So what better than to sit these two musicians down together and let them talk about the music industry, punk rock on the Warped Tour and the perils of the music industry.
Your new record has been out for a few months in Australia and just came out in the States. Howís everything shaping up with the U.S. release?
Looking very good! It came out July 11th, but yah itís been very well received thus far at all the shows.
Do you enjoy the day-in-day-out routine of Warped Tour?
I do actually. Itís nice to have a set routine because I reckon you can get a little bit lazy, but we like to mix up the set sometimes. At first you think ďmaybe we should stick with it because itís working really well,Ē but changing things around definitely adds a different chemistry to each day. I quite like getting up every day for Warped Tour, having the time slots change. Well, unless Iím really hungover. But it really does keep things interesting.
The hangover CAN be a factor.
(sighs) Yah, weíve had a couple shockers, man. Weíve never been one of those bands thatís just drunk all the time. I mean we drinkÖ a lot, but we donít sort of stay up all night drinking, but weíve done that 4 nights on this tour, and itís like, we get up and weíre in like Phoenix, and the heat is just ridiculous, and weíre on in like a half an hour! I just thought I was going to die on stage!
Feeling the effectsÖ
Yah! We just gotta stop doing it! (laughs)
With your new album, State Of Emergency, you guys really seem focused and confident as a band. When youíve reached the levels of success that you have, what keeps you going and keeps you wanting to create music together?
Well, I just think itís the fact that there is just so much room for improvement all the time. And there is really a hunger involved that I feel in the process. I feel that weíve really got a lot to prove, and I really want to get across on the CD what Iím hearing in my head. Iím not sure that Iíve ever done that on our previous albums, so with this album, we tried to work extra hard. We tried to go the extra mile every step of the way, with the writing and the recording.
The production is top notch.
We were trying to get that fine line between good production, but still having it sound like we were playing in a room together. At first, we actually thought it was a bit of a problem because we thought ďdoes the production sound good enough?Ē and the first few people we played it for mentioned that it had a certain ďgarage-nessĒ to it; but I think itís a GOOD garage. Itís not like the White Stripes; itís still got slickness to it thatís good.
Itís important that we never feel, for a second, that weíve made it. We donít get complacent and lazy because weíve got so much to say!
Iíve always thought of you as a very sincere band, and in my opinion one of the most important bands in punk rock history. How do you guys feel about the current state of punk rock? What changes have you encountered over the years?
Itís interesting for us, being on this tour for the first time in a while, because last time we were on, there were bands like NOFX and bands that had been at it for a while, but it was a lot more of the ďCalifornian punk rockĒ I suppose.
But itís interesting because now in this tour, thereís less of that kind of Bouncing Souls, Vandals kind of stuff and thereís a lot of these new kinds of bands that I hadnít really heard of before, like Thursday, that seem to be a bit darker I suppose. So that has been the main point or difference that Iíve noticed in our Warped experience. I donít even know if it is punk rock!
Is the Living End a punk rock band?
No, not really, though in the beginning we did do everything ourselves, with the posters, the t-shirts and everything, but I never thought of us as a punk rock band, but a band that drew influences from so many genres, including punk. I think we play with an attack that can be associated to punk bands, which is totally fine!
The punk that I listen to is stuff like the Jam, The Clash, and Elvis Costello. That kind of era o f 70ís punk I suppose. Iím glad that it turned out that way. In the early days, we played with a lot of punk and ska bands which was really great! We really mixed it up, and the audience was full of punk rockers, so we learned to play along side those bands with an attack and energy that could relate to that scene.
We also came from the kind of true-blue rockabilly background, but we just always loved people who could write a really good song.
When you wrote the songs for SOE, were you mindful of any specific genres of music as you were in the past? (rockabilly, 1950ís rock and punk rock) Describe how these songs came together.
I think we chose from like, 60 songs on this one, which we try to do on each album. The writing process was just really intense. We took what we had and just tried to improve on it, which I suppose is the punk/rockabilly side of it, but then there are songs like ďno way outĒ and ďnothing lasts foreverĒ which are songs that I probably wouldnít have been able to write a couple years ago. I really had to push myself to go into a direction in which I normally wouldnít have gone.
