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MUSIC

I approached Coolio Desgracias about doing a quick EP to keep busy in the first few weeks of lockdown. He jumped on the idea, suggesting we model it after Champion Sound – both of us working separately, spitting over each other’s beats. We immediately hooked in, a fun no-stress exercise smashing something out ahead of the long-gestating Northside Swag Unit EP (more on that next time!).

Needless to say, Coolio’s beats were awesome. For my production, I sent him a handful of beats with samples chopped from records from my last trip to Japan – consider it the latest Lion’s Mansion instalment – and some of my recent raids on new mecca Championship Vinyl. Coolio has an inherent distaste for ‘keyboard beats’ so I sent him my most Madlib-esque flips. Though my favourite track ended up being Nonsense Rhyme where I mixed 60s psychedelic rock with my own trap production, an arrangement idea I took from Pusha T’s Come Back Baby.

As a rapper, I knew I needed to put myself into a box. My rules for this project were 1. No standard hip-hop flexing, slang or ebonics, and 2. No stream of consciousness – every song had to have a story.

Firegolds, Part One is a 1920s mob vignette, about a young buck’s first day bootlegging and the bloody outcome – crime doesn’t pay, kids! The ‘part one’ is a nod to the fact the song abruptly ends at its most climatic moment. There’s definite flavours of A Prince Among Thieves, especially my roping in of Nick to play a between-verse radio announcer and Coolio to play a heavy!

Tierwater Blues saw me riffing on the first chapter of T.C. Boyle’s A Friend Of The Earth. I was so taken with the imagery and premise I started trying to turn it into a song before I finished the chapter. Consequently, both stories start in the same place and slowly deviate. The wizened voice I adopted was character-acting, reflective of Boyle’s aged, ornery protagonist. And yes trainspotters, that is an interpolation of Prince Far I’s classic Under Heavy Manners in the chorus!

Lone Wolf & Chill came about differently – I heard a flow before I had a concept. I quickly got it down on my phone, vocalising a mixture of nonsense words and broken Spanish. The Spanish felt natural as I was hearing an open vowel sound on the end of most of the lines. At first I thought I might even try writing the rhymes in Spanish, but when my thoughts turned to what other languages have similar phonotactics, Japanese came to mind. Pretty soon the couplet ‘Back in Edo / Ogami Itto’ came to me and the rest fell into place. I definitely would like to write more like this in future.

We both finished the tracks quite quickly – Coolio crushed it, listen to him go full Chali 2na on Get Your Boat On! – but getting the cover artwork delayed it somewhat. The first artist fell through and while I was organising a second one, I suggested we do one more track with both of us rapping on it to tie the project together. Day In, Day Out was the result – I provided the chop and Coolio provided that killer hook, which still gets routinely stuck in my head.

Day In Day Out was the only song to make reference to the lockdown – we saved the rest for the cover. I asked Gustavo to draw us as The Big Lebowski and Mad Max, a la:

I also suggested he draw us in the Fortress of Solitude, another reference to lockdown. And lastly, we called the EP ‘For The Good Of The Realm’:

I love Simon and this was such a free and easy project to do – can’t wait for the next one!

Nick and Chris Endrey are producing a podcast – 32 episodes and counting! – where they rank all ideas in human history. It’s ambitious and silly, a niche both have experience within. They composed the Rank Ideas theme in real time during an episode, immediately performing it acapella. Nick asked if I would like to take a stab at a fully realised version, their intention to eventually get multiple interpretations by some of their fave artists. Of course, I said yes.

The first challenge was figuring out what chords to lay underneath. I toyed with putting it to a minor key or doing a jazz take, with lots of ninths and suspended chords (I love Adam Neeley’s versions). But I realised I was getting ahead of myself. Any subversion first needs something to work against – you need the puntal before the contrapuntal.  As the first ‘proper’ version, this had to provide that baseline. Thus I went with some traditional pop, though I was pleased with throwing in that F#m7 on ‘sometimes commotion’.

