“Disability is Punk” (Being Me: Cory)

* # Hey! – I just want to be in there, showing the world what disabled people can do. # Yeah, it rained and it poured and it bucketed down. # There was leaking and flooding all over the town. I hate it when people are wrapped in cotton wool by normal people because, in my eyes, disabled people are normal people. # The time has come. Let’s make a change. I guess I just try to do more and try to live the normal kid’s life wherever possible, and prove that I can do so much more than people think I can. Captions were made with the support of NZ On Air. www.able.co.nz Copyright Able 2020 – Hello, there. This is a bit of a treat. I’ve got Cory Newman in the studio with me. Cory, you’re from the Gisborne rock band Sit Down in Front, yeah? – Yeah. I’m the lead singer of the group.

Yeah. Really impressed with your band. Probably the reason as to why you’re in Auckland at the moment is because you’ve been nominated for a pretty cool award, right? The Attitude Awards is on this evening at SkyCity. – It is pretty surreal when you hear yourself on the radio, and you’re like, ‘Pinch me.’ – All right. Let’s rip into it, lads. – All right. What an absolute treat to have the Sit Down in Front lads in here. When did you guys come up? How long did it take you to get up from Gizzie? Did you fly up or did you drive up? – Flew up this morning at, like, 9. – Flash guys! – Private jet? (LAUGHTER) – Nah. We wish. – You have a disability, apparently.

What is their disability? – It’s called cerebral palsy, and it means I have, um, issues with, um, the motor control centre in my brain, and I can’t walk very well. I spend the majority of the time in a wheelchair, actually, because it’s just easier. – Sit Down in Front on The Rock, with Jay and Dunc. Nice work, lads. – Well done, lads. – I’m here today because I was nominated for the Youth Spirit Award at the Attitude Awards. Sit Down in Front has also been asked to perform at the Attitude Awards. Oh my God! #FirstBlackTieExperience. – Jackson did. – Yeah, I’ve known him since I was 6? Nah, since I was really little. Because our dads were friends. – I met him, like, five years or something ago. It was in his wheelchair basketball team, helping out. My dad was the coach. – I met him at school. (LAUGHS) – Makes lots of… – Jokes. – Dad jokes. (BOTH PLAY RIFF) We write some lyrics and we write the music. – The lyrics seem to be about everyday things.

Yeah. Like, one of them is just he couldn’t get a pie for lunch because someone stole them from the school caf, and so he just skipped his afternoon class and wrote the song, ‘Confessions of a Pie Thief.’ – # Who ate all the pies? Who ate all the pies? # Who ate all the pies? Who ate all the pies? # (BAND PLAYS ‘RAIN’) – ‘I have cerebral palsy, ADHD, epilepsy.’ # Rain, rain, go away! ‘That’s just me in a nutshell — very different.’ – ANNOUNCER: Sit Down in Front! Yeah! ‘I stand out like a sore thumb, so I guess the being different and not fitting of punk really appeals to me. Hello, SkyCity! We are Sit Down in Front. # Hey! # Yeah, it rained and it poured and it bucketed down. # There was leaking and flooding all over the town. – I reckon they responded pretty well, you know? Like, we we’re having our doubts, but I reckon in the end, you know, everything went off quite well. – Yeah. # Rain! # (CHEERING, APPLAUSE) – Attitude ACC Supreme Award winner… is Cory Newman. (CHEERING, APPLAUSE) –

This is the last thing I was expecting. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m completely and utterly humbled to be able to get this. Wow. Rock on! (APPLAUSE) # Weather got worse, and now I’m freakin’. Music was an escape for me in the beginning, I guess. When I write lyrics, I look for inspiration in the real world. We’re in the centre of Gisborne. It’s a laid-back, chill coastal town. It’s the place to be in summer, but in winter, it has this very rundown, sad vibe. # Rain, rain, go away. – # Go away! – # Rain, rain, go away. – # Go away! – # Come again, come again… Gisborne is a very different place, but I love it dearly, and I wouldn’t really want to be anywhere else. I love my Gisborne whanau. # Yeah! # Behind me is the town clock tower, which has been repainted a rather ugly battleship grey. The shape, according to a certain radio station that shall remain nameless, is a bit risque. Yeah, we’ve got some good street art. We also have some very rude graffiti. I guess it is a very punk town in the sense that tagging is pretty common. You also get the odd person who thinks it’s funny to park a powered wheelchair in a disabled parking space. That’s the most punk thing I’ve seen. Actually, this is the idea of a fun night out on the town for so many of the young men in this town who are my age. They think a fun idea of a night out is to