Alex Casey interviews local legend Anika Moa about getting her own talk show (feat: us!), Nigella Lawson’s butt and why you should never hold in a burp. This is the first of a brand new interview series called On the Lash, brought to you by Australian wine geniuses Vinomofo. Photography by José Barbosa.
Anika Moa bowled into The Spinoff offices dressed head to toe in activewear, sweating and cursing. It was 11am on a Tuesday, the perfect time to share a bottle of wine with me in the boardroom. “I’m trying to catch my breath after those cunting stairs,” she wheezed, before dumping a bag of lollies and chocolate on the table and announcing loudly that she was on her period. “Don’t touch those,” she hissed through her teeth, as I eyed up a chocolate bar.
Since beginning her music career at the age of 18, Anika has continued to write songs, tour, host events, harass celebrities on the internet and even release two smash hit baby albums. Now, she’s got her very own show. Starting on Māori TV at the end of September, All Talk With Anika Moa is looking like it might be the New Zealand television event of the calendar year – if you don’t count every single moment of The Real Housewives of Auckland. Better (probably worse) yet, it also features your old mates at The Spinoff both on-screen and as the official online broadcaster, so you can watch this wonderful show on this wonderful site.
I first met Anika last year when I interviewed her about her involvement in the Māori TV documentary series Songs From The Inside. I ate a bad biscuit and she drank a soy flat white while aggressively swearing about how ugly Ed Sheeran was. She was a force of nature in that little Avondale café, demonstrating the same zero-fucks mentality that has made her a bit of a hero for New Zealanders everywhere, particularly women. Honestly, I couldn’t wait to be in the same room as her again. With booze.
OK, let’s talk talk show. I saw you tweeted at Jemaine Clement that you were gonna talk about your period on the show. Is that what we’re gonna see?
I probably will. Only once a month. [Anika laughs and claps like a seal]
So this isn’t the Anika Moa period vehicle the country is waiting for?
I guess it depends on how I feel on the day, you know how us bitches are moody. There are days when I’m like “aw, welcome” and there’s days when I’m like “fuck off”. I’ve never done a talk show before so ask me how I feel two weeks in.
One of the biggest things for me is that it’s taken us a long time to get this show. For ages I’ve had all the confidence, but in reality, I’m not sure if hosting a talk show is easy at all. Not everyone can talk to people and make them feel comfortable, and get as much information as you can out of them. I’m shitting myself.
You said it’s been a long time in the making. Since birth?
Just from about the eight onwards. No, when I met my manager Rodney [Hewson], I was in the middle of writing a baby album. I said to him: “I wanna do a baby album, I wanna do one more album, and then I want my own TV show.” I just love them. I watch Graham Norton most weeks, I love Chelsea Handler, I love Ellen – cos we’re lezzies – I love Oprah and Ricki Lake.
Ricki Lake came out when I was 13 [Anika burps loudly]. She always used to have that phrase, “Talk to the hand cos the face ain’t listening.” I just love that phrase, and I loved how, two minutes into the talk show, someone would be beating someone up, someone would be rooting someone.
I also loved that Ricki Lake was a normal woman. Like, she was a bit fat, beautiful, but also a little bit of a mother type of person. I’ve always loved chat shows, and I’ve always felt that New Zealand doesn’t have any. I mean what have we had?
Jono and Ben? Does that count? It looks like a talk show…
Jono and Ben is fantastic. See, I went through a phase of going “Ugh, Jono and Ben, it’s for dicks,” you know, because there were no women. Then Laura Daniel and all the Funny Girls team came along.
Now I’ll watch it because it’s equal, it feels more of equal standing. And, it is hit or miss with me, but we need this sort of stuff. Cos without it … there’s nothing. Yeah, but I’m still shitting my pants about mine.
Are you gonna go in on celebrity guests? Because you’ve already done your Herald series and that was amazing.
I’m going to have three guests. Two of them will be actors or musos, and then the third one will be a muso who will play. So, it will be exactly like Graham Norton minus a guest. What we’re focusing on are politicians, actors, overseas people. Comedians, anyone that’s visiting that wants to promote anything.