After the chord progression, I needed to choose a genre or instrumentation. I had been wanting to experiment with a vocoder again and thought I would try it here. But again, I noticed I was taking a contrarian position, opting for something intentionally novel or strange, which – importantly – may not have been in service of the song. From that revelation, it was easy to work backwards to identify what I was opposing. In an effort perhaps to challenge myself, I was dismissing – before I think I had even consciously considered it – doing the most logical version, a take in the style I have played most in the last 20 years.

So I made a lo-fi, crunchy guitar, full-throated vocal take. It was fun – I don’t sing enough like that since Faux Faux Amis! The drums are based on what I would have done if I could record my kit – need to figure that out this year! – and there’s consequently more subtlety and variation in the patterns than I would have programmed pre-drum tutelage.

Nick and Chris begun including it from episode 25 – listen to the show here!

https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/25-inheritance/id1491060871?i=1000469673515

Canb 1LUKE: I certainly didn’t predict the popularity of Canbeurovision last year (who did?). All I knew was I hadn’t been performing much and this felt like a fun way to get back into it. Plus as one of Queanbeyan’s top three songwriters, I had to rep my hometown. I do recall Nick being skeptical when I first told him I was entering – though he came around quickly to help me with my entry – so it wasn’t without a smirk that I agreed to be involved in his bid this year.Canb2

The first thing to note is Nick’s song was brilliant – a hilarious, honest and hook-filled history of Braddon’s ongoing transformation. He gave me carte blanche with the arrangement, so I drew the chords into my DAW, then played around with different accompaniments. I started with one – the organ and shakers you hear on the bridge, my attempt at a Loaded vibe – and then I did another one… and another one… and another one. Pretty soon I had takes in styles including punk rock, techno, soulquarian, trap, and 70s piano ballad. The only one we didn’t use was a Pavement-does-reggae thing, which, you know, it’s time will come. It felt like developing Casio presets, though way more fun than that sounds.

Chris Finnigan and Nick came over and we had a fun session arranging it – I suggested it open with a tinny drum loop a la Stop Making Sense, which they both got excited about. That gave the whole performance somewhere to build, opening with just Nick, before me, then the dancers and lastly some tasty lashings of Fossil Rabbit.Canb5

I ended up doing all the backing track and the video, partly because I am bad at saying no, and partly because I really wanted to perform at the Playhouse and didn’t trust anyone else (maybe Lou is right?)

The video was a whole different beast – syncing superimposed text is not hard, but it’s mandrolic to put together. Still, if we were to have a video, it made the most sense. We knew a video would definitely up the slickness of the whole endeavour and set us apart – though Nick told me not too make it too slick lest we be seen as tall poppies (yes, we were very confident).

Video also allowed us to double down on a few gags but I mostly played it straight – it was a supplement and I didn’t want the audience distracted by it. Reuben’s footage of Braddon’s vacant lots, construction sites and pre-boom government flats added a poignant counterpoint to all the frivolity.

All my heavy-lifting was thus done before the performance, so I was left to be, well, ‘Handsome Luke’ onstage. Nick would welcome me on after the first verse, at which point I walked on and ‘cued’ the track from my laptop. I learnt enough of Zev and Nickamc’s choreography to chime in at key parts but mostly I did what I do at  Babyfreeze gigs, lip-syncing along with Nick with dramatic poses thrown in. The backing track was hardcoded into the video, but when I walked onstage with my laptop – strictly a prop – I freaked out Bevan who hadn’t factored it into the sound set-up. He told me afterwards, feigning a heart attack.

The night of the heat was great – Smiths was at capacity and I had to peer in through the door just to see the other acts. When I saw The Murray Darlings, I felt sure they had it in the bag – the song was catchy as, the costumes fabulous and they had a horn section. It was a scientifically engineered crowd-pleaser. I attribute the fact we WON our heat over them to fortuitously playing last and thus being at the forefront of voters’ minds.

