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JUST ASKING -- BAND LIVE

Having just finished a four-week tour through New Zealand, Australia and Europe, the members of the band Live have ensconced themselves in a quiet part of Beverly Hills, Calif., for a few weeks.

"We did this whole rock-band thing," admits Chad Taylor, the band's lead guitarist, "where we all decided that we didn't want to go home, but we needed a place to chill out. So we rented a mansion. It was the closest thing to the Rolling Stones we could possibly do."

That, and selling 8 million copies of their last album. The success of 1994's "Throwing Copper" came as a surprise to everyone -- including the band members. This year's release, "Secret Samadhi," features more of Live's dense guitar rock and Ed Kowalczyk's mystical lyrics. Live's North American tour supporting the album, which has already sold more than a million copies, stops in Buffalo on Saturday.

On a phone somewhere in that mansion, Taylor, 26, talks candidly about how four high school buddies from York, Pa., manage to stay grounded as they grow into one of the most popular rock bands of the 1990s.

None of the band members lives in York any longer. It must have been difficult to be so famous in such a small city.

We're a shining example of people who can do the right thing at the right time from a small town. In one way, I'm sure there are a lot of people that look up to us. At the same time, there's an awful lot of jealousy. It's really tough to go out to a bar without somebody wanting to pick a fight, let's put it that way.

The new album has a much darker tone than your previous albums.

I don't think this record's for everybody. It's a record that really dives heavily into the spiritual side of the band, both on a musical and a personal level. I can't honestly say that we're in a dark period as people -- if anything, I would say it's completely the opposite.

Does it bother you when critics call Live a teeny-bopper band?

When I write a song or when I become involved in any project Live is doing, whether it's a live show or anything, I try to let my heart out there, my whole soul, my whole spirituality. And to have someone take a swipe at that is sort of like having a newborn baby and to have someone tell you it's ugly. But to tell you the truth, it keeps my feet on the ground.

Fans seem to feel an intense connection with Live. Why?

We don't hold anything back, both in the music and in what we say in interviews. I think there are a lot of kids who have finally found some honesty in music, some honesty in art. It just has a lot to do with the fact that we're from a small town. And the more that we got out to see the world, the more we realized that this openness and this honesty was the most important thing that we did.

You've spoken about seeing other bands get swept up in "the trend and the scene." Has Live fallen victim to that?

We can make a conscious decision and go out and be involved with being famous. But I'd say on 95 percent of the days of our lives, we're very anonymous and we can fade into the background. We can be just about any place and not have anyone recognize us. But all we have to do is tell Ed to take off his hat and stand the right way, and basically -- we're Live!

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