The Living End

From the Big Day Out Programme 2003

The Living End’s story is already Australian rock & roll folklore. And they only released their debut album in 1998! It’s an inspirational tale of punk ethos, classic songwriting values and road-hardened live energy which has struck a blistering chord with a massive audience, both here and OS. And what makes this band so goddamn sticky? So likable? Well, there’s the tunes, natch. But here’s what singer/guitarist Chris Cheney has to add: “I think people know we do everything ourselves, we do what we think is right and it’s all about the music. We’ve never put that second to anything.” This is a band as much inspired by Midnight Oil and AC/DC as the rockabilly heroes you might think of on first listen. And that shines through for Aussie audiences, who’ve never been able to get enough of this tight-as-they-come trio. No compromise. No prisoners. No worries.

The Living End

Author: Polly Coufos

After a long and enforced lay off The Living End are set to make their way back into the country’s music venues and into your hearts. Perth will see the Melbourne based three piece for the first time in two years when they take their place in the lineup for Big Day Out 2003. It will most likely be the last time for quite a while too for soon after the national tour the band (guitarist Chris Cheney, bassist Scott Owen and new drummer Andy Strachan) head to the US to record their third album, which is scheduled for release later this year. Cheney has always been seen as the band’s designated leader. Rising with the popularity of pop punk The Living End were a typical near-on-10-years-in-the-making overnight success. Fortuitous the timing may have been, there was always much more about this band than their peers. Prisoner Of Society took rockabilly back to a time when the Stray Cats played with edge as well as fire and Cheney’s playing drew praise from all corners, especially The Offspring. Following the release of album number two Roll On, the band spent a lot of time Stateside and had just returned home to spread the word locally when in September 2001 Cheney was involved in a road accident which left him with a badly broken femur. During the time off the band’s then drummer Travis Dempsey left the fold and so it is a slightly new and definitely reinvigorated The Living End which will release new single One Said To Another next Monday, January 20.

Going on a profile from your website it appears all your interests seem to be totally involved with music. Is that true? 
“Yeah, well they kind of are. I don’t know whether I am narrow minded or I just try to bring everything that I like into it, which is probably more to the point, you know as far as I always did art at school and was always interested in that and did a bit of drama and I think being in a band sort of gives you the opportunity to do all that, as far as art work and t-shirts and poetry and lyrics and just expression. It doesn’t get much better I suppose being in a band if you want to do those sort of things so we are pretty lucky really to be able to do that and get paid for it.”

The new single One Said To Another sounds distinctively like The Living End. Is that something consciously planned? 
“I don’t think that it is something that we over think. I think we do want to try and sort of keep things sounding natural and from the heart and that comes down to writing songs I think and also just performing shows and everything. We would never sit down and really analyse our sound, we have never really had to and I am glad that we have never had to get the whiteboard out and try think of how we are going to move into the next stage of our career or whatever. I think it just kind of happens naturally. I think that bringing Andy into the band has probably made a slight difference, but as far as I can tell it’s a good thing, ’cause we are really happy with the way that he plays and I think that as a unit we play better than what we ever have and so it’s a difficult question, I think it is something that people on the outside can probably see more so than us but all reports have been good so far and we just sort of stuck to our guns and do what we do best. But at the same time trying to improve in certain areas, so maybe that will affect the sound.”

Let’s go with Andy for a minute. How has the changeover been? 
“Well, it’s been really great actually, it’s been a breath of fresh air and it probably could have gone either way, especially with a three piece with bringing in an extra member. I don’t think that you can ever tell how it is going to turn out.” 
Especially with Travis, because he was such a visual part of the show as well as obviously playing the drums… 
“Yeah, exactly and I think that Andy knows that he has come into a band where he has probably got big shoes to fill or whatever but it is definitely going in the right direction. There was probably a stage there where we probably thought that this was going to be really difficult, but I don’t know whether it is luck or hard work or what but he is fitting right in really well and he is playing. We have done a couple of gigs, we did some small pub shows just sort of unannounced where we could get up and play the new songs that we had learned that week, and it was great. It was sorta full house and I think he proved to a lot of people who were there to see what would it be like, to prove that he can cut it. I just can’t wait to get out there and do it properly.”

