Jon Toogood - Hero of the Week | The Jackal

8 Aug 2014

Jon Toogood - Hero of the Week

In this NZ Herald article published online yesterday, Jon Toogood, the lead singer of Legacy Award winning Kiwi rock band Shihad, sums up why there's so much voter apathy in New Zealand:

How Shihad made their explosive new album 
"Didn't you realise this is a political album?" asks Toogood, leaning over the studio's mixing desk, his eyebrows arched.

Actually, yes. If lyrics like, "Signed off by men in suits that you won't recognise"/"It's a f***ing disaster"/"Have we had enough?"/"Get me out of here" didn't give the game away, then the 20 minutes Larkin and Toogood have just spent detailing exactly what's wrong with New Zealand and Australia's political systems certainly did.

Here's Toogood when he's warming up: "We're being lied to, and that creates apathy. Because people go, 'Are we going to vote for the red one or the blue one?'

"But you know whichever one's in power, they'll sell themselves. The policies are bought by people who have way more money than the average person. So it gives people a sense of powerlessness and a sense of being detached from the whole process. Why bother?"

Then he really gets fired up: "The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. It's a fix. It's not right and as a society we're morally obligated to look after the people who are hurting. My dad was dying and I watched how hard the nurses looked after him. They don't get paid anywhere near as much as the guy who's trading stocks that are keeping people in poor countries poor and ruining their ecologies.

"Why doesn't the person who looks after people selflessly get rewarded? What about teachers? They were going without pay for weeks. Why is being a ruthless merchant banker being rewarded? It's disheartening. It needs to be rebalanced."

Free speech, information sharing, free-market capitalism and John Key's "snapper quota" line are what inspired Toogood's lyrics for FVEY (the album's title refers to the information sharing agreement between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, dating back to World War II), which he recorded with Coleman in the Melbourne studio we're sitting in.

"There were things that were pissing me off that I really wanted to talk about," Toogood says. "Coleman is a singer, he's a political animal, and he's more extreme than we are. He'd go, 'What's this song about? Right, cool, f*** off, have a sleep, first thing in the morning write down everything about this subject. Don't even listen to the music. The writing, the ideas, were fine. I had an overabundance of material."

Despite politically charged songs like The Big Lie and The Great Divide, Toogood denies he's aiming for a career in politics.

"I'm not a political beast, that whole system corrupts people. The system is broken - I don't know what to replace it with. It's frustrating."

I couldn't agree more. That's why Jon Toogood wins this weeks Hero Award.