Interviews

Ejo #119 – The Extraordinary People I Know: Natasha Jones

I remember the day I met Natasha like it was this morning. I was waiting for her, and our mutual friend Kayte, to pick me up from St. Kilda Road during peak hour so we could go and look at a share house we were considering moving into.  The famous Market Street.  At the first set of traffic lights she turned around from the driver’s seat to smile at me and properly introduce herself.  To say I was completely dazzled is an understatement.  I was instantly enchanted, and my infatuation with her has only grown stronger over the last 20 years.  Being in her gaze felt like being washed in a beautiful, warm wave of sunshine.  I never stopped being in awe of her, this golden girl.  I never stopped marvelling at how lucky I was to be friends with such a remarkable human being.

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Our golden girl.

In August of last year I wrote an ejo about Love.  I spoke of Natasha and the battle she was facing with cancer.  A few days after I published that ejo, we chatted about the idea of me interviewing her for a series I write called The Extraordinary People I Know.  She was delighted and told me she’d be honoured to do it, but we decided to wait until she was better, as it might be a bit intense.  I think we both truly believed that she would get better.  Or maybe we just hoped she would.  We continued to make plans, including a pact to travel to Iceland together, to see the Northern Lights.  We made plans for a future that, sadly, Natasha will never see.  Four days ago my beautiful friend passed away.  She tragically leaves behind an adoring husband, Riley, and their three incredible children, Xander, Ellie and Declan.  We have all lost a great friend, but they have lost their devoted wife and mother.  My heart breaks for them.

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Riley & Natasha. ♥

Living in Dubai, I wasn’t there to witness her decline in health the last few months, and even though she looked thin and drawn in some photos, and even though I knew she was in pain and not doing so great, it still doesn’t make sense to me that Natasha is actually gone.  I am still struggling to accept that she isn’t just a text away. That the cancer actually beat her. Put simply, I just can’t comprehend that she is no longer alive. Even writing the words doesn’t make sense.  As most of you know, I am still grieving my Mum’s sudden death in March, and then, the loss of my grandmother in June.  To have lost one of my dearest friends as well just feels like too fucking much.  Especially as Tasha was instrumental in helping me see some light during my darkest hours earlier this year.  Even while she was going through horrible chemotherapy she was always there for me when I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through the day.  She even came to my Mum’s funeral, despite being in obvious pain.  That is true friendship.

Even though I’ve lived abroad for the last eleven years, Natasha and I always stayed in touch.  The last fifteen months, however, brought us closer than we’ve ever been.  We would joke around and say, “Thanks cancer, your work here is done. You can fuck off now!”.  I kind of always felt like I had a special relationship with this golden girl.  That our friendship was different, and unique.  But what I’ve realised, since she died, is that all her friends felt the exact same way.  And that was her gift to us all.  That is what made her so extraordinary.  She and I never got the chance to do that interview.  Instead, I have asked a few of her friends to write tributes to our beloved Tash.  But first, please let me share some words of wisdom from her that comforted me after my Mum died.  I hope they comfort you too.

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I stopped everything today having received the news of Natasha’s passing, in honour of who she was and always be for me. Natasha and I have been friends for many years and I’m so happy that our Mums became great friends because of our friendship. Life took us down different roads but our friendship was unwavering and she knew my love for her. Natasha is an ever constant SHINING LIGHT. She smiled in all circumstances and cared about others first and foremost. Her cheerful energy was infectious and one of my latest & fondest memories was having her, Riley, Xander, Declan and Ellie spend time with Daniel and me while they were here in New York for NYE in 2016. I remember how wonderful it was seeing her beautiful face at the 2nd Avenue tram stop when we met up, and then sharing a little of our lives with them. I love you Natasha as I now create a new kind of relationship/communication with you. I’m sure your gorgeous Dad has you by his side now as you both watch over Riley, Xander, Ellie, Declan & your beautiful Mum, Matilda.
Chiara S.

Chiara

Natasha & Chiara


Dear Natasha, we met in 1994. Our mutual friend Brendan said “you must meet Natasha you’d love her!”. And love you I did. Within a month we were living together in St Kilda. You, me, Myshell and Chryss. We had some of the greatest times in that little house in Market Street. You are the kindest and most generous soul I ever met. You radiated energy. Always thinking of others, giving us strength, reassurance, laughter, joy, happiness. You always had time for me. And I always had time for you. I came over to see you in February, and I held your hand by the pool. We spoke no words but we knew we were saying goodbye – for now. I will never, ever forget you. I will miss you every day. Love you so much Natasha.

Kayte A.


Dear Tash, when we first arrived in Melbourne, fate had it that you were my neighbour. Our first conversation with “our neighbour across the road” revealed you to be warm, extroverted, interested and so friendly. You eased the angst of settling in to a new landscape by always greeting us with joy, enthusiasm and gems of information that we would need to know in order to ensure that we settled in well. Both you and I frequently commented on how much we loved our Elwood village and the community that we were forming.