So, I know that you are coming over here for the Big Day Out. Is that going to be the opportunity for most people to see you? 
“Yeah, we are not doing another tour probably until we get back from the States, we are going over there in February to record and then we will probably come back over here and probably do a proper tour of our own. At this stage that is the only chance.”

So who have you lined up as producer? 
“Mark Trombino.” 
He did Blink 182, Jimmy Eat World and a bunch of pop punk… 
“Yeah, and that is not really our cup of tea even though we are likened to those sorts of bands, but I think that without saying anything against them I think we’ve got a bit more to offer as far as versatility and whatever. You know, that is only one part of us is kind of fast punky stuff, but we definitely want to keep moving in a different direction and try lots of different stuff, but you know he has done a range of things and we have spoken a couple of times on the phone but we haven’t actually met him in person yet, but he seems like a really nice guy.” 
Is it a daunting prospect? Is there a point that you can say, like, “two weeks, if there is no sign of life by then, it’s not worth it, not what we thought it would be, we’ll back out,” or is the scheduling so tight that you need to go over and it needs to be done and it needs to be released? 
“Well, the schedule is tight but it is our schedule. I suppose we want to get it out quicker probably than anyone, ’cause we’ve got songs ready and we are all set to go but I suppose if it wasn’t working I would just pull the pin with him ’cause you are stuck together for a while and you have got to get along and more importantly I think he has gotta be there to offer ideas and suggestions when we get stuck. I figure that if we have got our stuff together, as far as what we have got and where we are headed and songs and so forth then the idea of him is to maybe just add a little guidance. I don’t want to rely on him. I think that we can pretty much produce our own albums if we had to, but yeah it’s a risk each time I s’pose, but I figure any of those guys at that level are going to have done enough albums to be pretty easy going I would think and to try and adapt to each band. And he loves the band, he has seen us before and was really excited to do it, so it has gotta be a good thing.”

You only did two shows to promote Roll On in Perth. Your accident put paid to any roadwork for a long while. How much did that hurt the album? 
“Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, so we never really got a chance, we were supposed to come home (to Melbourne) to do a video clip for the Dirty Man single and various other things, and then it obviously all happened and that was it for that album. I also don’t think that it was a very easy listening album. It was difficult in a way but we planned it that way because we wanted it to be a bit of a challenge, and not just this instant throw away pop thing. We have learned that this was a monster after we had created it, as far as reproducing it on stage every night, so it was good in a way because we learned and so with this album we have left it wide open, people don’t know what to expect.”

Have you had periods where you have just cursed your bad luck? 
“Definitely. The bottle always gets you through though (laughs)… Yeah, we have ’cause we, I mean people have bad luck all the time and our bad luck is nothing compared to what some people have. I mean that (the accident) is bad luck, but I don’t know, I think it is something that had to happen in a way ’cause we had been pretty much touring constantly since 1992. Me and Scott formed the band and we had never let up really, it was just a continual thing which just kept going from strength to strength and it was almost like we couldn’t put a foot wrong, every EP sold better than the previous and the album went crazy and we got to tour all over the world and all of a sudden it came to a grinding halt, which I think in a way has been a good thing after all this time. It made us stop and probably think about it a bit more and appreciate it and take a bit of time to really put some good solid work into this album so in hindsight I wouldn’t want to go through it again.”

How is your health? 
“Yeah, it’s pretty good now. Yeah I am sort of all up and about now. You wouldn’t know that anything had happened other than a few scars here and there but otherwise I can’t complain at all.”

While you have been off, you have had a small part in a very successful Australian album, Kasey Chambers’ Barricades And Brickwalls. 
“Oh yeah Crossfire. That was a little country album wasn’t it? Yeah, well that was great doing that, we did that when we were touring with AC/DC, that was how long ago that was ’cause we actually went to the studio after one of the shows with AC/DC that night and did it with Kasey. That was great, we had sort of met her a few times before that and knew that she was a fan and she wanted to do a song. We were rapt ’cause I am a huge country fan anyway and most of my favourite guitar players are all country players from the ’50s and ’60s, so we just went and did that and she wanted us to play as we do, she did not want us to play like a country band or anything, that is the cool thing about her I think. She is willing to move with the times, so to speak and yeah she is an incredible singer. She just nailed it basically on the spot there and then, we only did probably a few takes. We wanted to get a live feel and she sang a live vocal with it. Yeah it was great, it was a great experience and of course it has gone onto sell gazillions.”

