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Interview: Unsanitary Napkin Talk Punk Politics and Bloodsucking Vampires

Interview: Unsanitary Napkin Talk Punk Politics and Bloodsucking Vampires

Fluffy / Friday 26th October, 2018 3:15PM

Wellington punks Unsanitary Napkin are a driving force in dissident music in Aotearoa. Since releasing their self-titled debut in 2016, it's clear the trio of Hannah Salmon (aka Daily Secretion), Rupert Pirie-Hunter (Downer Buzz) and Ben Knight (The All Seeing Hand, Rogernomix) have bones to pick and a slew of grievances to be aired very loudly and quickly. From that collection's iconic cover image of the POTUS being blasted by a rainbow laser beam shot from a flying winged vulva, to the bands' raucous vocals, guitar delivery, instantly memorable bass lines and warp-speed drumming, Unsanitary Napkin was an inaugural offering that was not horsing around. The trio returned this year with their rip-roaring six track Orgasmic Capitalism EPwhich they toured throughout New Zealand and Australia in August. Ahead of this Saturday's pre-Halloween appearance at Whammyfest 2018, the birthday celebration of Auckland underground music stronghold Whammy Bar, the trio shot the breeze with Fluffy about politics, bunker shows, and the bloody state of it all...

For the uninitiated, can you please tell us a little about the driving force that is Unsanitary Napkin? Who’s in the band, how did you form? What are some of your fondest band adventures?

Rupert: It’s a constant dream spending time with Hannah and Ben. The adventure never ends. Really though! Hannah floated the idea of a band four or five years before we did anything, and it wasn't until we were all together at a Take Shelter show that we decided to act on it. I think it was Freak Magnet, Vomit Storm and The Dilfs at the Brooklyn Bunkers, and it just felt like the right time to actually write some songs together.

I think it’s fair to say that your lyricism draws heavily from politics. Will your next release feature any tracks about the recent Jami-Lee Ross vs Simon Bridges debacle?

Rupert: We’ve got a few songs that deal more broadly with racism and misogyny in New Zealand government. Jami-Lee Ross and Simon Bridges are part of a rotten system that encourages their worst behaviours… harassment, bullying, pettiness, entitlement. That whole thing was ghastly, not only in terms of abuse of power but also the way mental health was treated and represented.

Hannah: We haven’t written anything specifically about that fiasco, but as Rupert said, we’ve written stuff about the political climate that fosters that shit. And I think we’ll continue to do that, so I guess it might come up?

Has Peter Thiel ever hit you up about about your song which bares his namesake? You ever get hit with any ‘cease and desist’ orders?

Hannah: Haha, Peter Thiel has never made contact, neither has Trump, nor John Key. Unfortunately.

For the Google-adverse, what inspired you guys to write a song about a co-founder of PayPal?

Rupert: He spent 12 days in Aotearoa and was granted citizenship, which is shameful when you think of the hoops that migrants and refugees have to go through, and the xenophobia they’re often met with here. But also the nightmarish blood-of-the-young thing!

Ben: Seeing our government secretly sell citizenship to that billionaire Trump-funding libertarian parasite was pretty shocking, but I think the thing that made us feel like he was song-worthy was reading that he has openly spoken about his interest in parabiosis, which is the process of rich old people injecting plasma from the blood of young people, to prolong their own horrible lives. It’s like a parody of arch-capitalist villainhood - as if being an economic bloodsucker was not enough for him, and he had to go full literal vampire. We couldn’t resist.

How is the capital fairing for punk culture at present? There seems to be a plethora of rad bands popping up from down those ways at the moment. Who are same of your favourites?

Hannah: The Wellington scene is awesome. There is a huge appetite for new bands. There are also lotsa rad creative endeavours and entities that support punks to get their music out - distros like Always Never Fun, Zero Style / Control, Limbless, Pantaloon Party, Razored Raw and then there are institutions like Slime City and Scumbag College for screen printing and recording. We are super privileged. In terms of sweet bands, there are loads. I love Total Ruin (new-ish?), looking forward to catching Molenaar again and looking forward to seeing Bowel Rupture for the first time. Can't wait to catch the Randies and Rogos this weekend at Whammyfest!

Oh, and the bunker shows! Tell us about the bunker shows?!

Rupert: Everyone wants to know about the Take Shelter shows! They are the best though. There are only a few places for punk shows in Wellington that aren’t bar venues, so everyone welcomes the chance to have a generator show or to play at a bowls club!

Ben: Wellington has heaps of abandoned military bunkers and gun emplacements from stupid old wars and paranoia about scary submarines that never bothered turning up. Add a generator, some coooool bands, and a bunch of punks, and you have a Take Shelter show!

Your artwork is always top notch. Who’s behind all that business?

Rupert: Hannah is!

Ben: Daily Secretion 4eva!!!!

The world’s a pretty bleak place right now. Are there any particular bands / artists / events / movements / practices / general things you make a point to surround yourself with to stay positive?

Rupert: Strong relationships with each other and our friends, mostly. Supporting people and groups who are making positive change where we can. We’re lucky to have a wonderful group of people around us. Having a supportive network of people goes a long way, but wider progressive and creative circles are not immune to misogyny, racism, xenophobia, ableism... and haven’t always been welcoming to people who are trans and gender diverse, or to people who do sex work. People who are less impacted often take for granted that their scenes are supportive, but that support requires work and collaboration.

Hannah: Defz second everything Rupert said. I guess we also use the band to critique and satirise abusive practices / people in power. I’m a big believer in creative activism. Even if we’re preaching to the converted a lot of the time, there’s still this hope that stems from the expression of shared ideals and a sense of community.

Musically, I hear a lot of influence from various places too. Rudimentary Peni and Devo are a couple that spring to mind. Are you a fan of those artists?

Hannah: Yeah, definitely. We’ve covered 'Blissful Myth' by Rudi P and 'Jerkin’ Back ‘n’ Forth' by Devo.

Ben: They’re two of the bands that we all bonded over when we first talked about doing a band ourselves, and we still loooooove them.

Are there any musicians you hear come through in your own songwriting?

Hannah: We were super inspired by Mark Winter stuff like The Coneheads and CCTV. And then I guess anarcho punk, early Die Kreuzen and 80s hardcore? Feminist punks ftw. I’m not really sure if any of that stuff comes through, ha.

Ben: I think we all reallllly like the epic catchiness of stuff like Coneheads and Sheer Mag, and the justified political rage of old Crass Records, bands like Flux of Pink Indians and Poison Girls, and our stuff (hopefully) comes out as a mutated combo somewhere in between.

What’s Unsanitary Napkin’s band-plans for the not too distant future?

Ben: We have toured inside and outside of NZ a wee bit, and would love to do much more! We will go anywhere people invite us! Plz invite us!!!

You can catch Unsanitary Napkin as part of the gargantuan lineup at Auckland's Whammyfest 2018 this weekend. Score a weekend pass over HERE.


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