A few years ago a bunch of kids out of nowhere but fuckin' New Zealand released some of the best fast hardcore full length that saw the light in the past decade. Just after their 2009 euro tour I've decided to interview them. Conducted via email with singer Sam during september '09. Originally featured in PM#7.
Perro: You've been around since 2006 which, for hardcore pharameters, it's almost the equivalent of Rolling Stones career in terms of lasting. Did you regret having named your band Shortlived?
Sam: Dan (drums) and I (Sam) had a bunch of songs and I was in this other band called Workshy with this French punk called Alex. He was only going to be in New Zealand for a little bit so we asked him to sing for us and so we were gonna only be around for a very short time. He ended up having only one practice and he left NZ earlier than expected. We thought it'd be a waste to do nothing with these songs that we had fun playing so we recruited James (on guitar) and Sarsha (on bass), both we had been in bands with before and I switched to just singing. We just kept the name thinking if we did stick around it would become as stupid as the circle jerks singing about living fast and dying young.
Perro: I've never been there, but New Zealand has a fame to be a beautiful, quiet and environmental friendly place. To make it short, it seems like a nice place to live. But from your lyrics it's obvious that you are extremely angry and pissed off. What makes you want to form a punk/ hardcore band in a place that to outsiders could looks like paradise? What's hidden in the dark side of the country that's impossible to be noticed by outsiders?
Sam: Shit where to start... It is an extremely nice place to live but it's like a small town, you know, everyone's really friendly and hospitable but pretty naive and backward. Well maybe that's a bit harsh. The fact that it is a water-locked country with an exaggerated focus on self-identity. We seem to have an obsession with excessive compensation for this struggle for self-identity which results in placing too much emphasis on national achievements which filters down to a personal level. We have a high youth suicide rate which is result of these pressures which appear in different manifestations eg, sports and drinking culture. But you know it's not all doom and gloom.
Perro: On Gawj ep there's written "so far away from giving a fuck that we can't be seen". If I didn't misunderstand, I guess it has to do with NZ's isolation from the rest of the world. How's living surrounded by the ocean in the middle of nowhere? Does it influence your music in any way?
Sam: Pretty much covered that in the previous question. It sucks not having that many international bands coming over, so we do tend to just do things the way we want but trends tend to trickle down so that we're behind the world. Well actually for a really small country we have had and do have a lot of diversity and quality in our punk scene so that's good.
Perro: During the last two years you've toured both in Australia and Europe? Any funny/ crazy story? Comparing to NZ, what are the main differences you've noticed? Why your italian dates have been cancelled?
Sam: We played twice in Aussie which was great cause we've got a lot of friends over there, cause that's where everyone from our scene fucken goes much to our annoyance. People seem to like our music over there more too. There is not many bands doing what we do over here you see. We got to play New Years with Pisschrist, Severed Head of State and Born/Dead which was cool. Australia has some kick ass bands too. Europe was awesome, yeah our Italian dates were cancelled cause they were early in the week and no-one wanted to help us out. :( It was the only dates we could manage so we ended up camping on the shores of Lago di Garda drinking Hell Bier which was a cultural experience! There are not that many differences between NZ and Aussie (although patriots would baulk at that comment). We noticed a greater cultural antagonism in Europe than what we are used to here. We figure this is because we are the youngest nation in the world and most of our rivalries are only sporting ones and more of a joke than ones that span centuries on invasions and wars. Our borders are pretty well defined as well.
Perro: According to your website, your drummer is going to stay in europe for an indefinite period after the tour. That means at the moment Shortlived are no longer an active band. Is this going to be forever or just 'till he comes back to NZ?
Sam: Well as i write he only stayed in France and is now possibly in Canada after a short stay in the states. He said he ran out of money and may be home sometime but head to Aussie to work. It is an unsure future but I'm pretty confident we'll play again somewhere.
Perro: Talking about your drummer, I've heard rumors about a Misfits skull tattoo on his cock. Needless to say that our readers want proofs about this!
Sam: Yep It was his first Tattoo as well. He was gonna get it colored in but decided against it cause he's a wussy. There used to be photos on the internet but i think they got taken off or are very well hidden now. Sorry, but if you met him he'll gladly show you.
Perro: You define your music "Aotearoa thrashcore". Is it a way to support Maori culture/ tradition? Are Maori kids involved in the punk/ hardcore scene? Generally talking, are there racial tentions between Maori and white folks?
