Mind Lint was a zine produced by the local punk legend Sarsha Douglas of notable Wellington bands: Fantails, Rogernomix, Freak Magnet, Bonecruncher, Shortlived and Cult of the Cobra. Tracing her whakapapa back to Tairawhiti/ Gisborne, Mind Lint covers music, politics and social issues from an anarchist, feminist, indigenous Maori perspective with regular features on pandas and nanas.
UTP: When did you first get into punk/ activism and all that?
Sarsha: My family has always been supportive in what I do. They've encouraged me to think critically and do what I want no matter what others may think. So in that respect I guess I was brought up punk/activist. But I first started getting into punk at high school in Gizzy, started learning guitar and drums at high school and started my first punk band when I was about 15 or 16.
I can't remember ever not being politically aware, about power imbalances and have always championed the underdog, whether that be through indigenous rights, animal rights, or being pissed off at the government.
UTP: Was this while you were in Gisborne? If so what bands, people etc were doing things up there?
Sarsha: Yep, Gisborne was the place where I first got involved in the punk scene. Being a very isolated town you had to make yr own fun. So a bunch of us started bands and put on shows. We tended towards the old school punk stuff like the Buzzcocks and the Ramones, plus a healthy dose of pop punk - some of which many teenagers get into and which many punks would have listened to but would be reticent to admit to now...you know the stuff (cough, fat records comps, cough, hell cat records comps, cough). But its all part of growin up innit? Plus stuff like Screeching Weasel, the Queers, Pansy Division and Dead Milkmen were super influential on the Gizzy crew I hung out with.
There were some really awesome bands around like TK421 and The Scholnicks who have members that are now in The Rocket Jocks, Shitripper and PCP Eagles. Also the Aroused were great, as well as Minus Title. Also Many Tentacles were a two piece that moved to Hamilton.
There was a great bar run by an awesome couple that had heaps of punk shows, including some internationals like The 5,6,7,8's and Less Than Jake amongst others. It was called No.9. I'd get my mama to take me to the pub so I could go see some punk rock bands. They also ran a radio station out the back of the venue that had really eclectic music and local DJs. Jamie and Jared from the Aroused did the punk show when they were still at high school which was highly entertaining. It also brought out a few old school punks and their amazing record collections. Good times.
UTP: Punk in NZ has for a large part of its history been dominated by a white male perspective though this has been progressively challenged over time – what challenges do you experience playing in bands/ producing Mind Lint etc as a young Maori wahine?
Sarsha: For the most part, I've felt pretty welcomed in the punk scene. I've had awesome and supportive band mates that respect my gender and ethnicity, but also don't make a big deal about it, in terms of using it as leverage for something different that is notable about the band. That never even enters into the picture when I play music. I have a firm dislike of being singled out because I'm a girl or I'm Maori and playing in bands, like that should be something unusual. I just wanna play awesome punx music average to above averagely and have fun with awesome peeps.
In saying that, I have found it difficult to have conversations or be acknowledged by some within the scene, but it is difficult to know whether its because they genuinely have no interest in interacting with me, or if its because of me being a female Maori in a largely white male populated genre makes me a weird anomaly. It does sometimes seem to be the latter when all my white band mates happily get talked to while I'm standing there, unacknowledged.
I've often wondered why there aren't more Maori in punk. Besides the stereotypes of us being into hip hop and rap and not much else, I think for me, punk speaks to my indigenous activist heart most appropriately of all the musical genres. I guess I see punk as more than just a musical genre. I can't extrapolate it from those punk rock ethos of DIY, critical thinking, and being politically aware and challenging of the mainstream. In that sense, punk music is the broadest musical genre I can think of. Its very encompassing of musical styles. It makes for the most fun as shows and choicest, most onto it people.
Mind Lint has been my little venting machine that not only critiques mainstream ideals and preconceptions, but also pushes for slightly different ways for our subculture to think about things. I think in punk we have our own mantras and stereotypes that just become catch-phrases so ingrained that we don't actually think about what they mean. In this respect we are in danger of becoming just like mainstream followers of media and governmental politics that, in our context, regurgitate the mantras of our subcultural status quo. My particular focus on Maori and indigenous issues in Mind Lint stem from the lack of engaging conversation concerning said issues in punk. The focus tends to be either on flippant racist remarks just to be offensive (cos that's punk rock, right?) or just general sweeping statements of support for indigenous peoples without much indepth analysis. I think such indepth convos are very punk rock.
UTP: Punk scenes have been popping up in indigenous populations all over the world over the last 20-30 years - in your opinion why has there never been large numbers of Maori (or Pacific Islanders for that matter) interested in punk culture?
Sarsha: Its difficult to say. I guess there have been a few of us lurking around at punk fests and in punk bands but as you say not in large numbers. For me, I find punk rock and indigenous activism to be really well suited to one another. That's pretty much my steez in a nutshell! In places like Indonesia and some South American countries, being brown is the majority of the general populous, so brown people logically make up the majority of punks in those places. In Aotearoa, pakeha are the majority population, so this is reflected in subcultures as well, such as punk. Though it is unlikely that us non-white peeps will be the majority in punk in Aotearoa, I would fucken love to see a solid indigenous punk crew in Aotearoa. I'm currently doing a masters thesis on indigeneity in Aotearoa punk culture. It's been exciting to make connections with other indigenous punx and chat about these types of things. I'll definitely be reporting back on this research in punx rock zine form for sure.
- Mind Lint#2 June 2008, State racism, Scab/ Shortlived tour, pandas, nanas
- Mind Lint#3 September 2009, Shortlived in Europe, Maori Battalion, book binding, pandas
- Mind Lint#4 July 2010, Squats and marae, Roma, Watch your colonial tongue, tikanga 101, Emory Douglas
- Mind Lint#5 March 2011, anarchism, guns and power, Charles Robinson, Public Enemy review, Gangs and Christianity, buzzy animals
- Mind Lint#6 Turangawaewae, nanas, Josephine Baker, pandas, Maori women scientists, music
- Mind Lint#7 November 2012 Freak Magnet's Euro trash tour, tour diary epiphanies, Maori in Pakeha dominated activists, Rumble and Bang film review