Life Beyond Rock Stardom…

Author: Unknown

If you were to put out a public survey asking young people what their dream vocation would be, you can pretty much guarantee that being a rock star would be sitting at the top of the list. Touring the world, moving from city to city, staying in five star hotels, being given all the privileges that come with fame; doesn’t sound like too harsh a lifestyle does it? ex-drummer for The Living End, Travis Demsey gives us his reality check on life behind the AAA pass…

While hanging out upstairs at the Hard Rock Café a few weeks back I was introduced to Travis Demsey through a group of live music lovers and ‘Superman is Dead’ crew. After a brief chat and some enquiring on my part, he told me that he’d spent six years as the drummer for internationally renowned Australian band ‘The Living End’. Struck by his down to earth attitude and enthusiasm for Bali’s music scene, we chatted further before he told me that his reasons for leaving the band were to pursue a life path that stood him closer to his personal morals and beliefs. Giving up a rock star lifestyle to be more in touch with humanity? I was intrigued. It wasn’t long before I invited Travis over to my house for a decent chat.

Back in 1996, Travis joined a band that at the time was receiving some national attention in Australia. After a year of solid touring as the drummer for The Living End, things began to skyrocket after the release of double A-side ‘Second Solution / Prisoner of Society’ had the boys breaking records as it became the highest selling single of the 90’s, scoring them an ARIA Award and a whole lot more attention both nationally and across the waves. After a full length album release became the second highest selling debut rock album in Australian history (currently third), The Living End had entered a world of rock stardom that saw them touring constantly and earning coin that most aspiring muso’s only dreamt about in garage jam sessions.

For the guy that sat in my lounge room preferring to drink a coke over a beer though, living behind a celebrity status and a rock star image didn’t ever quite fit his ideals and despite the satisfaction of earning money doing what he loved, Travis’ level of success had come with a certain level of discontentment. As the responsibilities of success kept the band drilled to a heavy timetable, Travis felt after many years on the road that the band’s direction was creating a deeper gap between not only himself and his sense of home, but also between the band and their fans, as well as between the band’s message and their own actions. “I think the other guys in The Living End were socially aware because they were writing about it in their songs, but I don’t think that they were particularly living it.” In a band heavily committed to touring and recording, personal time can be hard to come by, let alone the chance to truly be in touch with those outside of press meetings and hotel rooms. At the same time there are plenty of requests for your attention.

“When you’re in a band like Living End you have people like football players and gangsters who all want to meet you, but at the same time you have charity organizations who ask that you donate your time to visiting sick children.” This caused Travis to start thinking about where the importance lay in his position and soon enough, after being approached by the Starlight Foundation, he began taking time out to visit kids in hospitals with life threatening illnesses, developing a kinship with one young AIDS patient in particular. “I remember one Christmas I was in LA feeling sorry for myself, the band had been touring constantly and we didn’t have much to talk about besides the gigs, so I decided to call Adam, a 13 year old cancer patient who I had visited a number of times. As it turned out I chatted with his dad for a while before he told me that Adam had passed on a few days earlier. He then proceeded to thank me for feature spending time with his son and told me that it had meant the world to him.” This was a turning point for Travis and before too long he realized that he wished to pursue a life that kept him more in contact with people on an everyday level.

Leaving The Living End come 2002, Travis spent some time searching for his calling whilst studying and working as an interior designer. Eventually he got in contact with White Lion, an organization that reaches out to young people involved in the Australian Youth Justice system, asking them how he could become involved. Thanks to his enthusiasm, Travis was given the opportunity to teach drums to kids in a youth prison and three years later he had moved from a one hour a week workshop to managing life performance and coaching programs in Victoria and Tasmania with around 42 staff on board. Still with a drive to achieve more, Travis then resigned to build his own program called Primal Beats and took it Australia wide. Using his childhood background and his experience as a successful musician, he combined them to create programs that encourage kids in less than fortunate circumstances.

From there, Travis has decided to take his philosophies worldwide. Having personally experienced the gap between the music industry and its audience in the western world, he is now working on a documentary series that will encourage kids to follow their dreams and pursue their passion for music, no matter what limits society places on them. To reflect this he will focus on countries where music is used as a daily means of expression. “Music should be available to everyone. You look at shows like Idol where kids get up and they’re told that they’re too fat or that they should choose better clothing. I would dispute that, if you can sing well you should be encouraged. I don’t exactly think that Aretha Franklin was an amazing looking woman but man, can she sing. Look at Susan Boyle, what an amazing story. They all laughed at her because of the way she looked, but her talent shone through.”

The idea behind Travis’ documentary is to show that throughout the world there are many places where music is encouraged, practiced and jammed out for daily satisfaction, despite lack of equipment or opportunity for fame and fortune. “I want to break down that distance between music and people and show that there are countries outside the west where people live and breathe music every day. Kids in places like Dili don’t have MTV at home, so they amuse themselves. How do they do that? They do it with their own music. Many indigenous communities are the same.”

