Tourettes is a well-known rapper in the Auckland music community, like most rappers who aren’t horrible, he’s a bit of a wordsmith. I’d heard a lot of hype about him for a while before I ended up sub-editing some pieces for an e-zine he and his label had put together. Turns out Tourette’s isn’t his problem, it’s dyslexia. For someone who writes lyrics for a living, dyslexia is the literary equivalent of a double amputee golfer.
Noisey: Did you know you were dyslexic before you named yourself Tourettes?
Tourette’s: Yeah, but I found out quite late. My mum didn’t tell me for some reason
So she knew but you didn’t?
She sent me to do all these tests, but didn’t tell me why. Nothing was spoken of it really until I was about 17 or 18, I got the Tourettes name when I was about 21—so I had a little while. Tourettes just sounds better than Dyslexic.
But why that specific condition?
I just had a bunch of rap names and they all kind of sucked and then—I dunno, I think we were taking acid. Oh that’s right, we were all taking acid and I just said, “maybe I should just call myself Tourettes”, I was starting to do shows and you need a name. Then I got it tattooed on my chest and now it’s stuck there.
I was surprised to hear that you had issues with reading and writing, lyrics aren’t really the domain of someone with dyslexia.
I’m pretty open about it. Some people are ashamed, but I feel like the art I make, I make because I’m dyslexic. I might have an idea, and you might have the same idea, but by the time it goes through all the funny bullshit in my brain and comes out it’s totally removed. I might be trying to be a plagiarist, but my brain won’t let me do it.
I remember being at school and we were supposed to copy something off the board, a drawing. I did mine mirror image, but I didn’t mean to do that, and my teacher was like: “this is amazing”. I was just trying to copy the fucking thing on the board.
What do you know about dyslexia?
I only started looking into it about three years ago when I went to university. I wanted to use a laptop because then I can spend time on things and you can’t tell I’m dyslexic, but you can’t use laptops in the course I take. So I had to go and do this test to see how dyslexic you are, and it turns out I’m actually quite dyslexic. They started telling me about a lot of the other symptoms; I just thought it was me because I’ve got messy handwriting and I didn’t learn to read until I was quite old and shit—but there’s all this other stuff you can’t do properly as well. Dyslexia fucks with your memory and your sense of direction, and some people create these whole fantasy worlds to try and hide it and it can become very intricate, and that’s apparently a common symptom of dyslexia.
Do you think a late start to reading and a different way of looking at words has played a part in your fascination with the English language?
Definitely. I can remember a time where I couldn’t read, where probably most people can’t. I think I was eight. My parents were avid readers and my dad had a library of books at the house from Dostoevsky to Hunter S. Thompson; as soon as I could read I was reading all that shit, which then impacted on my writing.
There are some pretty dark topics on your new EP Dead Dog’s Dance, which I suppose is indicative of your work?
Yeah, I’m really happy with the EP, but I honestly didn’t mean for it to be that dark. When I say dark, it’s more just that it’s honest, that’s what it is. I think anytime that you’re being completely honest there’s going to be darkness there, that’s just the human condition.
That being said last year I went to Iceland and all this other interesting shit and it was really one of the best years of my life, but then all the shit I talk about in the EP did happen.
What are you up to at the moment?
I’m just doing shows to promote the EP
How do you feel about this interview?
It’s great to be able to talk about dyslexia, because it affects a bunch of people in different ways. A funny story is that there’s a TV show that showcases people with disabilities who do cool stuff, and they rang me up years ago to ask me to be on there. I felt guilty though because some people can’t walk and stuff, it’s definitely not like that.
Tourette’s is far more debilitating than dyslexia. I feel really guilty about that sometimes, because I get people Facebook messaging me from overseas being like, “It’s so cool that you’re a rapper with Tourette’s, I have Tourette’s,” and they start telling me their life story. I don’t have the heart to tell them I don’t have it so I just have to be like, “Yeah, it’s really hard”.
Tourettes new EP "Dead Dogs Dance" is available now.