Pataphysics hit the right note on refugees

October 31, 2013
Pataphysics launch their EP in Fitzroy on November 8.

Out November 8

Multi-lingual multi-instrumentalist Pat Marks fronts the multi-faceted Melbourne band Pataphysics. As the critically-acclaimed "guerilla hip-hop" outfit prepare to launch their new EP, Green Left Weekly's Mat Ward spoke to Marks about his multifarious pursuits, from refugee rights to juvenile justice.


You've worked with refugees for a long time. Tell us a little about the work you do.

Well, I work with an organisation called RISE - the only organisation governed and run by refugees and ex-detainees. I support them in the work they do with whatever they require. At the moment I am helping out with the recording studio and Cypher Hip Hop project. For more info you can check

What have been your main observations and conclusions that you have come to in working with refugees?

They’re people like us. The sooner the media and governments stop demonising them, the better.

Tell us about your clip, "Asylum is a Crime", written shortly after former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd “leapfrogged” then-Opposition Leader Tony Abbott by lurching to the right on asylum seekers.

I saw Kevin Rudd's announcement and it made me to go in the studio and make the song. My friend [and RISE founder] Ramesh Fernandez has been asking me to write a song about it for a long time and I have discussed asylum seeker policy a lot in my music, but it was Rudd's policy that edged me to write this track. Rudd 2.0 was quite different from the old Rudd. The song was written in a few days, I had an idea for a clip and Project nRt filmed and edited the clip, making it awesome.

Under Australian law, seeking asylum is now a crime
'Cause ain't no politician in this country got a spine
Time after time, each party towing the line
Detaining 'em offshore, out of sight, out of mind
Forget about human kind, we do this despite
It breaks the universal declaration of human rights
Shhh.... Man... What would Jesus do?
Cuz I'm pretty sure he wouldn't lock 'em up in Nauru

Tell us about some refugee talent you've unearthed that we should look out for.

I work with a lot of different artists from refugee and non-refugee backgrounds. Some artists I'm working with now are the FLYBZ. I just produced a track for them and Paul Kelly, which has just been released, called "Child Soldier". Also in the RISE Cypher project on Saturdays I see a lot of great artists come through. Some of the artists I have been working with there are Morris B, Abe Ape and Vox Clandestina, just to name a few.

Egypt's Pharaohs realised that "nothing binds a nation and a people together quite so effectively as a common enemy - you win hearts and minds at home by focusing on the threats from abroad". To what extent do you think Australian politicians are using an ancient form of manipulation with their treatment of asylum seekers?

It's exactly the same. It’s the same. Same as reds-under-the-bed type propaganda during the era of Communism. It's a real simple strategy to create an enemy so politicians can show strong leadership and all the rest, blah, blah - worked for John Howard and worked for Tony Abbott. It's happened so many times throughout history I thought the voting populous would have caught on, but no.

Abbott's reaction to Rudd’s policy, in which he said he would employ a three-star general to stop the boats, was so laughable it almost read like spoof news. He’s now done it, of course. What did you think of it?

Reactionary politics - not thinking about whether or not it will practically work, only about winning votes.  Australian politics is a sad state of affairs.  

You have run music and hip hop programs for juvenile justice detainees - what are your observations of the justice system in Australia?

The juvenile justice system in Victoria is a disgrace. They don't care about rehabilitation. The money they spend on improving security should be spent on improving the conditions inside the centre. The education system within the centre's is an absolute joke - so many young people I have worked with have been illiterate or have low levels of reading. Support for young people when they get out is very minimal. Sadly these conditions create an outcome where rehabilitation is often very hard. I no longer work in these institutions.

Do you think "justice reinvestment" is the right way to go? You must see the results.

I'm not too familiar with the project or where it comes from. I usually think policy works best when it comes from the community. I certainly don't think the current strategy is a good one. It's clear that old laws stemming from a time of assimilation, breeding out colour and destroying Indigenous people still have an effect and influence on today's laws. Major changes definitely need be made.

Tell us about your work with Footscray Community Arts Centre’s “Hip Hop Academy”.

I was running “Beat making” and “MC”. Hip Hop Academy was the brainchild of comedian Aamer Rahman. He organised “MC”, “Beat making”, “DJ” and “Breakin” workshops through Footscray Community Arts Centre for people in the local community.

You have a great many musical influences and rap "in both the English and Sri Lankan language", in your words. Some of the world's best bass and electronica music is coming out of Sri Lanka's neighbour, India, right now, don't you think?

Potentially. I probably really need to go and listen to more of that type of music. These days, awesome music is everywhere.

What are your musical plans right now?

Just finished the new EP and releasing it next week, Friday, November 8 at The Workers Club [in Fitzroy, Melbourne]. We will be joined by Birdz and DJ sadge. Got a new clip in the works as well for the track "Breathe In" off the EP. Got a stack of production and writing work I gotta do for different artists. But most of all really excited about writing the next record - got a heap of ideas I’m looking forward to working on.

Download Pataphysics' "Fuck Captain Cook" EP free here. Watch the video below.

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