As the frontman for rock band The Living End, Chris Cheney is the first to admit that, growing up, he was too big a fan of Elvis, Buddy Holly and all things 1950s rockabilly to pay much attention to The Beatles. “Whenever I saw footage of them, they never looked greasy enough,” he jokes. “But when I finally sat up and paid attention to the music, I became a big fan.”
Described by Rolling Stone Magazine as “one of our greatest guitarists”, Chris is one of Australia’s most valued performers and songwriters. His band, which he formed as a 17-year-old school kid in 1992, is most renowned for its intense live performances, its 1990s fist-punching anthems Prisoner of Society and Second Solution, and its multi-award winning single and album White Noise.
As one of Australia’s own four fabs selected to perform The White Album, Chris jumped at the chance to step out of his hard rock comfort zone, drawn by the chance to delve into the record’s diversity. “The Beatles’ musical influences appear all over The White Album and they just nail every genre they try, all while really pushing the envelope,” he says. “You can hear the different personalities in each song, probably because they supposedly recorded so much of the record separately.”
Capturing the spirit of The White Album is a huge challenge. Chris acknowledges it is one of the most analysed artworks of the late 20th century and stands firm on his reverence for it. “It’s so beautiful and it’s too clever. This is the biggest of them all and we know many of the people who come to this concert will have imbibed the whole album – word for word, note for note – so it’s been our goal to really get behind the sentiment of the music while putting our own stamp on it.”
Chris is no stranger to performing tributes to other artists. His band started out playing covers in Melbourne pubs and band rooms and, in 2004, he took up lead guitar duties for all-star outfit The Wrights, in honor of former Easybeats singer, Stevie Wright.
With The Living End, Chris has released six studio albums, four EPs and 26 singles, and has toured with the likes of Green Day, rock royalty AC/DC & The Rolling Stones and has also shared the stage with US rockabilly outfit Stray Cats. The Living End has also headlined three times at Australia’s Big Day Out and taken on the US Warped Tour, the UK’s epic Leeds and Reading festivals, plus other major festivals and clubs the world over. Chris’s almost freakish ability as a guitarist has earned him a place among Australia’s most legendary performers, walking away with Jack Awards for Best Guitarist in 2004 and 2005 and the Best Male Performer Award in 2006.
In 2008 The Living End’s magnum opus White Noise picked up the 2008 ARIA award for Best Rock Album, followed by 2009’s prestigious APRA Song of the Year award for the album’s title single.
In 2008, Chris was also honoured with the release of his own signature model Gretsch guitar. Famed for playing the classic Gretsch White Falcon for his entire career, this was a colossal distinction, with the signature model bearing his own modifications and The Living End logo emblazoned on the pick guard.
In 2011 The Living End released their sixth studio album The Ending is just the Beginning Repeating. That same year The Living End was nominated for three ARIA AWARDS taking out two of them for Best Rock Album and Best Live Band.
In 2011 Chris re-located to LA with his family.
In 2012 The Living End undertook their ‘The Retrospective Tour’ on which they played ALL of their six albums in full over numerous nights in 5 Australian cities. It was an epic undertaking, an incredible live show, and quickly sold-out with extra shows added to what started as seven shows in each city.
The Living End celebrate their 20th Anniversary this year and continue to play together having outlasted Silverchair and Powderfinger.
Chris is currently working on a solo album due out in late 2014.
I always loved the sound of The Beatles when they let loose and sounded tough, and to me The White Album has a perfect balance of rock’n’roll abandonment with the incredible songwriting skills they’re so revered for.