As I got to know you our conversations deepened. We explored the books we were reading, the subjects that fascinated us, and the ones that enraged us. We spoke of what it meant to parent and shared advice on what was currently working for us or what was troubling us. We spoke about what it meant to be a woman at this time. I felt such ease in your authentic company and always walked away from time spent with you energised and inspired.

Your diagnosis had me reeling and affected me profoundly. You were my age. A mother. A wife. A person who truly LIVED their life and the situation that you were facing was unfathomable to me. Nevertheless, you persisted. I know that you were scared, because so much was at stake. But you were optimistic and determined and we all marvelled at your ability to show strength through such unbelievably challenging times. With each new update from Riley my heart sunk a little further. Despite your conviction, this illness was taking hold. And yet you persisted.

You persisted until the very end and then last night you exhaled, and you are now at peace. This is our only consolation. This morning I woke to a world without your physical presence. Already you are so dearly missed. I know this because your friends are speaking and grieving together, and this is just one of the ways you will live on in us. This morning I woke and felt your presence amidst your absence. Because of you, each day of mine will count. Because of you I will not take a conversation, an encounter, a hug, the opportunity to kiss my girls goodnight for granted. You will live on in us all through our memories of the wonderful human being that you were, through the connections you have forged between people, through the special places we shared time together. You will live on. How loved you were. And how lucky I was to get to know you.
Much love,
Bronwyn I.

Bronwyn

Bronwyn & Natasha


One of my fondest memories of Natasha is her ability to be truly honest in almost any given situation – it wasn’t brutal, it was often just her observational and self-deprecating honesty that cut through. She was funny, would often put her foot in her mouth by saying things that were maybe a little too honest. She would say kind of awkward, often deep, but always honest, things – I loved this about her. I loved that she never held back. 
This short moment is about her honesty. A large group of us went to a rave at the Docklands. I was dancing next to her, and she had her eyes closed, smiling from ear to ear, bopping away to the tune that was being pumped out. I leaned over and said, “Natasha, you look like you’re having fun – how are you going!?” She opened her eyes, turned to me, smiled even bigger, and said, “Chris, I’ve just had about 17 orgasms in the last two hours, I’m having a very good night – this is great!” With my jaw on the ground, and not expecting that response, she kind of left me speechless. It just makes me smile thinking about her at that moment – eyes closed, smile on her face, not a care in the world. Honesty was her super power.
Chris D.


I first met Tash days after the Jones family moved into their house, only a week or so after we had moved in right next door! I popped in to say “Hi” and ended up staying for about a half hour, in which time she managed to tell me nearly the whole Natasha Jones history, which as you all know is quite a long and convoluted one. I honestly do not know another soul who could pull this off and get it right. Basically what I got from it was:

“Hi I am Natasha Jones. I am putting myself out there and I am telling you all of this crazy stuff because I want you to know that I am a genuine, caring soul who will be here for you even though I don’t even know you but you have intersected with my life and that is, right now, the most important thing in the world”.

I was sold!!! (It helped that it was actually very interesting too!!)  Our lives had nearly connected in the past many times – she and I both grew up in Geelong, came to Melbourne to go to uni, married and lived in Fairfield/Alphington with our three small children before moving to Elwood!! We felt it was destiny that we finally met living side by side. In Elwood, Tash and I had parallel lives with traveling husbands, busy kids etc. so having each other next door was the perfect scenario. As well as brave, Natasha was generous. She would give everything she had, if she thought it would help. She gave all of herself to her family and her friends and that is why she is so missed and has broken all our hearts. It is also why we are all better people for knowing her and certainly why her children are the wonderful people that they are.
Andrea J.


I am struggling to put words together that can adequately capture what Tash meant to me. I don’t think I can do her or the depth of our friendship justice! Tash told me the first time we met in our daughter’s prep class that we were going to be friends, she decided! And she certainly meant it. How lucky was I?! We bonded as ‘wog mamas’, Slovenian and Greek/Arab raised in Geelong and Frankston. We were wog bogans at heart, raising our kids in middle class ‘burbs of Bayside. We got each other, our roots so familiar, we held hands tight and marched into the primary school years together, laughing, sometimes crying, and loving life together. I have never met anyone who invested so much of her energy and love in the people she cared about, and in the extended community around her. I would tell her off, “Tash you give too much to people!” And she would always say no, she got so much from everyone, a raison d’être, loving and supporting others was what she lived for, it lifted her spirits to be a part of her wider community. I feel so privileged to have been her friend, a bestie and soul sister. My children were treated as her own, her kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness were unsurpassed. She loved and supported me through thick and thin, and always had words of praise and encouragement, admiration and gratitude for me, my kids and our friendship. She was an angel, cheeky, fun, funny, full of love and empathy, and knew what was important in life – family, friends, supporting each other and living life to the fullest. She loved fiercely and fully. Even in her passing, her words of encouragement and love ring strong in my mind, as if she is here now speaking them. I hope I can always hear her like this, it is unfathomable to imagine life without her.

Alex P-R.


