Chris Cheney jokes he was once described as having the metabolism of an anorexic seagull.

Chris Cheney jokes he was once described as having the metabolism of an anorexic seagull. Photo: Justin McManus

ON paper it appears the Living End, one of the last great Australian rock bands of this generation, are about to fold.

Their most recent album was called The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating. Their last single was called For Another Day. Its video included a montage of their entire career. All band members now reside in separate cities – frontman Chris Cheney and his young family have moved to LA. The band is embarking on a massive national tour in which they will play their entire back catalogue – one album per night, from start to finish.

Our band is basically made up of two drug addicts and an alcoholic. There's no doubt about that. People think we're all squeaky clean ... 

As Chris Cheney takes his seat at Crown's American-themed eatery The Merrywell, we have to ask: is this the end?

The Merrywell's miniburgers are no-frills and delicious.

The Merrywell's miniburgers are no-frills and delicious. Photo: Justin McManus

"It would be perfect if it was," he says. "It has come full circle. There are no set plans. We've given this everything. It feels like 100 years ago Scott [Owen] and I started the band. To do something outside of the band would be fun. For us to do another record, it'd have to be good, I'll say that."

Dude food mecca The Merrywell was chosen for its excellent list of American ales and to see how Melbourne's best American comfort food competes with LA fare.

"The yanks know how to do a good burger," he says.

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Cheney sheepishly orders a Carlton Draught pint. His beer drinking, while prodigious, is clearly not adventurous. I take a Brooklyn Lager.

The Living End is the most admired live rock band in Australia. Cheney and his stand-up bassist, Owen, also 37, became friends at Wheelers Hill Secondary College, realising they lived in the same street and shared identical taste in music - old-school rock'n'rollers (Buddy Holly and Bill Haley) and punk and ska acts (the Stray Cats and the Clash). They were compelled to form a band.

They began playing the Wheelers Hill Hotel and various battle-of-the bands competitions from 1992. From their inception, The Living End were different. Yes, they wrote great pop songs, but they retained a fascination with the energy of the first wave of rock-n-roll: the raw, pure rockabilly stuff.

By 1997, their breakthrough hit Prisoner of Society became a worldwide smash and spent more than a year in ARIA's singles chart. For almost a decade their self-titled album was the all-time biggest-selling Australian debut. To this day, Pris-oner is played regularly on American rock radio.

However in 2001, following a draining, year-long world tour supporting their second album, Roll On, Cheney and then-girlfriend Emma were involved in a near-fatal head-on car crash on the Great Ocean Road.

Over 12 long months he learned to walk again. For a time, the idea of getting the band back to where it was seemed insurmountable. Yet they eventually recruited a new drummer, Andy Strachan and, amazingly, played on. They have seemingly not looked back since.

They've now released six albums, selling almost a million units and will break The Corner Hotel's record for consecutive shows when they play eleven sold-out shows there next month. The Richmond pub holds special significance. While still under-age, Cheney and Owen would play a tiny room there each Wednesday as a support act. They played to five people: their parents and an older brother. One night, owner Wayne Gale allowed Cheney access to the Corner's main room.

"For us, it was like looking at Rod Laver Arena," Cheney says. "It was the first big inner-city band room we'd ever seen. It smelt of sweat, booze and cigarettes. Wayne said 'one day, you guys might get to play a night there.' Now we're breaking their record for shows."

Cheney says the road here for the Living End has never been easy. There is, to be sure, some darkness here.

"Our band is basically made up of two drug addicts and an alcoholic," Cheney says. "There's no doubt about that. People think we're all squeaky clean…"

With that, we choose an entree - the Wagyu Beer mini burgers - and order more beer.

Cheney, wife Emma and daughters Charlie, 6, and Scarlett, 3, have thrown themselves into the adventure of living abroad. Emma is working at an acting school. The kids are in school.

"I don't know how its going to end up or what the overall goal is other than to live somewhere else," he says.

The Cheney's first LA rental was Don Johnson's old house. Their current Hollywood Hills abode is Harrison Ford's former home. Ford was living there when he got his Star Wars part.

Still, the family struggled initially after their move. Cheney's father Noel had battled cancer and passed away just before they relocated.

"It was hard," he says. "We felt isolated at first."

Since arriving in LA, Cheney has worked as a producer and songwriter. He has also resumed yoga. He previously turned to yoga in 2008 during the making of the album White Noise, when he developed shingles. Actor Russell Brand is a fellow devotee. The two have become firm friends.