come out and do some small-scale destruction and put their tags — sometimes quite rude tags — on buildings. Yeah, it’s the most punk rock and roll thing ever. (HEAVY GUITAR RIFFING) Being independent is very important. It means I’m just free to do so much more stuff in life. We are having what I call lazy man’s pizza. The difference between lazy man’s pizza and normal pizza is normal pizza, you have a dough which you have to make or knead or a base that you have to make or knead. Lazy man’s pizza is just, like, a tortilla, or something that’s premade. Making a pizza is like building a house. You need to start with a solid base and solid foundations. – What Cory’s like in the kitchen is that there’s all the passion and enthusiasm in the world there, and he’s definitely getting better, and he’s got a real interest in food. Obviously, his fine motor skills are a wee bit compromised, so it’s not all that easy, but we try and find ways to make it work. Yeah, it’s amazing what he can do. – Hasn’t poisoned us yet. He is pretty good. I’m quite good at, like, decorating cupcakes, and he’s probably more interested in, like, cooking. – As much as I love my mum and dad, it’ll be good to not always have to live in their pocket because they might not necessarily always be around to do things. I reckon the art of the pizza is keep it simple. – Cory has aspirations to live independently when he finishes school, so it’s pretty important to us that he has a healthy diet. (OVEN BEEPS) – How would I describe my mum? Superwoman. She has always been there for me right from day one, and just always been super supportive in the way that mums are. She’s just my rock, really. – We try to have a balanced diet, and he’s pretty good. Like, he’ll eat most foods. He’s not a fussy, fussy eater. So that really helps. – Yeah, I think he likes to— He likes to talk it up, but the reality is he’s maintaining his weight really well, which for someone like with Cory, with the level of disability that he’s got, you know, I guess it’s about making healthy choices so that he can continue to be as mobile and as active for as long as possible. (‘FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS’) – # Come on! My dad — he’s been really supportive right from day one. Really appreciate being his son. He manages the band, and he got us started, and we would be nowhere without him. He is the band’s rock. My sister — she is pretty supportive, but, you know, we do drive each other mad in the way siblings do. Like all families, it’s a bit crazy, but I love them to bits. # First world problems, first world problems. # – Yeah, so he was only 32 weeks prem. We were pretty lucky, but 12 hours after he was born, he was taken into level three, where he stayed until a week before we discharged. So we were in NICU for two and a half months. He had just one thing after the other. Had a pneumothorax to start with, so his lung collapsed. He went into just about complete renal failure, and at five days, they also picked up— they did a head scan and picked up that he’d had a big brain haemorrhage, and then he had a subsequent one after that, and he had bowel obstructions, and I think at one point, the only major organ that we didn’t have issues with was the heart. (SOMBRE GUITAR MUSIC) The hardest thing was being told I had to go home without him and I could only come in during the day, and having to leave and not being able to be there 24/7 was really tough. Carl lost his half-brother the day after Cory was born as well, so Carl particularly had a huge amount to deal with. (SOFT MUSIC CONTINUES) (UPBEAT PUNK MUSIC) – Growing up was a pretty good experience. I have a mom and dad who love me dearly and who I love in return, and, sure, I had my fair share of medical challenges, but I had a pretty good childhood. – He was confident, and he liked to talk. The biggest challenge was sometimes shutting him up. He thinks a little bit differently. Like any mum, I’m probably guilty of wrapping him up in cotton wool at times, but I’ve always tried to give him the opportunity to get involved with stuff, and I guess sometimes, I’ve had to be a bit brave myself. (ALARM CLOCK RINGS) – Time to get up, mate. – # Hey! In the mornings, before I go to school, it’s usually orchestrated chaos. – The morning rumble. Well, like most 17-year-old boys, Cory quite likes his bed and doesn’t like to get up early in the morning. It can be a bit of a battle. – Don’t like early mornings at the best of times, and you should see my mum at 7am every morning. – Like screaming banshee some mornings. Ooh. You all right? – No. – Yeah. Right. – This doesn’t normally happen, does it? – Can you move over a wee bit? Oh, that’s a lot of hot chocolate. Sorry. (DISHES CLATTER) – Once you get going, it’s fine, but I take forever to get started, and