So where does Bali fit into all this? “Initially I came to Bali with my girlfriend for some chill out time, but within days I had met Jerinx from Superman is Dead and loads of musicians. Seeing how dedicated these guys are to their music, even when they’re taping up their drumsticks with sticky tape and holding together their guitars with improvised scraps, it got me thinking that perhaps I should use Bali as a launching pad for the documentary whilst also focusing it on the rest of Indonesia, along with East Timor and many islands off the coast of Australia. I want to show how happy people can be when music is used as a daily form of expression”

Beyond the documentary project, there is also a desire to expose bands from Bali to an Australian audience. “The music here is fantastic, the reggae, punk and scar bands in particular are on par with some of the best I’ve heard in the world. Places like Darwin, Cannes and Broome are only three hours from here and have great tourist markets and large Indonesian communities that would be perfect for these bands to play in. These bands could earn good money and gain great exposure.” To aid in this, Travis plans on recording compilation albums of some of Bali’s best acts, to then sell and spread the word back in Australia. Any money made would then be donated back to existing programs in Bali that are helping local communities.

For his first trip to Bali, some big life plans have certainly spawned for Travis and despite only being here a short time; he seems convicted to set them in motion. Despite downplaying his previous position in a successful rock band, he has no doubt gained plenty of attention here because of it; especially amongst the dedicated punk lovers who grew up with The Living End on their speakers. Such notoriety is bound to make anyone feel familiar and accepted within a foreign place, though if addressed correctly, such a position will also allow him to give back to the musicians he has befriended; helping them to achieve greater things thanks to his own experience and connections. If you haven’t spotted Travis on a drum kit around town or hanging out down at Twice Bar in Kuta this time around, keep a look out for his return in April next year when he plans to get his projects moving. Make sure you stop him to say hello; he’s certainly not shy when it comes to having a chat…

The Living End

Author: Tim Scott

In the wake of the recent horror and emotion of the terrorist attacks in the United States, music has been the last thing on the minds of most bands and musicians. Faced with so much human loss and tragedy, time has been spent reassessing and reflecting rather than being concerned with records or chart positions.

Not long after the September 11 attacks, The Living End faced their own sense of shock and bewilderment when singer and guitarist Chris Cheney was involved in a near fatal car accident on Victoria’s spectacular but treacherous Great Ocean Road.

“We’d only just been home from tour for a few weeks,” explains double bassist Scott Owen. “We were all ready to kick back and spend some time with our families when I heard about the accident. We were all so shaken; it made us think what we’re doing. We’ve been through a lot together and to think that one of us is lucky to be alive… well, I think we’ve always been thankful and put things in perspective but something like this makes you think differently.”

Since the phenomenal success of their 1998 self-titled debut album, the Melbourne three piece of Cheney, Owen and drummer Travis Demsey have indeed experienced much together. ARIA awards, five time platinum record sales and a relentless tour schedule that has seen them crisscross America and Canada, support bands such as AC/DC and the Offspring and attend all manner of international music festivals from Britain, Belgium and Japan has brought the three together.

Their rise from suburban rockabilly upstarts to internationally acknowledged and respected rockers can be due in large part to their hard-nosed work ethic. In the tradition of their Oz rock heroes such as Midnight Oil, Men at Work, and Rose Tattoo, the band have always considered playing in as many pubs and clubs to as many people as possible was the best way to achieve success.

Thankfully, this same humility and lack of ‘rock star’ pretence may have indirectly helped save Cheney’s life who on the day of the accident was driving a 1974 Holden stationwagon “The car that hit the front quarter panel of his car ripped his door off,” explains Owen. “If he hadn’t been driving a car that was so old and so slow it could’ve been a lot worse.”

The forced lay off that has arisen from Cheney’s accident may have come as a blessing in disguise for a band who were nearing exhaustion after spending almost twelve months on the road. “We were really burnt out by the time we got home so the whole concept of going straight into rehearsal and coming up with fifteen new songs was a bit scary,” says Owen. “We were supposed to be recording them in about two or three weeks from now, we had studio time booked and everything. That gave us only two months to write, arrange and record and that was just freaking us out. Of course the break could have come about under better circumstances but I think it’s good.”

Demsey explains that being on the road is an exhausting process where even the most routine of domestic chores becomes a time consuming ordeal. “We don’t do our own laundry because often we don’t have time. We don’t even cook our own food. Imagine not being able to cook for yourself for a whole year,” he asks incredulously. “When we get home we all go our separate ways and the band is forgotten for a while. The band is great but it is tiring, it wrecks birthdays, it wrecks Christmas, ‘cos for twelve months of the year it’s your whole life.”

With Cheney recovering at home, the band have just released ‘Dirty Man’ the third single off their sophomore album Roll On. A rocker that nods its head to Aussie rock heritage albeit with some sixties Mod sounds thrown into the mix, the songs sees the band having fun and kicking out the jams.

“Our albums have always been quite socially aware because of Chris’ writing skills but the last few songs I’ve written have been real party tunes that basically says that yes life can be bad but as long as you have family and your mates that’s all that matters and I don’t think many bands are singing about that at the moment,” explains Dempsey, the more outspoken and fiery of the three.

“Every fucking bleeding heart, and I certainly don’t mean that in a nasty way because I have friends in New York and I think the whole thing is a tragedy but everybody from Matchbox 20 up is now going to be writing odes to New York. I mean come on, have you visited a children’s hospital recently and seen the kids there who are dying of cancer every bloody day? I think people need to put things in perspective.”

