but you can always hope! But anytime we get the opportunity we just go and eat as much fresh seafood as we can. Lots of oysters! That’s pretty special y’know. What’s that little area? Salamanca? It’s awesome, so we get pretty excited about oysters. We’ll probably go and try and find some of them…

Is the 90’s kid in you losing it a little bit at the prospect of touring A Day On The Green? You’ve got a pretty nostalgic Australian 90’s lineup with Spiderbait, The Fauves & Tumbleweed but also international heavyweights like Veruca Salt and The Lemonheads.
Yeah it’s gonna be unreal and were pretty good friends with the Spiderbait gang and we haven’t played a show with them in a long time so that’s just like wearing an old pair of shoes y’know, we always get together and have a good time. I think all the bands are gonna compliment each other and Spiderbait are such a great festival act, they’re always so much fun to watch. I haven’t seen the Fauves in it’d have to be ten years, even more.

The Living End released Shift in 2016. Can punters at A Day On The Green expect a focus on songs from this album for your 2018 live shows or are you gonna mix it up with the nostalgic stuff a bit?
I think we’re gonna play everything, we’re gonna pick and choose from every record. There’s seven records now so we kind of want to represent every record. Theres so many songs that we love to play but we really want to represent each album so everyone’s a winner at the end of the day. But yeah, we’re not going to be playing obscure B Sides or anything like thats we’re gonna play the songs that people wanna hear.

Do you listen to much music in your spare time or do you just look forward to silence when you can get it?
Oh a bit of both. I like surfing so that’s a past time where you can’t really listen to music because electricity and water don’t really mix. So that’s my quiet time but there’s generally music on wherever I am. If I’m driving I like to listen to music. If I’m at home I like to listen to music. It’s my job, it’s our job but it’s still a massive part of our lives outside of work. We all still listen to music just as excitedly as we did when we were a lot younger y’know. You know what I’ve

been loving lately? Dan Sultan’s new record. It’s called Killer and it’s just phenomenal. I hadn’t heard it and I put it on Spotify and I just can’t get enough of it now, it’s just incredible and I just hope people get to hear it because it’s really hard to get music out there these days and get it to that wider audience and it needs to be heard on a wider scale I think. He’s an incredible artist but it really blew my mind. It’s a masterpiece, incredible.

Can you tell me about something that has made you super proud recently. Be it musically or otherwise?
Pretty much every day when I see my little girl. She’s eight and when she comes home from school and she says she had a good day or she got an award from something. Y’know every time she says thank you…I don’t know she’s just a very cool human… she wrote a song recently. She’s pretty into playing ukulele and all sorts of things but she just writes songs now off her own bat. I’m proud of her, I’m incredibly proud of her. She’s just got a bunch of chords and she threw them all together and wrote some lyrics. It blows my mind. So I’m overwhelmed with proudness every day.

And finally, do you have a favourite drummer joke?
One of my favourites is: How do you know when the stage is level? Because there’s drool coming out of both sides of the drummer’s mouth.

The Living End

Author: Peter Hodgson

The music industry has changed. In some ways that sucks: bands don’t make money off recordings any more, audiences are fragmented, the album-as-art-form is under siege from the quick-hit single in a way we haven’t seen since the mid 60s. But in amongst the tumult are plenty of good things: bands are making themselves more accessible to fans than ever, they’re touring more, and they’re playing more unique and interesting venues. Case in point: the Twilight at Taronga and Melbourne Zoo Twilights concerts presented by ANZ. This year’s series has already featured the reunited george, Warpaint, Killing Heidi and Paul Dempsey, and next to take the stage are The Living End, with Dan Sultan and the String Sirens, supported by Gabriela Cohen.

“It’s such a different thing,” The Living End drummer Andy Strachan says. “I’ve never been to one of these shows but from all reports it’s amazing. Such a cool, chilled out vibe and a nice way to see rock’n’roll. We’re going to set the tone to fit into the environment a little more as well. We did a little photo shoot with some little llama-lookin’ things that were quite amazing. They were jumping all over us and being all affectionate and adorable. The zookeepers have the best job in the world. They seem to really love what they do and the animals seem really happy.”