Tash and I met in Grade 4. We were ten years old. It was a bond that has never broken. We would spend weekends together playing in her parents driveway on roller skates and stilts made by her dad. In Year 8 we went to our first gig together. It was Hoodoo Gurus and Boom Crash Opera in Geelong. We had boozy nights at Bec’s place at 15, our first loves and heartbreaks. Tash and I grew up together. From kids, to teenagers, to adults and although our face to face catch ups became fewer than what we would have liked, when we did see one another it was like no time had passed at all. My memories of Tash expand over 30 years! 
So many wonderful times to cherish and draw on for comfort but out of all of those memories, my most favourite thing about her was her smile. She would smile with her whole being. She would make you feel safe, loved and important with one beautiful smile, the smile that would light up the room. I am going to miss that smile for the rest of my days.
Jade K.


This is classic Tash. Writing a thank you note to me whilst going through chemo. I wish I had written to her to say thank you for being apart of our lives. Tash was a ray of sunshine that made everyone feel special. I own the local Bakers Delight in Elwood and not only was I devastated to hear of her passing, it’s been tough to tell my staff who have been devastated by the loss of the beautiful Natasha. I cannot begin to imagine the devastation that Riley and their beautiful babies must be feeling at this time. She was the best and will be missed.

Denise C.

Denise

Natasha’s thank you note, to Denise.


Tash would always be my Wonder Woman, as I called her, during the brief four years that I got to know her through our daughters at school. Her energy, enthusiasm, warmth and big heart will always live in our memories. She was one in a million.

Chialing C.


Natasha and I went to Clonard College together. Her kindness and inclusive nature meant that this kid that just rocked up fresh off the plane was befriended along with the rest of the girls like Myshell, Jade, Bryanna and Rebecca. I spent my formative years with a super cool girl who I will always remember as having an amazing singing voice, who loved and worried about her brother in Slovenia and was always up for having fun. 
About ten years ago we re-connected via Facebook. I had an amazing time hanging out with Tash and Riley when they opened their home to me in 2013. We spent a day shopping, catching up and it was like we were back in high school again. I will miss her so much but her big smile, so very infectious, will always stay with me when I think of her.
Melissa H.


Riley’s mum Vonetta is my Godmother, I’ve known the Jones’ my entire life and met Tash via Riley. We’ve gone through phases in our lives, from seeing each other a lot, to not at all for years, but our connection with them has never changed. I’ve shared a lot of gigs with them, mainly at The Prince in St Kilda and when I think of Tash, I always think of The Pixies and Regurgitator. What I loved about Tash was how genuinely interested she was in everything, how she asked questions and really listened whenever you told her something. She made you feel really important and that you mattered and that whatever you were talking about was the most interesting thing she’d ever heard. We shared a common dislike of reading electronically and she understood how it’s vital to hold a book, smell it, feel it, crease it’s pages and wear it down to fully enjoy it. She cared and she was a lover, that’s how I’ll remember her.

Emma R.


Tash, thanks for being YOU! Back in 2003, Tash offered to care for my new rescue puppy, Mocha, as I was going away for the weekend. At the time, Tash & Riles lived in their second storey flat in St. Kilda. I explained that this was a challenging location to care for a newly house-trained puppy who still needed regular visits outside, even throughout the night. Also, at the time, Mocs still had those razor-sharp puppy teeth and was teething so she constantly wished to chew on something soft, like your fingers! 
Despite the level of care needed for such a young pup, Tash still offered to care for Mocs while I was away. She even made out as if I was doing her a favour by helping “prime Riley for parenthood!” Mocha lived on for another 14 years and she always got excited whenever she saw Tash. I know Mocs was a great judge of character!
Lisa C.


Our friend Riley introduced us to a gorgeous girl at ‘The Nott’ pub one night many years ago! She was stunning and funny and immediately shone into our lives! It was obvious Tash and Riles were soul mates from the beginning.. They were so in love and thus produced the most gorgeous offspring! We spoke only occasionally but it was always with that connection mamas have! It was a privilege to know Tash (and Riley!). RIP BEAUTIFUL GIRL!

Kaz P.


When I first met Tash, I felt instantly connected to her. She was so easy to chat to, like an old friend you had known for years. Tash made you feel instantly at ease when you were around her. She was vivacious and so effortlessly herself. It was easy to develop a strong bond and friendship. Tash was so big-hearted and generous. She would always offer to help you out in anyway and would help with the kids whenever she could. Tash embraced everyone around her with gusto. She didn’t judge. She always saw the good in people and that amazed me how she did that sometimes. She would always make time for people. She sensed when you were having a crappy day and would listen intently with compassion and empathy. She knew when to give you a beautiful embracing hug when you needed it most. In her presence she made you feel special and important. She supported me with so much love and kindness through a challenging time and I will be forever grateful to Tash for that.

Tash was also a lot of fun to be around. I loved her sense of humour and shared lots of laughs and sometimes also tears. I will so miss her laugh and her beautiful smile. We had some fun nights out and she did great Halloween parties. I remember the first one I went to, her greeting me at the door as Bat girl! Tash loved music. I remember how she organised a group of friends to go and see the Dior exhibition. But we were too busy chatting and catching up that we didn’t get much time to see everything. We rushed through the exhibition so we could get time to see the live band performing and have a dance!!