While they can see the irony in releasing a song called ‘Dirty Man’ in the middle of a Federal Election campaign, Demsey and Owen maintain that the Living End are not an overtly political band despite addressing Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor and Australia’s immigration debate in songs ‘Revolution Regained’ and ‘Don’t Shut the Gate’.

“If you listen to a song like ‘Don’t Shut the Gate’ it doesn’t take sides,” explains Demsey. “It never points the finger. We like our songs to bring light to subjects that are relevant and we like to keep abreast of things. Unlike some bands I can think of I like to think that our audience is pretty smart and can make up their own minds about certain issues.”

Despite a hectic touring schedule, the band found time to drop into the studio to help record a song with Australian country music sensation Kasey Chambers for her latest album ‘Brickwalls and Barricades.’

“That was amazing”, says Owen of recording the song ‘Crossfire’. “You don’t want to have to think about your career everytime you pick up a guitar, you want to have fun, and working with Kasey was fun. There’s absolutely no ego with her; she’s incredibly talented. I’m sure she’s probably had a lot of smoke blown up her arse, with people telling her how great she is, especially in America but she’s really just honest.”

She really wanted the recording pretty rough, adds Demsey. “She was like, ‘No don’t hold back, hit the drums, play a lead break, really go for it,’ I really like the fact that she put the track way at the back of the album, there was no ‘Oh look who’ve we got to play’ or Special Guest appearance. That was cool. I mean we live in the suburbs, we kick footballs, I have dogs, the other guys want dogs, we drive Commodores, you know we’re normal. We don’t want to be seen as U2.”

Like Chambers, The Living End have established a strong following in the United States, a following that is not always acknowledged in Australia who Demsey accuses of being parochial.

“I find the ARIA’s a fucking joke and you can quote me on that,” he spits out. “Tina Arena, what a fucking joke, you can quote me on that as well. I just don’t understand how they work it all out. I mean the Saint’s get a lifetime achievement award but they are presented with it three weeks before the night. What’s up with that? Not disrespecting INXS for their life time achievement award cos I think they deserve everything they get, but for godsakes include two bands on the night!”

Owen joins in on the anti ARIA tirade, “Look at the people they invite on the night. As the cameras pan around the audience you don’t see any actual bands it’s just celebrities and actresses and stuff. It’s Nicki Webster, it’s Scandal’us, it’s Bardot give me a break! I mean Steve Waugh presenting the achievement award, jeez!”

As a band who has won three ARIA’s and who before Cheney’s accident were scheduled to make an appearance at the awards night to perform with Chambers, their anti ARIA remarks could be seen considered a case of biting the hand that feeds them, but Demsey maintains he is still a staunch supporter of Australian music and is excited of the current state of Oz rock. “Australian rock and roll is still revered around the world, but when it’s brought up at least with the people I talk to John Farnham isn’t mentioned, neither is Jimmy Barnes and I can categorically state that people overseas have no idea who Deni Hines or Tina Arena are.

He adds, “I’m pretty picky as to which bands I go and see now, not because I think I know it all but because I really enjoy time at home with my girlfriend. But since I’ve been back I’ve seen some good bands, Palladium, the Monarchs, Even are still a great band. It’s good to see that in Australia hard work still pays off, whereas in America bands still rely on the big push and hype.”

With the forced lay off Demsey will have more time to check out bands but he says that even with Cheney recuperating the band is still focused and eager to start writing songs again. “I think we would be happy to get together before Christmas and swap ideas, you know to least maybe to just discuss some things.”

Owen reminds him that things will come in their own good time, “Writing songs is a creative process you know, it’s not maths, it’s not like you can cram a whole lot of stuff into you can’t force, it.”

In the meantime the band have time to reflect. To reflect where they’ve come from, what they’ve done and the possibilities of what they still can achieve, as Demsey says eagerly, “I love this band, I love these guys and I’m so looking forward to writing songs and playing with them soon.”

Rolling On

Author: Mark Neilsen

First things first. When chatting to The Living End drummer Travis Demsey, an account is needed on the state of guitarist Chris Cheney, who was recently injured in a car crash. “Chris is doing pretty well. He’s sitting at home recuperating now. He’s got three pins in his hip, his kneecap and thighbone I believe. I think he’s going real stir crazy. He can’t even play the guitar because he can’t even rest it on his leg so he’s just sitting there watching DVDs,” Demsey reports.

Needless to say the accident throws out The Living End’s plans until such a time as Cheney has recovered. Essentially they were going to work on their new album but as far as for when that happens… “We’ll know by about January because that’s when with the aid of crutches he’ll be able to walk again. We’re on hold until then and we’ll see what the doctors say and how Chris is going, and if he’s going okay we’ll reschedule to make the album early next year. We’d already started on that and we’re still working on the album even though we’ve gone our separate ways and I think it’s going to be a very interesting album to say the least,” Demsey says.

“I think in hindsight, it is horrible that Chris had an accident, but I think this is going to be the best thing for the band anyway. I think that the beauty of our band is that the lyrics the band sings about I think are very grass-roots. They weren’t like she loves me issues or let’s take drugs issues. I think everyone could relate to them. I think after two and a half years straight, I don’t think we would have had anything to sing about that was quite grass roots.

