Monthly Archives: January 2018


As I’ve spent the last few years sliding and stumbling into the role of (coughs, gags) Interdisciplinary Artist, Newcastle’s Crack Theatre Festival has been an invaluably reckless enabler of my stuff. It’s a festival that presents unfinished and still-developing work to a engaged, savvy and generous audience. I hadn’t taken anything to Crack since launching Bomb Collar in a storeroom full of empty boxes and pigeon feathers (still the most correctly suited venue I’ve ever had for a work) in 2014.

I remember being nervous ahead of that one but it was nothing compared to this year. I feel more pressure to get Single Leg right than with anything I’ve ever created, just because of the sense that I’m repping wrestlers and the world of wrestling while not being the best wrestler myself. The Crack production team were amazing (sourcing a combat-sports-enabled venue in the centre of Newcastle was no mean feat but they achieved it through bloodhound-like tenacity) but sourcing participants in a town that has no specific wrestling scene was a down-to-the-wire nailbiter and there was basically no possibility of anything as fancy as a rehearsal before the show.

Instead Team Single Leg (Co-Devisor Rachel Roberts, Producer Skye Kunstelj and me) did as much combing over the script (which is largely just a performance model as the idea is for my interaction with the wrestlers to unfold spontaneously) as we could, trying to make sure the ideas were tight and clear.


In the end the show was largely defined by my participating wrestlers:

-Mark Howe, a good friend from Club ACT who agreed to travel with me and do the show at one week’s notice. Mark is a loquacious Man Of Letters who shares my obnoxiously cerebral approach to the sport, and also happens to be twice my size. Mark’s unguarded and dry observations about the psychology of combat sport were a hit with the audience, as was the brutal spectacle of me getting crushed beneath his leg sprawl.

-Jye Milton, a purple belt in Brazilian Ju Jitsu from the Newcastle area. I only met Jye in person 30 minutes before the show, which was purely a function of necessity but added something truly potent to the set-up. The audience fell completely in love with Jye, his earnest drive to represent his sport well (BJJ is both very similar and very different to wrestling, which added an extra expositional challenge to this iteration of the show) was matched with the natural flair for holding a room common to martial arts instructors.

-Luke Beston, Jye’s teacher and a BJJ black belt of some 25 years experience. Luke took over from Jye for the second of our two performances and was a similar hit with the crowd, projecting a craft-loving humility alongside a deep deep well of experience and skill.

I was the smallest of the four wrestlers by a fair few kilos, so the ‘underdog in the sport’ aspects of the narrative took no effort to sell (though I still managed to score here and there in the live-for-real-wrestling bits). As nervous as I was before both shows (the narratives’ recurring focus on my injury history had my paranoia about getting hurt sky-high-through-the-roof), once I was in the moment my instincts to care for and curate the experience of my participants took over and the whole thing whooshed by quite smoothly.

Which was good and bad. The show went over great with the audiences, who were made up equally of Crack crowd and Jye/Luke’s friend-and-family. Judging from the audience survey that Rachel ran they found it to be a warm, fun experience that made them feel well-educated about the subject matter. Many of them also seemed to relate the themes and ideas back to their own lives which is a key goal of the show. The form of the show is sound and the right form, we can proceed confidently from where we are.

BUT, warm fun and diverting is not gonna cut it. In my instinctual drive to care for my participants I defaulted to my Endlessly Positive Coach persona, even when demonstrating the depths of my failure and frustration. That can’t be enough. I need to be moving towards complete vulnerability, complete breakdown, my guts strung out on the floor. I need to make a space where my participants can feel free to be vulnerable, and more importantly to pounce on and exploit my vulnerability in a way that reflects the nature of athletic competition. Balancing that with the duty of care inherent in the premise will be the centre of the next development of Single Leg.single-leg-crack17-2-51

Still, we got through two super-physical shows unscathed so that’s enough for one festival right? Definitively yes, but since I’m a complete idiot…

That’s right, the third day of the festival Claire ‘The Dervish’ Granata and I zipped up our leotards and graced the people of Newcastle with the latest edition of our three hour fitness-industry-roasting live aerobics telethon Aerobicide: Feel Better. Our first daytime foray into this show, the chief highlight was the two of us dealing with the weather conditions by spontaneously incorporating a constant butoh-slow application of sunscreen into the choreography.

