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| 26 June 2015 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

LIVE tour Australia in support of Def Leppard later this year, their first visit to our shores since recruiting frontman Chris Shinn in 2012. Guitarist Chad Taylor has done his homework before taking my call, and recalls their previous trips Down Under well.

LIVE - Chad Taylor 01

“Well, the last time that Live played in Perth was October 24th, 2006 – I just happened to look it up [earlier]. Our history with Australia is interesting… we were supposed to do our very first Australian tour in 1992, [but] that tour ended up getting cancelled. To be honest with you, it’s so long that I can’t remember why.

“Of course, then we wound up building this incredible momentum through the Throwing Copper album,” he continues, “and we came down in 1995, and played the Metro Theatre in Sydney – we did 2 shows there. We knew that we would be back, instantly. Then we wound up doing [the Alternative Nation Festival] with Nine Inch Nails. That was a huge show, all the way back in 1995 in Sydney at Eastern Creek Raceway.

“Then we went and did Olympic Park in Melbourne, and then we did a date in Prince of Wales, and then we went home. That’s all the way back to 1995 when we were just SO young. I can remember that I was so amazed that we [were] so far away [from home] physically. Of course, that doesn’t seem that crazy now that the internet has connected everybody and bonded everybody so closely.

“If you think about it, now go from those early shows in 1995 all the way to today, it’s remarkable. My childhood band – I was driving around in my friend’s Volkswagen van, and we were listening to High ‘n’ Dry and later Pyromania – we were just huge Def Leppard fans. When the boys in the band called and said, ‘hey, will you do this tour?’ we jumped at the chance! Two-fold: one was to play with them, and two, of course, was to reconnect with our fans in Australia. We truly can’t wait to come down and play the shows.

“One of the things I want to really point out and emphasise,” Taylor stresses, “is that we are, as very special guest delivering a full set. It’s not a traditional support act slot where you’re going to get 30 minutes of music. We’re really going to put on a show that showcases all angles of the band, including tons of songs that people know, and some new stuff. They’re going to see a show that really stands our 30-year career.”

LIVE - Chad Taylor 02

Despite Taylor boasting of loving Def Leppard’s albums, the pairing of the two bands isn’t immediately an obvious fit. For one thing, Def Leppard were ‘hair metal’ poster boys at the same time as Live were forging a darker path of indie, grungey rock. Could Taylor ever have imagined that one day the bands would be on the same bill?

“I would have never…,” the guitarist says in disbelief. “In fact, I called one of my childhood friends – the guy who used to drive me in the Volkswagen – and just basically said, ‘hey, can you believe that Live is doing a tour with Def Leppard?!?’ One of the remarkable things is that we’re both going around and still making music. It’s amazing. I will say this: it’s certainly intriguing to have some time pass. One of the things that you realise is that a timeless song is a timeless song – it doesn’t really matter what the genre was. Yeah, you’re right. It’s really funny, I was a huge Mutt Lange fan, and he did those huge AC/DC records. He brought something to the fold for Pyromania. I dare say that you can hear some Pyromania on Throwing Copper – I think with the compression sounds and some of the things that we were messing with, that was definitely in there.

“It’s very, very unfortunate, but whatever happens with musical trends and all those kinds of things, suddenly it wasn’t popular to play rock and roll music. Def Leppard was just a straight ahead rock and roll band – I would have never classified them as being ‘hair metal’. There’s some credibility when it comes from being an Irish band [although Def Leppard formed in Sheffield, England, singer Joe Elliot now lives in Ireland, as does guitarist Vivian Campbell, and the band have recorded in Elliot’s studio there], which you’re not going to get coming out of America.

“It’s interesting because there is a lot of shared experience,” Taylor goes on. “Meaning, that they’ve been a band forever. We’ve been a band forever – we’re in our 30th year. There is something to be said about that level of camaraderie. The good guys, and the guys that really know what they’re doing have a tendency to last. That’s probably what we really have in common.”

Live’s breakthrough came with the Throwing Copper album and its hit singles Lightning Crashes and I Alone. Listening again now, and the album stands up really well, with no concession to musical or production trends of the time which might have caused it to sound dated now. Taylor agrees that it’s awesome to have created something that iconic.

“Yeah. I have to say that the older I get, the more that I appreciate that particular time of creativity. We were young enough to not have any labels over us. We’d only experienced a modicum of success before that album. Our expectation was… I remember our goal was, we wanted to get a gold record. In America Mental Jewellery [the bands debut album, released in 1991] had sold maybe 250,000 copies. We were like ‘man, we’re halfway to a gold album,’ which is 500,000 in America. We were like, ‘if we could just get to a gold record, that would be so cool.’ Then the thing came out and sold 8 million copies, and we had no idea what to do with that, no idea.

LIVE with Chris Shinn (2nd Right)

“Our band – the kind of band that we were in – we never thought that we would be famous. We never thought that we’d experience any popular success. It was all very foreign to us. Of course, it’s funny to look back on that. You can see that, by the time when Secret Samadhi came out [the follow-up to Throwing Copper, released in 1997], we were hiding in a dark room, running for cover.