So what kind of preparation goes into planning a show at a zoo? It’s gotta be different to a sweaty pub gig. “We’re gonna have elements of both, I think,” Strachan says. “The idea was to stretch ourselves a little bit and we’re going to do a bunch of stripped-back versions of songs. We have a couple of special guests. Dan Sultan is going to join us in Melbourne and we’ll have Josh Pyke and Jimmy Barnes in Sydney to jam with us. We’ve got a string section that’s going to join us for a few songs. It’s very, very different for us and a bit of a challenge, to be honest, but we’re really looking forward to it.”

From a logistical standpoint, Strachan will be playing a smaller kit: an 18” kick drum, a choked-up muffled snare drum with one cymbal and a pair of hot rods. “There’ll be acoustic guitars, and obviously Scotty’s bass is pretty much an acoustic instrument anyway, so we’ll be playing up that bluegrass kind of element. And I suppose that’s the challenge, at the end of the day: if it sounds good on an acoustic guitar and someone tapping along on their lap, when a song translates well in that way then it’s a good tune. But we really haven’t done this before. We’re just going to have as much fun as we can with it, and hopefully bring the house down.”

After these shows are in the rear view mirror, The Living End are hitting the road for an extended Australian regional tour. “We’ve got a bunch of shows coming up,” Strachan says. “We go straight into a regional tour to places that we haven’t been in seven or eight years. We’re going to Cairns, Geelong, Woollongong, places like that which we don’t often get to. We’re playing some proper rock’n’roll pub shows, and then a bunch of shows in Europe, a massive show in Hyde Park with Green Day, Rancid and a bunch of other bands and we’re very fortunate to be a part of that. Then we’re going to Spain, a festival in Canada and all sorts of places. And then I’m sure there’ll be another lap of Australia or maybe some festivals after that. There’s already talk of doing another record but when that happens, I’m not too sure. There’s still some fuel in the tank.”

As for the Zoo Twilights, the series continues with Kurt Vile, Tegan and Sara, Martha Wainwright and The Specials. All proceeds from the summer concert series go towards the zoo’s conservation work: Zoos Victoria have been fighting the extinction of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, playing a key role in the recovery of the species, increasing community awareness and building programs to reintroduce it to the wild.

Living Endlessly

Author: Natalie O’Driscoll

It’s a bit of a scramble when I’m put through for my The Living End interview, as due to some crossed wires I’m speaking with drummer Andy Strachan instead of bassist Scott Owen. Suddenly all my carefully prepared questions about Scott’s notorious double bass playing are useless. I try not to panic.

Fortunately, the laid back Andy takes it all in his stride.

“It’s all good,” he chuckles as I explain why I’m discombobulated. “We’ll make it work. I could probably answer some of those questions for him, anyway.”

So we chat about Scott’s double bass collection, and whether or not they need a bunch of Batman-style reinforcements due the bashing he gives them. They must, I’m sure.

“He’s got a lot, and they certainly do need to be hot-rodded,” says Andy.

“He’s got this guy in Melbourne who basically gets a bass and then rebuilds it for Scott. The bridges are all reinforced and stuffed with pillowy stuff to stop it feeding back.

“Essentially it’s an orchestral instrument being played in a loud rock n roll band, so they’re bastardised versions for sure.”

Andy is charming and down to earth as we shoot the breeze about the music industry and the craziness of 2016.

“It’s a real challenge to survive as a band or musician these days,” he says.

Of course many musicians didn’t survive last year, in a more literal sense. I wonder if any of them hit him particularly hard.

“They all did in their own little way,” he says.

“George Michael the other day – you just don’t expect it – he’s too young! Bowie was one of the ones that – you know in his genius he knew exactly what was going on and he’s having the last laugh watching the world.”

Back to living artists. The Living End have collaborated with a veritable who’s who of the Australian music industry, with Jimmy Barnes, Jet and Paul Kelly all working with one or more band members over the years. Andy has his own list of dream collaborators.

“We’d love to work with Josh Homme from QOTSA that’d be really fun. I love the way he creates. He’s obviously an incredible musician, and he doesn’t let the rules get in the way of a good song.

“Jack White would be really great. The energy he would bring, particularly with Chris’ guitar playing!

“I would do almost anything to get in a room with Neil Finn and do some work. Chris did a really great version of a Crowded House song. Neil Finn would be incredible.”

2016 saw The Living End release their seventh studio album, Shift. Peaking at No. 4 on the ARIA charts, Shift gave fans both a healthy dose of the driving rock that they expected, and also a slightly shifted (sorry!) perspective with some down-tempo tracks, pop melodies and even a full string section.