That just comes from listening to different albums. I was listening to (Bruce) Springsteenís ďborn to runĒ and lotís of sort of cinematic, larger than life music. Hopefully the songs will conjure up images and moods and stuff that we hadnít dealt with before.
The new album, especially guitar wise, is very textured and atmospheric and very moody. What helped create those tones?
I really just approach every song individually. Iím just such a music fan! With ďnothing lasts foreverĒ I wanted to create a kind of country sound with it, using a slide and some delays. I just have such a wide variety of music that I listen to, that I usually just delve into my own kind of library in my head of what I want it to sound like, whether itís like a jazzy kind of Wes Montgomery tone, or whether I want to go for like, black Sabbath or something! (laughs)
I just love everything in between, and itís extremely frustrating sometimes. Itís nice to be into so much different music, but the last thing you want to do is confuse people! Weíre very aware of that too. We didnít want to come out and be Mr. Bungle, we want to come out and still sound like the Living End.
Andy joined the band, replacing Trav Demsey for Modern Artilery in 2003. That album delivers more polished, poppy tunes than the more complicated Roll On. How did things go when you came together and added Andy as a new permanent member? Was the creation process of the record significantly different?
On that album, we tried to take the music into areas that would show different sides of the band, but I think all that happened was it sounded like kind of another band. It didnít sound like us grabbing the song and pulling it into what we do.
Any time we write an album, the objective is always to write the best damn songs that we can write at that particular time, but we were in a very new place with Andy just joining the band. We were getting to know him and his playing and we hadnít toured much yet with him. Also, we were in a bit of an awkward state with our record company and producer at the time, and the record didnít really come out in a nice way I donít think.
Were you disappointed in Modern Artillery?
I just donít think it turned out like it shouldíve. I think I have a vision of how things should end up, and that one just sort of fell a little bit short unfortunately. I think itís a good album, you know? But I just think it couldíve been better, and that just sort of fuels the ambition for this new one.
Andy really contributed a lot to the writing of State of Emergency. We jammed a lot and kind of went over a lot of tapes and things and he had a lot of good suggestions, which turned out to be quite good.
You once said that that the song ďPrisoner of SocietyĒ was a bit ďjuvenile.Ē †Do you feel any bitterness when people let that song define you, though youíve released 3 albums since and grown so much?
Itís the double-edged sword of all double-edged swords. (laughs)
Iím happy that song made it, you know? And I am thankful for that. At the same time, in Australia a lot of songs, particularly ďWake UpĒ from the new album have been just as well received, which is great because it proves that there is more to the band than just that song!
I do think itís juvenile, but if itís gonna be juvenile, it may as well be a song like that, you know? There are no deep thoughts about it, you know you either get it on face value or you donít! (laughs) Which is cool! I like that because if you can get a message across, even in itís simplest form, then itís probably better.
What I do like about that song is that itís my version of ďMy GenerationĒ by the Who, or like an old Chuck Berry song. Itís 3 chords, itís a rock and roll song, and screw you, this is what weíre doing, and get out of the way if your not going to be involved, you know? (laughs)
Thatís one of the more 50ís influenced songs that weíve got, which is why itís got that sort of teenage rebellion about it. Itís such a timeless part of rock and roll. I prefer to think of it that way as opposed to when people say ďitís a punk rock anthemĒ (laughs) that just sounds a bit cheesy.
You once said that you love your first album because you had limited knowledge of the music industry, and the massive success of it was more due to word of mouth and relentless touring. Since then you have worked with major labels and released lots of music and toured the world. †How has the music industry affected you as a band? Do you have any regrets?
Itís a difficult thing to not be influenced by or affected by the music industry. When you get inside the game you know, because it is a game; itís a horrible game, you have to try and keep it real if you can.