then I have to, you know, get all my bags packed, have something to eat, clean my teeth. (SPITS) – Where we really struggled is with that physical stuff, like tying his shoe laces up, because his dexterity is, you know, not the best. He finds it hard to get them on in a way that he can wear them all day and that’s comfortable. Just give him a bit of stability when he’s kind of on his feet and keep his feet in a good position all day. – My powerchair is big. It’s powerful. It’s versatile and can be used for lots of different jobs. When some of my older bloke mates heard I had one when I was young, they used to come up to me and tell me, ‘All the chicks will queue up to go out with you when you’re older, ‘because you can get the good parks at the movies.’ (‘RAIN’) At school, I use a powerchair, and it’s great. It gives me a lot of independence and freedom of movement. You have to time it because there are lots of narrow passages that will try and have lots of people, and cos my chair is so much bigger, I tend to be a traffic magnet. Just getting from one place to the next at the end of morning tea or lunch takes a lot more planning than it might for the average Joe Bloggs, and as a result, I’m often late through no fault of my own. Yes, I’d love to go to university, and ideally, I’d go to Waikato University and do a four-year Bachelor of Management Studies with honours, which is just a type of business degree. Just as I start to find my feet, I find retirement’s shadow is creeping very close. I still have another 18 months, but I feel like that’s almost not going to be enough. I’m a bit nervous to move on to uni because I’m so well established here and I have good friendships and I have lots of opportunities here at school. It took me years to sort of find my feet, but now that I’m really established and thriving, I really don’t want to have to go through that again when I move to uni. You know, I’ve got lots of good friends here, and I’ve got lots of things that I do and I really feel like part of the team here. We are doing some work for the caf lady. Very important role. I mean, if this doesn’t get done for a few days, the trailer tends to get overloaded. – At school, he visits the caf, and he takes all of the— basically the cardboard and recycling and he’s got a couple other little helpers that help him as well. – Yeah. – He puts it on himself that he has to, you know, help out and do certain jobs. – He’s a good citizen. Yeah, stuff around the school, so he has taken it on himself to do little jobs and help in certain areas of the school. – Cheers, mate. Perfect. Each morning, she has this little green trailer, which is usually full of cardboard, like, boxes of fizzy drink, chocolate milk, whatever — just the pies, boxes from that, and then it’s our job to bring the trailer up here to the local scrap yard, if you could call it that, and chuck it in the cardboard skip. – I’ll hold the trailer steady. – Good lad. I’ll be there every day pretty much, because I love it and it’s the best job in the world. – There we go. Good job, mate. Thank you. – No problem. – Right. Let’s get that back in its proper corner, and then we’ll lock up and get out of here. – How was your day? – Good. You? – Yeah, pretty good. Have you thought any more about business studies? – Yes, yes, yes, and that’s still my plan. – Where are you thinking you’ll go? What— What— – Um, I was gonna do that in two stages. Like, do my first year at EIT, cos I hear they have that cross-crediting programme. – Are you planning to stay living at home so that…? – Just for that first year. Yes. – Yeah, cool. – As long as you and Dad don’t mind. – No, we don’t mind at all. But I think it’s really important that if you are going to do that, you use it as a really good chance to practise those independent skills for when you do hopefully go flatting yourself. I think you need to start thinking about the steps that you need to take to get yourself to that point. – Exactly. That’s why I’m gonna do Year 13 twice as well — just to buy myself time to get all those skills sorted. – What do you think doing Year 13 twice will— How will that help you? – For the sake of doing, like, history and Maori and a lot of those other ones— and classics, and a lot of those other ones I really wanted to do anyway, but couldn’t fit. – Do you think you may be a little bit nervous about leaving school? Is that why you’re sort of wanting to stay a bit longer? – Nah. No, I’ve also got a lot of good stuff going, and I’m thinking just one more year, and then probably I will be ready to move on. Even if I did flat in Gisborne for my second year, I’d still— even though I was living independent, maybe one night a week, I’d still come round for tea. – Oh, lucky me. Well, you could cook. (LAUGHS) (UPBEAT PUNK MUSIC) – Come