Crack is many things, but most importantly it’s a theatre festival that takes place at the seaside, essentially right on the beach. Never more important that when you finish three hours of non-stop heavy-costume-based physical performance. I’m asking for the ocean to be included as my primary artist support need in all of my festival applications from now on.


Faux Faux Amis launched their new album Beg For Merci Beaucoup in November last year.

Combined with X, it represents a near-complete documentation of the band’s musical output (I think there’s only two songs we’ve played out that now don’t have a proper recording).  Pulling back the curtain for a second, here’s the press release I wrote:



Faux Faux Amis drop their second album Beg For Merci Beaucoup  

Listening to the new FAUX FAUX AMIS album Beg For Merci Beaucoup is a dizzying experience. The band cartwheel between scuzzy r’n’b, French-sung pop, garage rock and swampy blues, all delivered with passion and smiles on their faces. ‘Muppet Rock, I like to call it’, laughs lead singer Luke McGrath, ‘it’s heavy but it still sounds happy’.

 The band have been performing in Canberra since 2013, already releasing an album on experimental label Early Music. ‘Our first album was very conceptual – it was ten one-minute songs, designed to give you a full album experience in a concentrated burst. This time we really branched out – some songs are even over three minutes!’ smirks McGrath, adding ‘three minutes feels like some prog-rock epic to us’.

Beginning as a humble (but noisy) three piece, their ranks swelled to seven before settling into their current five member configuration. ‘We’ve always had guitar, bass and drums as the foundation, but now with Claire Leske on trumpet and Catherine James adding vocals, percussion and keyboard, it adds so much texture and variety to our sound’, says McGrath, ‘It allowed us to lean into our soul and r’n’b influences on this album’.

After initial sessions at Merloc Studios, the band’s drummer/renaissance man Darren Atkinson produced this new album, drawing on his years of experience with bands like The Ups & Downs and Big Heavy Stuff. ‘Darren is basically Oz Rock royalty, so we knew we were in safe hands. Darren drums but he also sings, so he is uniquely sensitive to both rhythm and melody – he had a lot of ideas for extra percussion and vocal harmonies that made us sound more polished than we actually are!’ says McGrath.

It was celebrated poet CJ Bowerbird (who contributed liner notes) who noticed that despite the upbeat tempos and sunny harmonies, the album possesses a darker undercurrent. ‘Yeah, trust a poet to zero in on the lyrics – I hadn’t even realised that myself until CJ pointed it out, but it’s true’, remarks McGrath. ‘There are several songs about mortality and the passing of time, not to mention a song called Take A Chance On Murder! Even our feel-good summer hit (and upcoming single) is called Summer Frownz, so I guess a melancholic thread is woven through the album’.

 The album’s high watermark is its final track, a Pogues-influenced ballad which builds to the repeated coda ‘If I’m going down, I’m going down swinging/And if I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die singing’. The song is gilded with swooping violin melodies, played by special guest Emma Kelly (aka Happy Axe). ‘It was a treat to have Emma on the record’ says bassist Kevin Lauro. ‘The clapping at the end of that song – it was actually the band spontaneously applauding Emma after she did her first take! We left the first take and the applause in’.

And finally, what’s with all the French, both the band name and the punny title of the new record, Beg For Merci Beaucoup? ‘I was going through a Francophile period when I started the band,’ explains McGrath, ‘watching Godard and listening to Gainsbourg, and their influence crept in. France and the French language is perceived by outsiders as very cool and sophisticated, which I thought would make a curious contrast with the hot-blooded rock’n’roll I wanted to make. Now it’s just part of the band identity – I plan to have a song sung in French on every release we do.’

Listen to Faux Faux Amis’ new album ‘Beg For Merci Beaucoup’ at or pick up a copy at their album launch November 19th at the Phoenix, supported by Hi New Low and Kilroy.


Photo by Adam Thomas

We were blessed to have new faves Kilroy, and Hi New Low support us – special thanks to Hi New Low who came up from Melbourne for the launch, bandleader Ramsay being ¼ of Fun Machine and one of my vocal inspirations (that’s me doing my best impersonation of him on Sno-Globe).


