The Living End
THE LIVING END
If the old saying holds true, then The Living End has well earned the title of the mightiest band in music. And, from the evidence of their rousing new Reprise Records release, Modern Artillery, it’s a description supremely suited to the Australian trio’s harrowing tale of triumph in the face of savage setbacks.
But The Living End has not only survived, it has thrived, harnessing their potent and propulsive brand of fundamental rock and roll to some of the sharpest, smartest and, yes, strongest songwriting and performing of their career. It’s an accomplishment all the more impressive considering what it took to achieve.
“I think it was the man upstairs’ way of telling us we needed a break.” So says Living End vocalist and guitar Chris Cheney on the circumstances that brought the band’s decade-long run of chart topping hits and non-stop international touring to a temporary halt. “We’d been doing it all for so long, I don’t think we reckoned how much we needed to just step back and catch our breath.”
It had indeed been a breathtaking climb to the top for the Melbourne-based trio, who, since their formation in the early 90’s had gone on to almost single-handedly redefine Australia’s vaunted rock ethos to the rest of the world.
By the time they released their acclaimed 2001 smash, Roll On, The Living End had already made music history several times over, with a number one, quintuple platinum album and five huge hits -- including the epochal “Prisoner Of Society” / “Second Solution” -- in their native country.
Roll On, in fact, went a long way toward turning their national success into an international phenomenon, with a world tour that barnstormed across Europe, Asia and the States, spreading the word of the threesome’s ferocious musical chops at every stop on the itinerary.
The next step was inevitable. Returning home in late summer of 2001, the group was scheduled to begin writing and rehearsals for a new album to be followed by a further round of far-flung touring. It was then that either fate, destiny or the god’s of music intervened. “I was in a car accident,” Cheney explains. “It was pretty dire. For one thing, I couldn’t play guitar because of my injuries and for another I was in rehab for months. We had to cancel the recording sessions, the tour, everything. After all those years of being constantly on the go, it was like hitting a brick wall.”
Yet, as frustrating as the unscheduled vacation might have been, it was, according to bassist and vocalist Scott Owen, both necessary and long overdue. “It had to happen,” is how he puts it. “We’d forgotten how to slow down or even how to enjoy what we’d accomplished. Our batteries were empty and we didn’t even know it.”
Yet even the enforced relaxation of Cheney’s recovery couldn’t slow the band down completely. “I was writing the whole time,” he reveals, “and came up with tons of material. It was a great opportunity to really hone my skills and by the time we were ready to get back into the studio I had some of the best songs I’d ever written.” “We were relaxed, recharged and ready to get down to it,” Owen continues. “Then, as soon as we got into the studio to begin doing some demos, our drummer quit.”
For a band as tightly knit as The Living End, the loss of one third of their creative component, was, according to Cheney, “like losing a limb.” But the departure of a longtime member only strengthened the determination of a band that had already reconnected with their essential creative energy. “We couldn’t let it slow us down,” asserts Owen. “Being away from recording and performing for so long just served to remind us how much we loved what we were doing, so we started auditioning for new drummers immediately.”
The very first to answer the call was Adelaide native Andy Strachan, who had been active on the Melbourne club scene in several groups before trying his luck with Australia’s premier rock band. “I hardly expected to get the job,” he admits, “but I would have kicked myself for not a least trying. Like everyone else in Melbourne, The Living End were real heroes to me. They’d done it their way, with no compromises. The chance to play with them was like a dream come true.”
“It was perfect fit,” reveals Cheney. “We clicked right from the start, but it didn’t seem right to hire the first guy who showed up. So when Andy told us he’d made a commitment to tour with a local band for three weeks, we took the opportunity to try out another forty drummers. But in the back of our minds, we were always comparing them to Andy. As soon as he got back we hired him.”
With a new line-up complete and a sheaf of top-notch songs waiting to be cut, the group embarked on a furious round of recording, pulling together nearly fifty demos out of a pool of almost seventy new songs. “We became incredibly confident in the studio,” explains Cheney. “We kept cutting tracks and then throwing them away as we got better stuff. We had a chance to do what we hadn’t been able to since we first got together, which was to focus on songs.” In between sessions, the band made unbilled club appearances in and around Melbourne to test out promising new material and, at the beginning of this year made their show-stopping return to the national scene when they were the topped billed among their countrymen at Australia's premier music festival, Big Day Out.
A month later they found themselves in Los Angeles, at work on their much-delayed new album with producer Mark Trombino of Blink 182 and Jimmy Eat World renown.
The result: Modern Artillery and, as the title suggest, these fourteen incendiary new tracks really pack a wallop. “It’s a combination of putting together great material and letting loose the energy we’ve been storing up for over a year,” asserts Cheney. “The music itself is right a natural progression from what we’ve always done, just more focused and directed. We’ve never sounded better.”
It’s a claim amply supported by such standout Modern Artillery cuts as the timely “Who’s Gonna Save Us?,” the rousing “Rising Up From The Ashes,” the cinematic “Maitland Street” and a host of other riveting Living End originals. Simply put, The Living End are back and better than ever.
“I hate to use the word, but maybe we’ve matured,” Cheney concludes with a laugh. It’s as good a word as any to describe the process of turning adversity into opportunity – an opportunity that’s paid off brilliantly for a band that doesn’t know how to call it quits.
For more information contact
Jim Baltutis at Warner Bros. Records/Reprise Records Publicity
THE LIVING END…… ABOUT THE SONGS
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Love can be a really simple and innocent thing. This is a basic tune with a basic message; admiring someone from a distance can be so jovial that it can be summed up in 4 chords – Scott Owen
ONE SAID TO THE OTHER
A conversation between two guys about one of their ex-girlfriends. A cheap trampy girl that’s not worth the hassle - Chris Cheney
WHO’S GONNA SAVE US?
Initially written about an upcoming federal election. Who will be leading us next? I find it difficult to decide between them - Chris Cheney
END OF THE WORLD
A fantasy song! Someone relating a dream warning the end could be nigh. A pep talk of sorts “it could occur any day… son” - Chris Cheney
A protest song. A story of people hard done by, everybody should have their say. What’s your vote? Musically influenced by the police - Chris Cheney
I have a weak spot for these mags. I am fascinated at the social preoccupation with reading about other people’s lives. They lure you in and become difficult to put down. I think it has a new wave kinda edge - Chris Cheney
IN THE END
“In the end it’s just another day”. We have no say in destiny. Versus are meant to be kind of soul like with Beatlesque chord changes - Chris Cheney
Dealing with a difficult time and getting through it. My take on 9/11 for what it is worth. The “will we be remembered?” line in the song shows strength and vulnerability at the same time. The human spirit is a determined one - Chris Cheney
PUTTING YOU DOWN
Everyone at some point thinks that the world’s against them. Persuasive paranoia - Chris Cheney
Love is a complicated and messed up thing. You can say one thing and mean something else... just make it as interesting as you want it to be – Scott Owen
The anti- “Islands in the Stream”! Part Kenny & Dolly, part Basil & Cybil Fawlty. Bitter sweet love at it’s best - Chris Cheney
RISING UP FROM THE ASHES
Written around the time when the future was a little uncertain. Nobody likes being written off - Chris Cheney
Put the money in the bag! A very urgent and manic song. What’s a more urgent subject than a bank heist? A bungled one. I like songs that are easily visualised. - Chris Cheney
The closest to a mini-epic on the album. I’ve always been fascinated at the concept of a prisoner that is released after a long sentence but unable to cope with readjusting to the outside world. Deals with the strange desire to return to the familiarity of prison - Chris Cheney
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