Two of the biggest names in Australian rock, Jet and The Living End, will perform to a bumper post-race crowd on Saturday 2nd March at the Superloop Adelaide 500, rounding out a sensational music line-up for the 2019 event. The Living End have had a massive six months or so since their eighth studio album Wunderbar has been released which is up there as one of their best. Chris Cheney speaks to Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles moments before boarding a plane to one of the shows on the Red Hot Summer tour.
Great news that the Living End are going to be playing the SuperLoop 500 and matching up with Jet. Almost seems like the perfect match.
I know, battle of the rock. Look out.
Both bands have been around for quite a while do you feel any pressure or rivalry?
No, not at all. No pressure, really. We know what we do and we know what the audience is expecting us to do and we’ve played a bunch of shows with Jet before, we’ve toured America with them and they’re sort of old buddies of ours. So I’m just looking forward to it. It’s going to be a huge night because every time we’ve done these things in the past, people have spent all day at the races, they’re well and fuelled up, I would say, and ready for some loud rock and roll. They go hand in hand.
Have you really enjoyed the last six months of touring? Wunderbar is an absolute ripper of an album which is translating well in to the live show.
Yes, I have actually. That’s a really good question. Not many people ask that but the last six months or so of touring has just been really amazing. Particularly the album tour that we did because we chose to play eight or nine songs off the new record, which we wouldn’t have done in the past. We’d maybe play two or three, but we feel so strong about this record and confident with it that we just played a different set list compared to what we would’ve played in the past. People loved it. I think everyone’s seen The Living End enough times now, they don’t want to hear the same old tunes. So we took a bit of a risk I suppose and we played what we wanted to play. The shows were just some of the best that we’ve ever done. I’m really thankful that we did it. There’s no point in this industry, playing it safe. You’ve got to throw yourself out there and take a risk. That’s when the best shows come together, when it’s just a little bit, I don’t know there’s a different edge to it.
The show at Thebarton Theatre was brilliant and it was great hearing a different set list this time around?
Yeah, that’s it. If the band doesn’t back the songs and if the band doesn’t play the songs, then it doesn’t really show that we have a lot of confidence in it, does it? And we did with this record. We finished the recording in Berlin really feeling like we’ve made the best record, well, it was my favourite record that we’ve ever done. I think for a lot of people it was the best record we’ve done in a long time. We’ve got to stand by it.
Do you think you had more fun with it this time, probably less pressure to have to deliver radio singles and this and that as well as recording in Berlin as well?
I think there’s sort of less pressure, but I feel like there’s also a little bit more pressure in a way because in the old days, we would put a record out and people would’ve bought it from the shop. That doesn’t happen anymore. Also, it seemed, probably in our first few records it was easier to get added to radio stations just due to the freshness and they hype of the band. I think it’s different now, it’s harder to get people to notice you. That’s the thing, it’s really easy to get ignored. The Living End is not a band who wants to be ignored. So we kind of push and we pushed for results and I think you’ve got to make something these days that people are going to notice. It’s not enough just to go, oh, well here’s a collection of ten rock songs or whatever. It’s got to be kick ass or else people will just move onto the next thing immediately. Everything’s so disposable these days. That’s a little bit of pressure I guess, but I don’t feel that we really conducted ourselves much different from the beginning. We’ve always tried to play the best shows, we can and write really good albums, not just songs, but have albums that actually say something.
You hit on a big point before. Given that you’ve toured solidly the last sort of six months and a good part of this year, do you feel like you almost have to start thinking about the next album and what that might be, given the disposable nature of albums and how long the shelf life is for them?
Yeah, I guess so. I don’t know whether I feel like we need to, but I definitely enjoy trying to think, all right, well, what could we do next? What’s a song I haven’t written yet or what’s something that I haven’t really experimented with? We’re never going to try and reinvent the wheel too much. We are going to be a rock and roll band, but there’s always different influences in different records that you hear that pricks your ears up. You know, I just like getting on my GarageBand and just experimenting, just throwing around sounds and shapes trying to find hooks in there and that’s the process I probably enjoy that the most and just sitting back and going, “All right, is there anything there?” And if not, just scrap it. Move onto something else and throwing ideas at the wall I guess.
Were you surprised with how quickly, given the pace, Wunderbar was written and recorded? I remember reading a few interviews saying that this one came together really, really fast.
Yeah, I mean, it did, and it didn’t. It came together fast, but there was still an enormous workload that was condensed into a shorter period of time. I think it was beneficial because it meant that we weren’t second guessing things. We weren’t ruminating. We were like, that idea is either good, or it’s not good. So we either continue on with it, or we throw it in the bin, not kind of, “Oh, let’s keep working on it for another five hours.” It just made it clearer to sift through, I suppose, and a rock and roll band like us, the music we wanted to make was pretty straightforward. You shouldn’t have to think about it, we’re not piecing it together like a Pink Floyd or Radiohead album, it should be, “Well, is it working and does it sound good,” then great, if it’s not scrap it and move on to something else. So that was what we did.
Is there still room in there for the Chris Cheney solo album? I know a few interviews ago, you mentioned that it might be something that you were looking to progress, but is it something still on the agenda?
Yeah, definitely. It’s just a matter of finding the time to do it. We’re just so flat out at the moment, we’ve got international touring coming up in June/July, and on this tour at the moment, and it just seems like I need six months off where I can actually focus on it and finish it off. There’s a good record in there that’s probably half to three quarters done, I don’t want to just throw it out there, I want to finish it off properly and give it everything I can. So it will see the light of day, I just don’t know when.
What is the plan beyond the international touring? Do you just take a bit of time out before thinking about what’s next?
Yep. Hopefully, yeah. We haven’t really sat down and made a plan yet. I would like to do that. I think maybe do something else for a little while. I can’t see an end to the band any time soon, and we’re all loving and still doing it, so but I think it would be nice to just sidestep it for a little bit and do something else. But yeah, that’s a conversation for another time and a stronger drink I suppose.
Absolutely. Wunderbar came out as a double vinyl with the Live in Europe. Are there any other plans to do any other live albums, particularly given how good these Australian shows have been?
Well, our biggest hurdle has always been, it never translates. We always listen back or watch back the footage and we go, “Ugh,” I mean, we cringe to begin with because that’s just who we are as musicians. So we’ve always been very cautious about putting anything out there that we weren’t one hundred percent happy with. I don’t think any of us are particularly over excited about the Europe one we did. It’s pretty warts and all, some of the gigs were on hired equipment and it was all a bit thrown together. We left it rough for a reason because there was no point trying to make it into a beautifully polished album because that’s not what The Living End sound like live. It was supposed to be pretty rough and ready. As far as putting out another official document, it’s been a while since we’ve done it. So who knows? The three of us need to be able to sit there and watch it or listen back and give it the thumbs up and that’s pretty difficult in this band.
Have you enjoyed the Red Hot Summer Tour with Joan Jett and Jimmy Barnes and company?
Yeah, it’s been great. It’s really good. We didn’t know what it would be like, but the crowds have been enormous. It’s like 15,000 people at each show. They’re just mad for it. Those other bands are just all great players and we play at a really good time of the day where people have still got a lot of energy but they’re not completely wiped out yet. So yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. We’ve still got a bunch more to go.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch The Living End with Jet at The Superloop Adelaide 500 on Saturday March 2. Tickets from the official Superloop Adelaide 500 website.