on, Nana. Let’s have a race down to the coffee shop. (CHAIR BEEPS) – Off you go. – Come on. Let’s do this. # Point them to the sky! – # Don’t push the— # Don’t push the— – # Don’t push the button. My nana is a really important person in my life. She’s in a wheelchair too, and we’ve always just sort of bonded over the fact that we’re different, and she’s also just the world’s coolest person. She’s just full of energy, and always wants to give stuff a go. She’s cool. – I made a lovely brownie the other day. It had white chocolate on the top. – A white chocolate brownie? – You would have loved it. Cory used to ring me every Tuesday when they lived in Auckland, and if I hadn’t rung him, he’d be reminding his mum that he had to ring me, and we’d have a conversation, of which most was Cory. I’d just put it on, um, speakerphone and carry on, and he’ll just talk and talk and talk. He tried to get me to buy the house next door to them so that I could stay there and I could get a job at his school as the tea lady. – Or something. Yeah, that was real— And then we moved to Gisborne and we started seeing each other way more regularly, didn’t we? I loved that. (STEAM WAND HISSES) (INDISTINCT CHATTER) You know how I’m hemiplegic on my left-hand side? – Mm-hm. – Same with you, right? Just the reverse. – Absolutely. – And if my chair breaks down and I need to borrow yours, it does make things a bit tricky. Do you remember the few times we’ve had to do that? – Mm-hm. – It’s always a disaster because you’ve got the left-hand drive, and I’m partially paralysed on my left-hand side, so (CHUCKLES) some of my worst crashes have actually not been in my own chair. – I’ve learned to respect my chair, because I’ve been thrown out of it once. – Ooh! She wouldn’t admit she’s a speed demon on national TV, but I think she secretly might be a speed demon. (WATER GURGLES) (UPBEAT GUITAR RIFFING) I really enjoy swimming. # Dark clouds gather on the horizon # as black as night, feel it in my lungs. Really enjoy it. It helps me loosen up my muscles and, you know, keep fit, and it just helps with pain management. # Burned on the barbie. # Dreams going up in smoke. # Only thing I don’t like is when the water’s freezing cold. Seriously, I’m a softie, and if the pool is too cold, I will either get out straight away or just refuse to get in if I know in advance. – OK. Down you go. – Ooh, the water’s cold! (LAUGHS) Well, it’s not actually too bad. – He’s never going to be a super technical swimmer. Like, that’s not kind of the reason why he swims. It’s just more for exercise and enjoyment. It’s kind of good to keep him moving and get some of his joints and body parts that, you know, can be a little bit sedentary at times, just with him in a chair and stuff, to kind of, yeah, keep them moving. So it’s really based around his health. – My freestyle isn’t too shabby. It’s not the best, but it’s good enough. – And I remember when he first started swimming, he’d only swim with one arm, because he couldn’t get the other arm to go over. He didn’t have the strength, but kind of he just persisted and persisted, and now, he swims with two arms, although it’s not always terribly pretty. (SWELLING PUNK MUSIC) – School is probably the least punk thing I do in my life, but you do hear a few stories. Like, you get the odd one where you hear kids are sneaking out of class to vape. When I first arrived, they had an assembly about emergencies like lockdowns, fire drills, blah, blah, blah, and apparently the only time the smoke alarms had been set off had been the year before I’d arrived. People had smoked in the loos and set off the fire alarms. (LAUGHS) I’ve never actually seen it, but I heard this story just after I arrived, and I’m like, ‘That is, like, the most punk thing now—’ Now that I know, I look back and think ‘That’s the most punk thing I’ve ever heard someone do.’ For the most part, I get really good grades — merits and excellences. I get a few ‘Achieved’s here and there, but I am yet to fail any NCEA standard. I have no ‘Not achieved’ on my record. – We’re really lucky. You know, Cory — a bit of an anomaly in that he’s an ORS-funded student, yet he gets academic excellence awards at the end of the year, but he has a teacher aide that needs to help him to unpack his bag at school. – Yeah, as my mom would say, I’m a geek, but she was the geek of the family before I was, so I suspect I may have inherited that from my mother. – We’re going to start off by going through some rules. – I love Cadets dearly. It’s a great group. It’s got a really good community feel to it. It’s almost like a big family, actually. – We want to keep phones in pockets this semester. – Yeah, I don’t bring my phone anyway, so I don’t have a lot to say on that subject. We all need to have a reasonable work ethic and