Kids were also drawn to her warm presence. I loved how she would embrace her friend’s kids. She would always make gorgeous compliments about your kids and to them. You would see their faces light up when she did that. This last year has been so difficult to see Tash endure this awful disease but she has done so with such incredible grace and strength. It seems so unfair that she has been taken from our lives way too soon but I am so grateful to have known her. She was such a special friend. This world won’t be the same without our gorgeous Tash, but she has certainly left this world a better place because she was in it! RIP my beautiful friend
Lisa D.


I met Tash in London in the early 2000s. I honestly don’t know what my life would look like had I never met her. I live in the flat she and Riley had on Beaconsfield Parade, numerous jobs came my way either directly or indirectly through her. She was pure delight and kindness. I have been thinking of how best to describe Tash to friends of mine who hadn’t met her and the best I have come up with is this. Outside of being an outstanding example of how to live life, Tash was like a mirror that only reflected the best of yourself back to you. She will be sorely missed.

Tori F.


I first met Tash through Riley when he was at uni, and was immediately drawn in by her Amazonian beauty, beautiful heart and caring nature. Those two were made for each other. She has always been there for me in my time of need, whether it be text messages every year on the anniversary of my mum’s death to stretching herself to make an appearance at gatherings when she had so many other things on that day. I honestly don’t know how she kept her energy up (even before she got sick) to be able to be there for so many people as well as her beautiful family. Our ‘Ladies Lunches’ will be a memory I will cherish forever – just kicking back with the girls, drinking a few wines and shit talking about anything and everything. I will miss her terribly, I feel like there is an actual hole in the world that can never be filled. You didn’t deserve to go so soon – you had so much more to give and life to live. Love you forever Tash. xx

Carolyn G.


I met Natasha in our shared linguistics tutorial at Monash Clayton. Tash shone more than anyone with warmth, beauty, confidence, and happiness. Her spirit was so light and free. I was blessed to get to know and love Tash really through my friendship with Riley when she became the love of his life, and I could see she was perfect for him from day one! Everyone loved Tash and she loved everyone! What a gift! This picture and the comments and hearts drawn here were from Tash for our engagement party & they show her big loving spirit. An angel and inspiration of how to fully live and love for us all always

Cate S.

Cate

Natasha & Cate


The first time I met Tash she asked for my mobile number so she could make sure I got home safely. Of course, a few minutes after I got in the door she rang to make sure all was well. Tash was great fun to be around, laughing and always thinking of others. Some favourite memories include Meredith Music Festival and Golden Plains, hanging out at their shopping container and our ladies lunch series, held at different houses with different themes. The overwhelming similarities was all the laughs, hugs, wines and catching up on everyone’s news. I will miss Tash greatly but am very thankful for the incredible memories I have. She was a great friend.

Meredith Williams


I met Natasha on her 21st birthday when her parents took her on a cruise on the Fairstar for her birthday. I don`t know why they chose the Fairstar given it`s reputation. I was on there with a group of friends and she started to hang with us much to the chagrin of her parents. I stayed in contact with her after the trip and we used to catch up a couple of times a year. Tash was one of the kindest and most beautiful people I have known and I feel that she made me a better person just for knowing her. She believed in me even when I did not believe in myself. She was always there whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on and she was one of my oldest friends (even her parents liked me after first thinking I was a bad influence). The world has lost one of it`s most exceptional people and she will never be forgotten by all that knew her.

Gareth Price


Tash was the sort of person that had a real energy to her; always smiling and fun. The last time I saw Tash, before she was diagnosed, she and I spent hours sipping wine, sharing our stories, laughing and solving the problems of the world! The thing that really stands out about her was that she always made me feel good about myself. She had a way about her that was positive and empowering. 
Since she was diagnosed we spent time messaging each other and I couldn’t believe how she managed to still devote time writing such beautiful messages when she had so much to deal with. I can tell from reading all the wonderful tributes about her she made everyone feel this way – special and important. What an incredible way to have lived her life. Some of the wise and insightful things she said to me will replay in my mind and make me think of her long after she has left this world. Her memory will be forever in our hearts. My heart goes out to her beautiful family and devoted husband that she loved so much. I can’t imagine the pain and loss they must be feeling.
Sarah E.


The first time I connected with Tash we sat on the bus together on the way to swimming class. She was a shy girl of migrant parents but with a sweetness and curiosity that was magnetic. We soon discovered we had lived in the same street growing up but that a major road had separated us. We’d always known each other as “that girl that lives across the street”.  A few months later, when I was just 12, my mother died of cancer.
At the funeral Natasha stuck by my side the whole time. That pretty much became the pattern for most of our lives. She was my champion.

Before emails and iPhone we shared a journal we would write in nightly and swap at school. In those messages we poured our hearts out, gave each other advice. In some ways we raised each other, both having an older sibling not living at home.  I have so many stories of Tash I could share. I hope to write them all down one day for her children to read. But the greatest stories involve them and their dad. There is Tash before Riley and then Tash after. She found her purpose in love.

If you were her friend at the end, a part of the Tash Tribe, let me tell you this: She loved you. She saw your light. She chose you. Not just because you knew her but because she believed in you and your goodness.
Shell M.