I was excited to play the final as I have never performed on the Playhouse stage – a capacity Playhouse would also be the biggest crowd I’d have played for in some time. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I had a funeral to attend that day. Rather than cutting my bit, Nick got Sweaty Pits wunderkid Miriam Slater to play ‘Handsome Luke’ – proof that codifying my stage look down to a few irreducible elements has been successful! When I got to watch the performance later, I was blown away – they’re more Handsome Luke than me!Canb3

NICK: Me, I’m the one who predicted the popularity of Canbuerovision! Or more accurately just assumed it, as it’s the perfect trifecta of what gets Canberrans excited:

  1. Anything that makes art a competition
  2. Anything that allows Canberrans to talk about ourselves
  3. Anything with a generally Rock Eisteddfod-y ‘put-an-item-together’ vibe

As the Mean Average Canberran I am particularly susceptible to these vibes, but more importantly NO ONE was going to do a song about Braddon before me. I moved to the suburb in 2010, meaning my life here has tracked almost exactly to the gentrification cycle that has played out across the decade. As an arts producer who works in a gym and eats all his meals I am as culpable as any developer for what has been wrought here. If I was ever to be the Bard for a moment than now was the time.

You all know I love a restrictive songwriting brief. Writing a song about this specific a topic, with a huge singalong chorus and actually funny punchlines throughout, was either gonna expose the limits of my ability or be one of fastest songs to ever tumble out of me. I used The Violent Femmes as a reference for how to make extremely wordy pop songs that people will sing along every word to. As always I set myself the most restrictive rhyme scheme possible and that did most of the heavy lifting. My only songwriting tip ever is just BECOME A MACHINE THAT RHYMES.

After the black belt effort Luke put in on the track and the video it was gutting not to have him on stage with us for the final, but our performance squad did every perfect thing to help me live my Talent Show Dreams. The sold out crowd of 600 seemed to be made up of 10 Smiths audiences smooshed together, I’ve never felt such a home ground advantage. In the end we took third place behind the truly righteous Murray Darlings and the titanic West Belconnen team (check em out check em out check em out!). Judging by the type of people who came up to me at the after party, we were the favourite act among the bitter and disaffected. Which I will happily take.Canb4

LUKE: Nick came up with the idea of reinvigorating our old songs by producing EPs with different producers. It’s a ploy I toyed with for Faux Faux Amis that never got off the ground. I am always keen to hear how others interpret my music – I’m never more chuffed than when someone covers one of my songs. Moreover, some of these Babyfreeze songs date back to our inception, so I was pleased to give them a facelift.

I’ve been friends with Reuben a long time and shared many a stage, but never worked with him in a musical capacity. His alter-ego Dead DJ Joke is my favourite deejay to dance to, so I knew it was going to be heaps of fun. The choice of second producer furthered the entwining of Simon Millman and myself – I’ve now mixed and mastered songs for him, shot press photos and film clips, contributed guest verses to his Coolio Desgracias project and we are both founding members of the Northside Swag Unit (six track EP dropping soon!).  Oh, and he’s also my drum teacher!

We gave both Reuben and Simon a bunch of our old demos to sift through – each selected different tracks, with the exception of Interview. This song – one of mine – began life as a Cool Weapon demo (quick anecdote: the Modgeulator said that of all our sex-focussed material, this was the only one he ever felt the need to shut the door of his room for when working on it), and has been in Babyfreeze’s sets since our first gig. I was confident – rightly as you can hear – that both producers would bring something different to it. Simon latched on to its greasy essence while Reuben brought it into his shiny hi-tech world.

The whole thing was a blast, but some highlights for me are:

  • the horns on Water Is No Liar! Just perfection!
  • The Soulquarian vibe Simon brought to Ghost Breath
  • Fossil Rabbit’s Arabic guitar swells on Ghosts From The Ground
  • Everything about Tattoo Shop. What Reuben managed to do – turning it from Gun Club to S Club 7 played at double-speed – is nothing short of remarkable.

