THE LIV­ING END

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

Chris Cheney ag­o­nises over a new al­bum.

WHEN The Liv­ing End went to By­ron Bay to record their sixth al­bum, they ar­rived with ex­cess bag­gage. The band’s song­writer Chris Cheney had al­most driven him­self in­sane in the cre­ative process.

He’d spent count­less hours in his Mel­bourne home stu­dio writ­ing songs.

At one point, up to 40 songs were in the mix. He’d whit­tled that down to 20 con­tenders to take to By­ron, even though half would not make the al­bum.

Cheney be­came so ob­ses­sive about the songs, he’d record them with band mates Scott Owen and Andy Stra­chan ( all pic­tured) dur­ing the day be­fore tak­ing them home to write three al­ter­na­tive cho­ruses for each one.

‘‘ It be­came an in­cred­i­bly tan­gled web,’’ Cheney re­calls.

‘‘ I just kept try­ing to write cho­ruses that topped the ones I al­ready had. I’d ask the other guys to pick one cho­rus out of the three in each song and they’d say, ‘ They’re all good’.

‘‘ That’s no help. I was so con­fused. And that was hap­pen­ing in 20 or 30 songs. By the time we got to By­ron Bay to ac­tu­ally record the al­bum, I had got­ten my­self in one hell of a mess. I’d gone from hav­ing writer’s block to hav­ing too many songs. There’s never a half­way point with me.’’

There were plenty of prob­lems on Cheney’s mind. First was the suc­cess of their pre­vi­ous al­bum White Noise.

Not only did it fol­low a pe­riod where the band nearly split, it re­vi­talised their ca­reer. They toured it for nearly two years. The ti­tle track be­came their most played song on lo­cal ra­dio, even beat­ing Pris­oner of So­ci­ety. Cheney be­came fix­ated with fol­low­ing it.

‘‘ Peo­ple said to my face, ‘ White Noise is a great record, you’ll never top that’,’’ he says. ‘‘ Who says we can’t? It wasn’t Abbey Road. There’s still room for im­prove­ment.

‘‘ I was say­ing to my­self I had to be re­lent­less with this new al­bum, I had to top White Noise. Ev­ery­thing go­ing on in my pri­vate life fu­elled me to make sure this record wasn’t a fail­ure.

‘‘ I al­most felt like I was go­ing to end up in an asy­lum. It was sink or swim.’’

Cheney has usu­ally been in­tensely per­sonal about his pri­vate life.

The past few years, how­ever, had pushed him to the brink on ev­ery front.

His daugh­ter Scar­lett was born three months pre­ma­ture in 2008. His grand­mother died last year and his fa­ther Noel was di­ag­nosed with cancer last year and given only months to live.

‘‘ It was this weird thing in the uni­verse, all these things col­lid­ing within the space of two years,’’ Cheney says. ‘‘ It’s got to mean some­thing.’’ Cheney wanted the band to try new ideas. They road tested new songs un­der a se­cret name – this time The Safety Matches.

They played a hand­ful of songs to diehard fans. The fans loved them. The band, well, not so much.

Cheney’s band­mates talk about his per­fec­tion­ism.

‘‘ That’s some­thing other peo­ple call me,’’ he says. ‘‘ I don’t think I get any­thing per­fect. That’s the strug­gle. I feel like I’m al­ways com­ing up short, so I dig in and keep try­ing.

‘‘ It’s fine un­less you’ve got to work with me, if you’re mar­ried to me or you’re in my fam­ily. It seems to be all con­sum­ing.’’

Ear­lier this month, Cheney spent the day wait­ing to see where the band’s 1998 de­but al­bum polled in Triple J’s Hottest 100 Aus­tralian records. It landed at No. 4, ahead of INXS’s Kick.

‘‘ It’s not bet­ter than Kick,’’ Cheney says. In fact, he cringed lis­ten­ing to the al­bum played in full.

‘‘ It’s so im­ma­ture, we sound so young,’’ he says.

‘‘ But maybe that’s why peo­ple like it.’’ THE END­ING IS JUST THE BE­GIN­NING RE­PEAT­ING

Out on Fri­day ( Dew Process/ Uni­ver­sal)

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