Tom Tanuki: creating and agitating
Updated: Sep 1, 2018
Tom Tanuki AKA Tom Tsukumogami is a creative from Melbourne. He is a writer, satirist, political organiser, social commentator and all-round funny guy. Tom Tanuki is the brains and the agitation behind notorious satire group ‘The Million Flag Patriots’ and street protest group (or 'free speech abuse team') 'Yelling At Racist Dogs’, along with many other invented but far-too-familiar characters. So why feature him here on BEAT CONTEXT? Well, because Tom also does a bit of music, having featured on Billy Bunks' cult-classic 'Spit and Gristle’ (as the other member of the Legionnaires Cap Gangstaz) and Ben Iota’s ‘Jazz’ (as the Five Flag General of the Million Flag Patriots), as well as featuring in live sets for political mainstay Ezekiel Ox and foundation-shakers A.B. Original. Tom Tanuki gets around and gets shit done. So how has music contributed to Tom’s formation as a person, and what drives him to get up every day and be on the frontline of the culture wars? Tom Tanuki speaks to BEAT CONTEXT.
Respect the context
‘…I got a lot of my politics from rap…’
I was always a hip hop head. I got a lot of my politics from rap. I was a rap nerd from my late teens right through to my 20’s. I remember I was a religious reader of two things: Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner blog, and Murder Dog magazines. Davey D taught me the political context in which black civil rights and activism sat, up to the time, and with none of the stuffiness of academic work. He’d dive right into the history and interview not just rappers but artists and activists of all stripes. Murder Dog taught me the grassroots entrepreneurialism side of hip hop. I loved those Wendy Day articles so much on the business side of things.
‘…it was the broader cultural perspective shift I was really soaking up…’
I never understood heads who just consumed the music and didn’t get into the politics or cultural context surrounding rap. The music always seemed like only one piece of the puzzle to me. In hindsight, it was the broader cultural perspective shift I was really soaking up the experience of. Teaching me to think about things from another point of view – one that isn’t centred in whiteness, or even in any local Australian context I had a role in. It’s funny –nowadays I deal with reactionary fuckwits who call this decentralising of whiteness ‘postmodernism’ or a ‘Cultural Marxist agenda’. But I don’t think what I just described was a ‘postmodernist’ education in politics, do you? It’s just learning new shit and stepping outside of yourself. That’s how I see it.
I respected a lot of backpacker or conscious hip hop back then, but I didn’t really think it was dope. What I was really into was Bay Area rap or Southern rap. Mac Dre, E-40, C-Bo, bunch of rappers from the Bay Area; everyone on Cash Money, a ton of Atlanta artists, UGK, Project Pat, Z-Ro. But could I respect all that content as a thinking, engaged human who gives a fuck about his own politics? No, half the shit they said fucking sucked. But you learn to distinguish between the shit you love and the shit you respect in culture, right? You might have one, or the other – but rarely both. So I was learning to cordon off of what is aesthetically appealing to me from what actually resonates with my ethical framework, I guess.
Dabbling in rap
'…I found i thrived off of the hate as much as I did off the love…’
I rapped on Billy Bunks’ ‘Spit & Gristle’ album years ago (I was the other LCG member). I was also Odin, the Norse God of War in Rappertag. These were the first really public creative things I got to do that people saw and responded to. I think it was important to see the love/hate factor those things (particularly the Odin one) generated and to see i thrived off of that. I think Billy and I both shared a sentiment that Oz hip hop was pretty normative and scared of anything out-of-the-box. We knew there was no place for something as fucking absurd as Odin rapping at that time, or that at least it’d be a square peg in a round hole. That’s what happened. It had 50/50 upvotes and downvotes for a long time and we both loved that. I found i thrived off of the hate as much as I did off the love. Only the love recharges the soul, though. Shout out to Bunks. My real friend.