I’m happy Chris and Grahame got to feature on the EPs – my intention is to have them far more involved in the arranging and playing of the next album.

The EPs had a long gestation, partly because we weren’t in any rush, and then because of Nick and my general apathy towards arranging gigs (in this case, the EP launch). We’re happy to play at the drop of a hat, but no one starts a band because they love event management and logistics… I ended up curating and organising the event – another guerrilla gig at what we named ‘Commonwealth Park Stadium’ (not to be confused with Stage 88). It was a bitterly cold night, but we still got around 50 people attending, which is what I would have expected at Smiths. The other acts – MC Krewd, The Burley Griffin, Coolio Desgracias & Housemouse – were all brilliant and I can’t thank them enough.

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The covers were mostly my idea – I was sure I wanted them to feature myself and Nick with the producers. An early inspiration is this incredible Gravediggaz cover – I love its energy and how every person draws your eye.

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Though obviously the New Love Universe cover morphed into a direct homage, the most important factor of the In The Yurt cover was, well, the yurt – though I think the fonts are suggestive of the EP’s relative genre and intent. The Yurt cover was shot at local legend Jim Sharrock’s house, in the yurt he built in his backyard. Shooting up into the ceiling was my first idea but the initial shots were nothing special. We then spent an hour shooting in and around the yurt before revisiting the idea with Lou now manning the camera, and voila! That was our cover.

in the yurt cover

Listening back to both EPs, Simon’s radical re-workings – turning Autopilot from a Suicide blues to a laconic lounge groove, and use of a range of musicians on theremin, saxophone and more – contrasts heavily with Reuben’s shiny plastic 90s style. What’s clear though is that they are both auteurs, by which I mean they set out and delivered on a specific, unique vision. Utter triumph.

 

 

 

Late last year, independent media figurehead and Canberra luminary John Griffiths asked if I’d do a theme for a podcast based on the Winchester murder. John has been an advocate of my stuff for a minute, and I was chuffed he thought of me. The brief was lean – ‘something gloomy and late 80’s early 90’s sounding’ – and I turned it around in a day or so, built from the bassline out. It was a great experience – I’m comfortable with short songs, but 10-20 seconds is another level again, and it’s fun fitting a beginning, middle and end into such a bijou package.

 

 

The Winchester podcast is yet to be released, but when I saw John was doing Totally Tanked I offered my services. Again the brief was straightforward – ‘Boom! Crash! Aargh! Oh My God The Tank is on fire! Zoom!’ – and I decided on a full 180 from the contemplative instrumentation of the last one and to go full-on punk rock with it. The drums are programmed – I haven’t got an easy way to record my own drums yet – but draw on all my live experience this year. Listen here! And hit me up if you’ve a podcast in need of a theme!

 

 

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After years of doing bands that are really performance art troupes and wrestling classes that are really theatre shows and music videos that are really short films about mortality, I’ve kind of forgotten how to do things with some ordeal-based high concept-y structure. How to do this just cause. So now have a band that’s just a band again, and it’s very slow going to get it all off the ground properly, because I’m still remembering that you can just book gigs to book gigs and play songs just to play songs. This isn’t self-deprecation though, the new band rules.

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I’d always wanted to play at the National Folk Festival (after seeing so many of my friends play really special sets there) but I’d never had a band that was in the right genre pocket. So I applied with the country-fied recordings I did for the second of my EP-In-A-Days and lied that I had a band to play them with,  Once they’d accepted me I had proper artist fees to offer I was able to ask my dream line-up of musicians to join me there for the weekend.

The nucleus of the line-up was Jacq Bradley and Matt Nightingale, a multi-instrumentalist couple who normally play in about six different bands across that festival. Jacq and Matt both embody the stereotype of the calm collected accompanist-who-is-really-the-stealth-bandleader. They have acres of song sense, tons of good humour and throats full of aching beauty. Perfect foils for my melodramatic, fidgety, over-syllable’d, hammy energy. Completing the line-up was the rhythm section from PROM, Sam McNair and Matt Lustri- I was only able to let that band finish up because I already had plans to rope them into this. It was great to let Matt play his actual main instrument of guitar again after nudging him into that two-year side session as a bass player.

