For close to 30 years, Live have been one of the most iconic and celebrated alt-rock bands of the modern era, dishing out countless classic albums and singles over the years.
Having first formed in 1984, the band released their first album under the moniker Public Affection in 1989. By 1991 though, they’d changed their name, refined their sound, and teamed up with Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison to record a new album.
Few could have assumed that their follow-up, 1994’s Throwing Copper, would go on to become one of the biggest records of the decade, scoring them a spot on the Woodstock lineup, selling over eight million copies, and remaining on the Aussie charts for 117 weeks.
While frontman Ed Kowalczyk’s departure from the band would result in a three-year break for the band, their eventual reunion with Kowalczyk in 2016 has seen them regain their title as one of the finest rock bands on the scene.
Having played Australia countless times before, Live are set to make their latest trip down to our shores next April as part of the Under The Southern Stars lineup. Performing alongside iconic outfits like Bush and Stone Temple Pilots, these are going to be some of the biggest shows of the year.
Ahead of their return to our shores, we sat down with Kowalczyk to learn more about what’s going on in the Live camp, the anniversary of their breakthrough record, and what the future holds.
Check out ‘I Alone’ by Live:
Tone Deaf: So first up, Live are pretty frequent visitors to Australia, what is it that keeps bringing you back?
Ed Kowalczyk: You know, I’ve always said that every time we head out on a new endeavour — whether it’s a new record or obviously a reunion three years in the making — Australia is always just at the top of the list, it always has been.
Early in our career it was one of the first countries we left home to travel to outside of the United States and the fans from right at the beginning were just so passionate and so interested in the band, and it’s never wavered. It’s just an incredible thing.
TD: You guys were last here early in 2018. Since then, you celebrated 25 years of your 1994 album Throwing Copper, what was it like to celebrate such a milestone for such a massive album?
EK: It’s been really, really amazing. We had a really cool release associated with it with the re-release of the actual album, and the recording of our 1994 Woodstock performance was in there, and some unreleased tracks. So, the product of it has been really well received by the fanbase — a lot of really cool stuff in there.
The touring has just been really powerful. We just finished a full US tour, and we were out all summer. I think a lot of people had the chance to reconnect with the band that maybe had lost track or just hadn’t seen us for a while because we literally just put our reunion together just a few years ago.
Even though we had toured the year before, this felt as though we were really “back”, and really firing on all cylinders, and really took the show to a place that I feel like is better than ever. The crowds were appreciating that energy.
Check out Live’s ‘The Dolphin’s Cry’:
TD: Throwing Copper was undoubtedly the album that saw you guys hit the mainstream, how does it feel to play those classic songs 25 years on?
EK: It’s amazing to me because, of course as the writer, you dream when you’re (I was 21/22 writing these songs and lyrics), you dream that twenty-three years from now you’ll still be doing it and people will still care about it.
You’ve got to be wild enough to dream it, but when it’s actually 25 years later and people still have this powerful relationship with these lyrics that I wrote and these melodies, you can’t describe it.
People have really grown with this record. It’s a record that a lot of people have told me that a lot of the songs actually mean a lot more to them now than they meant even in the ’90s just because of the way they were written and they way the band has stayed relevant to people in the story and the journey of their lives 25 years in.
It was a really powerful thing to hear. It doesn’t get any better, really. It’s a lot of fun to play live, still. It never gets boring. It never gets old. People will say, “oh, you’ve played these songs several times, does it ever get old?” and it never does.
It’s really an exciting album, and an exciting group of songs that… of course now with the fans celebrating it the way that they do, and the long, awesome relationship they’ve had with this music, that really spruces our energy up to another level, as well.
TD: I’ve seen a few recollections of that period where you guys were labelled as a real “serious” band. Talking to you now, I definitely don’t get that vibe at all. Do you feel that label has worn off as time has gone on?
EK: Absolutely, yeah. I think that we fell into a kind of typecast that was through this extremely angsty group of guys who only sat around and meditated and never drank beer and were really super, super serious all the time. Nothing could have been further from the truth, even then.
We just have always taken the music and the performances really seriously, and so that kind of rubbed off on – and not accurately – onto what we must have been like as people.
So, over the years I think that after we put out many more albums, and people got to see a lot of different sides of the band. We’ve definitely have gotten more confident on stage and more laidback.
It’s still really powerful, but it’s in a way there’s more of a swagger, there’s more of a relaxed thing to it, now. I think it actually makes it more interesting and more powerful, and I think the fans agree that it’s really better than ever.
Check out Live’s ‘Lakini’s Juice’:
TD: You also noticed how you recently released your performance from Woodstock 94. It’s an amazing piece of musical history, but what are your own memories of that show?
EK: I remember we were all super excited — I’d say a little nervous, being that it was definitely the most people we had played in front of to that point. The festival scene, especially in the United States, has grown immensely since then, but back then there weren’t that many of those big festivals, and definitely not as big as Woodstock.