Suffice to say, I am incredibly proud of the record – the best sounding and most polished suite of my songs so far.  I have to single out the stellar artwork by Fiona McLeod – I asked Fiona to draw inspiration from the cover of one of my favourite albums, Love’s Forever Changes. As you can see, she knocked it out of the park – it was the final touch, the one that made it feel complete, like a real album to me. Front Cover - v1 copy.jpg

We were pleasantly shocked to find we made both BMA’s and 2XX’s year-end best-of-Canberra lists, for the songs The Last Hurrah, and Faux Amis respectively (both songs featuring uber-violinist Emma Kelly, perhaps not coincidentally).

Faux Faux Amis - Beg For Merci Beaucoup back cover updated

I am especially chuffed to see The Last Hurrah honoured, as the song has had a long gestation – the title and chorus lyric have been floating in my head for at least a decade. The song didn’t coalesce until I was writing tracks for my shelved musical L’Assassiner de Faux Faux Amis three years ago. The musical was as much about mortality as it was ‘murder’ per se, and in the show, The Last Hurrah fulfilled a similar role as on the album, an exultant and passionate finale, urging us all to not go gently against the dying of the light, to remember to find joy where we can, no matter how absurd and meaningless life can seem. It’s a rare ‘mature’ song from me, a resolutely playful artist – its execution and delivery on the album is everything I wanted it to be, and the reception to it has been extremely satisfying. It’s first public performance was at the launch, where we played the album in its entirety.

For 2018, we’ve been discussing some themed EPs – I look forward to getting stuck into those soon!

Babyfreeze launched their new EP Sometimes Leather back in November.

sometimes leather cover.jpg

Set to play at LoBrow, the venue sadly closed a week before our launch! After scrambling to find another venue, I had a ‘eureka!’ moment – what if we put on the gig ourselves, guerrilla-style? I’ve always wanted to do a guerrilla show like Hashemoto and The Cashews, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. We hired a generator, I brought my PA and the gig went ahead at Commonwealth Park amphitheatre (previously the location for this amazing video).

To be honest, I thought we might run into more issues, but the entire night went smoothly, both the acts and the audience galvanised by the clandestine novelty (I counted fifty punters). Listening to devdsp as the sun set over the lake was one of my musical highlights of the year.

Typically this is the point in the blog post where we’d breakdown the making of the EP, but that got its own one page splash in BMA!  

bma babyfreeze

Here’s the transcript:

BABYFREEZE have been making electro-waves across Canberra since 2008 (even fronting the cover of this esteemed publication in 2012). Despite that, they’ve only just dropped their second EP – the fantastic Sometimes Leather. We invited the core duo – Luke McGrath (L) and Nick Delatovic (N) – to do a track-by-track breakdown of its four songs.

Hound In A Collar 

LM: We recorded the EP in the spare bedroom of my house. All Nick’s vocals were recorded with my one year old daughter Violet at his feet – you can hear her banging percussion in the background of this track. It was in time so we left it in!

I wanted this song to sound like a party – my model was Swingin’ Medallion’s Double Shot Of My Baby’s Love. The most important thing you need for a party is PEOPLE and as such, it didn’t really come together until adding bass from Kevin Lauro, guitar from Fossil Rabbit, vocals from Lulu Tantrum, and congas, scratching, and rapping from Coolio Desgracias.

Fun fact: the synth solo is actually Nick’s voice run through a guitar amp and re-pitched.

ND: I’d been re-reading a lot of 80s X-Men comics by the famously perverted writer Chris Claremont. He constantly uses sexually-charged mind control scenarios and sub/dom imagery; it was all pretty formative on me as a kid. This song ended up a Submissive’s Anthem but a few of the specific lines are direct quotes from Storm and Wolverine. 

Luke’s track is mega bouncy and friendly so I wrote a vocal that deliberately didn’t match the chords or bass line, so it could only work as an obnoxious shout. 


LM: This is the song that kicked off the project – I had the high concept that the EP should be garage rock except played on electronic instruments. I wrote the riff on guitar then listened to a lot of Tobacco, and decided it needed to be pitch-bent synth. I wanted the verses to mirror the title so performed them in an out-of-breath full-on style. For me, being in a band is like being an actor – I love to play characters different to myself.