always try to do our best. – Yeah. We don’t have room for— I’m not trying to be rude here, but we don’t have room for lazy slackers in here. I’ll pass this pen around, guys. It’s Hannah’s. It’s a boomerang pen, BTW. I need not explain what that is, cos you all know. All the kids are super nice, and I feel like I fit in there really well. Many years ago, when I was a bit isolated at school, I mean, I’d go in there on a Monday night and I could just let my hair down, be myself. – His enthusiasm is really extreme. It’s a really cool thing to see in our developing cadets. He’s always telling us a story. He’s always giving us his experiences. Overly, just generally an excited kind of guy, really. (STRUMS BASS GUITAR) # My dog— My dog ate my homework, and it’s gonna be late. # I guess that the teacher will just have to wait. # My dog ate my homework and he swallowed it whole. # I shouldn’t have mixed with food in his bowl. # – Yeah, Cory gets his lyrics from what he sees now, and they relate back to his age and his maturity and all of that kind of stuff, and, actually, probably the best stuff is yet to come as they get older and mature and they kind of find out about politics and justice and love and all of that kind of stuff — you know, alcohol and drugs. – Behind me is a famous set of traffic lights. At these lights, I had the inspiration for the title track of Sit Down in Front’s debut album, ‘Red Light Runner.’ We were sitting in this traffic light one afternoon, waiting for it to turn green, and this guys in the next lane just blew through the traffic light. He didn’t even stop. # Just stop that red light runner. – # Red light runner. – # Breaking the law. – # Breaking the law. – # Red light runner. # Today, we’re in Auckland, laying down some new tracks for our album at Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios. (ENERGETIC PUNK MUSIC PLAYS) # Yeah, it’s kinda like a circle, # and you get what you deserve. # We don’t just try and write stuff just because it will sell. I like music that keeps it real. A lot of modern music is, ‘plug in a computer, hit a few buttons.’ Real music is musicians who play actual instruments and they fight hard for what they get — sleeping in their van and living off free drinks and whatever chicks would feed them, and then they were huge stars, you know? In the very early days, after our first Rockquest, I was about as popular at school as a snail in a salad bar. People used to call me Yellow Wiggle. I kid you not. In a rock band, that’s not a good look. Didn’t help that that was actually my favourite colour at the time, and it’s still is, if I’m being brutally honest. Now, people compare us to the Sex Pistols, which is kind of cool. They are a great band. (ENERGETIC ROCK MUSIC PLAYS) (DRUMS SOLO) – For Cory, the bands taught him lots of kind of social things in terms of interacting with his band mates, and having to not always get his own way and kind of having to compromise sometimes. So, they’ve got a bit of a saying — ‘It’s team first in the band.’ You know, sometimes we have to pull that out. (BAND PLAYS ‘RAIN’) The first thing everybody sees when Cory’s on stage is probably his wheelchair, and it’s not something that you see a lot of. Hopefully it, yeah, blends into the background and they just kind of see him for who he is and what he does. I like to call Cory’s little shimmies ‘The Cory Shuffle.’ So, when he’s on stage, he gets the Cory Shuffle going on, and, yeah, as long as he just kind of keeps it in time to the music, it kind of works really well. (LAUGHS) Otherwise, yeah, it just looks weird. A few times, I’ve thought he is going to fall out of his chair cos he’s just going so hard and he’s so caught up in the moment, and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, wow, man. I think that thing’s going to roll over soon,’ but, you know, hey, if it did, it would be pretty punk. Smash Palace — the greatest live music venue on Earth. Our first ever proper public gig was here. Smash Palace is the most punk, most rock and roll music venue I’ve ever seen. – Man, I don’t know how much bigger this can get. – So, you can make a living out of having it— building up on TikTok, you can make a living. – Who knows where they’ll end up? – Cory’s greatest gift is his ability to communicate and his passion for life, really. Yeah, we’re just looking forward to seeing what’s next. – I have no idea what the future is going to hold for me, but I’m pretty certain it’s going to be rock and roll. # How mean would it be to have cream? Go. # How mean would it be to have cream? # I don’t want them having a thing. # How mean would it be to have— Ow! # (CHEERING, APPLAUSE) Captions were made with the support of NZ On Air. www.able.co.nz Copyright Able 2020

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