Introspective track Coma received critical praise, something Andy agrees with.

“I really like Coma, which is probably the most different track on the whole record.

“Then there’s Death, which that’s pretty ballsy and that was the song that sort of got the whole thing rolling, it felt like we really got a hold of something.”

The trio is bursting with energy following their long hiatus, and excited to be touring the new album. Andy mentions that his musical heroes all have one thing in common – that they’re having the best time doing what they do. I wonder if that is the key to The Living End’s reputation as one of the best live acts, ever.

“Absolutely,” states Andy.

“Every show to us – whether it’s for ten people or ten thousand – we get completely caught up in the whole thing. ‘Cause it’s a three piece band, there’s no room for anyone to be lazy. When it’s really locking it’s a pretty powerful experience.

“Still after all these years it’s the best job in the world.”

Andy Strachan

Author: Tim Mayne

Andy Sang, Andy Watched
Better known as the drummer for The Living End, Andy Strachan has just released his self-titled EP, something the talented musician says was a labour of love, with a little help from his friends.

While The Living End are putting the finishing touches on the group’s seventh studio album, drummer Andy Strachan says he decided to continue on with another personal project, this time operating under his own name.
“The EP took forever because I did it in spits and spurts and finished recording the whole thing over a year ago and bashed it altogether. There is no pre-production, just a lot of tweaking and it came together and then I have to save some coin to release it, it takes a long time but is a real challenge and has been fun.”

The debut single from the self-titled album, Follow The Sun, certainly catches your attention with a mix of heavy riffs, solid lyrics and eerie melodies, something Strachan says got the thumbs up from his producer and good friend Woody Annison.
“That riff came along and I thought that is good and put it aside and Woody and I worked on the riff and it just sounded so heavy.
“My mind went into this negative thought process and thought about suicide and people jumping off bridges.
“I thought I did not want to be singing about that and put it on the back burner and a few months later I put a positive spin on it about getting out of bed every morning and getting on with it.
“When you are writing songs there are not fifty thousand options – there is just what sounds good to my ear and that cuts down the decision process a lot.”

Strachan is currently locking himself away in his ‘man room’ working out how he will play the tracks live. He notes that while The Living End is his main priority, his latest EP is about keeping the creative juices flowing in between recording and live performances.
“This is about keeping me occupied and I have a batch of 20-odd songs ready to go when I get the chance. I am a shit guitarist and occasionally I will wrap strings in dunny paper because I only want two strings working at a time. I have two guitars and there are a couple of super fast songs I have written and eventually want to record.”

The Pants Collective

Author: Augustus Welby

The Pants Collective is the solo product from Living End drummer Andy Strachan. His first foray into band leading is an accessible listen, but it rarely seems interested in pushing the envelope. This debut EP hews closely to the attitude and aesthetic scope of The Living End, but it doesn’t necessarily sound like the output of Strachan’s day job.

The seven-track release begins with the cartoon-like garage blues of ‘Secrets’, before getting more debauched (and less effective) on chunky rocker ‘It’s Gonna Be Fine’. It gets more interesting when Strachan shifts into gears he’s less familiar with. ‘You’ll Never Know’ dons a hazy ’90s pop-rock visage, while two-faced EP closer ‘Hometown’ evolves from a neo-reggae experiment into a pub rock anthem. Strachan’s voice is by no means laughable, but it’s not a striking feature. Accordingly, nothing of lingering curiosity is said during the set’s 24-minute run time. Nevertheless, Strachan does show promise as a songwriter. These songs would surely benefit from someone with pronounced on-record character revving them up.

Similar to how films that don’t require particular patience or attention to detail are the most suitable for in-flight viewing, this is easy to digest, but it mightn’t have you raving to your friends at journey’s end.

This Is Not The End

Author: Izzy Tolhurst

Surf roots bluesician Ash Grunwald has taken his collaboration with The Living End bassist Scott Owen to the next level, inviting the band’s drummer, Andy Strachan, to join them in the studio.

Ash Grunwald and Scott Owen, notorious bass-straddler with The Living End, allegedly forged their friendship and founded a musical collaboration over furlongs of soy sausages. As it happens, their respective wives play together in a band with Kram called Mr Cassidy, so social mingling was inevitable. The first fruit of that friendship saw Owen join Grunwald on a track from his most recent album, Trouble’s Door. However, the speedy acquisition of The Living End drummer Andy Strachan to join Owen and Grunwald on their latest endeavour, has resulted in a full collaborative album, which the boys are about to launch an album via a national tour.