You were set to play it together at the 2001 ARIAs weren’t you? 
“Yeah we were. It was all hooked up and we were really sorry that that never happened and then it’s funny because we got over that and then Kasey was here a couple of months ago when she did a big tour and I was going to get up and play at a Melbourne show with her but I had to get the rod taken out of my leg that week so that didn’t happen either, so who knows, maybe in the future. We’d actually love to do an album with her, a full album at some stage. We have talked about it with her ’cause we’ve got so many left over songs and so has she and I think it would be really good just to sort of see the collaboration and show different sides of what we both do. We have spoken about it a bit and it’s just a matter of getting time, ’cause we are just starting to get under way again and I think that she is just winding down again with the new baby and all. You never know.”

How typical of the new material is One Said To Another? Who produced the single? 
“Lindsay Gravina, who did the first album. That came about just because we wanted to try again something that was so totally opposite to Roll On, we wanted to just get back to a three piece sounding song that had all the rawness and everything that we liked about the first album, that perhaps we lost a bit on the second, so we figured who better to do it than Lindsay and we got along so well the first time and it was great ’cause he has got so many good ideas and he does keep it raw and it’s all about the passion and everything which I think that you can sort of forget about if you have got too many options in the studio and too many buttons to push, you can sort of forget about getting the song down and getting the heart into it and he’s really good at keeping you grounded there and keeping the little mistakes and new ones and whatever.”

It sounds like you are down on Roll On. Many people love that record… 
“That’s good. You know I’m probably a bit too negative about it. Maybe in time it’ll grow on me. I mean I wouldn’t know the last time I listened to it. I just think that we have probably tried too hard to distance ourselves from the whole Prisoner Of Society three chord punk rock thing, but in a way I’m really glad that we did do it and we did try and completely outdo ourselves because people really liked it I s’pose and it left this one wide open and we don’t really know what we are going to do or anything including us I s’pose but I just think that maybe some of the rawness of the band is probably lacking a little bit, but that’s alright. I’m glad we did that album and it was still a good experience.”

When The Carnival Comes To Town

Author: Mark Neilsen

There’s a romantic idea that everyone would come out in force when a carnival rolled into town. People would be wide eyed at the wonders on offer, startled by some strange sights, maybe even scared by some things. Well, there’s something else everyone experiences similar feelings with that they flock to when it pulls into town once a year, and that’s the Big Day Out.

With a circus theme for this year’s festival, we find some of the artists performing dressed in carnival clobber, appearing as if they could almost form their own travelling sideshow. Chris Cheney from The Living End is the ringmaster with his lairy jacket and bow tie. With the addition of a bowler hat and cane he looks like a technicolour version of one of the droogs from A Clockwork Orange. Juanita Stein from Waikiki is a fairy and although angelic looking there’s surely a hint of mischief behind it all. Jon Toogood is decked out as the stereotypical strongman, resplendent in leopard-print, caveman-like outfit with mini handlebar moustache and hair plastered down as it probably was in his year four school photo. It’s quite funny that Jon’s the strongman considering he’s arguably the skinniest man in rock. Then there’s Jesse Dessenberg, aka Kid Kenobi, who’s the sad clown, with the face makeup still on.

Going to the carnival is associated with a fun time, so would the assembled troupe enjoy their Big Day Out experience as much as a carnival? “If you compare it to a kid at a carnival and an adult at the Big Day Out, it’s pretty much the same thing. A carnival/circus for big kids, I guess,” Jesse says. “It definitely has a circus vibe about it, particularly with tents. They even had a big top, haven’t they? It was weird actually, the first time I played the Big Day Out I played in the Hothouse and that was actually in a tent and it was all grass on the dancefloor so it did feel like you were in a circus act almost.”

Chris: “I don’t know whether I’ve ever been to a carnival. I’ve been to a couple of circus things, but I’ve had much more fun at the Big Day Out, that’s for sure, because you can get alcohol at the Big Day Out. You can’t even get it at the circus. Still there’s something about seeing people on a trapeze with their life in their hands. It’s one thing seeing a good gig, but that’s definitely a special moment.”

