Skux’s Ode To Punk
Skux is the melting pot of punk you didn’t know you need in your life. Created by Ayisha Jaffer while she was living in New Zealand (with a nod to some uniquely kiwi slang), they’ve just released a new EP called ‘Kudis’, drawing from an assortment of punk influences Ayisha holds dear to her heart. Now a park ranger in the Alaskan wilderness, we caught up with Ayisha to learn about her DIY approach to music and ode to punk that is ‘Kudis’.
Firstly, congrats on the release! It’s been a long time coming, how’s it going?
Thank you! I kinda I feel like I don’t know! [laughs] It’s the first time that I didn’t do it all myself. I had publicists etc on it, and I have a hard time giving up control. I’m so sure my teams are all annoyed with me because I’m like ‘What’s going on with this?’ ‘Did you do this?’ Because I already know how to do that stuff and I care about it a lot. I think it’s going well though, I mean it got on some pretty big stuff, it got on Nylon, Kerrang! Magazine, New Noise.
It’s cool that big people wanna put stuff out about it and are getting behind it. UTR is probably one of my biggest fans since forever. I love what they say about my music – ‘Spanking you out the door’ I love it.
So you let go of a lot of control on this one, but it’s an independent release, right?
Yeah I had a lot of label interest and there was a lot of back and forth, but they took their time and ended up taking more than 2 years so I was just like ‘screw that!’ I’m not waiting anymore and I wanna make new stuff, so I wanted to get this out and if anyone else is interested then awesome.
You’ve been travelling a lot too, so what was the process like fitting in recording between all of this travel?
My friend Dan Walker, he’s in this band the Death Set, that I’ve always loved and they’re starting to revamp again which is awesome, they’re old school punk rockers. I go to NY a lot for touring and travelling, and that’s where he is so whenever I go through I’m like ‘Dan! I’ve got 1 or 2 days off, do you wanna record some stuff?’ So over time we recorded this EP and over a couple of years we put it together. That’s kinda the process, I’ll just go in there, I’ll drink some fireball, and just fuck around until we make a jam that we love. But we don’t come in with an idea, we just do it.
On the day?
Yeah, we do it on the day.
That’s awesome, it does have a really DIY sound to it.
Yeah, it’s like ‘what am I feeling right now?’ And then ‘Ok cool, this is what we’re doing.’ That’s literally how it happens. And DIY in that sense, it’s just how we write. But DIY in the sense of it sounds like old school punk probably yeah, but it’s not lo-fi. So it’s kinda interesting in that sense because it’s like the music that you would hear in lo-fi but it’s not produced lo-fi. So it’s a little different than the old school punk in that way.
Where have you been jet-setting to?
I toured with an artist as a tour manager, Stella Donnely. And then before that, I was on boats in Alaska, salmon seining and fishing. Then after touring and salmon seining I came back to visit my family in Milwaukee, and then I went up to Alaska to be a ranger! That’s pretty much been the route, and then in between I’ll just go on little trips like I went to LA to record the music video for Painted Blank, in between being in Kodiak Alaska… [laughs] Just random things, whatever needs to be done. Every bit of this project has been like ‘Hey friends! Do you guys wanna come have fun and make this thing with me?’ For me, the whole EP is about fun and feeling the fun through the music, and not taking yourself too seriously. I just feel like if you could see that as well as hear it… I think that comes across pretty well.
When I was watching the videos, especially Painted Blank, I was reminded of that band The Chats. Have you heard that track ‘Smoko’?
I love that track!
So you’ve talked about the vibe that you’re channelling with this music, but what’s the music that you’ve been listening to or has informed the music that you make?
A lot of it is old school, so it goes all the way back to Oh Bondage Up Yours! by X-Ray Spex, and of course I love Le Tigre, and when you hear the word Riot grrrl you think of Bikini Kill, Sleater Kinney and all that stuff. That stuff is part of it, but then there’s also the old schools like The Casualties, Suzy and the Banshees, and then there’s Patti Smith. All that era of people, and also that era of history, 70’s-80’s punk, everything that goes with it influences my music and my style, because I love it. This whole music thing was an accident that it did well, because I just love it and wanted to do an ode to it, wanted to bring it back onto the scene a little bit, but I didn’t expect anyone to like it because it’s very much old…not relevant…[laughs]
But the thing is there’s a live aspect to it, like listening to it you can imagine seeing it live as well. I remember seeing Skux play at the inaugural Gathering In The Forest festival (now Nowhere Festival), and I remember sitting on the hill watching you guys play and thinking ‘wow these guys do not give a fuck!’ They’re just going hard on stage.
Yeah there was a child… I felt bad swearing so much…
But it’s that energy that you capture that people wanna see live. Because you don’t see as much of it these days, I feel…
Yeah I’ve said that before as well, that’s one of the main reasons I do Skux too. Because I love performing, and I love performing in a way that’s…actually performing? Because I love indie bands and I love the music but all I see is they go and sing their songs, and then they get off the stage and that’s it. Maybe there’s some cool lights or whatever, but I can see right through that. That’s because I’m used to growing up with badass performers like Blondie, even Santigold! If you could blend those 2 ladies together that’d be my dream. That’s part and parcel of why I like doing Skux because the few times we’ve played down in NZ it’s been insane. Lots of energy, people rocking around, people jumping on crap and moshing.
I’m a punk rock park ranger and a big aspect of this campaign is to do things like trail cleanups, beach cleanups, point people to places in the wild to do things for nature. Because I’m doing things for nature, and I think that’s pretty punk rock. It’s to be political in a way that’s positive but also to be angry about it. It’s also a lot of fun.
Are there any plans to do any touring with Skux soon or in the future?
Yeah I’d love to come down to NZ summertime and do a beach tour or something but I definitely need some help, I need someone to be like ‘Yeah let’s come on down!’ I’ve had a few really good bands ask me to support some tours coming down there which is awesome, but I’m not entirely sure what the plans are yet, so nothing solid but I’d like to come down there over summer. Then if possible in Fall over here, do a bit of touring up in the states as well.
Are you going to push forward and start making some new music too?
I’ve got a couple of songs in my pocket already, so I’m pretty excited to put those out because they’re ridiculous and I love ridiculous. I think people take themselves too seriously and I just want people to have fun. Andrew WK styles.
What’s the idea behind ‘Kudis’?
With Kudis, it’s essentially what we’re talking about. For one it’s an ode to punk, it’s like several different genres of punk within it. So there’s nostalgia nods like that 50’s punk, that Shannon and the Clams jams kinda situation. King Kahn and the Shrines, those guys I freakin’ love, like probably the only other Indian punk rocker I know. So there’s nods to that, and then there’s nods all the way back to The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, and then there’s stuff that’s a more modern kinda feeling. So it’s all over the place and that’s just as an ode to punk and Riot grrrl and all that stuff, and then the other thing about it is that it’s called Kudis. Recently I feel like there’s all this negative energy about you know…the climate, the earth, political, mental health..all these things are being brought to the forefront and I think that instead of us just talking about it or posting a link and feeling like we did something about it or whatever…being complacent. I think being complacent, if I could liken it to not voting and think that’s beneficial in any way. It’s not. Like sitting on your ass is not beneficial, doing nothing is not beneficial. Being complacent, ‘I ‘liked’ this thing so I felt like I did something’, is not beneficial. So it’s a wake up call to get up off your ass and do something, but also have fun and enjoy your life, do it with your friends, be a team. Let’s fight those cooties, everything that’s negative, those cooties, those anxieties, the fuckin measles outbreak, whatever. That’s the idea in my head…
That’s cooties, but then it can also be that playground ‘ewww cooties!’