Tourettes, real name Dominic Hoey, is a local poet, rapper and spoken word performer. He’s on the judging panel for Poetry Idol at the Auckland Writers Festival in May.

1. Is your stage name Tourettes still a good fit?

I'd like to get rid of it to be honest but I've had it tattooed across my chest. It's massive - like, my whole chest. I made the name up when I was 19, tripping on acid, and have had it ever since. People that have tourettes write to me. That's why I feel kind of guilty. I tell them that through having this name I've learned a lot about the disorder and I sympathise. It would be the hardest thing.

2. Your latest recording is called John Key's Son's a DJ. Why did that headline anger you?

It was just a tipping point. I think there's irreparable damage being done to this country right now and to focus on that dilettante and the rest of his family is just insane to me. Seeing that headline was just like, "Are you serious? Are we really going to talk about this?" It's a really scary time. That Campbell Live stuff is definitely political. There's an awful attitude in New Zealand where people seem to think that because they've got maybe a nice car and half a house that they've cracked it. People are scared of being political. It's almost like it's bad manners.

3. Your poetry contains a lot of expletives and visceral imagery. Do audiences find it confronting?
I don't go out of my way to shock people. The stuff that I talk about is just my life. I imagine for most people it's not that far removed from their own experiences, at least at one point. So people who freak out are maybe just confronted to see themselves in that. There's one poem in particular that often divides audiences where I pretend I have kids and I'm super dysfunctional. Understandably parents sometimes get upset about that one. In Christchurch half the audience left.

4. Sex and drugs often appear in your poems. Why?
Very early on I realised that the more filters you put between yourself and the audience the weaker your work is going to be. There's nothing to be ashamed about. Most people have done drugs at some point. Not talking about sex and drugs is one of the reasons why New Zealand has so many issues with teen pregnancy, sexual violence and addiction because there's so much repression.


5. What role have drugs played in your life?
I've used and abused them. Some of the best times of my life have been on drugs, but I've also really f***ed things up for myself and damaged my health on them as well. I'm lucky that I don't have an addictive personality. When it's time to stop, usually when it starts to affect my art, I can just cut it off. Alcohol's the worst. All the dumbest shit I've done has been because of alcohol. I've ruined a lot of friendships. I don't drink that much anymore and I feel so much better.

6. Do you have anxiety?
I have a generalised anxiety disorder. It's so much better than 10 years ago. I'd get to a point where I couldn't talk in some situations whereas now I've had maybe one panic attack in the last six months. I meditate. I do a lot of mindfulness stuff. I try to get talk therapy whenever I can afford it. Exercise is good. And just being aware of situations that set you off and not getting into them.

7. In a recent poem you say violence was "as common as nits and glue ear" in working class Grey Lynn where you grew up in the 1980s. Did your teacher really throw kids across the room?
Yeah, it was proper, adult violence. One kid got strangled in front of the class. That was how it was and we didn't really think much of it. I actually got off lighter at first because I was the only white kid in the class. The teacher was Samoan and for whatever reason I didn't get the beatings 'til later on.

8. How did you find out you were dyslexic?
My school said that I would never learn to read but my parents got me good books and read to me all the time. One of my high school teachers identified it which was cool because then I was like, "Oh, I'm not stupid". I'm doing a BA at university part-time and I've done surprisingly well, mainly As, except in exams where I can't use my computer, because my handwriting is totally illegible.

9. In your podcast series How Not to be an Asshole you make the case that sexism is bad for men. Why?
There's this idea that to be a Kiwi male, you've got to be a big, dumb, rugby-playing, meat-eating idiot. The minute you try and step outside of those confines there's a lot of pressure to fit in and that's why there's so much depression, alcoholism and suicide in men, because you're taught not to express yourself. I was lucky enough to grow up when the Riot Grrrl movement came along and feminism was cool - it just kind of made sense. I think it would to most people but it's so demonised.

10. Ideally, what would the average Kiwi guy be able to do that he can't do now?
I don't believe in gender. I think it's a total construct. Any kind of stereotype you can think of for a man or a woman - you can easily think of someone of the opposite gender who has those traits. In the queer community there's a lot more freedom to identify as you want. I think that ultimately that should be for everyone. People would be a lot happier. People in the queer community have been more accepting of me when I've been in polyamorous relationships. Monogamy is just a remnant of Christianity in our society. I think a lot of people ruin really good relationships because they get to the point where they're attracted to other people and think they should break up. But the relationship's still good.

11. In the Nga Rangatahi Toa programme you mentor teens rejected by mainstream education. Do you make a difference?
We make an incredible difference. If they stick with the programme, there's a 100 per cent transition rate into education or jobs. The kids are so talented and smart. They just haven't had any opportunities and encouragement. A big thing that we do, apart from teaching them art-based skills, is just encourage them and show them love. It has an amazing effect and so quickly too. You show them that being open and vulnerable is okay - just taking away that staunch bullshit.

12. What advice would you give to your younger self now?
I'd say don't worry, it's going to be okay, you're going to get to do all the things you want to do with your life - be a poet, a writer and travel the world, so it's pretty cool.


• Tourettes is a judge at the Poetry Idol event in the Auckland Writers Festival on Saturday May 16.