Jon: “I reckon, without sounding like an arse-licker, it is definitely the best experience for a band because you’ve got at least a day off to recover after every show, and you can party and it’s so social the way it’s all set out back stage. You can’t actually avoid dealing with people, which is good. Everyone gets in each other’s face, It’s really good. And what a great way to play in front of 45,000 kids. It’s the rush, it’s like jumping out of a plane.”

For Juanita, carnivals have negative connotations and hence she hates circuses and the ilk. “i never wanted to go as a kid,” she says. “The idea of training animals scared the shit out of me and you don’t get much more evil than clowns as far as I’m concerned. I think I was scarred when I was about 13. My friends made me watch this movie called IT. My god, how could you ever got to the circus after watching that movie?”

Then again, this whole musical lifestyle that these artists lead would seem like a carnival at times. “Without a doubt,” Jon states. “We were talking about it the other day. It’s the only job in the world where you can abuse yourself and drink copious amounts of alcohol, take as much drugs as you want, as long as you do your job really well when you walk back on stage. If you’re a lighting guy, or a sound guy, it’s the same thing. It’s the only job in the world where it can be a carnival as long as you do your job really well. But still, in saying that I find that doing too much I find my job starts to suffer so at the moment I’m in the medium ground. I’m behaving myself. It means the shows are really good.”

Chris similarly agrees to the carnival nature of rock and roll. “There’s been quite a few bands that have done tours with the circus/sideshow theme, and some more so behind the scenes than the band sometimes. Have you seen the roadcrews of different bands? Even the road crew we used to have, they were a pretty funny looking bunch. There’s definitely a similarity though, isn’t there? Especially in this day and age, the more bizarre you are, the more people turn up to see you,” he says.

Juanita believes music festivals, such as the Big Day Out, are particularly associated with carnivals. “I can’t talk for experience because I’ve never been in the circus but I imagine they’re similar. I think circuses are very rock and roll. Circuses scare me though. That’s one element that’s not in rock and roll. Rock and roll doesn’t scare me. There’s something very dark about circuses. It’s the same with music. It’s a raucous, crazy, electric energy and very, very unpredictable and anything could go wrong and it’s all based on the nature of performance. Very colourful, very alive,” she says.

“It does get pretty crazy,” Jesse admits. “Nothing too outlandish, no great sex, drugs and rock and roll stories, it’s something you get used to after a while. It’s not like a normal nine to five thing.”

Not that any of the acts have felt so strongly about carnivals that they wanted to be adopted by carnies. “I always thought it looked really seedy and dodgy and the thing is in New Zealand we didn’t have many circuses so I never really got to see one. I would have liked to hang out with the animals and stuff but I actually feel really sorry for the fuckers,” Jon says. “It’s very similar. Thinking about it now It’s the whole Gypsy lifestyle of getting in a caravan and driving from town to town,” Juanita adds. “I wasn’t that adventurous. I think I was a bit too much of a sissy,” Jesse laughs.

“I don’t think I was much of a freaky thing,” Chris says. “I always thought that being a musician there’s not much call for that in a circus really, because they just put the needle on the record and off they go. I wasn’t going to get involved in all the theatrics and stuff, it was never a dream of mine. Just to run off with a band.”

The Big Day Out happens Saturday 25 January at Sydney Showground

Living End Fired Up For New Beginning

Author: David Nankervis

Few bands have exploded on the music scene as three-piece punk/modsters Living End did in the late 1990s.

A swag of awards and huge record sales greeted the Melbourne outfit’s first forays into the music world.

Support tours for Australian icons AC/DC as well as US rockers Green Day and Offspring had the trio in the box seat for a mega-career.

So it is surprising that singer/guitarist Chris Cheney says his serious car accident in September 2001 – which has put the band’s stellar success on hold since – may have been a blessing in disguise.

Not that Cheney would ever wish to endure a repeat of the terrifying accident on the Great Ocean Rd in Victoria 14 months ago when his car was hit almost head on at 100km/h and spun off the bitumen and down the embankment before being stopped by a tree.

Cheney and his girlfriend were lucky to be alive, with the vocalist having a pin inserted into his shattered leg.

An upcoming appearance at the 2001 ARIA awards was cancelled and the band had an enforced lay-off for most of 2002 before undergoing a change of drummers with Andy Strachan replacing Travis Demsey.

However, the time off from a busy recording/touring schedule may have been a silver lining following the accident, Cheney said in hindsight.

“it was almost a blessing in disguise,” he said.