"I have an angel on one side of my shoulder and a devil on the other," Cheney says, coyly. "So yoga saved my life again this year. It helps me lay off the booze and other things that are detrimental to my health."

Brand, who has long battled with substance abuse issues, has taken Cheney under his wing.

"The beer I can handle, the other stuff is the issue," he says, looking cautiously at the tape recorder. "I can do what I want over there and nobody judges me because nobody really knows who I am. So I get off the leash a bit. Which tends to lead me down the wrong path. With yoga, you can't do both."

Cheney is charming and self-deprecating company. He jokes that a crew-member once said he has the metabolism of an anorexic seagull. When I return from the bathroom, he has divided our mini-burger servings neatly in half. The food is clearly impressing him.

He orders the K.I.S.S burger as a main, a no-frills burger boasting simply chedder, onions, pickles and ketchup. My "Mel" burger is at least augmented by egg, beets and pineapple. Delicious.

Owen now lives in Byron Bay. Drummer Strachan is the only member to still call Melbourne home.

"Most people think the Living End is this beautiful harmonious thing," Cheney says. "But we have butted heads a lot over the years."

Unlike many other acts, they choose not to air their grievances publicly.

"We've had every argument you could ever think of: girlfriend issues, drug problems," Cheney says. "I'm proud we've managed to get past that. A lot of bands fold and can't get above themselves. They can't forgive each other."

The closest they have come to blows was an argument post-show on the Gold Coast that led to Cheney ceasing contact with his bandmates for two months.

"Everytime I have a show or an interview or something coming up, I get these butterflies," he says. "You have to be on. It was thrilling (during that break) to wake up and think, I don't have to get nervous today. It's a screwed up way of thinking, I know."

He cringes as he says it, but the Living Ends are, simply, professionals. They get on stage and get on with it.

"We hate the idea of people leaving a venue thinking we're shit. We try and get past things and get on with the job."

Their work ethic was instilled by fiercely working class families.

"My upbringing wasn't always rosy. But our parents worked incredibly hard. Nothing was handed to us. Anytime I feel the band is too hard, I think about that. There is something within me that wants to make things better for us."

Cheney's best song, 2006's Nothing Lasts Forever, reflects on his parents' relationship. Writing it was a watershed moment. It details a philandering male character married to a woman aware of his behaviour who has little choice but to overlook it.

"Being little, I can remember living in a different house, and my parents not being together," he says. "There was a whole lot of shit that's a mystery to this day. That song is loosely based about what I know about that period of my life."

You clearly have sympathy for the female character?

"Well… I was living with my mum at that point. It's hard to know how much that has informed the song. Every relationship turns sour at some point, it's about whether you resurrect it and fix it. Being a married man now, I can sympathise. With my dad dying, I have gone through intense feelings. Sometimes it's hard to come to terms with that."

Cheney clearly shared a bond with his dad. The 2011 track In the Morning was also autobiographical, focusing on his father working at Reg Hunt Motors on Nepean Highway, and the tension his resentment of working long hours created at home.

"With dad working six days a week, there was the tension in our house that there is in a lot of households in suburbia," Cheney says. "I often wonder if now I'm head of a family if I'm prepared to be that guy. I'm as immature as it gets. But you have to take responsibility. Everytime I play (those songs) I think of my dad."

Mum still lives in Rowville, and he stays at her place regularly. Occasionally he will allow himself the indulgence of a drive-by of his old childhood home. "I find it emotional going back. It really gets me. I remember being a kid there, discovering music, sitting on the edge of my bed with a nylon string guitar learning Elvis songs."

We're interrupted by some high school students seeking autographs and photos. Cheney politely obliges.

"I don't love that," he admits, as they depart "My dad always said 'this is what you want, you want to be recognised, you'll be in trouble when they don't recognise you.' I can remember (in the early-1990s) I used to get so nervous if I saw Kram from Spiderbait or the guys from the Sharp. They were doing it: playing shows, releasing albums. They were on Hey Hey!"

As the bill – and one more round - arrives, Cheney is due back at tour rehearsals. We return to the topic of the band's future.

"I guess I don't want us to be the kind of band that's flogging a dead horse. I can sympathise with guys who have felt like they have done all they can in a band. Sometimes you need to see what else there is in life besides your band."

The Living End plays the Corner Hotel, December 11-17 and 20-22 (two shows).