That was, I think, 300,000 people [Editor’s Note: Estimates of the crowd range up to a total of 550,000]. We were just at this point in the record where we had just come off of a, sort-of, club tour where we were building the album and the excitement, and just found ourselves on this stage, really out of nowhere, and it really galvanised a new level of interest in us.
From that performance, I think it was really important because so many people got to see us. We got to put these songs together with a really visceral and energetic band for the first time in a major setting.
Looking back on it, it was nerve-wracking. I don’t even remember much of that because I was so nervous. I have little bits and pieces of memories where I was just so focused on doing the performance. I remember getting offstage and thinking, “okay, we did it. We didn’t fall apart. Everything went really well.”
Now, all these years later, it definitely feels… it felt like, “okay, we’re just going to do this show,” but now, and the way that history has treated that event, and the way that I feel about it, is that it was super important to the band.
TD: You guys released a new EP back in 2018, but it’s been almost 14 years since the original Live lineup released a new album. Are there any plans for a new full-length in the future?
EK: Yeah! We’re going to do a full-length album next. We, of course, had the 25th anniversary of Throwing Copper like we wanted to do this year, and give that it’s due as we thought it was a special moment. That kind of pushed back the creative side a little bit because we’ve been so busy with that.
We’re hoping that later this year we’re going to record. We literally just got off tour a few weeks ago, so we’re just decompressing now. We’re going to be back in our studio in Pennsylvania in probably the next two weeks, and be working on new music into mid next year. We’ll probably have something out later next year.
Check out Live’s ‘The River’:
TD: Obviously, you guys have been around for quite a while, but is there anything you still look ahead to really accomplish as part of Live? Are there any goals you still have as a musician?
EK: The core of it is always coming up with the most interesting songs, first and foremost. That’s always a challenge. Reevaluating that process as time goes by and trying to recapture the innocence about the whole process that gets more difficult to get at as you get more sophisticated and grow up. That’s always challenging. It’s always fun, but it’s always challenging.
I think, if anything, I would like to see the band really get back into a mid-tempo groove and a real rock and roll kind of thing. We did the EP last year and it was really high energy, real fast and really intense songs — some of the fastest and most intense rock songs that we’d done in a while, if not ever. So, I’d like to see us get more blues-y groove, and also record the band totally live again.
I think we got into more tracking on that EP as the process went along. I’d like to get more recording of the instruments at once like we used to, which is always tempting in the studio to use all the bells and whistle.
More raw records, more blues based and real melodic, and something that we can really have fun playing live. I think to take all this touring that we just did and to have that inspire us to make songs that are super fun to perform for people – that’s the general idea as we move into it.
TD: Live recently performed on the ALTimate tour with the likes of Bush, how does it feel to be heading down to Australia with them, and teaming up with Stone Temple Pilots as well?
EK: We had an absolutely wonderful summer with Bush. I think we did 53 concerts together, so I think it’s safe to say we know each other now. We’ve been hanging out a lot. I think that Live and Bush together was a really great package. The fans loved it.
As different as the bands are, the core energy of both bands is really palpable and really powerful, so the package of the two bands together was really well-received.
To add Stone Temple Pilots into that was super exciting because I’ve always loved the band, and the songs, and really am looking forward to hanging with those guys. I think it’s really going to be a powerful package to bring to Australia.
TD: Is there anything special fans can expect from these shows?
EK: We’re going to have to sit down and formulate the set that we’re going to play. We do have an incredible lineup right now, of course with the four original members of the band, plus our second guitarist Zach Loy and Clint Simmons on percussion, so there’s six of us on stage.
We haven’t brought this particular lineup that we have now to Australia yet, so I’m really excited for our fans to hear it and experience it. It sounds amazing. It’s so big and powerful. We’re a band that always plays our hit songs.
We sort of take a page out of Rolling Stones’ book, and always play the songs people want to hear us play, so they’ll be there and hopefully a cover or two, and just keep it fun.
Check out ‘Love Lounge’ by Live:
Under The Southern Stars 2020
Stone Temple Pilots
Friday, April 3rd
Peter Barclay Field, Tuncurry, NSW
Saturday, April 4th
The Crescent, Parramatta Park, NSW
Sunday, April 5th
The Entertainment Grounds, Gosford, NSW
Thursday, April 9th
Stuart Park, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday, April 11th
Hastings Foreshore Reserve, Mornington, VIC
Sunday, April 12th
Showgrounds, Yarrawonga, VIC
Monday, April 13th
Bonython Park, Adelaide, SA
Wednesday, April 15th
(Not an Under The Southern Stars festival date)
HBF Stadium, Perth, WA
Friday, April 17th
Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Saturday, April 18th
Riverstage, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday, April 19th
Foreshore Park, Newcastle, NSW
For full details, head along to the Under The Southern Stars website