ND: Luke’s lead vocal turns are always the highlight of our live set. We knew this was a good track but the first time we played it live it was like we forgot we were even at a gig with a crowd – we both started pogoing around like we were alone in our bedrooms. This whole record has a level of self-indulgence that I really like.

Pussy Mad

LM: Nick came in and recorded the vocal with just single root bass notes as backing, allowing me to build the rest of the track around it, doing my best impression of Future Islands. Fossil Rabbit added the guitar which raises the anthem-ness to U2 levels.

ND: I wrote this song about four years ago, back when I had a lot less modelling for how to handle my non-monogamous wiring. It’s a 100% earnest, serious song about being trapped by your own limited vocabulary around sex and relationships. The word choice will be a dealbreaker for some, which is more than valid of course, but this record was the perfect place for it to finally land and I’m thrilled with it. 

No Solomon

LM: I got the title from watching Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship. Kate Beckinsdale describes a particularly dense character as being ‘no Solomon’. I thought that made a great opening line for a list-song, where we sing to an imagined ex-girlfriend and list all of the things her new boyfriend is NOT.

ND: The chorus is my favourite thing that I wrote for the record, it’s like a genderless sci-fi version of an Isaac Hayes ‘Lover Man’ thing. Which I’m sure will be the premise of a whole future Babyfreeze record one day. 

LM: The first and last sounds on the record are Coolio Desgracias scratching. This is not a coincidence.

To cap off a bumper year for Babyfreeze, Hound In A Collar was recently named ‘party track of the year’ in 2XX Local’n’Live’s top 20 songs of the year!

2018 is set to be even bigger – Nick and I are currently working on several Babyfreeze projects, including a Dead DJ Joke helmed EP, a Coolio Desgracias collaboration, and our first full length album, Disco Room.

I’ve been kept busy with some interesting video work of late, not least of which was the opportunity to edit Julia Johnson’s amazing debut video.

Julia shot it with my fellow EP-In-A-Day alum Shane Parsons, but with Shane’s hectic filming schedule and a release date looming, she asked me to try my hand at the edit. Unlike many filmmakers I’ve spoken with, I enjoy editing (far less stressful than filming!), and so was keen to be involved. Shane’s colours and compositions were a dream to work with, and Julia had a precise vision for the unfolding narrative which I did my best to execute.

Listening to it now, it’s strange and unworldly to my ears – the result of the footage being shot at 1.5x the normal speed of the song. Consequently, I spent hours listening to a sped-up-on-red-cordial-and-gummy-bears-version – that’s the version that sounds ‘normal’ to me!

Faux Faux Amis’ drummer Darren Atkinson is also a founding member of Oz-rock royalty The Ups & Downs. The Ups & Downs have re-formed after 30 years, garnering great reviews for their new album The Sky’s In Love With You, and prepping for an upcoming tour with The Sunnyboys. Darren hit me up to do a video for the band, for which I am now finalising the edit. However, late last year, their record label was undertaking the international launch of the album and was desperate for the band to have a video immediately.

In a moment of either inspiration or lunacy, Darren asked if I could re-work the video for Faux Faux Amis’ Holiday Inn into a video for The Ups & Downs’ new single True Love Waste. It is definitely the oddest video request I’ve ever received – and I’ve filmed Nick in a droog-fireman’s outfit rowing a boat

Firstly, I wasn’t sure if the rest of the Ups & Downs would be comfortable having a hand-me-down video. Darren assured me they were fine with it, and after I pondered it, I realised it presented a unique opportunity. It reminded me of when Brendan McCarthy re-coloured an issue of Paradax, calling it a remix – I treated this as the film equivalent of the same concept. Everyone knows how dramatically music can change the perception of visuals – there’s a whole subgenre of Youtube videos where trailers for horror movies have been remade as rom-coms, etc. heavily reliant on their altered musical cues. I was curious to see how the visuals of Holiday Inn would be perceived with a different score – I changed the colour grading, added different footage for the song’s breakdowns, and removed a couple of the sillier visual gags and graphics, but the majority of the edit remained the same. It works surprisingly well!

The second video I shot for The Ups & Downs should be released soon – it’s drastically different, literally an all-singing, all-dancing affair.

Lastly, here’s a sneak peak of the space odyssey I shot for Coolio & Housemouse’s brilliant song Infinite Pandits (that’s the ‘teaser’ above). More to come!

PANDITS - Coolio