And, because I love TV and I love social media and pop culture, I want The Real Housewives of Auckland, I want whatever person is in whatever movie that’s out, I want Stranger Things, I want Eleven on the show. I want interesting people with interesting lives and interesting career choices. But also it can be someone like a zoologist [burps loudly], a Scientologist, anyone that’s interesting to me, basically.
I wanted to ask you, what do you think about celebrities – cos you’re obviously like a celebrity in New Zealand …
… Hardcore celebrity.
Hardcore, would you say you’re A-list? Have you considered yourself on any list?
A+ list. I’m not even on the list, because I’m writing the list. It’s like Julia [Sloane, Real Housewives] says, “If people are talking behind your back, you’re standing in front.” Nah, I don’t consider myself a celebrity because I’m not a fuckwit. That said, I love it when PR companies send me free shit.
That’s the dream.
It’s a dream because I’m poor, I’m just a normal musician who has three children and struggles to survive. If I ever go to Fashion Week I love sitting in the front row, because I can be like “Gilda! This is where I am, look where you are. Gilda’s where I am, you’re next to me. Jono and Ben? They are way at the back.”
When you get goodie bags at Fashion Week you’re not supposed to rifle through them, that’s not kosher right?
Oh, it’s the first thing I do. I look through and I think in my mind, “Mum, Sister, Tasha”, like I hand them out in my head. I never keep any of it for myself, cos I want to give it to my family.
I am charitable.
Long story short to that question is what do you think of New Zealand celebrities in general, obviously you’ve mentioned the word “fuckwit” …
No, that’s like me putting them on a pedestal when I call ’em a fuckwit. I love celebrities, I love famous people.
You’re very good at taking them down a notch.
Absolutely, but that’s because I admire them. It’s because I admire them and what they do and it takes a lot of balls and courage to get your stuff out there in this country. You just have to get out there do your thing. Especially if you’re a woman, because a lot of people go “Shhh!” I was shushed quite a lot when I was younger, everyone was always like “nope! We know better!”
My intuition knew that I was better, but I had to always be quiet. People tell me now that I was known as the “hard to manage” artist, because I always knew what I wanted. That’s like putting yourself in a room with a dog and saying, “Oh, it’s temperamental.” The dogs not temperamental, it just has a mind of its own. So I’m the dog [Anika laughs and woofs].
I wanted to ask you about that, cos you started out quite young, were you always as opinionated and burpy as you are now?
I was really shy when I moved to Auckland, but in my own world I wasn’t shy. I’d already been a prefect at school, I’d already got awards for singing and orchestra, I used to play the fucking baritone recorder thing like a loser, and I played for Canterbury rugby.
When you’re the best in Christchurch, you go: “Oh I’m going to go be the best in Auckland and New Zealand now.” Then you go to Auckland and you’re the least best. You have to work yourself up again, and I got real shy.
Luckily, a record company signed me in my first week in Auckland, so that was a little boost. But before they sign you, they say, “We love you! We love what you’re about!” And then after they sign you they say, “OK, change what you look like, get skinnier, and change your music.”
Were you actually asked by the label to do all those things?
Well, if you work for someone and they subtly hint at something, or if they do something without asking your permission, that’s pretty much them changing your image. “Drop your last name” was something I got quite a lot.
At the same time, you know, these people are quite good at their jobs. Back in the day – when it was real albums that sold – what you looked like mattered, it still does. They knew what they were doing but they didn’t know what they were dealing with. They liked the music but they didn’t want me to be me.
But the same goes for everything. It’s like signing on with an accountancy firm and being the zany loud one in corner. Just stop being zany and do your accounts you cunt.
How did that feel though, being so young and being told you need to be skinny and change your name?
It was awful. I was real skinny back then too! It’s not nice, it’s not nice when you feel like you are always going against the flow. I learned my lesson quite quickly. I got out of a record deal two albums in, and started doing it myself. I compromised for a while, and then I skedaddled out of there.
[Anika burps long and loud]
I am so sorry.
That’s truly the longest burp yet.
I know but it’s because of this bubbly shit! Plus I can’t hold it in, or else I’ll fart it out. My partner is always going “can you not do that in public”. I’m like “I can’t, I’ll probably do a shit.” You know what I mean?
