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NICK

Nicky DI

So I long ago gave up on the idea that I was ever gonna learn to play an instrument properly. I’ve gotten a good singing voice together through pure attrition, and collaboration and co-writing is my whole thing anyway, plus I’m lazy and I don’t care who knows.

But like I’m still hammy enough to want to do solo sets sometimes, and I get asked to sometimes. So that’s been a thing to work out.

The This Band Will Self-Destruct songs are maybe my favorite I’ve ever written (along with my co-writers of course) but the militancy of the band-that-only-exists-for-a-day format posed the question of how I’ll ever get to sing them live.

Cut to- Me on stage at the Phoenix, singing along to backing tracks on my phone that are just the live Self-Destruct tracks with my vocals removed to as much of a degree as Sam ‘producer of modern music’ King could remove them.

The Blade Winner was the first artist I saw do the Yes-I’m-Just-Singing-Along-To-My-Phone-And-BTW-You-Love-It thing. He’s since moved on to actual live instruments like an idiot, so I feel even less bad for biting his style. My girlfriend Adelaide helped me come up with the stage name Nicky DI, I know you don’t care but names are very important to me.

God knows how well it works, but’s it’s a Sometimes Food that you’re all have to swallow from now.

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Superior Man 3

YOU: Hey Nick, I hear you’re been cast in Chenoeh Miller‘s new show?

ME: Yeah, I mean (sigh) I always just say yes to Cheneoh’s shows sight unseen, ’cause it’s just always a great out-of-the-comfort-zone time. But I think I fucked up with this one. Apparently it’s about Men and Masculinity and How To Be A Good Man and it wants to provide a voice for Good Men and oh fuck what a boring awful idea and I don’t wanna doooo it!

(3 months later)

YOU: So how did the development week go on Superior Man?

ME: I mean, selfishly I had a great time. The cast is 100% people I’ve wanted to work with on a bigger project. We all gelled big time. Like with all Chenoeh’s stuff I was pushed way out on a limb in a way that I really value and enjoy. The usual focus on physical ordeal, duration, repetition and person-to-person intimacy. And look even though I’m still in my wanky space of not feeling like category:man is the right way to explain anything about my personal experiences I realise now that I am perceived as a man by others and that that creates phenomena that’s worth talking about. But I still worry that we’re gonna fall into obvious traps of gender essentialism and false equivalency and just plain being boring and pointless.

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(Two months later)

YOU: So how’s rehearsal week going?

ME: I mean, Chen has done so much patient work in addressing our concerns and I realise now that it’s first and foremost a Chenoeh Show. You know, non-literal and imagery-based, and fundamentally from her creative point of view. Hopefully not non-literal in a cop-out say-nothing way, but I feel like Chen’s always balanced that well in the past so I’m just being precious. There’s a lot of meta stuff in the show now, like our actual concerns and worries about how to do the show is in the text. If that’s a cop-out it’s one that’s gotten me over the line in terms of being comfortable with my involvement in the show. I definitely feel like I can invite people now. If they hate it or they’re bored by it then that’s okay, as long as they see that we get their concerns.

(One week later)

YOU: How did stuff go with the show? Sorry I didn’t make it, house-hunting stuff has been a nightmare! This is why people give up on renting!

ME: Oh no sweat, we had good turn-out. Yeah like it went well. Intense. It’s a Feelings-Heavy show. But the audiences were lovely. Lots of positive feedback, and the critiques and reviews all engaged with it really generously on it’s own terms. I mean at best we offered the obvious message that Ideas Of Manhood Are Both Damaging And Alluring. I doubt that was a huge revelation for many. But a lot of people seemed to key in to us specifically as individual performers, which at least alleviated my panic about whether we would be seen as trying to represent all men. Look we were a bunch of middle-class Canberrans performing for same so take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt. It was a very selfish show for me, it was really about getting to work with Chen and the cast.

Erica Fields’ unfailing rigour and intelligence.

Raoul Cramers’ honesty and skill.

Chris Endrey’s trust and versatility.

Oliver Levi Malouf’s sheer craft and sense of perspective.

And as always, Chenoeh Miller’s pure command of form.

Sorry, I broke my little literary conceit there.

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Aero2 28

2 years since the inaugural Cell Block 69 Dance-Off. 1 year since Luke and I were roped in to being part of Catherine ‘Benevolent Tyrant of Dance’ James’ winning team, Mergers and Acquisitions. 3 months since Catherine split us into two separate teams, Mergers AND Acquisitions, as part of her escalating philosophy of ruthless Dance-Off Dominance. The 1 time per year when Luke and I are most happy to be mere cogs in the creative war machine servicing someone else’s agenda. As well as the greater agenda of John Farnham and Robert Palmer.

 

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The notorious enabling force that is the You Are Here festival  has lead Claire ‘Tour De Force’ Granata and I to formalise Total Spray as an ongoing theatre company and take our 3-hour telethon of physical ordeal to festivals around the country. Our first stop was Bondi Feast, where they set us up in the ballroom at Bondi Pavillion. The fact that said ballroom routinely hosts actual aerobics classes led to a very specific, almost unsettling version of engagement from the local crowd. Hopefully we repaid their enthusiasm and endurance with a truly holistic wellness(tm) experience. Next Stop- Crack Theatre Festival!

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Maybe you’ve never put any thought into how PROM might end. Maybe you don’t get sucked into the various bullshit narratives around the breakup of bands. But I dare say if you thought about it it would occur to you that a band as snottily meta and story-world-y as PROM would probably rent a theatre and present their last gig as the culmination of a seven-year-long live indie-pop genre show.