The project and tour preparation is now in full swing, and following the commercial success of their cover of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, the trio have announced that their debut album, titled Gargantua, will be released late June.

“It has been a truly fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants expedition,” Grunwald admits of the whole process. Particularly the mere six days this band spent at St Kilda’s Hothouse Studios – which boasts a worldclass Neve console, featuring 24 Neve 1073 mic pres, on which albums by AC/DC, Midnight Oil and Rose Tattoo were recorded – to create the album.

Grunwald describes Hothouse as “an Australian Sound City”, referring of course to the documentary directed by Dave Grohl that details the history of Los Angeles’ Sound City Studios. But Grunwald is making specific reference to the Neve 8028 analogue mixing console that the St Kilda studio utilises. Craig Harnath, the longterm owner of Hothouse, also has an overwhelmingly “massive collection of guitars here,” says Grunwald, like a kid in that sort of store. But amidst the multitude of guitars sits a Neumann U47, the microphone apparently manufactured “for the perfect broadcasting of Hitler’s voice”. And it‘s Harnath’s Neumann U47 that Frank Sinatra allegedly sang into when he was here when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and he got in trouble for calling that news reporter a ‘two-dollar whore’, a member of the recording team discloses excitedly.

Several tracks on the album have already been previously released by Grunwald, including Walking and Breakout, both ‘fist in the air’ songs that have been reinterpreted with Owen and Strachan. And throughout the speedy process, Grunwald says he’s “learnt the value of professionalism. Because I’ll tell you, these guys are as tight as a fish’s arsehole.”

But for drummer Strachan, it’s Skywriter, taken from Grunwald’s 2006 album, Give Signs, which speaks most of their experience together. “That song sums everything up for me. The first time we played together was in Geelong and I didn’t know what we were doing… but Ash just said, ‘It goes kinda like this,’ and as he played it we started tracking it, and that’s the final product.”

“There’s no bullshit. That’s the whole thing [about] working with Ash – if it doesn’t sound good and if it doesn’t feel good then don’t do it! It’s kind of where this whole project is at; we’re only doing it because it sounds and feels right. We’re not trying to be anything or anyone else, and we don’t think too much about what’s been done in the past, but rather inject what we feel is required to make it different.”

Smack-bang in the middle of the ten-track album, Gargantua is a cover of Black And Blue, a song by seminal ‘70s Aussie act Chain, who Grunwald jokes were “pretty much Australia’s biggest-ever blues band. They were the panel van driving, VB drinking, wife-beater wearing, going to Sunbury in ’73 kind of riffy ‘70s band.”

But perhaps the most enticing track on Gargantua is Last Stand, a song first composed by Grunwald and his regular producer Fingers Malone as a pitch for the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. And while it didn’t gain Grunwalda film credit, his wife was persistent that the song be included on the trio’s album, saying, “Do that Arnie song! It’s catchy, and evil and heavy!” the dreadlocked singer recalls. “Then I realised we really should. And it’s probably one of the rockiest tracks on the album.” Running through the analogue Neve desk to get that essential warmth, the album tracks have gone through Hothouse’s ProTools HD3 Accel system on Mac Pro with 24 96k inputs and outputs, the digital part of the process allowing for the speed necessary to get the whole thing done in the six days the trio had to deliver the album.

This Is Not The End

Author: Izzy Tolhurst

Surf roots bluesician Ash Grunwald has taken his collaboration with The Living End bassist Scott Owen to the next level, inviting the band’s drummer, Andy Strachan, to join them in the studio.

Ash Grunwald and Scott Owen, notorious bass-straddler with The Living End, allegedly forged their friendship and founded a musical collaboration over furlongs of soy sausages. As it happens, their respective wives play together in a band with Kram called Mr Cassidy, so social mingling was inevitable. The first fruit of that friendship saw Owen join Grunwald on a track from his most recent album, Trouble’s Door. However, the speedy acquisition of The Living End drummer Andy Strachan to join Owen and Grunwald on their latest endeavour, has resulted in a full collaborative album, which the boys are about to launch an album via a national tour.

The project and tour preparation is now in full swing, and following the commercial success of their cover of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, the trio have announced that their debut album, titled Gargantua, will be released late June.

