'It’s a cheap art. It doesn’t have to be the stage for profound mutterings. It can just be grunting and moaning, for dancing. It has room for that. I like trying to get something special out of something that doesn’t need it.'
I convinced Quaoub, less formally known as Jack Elias, to let me interview him in his home. This proved to be a giant mistake. Jack lives in an actual warehouse in the heart of the Inner West, he’s managed to make himself one of those homes that are both stylish and unkempt. The kind of home that sends me insane with instant jealousy. He even has one of those vintage record players that close up and turn into a tiny suitcase.
Jack has a coffee machine unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. To make coffee he has to pull down a long lever and stand there sort of hanging off it while the coffee drips out. While he was making me my first coffee his talk turned backwards and slightly bitter, he insisted this tainted the coffee saying, ‘this was made with hate and not love’. He threw the coffee down the sink and made me a new one, with love.
I asked him why he made music. He put down his coffee cup and stared straight at me, blowing cigarette smoke across the wide table in plumes as he answered.
“It’s a cheap art. It doesn’t have to be the stage for profound mutterings. It can just be grunting and moaning, for dancing. It has room for that. I like trying to get something special out of something that doesn’t need it.”
I wasn’t expecting an answer like that so I tried moving on to another question, hoping he’d do what most people do and look at the table or into their cup, maybe stare at their hands a little but I was hoping in vain. Jack answered his questions directly, straight at my face, without hesitation, until all the coffee and his directness had me feeling uneasy.
Jack insists that he has a poor memory but I think he’s lying, again he spoke without hesitation as he described the first moment music became his.
“I remember listening to an Auburn radio station at a bus stop, Auburn closes early, it is desolate at night. I grew up in Auburn and Bankstown, radio was the only access to cultures outside of mine. I was utterly shocked when I heard Nick Cave for the first time and I don’t say shocked lightly. It was quite an uncomfortable thing because it showed me what I didn’t know. It showed me I was culturally inadequate. I remember thinking I’ve not heard anything like this before. I remember thinking how scary this is, how scared I was, but I loved it.”
If you have a quick look at the photo of Jack on Quaoub’s Myspace page you’ll be looking at something that is Jack but doesn’t resemble him at all. Jack squirmed a little when I asked why he chose that photo of himself to plaster on his Myspace and Facebook pages.
“I am quite at odds with my own self-image. I deliberately pick images which I don’t immediately relate to. My self-awareness and my vanity chose to make sure I don’t look too good. My way of dealing with it is denying it, denying self-image.
I stayed for hours, longer than I thought was polite, I couldn’t help it. Talking with Jack is one of the good rewards for going to all that trouble of keeping yourself alive, day after day after day.
First published on RHUM...