I treated the National as Glam Country fantasy camp. We worked up a set of any and all of my songs that could even half-work as country, which included some songs of mine I’ve always really dug and never really got to play live. We played three sets across the weekend and it was everything I had hoped for. I wasn’t planning to push my luck more than that, but to my delight the others all expressed that we should play more gigs.

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My delight and my terror, as my gig-booking fitness has atrophied and the realities of juggling schedules with a bunch of other 30-somethings are stark. But also I’ve been writing Americana-ish ballads and stompers for as long as I’ve been writing and it’s such an indulgent joy to finally get to play them live as one set (turns out I have more upbeat songs about death than even thought I had). Crowd response has been really good and playing with humans like these is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I’ll probably deal with my angst around it all by writing a four-chord song about it, one ready-made for sick harmonies.

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Photos by Adam Thomas

Lincolns Revival

Quoted From The Facebook Wall Of Nick McCorriston:

‘So I got to know the lads from The Missing Lincolns way back in 2004, through some sort of contact with Dahahoo and a gig they played at The Ground Floor, a pretty gross little dive bar in the heart of Belconnen, now occupied by a Club Lime.

A bunch of us from our little theatre crowd got way into them, I remember myself, MaxJoel and Hadley romping around to their garage punk ditties often, and they had this swagger and confidence to them that was intimidating.

I pored over a 2 track single they put out, Heavyweight Crown backed with Her Alibi, a preview of an unreleased album recorded in Melbourne. After they put out their Righteous Noise opus, they added a second disc with these sessions, called Deliver Us, and as much as the rest of the band will disagree, this is my fave Lincolns material, the cheeky, innocent, wide-eyed Lincolns that I saw live so many times.

When I returned to Canberra in 2015, I got an invite to play bass for one of my favourite Canberra bands ever. I’m a terrible bass player, I have trouble with repetition and I lose my place often, so short rock songs suit me the best, and we’ve got that in spades with all this new(er) material. These songs have been on the shelf for more than 10 years at this point, and I’m really happy to be rocking up to Smith’s Alternative on Friday to play this stuff with some of the best guys I’ve known. check it right here: Missing Lincolns- the Lost Album Live

Cuz when I’m with you I feel like a million bucks.’

Quoted from the Facebook Wall of Luke McGrath:

‘Nick, Chris and I started this band in what, 2002?? 2003? In any case, it’s been a minute, and we are all still best friends which is crazy and beautiful. The first ‘album’ (a bunch of demos really) we recorded was done in Nick’s folks’ living room in Palmerston. It took us three or four Sundays (back then we practiced every Sunday for a few hours, always broken up by a trip to the Gunghalin KFC). I remember being so incredibly proud of those recordings – that shit bumped!

Then we won a Coca-Cola band competition and got to support Magic Dirt at EPIC, which was epic! It was at that show we met our first manager, who paid for us all to go down to Melbourne and record for a week in a proper studio! That was insane – Chris borrowed a kit from the guy from The Living End, I got to play a dozen different guitars including my still favourite, the Starcaster, and we got used to studio life which was mostly sitting around cracking jokes and reading Vice magazine. We made a couple of videos for it and got played on Rage back to back with The Arctic Monkeys two weeks in a row!

The rest of those recordings ended up shelved for a while until we recorded our second album with Sam King! Sam wasn’t yet the studio-owning recording tycoon he became – we recorded the album in a kind of annex of his folks’ house. Whereas our previous recordings had been just us, we decided to throw the kitchen sink at this one – we had strings, horns, organ, you name it! For a band that didn’t have a bass player, four people played bass(!) on that album! It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever done, the songs and production are crazy good. We somehow got a song on the cover cd of Australian Guitar Magazine (the song ‘Guitar Fighter’, natch). We released this album with a bonus disc containing the songs we recorded in Melbourne – a double album!