“Remember we’re living in a different universe to most people. We live in a bus then we go straight to the gig and we do the gig. Then we get back into the bus and drive to the next gig. You do that for so long conversation runs thin. It always centres around you or the person right next to you and we don’t even know what’s going on in the world because we don’t see the news for that long. I didn’t want that appeal to be lost from the band and I felt if we had have made the album now the lyrics would have been a bit more whiney and I don’t like it when rock bands get like that. ‘Oh it’s so hard.’ There are more important things in life. I want people to think of our band as people that hopefully did good but never let it get to their heads and always stayed in touch with what they were really about from the beginning. And I think we will.”

So it looks like that next time we see The Living End will be when they emerge with a new album. In the meantime though so we don’t forget about them, they’ve released their Dirty Man single. Interestingly it also contains a B-side of the Dilli All Stars covering The Living End’s track Revolution Regained.
“Apparently they liked that song so much and what it meant that they decided to do a cover,” Demsey recalls. “They just did it off their own bat and then when we were looking for B-sides and we were struggling because a lot of the songs we were going to use as B-sides we’re going to cut up and maybe use on the new album, experimental type stuff. So we were running short of having anything of quality we thought. Our manager said this is what the Dilli All Stars have sent me, they wanted to get your approval. We heard it and we were like wow, that’s pretty flattering that anyone would go to the effort to cover one of our songs and do a remake of it. That must mean a lot to them. What a good cause and everything so we thought let’s put it on the B-side.

Dirty Man is out through 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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.

Author: Unknown

It was 11am Perth time and Travis from The Living End was feeling a little weary. A combination of playing late, getting up early and partying with 20 friends from Warragul and Drouin till 7.00am, had meant the lad was not up to his sticks this morning. 

For local Gippsland people Travis admits that Warragul can indeed claim him as a famous son, 
“At least for the first twelve or so years,” he says, “then Neerim South where I attended the local high school”. 
Considering the size (or lack of) Neerim South once a logging town is now a 5 second drive through in the car. So is Trav famous? 
“No I think that if you play footy you become more famous in Gippsland”. 
What about the local secondary college? 
“I attended four high schools in the Warragul area, I guess you could say I was a trouble maker at school. I got the boot from a few schools. I was out from Warragul High School at Year 7, Neerim South I was out at the end of Year 10, then I went and did an apprenticeship, quit that, then went to Marist Zion College where some of my friends were going. I only lasted four months before I was out, I then went to Warragul Technical School for nearly the full school year before that finished too”.

After that? 
“I hung around town for a few years trying to get bands started and working a day job in Warragul. I then got an apprenticeship in landscape gardening and horticulture. I did that for a few years. I then decided I had to bite the bullet about starting a band and move to Melbourne, people there weren’t serious and dedicated as I wanted to be. I mean people were serious until their work, their football training times, or they were doing something at the weekend. That was fine with those guys but I didn’t want to do anything else with my life. I just wanted to play the drums and get as far as I could do with it. So it was a move to Melbourne in 93/94/95. It started all over again. Making new friends and starting in crappy bands. I worked my way out. In 95 it started to really happen, I was doing a lot of drumming in Melbourne, I got picked up by these two guys. They came into the music store I was working and basically said ‘We know you can drum, do you want to join our band?’ It went from there.” 
Early readers of The Buzz might remember that Travis wrote a series of drumming articles back in 1995.

Chris recently said that he hadn’t seen any downside to being popular, does Travis feel the same way towards the tremendous success that is The Living End? 
“The only downside to fame is that you have no private life. If you walk into a supermarket people want an autograph and all this sort of stuff, but generally were a pretty smart band. The only publicity we do about ourselves is about the music generally. If we talk to a magazine or do something with TV it is always playing live music or talking about music. You won’t see us this side of a Pepsi can, Nike etc. A lot of bands take the easy way and get sponsored. I think it taints their music a little bit. It’s just a code of ethics. With punk rock especially and were into the 70’s punk rock, not so much the skater punk rock of now, which is all about logos. The Punk we grew up with like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Who, it was the music that made them famous apart from their exploits after the show! We just decided that we wanted the music to speak for itself. People can see that. We don’t do many TV appearances, we don’t do turkey things like shopping centre appearances or stuff. Real music fans see through it and I like the fact that people can say ‘Oh, they’re a really big band and I don’t even know what they look like!’ I can walk around Melbourne and people don’t even recognise me still. It’s a good thing because I still have my anonymity you know. I’m a typical Australian guy, typical Australian height, typical Australia build. Nothing flash. Unlike some major acts, The Living End are what they are. Each member of the band is into their own style. I always think it is important to look a little bit left of centre, not just for the hell of it, but if that is the way you are inclined, you should do it and not worry about what people think. I just really like the 70s yob punk look from England type of thing. It’s what I generally tend to wear. We can still wear our clothes walking around Rosebud, but say if you were Marilyn Manson, people would be like ‘Oh my goodness!'”