Sam: Colonization is the same everywhere to a certain extent. Stolen indigenous land tends to create lasting racial tensions despite our national racial equality sentiment. We didn't consciously choose "Aotearoa Thrashcore" as a form of support because it is the original name for this country but i just sounds better than "New Zealand Thrashcore".
Perro: I love the lyrics of "fundamentalist", I think it describes exactly why many times punx are too narrowminded. Please explain more about it.
Sam: For a while there there was quite a split in punk fundamentalism's in New Zealand. One side was straight-edge (some christian) and the other was drink-as-much-as-you-can. It has sort of died off these days but within mainstream NZ there is still a pressure to drink alcohol as a form of social inclusion and it seems the punk scene is just the same. It gets annoying. Punks who purport to be all for freedom of choice and hate being told what to do but then give each other shit if one chooses to drink or not drink or whatever. It just gets boring.
Perro: Where does the inspiration for "fat vegan" come from?
Sam: Let's just say Preston Pies in Melbourne cause they have the meanest fake mince pies and sausage rolls we've ever tasted. We were stoked about the vegan food we got in Europe. There is another difference with NZ; touring bands in the punk scene hardly ever get food put on for them so that was cool.
Perro: I must admit that I know almost nothing about old NZ bands and it seems even hard to get any infos about there. Can you mention some obscure local gems from the past worth tracking down? When/ how does the whole hardcore thing started downthere?
Sam: There is a tonne of cool old bands worth checking out, Proud Scum, No Tag, Scavengers, Surburban Reptiles, The Enemy... too many too list. Hardcore didn't really start here till a band called Armatrak in the late 80s before that we were heavily influenced by British punk so all our late 70s and early 80s bands sound like that. http://madblastsofchaos.blogspot.com/ is a kick-arse NZ blog which has a bunch of newer bands and other great stuff and then there is http://punkvinyl.net/NZ_Punk_Archive/Archives_pg001.htm which has some rarer old NZ punk bands.
Perro: What's going on in the present? Which are the best Aotearoa bands around in these days?
Sam: There are a few good bands but it seems pretty quiet. Our favs are Wasteland (sound like infest/asshole parade), Drug Problem (dark sludge with black metally bits) Aborted Christians (power violence with grind maybe like magrudergrind mixed with insect warfare), Electric Mayhem (thrashpunk), There are a bunch of other bands worth checking out depending on your musical leanings. Punkfest is a fest in Wellington that has been going for over a decade and is well worth heading to if your in NZ around October every year, they always have a good selection of what's going on.
Perro: I've heard that almost everyone in New Zealand took part to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy in a way or another. Did any of you guys appeared on it in any way? Weren't the orcs looking like crusty punk zombies?
Sam: This is funny cause people always say NZ is small and that we must know everyone and that sort of stupid shit but the truth is it is pretty bloody small and yeah James our guitarist was one of the big-ass Orcs and a ghost soldier. America knows NZ from a sitcom called Flight of the Conchords which is about these 2 idiot NZers who go to New York and I always get asked about them in the States and the truth is our drummer was taught drums for a bit by one of the stars.. it gets somewhat embarrassing to be honest.
Perro: Recently I saw Black sheep. Amazing movie. Like in all the other NZ splatter flicks I've seen, it seems that humor is always a fundamental and unmissable ingredient. Apart from early Peter Jackson's movies, is there any other masterpiece that I should check out? If Shortlived were a movie, how would it be?
Sam: NZ has a rich film history for such a small place and it's not all humor, there are some dark movies too, like Bad Blood (based on a true story about a guy who kills some cops and goes bush sparking a manhunt) That film is brilliant. Another contemporary one of a similar theme is called Out of the Blue which is another true story about a lone gunman who shoots up tiny coastal settlement. Once Were Warriors is an amazing film that got a lot of international recognition for it's gritty portrayal of poor surburban Maori disconnected from their culture. Quiet Earth, Sleeping Dogs, Smash Palace all execellent. Some other funny ones are Goodbye Pork Pie which has a couple of guys who steal a mini and set-off across the country on a funny crime-spree.
Perro: Projects for the future?
Sam: Hopefully we'll record and release again and we're pretty keen to tour aussie again and south-east Asia sometime but it all really depends on our drummer.
Perro: Final comments?
Sam: Thanks. if anyone wants records or info contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org