Myshell & Natasha

Myshell & Natasha

 

Ejo #99 – The Extraordinary People I Know: Terry Oubre

 

About a year ago I stormed one of the stages at an electronic music festival in Europe (coz that’s just how I roll, bitchzzzz). Alright, technically I didn’t “storm” the stage. But I did sneak in from the back when the security guard went to the toilet. Somehow I found myself in the middle of the stage, next to the DJ, looking out at the thronging crowd. And it was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever experienced. My rock’n’roll moment!

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Make some noise!!!!  My three minutes of glory.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of getting to know an Actual Fucking Rock Star. The real deal, folks. Someone who spent years performing in front of millions of people, before moving onto a successful career as a producer. He’s the best electric guitarist you’ve never heard of – I’m talking about the extraordinary Terry Oubre. Let’s chat!

My one experience on (someone else’s) stage blew my tiny little mind. Tell me about the time you played with The Grass Roots in front of 600,000 motherfucking people in Washington DC on 4th July, 1982?
That gig was so surreal that I was totally relaxed. It’s like when my wife was giving birth to our son. The moment is so big and fraught with the possibility of something going wrong, that you just let go of the worry and roll with it.

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A news clipping of the event.  Over half a million people attended.  Let that sink in for a minute.

How long were you on stage for?
About one and a half hours. CNN and MTV were covering the event, and it was broadcast live over the radio. No pressure though.

Were you nervous?
No, I wasn’t nervous. We were so battle hardened from the road. We could have played through a hurricane. But, like I said, it was very surreal. Sometimes things are so huge that you just go with it. As long as the equipment didn’t blow up, I could handle it. Smaller clubs can be more intimidating, because people are right under your nose. At the DC gig, we were on a big stage and the crowd was a sea of people. And everybody just wanted to party. It was July 4th, Independence Day. They were ready to rock, and we did our best to deliver.

You recorded just one album with The Grass Roots, Powers Of The Night. Lead singer Rob Grill was supposed to be the heart-throb of the group, but you would have been my favourite, for sure. Definitely the cutest.
Haha! Thanks. We once played a big club near New Orleans, and the club owner and I went out for a midnight ride with a couple of women afterwards. He told me, “Women might wanna fuck Rob, but they wanna marry you!”

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A photo of The Grass Roots.  Check out the cutie on the right.

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A promotional photo of the band.  How adorable is Terry!!!!


You definitely have a wholesome nice-guy thing going on there, which is very appealing. So how did you end up in The Grass Roots? And why did you leave?

The singer of The Grass Roots wanted to go on the road, and he needed a band. My group had just moved to LA and someone recommended us. And things just began to happen. A record producer for MCA Records came to see us at a venue in LA, and wanted to sign us. The irony is, I went to LA to make it with my own band and do session work, not be in The Grass Roots. So, after about two and a half years I quit and moved to Austin, because I wanted to produce. I wanted to make serious music. Something that meant something to me, that was based on what I was about.

Can you tell me a little more about what you do? You’re a producer – what does that even mean?
A music producer is like a movie director. I do everything necessary to bring a song to fruition. Which means shaping the arrangement, sometimes helping with lyrics, coaching the musicians and vocalists on their parts and generally pulling everything together. We’re making a record – a fixed piece of art – and because my name is on it, it has to be as good as I can make it. And that means I have to be able to read people and get what I need out of them without hurting their feelings. I have to be convincing, without making anyone feel threatened. So, a good producer has to wear a lot of hats. I also do a lot of mixing and mastering. Mixing is an art in itself. It’s a performance. You can make or break a recording in the mix. I usually do a ton of editing and shaping of the sound, blending it all together which makes the sum of the parts stronger. Not unlike an orchestra conductor.

So how much of a record is your vision, and how much is the artist’s?
My job is to help the artist realise their vision. The listener thinks it’s all the artist, but I work my ass off to make it sound great.

How did you get into producing?
I think it was just an organic outgrowth of my love for music and creating music. Especially the idea of trying to create music that I wanted to hear, that nobody else was recording. So there was a strong desire to be inventive, to express myself in a personal way, rather than trying to emulate what had come before. Prior to becoming a producer, I listened to music. Decoding what they were doing to achieve certain sounds. Particularly the Beatles and Hendrix. I was interested in sound from very early on, even as a child. I would pay attention to mechanical sounds and sounds of nature. Like the way sound bounced off the walls of houses in my neighbourhood. We had large yards with a lot of space between houses and if you hit a baseball, the crack would echo in a very complex way. Also, the sounds of a marching band in a stadium, especially the drums. To hear those drums playing in unison and the way that sound reverberated. Or during a parade, hearing them approaching from down the street and how the sound changed as they got closer. The sound of trains on tracks, the horn and the “Doppler effect” always fascinated me, as did the sound of a jet flying overhead. I love that shit.

