Chris Cheney – The Living End

Author: Unknown

Your all-time three favourite Australian Songs?

Girls On The Avenue – Richard Clapton
This always reminds me of our first trips to Sydney staying in the Cross. I was too young when it came out to remember but I think its a classic world class song. I think it sounds like what it must have been like in the late 70s early 80s music scene.

Back In Black – AC/DC
I remember hearing this in Bathurst at the Mount Panorama motorbike races when I was about 9 or 10, I guess. To me it sounded like heavy bikers music and i still think that actually. It is just one of the finest sounding songs in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Just Like Firewood – The Saints
It’s one of those songs that I remember hearing when growing up. For some reason it has a very Australian sound which I love. There is a sparseness to the song which I think gives it an Australian flavour.

If you could record a cover version of any Australian song, what would it be and why?
We’ve had a chuckle at the idea of doing Come Said The Boy by Mondo Rock…

Modern Artillery Tour

Author: Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s A Living Thing

Author: Craig New

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheney Reaction

Author: Julian Tompkin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living End Loves Jebediah

Author: Lauren McMenemy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brett: “This is prong one.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer’s Biggest Day Out Rolls Into Melbourne

Author: James Norman, Patrick Donovan

While safety dominates the news, this year’s Big Day Out line-up is being touted as the best ever, writes James Norman and Patrick Donovan.

Roll up! Roll up! With what is being touted as the biggest line-up ever, the Big Day Out kicks off on Australia Day for its 11th rockin’ year at the Melbourne Showgrounds, boasting the best contemporary local and international musical entertainment.

Chris Cheney from local punk/Oz rock band the Living End, who played two Big Day Out shows last week in Auckland and the Gold Coast, says Melbourne audiences can expect a “more relaxed atmosphere” than previous Big Day Outs.

“The vibes are better this year than in recent years because there’s no real angry bands on the tour – there’s not a crowd full of macho-ness,” he said.

Big Day Out organisers Vivian Lees and Ken West have instituted rigorous safety and crowd control plans.

Safety measures include a “D” barricade in front of the main arena stages, creating an alcohol-free zone in which security staff will have the power to remove crowd surfers, moshers or people who are intoxicated or aggressive. The area will be cleared at 4.30pm to allow a fresh group of moshers in.

Water will be sprayed on the audience to minimise the risk of dehydration.

“People are there to see damn good music,” Cheney said. “The line-up is awesome … PJ Harvey, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Pacifier, Rocket Science, You Am I and Us, a great blend of Australian and international bands.”

The Living End formed in 1992 in Melbourne fresh out of high school. They released their first self-titled CD in 1998 and have made a name for themselves worldwide, touring America and Europe in in 2000-01.

But success has not come without its hiccups.

“All our plans were put on hold after I had a bad car accident in September, 2001, and smashed up my leg,” says vocalist Chris Cheney.

“But I think we’re a better band now than we’ve ever been.

“We’re a good little rock show. We go out there and give it our all – it feels really positive for us. People know us; we just have to do our stuff.”

Big Day Out organisers have also reminded people to wear sunscreen and a hat and to keep up their consumption of food and water throughout the day.

The first two shows of the 2003 Big Day Out tour, which took place in Auckland and the Gold Coast last week, were incident-free.

“There’s no room for macho guys with tops off muscling in on other people’s space,” said Living End drummer Andy Strachan.

“At the Gold Coast and Auckland shows people were really looking after each other . . . everyone is there to enjoy the music.

“It’s just a matter of being aware of whose around you and making sure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy it as much as you,” he said.

Mr Lees said the hardest part about the Big Day Out was squeezing so many good acts into the bill.

“We have a lot of bands who want to come to Australia in the summer, and we often find ourselves with too many bands,” he said.

For the bands, it’s the No. 1 gig on the festival circuit.

Dave Grohl, singer with the Foo Fighters, said: “We play the Big Day Out because it’s the best tour in the world. You ask any band in the world – they all want to play the Big Day Out, every single one of them.”

The Big Day Out will also see the return of Perry Farrell, whose band Jane’s Addiction has recently re-formed.

Farrell is credited with conceiving the first modern day alternative rock festival, Lollapalooza, in the US in the early 1990s.

Mr Lees said: “I’m pleased to have Perry back. He’s one of the great characters of rock. Some of the stories that came out of last time he was here, I can’t even speak about them.

“Perry is the creative spirit behind Lollapolooza, so he really knows what it takes to produce a festival and to actually be the inspiration behind a festival and I felt that when he came out with his band Porno for Pyros in 1996.”

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.”