When you see that the end is near it always seems to take you back to the beginning, looking on the memories made, old pictures and poems. THE LIVING END‘S latest album, The Ending is Just the Beginning Repeating, has a special meaning that describes just that, yet not in any shape or form publicly speculated. PEARL DAVIES caught up with one third of the band – front man and guitarist CHRIS CHENEY on dealing with his father’s death, the evolution of music promotion and what to expect from the trio at the inaugural Stone Music Festival – all the while quashing any rumors on the boys calling it quits.
For the last year and a half, sunny California has been the backdrop for Cheney, together with wife Emma and their two children, Charlie, 7 and Scarlett, 5. Flying back and forth to Melbourne, Cheney is part owner of Collingwood studio Red Door Sounds sharing ownership with some of Australia’s most proficient music makers. Included in this mix is wife Emma, Paul ‘Woody’ Annison and wife Rae, as well as Powder Finger’s own Darren Middleton. With a long line up of clients, Red Door Studios have worked with artists to the likes of [but not limited to] Children Collide, Oh Mercy, Dropkick Murphys, Evermore and of course, The Living End.
When Cheney and old school mate Scott Owen [double bassist] first formed their band, The Runaway Boys [named after a Stray Cats song] in 1992, little did they know they were injecting their prominence on the 90′s rockabilly/alternative rock scene with the formation of The Living End. Having the 3rd highest selling rock album in Australian history as well as reaching number one on the Aria Music charts, the boys were surprised to have such an impact on Australian music. “To be honest I’m a little out of touch with the whole scene these days but it’s been great. When we first started out we were very much part of those scenes, we then started to appreciate different styles of music so we incorporated those styles into our play. It seemed to work for us.”
To Cheney’s surprise, in an interview with Phil Jamieson [Grinspoon front man] late last year, he was quoted as saying that The Living End were bound to break up and that Cheney would undoubtedly go solo. “Yeah right, he said that..?” said Cheney when reminded of this. Surprised at Jamieson’s comments on the break up, Cheney sets the record straight. “Well, no. We’re not going to break up. If we were going to break up we probably would have announced it. I get it though, doing the last tour and the latest album record The Ending is just the Beginning Repeating, I guess it all leads to an idea of The Living End being at it’s end.” After Cheney states that there’s no expiry date on The Living End, these boys are no tub of yogurt. Playing ALL of their six albums in full over seven nights through five Australian cities in their latest Retrospective Tour, Chris, Scott and Andy are well fit for duty. “I can honestly tell you though that there are no plans to make another record in the near future but it’s not to say it won’t happen. None of us have actually done anything for the last 10 years, it’s just write, record, tour, write, record, tour. We’re just kind of doing other things at the moment.”
Cheney has not put music totally to the side though, having recently done a guest spot on Grinspoon’s latest album, Black Rabbits while he was in Los Angeles. Tim Rogers [of You Am I] also called in for catch ups and guest vocals. Cheney spoke about hanging out with the boys and what they got up too. “Oh god! I’d have to find out what they said first before I incriminate anyone. It was great actually, we had a blast, an awesome afternoon and Timmy Rogers was in town as well so it was like a little reunion. The three of us hadn’t been together since a concert a few years back so it was great to catch up. We pretty much just got on it. Somewhere around that I had to record a guitar solo and do some vocals. It all went really well, I was really happy with how it all went actually, it sounded great. I didn’t know if they were going to like it, it wasn’t straight rock n roll you know, it had a bit of twang to it.”
Asking on what he thought was the biggest problem today with emerging artists, Cheney reflects back on when he first started out. “When we first began it was very DIY. It’s a very different world now. We walked around Collingwood putting posters up on poles and made ourselves known. Jesus, this was even really before mobile phones took off, there was no facebook no twitter, not much internet. What I think is great is that someone can write a good song, get it down and then someone on the other side of the world could hear it, and like, within ten minutes or so, it’s just absurd.” On asking whether he feels there’s an overload of music streaming throughout the internet, Cheney tends to agree. “There’s just a lot of shit out there. There’s shit you gotta dig through to get to the good stuff, but that’s ok. I think it’s great for young bands these days to know that you don’t need to get a record label to get your music out there, you just do it.”
Cheney also has advice for musicians: “Cut it in front of a live audience, whather it be a room of ten or ten thousand, try not to suck and then you will form a following. If you ever want any type of career or longevity you need to be able to be in a room of people, and just turn it on. You could do a blog, get a huge facebook following and then get them to your show and fucking suck, and that’s it, your career is over, see ya! Hopefully that won’t be the case. The proofs in the pudding.”
When questioned if management, promoters and publicist were still worth there money, Cheney did agree to an extent. “Yeah they still are I guess but not as much as a necessity. It varies from when they once were which is probably a good thing as well. It means they have to work harder, prove themselves in order to hold their jobs I suppose, but then again we all do. There will always be a better band out there writing a better riff. It’s good though because it keeps us on our toes, all of us.”
The Ending is Just the Beginning Repeating was released in 2011 just after Cheney’s father’s death. This album no doubt has sentimental value for Cheney. When you are going through personal plight it is bound to affect your writing, whether you want it too or not. “It was the first time I started to look back instead of looking forward. I started looking at old photos and events and things like that. The people in my life. My dad was really sick, he died just before the album came out so the songs are of course me trying to deal with that. There was a lot of change that I didn’t necessarily have control over. It was quite spiritual. We know everyone will have their own opinion of it, but it’s pretty special for us,” said Cheney. “It was a saying I made up, The ending is just the beginning repeating. It was a saying. It was almost like nature you know, in order to survive and regenerate it has to die and then rebuild itself. I had to live by this cycle of life, because dad was dying. I’m hoping there’s life beyond death, and hoping something else would then begin.” With the sound of childhood innocence, insightful and moving, Cheney opened up about how he coped with this tragic milestone. “It was a very difficult thing for me to comprehend you know, my only dad was dying. I couldn’t figure out how I could ever be positive enough to get through it, but you gotta move on, you gotta find a way. It needs to end before it can begin again, and that’s the way I’ve been trying to cope with it.”
After the latest tour, Cheney and the boys are pretty excited to drop in for a set at the Stone Music Festival in Sydney this April. With Cheney based in the USA, Owen in Byron Bay and Strachen in Melbourne, the trio will be meeting back up a few weeks prior to the festival for rehearsals. “We haven’t done a festival for a while now, it’s a killer lineup and we cant wait to get on up there and just do our thing.”
The Living End perform at The Stone Music Festival April at ANZ Stadium Saturday April 20, 2013.