entry point to a public profile
'…not being creative, it always left a hole in me…’
I used to just want to be a writer. I was blogging since some time in the late 90’s. I did a few things here and there after that, like a ‘zine I made once and a few sites I used to chuck up short stories on. Then I’d had a lull in my creativity for years when partying became more important. But not being creative, it always left a hole in me. When I snapped out of all that shit, my brain went into overdrive and I started writing stories and recording character videos online under a blog I had called Unguent, which kicked off from around 2014 or 2015. That led me out to the spoken word scene to perform my shit before a live audience. I enjoyed that, but kept getting told what I was doing was less spoken word and more comedy. Never really fussed about what it was, I just thought: do more, make new things, keep going.
‘…then the response I got from that,
the love and the hate, was immediate and engaging. My work rate went up MASSIVELY in that climate…’
Eventually I started taking an interest in organised racist groups here in Australia. I went out to a few rallies. The patriot movement made me laugh, and I was intrigued by how tacky and gross it was. So I thought I’d extend my little character acting thing into doing a patriot character, and thus began Million Flag Patriots. Then the response I got from that, the love and the hate, was immediate and engaging. My work rate went up MASSIVELY in that climate. Since that time –June 2016 – I’ve done shit pretty much daily, whether it be writing or videos or graphics work or assisting others with their work or whatever. I’m always told I’m a ‘communist neo-Marxist socialist anarchist Cultural Marxist Antifa SJW soy boy’- whatever now. I just reckon I’m a creative with politics thrown in.
‘…relax bro, every death threat is a lie…’
…When I made a decision to head down to the local store and cop $100 worth of flags and start cosplaying as a patriot for piss-taking’s sake – a project which has long since ended – I had no idea I would be setting off a chain of events that would lead me to a little public profile and all the amazing opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve met. It’s crazy. I’d do it all over again,but I guess I’d just let that 2016 kid know a little spoiler from the future: ‘relax bro, every death threat is a lie…’.
A creative in the culture wars
‘…I see people who have become reactionaries just based on what feels like their tribe…’
Now I engage in a lot of this ‘culture wars’ shit online. If these people had the ability to hold boundaries between they love and what they respect, then maybe they might not have been indoctrinated by all this shitty YouTube red-pill garbage. I see people who have become reactionaries just based on what feels like their tribe. They started out lapping up some stupid ‘SJW Cringe Compilation’ video on YouTube and, from there, cherry-picking their way gradually into being little better than a far-right sympathiser. They don’t see how they’ve been long-play tricked into becoming a cunt by their own shitty desire to belong to a tribe that appeals to them. I don’t exist in a bubble – I know a lot of old Oz hip hop heads who fell for that trick. Legit, there’s old heads from the late 90’s, early 2000’s who are running far-right pages these days. ‘What the fuck were they doing when Ice Cube was talking?’, is what I want to know. Smashing cones, I guess? Their politics fucking suck. Then again, if you spent all your 20’s sucking bongs in a living room taking Non Phixion lyrics seriously,..I’m not fucking surprised.
’…it’s a fight for our future identity…’
I have a platform and a power to make people laugh and engage, but it’s not over dumb shit. My platform’s a progressive one and a firmly cultural one. I want to see a (cultural) landscape in which we look forward to learning about and embracing our true history - the very long, old one - as our real history. We are not a 200-odd year old country. I’d like to interrogate and eliminate white guilt, white fragility, and white supremacy as we learn how to deal with ‘whiteness’ as it is, a social construct, and to stop lashing out at attempts to silence this. I’d like us to understand our political and cultural identities in this nation and I want to wrest control of who we, in this country, are going to see ourselves as in future generations from the hands of the misogynists, racists and homophobes. There’s a culture war happening because the chips scattered over the past few years. People fought and fractured over it, and still do. It’s a fight for our future identity. I don’t want regressives and reactionaries to win that fight here.
‘…I’m able to dispel some
very deliberately cultivated myths over socially progressive causes.