The Living End are strong supporters of Gippsland and Travis’ home town. They have played in Warragul a couple of times, plus headlined acts further south. 
“It’s important to be proud of where you come from,” Travis states. “For all Gippsland’s faults, there’s a lot of pluses too. A lot of people who don’t know Gippsland as a whole tend to look at it as a place where stupid redneck dumb people live. It’s not that way at all. When you live there it’s a whole different way of living to the city. I certainly don’t want to forget how I grew up or what friends I had or what I did for entertainment, because it was a hell of a lot different and carefree and easy going than what it is now. Just going to swim in a dam for example.”

So what is Travis’ fondest memory about growing up in Warragul? 
“Probably living with all my friends. I moved out of home when I was fifteen and living with all my mates in Drouin at the time. Every day was just debauchery. You’d wake up in the morning and there would be girls you didn’t know sleeping in the lounge room that were from out of town and friends of someone. They’d be told they could crash at our house. There’d be cars that had skidded across our front lawn and wound up in the letterbox. It was just a madhouse. We were just young guys living life. As you get older you start to put too much emphasis on what you have and what someone else owns. When you’re eighteen and got no money and living in the country you make your own fun.” 
So was there a particular hang out in Warragul? 
“Not really, Warragul is not really a hang out place, mates houses. Everyone has a garage, a backyard, dad’s pool table, everyone knows someone who has a damn you can go swimming in. I rode motorbikes, played football a bit, did a bit of boxing, you make your own fun.”

The Living End have come to success the hard way. For a number of years they played under the shadow of the larger than life (and now very sadly defunct The Fireballs), all the time slowly building their strength and skills. So why did The Living End move on while The Fireballs fell down? 
“The Fireballs were playing a pretty intense metal meets rockabilly and I think that it was a very sub-cult type of thing. Although Chris and Scott were born and bred in the rockabilly kind of stuff they quickly discovered that a great song is more important than playing fast. We’re big suckers for bands like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, the Clash and Oasis. Bands that you can sing along to, so we started putting more emphasis on good songs incorporating our background musically.”

Known for their catchy tunes that just seem to get stuck in your head (who can forget Prisoner of Society or Pictures In A Mirror?) do the guys themselves ever come out feeling they just want to pull the plug and let the tunes drain out? 
“It’s hard sometimes when you have been recording them for a week straight, then they get stuck in your head. Playing them live is a release for us. We do a lot of waiting around. You play that hour on stage and you really let things go. We change our songs every night. We believe in ourselves enough that we’ve got the musicianship enough to take the songs in a different direction. Last night we did different versions to some of our songs the night before. We pride ourselves on being a punk band that can actually play. For a three piece band each member can hold their own. You’ve got to believe in yourself don’t you? If people come and see us live they really get shocked at how powerful we really are.”

Following along tried and true punk ideals, do many of the songs actually have a social theme to them? 
“We try and walk the fine line between out and out rock and roll-ism, which is escaping your weekend blues of listening to a good band and hanging out with friends. The lyrics are deep and meaningful and if it influences one sixteen year old to go and look something up on the internet, that’s great. It’s good to make people aware of things without preaching to them. As much as we never set out to become role models for anyone, we just wanted to play good music. I think in certain aspects you are role models because you’re in the public spotlight. We would like to do more good than bad. The typical image of rock and roll as being heaps of girls and drugs and smashing up our equipment. That’s for wankers. We’re playing music for music’s sake. I’m the sort of person who’d smash up a hotel room whether I could afford it or not.”

Being a strong exponent of English rockabilly compared to American rockabilly, where does Travis see the difference lying? 
“American rockabilly is based on the whole fifties concept with slick back hair, girl in balloon skirt, hotrod. The English rockabilly was more of a bastardised version. They took rockabilly, sped it up a little bit and played it punk style. They didn’t care about the cornice, but about the music side of it. The Aussie rockabilly scene took its lead from the English side which combined the ferocity and passion of punk and the cornice of rockabilly. We really like the British invasion of rock, that’s our thing. Now the band has changed direction again, were going for a good rock and roll band that plays really well. The Who or The Clash, AC/DC. The next album will see us change even more, judging of what we’ve been playing even now.”

The Living End are touring with AC/DC round Australia shortly. 
“I think its really cool, but I’m not really phased by it. We’ve just done so much touring with big bands over in America and Europe that we’re completely used to playing in front of 15,000 to 20,000 people a night. It’s come full circle for me. The first drum kit I ever got I played Heatseeker by AC/DC, that’s what I grew up playing the drums to and now fifteen years later that’s who I am playing with.”

So what’s the deal with America? For The Living End there seems to be this love/hate relationship with the place? 
“With no Barnsey type father in the wings fluttering protective wings, the guys with a solid management structure and sound musical skills behind them made it when. I’ve got to tell you that when I left Warragul and moved to Melbourne, I paid my bond and deposit and I sat in the house with no furniture and no money for like six months at least. It would have been easy to go back to something I knew, furniture, family, friends around you. You can always go back to a job in a country town, but I just had to stick it out because I knew that there was nothing there for me anymore. Apart from a great town to live in I had to do what I had to do for me”.

