I woke early this morning, high from a fantastic gig at Art Not Apart with Babyfreeze. I wanted to make something – it ended up being this mash-up of Arctic Monkeys and Dua Lipa.

Dua Lipa has been on repeat recently in our household (especially the sublime clip for IDGAF). Combine the mutual text-speak titles with the fact Dua recently covered Do I Wanna Know?, and this one is a no-brainer.


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 


qantas-club-broomeNick previously documented the genesis of the Northside Swag Unit. After that, we cut one amazing song, which we perform at Coolio & Housemouse shows whenever we’re all together. While we’ve talked about doing more, it’s taken until this year before those plans solidified. 

Alongside the mainstays (myself, Nick, Matt and Simon), we’ve brought Evan Buckley (aka The One Inch Grinch) and Liam White (Ghostnoises) to the fold. Work has begun on an EP – I’m especially excited as we’ve split production duties between myself and Simon/Coolio – both of us have contributed three tracks.  

A majority of rap lyrics are the same interchangeable riffs on braggadocio, crime and wealth (no shade, but you can drop any Migos verse into any other of their tracks and nobody would notice) – in contrast, Coolio and Housemouse write complete songs, with inventive themes that match their musical backing. Their rhymes still frequently sound like stream-of-consciousness and go off on fun tangents, but they keep to a topic close enough that that’s how I remember them – The Space One, or The 80s One, for instance. It gives a focus and a cohesiveness to their material that I don’t hear often in other hip-hops acts. With up to six emcees on any NSU track, the potential for songs to get disjointed is high. We’re going to cleave tightly to this model and have already agreed on themes for each of our tracks.

Nick came up with one of those themes – he coined the term Zonin’, which means to travel on a budget, but to do so with swagger and style. It’s a perfect jumping-off point – broad enough for each emcee to put their own spin on it, but focussed enough that the track will hold together. It’s The Travel One – we have The Heist One, The Diss One, and others in the frame.

The plan now is to reconvene for a lyric-writing session, where we all sit in the room, put the tracks on loop and write our rhymes together. As someone that likes to be prepared as much as possible beforehand this is going to be an interesting (read nerve-wracking) challenge.

It’s also been a challenge to not to work on any rhymes beforehand. In fact, I found myself coming up with ideas for Zonin’ driving home the other night. An opening four bars soon turned into a full verse and then another. Determined to write all my material fresh in the room for the EP, I hit on a novel idea – what if I took these rhymes and made them into their own track? I essentially created a remix to a song that does not yet exist. Have a listen below – additional bass and vocals by ‘Killer’ Kev Lauro.

For fans of Ill Communication and Bug Powder Dust (I didn’t help myself by sampling Reef, but my stuff always comes out sounding like the nineties!).

crackenback 1

I started this website to document ‘process’, but my efforts have been slipshod this year. It’s partly that I’ve been doing a bit less (certainly less directing), partly that many projects are stretching out over many months (such as the pending Faux Faux Amis album; I mostly write following a project’s completion – maybe I need to write more during), and partly the reduced time available to a new father.   

But sometimes I just plain forget to write about something. To be honest, I thought this video might never be released – Lou and I filmed it on 17 January 2016, and it didn’t drop until 16 months later, on 18 May 2017. Looking at those dates, perhaps it’s oddly fitting I’m writing about it five months later.  

Emma approached me with the concept – the band performing while a forest is painted behind them, before the band is covered in orange paint. I took that concept away and fleshed out a treatment, including the idea of the band ‘disappearing’ into the painting by the end, and filming in an actual forest.

crackenback 4We were fortunate to film at Gorman Art Centre – their kitchen, in fact – and just down the hall from Tara Bromham’s studio (who alongside Pocket Fox’s Nicola Menser Hearn was responsible for the amazing painting). Emma and Luci are both great on camera and alongside the steady stream of extras that rocked up (everyone’s favourite being Ted Conrick’s talented dog), the one-day shoot was a breeze. I need to single out the catering provided by the band – Turkish pizza in a range of vegetarian options – which has set the bar hopelessly high for all subsequent shoots.