I think it’s a rare space to occupy…’
I’d like to think that there’s a certain plain-speaking nature to me and the shit I do that can demystify the ‘pink-haired SJW leftist’ causes that have been demonised by a bunch of reactionary attention whores. I’m able to dispel some very deliberately cultivated myths over socially progressive causes. I think it’s a rare space to occupy – particularly in Australia. I reckon I’ve created some entry points into cultural or social causes that are fun and engaging for people that normally find those causes impenetrable. Like, people don’t want to wave a way-too-earnest placard and chant hysterically, but they might want to Yell At Racist Dogs like a real fukn Aussie!
‘…I will only get worse from here.
I am sorry. My work rate only increases…’
Creating shit that I get a laugh and a kick out of – that’s simply my life now. I will not stop. I will only get worse from here. I am sorry. My work rate only increases. For anyone who was hoping I’d get over it, no way. They should’ve killed me same time as Ice T, I reckon (I’m allowed to say that coz people actually did want to kill me, so)… I am going to expand on the creative stuff. I’ll do a live show next year at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, a longer idea piece, that’s the plan. I wanna write longer pieces, maybe have things published. Film, writing, all of it. My other main thing this year is that I want to collaborate more with other people. If you are a sick creative and you want in on my ridiculous skill set, get at me!
life is different now
‘…I’ve gained a kind of a power to influence change…’
Personally I feel very fulfilled – as though I just recovered a final missing jigsaw puzzle piece of myself that’d always been lost underneath the table. But that’s inherently social, in a way, because my content gets knocked up on social media. Through my work being online, I have built a powerful consensus of the like-minded. I have met a ton of people that I admire and respect. I’ve gained a kind of a power to influence change – whether it be, say, to thwart the work of organised reactionaries or whatever should I apply myself to it, or to reach out the large network I’ve built of useful, amazing people to seek their assistance. I wouldn’t trade that network of legends in for the world. I’ve been able to do lots of dope things. Standing up on stage with A.B. Original at Laneway Festival last year doing what I do, fucking up all the TV stations and having Media Watch run a piece on MFP. I’ve had the universe respond to me with lots of cool shit, which still surprises me on reflection given the raw, scrappy nature of a lot of the content I turn out.
‘…I’ve had thousands of death threats…’
The penalties of doing creative work in the political/cultural arenas I’ve dived into have been numerous, and very interesting.Particularly when you’re disrupting and annoying the shit out of organised racists. I’ve had thousands of death threats – it is now very pedestrian for me to have someone threaten to come to my house and shoot me. “Righto mate, see you in a bit, use the side entrance please.” I’ve had people post my personal details online and encourage ex-ADF soldiers to go and ‘take me out’. I heard that nutters from one of the patriot groups were looking at planting a claymore mine under my car if I came to their rally in 2016. I’ve been on ASIO’s watch list for my online comedy activities, man. Honestly, a lot of that was life-changing – learning to adjust your sense of yourself to understand that life’s different now, and accepting this is the kind of response you can expect from the world is tough.
'...I’ve done some odd shit...'
Once I helped out my mates who ran a fetish event in like 2008 or something. The fetish scene isn’t my scene but the idea sounded insane so I said yes. They were doing a live performance on stage. I was dressed up as a giant teddy bear but I had this huge fkn dildo roped around my waist. In the performance, someone sprinkled fairy dust all over me and I woke up from out of a pile of toys, like I was a teddy bear that had just achieved sentience. Then I kinda mimicked the process of fucking a girl in the hospital. That wasn’t all of the performance, but that was my part. Bizarro, right? I’ve done some odd shit. I wish I had video of that performance.
Tom Tanuki was kind enough to provide BEAT CONTEXT with a verse to appease the Legionnaires Cap Gangstaz massive. Enjoy!
Tom Tanuki is constantly working on, and releasing, new content. You can keep up with all things Tom Tanuki HERE or wherever he isn't banned.