The Axemen's Y2K Blog

Mark Thomas aka Sharkface [by SS]

Posted in cultural studies, music, NZ bands by sue selams on March 20, 2010

After The And Band/Perfect Strangers:

I met Mark at Pyrmont Squats in Sydney somewhere around 1982. He jumped through my window because he heard me playing Bob Marley on my record player and wanted to listen as well. That was the beginning of a wild adventure for the next 14-15 years.

Mark was a wordsmith rather than a great musician (in my opinion)…he was a good guitarist though and loved to entertain people with his music. I was drawn to his enthusiasm to life and I liked what he was doing musically because he was different. Different to musicians I had met before him because he wasn’t trying to be Bob Dylan or Neil Young , but was very experimental…(eg; making a beat with a typewriter’s clicking keys) which is something I discovered about most of the Kiwis I met in Oz, they all seemed to believe in themselves in that their creativity was as relevant as, if not more relevant than anything that was in the mainstream.  I was from Papua New Guinea and the music there was very mainstream or traditional PNG, so this was very refreshing to me.

Blase Plag 1983

Not long after meeting, Mark and I set off in a Holden station wagon and started to make our way around Australia, busking wherever we needed to. First stop 1983 at a small tobacco  farm in a place called “Smoko” in Nth East Victoria, where we picked tobacco  and recorded poetry and music in our caravan with a Washburn steel string and a cardboard suitcase as a drum. That was the beginning of “Blase Plag” (Blase Plaguerism) whereby we did similar things to what George H was talking about in one blog – reading from HP Lovecraft or excerpts from other books while making bizarre sounds.

Next stop was Adelaide for a year, 1984.

Mark still wrote a lot but played very little and was becoming more and more interested in politics and became a real crusader for the underdog. The two of us became very involved in the Unemployed Movement whereby we ran a radio program (giving tips to  people  on how to survive on the dole), a soup kitchen and a gourmet restaurant for the unwaged and we became advocates  at our local Community Centre.

However amongst the serious stuff Mark still managed to “do his thang” and was constantly developing new personas with which to perform by. His favourite one at the time was donning a tradespersons jacket and a yellow hardhat. He would carry an old leather doctors satchel that had a hammer and lots of nails. He would then walk down the main street and hammer a nail into each telegraph pole (they were all wooden back then) until he got to the end of the street ,and would then walk back removing each one, and putting them back into his satchel, as he went. I was usually following – at a distance – and filming the reactions of people.

At our “Gourmet Restaurant” ,Mark would wear a plastic Moose head on his back and serve people backwards. One evening we heard rumour that a Health Inspector was coming to dinner, but  we wouldn’t  know who it was. Mark was unimpressed with the method of spying, so he served our pet kitten (alive) to each table with the food to weed the guy out. It worked and the Inspector closed the kitchen down. That was the impulsive person that he was.

Adelaide produced “The Tickled Pinks” which was Mark, myself, Peter Hall Jones and Briar Humphreys – a one-off recording/cassingle about drunken debauchery.

After Adelaide came Perth for a  year – 1985.  No music was made in Perth, just solid politics….anti nukes, aboriginal land-rights, peace, youth rights and socialism was flavour of the year.

Mark went back to Wellington,New Zealand early 1986. I followed a few months later and Mark had  already  established  himself in the music scene he’d left behind some 5 or 6 years earlier. Kevin Hawkins was now Screamin’ K Hawkins, Jessica Walker had Electric Church, Jude Horner and Merlene (?) were the Geisha Girls. There was the Brothers Gorgonzola and Sparky’s Magic Baton. Many people’s names I have forgotten so I have not mentioned them in the bands. Please forgive me if I have forgotten you.

Citizens of No Land (CONL) 1987-8

Our band was Citizens of No Land (CONL), which was Mark Thomas, Mark Crawford and myself on guitars, Lisa Beech on Violin and Flute and at one stage Anna Meihana backing vocals. Most of our songs were original numbers and were largely protest songs.We weren’t a commercial band and we played mostly at benefit gigs for minority groups or for causes.Mark always said at the beginning of each gig ;”We are Citizens of No Land, because the ownership of this land is based on Colonial Oppression, therefore we fight oppression in the hope that we may become,Citizens of This Land.” http://www.youtube.com/user/nasusselams#p/a/u/0/tog6K8n88mM

Soaring Eagle 1990-2

Following Wellington we moved to Marlborough and lived in various houses. Our two sons , Anton  http://www.myspace.com/antonpatuthomas and Ringo were born in Blenheim, and so was  Soaring Eagle. This was an interesting body of work as it was largely Mark playing solo and experimenting a lot with poetry/rap/and rhyme. All of it was recorded on our old ghetto blaster at home and is interspersed with talking kiddies and saucepans clanging because daily life had to go on around the creative endeavours.

Sharkface 1993-96

It was in Nelson that Mark became known as Sharkface both on and off-stage. He was well known amongst the literary circles as a performer and poet who never held back his words and thoughts and presented them in a way completely unique to Mark.

In 1993  he released  a Cassingle (No CD’s yet) called Voices from the Village Idiot with his band Manic Blather (Nathan Judge on bass, Richard Lambert drums, Mark gat and vox).

Live at The Art Centre, Nelson

1994 saw Mark as part of a theatre group  under the direction of Kim Merry (now deceased) and Donna Chapman through the  Nelson Community Arts Centre and Creative New Zealand. That year also saw him in a short film produced by the Nelson Media Studies Group of Nelson Polytech, called Jude goes to Whakatu. He also provided the backing track. This can be seen on  http://www.youtube.com/user/nasusselams#p/a/u/2/QFUkC88u6kA

Mark played with many different Nelson muso’s. He had a very sharp mind and could pull off spontaneous raps easily which made him a  great entertainer. A video performance of him with a few of the local Maori fellas called “Sharkface at The Watchtower” is on you tube @   http://www.youtube.com/user/nasusselams

1995 was Crimson Blood Spit which was with Nathan Judge again as bass player and a variety of drummers.

1996 I had formed my own band Morrigan http://www.myspace.com/eusselams and Mark and I were just discussing having a joint gig. Sadly it never came about. He passed away March 16th 1996.

In 2001 I produced, with the help of Dave White, a compilation CD of Mark’s music called, Sharkface – The Farces of Vitriol. This was a selection of music from each era that I had known his music, dating 1980 to 1995. It has been distributed to National Archives, National Library and Radio New Zealand, so it remains a recorded part of New Zealand musical history.

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