For some, The Living End seemed to just suddenly appear out of nowhere in early 1998. All of a sudden this bunch of musical brats were dominating Australian airwaves and charts. Of course, as with all so-called 'overnight successes,' there is always a history behind them.
The Living End is actually the end result of The Runaway Boys -- a cover band frustrated and wanting to focus on playing original songs after three years of shows almost every weekend, covering anything from Adam and the Ants to The Who.
Formed in 1994 and taking their name from the movie 'Rock Around the Clock,' wiht the same members -- Chris Cheney, Scott Owen, Joe Piripitzi.
Highly motivated, The Living End sent a demo and t-shirt to Green Day in hope of securing the support-slot on their upcoming Australian tour. To the surprise of many, they got the gig and recorded their first EP Hellbound in 1995 to coincide. The eight-track EP got great attention from community radio nationally -- things had really started to bubble.
By November of that same year, they had headed into the studio once again to record another EP, 'It's For Your Own Good.' In 1996, the EP gave The Living End their first national radio attention with the Triple J hit 'From Here On In.' Shortly after that recording, Joey departed and made way for new drummer Travis Demsey. Appearances at Pushover, The Falls Festival and their own club shows, coupled with loads of airplay and great reviews began bringing The Living End to a wider audience.
The Living End toured throughout 1997, a year which would prove to be a turning point in their career. It was in late 1997 that The Living End was offered a national support slot with fellow Melbournians Bodyjar. It had been ayear since 'It's For Your Own Good' had come out, so the band decided to duck quickly into the studio to record a few tracks to sell something on the road. The end result was the 'Second Solution/Prisoner Society' single.
By early 1998, 'Prisoner of Society' had become a national hit, nestling itself in the Top 5 and reaching platinum status (the single is now double-platinum). In between touring commitments in Australia, USA and Germany, The Living End headed into Sing Sing Studio in Melbourne wiht Lindsay Gravina to record their debut album whilst juggling record deals with EMI in Australia and Reprise in the USA. The result of these sessions is the 14-track self-titled debut album The Living End released October 98 (Australia) and February 99 (rest of the world) -- the biggest debut rock album in Australian music history, now 5 times platinum.
1999 saw the boys reaching the height of their touring career thus far, beginning in January with the Australian national Big Day Out tour, USA/Canada tours with The Offspring, Warped and festivals across Europe, Japan and New Zealand -- finally ending in the 'RIOT TOUR' across Australia -- more than 150 shows in a year!
In between gigs, new songs were bubbling to the surface in fragments that would become album No. 2 "Roll On." Stuffed with inspiration after devouring a year's worth of music in the tour bus, the trio's first job was to strip back an avalanche of ideas into 30 demos. 'Everyone knows we like The Clash a lot,' says Chris, 'but one of the reasons is that they did so many different things. There's no point trying to redo what we'd already done.'
'The new thing we brought in was our old Aussie rock heritage,' says Scott, 'that Midnight Oil, AC/DC, foot-to-the-floor, hard thumpin' rock thing. But the old rockabilly background, '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll, punk and ska, '60s and '70s Mod music is still there as much as before.'
Producer Launay's stunning rock pedigree -- from tea boy on The Jam's Sound Affects to benchmark production jobs with INXS and Midnight Oil -- inspired the Living End to new heights. 'With Nick, it's gotta be right, it's got to be perfect, but you've also got to keep the raw energy there. It's gotta have passion so when people hear it, they believe it. He grew up in the punk scene in England so he knows bullsh-- when he hears it.'
So what could be more fitting then, following the October 2000 (Jan 2001 USA) release of "Roll On" than a national Aussie tour with the legendary AC/DC? Relentless touring again, all over the world followed, including another tour with Green Day -- this time across the USA and Canada.
The next step was inevitable. To make up for their absence, plans were put in place to return to Australia on the release of third single 'Dirty Man,' including an ARIA appearance with Kasey Chambers -- their first TV appearance since the band's departure from home shores in early 2001. The Big Day Out 2002 and more shows were planned to follow, then it was time to settle down and prepare for album No. 3.
But things change. It was then that either fate, destiny or the gods 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 recordings 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 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 at 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 a a 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 with the Big Day Out 2003, and releasing the Australia only EP "One Said to the Other."
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 suggests, these 14 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.'
'I hate to use the word, but maybe we've matured,' Cheney concludes with a laugh. It's as good as 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.
Simply put, The Living End are back and better than ever.
--- from the official Living End website