Can you study producing, like law or medicine or engineering? Or do you need to have some kind of musical experience?
I don’t know how far studying will get you. It’s more of an innate ability, based on years of listening and trying to understand how sounds are recorded and how a record is made. So, for me, it was just a matter of calling on my experience as a session musician and recording with various bands over the years. I got tired of arguing with recording engineers about what kind of EQ I wanted, so with the advent of digital recording I bought my own recorders and turned my garage into a recording studio. I would rather do it all myself than have some motherfucker tell me what can’t be done, just because the text books say you can’t do it. I remember reading about George Harrison asking the engineer to boost the treble of his guitar during Nowhere Man, and the engineer telling him, “You can’t do that”. At that point the Beatles had earned the right to demand whatever they wanted. So George said, “Turn it all the way up, and if that’s not enough we’ll run it through another channel and boost it there too!” It was good to know that even the Beatles had to put up with engineers and their rigid bullshit.

What advice would you give to someone interested in producing as a career?
Anyone with the desire to learn how to make records can start with acquiring recording gear, whatever they can afford, and just learning from their mistakes. At first, it seems really hard to make it sound like a professional record. You have to sweat bullets for a few years and continue to upgrade your gear and add to it. You have to be detail oriented. And you have to have a real passion for it. Just like any other form of self expression.

What kind of music do you produce?
I’ve produced singer/songwriter artists, old school country, hard rock, blues, pop. For myself, I plan to record a hybrid of electronic and raging electric guitar. Also, cinematic style instrumental music.


Woah, love me some raging electric guitar! Tell me more. Are you planning on recording just a few songs, or a whole album? How long has it been since you’ve made music for yourself?

If I record an album again I will make it vinyl only. With a vinyl record you have a flow, like a movie or a book. It’s a listening experience. You go on a journey. I mean, it can function just as a collection of songs, but I like arranging songs so that they have an ebb and flow. My first and only CD, Future Blues, came out in 1996. I’ve recorded since then, but not released anything.

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Terry’s album, Future Blues


Tell me about making Future Blues. And why you waited over twenty years before thinking about making another one?

The original plan was a band album, but that wasn’t working out so I decided to put out a solo CD instead. The intention was to follow up with the band album, but in the meantime I’d transitioned to full time music producer and became more reliant on that income than putting out my own music. And that’s been the case for over 20 years.

During that period, I was also raising my son. My life in suburbia overtook my previous life as a full time musician and I got stuck. My marriage was not what I had hoped it would be either. I’d lost touch with who I was and, frankly, I’m still a long way from getting my life back as a working musician. So, after a 20 year marriage we decided to divorce and I finally had the chance to get back to some semblance of my previous life, which is where I’m at now. I bought a 100 year old building in a small town about an hour outside of Houston, which I’m renovating as a studio/loft apartment. The place will be combination recording studio, listening room for showcases, man cave and Americana museum, with many artefacts from my life. And I may have some kind of teaching academy there as well. I figure I’ll get more done if I immerse myself in a lifestyle that revolves around making and recording music, rather than going back to a more conventional life. I’m happier now, and anxious to re-establish myself as a musician as well as continuing to produce.

What kinds of artefacts?
Well, when I was very young I wanted to play drums. My parents gave me a toy drum set, and I played it til it fell apart. I remember being around 4 years old playing the toy drums in the garage, along to my mum’s Elvis records, when the garbage truck pulled up. The garbage men saw me playing – a couple of black guys watching this little white boy getting after it on the drums. They were cracking up laughing, but they were loving it.  So I’m looking for a toy drum kit similar to the one I had to proudly display in my studio.

Who has been the biggest influence or inspiration for you?
Jimi Hendrix, to me, was the most important musician of the 20th Century. The Chili Peppers guitarist, John Frusciante once said that “when you hear Jimi Hendrix play, it’s a pure expression of him as a person. You see him on stage and there’s absolutely no separation between him and his guitar. They’re completely one, because he’s just putting every single bit of everything in his whole psyche and every single part of his body into his guitar playing”.

That’s how it feels when I watch the clip of you playing in Tucson. No joke. Like the music is coming from inside you, and the guitar is just a tool for that expression. It’s truly magnificent. What piece of music from Jimi Hendrix is your favourite?
I don’t think I could name one piece. If I had to choose his best album, I’d say Electric Ladyland. Listened to from beginning to end, it gives you that experience of having travelled through space and time. It’s transcendent music.

Anyone else?
Jeff Beck. One of the reviews I got for my album said, “If Jeff Beck lived in Austin, you have some idea where Terry Oubre is at.” There are many other great guitarists and musicians I love. Everything I love in music has influenced and inspired me. Hendrix is still number one for me though. I can hardly believe he walked the earth, even now.

So let me ask you something. You are an extraordinary musician. You have the talent, so why aren’t you a household name? Did you ever want that level of success? Or that level of fame?
In the past I pursued success as part of a band. My first band was considered the best around (or at least I was). But I couldn’t have gone on the road, because I was in high school. I wasn’t really driven to be famous anyway, I was more about the music. And I would have needed management that believed in me. In the ensuing years, I was in several bands and was a session musician. But bands are extremely difficult to maintain. So, if I want to achieve a higher profile, I’ll have to do it as a solo artist. When I put out Future Blues I got good reviews in all the guitar magazines. But the live music climate changed. Music doesn’t mean what it used to. People don’t support it like they once did, which is why I got more involved in producing. And I’m not someone who craves validation from people. I know what I can do.