crackenback 5

crackenback 3

Despite the many hats Lou wears on a film shoot – from gear wrangler to producer to camera operator to impromptu extra – she often laments she feels like a third-wheel on set. I imagine getting to fling orange-dyed yoghurt at the talent was both a rewarding and cathartic experience – only bettered if she could have thrown it at me as well (I read this sentence to her and she said, ‘that was my favourite shoot ever’).

crackenback 7

I think we really stepped up our colour palette game on this one – the strong orange and white, against the browns and greens of both the forest and the painting – even the pre-painted canvas is a perfect shade of wholemeal. It’s remarkably consistent and allows the other small bursts of colour to really pop.

crackenback 2

The merging of real and ‘created’ spaces, the crossing over of real and fictional worlds – such as the band disappearing into the painting, and slowly having the ‘worlds’ bleed together, like when the band’s instruments are replaced by branches and acorns – is a (sometimes unconscious) preoccupation of mine.

crackenback 6

I’ve written about this kind of thing before, but just realised I’ve also employed a similar conceit in an upcoming video for Oz-rock royalty The Ups & Downs. In that video, a group of dancers and the band similarly merge piece-by-piece into a cohesive unit, the whole scenario revealed to be warring factions inside the lead singer’s mind. Why I enjoy playing in this realm so much is a question for another time.

crackenback 8This is the second video I’ve done with Luci – we also filmed a video for Pocket Fox’s Cigarette, which is yet to be released. That video is my favourite film clip I’ve shot so far and vastly different in style to anything else I’ve done – hopefully I can write more about it soon!

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.45.03 PM

I spent September visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, Osaka, Hiroshima and the Okinawa Islands. It was an incredible experience, made all the better sharing it with my wife, and daughter Violet (this was the 19 month old globetrotter’s second overseas jaunt). Violet’s presence necessitated a different mode of travel than Lou and I have previously undertaken – the most significant change was getting back to our accommodation for her 7pm bedtime each night. Consequently, we didn’t see much Japanese nightlife. The upside was a month of evenings with no plans or obligations – I used them to level-up my beat-making and sampling skills.

 Inspired by spending time with Coolio Desgracias, I had started dabbling with sampling again but the early results were hit-and-miss. I’d send the better ones through to Coolio to get his thoughts, and encouraged by his response, kept going. In hindsight, I was unnecessarily timid about it, making it harder for myself than needed – feeling the need to chop up the samples into unrecognisable portions, or over-egging things with extra instrumentation and effects.  

Part of this is a hang-up about ego – that if I didn’t substantially alter or embellish the samples, then I wasn’t really ‘creating’ anything. I needed to realise the obvious – that the most important thing was the song, not how easy or hard it was to arrive at it, or what self-imposed rules had been applied. The listener does not give a shit about process – either it sounds good or it doesn’t. Listening to the And The Writer Is… podcast further rammed this point home – modern pop songs have dozens of writers credited, and these songwriters are unfazed about sharing authorship, no matter who wrote what.

20170906_183325Coolio again is a huge inspiration – he is one of the most gifted multi-instrumentalists I know, capable of writing and playing anything. If he wanted, he could fill every corner of a song with filigree and detail. And yet his songs are masterclasses in taste and restraint (and of course, all the more impactful because of it). My love for his work is evident, and talking to him about some of his heroes (Madlib, Dilla, MF DOOM) gave me new avenues to explore.

I spent lots of these September nights studying. It would have taken me years to learn any of this before the internet, but now I have access to the very best 24/7. I ran songs through, analysing how they were put together and how the samples were treated.  I watched Marley Marl recreate the beat to LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out and added his tips to my arsenal. Seeing 9th Wonder and Just Blaze chop up then replay samples was revelatory.  Once you get out from under your ego and see yourself in collaboration with the samples’ original writers, then you are free to use whatever you want, however you want. The irony is the tracks I subsequently made were more creative (and often more personal) as a result.