The End Justifies The Means…

Author: Murray Engleheart

Murray Engleheart spoke to the boys from the End about their new album ‘Roll On’, U2, AC/DC and real rock ‘n’ roll…

Listen to me. This is important. The Living End’s performance at Livid in Brisbane in October before 40,000 plus bodies was right up there with seeing Nirvana and Metallica at the Hordern Pavillion in Sydney in 1992 and 1989 respectively. What made it all the more amazing was it was virtually the band’s first show in this country for the year and they pulled it off while testing new songs from their excellent Roll On album and a new in ear monitor system. But it wasn’t just the size of the crowd or the occasion that was daunting for the trio.
“The Cure, Green Day, Lou Reed and The Living End!” says still amazed drummer, Travis Dempsey of their prime billing position on the day. “And No Doubt. We just went, fuck! They’ve all sold millions in America and that’s when it really hit home.”
Exactly how hard it hit was saved not so much for the classic, Prisoner Of Society but a stunning damn near life changing version of U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday that had the massive audience singing at a volume that eclipsed the band themselves. “I said to (singer and guitarist) Chris (Cheney) I think we should do this song because it would suit his voice.” continues Dempsey. “I just think it’s a very political song. The lyrics and the way the drums are very Topper Headon. It’s very Clash, they’re much the Clash basically because that’s what their big thing was when they first started in Dublin. I thought fuck, I think we could do this song justice.”
That one straight out of left field song is a firm indication of the surprises that the band’s utterly killer Nick Launay produced Roll On album has for some folks. It puts to bed for good the spectre of the Stray Cats and much of the early Clash comparisons and replaces them with the Powerage crunch of AC/DC, the raunch n’ roll of The Sex Pistols and Rose Tattoo’s pumping working class anthem swing. Essentially it’s damn fine rock n’ roll which really has always been at the core of the band as opposed to simply punk rock. Dempsey’s typically straight up when it comes to what he wanted from the recording. “A fucking rock n’ roll album that proves to everyone that we’re no fluke. We’re very, f..king serious and if you don’t believe us listen to the album. There’s not many bands that are really, really playing good rock’n roll with good musicianship and great songs that you can sing along to. The process has had its benefits, like mixing the album in New York and finding that while you were in town AC/DC were doing a string of nights at Madison Square Garden. That night ironically turned out to be one of the most stressful of the entire trip. “We were stuck at the studio because we had to listen to a mix before we left.” recalls Owen. “We were like, ‘Come on (mixer) Andy (Wallace)! F..king hurry up and finish twiddling your knobs! We listened to it and we were like, fuck! We’ve got to talk about this! So we talked about it and then we were like, we’ve got to go! The support band had just finished and we had to get a cap through the middle of New York. We were like three possessed men.”
“Three possessed, pissed and stoned men!” clarifies Dempsey. “Then we got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. We’re like, sorry mate, we’re getting out here. He’s like, what? We’re like, Let’s go! We’re stoned and trying to run! Then we had to pick up tickets and they weren’t there! Oh, your names aren’t here. Yes they are!”

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.

Great Expectations

Author: Unknown

From the outside, Melbourne’s Sing Sing Studios is an unremarkable building. Located down a quiet suburban street in the inner city suburb of Richmond, it looks just like any of the other faceless warehouses that threaten to squeeze out the small selection of tiny, weather beaten bungalow houses that intermittently line the street. There’s nothing to suggest that, behind two hefty wooden doors, The Living End are slaving away on the follow-up to their 1998 multi-platinum, self-titled debut album.

In fact there’s nothing to suggest there is a studio here at all. There are no flashy cars in the street – the chosen accessory of any self-respecting rock star – just a few beat-up Holdens, one a station wagon with a Bodyjar sticker and a back seat that looks like it’s carried way too many drums, guitars and amps. The studio’s rubbish bins, currently sitting on the footpath, are the only indication that there is any sort of rock ‘n’ roll activity in the vicinity – neither contains food scraps, but both are overflowing with Melbourne Bitter stubbies. This must be the right place.

Once inside the building, things take on a marginally more impressive bent. The walk to the complex’s premier studio – The NEVE room – takes me down a corridor lined with gold records, which opens out into a kitchen and eating area that would fit nicely into any designer catalogue. Next is a games room, which offers a series of distractions from the pressures of recording such as a ping-pong table, snooker table and dart board. Another corridor leads from here into the NEVE room, and it’s from behind the glass door entrance to this area that The Living End’s frontman Chris Cheney appears.

Looking to all intents and purposes like a young English punker with his flat cap, black jumper, red tie and brothel creepers, he offers his hand and smiles. “G’day, I’m Chris, come on in.”
Within seconds we’re standing in the main control room of Sing Sing Studios watching producer Nick Launay (Silverchair, Semisonic, Midnight Oil) splice together some tape. It’s a dark room making the dazzling array of lights on the mixing desk seem even more impressive. A poster of The Clash hangs above the desk, a Clockwork Orange poster on the far right wall. Bass player Scott Owen – the picture of elegance in his grey suit – stands up from one of the two well worn couches that line the back of the room and introduces himself, beer in hand.