“At the time we had planned to come straight home from the UK, got straight into recording the third album and take off on tour again to support the new release.

“Even then we knew it would be hard going but accidents happen and the plans all changed.

“We were grounded for a year and people probably thought we were finished.

“But the break has given us time to write new songs and the feel of the band is better than it has ever been.”

Cheney will soon find out if the sometimes fickle music market agrees when the band’s first single since November 2000 hits the record stores on January 20.

The single, One Said To The Other, has already received some airplay and listener feedback will soon show how fondly the band, which achieved quadruple platinum sales with it’s self-titled debut album, is embraced the second time around.

Living End, however, won’t be sitting idly by when the single is released as the trio will join the national Big Day Out music festival next month.

It’s a gig the new line-up is looking forward to, Cheney said.

“We did the Big Day Out in 1999 and had a great time,” the 27-year-old said.

“When you play early in the day’s line-up it gives you a chance to sit back later in the show, relax and enjoy things.

“You also get to play to a crowd that doesn’t necessarily know who you are and you have the challenge to win them over.

“We’ve played lots of festivals in Europe and Japan but there is something about playing at home.

“There is something about Aussie bands, they are laid back and naturally bond together.

“Maybe the international acts don’t have as much time to mingle but the Aussie bands know how to have a good time.”

Worse Is Better

Author: Steve Bell

Life has been really busy for The Living End.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On The Roll With The Living End

Author: Glenn Fowler

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

How has the UK tour gone, and what have been your highlights?
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.

Let There Be Rock!

Author: Jude Winston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beginning Of The End

Author: Patrick Donovan

As well as showing there’s more to the Living End than Prisoner of Society, the band hope their new album will make an impact on the US charts, Chris Cheney tells PATRICK DONOVAN

Having won over the notoriously difficult English music media with their self-titled debut album and feverish live shows Melbourne’s Living End are now setting their sights on the American market with a follow-up album.

But rather than dumbing down the lyrics and following in the footsteps of Blink 182’s infantile humor or Limp Bizkit’s we-hate-the-world whinging. they’re sticking to their social-consciousness guns.

The new album, Roll On, tackles everything from Australia’s restrictive immigration policy (Don’t Shut The Gate) to tabloid fascination with celebrity criminals (Read About It), racial and social prejudice (Killing the Right), their experiences in East Timor, where they played at the Interfet troops’ Christmas Concert Revolution Regained), and dealing with death (Staring At The Light). They tackle the music industry in Blood on Your Hands, “a general tune about people thinking that they know better but they don’t know what they’re talking about”, and the first single, Roll On was inspired by the Melbourne dock workers’ dispute of 1998.

“It’s about those guys getting on with the job and all that,” says singer guitarist Chris Cheney, “and it’s also generally about the plight of the underdog, a song about hope, getting over obstacles and rolling on with your chin up, and moving-on-to-tomorrow sort of thing.

“It was kind of appropriate to call the album that, because after we had finished recording and mixing everything had taken so long, we didn’t think we were ever going to get it all done.”

These are issues that have always been close to the hearts of these three working class lads from Wheeler’s Hill, and they’ve never been a group to shy away from hard yakka.

“It’s kind of built into us, and from just playing every weekend, when we started out, that’s all we did-play and play and play and play and play. We’ve got a pretty good work ethic, I think.”

And meaningless lyrics were never their style.

“I just prefer songs that have a social commentary, rather than the Limp Bizkit Nookie-type songwriting. I just prefer songs to have a bat of content in them, and I’m a product of the stuff I used to listen to, the lyrics of punk bands like the Jam and the Clash.”

But Cheney believes he is first and foremost a musician, and the lyrics are almost an afterthought to the songcraft, hooks and anthemic choruses. He says it’s not necessarily because he’s concerned about sticking his neck out and being heralded as the leader of a cause, but more because he doesn’t like to dictate to anyone.

“I’m not really into the idea of us being a political band. I would prefer if people listened for the music. Lyrics are very important, I know, but I’d prefer to look at it from a social point of view rather than taking sides. There are a lot of political issues on there, but I think you’ll find that it’s more or less storytelling about what’s going on in the world.

“Obviously, I’ve got my own point of view, but I think of songs as poetry and storytelling: I don’t really indulge in the whole left-wing/right-wing political debate, I just sort of let people make up their own minds, because I don’t really like being dictated to myself.”