If cooler heads (read: Julia) hadn’t prevailed I would have tried to smoosh everything the band was into one show- the initial apocalyptic-horror stuff, the half-assed deconstruction of the nature of pub gigs, the audience choreography. For Jules the simple heart of the band, the main thing all along, was that we are Playing Our Own High School Prom. Every gig we’ve ever done has been about refusing to graduate, whether by choosing oblivion instead or just wallowing in a loop of pop-music arrested development.  Anyone who isn’t an idiot like me would have known that we were heading for a Final Actual Graduation all along.

In a way it was still a Greatest Hits show. Joel Barcham MC’d in his SOCE Teacher persona one last time (he finally got a name- Mr Harold), augmented and elevated by Claire Granata as the authoritarian principal Ms Bizcut. Julia basically created a complete theatrical set from $80 of materials, just like always. Chris broke a guitar string two songs in and still played spectacularly, as if to prove that he is utterly irreplaceable (yes he’s moving to Scotland that’s what’s actually happening here). We picked a couple from the crowd and crowned them PROM King and Queen and made them slow-dance awkwardly, casting a comical frame over the what is actually one of my most earnestly-written songs (Run To The Love). Dead DJ Joke played a set either side and is the best DJ in the world of course. We did all the most PROM things.

I couldn’t even to begin to wrap my head around the fact that this was the last time I’d be doing these songs with these people, with Matt, Sam, Julia and Chris. Or the fact that Mel, my dear dear friend who the whole band began with wasn’t there (I mean she was in Brisbane where she lives now so odds are she was having a good time that night regardless, Brisbane is very good).  The crowd came in force and in costume but with the various jokes flying around the stage and the detention essays Ms Bizcut was forcing them to write it’s likely they didn’t spot just how nakedly emotional I was at my inability to square exactly how to most correctly think or feel. Which reminded me more if my actual high school graduation than anything else possibly could.

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We played Cost In Lives last and the chorus high note that has been the bane of my existence for seven years came out as easy as sighing. Thank you to all of you who made this band what it’s been to me.

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Photos by Adam Thomas

LGL 2NICK: Of my 9 nerdy obsessions Songs Lyrics and The Writing Thereof are possibly number 1. Of the 6 things I hate most about modern journalism, the fact that you no-one is doing techy-craft based analysis of the Words Bit of songs is definitely number 1. Canberra has an embarrassing surplus of world-class lyricists, a hip indie writers festival that specializes in panel-y discussion-y events, and 1 arrogant dickhead who thought he would be the best person to present said world-class lyricists to an audience, despite having no experience with interviewing at all.

If the two-night event went well at all it was because of my Rogues Gallery of Guest: Damien Flanagan and Bec Taylor from Hashemoto, Luciana Harrison from Pocket Fox, Sam Seb and Cathy from Burrows and indeed the co-parent of this very blog Luke McGrath!

LGL 5

I was spoiled to have such a diverse range of writing styles to pick apart, from the finely-wrought images of a Damo to the wry darkness of a Luch, to the haunted playfulness of a Cathy, to the anti-narrative embrace of pure sound that you get with a Seb. Each discussion was peppered with performances of songs, and I nudged the artists to find unusual ways to perform them in the hopes that the audience would approach them as products of craft and thought. Burrows swapped each others’ usual lead vocals around, Damo took us through a song that wasn’t finished yet and Luch stripped her songs right back from Pocket Fox’s normal 8-piece arrangements. I was most excited for what we did with Luke’s interview. We sourced a bunch of our favorite performers to do solo renditions of Luke’s songs while he sat in his chair and listened. The most amazing thing about Luke as a writer is the sheer breadth, diversity and quality of the songs he’s written, there’s no way to wrap your head around it by seeing just one of his bands. It was great to at least attempt to present him to an audience in a way that drives home how unique he is.

LGL 9As an interviewer I was just about passable. Luckily my guest were on-point and articulate because I was perfect storm of rookie mistakes- rambly questions, closed questions, reductive binary questions, the works. I didn’t frame the genius of the participating artists to the extent that I hoped, but they did a very fine job of framing it themselves. As I might have guessed, the best moments were the ones where I hung back and let the interviewee hold forth.

 

Who knows whether I successfully drew the audience into the nerdy study of language and music that I was trying for, but I can tell you the song performances hit home hard. As a raving fan of the acts in question the whole thing was a geeky delight.LGL 12

Slush Pile 5

Life is supposedly a bleak unjust affair but then the incredible Chiara Grassia asks you to write songs for her You Are Here project which is a tribute show for a legendary 80s Canberra Indie Band that never actually existed. And then the band turns out to be made up of some of the coolest and best and loveliest musicians there are (including members of some of you favorite acts like No StarsAgency Pocket Fox and Petre Out). And then you get to go full method on imagining the entire life and death of your favorite Canberra cult band that never was and attempting to write the parallel-universe indie-guitar classics that you’ve always wanted to exist. And then you show up to the first meeting and the band have written their own songs and they’re perfect and amazing and you realize you aren’t needed at all, but they still want to use a couple of your songs on the set. And then the gig happens and you’re in the crowd and your songs sound just like you imagined but 12 times better plus the songs that the others wrote are your new favorite songs and Nikki H made great music videos for each song and best of all at least some of the crowd are convinced that Slush Pile was actually a real band and the gig goes great and the tribute band (named Plush Style) are keen to make a record of the songs and sure maybe my life is a crazy miracle dream whatever.Slush Pile 7Slush Pile 2Slush Pile 9Slush Pile 3