“Of course now, it’s totally different experience to go on stage and play the songs. There is such a, I don’t know, an experience – a shared experience with music. It takes you to an era and a time when those songs were really meaningful to you, both good and bad. You attach yourself to memories and experiences. To be the songwriter and musician of those songs is such an incredible blessing… I always feel like, the music of Live is a sort of sacred chalice. It’s like, ‘man, don’t spoil that, and don’t screw it up,’ and really treat these songs with some reverence and play them – not so much for us as musicians, but for the fans that are listening to them.”

Selling that many records brings with it attention, money and fame – not all of it good. When your expectations have been exceeded so overwhelmingly, is that the level of fame and attention which changes you as people?

“Oh yeah. It changed us forever,” admits Taylor. “There’s definitely no going back. There’s certainly a time period in there where I would say that the term ‘excess’ comes to mind. Certainly, living your life sheltered by bodyguards, and hiding away in hotels and dressing rooms is not a life at all. I think that it really did impact our artistry and eventually probably aided in imploding the original line up of the band. I don’t think that it’s anyone’s fault – I just think that there was also a tremendous amount of outside pressure to live up to this commercial success. I don’t want to say it was unwanted commercial success – it was fun to sell records! It’s fun to play music! All that is great. Then suddenly there are record executives and radio stations and all sorts of people showing up, expecting more of the same.

“We were still just maturing as guys,” he continues. “What most people don’t remember is that our peers – Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, etc – they’re almost all ten years our senior. We were young, young boys. That pressure definitely can fold you in half, and it’s not something I really wish on anyone… [but] I wouldn’t give it back. That is a part of my life and a part of my experience. It’s kind of funny: it’s like an opening of a book – it was the best of times, but it was also the worst of times.”

Live would make four more albums after Secret Samadhi with singer Ed Kowalczyk, before he left the band in 2009. Lawsuits flew back and forth – the band alleged Kowalczyk owed them money from a $100,000 payment he demanded as a ‘lead singer bonus’ before playing at the 2009 Pinkpop Festival in The Netherlands, and made himself the sole director of their music publishing company without their knowledge. The band and Kowalczyk settled their differences, but the animosity seems to simmer still, not far under the surface. In a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone magazine Kowalczyk insisted he wrote the majority of Live’s music ‘and all the lyrics’, and accused his former bandmates of being petty and malicious. Taylor is diplomatic but cutting in his response.

“It’s interesting,” he says with a thoughtful pause. “How I experience success and how I view success is when I make others around me better. There’s a certain humility that’s needed to submit to a song and to submit to your creative partners in order to create great art, especially ensemble art – I’m talking really about being in a band.

Ed Kowalczyk and Chad Taylor in friendlier days

Ed Kowalczyk and Chad Taylor in friendlier days

“When Ed stopped submitting to the higher calling in the band, I knew it was over. When it became about Ed and not about the song, or the creativity, and not as individual members, it lost its spark, it lost its essence. I tried my very best to encourage everybody – the fans, the band members, our management around us, and everyone – to pay attention and to guard that special relationship that each of us have had in being creative members of Live.

“So Shane, at some point… we’re all in this human experience. The need to feel empowered or any of those things, is probably all natural and all human. It’s just that at some point, it’s difficult to rationalise or to figure out why one person is experiencing one thing and three of you are experiencing something totally different. From that aspect, I think that the key is forgiveness, I think that it’s really, really important that we allow each other space to know that we did so many great things together – things that we should be proud of. At the same time, we should also be proud that we picked ourselves up and we found a way to carry on.”

Chris Shinn, the new lead singer for the band Live, performs during a sound check before the band's first show in three years on Monday, March 12, 2012, at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center. Members of the band Live go through their pre-show sound check on Monday, March 12, 2012, at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center. The band is hosting an invitation-only show, at which they will debut their new lead singer. DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - CHRIS DUNN

Chris Shinn, the new lead singer for the band Live, performs during a sound check before the band’s first show in three years on Monday, March 12, 2012, at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center. Members of the band Live go through their pre-show sound check on Monday, March 12, 2012, at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center. The band is hosting an invitation-only show, at which they will debut their new lead singer. DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS – CHRIS DUNN

Chris Shinn has been Live’s singer now since March 2012, and with their first album together, The Turn, being released in September 2014, and their Australian tour plans, it doesn’t seem like Live are being held back in any way.

“That’s the thing,” enthuses Taylor, “it’s a very interesting thing, one of the things that we we’re all conscious with, that we don’t want to replace anybody. We just want to hold the music sacred, and make great songs, and have fun playing music. First and foremost, music is just supposed to be fun. If you’re not having fun doing it, then don’t do it! So our attitude – especially with this, if you will, Live 2.0 – is let’s embrace this fully and enjoy it for what it is. So much of our youth was spent running for cover, trying to figure out what’s next and dealing with the pressures of life. Now, as adults, we look at it and go, ‘man, this is the best job in the world! Let’s go play I Alone and have people sing along!’”

Taylor signs off, but not before putting in a special request for Live’s Perth show.

“Shane, just note that I will be turning 45 on that date – so I expect a very loud ‘happy birthday to you’ sung to me!”

[Editors note – Taylor’s birthday is 24 November. Live and Def Leppard play Red Hill Ampitheatre in Perth on Saturday, 21 November, 2015]

Category: Interviews

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