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. How's everything shaping up with the U.S. release?
Looking very good! It came out July 11th, but yah it's 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. It's 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 "maybe we should stick with it because it's working really well," 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 I'm really hungover. But it really does keep things interesting.
The hangover CAN be a factor.
(sighs) Yah, we've had a couple shockers, man. We've never been one of those bands that's just drunk all the time. I mean we drink… a lot, but we don't sort of stay up all night drinking, but we've done that 4 nights on this tour, and it's like, we get up and we're in like Phoenix, and the heat is just ridiculous, and we're on in like a half an hour! I just thought I was going to die on stage!
Feeling the effects…
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 you've reached the levels of success that you have, what keeps you going and keeps you wanting to create music together?
Well, I just think it's 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 we've really got a lot to prove, and I really want to get across on the CD what I'm hearing in my head. I'm not sure that I've 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 "does the production sound good enough?" and the first few people we played it for mentioned that it had a certain "garage-ness" to it; but I think it's a GOOD garage. It's not like the White Stripes; it's still got slickness to it that's good.
It's important that we never feel, for a second, that we've made it. We don't get complacent and lazy because we've got so much to say!
I've 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?
It's 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 "Californian punk rock" I suppose.
But it's interesting because now in this tour, there's less of that kind of Bouncing Souls, Vandals kind of stuff and there's a lot of these new kinds of bands that I hadn't 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 I've noticed in our Warped experience. I don't 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 70's punk I suppose. I'm 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, 1950's 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 "no way out" and "nothing lasts forever" which are songs that I probably wouldn't have been able to write a couple years ago. I really had to push myself to go into a direction in which I normally wouldn't have gone.
That just comes from listening to different albums. I was listening to (Bruce) Springsteen's "born to run" and lot's of sort of cinematic, larger than life music. Hopefully the songs will conjure up images and moods and stuff that we hadn't 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. I'm just such a music fan! With "nothing lasts forever" 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 it's 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 it's extremely frustrating sometimes. It's nice to be into so much different music, but the last thing you want to do is confuse people! We're very aware of that too. We didn't 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 didn't 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 hadn't 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 didn't really come out in a nice way I don't think.
Were you disappointed in Modern Artillery?
I just don't think it turned out like it should've. 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 it's a good album, you know? But I just think it could've 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 "Prisoner of Society" was a bit "juvenile." Do you feel any bitterness when people let that song define you, though you've released 3 albums since and grown so much?
It's the double-edged sword of all double-edged swords. (laughs)
I'm happy that song made it, you know? And I am thankful for that. At the same time, in Australia a lot of songs, particularly "Wake Up" 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 it's juvenile, but if it's 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 don't! (laughs) Which is cool! I like that because if you can get a message across, even in it's simplest form, then it's probably better.
What I do like about that song is that it's my version of "My Generation" by the Who, or like an old Chuck Berry song. It's 3 chords, it's a rock and roll song, and screw you, this is what we're doing, and get out of the way if your not going to be involved, you know? (laughs)
That's one of the more 50's influenced songs that we've got, which is why it's got that sort of teenage rebellion about it. It's such a timeless part of rock and roll. I prefer to think of it that way as opposed to when people say "it's a punk rock anthem" (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?
It's 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; it's a horrible game, you have to try and keep it real if you can.
And the thing is with us is that I've learned is that I've had moments when I've 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 don't know, but me Scott, and Andy know best, and we've proven that on this album. It's been done our way and we did what we wanted to do. What's happened is everyone's 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 doesn't matter what band or genre your in, you've 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.
You've stuck to your guns.
I think we're more confident now as a band than we've 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 we've got something special, and I forgot about that for a while. I feel immature sometimes, I still feel like a 15 year old because I'm so wrapped up in music that it's 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?
We've always had a history with Billie Joe and Green Day which goes back to February of 96'.
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 hadn't even been outside Melbourne that much! (laughs) We became really good friends with them and they took us back on the Warning tour.
We've 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 we're 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?
It's most important to play, play play. That's how we began. Play to an audience, and whether there's 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, don't start chasing trends, because the minute you catch up, everyone's moved on to something else. Just follow you own path, and if it's good, people will pick up on it! (laughs)
Enjoy playing music too. Don't 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 50's cover band who played a lot of Stray Cats, yes! (laughs)
We'd 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 didn't, we didn't get paid! (laughs)The abundance of 50's 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 we've 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 that's what we have to do to be in a band, you know?
When we record an album, it's 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 don't think that I would change it for the world. That's the way life works, it can't 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? It's 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!