Both Cheney and Owen are openly friendly. Chris immediately offering me a drink while a rough mix of one of the band’s new tracks thunders out of the studio speakers. “How’s it all going?” I enquire. “It’s slowly getting louder!” smiles Launay, looking disturbingly like a mad scientist at work on his latest creation. Behind him, a large window looks into the actual recording studio, revealing a perfect view of drummer Trav Demsey’s back as he sits at his kit, randomly attacking the skins. Inside the studio it looks like a bomb has hit – at one end is Demsey’s gold coloured kit, surrounded on both sides by two long petitions. Leads, drum skins, microphones and drums are strewn across the wooden floor, a grand piano sits in the corner (“We only use it to play chopsticks,” assures Owen), and a mirror runs along one side of the room. Two smaller rooms lead off the studio – one houses Owen’s double bass, the other a selection of vintage amps and Cheney’s guitars. Poster of various heroes dot the walls – The Clash, AC/DC, Supergrass, Bill Haley And The Comets for starters. “That was Nick’s idea,” reveals Owen. “He said we should put some things up that will inspire us.”

After everyone has a drink in their hand (Demsey a Coke, Owen and Cheney a 500ml can of Classic Bitter each), we plonk some chairs in the middle of the mayhem and settle in for a bit of a chat to discuss the past, the present, and the future, as told by The Living End.

The past two years has been an amazing period for this trio. On the strength of one album they became megastars in Australia, circumnavigated the globe four times, played prestigious festivals such as Reading in the UK and the Warped tour in the US, accompanied The Offspring on their first jaunt around American arenas, and discovered that some of their idols such as Brian Setzer (former singer-guitarist with American rockabilly legends, the Stray Cats) are big fans of the band.

Their travels also gave them the opportunity to make a lot of friends around the world – and a few enemies. Their run-in with Eminem at the Warped Festival in particular has become the stuff of legend.
“That got blown right out of proportion,” scowls Demsey.
“The Warped tour has two stages, and they run back-to-back. Eminem was playing right before us on the other side of a field, and he had such a huge crowd over there that when we were about to start there was no one there for us. I had a microphone and said, ‘We’re The Living End from Australia, we don’t sing about raping women of being tough,’ and i called him a wanker and a fuckhead, and it got people over. The next day the rumour was that he was very offended that he’d done nothing to us but we’d cussed him out, and I thought this guy can’t take a fucking joke. “So the next day I said, ‘Eminem, you’re a fuckhead’ in the mic in front of everyone, and the next thing I know he’s got people on his entourage saying they’re out to get me. I was like, ‘Dude, it’s a joke. It’s the Australian way to hang shit, it’s a fun thing to do.'”

Given that the band have been toiling away with Launay for 12 hours a day, six days a week over the past month, and still have another three and a half weeks ahead of them, the globetrotting escapades of 1999 seem like a lifetime away. “We’re definitely trying to move on from the last album,” starts Demsey. “We idolise The Jam, The Clash and the Sex Pistols, but it’s been done, and we could not beat that. So we might as well do our own thing and add the stuff we’ve been listening to over the last 18 months – everything from Wings to Midnight Oil, AC/DC, even Primal Scream. We’ve tried to use all those ideas and still make the album rock hard, but have a lot of musical parts in there that make sense, they’re not just in there because they’re tricky. We want to be as simple as the Sex Pistols, but people who really know music will go, ‘Yeah, that is punk rock, but it’s punk for today.'”

“It’s a lot more advanced musically, we’ve just gone crazy on trying to have really good parts and make it rock,” adds Cheney. “But first and foremost the songs have to be good; if it doesn’t sound good on an acoustic guitar we don’t go much further with it. All our favourite bands have great songs, we’re not caught up in the whole technological thing, we just want to be able to song along with it.” Tentative song titles include Uncle Harry (“about and Uncle of Trav’s we caught pissing in the bath one day,” laughs Cheney), Blood On Your Hands, Al Capone, Shut The Gate, Roll On, and Killing The Right.

Killing The Right is an anti-racism sort of song, inspired by being in Atlanta and seeing this black guy getting arrested up against a cop car and feeling very weird because we’re white,” explains Cheney. “Just walking down the street and not seeing any white people, and it was kind of like reverse racism, and I’d never seen it before. It’s a little bit more confrontational than anything on the last album. I think a few of the subjects are, dare I say it, more grown up.”

Prior to this interview, the band were busy rehearsing, working on a chorus for a new song tentatively called Maitland Street. Keen to hear how the new material is sounding, we decide to stop talking so they can start rocking. Before they can focus on their instruments completely, though, they have a quick photo session to attend to.

“That’s more of a Beatles pose,” quips Demsey when Massive‘s photographer John Stanton tries to position each member for a photo. “And I’m more of a Rolling Stone.” The trio spend much of the session cracking jokes, both at each other’s and their own expense. “What do you notice about this, Trav?” asks Owen as both he and Cheney use their guitars as props for a photo.
“That I’m not holding an instrument,” responds Demsey, inviting a thousand drummer-musician jokes that for some reason don’t materialise. “No, that I’m playing my double bass left handed,” snarls Owen. “I didn’t even know you played double bass,” quips the drummer. Boom boom.

While the band are busy striking a variety of poses, it provides the perfect opportunity to talk to Launay about the album and what The Living End are like to work with.
“I find them great, the whole youthful kind of thing,” he smiles. “It’s part of the music and what we’re trying to do, make it sound very, very exciting, but they’re just naturally like that. Trav in particular is constantly up and cracking jokes and in your face. And that’s what this band and their music is all about.”

