By day she's a punk rock park ranger in Alaska. By night too. But Ayisha Jaffer is also one of New Zealand's most exciting musical acts, fronting the collaborative effort that is Skux. She tells us a little bit about her new music, and how to survive a bear encounter.
1. Describe your sound in one sentence.
Punk rock park ranger instills a punk rock party with a call to action.
2. Where did you find that band name? Use Skux in a sentence.
This band name found me. One day, me and my mates made an impromptu band in six hours and played a show at the Wine Cellar. We talked about the origin and the many meanings of the word Skux in our salon (the living room) and someone (maybe me?) said it looks like a punk band name and therefore our project became SKUX and lasted more than six hours.
Skux is skux as.
3. Tell us a little about new single Kudis.
Take the word cooties, yes the infection you thought everyone had as a kid and make the Latin word, kudis. This is what Kudis is. Kudis stands for anything you can think of that is infecting the masses or even you personally for example propaganda, fear, bad vibes, a toxic relationship, your own anxieties or even a literal epidemic outbreak from mental health to the measles. Whatever it represents for you, this track asks people to see how silly it is to sit and fret over these KUDIS and actually get up and take action against them.
4. What is your favourite song to perform live and why?
I love performing a song that isn't even out yet but we've played live called Painted Blank. The drum fills are so intense that we cannot get away with playing this song without breaking at least two sets of drumsticks a performance and the message is very raw and true to me, calling out those in the past who need to take accountability for their actions. A lot of people project or put blame when they cannot handle their own actions and this song demands people to review their behaviours. That thought process I think is important and so it comes out in a big way for me on stage. You'll see us hanging from the rafters.
5. What does the term punk mean to you in this day and age?
Punk is a movement to a call to action, an attitude to get things done without the red tape, and a music that has 100 per cent freedom. It doesn't matter if you play something right, it just matters that the message gets across. Punk makes you ask questions when no one will ask them and addresses them in a way you cannot ignore. It is out of the box without ever knowing the box was there. It's accessible, you just have to grab it and in history it brought people together because they believed something was possible. I don't think that's left just yet.
6. What's one thing you've learned in Alaska?
I will include a couple of things because I've learned so much!
Where I'm stationed in Kodiak, Alaska has the largest land bear in the world, the Kodiak Brown Bear so the most useful thing I've learned has been bear safety for the brown bears. If you see a bear and it's chilling, you just put your hands up and face the bear, backing away slowly, calmly saying "hey bear, ho bear", until you're out of sight. You cannot outrun a bear. They run at about 65km/h. If they are charging at you and you want to know more about bear safety, just give me a message! I'll do a quick lesson.
The other interesting thing I was trained in and learned was how to ditch a float plane if it crashes into the water as part of park ranger training. There's a six-step process and they put you through a simulation where they throw us in the water and we're trapped in an airplane that's crashed and we have to escape successfully 3 times. After doing this training we are 80 per cent or so more likely to survive.
7. What message would you give any young person wanting to be a successful musician?
A successful musician means different things to different people so what I would say is don't set out to be a successful musician, set out to make something good that's true to you. It doesn't matter if it's marketable, it just has to be raw, genuine, and good and it will cut through all the noise as people can relate and resonate with the humanness in that.
8. Who or what excites you most about the New Zealand music scene?
I think it's a great time to be a musician in New Zealand. There's a bit of a renaissance as people globally seem to be looking at Kiwi artists and picking them up on labels, tours, etc.
And on the vice versa, New Zealand artists are not looking at only making it in New Zealand, the sky's the limit. I feel like more artists feel like they can do more and are less conservative with their goals and that's just very exciting!
Shout out to Miss June, I'm a fan of this on the riser.
9. You can only fit one album by another artist on your device — what is it?
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell – hands down
10. You're curating a music festival. Who's on the bill, alive or dead?
It's definitely a self-indulgent list with all my favourites. Perhaps it would be called the "You Never Saw it Coming ... Festival". Mostly because all of these artists are unlikely underdogs that came on the rise with no apologies - all the artists with my favorite music and favorite stories through the ages.
In no particular order…
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Siouxsie and the Banshees
King Khan and the Shrines
Shannon & the Clams
• Skux's debut EP Kudis will be released on August 23.