Published on October 16th, 2013 | by Dedee W0
Melting Pot Massacre: The Message Behind The Music
Dedee W. chats with Shasha and Mengzhu to find out more about the band behind the fearsome ‘Refugee Migrant Solidarity Song’.
In the early days as a band, Shasha and Mengzhu would stand and scream at each other from opposite ends of a rugby field to practise their vocals.
“Just to see how loud it could go without a mic,” says Mengzhu, the band’s guitarist, otherwise known as MZ.
Quite cathartic, and a great way to hone their screaming technique.
When I ask what inspired them to form Melting Pot Massacre MZ replies “Well, Shasha wanted to learn how to scream”.
“So we looked up some videos to teach ourselves how. You just search ‘how to scream’ or ‘how to growl’” says vocalist Shasha.
There’s a lot of fun to be had, but the guts of this four piece is much more than that.
Melting Pot Massacre identify as a People of Colour band and play hardcore feminist punk. Shasha (vocals) is from Singapore, MZ is from China, Supi (bass) is from Nepal, and Mai (drums) has Pakeha and Filipino heritage – together they sing about feminist and P.O.C (people of colour) issues.
Anyone who has caught Melting Pot Massacre live or watched their videos will know there is a message in their music that they are passionate about. Titles like ‘Fuck Your White Male Macho Shit’ and ‘Chase/Agents of Change’ give you some clues. The band formed in 2012 and played their first gig at Decolonise the Mic in 2011 (their first show this year was Big Gay Out). They have been going strong since then, playing a few more shows, releasing their Diaspora EP back in June, and playing Clitfest in Wellington.
(C.L.I.T. is an acronym for ’Combatting Latent Inequalities Together’. The festival was started in the United States by feminist punks challenging the predominantly white male dominance of the country’s punk scene.)
As all four member were already politically active, the band provided another outlet for the political action in their lives. Mengzhu lists a bunch of political groups she has belonged to beginning with the anti-war movement during the Iraq war. “Then there were feminist groups, animal rights, so many” she adds.
I sense she could go on.
“We realised a lot of our friends already played instruments so it just made sense to start a band” says Shasha.
“We identify as a People Of Colour band, primarily made up of members who have generational migration roots in Aotearoa, but also roots in Asia. So when we got together we wanted to make sure that our music speaks to the audiences that connect with those experiences – mainly people with migrant backgrounds or people of colour backgrounds but indigenous people who connect to the punk music world as well. We talk about the process of decolonisation a lot in our music, which means talking about race politics, but also about other injustices that make up the structures that we live in.”
The foursome have mixed feelings about their experience playing the Decolonise Punkfest in Sydney saying they had expected more of it, in the way of discussion and education and a more varied line-up of bands.
“It was predominantly organised by white males and most of the bands were white males… It was in Australia so we were wondering where are the Aboriginal people of colour… we were probably the only ones,” says Shasha.
“We thought it would actually be about decolonisation, but there were only a couple of workshops on the side that kinda talked about that stuff, not many people attended,” says MZ.
It turned out to be just a plain old punk festival, and the name ‘Decolonise’ was just used as a token gesture.
After the band raised the issue of the festival misusing the word ‘decolonise’, the organisers decided to change the name of the festival which was a slightly disappointing result.
“Maybe work through what happened and change some of the processes in organising. Rather than just saying ‘Aw nah, we’re not gonna take responsibility for the word anymore.’ It’s a bit of a cop-out I guess” says Shasha.
Reactions to their music have been varied. People can sometimes shy away from this kind of really hardcore political music, but let’s be honest – it’s always refreshing to see a band that pulls no punches, and they’re not here to win a popularity contest – they’re here to get their message out. But it’s fair to say, people don’t always get it.
“We’ve been called reverse racist,“ says Shasha.
“People often just come up and comment on who we sound like, not what we’re singing about. I don’t know why they don’t engage. We are quite direct. Our lyrics are published online and we do talk about what we’re singing about.”
“Maybe it’s ‘cause they can’t hear the words?” says MZ.
I’m not so sure about this. After watching the band’s YouTube clip for the track ‘Migrant and Refugee Solidarity Song’ you can hear most of the words and get a real sense of the message. To decide for yourself you can check out the lyrics on their Facebook page and watch the video in question here.
“Hardcore is an attitude not just a sound,” says Shasha, “That’s why we tell people we’re a hardcore band, deal with it. Sometimes people try to take that away from us by putting us in the Riot grrl category.”
They’ve got nothing against the Riot grrl genre, but for them it’s a little different. They’re not the kind of band you’ll see on the mainstream indie circuit, playing shows every week. This is why less people may have heard of them. Every gig will have a cause behind it. When it comes to setting up their own gigs, they’re open to playing with all sorts of bands – not just punk – while still focusing on those that are outside the white male dominated part of the music scene.
“We do talk to other bands that that may be less politically aware, to see if they’re interested to play with us. Our goal is to eventually raise awareness through the audience – through the people who come to our shows, and participate in shows that actually mean something to us,” explains Shasha.
There are plenty of future plans for Melting Pot Massacre. They’ve been busy jamming and writing new songs and would be keen to tour New Zealand over the summer, and having already played in Sydney an Australian tour could be on the cards. One day the band would be keen to tour Europe and Asia, as well as Canada as they have some connections there.
But for now the next gig is on October 16th for a Solidarity Event called Never Forget – October 15 2007, commemorating the State Terror Raids six years on at Shadows bar on the University of Auckland campus.
Photography by Rabie Alburaiky