“It has been a truly fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants expedition,” Grunwald admits of the whole process. Particularly the mere six days this band spent at St Kilda’s Hothouse Studios – which boasts a worldclass Neve console, featuring 24 Neve 1073 mic pres, on which albums by AC/DC, Midnight Oil and Rose Tattoo were recorded – to create the album.

Grunwald describes Hothouse as “an Australian Sound City”, referring of course to the documentary directed by Dave Grohl that details the history of Los Angeles’ Sound City Studios. But Grunwald is making specific reference to the Neve 8028 analogue mixing console that the St Kilda studio utilises. Craig Harnath, the longterm owner of Hothouse, also has an overwhelmingly “massive collection of guitars here,” says Grunwald, like a kid in that sort of store. But amidst the multitude of guitars sits a Neumann U47, the microphone apparently manufactured “for the perfect broadcasting of Hitler’s voice”. And it‘s Harnath’s Neumann U47 that Frank Sinatra allegedly sang into when he was here when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and he got in trouble for calling that news reporter a ‘two-dollar whore’, a member of the recording team discloses excitedly.

Several tracks on the album have already been previously released by Grunwald, including Walking and Breakout, both ‘fist in the air’ songs that have been reinterpreted with Owen and Strachan. And throughout the speedy process, Grunwald says he’s “learnt the value of professionalism. Because I’ll tell you, these guys are as tight as a fish’s arsehole.”

But for drummer Strachan, it’s Skywriter, taken from Grunwald’s 2006 album, Give Signs, which speaks most of their experience together. “That song sums everything up for me. The first time we played together was in Geelong and I didn’t know what we were doing… but Ash just said, ‘It goes kinda like this,’ and as he played it we started tracking it, and that’s the final product.”

“There’s no bullshit. That’s the whole thing [about] working with Ash – if it doesn’t sound good and if it doesn’t feel good then don’t do it! It’s kind of where this whole project is at; we’re only doing it because it sounds and feels right. We’re not trying to be anything or anyone else, and we don’t think too much about what’s been done in the past, but rather inject what we feel is required to make it different.”

Smack-bang in the middle of the ten-track album, Gargantua is a cover of Black And Blue, a song by seminal ‘70s Aussie act Chain, who Grunwald jokes were “pretty much Australia’s biggest-ever blues band. They were the panel van driving, VB drinking, wife-beater wearing, going to Sunbury in ’73 kind of riffy ‘70s band.”

But perhaps the most enticing track on Gargantua is Last Stand, a song first composed by Grunwald and his regular producer Fingers Malone as a pitch for the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. And while it didn’t gain Grunwalda film credit, his wife was persistent that the song be included on the trio’s album, saying, “Do that Arnie song! It’s catchy, and evil and heavy!” the dreadlocked singer recalls. “Then I realised we really should. And it’s probably one of the rockiest tracks on the album.” Running through the analogue Neve desk to get that essential warmth, the album tracks have gone through Hothouse’s ProTools HD3 Accel system on Mac Pro with 24 96k inputs and outputs, the digital part of the process allowing for the speed necessary to get the whole thing done in the six days the trio had to deliver the album.

…Just The Beginning Repeating

Author: Bryget Chrisfield

When Bryget Chrisfield joins frontman Chris Cheney, double bassist Scott Owen and drummer Andy Strachan on the eve of their current, marathon Retrospective Tour, she learns the band originally planned to call it, “The Living End – Tears Of Joy, Waves Of Emotion”.

“Oh look, I’m gonna come straight out and say this,” The Living End’s frontman Chris Cheney pauses for effect while his bandmates clutch their beers in anticipation. “I’m expecting tears.” Drummer Andy Strachan exhales, “Oh, that’s so much better than I thought it was gonna be.” Cheney is referring to how he expects the crowd to react during The Living End’s current Retrospective tour, which sees the trio play all six albums, back to back, over 39 dates nationwide. “I’m expecting tears of joy, waves of emotion. That was what we were gonna call the tour: ‘The Living End – Tears Of Joy, Waves Of Emotion’. Then we went, ‘Er, maybe just Retrospective.’” Sadly, they’ve already printed out the T-shirts, so this slogan won’t be emblazoned across them, but Cheney has a light-bulb moment: “We might get some hankies made up, though. As you walk in you get a hankie.”