So while we had three albums of recorded material, we were known around town as ‘the band with 100 songs’. Which was true, Nick and I were prolific (still are!). We had earmarked a bunch of those for our next album, but never got around to recording it. I moved away for a few years (Cairns and Edinburgh) and then Chris did the same (Brisbane) – Nick stayed in Canberra, concentrating his power and becoming a doyen of the arts scene.

We’d always planned to record more of those 100 songs – we even earmarked a dozen or so for another album – but got distracted with a zillion other fun and shiny things…

UNTIL NOW. We are going to record our third ‘lost’ album live in less than a week – it feels kinda wild and historic, which it is.’

 

Lincolns Gig 3

Quoted From The Facebook Wall Of Nick Delatovic:

‘I have a deep-set hatred of nostalgia, which makes me act weird sometimes. When I had the idea for this show I was conceiving it as a way to declare that the best of The Missing Lincolns is still to come, and I know that it is. I was dumbly unprepared for the outpouring of people’s memories from the past 18-and-a-bit years of the band, and their words about the part we might have played in a chunk of their lives. It’s not a comfortable thing for me to reckon with all that time, and it’s a weird thing to have spent the week rehearsing songs with lyrics written by a much younger Nick, who was both more afraid and more sure about everything than me. But it’s been a good reminder for me that I’ve had the joy of getting to make the exact art that I want, with the best people in the world, for years and years and years now. And that I should relax and notice everything that I have more often. Like maybe tonight. When it’s being recorded for posterity. Lol.’

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Photos by Tiffany Gleeson

 

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It’s usually safe to assume that your art has no real impact on the world around you. Babyfreeze’s obsession with high-concept gigs, like the arctic pajama party that we held in the Commonwealth Park Amphitheatre to launch our two new records (separate post coming about those) are done as our own selfish attempt to make sense of the universe and are best treated as such.

(Pajama party photos by Adam Thomas)

That said, just as we were hitting the limits of WeirdSpace GigShapes that our own brains and the town around us could offer, The Bubble was erected for a series of events in Haig park across the Spring. Artists were invited to Submit to The Bubble in all senses of the word. Really, how are we to take this other than as the inevitable physical reaction to what Babyfreeze has been putting into the universe?

Anyway, enjoy these shots of the Babyfreeze Electropunk Wellness Club, taken by Zev.

My big resolution for 2019 was to sing more. That must be pretty comical to my friends and loved ones as I’m sure that from their perspective I never bloody stop. But working as the ‘Company Singer’ on the Sound and Fury Tour drove home for me that singing is the most purely enjoyable thing that I do, and also that singing ‘standards’ can be every bit as fun as creatively challenging as singing my own stuff.

Matt Lustri is the only musician that I’ve played in as many different projects with as I have with Luke. Matt is a proper virtuosic musician and has objectively the best attitude, particularly when it comes to engaging with music that’s new to him. Introducing Matt to genres he doesn’t know is just the best thing, he’s always so ready to love things and to indulge two-hour YouTube trawls. Plus he absorbs and takes command of the technical aspects of playing different genres so quickly, like disgustingly quickly.

You won’t believe that it was actually Matt’s idea for us to do an act where we play songs from musicals, even I don’t believe that it wasn’t my idea. He floated it way back when PROM was rehearsing our final gig, and I wouldn’t stop singing broadway numbers in every spare second. At the time I laughed it off, probably daunted by the idea of covering songs that were written for full orchestras and the greatest singers of the 20th century.

But now that we’re just doing it the one-guitar-and-two-voices vibe is weirdly what’s making it work (at least for me and the tiny but vocally appreciative audiences of the Smiths Varietals). Reducing these big dramatic numbers down to the lyrics, the chords and my awkwardly over-detailed explanation of their original context kind of creates the gig equivalent of the aforementioned loungeroom YouTube party. Like Matt and I are your two friends excitedly taking you through a playlist of their favourite songs from musicals, without having checked if you’re actually up for that.