And Cheney doesn’t see socially aware writing as an exclusively punk form.

“I don’t even think of us as a punk band, I just think of us as a rock’n’roll band that speaks about issues. But there are still fun songs on there that mean absolutely nothing.”

As if there wasn’t already pressure on the Living End to top the success of their 1998 self-titled album, which sold half-a-million copies worldwide – including going platinum five times in Australia – and scored them three ARIA awards. Then American magazine Alternative Press and Britain’s Melody Maker upped the ante by placing Roll On in their most anticipated albums lists.

But Cheney felt no extra pressure. He knew they could do better and it was only when people kept asking about second album jitters that he started to worry.

“I wasn’t too worried about it. If anything I just got worried about it because everyone kept on asking. ‘You must be shitting yourself about the next album’. And I was like. Well. no not really, but if you keep on talking like that I might start to worry.

“It was more of a case of not wanting to release something mediocre and to not repeat what we’ve already done. We were determined to come up with something better and prove ourselves, because I just don’t think there’s enough Australian music invading the overseas market. That was certainly on the agenda – to make some more inroads.”

The anticipation from the overseas press, he says, merely encouraged them to make the album they knew they could.

“It’s good to get that overseas recognition where they’re expecting big things. It’s pretty exciting, because I wanted to do something better. I just didn’t want people thinking that Prisoner of Society was the best we had to offer, because it’s all fair and well and it did its job at the time, but we were interested in so many more different things that it was a matter of trying to prove there was a lot more to the Living End.

“And as good as it is to be big in Australia, it’s really hard to make an impact overseas because it’s so far away, and there’s got to be more Aussie bands doing that.

“Being signed to an American label, it’s kind of in their best interest and ours to really make a big impact over there. And that’s every band’s dream – to stick it to the Yanks.

“The thing is, once you’ve done well in America, that covers the rest of the world – it spreads like wildfire. But in Australia, you could be the biggest band ever, and it doesn’t mean anything anywhere else. But there’s so many bands over there, all trying to be number one, so there’s really no room for anyone else – but we’re going to give it a shot, anyway.”

Rather than Americanising their music or connecting to the Southern Californian neo-punk movement – in fact, to distance themselves from that scene – they recorded the Roll On film clip at night in the rain – the Living End have drawn on their Oz-rock upbringing – In particular, two bands that have managed to crack the US market, AC/DC and Midnight Oil.

“We’ve always been into bands like AC/DC and Rose Tattoo and Midnight Oil – all the Aussie-rock staples-but they’ve finally come to the forefront on this album for some reason. The songs that worked out best, the ones we wanted to put on the album, were those kind of tunes, so it ended up having that kind of feel about it, and we wanted it to be a straight-ahead rock album, without having to compromise on tricky arrangements. We had a lot of demo songs that were kind of off the beaten track, a little bit too folky which may be all right for next time, but we didn’t want to con- fuse the issue. We decided to stroll down the rock road this time.”

While the Living End have every chance of cracking the American market, the band have no illusions of an easy run.

“Gee, if I knew what it took to crack the US. I’d be half the way there. I think luck’s probably the first thing, and then timing. But I think it’ll probably do OK, because there’s a lack of rock stuff out there, and I think a lot of the songs on the album are very Australian-rock-sounding”

The Living End have had a fairly low profile in Australia over the past 18 months, having taken only a couple of short breaks from touring overseas. Playing places as far apart as Belgium and East Timor, as well as Britain’s prestigious Reading and Leeds festivals ,the North American Vans Warped tour and two tours of Japan is a long way from working in supermarkets and gigging the Victorian RSL circuit playing Stray Cats and Eddie Cochran covers under the name the Runaway Boys

The touring has given Cheney, double bassist Scott Owen and drummer Travis Dempsey a songwriting maturity and tightness that puts Roll On a few notches above their debut album.

East Timor, says Cheney, was as tragic as it was beautiful.

“It was in ruins; everything was burnt out, there were a lot of kids walking around. There obviously weren’t any schools, and people were selling stuff on the side of the street, but they were selling them to each other, because there was no one there. It was a lot different to playing at the Big Day Out, that’s for sure.”