No. I don’t think that’s how fast that’s supposed to happen, I don’t think a burp should go straight to a shit.
No, but it will push out the poo I already have in there.
So you love celebrities, you love reality TV, you love … The Bachelor?
I watch it, but I thought this year’s one was just dull? It’s just a show, though, it’s for entertainment. I love food shows more, I love that Karina and Kasey cooking show, I watch Jamie Oliver every day. I’ve got heaps of recordings of him and I just play them over and over again.
Why do you like the Oliver so much? I thought he was finished.
Fuck no. No, he is going up. I just think he’s fantastic. Liking Jamie Oliver is just something that happens when you’re in your 30s and you have children. Nigella – I’m kind of over Nigella.
Do you know she has a contract that you’re not allowed to film her from the waist down? She doesn’t like her bum apparently.
Her bottom’s beautiful.
That’s what I would’ve thought.
Actually, I’ve never seen it [gasps] because of that!
Because you’ve imagined it. Maybe when you actually see it, it’s just shrivelled …
… And she looks like Mr Burns underneath.
People always shit on reality TV, but women really love it, eh? Obviously shows like The Bachelor have their problems, but I also kind of feel like there isn’t a lot for just New Zealand women in pop culture. I don’t know, when you watch these shows do you have kind of the inner dialogue and deep turmoil that I do?
Nah, because you know what? I’m looking after my children all day, I’m working in the studio or working on my TV show, the last thing I want to do is think. Women aren’t stupid for watching these programmes, like The Bachelor and Real Housewives. It’s a way for you to escape for an hour and not think. Women just sit there for a bit and then get up and do their jobs.
It’s all an absolute release and it’s pure entertainment. A lot of people go “Oh, what’s happening to us as a society, we’re all turning brain dead.” No we’re not. I’m a creative person and I’m watching this stuff, and I’m still creating stuff that’s unique and has nothing to do with what I’m watching.
Apart from Jamie Oliver. Because I create what I watch when I watch him.
With creating all your stuff, how have you managed to retain your sense of self and just your Anika-ness, through your music to becoming more of a known “personality”?
I’m determined to go down my own path, to journey my own journey. I hate it when people want me to come over to where they are, I want to be apart from them.
I don’t want to be the best at everything in the world, but I want to be the best songwriter and I want to be the best talk show host, and I want to be the best mother and partner and person. I guess, actually, I do want to be the best. I have such a supportive partner who thinks I’m mad but loves me anyway, I just love my life.
Man, I feel like you don’t hear people talk about their life and their goals like that, feels very un-New Zealand.
I don’t know, it just feels like people don’t really say they want to be the best until they are the best, and then they go “Ah yeah, nah, it’s all right”
I want to be the best and I want to show my success through my work, not through money or fame. I’ve always been like this. Nothing’s changed.
But the free stuff is good.
Yeah, love the free stuff.
[We had to redact a large chunk here due to Anika saying things about particular people that were simply too hazardous to keep in.]
So you’re not religious, I assume.
Hell no… get it? Chrizzos love me though, it’s weird. I believe in spirits and ghosts and UFOs but I do not believe in God. Any sort of God.
Have you seen a ghost?
Have you seen a UFO?
Have you seen a spirit?
I don’t want to, either. But I believe in them. Especially UFOs because I love sci-fi.
There’s no way aliens don’t exist. It’s just crazy to think. They’re probably already here is what I reckon.
I agree. It’s very Men In Black of you to say that. That’s another thing. The Air New Zealand ads, don’t you hate them? Why can’t they get Taika Waititi to do the whole thing? Why can’t they get me to do it? Why can’t they get someone funny?
That’ll be your next gig, I reckon.
I hope so. “Hey cunts, how’s it going? Welcome to New Zealand. Fuck youse.”
“I’m not gonna tell you how to be saved, figure it out.”
“If there are any Māori on the plane they will probably try and burgle you so keep your things to yourself.”
Speaking of racism, Aaradhna’s latest album came with that note she released about encountering racism in the industry. Is that something you can speak to as a Māori woman?