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Are you still in touch with any of the guys from your old band? Would you work with them again?

The drummer, Ralph Gilmore, and I are still in touch. He played on Future Blues. Yes, I would work with Ralph again. He and I have played thousands of gigs together over the years. The keyboard player, Charles Judge, is working with all the big names in Nashville now. But he was jealous of me.

Why?
Because a fucking piano player can’t compete with a guitar player.

Oooh, can I publish that?
Sure, you can publish it. It’s true! I was always Charley’s biggest fan. He was the one with the problem. He can be a condescending fuck.

Hmm, I don’t like condescending fucks.
Me either. I eat them for breakfast now. I learned not to let them get away with that shit.

How do you feel about getting older in this industry? I mean the goddamn physical aches and pains of getting older versus the emotional and mental freedom and wisdom that come along with it? How does that affect the way you produce music, or play it?
Getting older hasn’t had much of an effect on me as a producer. There aren’t any physical limitations, yet. The good thing about it is that I play with more feeling, and more economically, rather than trying to play too fast with a constant stream of notes. Young players haven’t developed an appreciation for space in music. They overplay – and I did too, especially in my teens and 20’s. So the energy level has changed and I take a more thoughtful approach, which is a definite improvement.

But, what’s even more important is to explore new things, with a childlike curiosity. Experiment. And be fearless and take chances. Aging can soften you, and I personally don’t ever want to succumb to that.

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OK, this photo’s a private joke but it’s pretty fucking cool, am I right?  Just like Terry Oubre.  Also, I think he should use it as the cover art for his next album.  What do you guys think?

 

Ejo #92 – My Name Is Chrysoula Stathopoulos

My name is Chrysoula Stathopoulos. Since 1933, I’ve lived in Lechaion, a small seaside town in Greece. But I was born in a tiny village in the Peloponnese mountains in 1916. I am 101 years old.

My name is Chrysoula Stathopoulos. I’ve lived in Dubai since 2008. But I was born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971 and raised in Melbourne. I am 46 years old.

As the firstborn, I was named after my Dad’s mother, which is how the Greeks do. I hated my name growing up because nobody could ever pronounce it, and a lot of kids gave me shit for it. On the first day of Grade 2, my teacher actually accused me of making it up. I casually dropped the “oula” part of my name when I was 12, and made it official when I was 14. Over the years I’ve grown to love my full name again. It’s unique, and it’s who I am. It’s also something that connects me to my grandmother, my yiayia, whom I love dearly.

My twin sister Fotoula and I were the apples of our father’s eye. We had two older brothers, but we were the favourites and everyone knew it, including Mum. She scolded us once for making too much noise while we were playing and Dad looked at her very seriously and said, “Whatever you do, don’t ever talk to my girls like that again”. And she never did. Times were tough growing up because of the war, and we didn’t have a lot, but our house was filled with love and I always tried my best to make my Dad proud of me when he was home. He was gone for most of my childhood, working in America so that he could send money home for us. Every time he came home was a big deal and my favourite memory was of being bounced on his knees – me on one leg, and Fotoula on the other, the three of us laughing and laughing.

Even though Greek families usually covet a son, my parents had three daughters and I think that, secretly, my father loved being surrounded by women. My Dad drove trucks for a living in the early seventies, and he was gone for long stretches at a time. My earliest memory is of our flat in Elwood. I was wearing a nappy and crawling to the front door because Mum had told me that Dad was coming home. I remember bursting with joy when he appeared at the flyscreen door.

In 1924 my family moved down from the mountains so that we could attend school near Korinth. Some of the teachers were very strict, which I didn’t like very much. I certainly wasn’t used to being smacked, but the teachers had no problem hitting us if they got mad. I always studied hard, and tried to be the best student so that they would never have any reason to hit me. On 22nd April 1928 a big earthquake shook Korinth. Twenty people died, and nearly 15,000 people were left homeless. Even though our home was damaged, we were lucky that it wasn’t one of the 3000 that were destroyed, and that we still had somewhere to live. Our school had turned to rubble and, while it was being rebuilt, classes were held outside, on the football field.

Fotoula hated school. She would say, “Chrysoula, I’ve been to school for a week, now it’s your turn”. School wasn’t compulsory back then, so she could get away with it but it’s a shame that she never learned to read or write. I wanted to be a teacher or a mid-wife when I grew up because they earned 500 drachmas (about €2) a month, which was a lot of money for a woman back then. But I was forced to drop out of school in 1929, at age 13.

When we were young,my parents forced me and my sisters to go to Greek school on Saturday mornings. I hated it and faced each weekend with sickening dread. But my parents wanted us to learn how to speak Greek, and to appreciate Greek history and customs. Fair enough, but the teachers at the school we attended were sadistic fucks and what I remember most about those classes was the constant fear. It ended when a teacher pinched my cheek so hard he left a large purple bruise across my face. My crime? Not completing my homework. My parents, horrified that the tales of assault and battery were actually true, allowed me to drop out of Greek school at age 12.