Once double bassist Scott Owen gets involved, it’s an in-jokefest. “What are we saying?” Cheney observes. “We spend too much time together, clearly! Well we were gonna have a day off today and not see each other, but here we are back at the pub, two pots in.” Owen disagrees with the picture Cheney is painting of their band as boozehounds: “No, we haven’t been going to the pub! We used to go to the pub every day for lunch, but we haven’t been to the pub at all. We went to the pub once two days ago out of the whole month [of rehearsals], so we’re like boy scouts.” Does this boy scout-like behaviour include working out to get match-fit for the tour? Owen stresses: “Yep. Fuck, yeah!” Cheney chuckles, “As he rolls a cigarette.” Owen defends: “Yeah, I’ve been riding my bike to rehearsal everyday.” “Andy, you’ve been doin’ a bit of Zumba,” Cheney teases.“Mind you, we do six-hour rehearsal days. That’s one of the things in the back of our mind is the stamina and the endurance, ‘cause seven nights is a lot – and different sets – so it’s gonna be brain-strain as much as anything else.” Owen directs the spotlight back Strachan’s way: “Andy spends hours running away from screaming women every day.” Cheney chuckles and continues on this theme, “He’s all four of The Fab Four in one!”

On the reasons behind tackling this beast of a tour, Cheney ponders, “I think it was just basically trying to do something that was gonna cause some kind of controversy, that it was actually gonna be a talking point, like, ‘Wow, are they really gonna be able to do that?’ We were the first ones to ask the question, you know, ‘It’s such a challenge, let’s just throw ourselves into it. What’s the worst that can happen?’” And how many songs across their six albums would they anticipate have never been played live before? “There’d be at least – half would you say?” Owen estimates. Cheney counters, “It’d be a bit more. I’d say, like, fifty. I mean, I think we’ve had to learn seventy-nine [songs] in total – not had to learn, but that we’ve been rehearsing. That is the catalogue: seventy-nine or eighty or something.”

“Let’s call it eighty,” Owen interjects before Cheney continues, “And of that I reckon over the past few years we’ve fallen into the trap of kind of playing maybe eighteen or ninetween or twenty of those; let’s say twenty.” Owen turns to Strachan: “So that leaves – you do the maths.” The drummer confesses, “Yeah, I’m not very good at maths.” Cheney: “[There are] quite a lot that we haven’t played very often. Some songs like Putting You Down and things like that, which we’ve never played live, you know: you write them, you rehearse them, you record them, you mix them and then that’s it! You never sort of go back to it, so there’s a few of those.” Revisiting these during the rehearsal period brought certain songs into focus that Owen labels “real tough customers”. “There’s one called Nowhere Town that’s been probably the biggest tough customer, hasn’t it?” Strachan concurs: “Yep, absolutely.” Owen muses, “Why the hell we’d have such a difficult song to play and then, three-quarters of the way through the song, go, ‘Let’s put a key change in! Just so we have to learn it in another position as well.’ But actually, it’s great – it’s a really fun song.”

Cheney offers: “You know what? I think it’s one thing to book a tour like this and just play all those songs, but we didn’t wanna bluff our way through and just sort of play it; we wanna actually [punches the table to emphasise each word] nail every single song. That’s where the nerves kinda crept in for me, it was like, ‘Holy shit! I don’t wanna just play track five and kind of get through it.’ We wanna slam it – every single album, every song – which is just an enormous amount of work, because you’ve gotta know the songs backwards and really do it properly. ‘Cause, you know, we‘ve built up this reputation as a live band that, ninety per cent of the time, has a pretty good show – just because we’re anal like that. So it’s like, ‘This could be our undoing if we don’t pull it off.’ [laughs] So we don’t want that to be the case. Each album that we do, there’s gonna be a handful of people in the audience who, you know, whatever track number seven is – that’s their favourite song,” Owen explains, “and that’s gonna be thehighlight of their night. So I wanna make sure we’re not just bluffing our way through [those songs], we wanna actually do them all justice so all those pockets of people are happy.”

“People that were, like, fifteen when our first record came out,” Cheney points out, “by the time the latest one came out, like,some of them might even have their own children – it’s quite bizarre. So there’s gonna be all different generations of people: People that got into State Of Emergency might have hated our first record. And then we’ve been lucky enough that we’ve got all these different generations of people [who] get into our records.” Babysitters will be in high demand, then. “We should have a crèche,” Owen jokingly suggests. “We’re doing our under-18 gig on the last day: we’re doing two shows,” Cheney explains, surprising Strachan: “On the last day!? Really? We’re gonna be so tired.”