The band had little time to write during their hectic tour, so upon returning Cheney wrote almost around the clock. In the end, they distilled 30 demos into 14 catchy, effervescent songs.

Cheney struggles to define the writing process. Although it’s different for each song, he often starts with an image.

I very much visualise things when I’m writing a song, like if I’m writing a minor-chord kind of tune. I think darker lyrics. It’s really hard to explain. Like when you’re recording you’ve got to get yourself into the right frame of mind. There’s more to it than putting your fingers into the right place and making sure you play in time. There’s a certain headspace And it’s the same with writing songs. I’m a bit of a daydreamer, always have been, and I have these little images in my mind that kind of transform themselves on to paper.

“It really does come from thin air. It’s different every time, that’s the freaky thing about it. It’s always a challenge… It’s not a bad hobby to get paid for.”

As well as the balls-to-the-wall Oz rock feel, Roll On has plenty of anthemic choruses. The last song Uncle Harry definitely sounds more like last drinks at the Frog and Firkin than the Wheeler’s Hill Hotel. But Cheney doesn’t think chanting is limited to the English.

“Even bands like AC/DC with Dirty Dees and stuff that was pretty chanty but I think it comes from the Sham sort of stuff, where it’s all English pub music, where you can drink along and shout with your mates. I’ve just always found that sort of stuff appealing.

I’ve always been one for anthemic tunes, and it works well for us because we’ve got that background. Because there’s only three of us, it’s nice to be able to break out and use things like vocals and stuff to make it sound fuller, rather than use just me as a singer. It’s a bit of embellishment as well.”

In a chunkier and more diverse album than their debut, the Living End prove they can do more than write catchy punk-pop anthems. They even include a reggae song, Blood On Your Hands. Cheney credits Melbourne’s small but diverse music scene with opening their ears to many sounds.

“There’s not enough people to support every scene in Melbourne, so all sorts of people – punks and skinheads and rockers and goths – were turning up to our gigs. And if you liked Madness, then you loved Sham 69, the Clash and the Cure – you either liked it all or you didn’t. I’m very thankful that we came from that scene, and we’ve always just tried to mix up all the things we liked.

“I never saw the point in being just a straight-ahead rockabilly band or anything like that. The more mixed-up the better. because that’s how rock’n’roll was formed in the first place.”

The Living End play the Hi-Fi Bat city on Sunday night. Roll On is out now through EMI

Roll On

Author: Steve Tauschke

Roll On
The Living End
(EMI)

The much murmured follow up to 1998’s ridiculously successful eponymous debut, Roll On, as the title suggests, dispenses with all notions of second album blues. It’s an assured set and an interesting stage in the Living End’s growth cycle. History will remember it as the band’s Ozrock phase. They’ve been toiling on this one all year, tracing a path back to, and then trawling through the vaults of its beer barn heroes: Midnight Oil, Chisel, AC/DC, perhaps even Hunters & Collectors, for inspiration. And they’ve found it! The album’s 14 tracks encapsulate not only a workmanlike pub-rock ethic (they’ve always had that), but its palpably tougher edge adds weight to the anthems on display. The galloping Riot On Broadway and Silent Victory boast ought-to-be-Angus riffs, while Carry Me Home and its mallet-pounding chords offer more Rose Tattoo thump than Stray Cats twang – even current single Pictures in The Mirror squeezes in some tasty licks. This added guitar grunt, together with Chris Cheney’s call-to-arms voice – at its best belting out rants such as Shut The Gate, where he lays to rest his opinion on immigration – is perfectly suited to the band’s mantra-free sloganeering. Which is not to say finesse has been altogether abandoned: Staring At the Light is softer and more melodic, ditto Dirty Man, a vintage Living End pop ditty. Add to that the usual mod, punk and 50s honkytonk seasonings, stirred in by producer Nick Launay (PIL, INXS, siverchair), and Roll On has it all.

It Lives!

Author: Kelsey Munro

Kelsey Munro has a close shave with Homebake headliners The Living End.

The Living End’s drummer Travis Demsey sits back in the seat of the photographer’s car, sunglasses on, colourful tattoo snaking down his arm. “America,” he announces, “it’s all about TV over there.”

Since 1998 when their self-titled album became the biggest selling debut in Australian history, the Living End have had ample opportunities to figure out the US. Touring with the enormous and gruelling Vans Warped roadshow (“We did really well in Salt Lake City,” offers a bemused singer/guitarist Chris Cheney), the band slept on the tour bus for months on end.