And the thing is with us is that Iíve learned is that Iíve had moments when Iíve disappointed myself because I had listened to other people outside the band, but sometimes it came down to us having a future in music or not having a future in music. I mean, would I listen to them again? I donít know, but me Scott, and Andy know best, and weíve proven that on this album. Itís been done our way and we did what we wanted to do. Whatís happened is everyoneís kind of come around full circle again, all of the press saying that this is our finest moment and all, so that just reinforces the fact that it doesnít matter what band or genre your in, youíve just gotta stick with your own.
You cannot lose that way. If you lose your record deal, at least you were doing what you wanted to do. Compromise is a very dangerous word.
Youíve stuck to your guns.
I think weíre more confident now as a band than weíve been in 3 or 4 years. I really believe that we can play along side any band in the world and give them a run for their money, you know? And that may sound big headed, but I have to feel that way!
I think that weíve got something special, and I forgot about that for a while. I feel immature sometimes, I still feel like a 15 year old because Iím so wrapped up in music that itís like friends and family sometimes get put on the backburner a little bit! (laughs) but what are you gonna do? You know? Music is life.
How did the Adeline deal come along?
Weíve always had a history with Billie Joe and Green Day which goes back to February of 96í.
They were in Australia on the Insomniac tour. They sort of plucked us from obscurity and took us around Australia to support them on that tour, which was our first national tour! We hadnít even been outside Melbourne that much! (laughs) We became really good friends with them and they took us back on the Warning tour.
Weíve remained great friends and always kept in contact, and we knew Billie was involved with this label.
We talked it over and we really do trust them, they have a vision, and they really understand where weíre coming from musically.
There is a lot of heart there and we respect them and their music, so it was a perfect fit.
My band just released our album in April. Being an established professional musician, what would you suggest to a 3-piece punk rock band that wants to tour and put out records?
Itís most important to play, play play. Thatís how we began. Play to an audience, and whether thereís 5 people or 500 people, try to impress every person, every time. We knew what we were doing was good, and we just sort of gave it our all, because we believed in it. I knew that what we were doing was special and deserved a shot. Any young band has just got to find what they like, stick to their guns, donít start chasing trends, because the minute you catch up, everyoneís moved on to something else. Just follow you own path, and if itís good, people will pick up on it! (laughs)
Enjoy playing music too. Donít be in it just for success, which is easy for me to say because we do tour and sell records and have attained some success, but I think people forget that the joy of picking up a guitar and play music is a gift!
In the early days, you guys played as a cover band.
In high school we were called the Runaway Boys.
Was it an exclusive Stray Cats cover band? What were some highlights of a Living End cover set?
We were mostly a 50ís cover band who played a lot of Stray Cats, yes! (laughs)
Weíd play like 3 hours a night all over Australia for weddings and such, and we covered everything from Buddy Holly, to Elvis, and Chuck Berry. It was really pretty bizarre, we were just kind of like a function band. It seems like another lifetime ago! We really learned how to get in front of an audience and impress them. If we didnít, we didnít get paid! (laughs)The abundance of 50ís tunes created the foundation of the Living End?
Definitely. We were playing songs night after night and we really got to examine arrangements and really learn our instruments that way. Especially playing that style of music, it has to be clean, you know? So it certainly helped lay down the foundation of our original writings.
How has touring affected your relationships with each other and your significant others? Chris, I know you just had a daughter recently, congratulations.
I think weíve been at it for long enough now that friends and family are aware of what we do. The reality of what we do is that we have to travel, and some relationships have been hard to maintain, but thatís what we have to do to be in a band, you know?
When we record an album, itís bad because I sometimes shun my friends and become really isolated and I lock myself away, but I have to do it that way. That is the down side of what we do, but honestly, I donít think that I would change it for the world. Thatís the way life works, it canít all be good.
Finally, I want to thank you for taking the time out to chat with me.
I can honestly say that you are my highest personal musical inspiration, and the living end are a massive influence on what my band is doing. I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you.
Oh man, thank YOU! That really is very kind. We have a lot of really great supporters and people who have followed the band and that really does make everything better, you know? Itís one thing to enjoy playing music, but to have people that really like what you do is just great.
Thank you. And good luck to you!