First published on 15 Apr 2010. Updated on 15 Apr 2010.
There’s no escaping the hooks on his hands or the gothic armoury of rigs, clasps, pulleys and pincers. But what disarms you the most is the light he emits. Tom Nash glows. It’s the aura of a man who stared down death and who now says “suffering is a gift”.
Tom talks of two lives. The first begins in South Africa where his oil exec father, Peter, and actress mother, Marilyn, gave birth to their boy. After two years there and six in Texas, Tom moved to Sydney with his Mum.
Living in Kogarah, schooling at Newington, Tom co-founded a computer business at 15 but what he lived for was music. He’d taught himself guitar, fingers sliding up the frets with ever-greater ease as he dreamed of big gigs singing the songs that fizzed in his head.
Tom was 19, living large, studying science-psychology at Sydney Uni and working as a glassie at the London in Balmain when it happened. “I woke feeling flu-ey,” he says, “and that night I was sick – vomiting,sweating, feverish. Next morning I couldn’t even get out of bed.”
Tom’s step-sister had received an SMS the night before: “Can you call me tomorrow to see if I’m alive?” Ha-ha, she thought. But when a cold, purple Tom crawled to the door next morning, she rushed him to hospital.
“I said to the ambo: ‘How long’s the trip?’ ‘Ten minutes,’ he said. I came out of a coma 18 days later.” By then
Tom had suffered two heart attacks, his weight had tripled, and circulation to his extremeties was parlous. Diagnosis? Severe meningococcal septicemia. Odds of survival? One in 10.
A virulent bacteria, meningococcus attacks with horrifying speed and carries huge mortality – a fit adult can, it’s said, be well at breakfast and dead by dinner.
But Tom Nash hung on. And on. He woke up to “a horrible psychedelic melodrama – doctors, family feuds, pain.” Tom’s second life now began came off, I hit rock bottom. I was a musician, a guitarist, I created with
my hands. Legally, I could’ve chosen death. Instead, I just got on with it.”
First, Tom learned to walk again. Then, he got a flat and studied for a sound-engineering diploma while designing a guitar to be played with hooks, forming a band, Kulak, that would tour and cut an album. Offered
a job booking gigs for Keith Urban, he opted to DJ Saturday night parties for Club 77 on William Street.
It’s here “Hookie” was born – “a gimmick tag but one that’s testament to how comfortable I am with my situation... and also how often kids ask me: ‘Are you a robot or a pirate?’”
Truth is, Tom Nash is a lot more. He’s now writing a book about his ‘lives’ (working title: Stumped) and in
May flies to Brunei for a motivational speaking gig to a billionaire oil firm. In between, Hookie will continue to
operate as one half of Starfuckers, “electro-aristocrat” DJs, uber-cool soundtrackers to hot Sydney nights.
A new album, a full DJ diary and a NIDA-graduate girlfriend of two years will keep Tom shining on. “After what I’ve been through, bad news is just fodder for relativity,” he grins. “Suffering is more a gift than a burden - it forces us to reach out for each other." Angus Fontaine
1982 Thomas Nash born in South Africa
1997 Starts a computer company, teaches himself guitar
2000 Starts science-psychology degree at Sydney Uni
2001 Meningococcal disease. Both arms and legs amputated
2003 Leaves hospital, learns to walk again via prosthetics
2006 Studies for diploma in sound engineering and management
2007 “Hookie” born. Starfuckers hit Sydney dance scene
2010 Launches Princes of Pump album at Club 77
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