It’s a bit of a scramble when I’m put through for my The Living End interview, as due to some crossed wires I’m speaking with drummer Andy Strachan instead of bassist Scott Owen. Suddenly all my carefully prepared questions about Scott’s notorious double bass playing are useless. I try not to panic.
Fortunately, the laid back Andy takes it all in his stride.
“It’s all good,” he chuckles as I explain why I’m discombobulated. “We’ll make it work. I could probably answer some of those questions for him, anyway.”
So we chat about Scott’s double bass collection, and whether or not they need a bunch of Batman-style reinforcements due the bashing he gives them. They must, I’m sure.
“He’s got a lot, and they certainly do need to be hot-rodded,” says Andy.
“He’s got this guy in Melbourne who basically gets a bass and then rebuilds it for Scott. The bridges are all reinforced and stuffed with pillowy stuff to stop it feeding back.
“Essentially it’s an orchestral instrument being played in a loud rock n roll band, so they’re bastardised versions for sure.”
Andy is charming and down to earth as we shoot the breeze about the music industry and the craziness of 2016.
“It’s a real challenge to survive as a band or musician these days,” he says.
We’ve been lucky and we’ve got a good strong fan base and we can play shows. But for some there’s not a lot of support.
Of course many musicians didn’t survive last year, in a more literal sense. I wonder if any of them hit him particularly hard.
“They all did in their own little way,” he says.
“George Michael the other day – you just don’t expect it – he’s too young! Bowie was one of the ones that – you know in his genius he knew exactly what was going on and he’s having the last laugh watching the world.”
Back to living artists. The Living End have collaborated with a veritable who’s who of the Australian music industry, with Jimmy Barnes, Jet and Paul Kelly all working with one or more band members over the years. Andy has his own list of dream collaborators.
“We’d love to work with Josh Homme from QOTSA that’d be really fun. I love the way he creates. He’s obviously an incredible musician, and he doesn’t let the rules get in the way of a good song.
“Jack White would be really great. The energy he would bring, particularly with Chris’ guitar playing!
“I would do almost anything to get in a room with Neil Finn and do some work. Chris did a really great version of a Crowded House song. Neil Finn would be incredible.”
2016 saw The Living End release their seventh studio album, Shift. Peaking at No. 4 on the ARIA charts, Shift gave fans both a healthy dose of the driving rock that they expected, and also a slightly shifted (sorry!) perspective with some down-tempo tracks, pop melodies and even a full string section.
Introspective track Coma received critical praise, something Andy agrees with.
“I really like Coma, which is probably the most different track on the whole record.
“Then there’s Death, which that’s pretty ballsy and that was the song that sort of got the whole thing rolling, it felt like we really got a hold of something.”
The trio is bursting with energy following their long hiatus, and excited to be touring the new album. Andy mentions that his musical heroes all have one thing in common – that they’re having the best time doing what they do. I wonder if that is the key to The Living End’s reputation as one of the best live acts, ever.
“Absolutely,” states Andy.
“Every show to us – whether it’s for ten people or ten thousand – we get completely caught up in the whole thing. ‘Cause it’s a three piece band, there’s no room for anyone to be lazy. When it’s really locking it’s a pretty powerful experience.
“Still after all these years it’s the best job in the world.”
You can catch The Living End at NightQuarter on Saturday 18 March.