BERLIN is one of those cities often mythologised in the history of rock’n’roll.
It’s where David Bowie recorded his innovative Berlin trilogy of Low, Heroes and Lodger in the late ’70s, it inspired Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Your Funeral...My Trial in 1986 and U2 visited the German capital in 1991 to record arguably their most compelling album, Achtung Baby.
When The Living End were preparing to record their eighth album last February they knew something new was required. Their 2016 comeback album Shift failed to ignite their extensive fan base and became the first record of their storied career to not achieve gold or platinum status on the ARIA charts.
“It was a little bit disappointing that Shift didn’t reach the heights we were hoping for, but it’s such a different world these days and you’ve got to keep throwing it at the wall and something will stick, I suppose,” Living End drummer Andy Strachan says.
That search for something different led to German punk giants Die Toten Hosen recommending musician Tobias Kuhn as a producer. Strachan says the decision was swiftly made to travel to Berlin.
“It was the middle of winter in Berlin, so it’s kind of a weird thing to leave the Australian summer and go headlong into the European winter, but we thought we’d take a risk,” he says.
“We just took a handful of instruments and that was it. We landed and hit the ground running.”
Each day Strachan, Chris Cheney (vocals, guitar) and Scott Owen (double bass) would don the heavy jackets, gloves and bennies and trudge off into the frosty Berlin streets for the walk to the studio.
“In the middle of winter there’s not much else to do there, so being locked in the studio was actually pretty productive for us, opposed to being back in Australia where it’s 35 degrees and you want to go to the beach don’t you,” Strachan says.
“We really knuckled down and had a good focus. It’s such an artistic place to be, you can look on any wall and there’s an amazing piece of art there that might give you some inspiration. It feels really creative to be there.”
The result of the sessions was Wunderbar, due for release on September 28. The first single Don’t Lose It is a typical burst of high-octane melodic rockabilly that The Living End are renown for, while it’s follow-up, Amsterdam, displays a rawer emotion.
The track features just Cheney’s vocal and guitar at the insistence of Kuhn.
“Originally it had a surf guitar line and a full band, but Tobias heard it and was like, ‘it doesn’t really fit the way it is, but how about we strip it right back to a raw and naked element’,” Strachan says.
“It just works. It’s a nice spot on the record and we haven’t done anything like that before. When you strip things back to that emotional vocal line and guitar it has more impact.”
The Living End headline Scene & Heard festival at Wickham Park on November 4.