20170909_173728My initial idea was to challenge myself to make beats from a handful of songs already in an old playlist on my laptop. It was mostly strains of garage rock – Thee Headcoatees, The Fall, Patti Smith, The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – and a smattering of 90s alt-rock, like Cornershop and Kula Shaker. This was a great starting point – trying to identify worthwhile potential loops was good ear training, and attempting to seamlessly loop portions bedded down a solid workflow that’s now the basis for my sampling practice. Some of these loops were fun but I was finding it hard to tell if they could carry a whole song, or if rapping would even work over the top. I started adding rap acapellas over the top, essentially bridging the gap between my two favourite deejays – making beats like Coolio and turning them into mashups like Dead DJ Joke.  The first one I tried – the acapella for the Beastie Boys Intergalactic over a chopped up sample from Cornershop’s Who Fingered Rock’N’Roll? worked so perfectly, I used it as a template for the rest. 20170918_163302

One of the unexpected highlights of Japan was the sensational record stores. I’ve visited record stores everywhere from Reykjavik to Christchurch – most are in hipper areas of a city, often away from the typical tourist traps, so they’re a great way to explore a city. The stores in Japan were sensational – particular highlights were the four(!) floors of Disk Union in Shibuya (each dedicated to a different genre), Dumb Records in Hiroshima (specialising in punk and which had a bar inside the store), and Prototype in Kyoto (no bigger than a living room, but the only one I made two trips to, and the one I bought the most vinyl at!). I ended up buying 16 records, spanning 80s hip-hop, 70s Japanese film scores and 60s Brazilian rock. I took down the names of many more records and would investigate them at night, spiralling down Youtube rabbit-holes. After I had exhausted the songs on my laptop,  these listening sessions provided plenty of source material for the rest of my experiments. 20170918_162640

If I was to have a ‘sound’, I wanted it reflective of my love affair with garage rock and 60s pop – so I flipped songs by The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Standells, The Shangri-Las, and the aforementioned Headcoatees, among others. But part of what I love about sampling is the raw luck and happenstance that is integral to the process – the unforced way you can stumble across the right song at the right time. Time and again, I would just seem to find the perfect complement (be it the underlying sample or the acapella), and then not be able to imagine it any other way.

Which is not to say that each track arrived fully formed – some took days of persistence and trial-and-error to get right (these ones sound the most effortless to me now). Each sample called for its own process – some are a just a single loop, others are multiple layers, yet others are chopped up and re-arranged entirely. Some are layered with classic breakbeats, but I programmed my own drums for many – I’m particularly proud of the drums on Jermaine’s Out Tonight,  which I drummed in with my fingers and then treated with compression and reverb until it sounded like a classic breakbeat (the best of both worlds). Most are re-timed and/or re-pitched. 20170906_183009

I kept each song to a little over a minute long, and capped it at eleven tracks. Each has something of an intro and an outro – an indication of the potential of a full version. I called the resulting compilation Lion’s Mansion Beat Tape, a reference to the name of the first apartment building we stayed at in Tokyo. The phrase ‘Lion’s Mansion’ seemed beautiful and poetic to me (especially compared to the pedestrian ‘lion’s den’), a perfect example of how things change ever-so-slightly across cultures. It evokes how sampling takes an original song and switches it up. 20170912_082820

I shared them with the Northside Swag Unit (more on the Unit next time), and we’ve picked out one to rap over for our upcoming EP (with several others flagged for late use). I can’t wait to hear how it gets transformed again. 

I’m now creating a companion beat tape, sampling only the vinyl I bought while in Japan (as Nick pointed out, this would be more of a challenge if I hadn’t purchased so many records!). Still, work on Return To Lion’s Mansion has begun!

Listen to Lion’s Mansion Beat Tape here.