I’m from Hornby in Christchurch, so obviously there’s racism there. I lived in a very Māori and Samoan area but there were skinheads. I used to walk home from school, minding my own business, smoking and drinking probably, and cars would go past and yell “fuckin’ nigger”. There’s lots of racism in Christchurch and it’s so disgusting that there’s no words for it. It’s disgusting.
On Twitter you seem quite engaged with criticising things that are demeaning to women and stuff like that. It seems like you’re pretty in the moment with all that kind of thing.
I’m hardly on Twitter, if I’m honest. I’m more Instagram these days. Twitter is not for the fainthearted. It’s not if you are sensitive. Luckily I’ve built up a really hard shell in my life. To me Twitter is just people retweeting and going [posh voice] “Huuuuwaaar, I don’t like that injustice. Now let’s buy heaps of things that are expensive from Farro Fresh.”
Is that your impression of a Twitter person?
Yeah. [posh voice] “Live the fresh life!” “Homelessness … Farro Fresh!”
That burp was longer. Every time it gets longer. The finale burp will just be like birds flying off trees in the background. Do you personally get shit from people online?
I get really long, drawn out emails from people. Look, if I’m honest, I don’t reply to people like that. I don’t have the time. If I had the chance to talk to them face to face, then I would give them my side of the story. Otherwise it’s actually a waste of time and it’s a waste of energy.
I really don’t get suckered into that shit. I’ve got too many other things to focus on. And like I always tell my partner, it’s small fry stuff. There’s bigger things in that ocean for me to worry about. Let me worry about friends with health issues or my mum who might be sick. Not someone who said something about me being a fat-arse or saying I’m not funny or saying my music sucks. Boring, who cares?
Is that the kind of thing that people actually email to you?
Oh no no no. Mostly it’s Christian stuff. In my live shows I play lots of music but I talk quite a lot. I’ve had one lady email saying that she came to my show, she loved my music, but she is really struggling with the fact that I am racist. She just doesn’t get my shows.
Anyone in the audience that’s Asian, Indian, lesbian, gay, I take the piss out of. They come up on stage and we sing and laugh. Everyone knows I’m not racist. Everyone knows that I’m just having a laugh. And it’s inclusive laughing, we’re not all pointing and laughing. With some people you can’t decide how they react, you just have to let them think what they think and then just LOL and delete it. Which is what I did.
Let’s talk about Songs for Bubbas. Obviously that’s had a big impact on your life, career, and everything.
The first Bubbas I did was real cathartic for me because I was going through a divorce at the time. I always find music as a tool to help see me through. So Songs for Bubbas was born out of sadness and a nightmare. Songs for Bubbas 2 wasn’t born out of sadness but it was born out of hardship and a life that wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be.
Songs for Bubbas 1 and 2 have absolutely defined me as a person and as a mother and as a woman. I’ve helped so many women in this country get their kids to sleep and I don’t know how I did it. All I did was I did everything from my heart.
Because you didn’t plan to make this a giant success, right?
Hell no! And it saved me. I can pay my rent now. I can do kids’ gigs and like hundreds of kids turn up and sing my songs. But at the end of the day, me and my manager are still like “Shit, that was a good gig. Ah fuck this shit, Bachelor’s on, come on cunt.” I’m really living two lives between doing my adult gigs and being naughty, and then doing kids’ gigs and not swearing and being Aunty Anika. It’s a very Gemini aspect.
You’ve done a lot, it’s crazy.
Can I retire now?
You should’ve ages ago, why are you making more work for yourself?
I’m like Jon Toogood from Shihad, when the fuck’s he gonna retire? Get out! Leave the country, for fucksake.
We should wrap this all up and come back to the talk show somehow. Are we going to see your infamous Lorde impression on your show?
Actually, I want Lorde to come on but I don’t know her email. I’m not joking. I don’t have her email and that’s the whole problem. I don’t know if she’d come on the show. When I use her name in vain, it’s absolutely because I love her. I think she’s fantastic and phenomenal.
Yeah, there’ll be lots of impressions. I can’t even tell you what will happen because I’ll have a script on the night, but I’ve never worked off a script. So, it’ll probably be whatever comes out of my little cunty mouth.
Can’t wait. Any final messages for people amping about your show?
Don’t expect any greatness … but expect it to be great.