Scraps of ideas and riffs culled from long stretches of US highway made it on to the Living End’s new album, Roll On, which is released on Monday. Two weeks later, the band will headline Homebake, a line-up of all-Australian talent in the Domain.

While influences like the Who, the Clash and the Jam are still stamped all over many of the songs, Roll On sees the Living End reaching back to some more local influences.

“We’re reliving all that old classic Aussie rock, we’ve got that energy at the moment,” says bass-player Scott Owen. “Bands like AC/DC and Midnight Oil and the Angels and Rose Tattoo.”

The Oils influence comes out most clearly on songs like Revolution Regained, a song about East Timor’s troubled recent history; or the album’s title track about the dock strikes in Melbourne last year. Cheney’s not keen to proselytise though: “I don’t like to go into it too politically as far as my music goes, I don’t like to dictate to people. I prefer to use it as a social commentary. Just tell my story, rather than, ‘this is what I think kids, this is what you should do’.”

Roll On walks a line between playing safe and embracing the avant-garde.

“We just thought if it’s too eclectic, people will get the wrong idea and think we’ve gone all arty-farty,” says Demsey with a grin. “We’ll leave that for the third album.”

Thirty or so songs were recorded before they arrived at a digestible, album-size slab. But Owen explains. “There’s millions of influences, but I guess what’s coming out the most is that whole big classic rock anthem kinda singalong: ‘Be a yobbo and be proud of it!'”

If you think “avant-garde” sounds a bit rich from a rockabilly/punk band, you’re probably right. But the Living End are a lot more than that. Formed in 1994, when Melbourne schoolmates Cheney and Owen decided it would be cool to form a band, they’ve become one of Australia’s hottest musical prospects. Anchored by Cheney’s songwriting – informed by everything from ’50s rock ‘n’ roll to neo-punks like Green Day – and trademarked by Owen’s upright double-bass, the trio were almost unknown, unsigned and without a manager when they scored a support slot with US punks Green day in 1996.

It was another support slot a year later – this time with Bodyjar – which sealed their reputation as an incendiary live act and put them on the road to commercial success. Suddenly realising they hadn’t recorded any new material for about a year, they cut a single Second Solution/Prisoner Of Society with the aim of selling it at gigs. In the end it shifted more than 100,000 copies.

They’ve had their share of good luck, in other words. But luck only gets you so far. The Living End comprises three exceptionally talented players and as a unit, they’re positively watertight.

“I don’t care what anyone says,” says Demsey – and he doesn’t. “Guitar or drums or bass, if you want to be really good, it’s 10 years of hard practice.”

“When I was into ’50s stuff, it was not cool to be carting a double bass in to school to play 12-bar blues at lunchtime,” says Owen. “But I got enough out of it not to care.”

Cheney agrees. “I used to just feel sorry for everyone else – you guys are missing out! But I’m glad that we started learning how to play that stuff, because it enabled us to learn how to play [well], so it’s not all just smoke and mirrors.”

It’s this sense of music history that distinguishes the Living End. Rock ‘n’ roll purists at heart, they love everything from Elvis to the Sex Pistols to Green Day – attracted to the DIY punk ethic but as musically grounded as jazz players.

“It’s a dying art, though, rock ‘n’ roll,” reckons Demsey. “The way things are going with the Internet, I reckon that in the next five years, along with Powderfinger and silverchair we’ll be the last of the bands that actually made good money and lived the dream of being a rock ‘n’ roll band touring the world.”

Owen disagrees. “Rock will never die. In about 20 years time, some crazy guys who find AC/DC and don’t care what’s going on at the time will reinvent it and something amazing will come of it.”

At this, Demsey brightens up. “Wouldn’t it be great to think that maybe we’re making music now that in 10 years will do for someone what the Clash does for us?”

Whatever it is that the Living End are doing, so far it’s working pretty well. “I never thought for a second that what we are doing would cross over the way it has,” says Cheney.

But Demsey’s willing to offer an explanation. “Not many bands in Australia that we play with could do a jazz song and then go straight to full-on punk rock ’77 song, and then straight on to a good pop song. And I think that’s maybe the beauty of our band.”

They’re, like, the living end

Author: Murray Engleheart

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.