In 1930 my beloved father got sick with double pneumonia. The closest doctor was in Didima, a village 100km away, and every time he came to the house it cost us 500 drachmas. When Dad died, we owed the doctor a small fortune and since we didn’t have the money, it was negotiated that I would go with him back to Didima and work as his housekeeper until the bill was paid. I didn’t want to go, but my older brother got very angry and slapped me across the face and told me I was going and that was the end of it. After that I was happy to leave, just to get away from him. My Dad would never have allowed anyone to strike me like that. But now he was gone, and I had no choice but to enter into servitude for nearly three years in a village where I didn’t know anyone and where they didn’t even speak Greek. During my time in Didima, I slowly learned some Albanian so that I could communicate with people, but I was happy when the debt was finally paid off, and I could return to my family, who had moved to Lechaion.

In late 2002 my beloved father was diagnosed with lung cancer. My parents tried to be upbeat and hopeful about the prognosis but as you can imagine, it was a total shock for all of us. My father was the healthiest and most robust man I’d ever known. He was invincible to me, a rock. In denial, I didn’t even believe that he was actually sick until he started showing symptoms a couple of months later. And after that, the decline in his health was rapid. Lung cancer is a truly horrible disease and over a ten month period I watched my father deteriorate from a tower of strength into an emaciated skeleton coughing up tar-black mucus onto my birthday cake, a month before he died. Shit like that stays with you, man. When we told yiayia that her firstborn had passed away, she cried. But because of the Alzheimer’s she sometimes forgets. Sometimes she doesn’t even remember who he was.

In 1933 I started working in the fields with my sister, picking fruit to support our family. We earned just 25 drachmas a day, which wasn’t much, but our lack of education didn’t leave us many options. A lot of people were in the same boat and there was a great deal of competition for these field jobs, so we weren’t always gainfully employed. In 1936 I met a man at work called Panagiotis, who was a real go-getter. He would schmooze around the taverns at night, networking for jobs, and his circle of friends always had paid work, thanks to him. He seemed like a nice guy, and he must have taken a liking to me because he started getting regular work for me too. Working side by side we started developing feelings for each other, and after a year we were engaged. We couldn’t afford to get married right away but I did move in with him which was illegal back then, so we pretended that I was his housekeeper and everyone fell for it! Haha! Suckers! We lived in sin for two years before we got married on New Year’s Eve, 1939. Ten months later we had our first child, Konstantinos, and then after that I gave birth every two years, with Roula, Chris, Toula, Sofia and our baby Stavros.

 

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In the fields.  Kon, Chris, Toula, Sofia, Stavros, Roula, Panagiotis and Chrysoula.  And a small kid.

 

I met my husband David at work in 2005. It was love at first sight, for me anyway. We worked together for a year, exchanging flirty glances across the tower console before we actually started going out. Two days later I moved in, and four months after that we were married. Most people at work thought it wouldn’t last but, after eleven years together, we’re still nuts about each other. We decided not to have children, which we sometimes lament, but usually not.

Over the years all my children except Stavros emigrated to Australia. Roula went first because she hated working in the fields and wanted a chance to start a new life. Kon joined her a year later, and then the others followed. I wanted them to be happy and to have a better life than I did so I didn’t mind them leaving, but my god I missed them so much. My children are my life and they have always made me so happy and so proud, even now. In 1976 I went to Australia for a visit and I had such a wonderful time, mostly because I got to see all my children and grandchildren. Little Chrysoula was, of course, my favourite*. She was such a delightful child, and she taught me how to count to ten in English, and even though my memory isn’t what it used to be, I’ve never forgotten: onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineten! See!! I do have trouble remembering some things, but those old days are crystal clear. I loved Australia so much I went back for another visit in 1988 and I wish I could go again, but, even though I’m as fit as a fiddle, let’s face it, at my age it’s probably not going to happen. There is always someone here, one of my kids, looking after me, and I appreciate that. But I wish my grandchildren would visit more often.

I met my yiayia for the first time when I was five years old. She came to visit us from Greece and stayed with us for a few months. It was nice having her around because she was always smiling and laughing and hugging us and telling stories and crocheting beautiful things. Her skin was wrinkly, but soft, like well-worn leather. And you could tell that my Dad just LOVED having her around. They glowed around each other, overflowing with mutual adoration and respect. My grandmother was such a loving person and she taught my Dad to be honest and hard-working and to be proud of his achievements. In turn, he taught me the same.

I’ve been thinking about my yiayia a lot lately. I am writing this ejo to celebrate her, while she’s still alive. I don’t know if I will ever see her again. But I want to. The last time was five years ago. She recognised me, which was wonderful, but she is very locked up in her mind most of the time. Locked in the past. And the people around her, even loved ones, are very much in the periphery of her consciousness. But every time we are together, even though my Greek is shit and she can’t speak English, there is always a deep and loving connection between us. A circle of life and love that cannot be broken by distance or years apart.

We are Chrysoula Stathopoulos.

 

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* Some creative license MAY have been used in the writing of this ejo.