As a fiend for dense lyrical conceits I’ve pushed us towards of lot of words-y numbers, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of picking songs that sell their brilliance in stripped-down form. Musicals from the 30s to the 70s is the bit, which creates the inherent challenge of picking songs that playfully highlight the absurdity of 20th century social values but not the ones that are just gonna straight up distress the audience. So plenty of Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair but less of the Bless Your Beautiful Hide.

 

 

It’s close to a year since I started drumming. I’m happy to say I love it now more than ever. I still have weekly lessons with Sensei Simon, and the songs I have been writing for Lulu and the Tantrums, and now The Ill Feathers – my funk duo with Fossil Rabbit, push me to play increasingly challenging parts.

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For me, guitar is a means to an end – I learnt guitar so I could write songs, not because I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix. But drums is the first instrument I’ve ever wanted to be good at. Drums is the instrument that’s made me want to study the greats and see how they approached it, their techniques and idiosyncrasies. I am a drum nerd now! I want to talk about Gadson’s right hand, or Stubblefield’s left, about how Bill Ward’s jazz background informed the heavy grooves he brought to Black Sabbath. Hell, can we just talk about triplets – like, how good are triplets??? And where else can I put them?

Developing the small muscles used in drumming – wrists and ankles – takes time and discipline. I have some stamina and coordination now but it’s like going to the gym – you won’t see results overnight, or in a week or month. You gotta keep showing up, doing your reps, and from time to time you can look back and see the progress you’ve made. There are things I attempted to learn when I first set out and found inconceivable – now I can do them!

But drums are humbling, and this desire to try something I have no immediate aptitude for, to go into it knowing how long it might take, well, Nick has plenty of things to say about that kinda quest in Single Leg, too.

I have the same goal as when I started – to be Russell Simins, and bring hard-hitting soul and funk beats into a garage rock context. But as I progress, I hope to build enough vocabulary to play along to most things. Drums is not an instrument people learn so they can just play alone – it’s communal, and largely only makes sense when accompanying others. Being a hired gun and playing in someone else’s band is a milestone I want to achieve, but unlike most, it’s not my primary motivation.

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Instead, while Nick’s talked about his increasing willingness to delegate and collaborate – some unnameable drive keeps pushing me in the other direction. Others – Lou, for instance – have suggested it’s the pursuit of complete creative control. But the more I reflect on it, I think it comes from a different place. I think learning drums is part of my yen to understand popular music from the inside out. I am obsessed with the nuts and bolts of creative practice, I enjoy learning how things are made, frequently as much as I enjoy the finished product. I love ‘inside baseball’ – I’ve read nearly every interview on The Paris Review, listened to every Song Exploder – but you never truly know something until you do it. And done remains the engine of more.

I figure it’ll take two more years to feel comfortable. I tend to do these autodidactic sprints in three year bursts – screenwriting, film directing and editing, music production, you could even consider Faux Faux Amis to be one as well, a challenge to myself to be perform lead vocals and guitar in a quote unquote proper rock band. At some point I reach a stage I’m happy with, and then find myself hooking into something else with the same slavish devotion. But I have a feeling I will be working on (and loving) the drums for some time.

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And clock the bass drum! It’s not Purdie’s banners, but it’s a nice flourish. I know from Chris Gleeson – one of my oldest friends and musical collaborators – that being a drummer frequently means not rating a mention in a review or being obscured by everyone else in a gig photo, so I guess in this way at least my trap set will get noticed! The image is by the brilliant pop-culture-obsessed Jess Dudfield – I asked her to do a stylised cartoon version of the cover of Faux Faux Amis’ X. A sloth in a bowtie – slow but fancy – speaks to me a lot!

Photos by Louise McGrath.