Launay has dubbed the band’s music “progrockabillypunk” (a tag the band don’t agree with), because the new material is so tricky and takes so many twists and turns.
“The arrangements on the last album were pretty amazing, but on this album they’ve just gone to town,” he says. “In fact one of the things we’ve had to do was just simplify some of the songs that were completely over the top, and we’ve managed to leave all the best parts of that. And I think it’s going to shock people because the playing on it is just fantastic.”

That much becomes clear as we head back into the studio to watch the band trying to perfect the new chorus. Cheney stands face-to-face with Owen showing him the chords, while Demsey bangs his drums randomly waiting for things to start.
“We might bear witness to the birth of a new chorus,” I mention to Owen before they start playing.
“Yeah, you might also bear witness to a pile of shit!” he chuckles. Within moments Owen is plucking his bass tentatively and watching for Cheney’s instruction, while the singer yells into a microphone that’s plugged into an old, distorting speaker. The band are using the most basic amplification because they can’t use headphones to rehearse, and the sound is, as a result, not the greatest.
“This is the worst guitar sound in the history of everything,” growls Cheney. “I hope you’re not taking notes about how bad this sounds,” he smiles in my direction. I am, and it doesn’t sound bad at all. Sure, sonically things could be better, but the song itself is rousing stuff – part AC/DC stomp, part punk rock attitude; the chorus they throw in is as anthemic and uplifting as you’d expect. Even with the primitive equipment, it’s easy to tell that this is another Living End classic in the making. The band plug away for another half an hour, chopping and changing melody lines and arrangements, before deciding to leave it for a while. We retire to the control room, where Launay is cueing up a track the band worked on the night before called Shut The Gate. Kicking off with an ominous blues boogie riff, it takes a few rhythmic twists and turns, Cheney’s vocal snarl sounding as catchy as it does vitriolic, before climaxing in a rousing gang chorus of “SHUT THE GATE!” It’s a short, sharp number and proves that neither Launay’s, nor the band’s claims that this is going to be a somewhat complex but intensely rocking album are unjustified.

When the band emerge from the studio in just under a month’s time, they’ll head to New York to mix and master the album with supreme knob twiddler Andy Wallace (Jeff Buckley). After that, who knows what lies ahead for the trio? “We didn’t expect what happened with the last album,” marvels Owen, “and because of that I don’t know what to expect now. I’d be just as happy to do what we did for the last two years. I’ve got a hunger for it to be bigger and better, though.”
Is this the album to make The Living End global megastars?
“Possibly,” muses Owen.
“Who knows, how can you say?” snaps Cheney. “it’s to do with the timing, the songs …you look at the stuff riding the airwaves and it’s all that boy band stuff, there’s just no rock ‘n’ roll. There’s definitely a market for what we’re doing, it’s just a matter of whether it clicks.” Till things start clicking, The Living End will have their fingers firmly crossed.

Their new album will be available from HMV in October.

The End Is Nigh

Author: Unknown

The Living End have gone from relative obscurity to one hit wonders to Australia’s band of the moment.

“It’s impossible to compare it to the hype of silverchair or other Australian bands that have done very well,” said Living End vocalist Chris Cheney in the lead-up to the release of what became the bands’ number one charting debut album. “It’s impossible to say, ‘Yeah, we’re in that situation now.’ You can’t get a grasp of it, so why even bother.”

“We would be amazed if a band like You Am I even knew our material,” adds drummer Travis Dempsey. “We would look up to a band like that and go, fuck, it would be good to be as big as them.” “Or as good as them” Cheney concludes, without false modesty.

It has been a big year for the Living End, as Cheney’s highlights list indicates. At the beginning of the year they were Australia’s most hyped, still in confusion thanks to a sudden influx of interest from record company types, many of whom had already passed on plenty of opportunities to sign the band

“If they’re not interested in a song like ‘From Here On In,’” says Cheney, “when that had all the elements that worked for us, if they couldn’t see it then, as far as I’m concerned they can’t see it now. They’re just jumping on the bandwagon”.

Mid-year they were in denial of the hype. “Really?” said Cheney when informed that the debut album was inspiring calls in the line of ‘greatest Australian album ever.’

By the time they’d appeared at the ARIAs in October, headlined their own sell-out tour with Area 7 and made Number 1 in the charts, there was no ignoring the fact. They won the ARIA for best-selling single ” over 150,000 copies, without any help from a major record company. “it’s good when bands have some hype about them,” Cheney shrugs, “as long as they can back it up.”

Highlights of the year included Cheney’s meeting with his all-time favourite star, Brian Setzer, formerly of Cheney’s much loved Stray Cats. After all, the Living End started out as a Stray Cats covers band named after a Stray Cats tune, the Runaway Boys.

“Everyone was like, ‘Did you just freeze up?’” says Cheney. “He was pretty cool about it, really. We told him we were on this (Vans Warped) tour and he said it was cool to see a band mixing punk and rockabilly.”

Cheney listed their US tour with the Vans Warped travelling punk rock festival as a highlight, but compared to their local tours later in the year, it was tough going.

“Playing in America to no people really kicked our arse,” says Cheney, with a hint of exhaustion. “Playing to ten people, you just have to really play your arse off to impress them, because there’s no vibe otherwise.”