#LutonArtists: An Interview with Quocaine O’Malley

We spoke about the different elements of artistry and music, ranging from Quocaine’s personal background, the variety of musical influences Quocaine has as well as his journey as an artist in the locality of Luton.

Khadijah: Can you tell me a bit about yourself, your background and what you’re doing right now?

Quocaine: So I started recording music around college but I was introduced to music at a very young age. I was playing drums for the school band back in Nigeria during assembly. I was probably the youngest drummer they had back then because my brother used to play there and my brother was able to vouch for me that I can actually play the drums.

Then I got to college, I was doing art and media. I met someone who was very good at film-making who was doing a short film for their final major project for that year. Then they asked me to make music for it. I made the music for his piece, a short piece on YouTube which he got a distinction in. After I made the music for him, I headed into film & media production, mainly doing short films with him. We did a film called Bored to Death which is still on youtube. As I didn’t have the equipment that I have now, I also did instrumental albums and put them on SoundCloud. I went off on instinct, I learnt how to make music just from watching YouTube videos, nothing official like going to school or learning any notes or anything like that. 

The scene in Luton is very good. I have a lot of good ideas, but ultimately we are overshadowed by the neighbors (London!). Yeah, you do have some really special individuals, people who are good.

Quocaine O’Malley

K: Thank you for that introduction! One thing that really stood out to me is your artist name, why don’t you tell me a bit more about your artistic vision and any projects you’re working on?

Q: So with the name, it’s actually a really interesting story. It was the final year of college and me and a friend named Alex went to a club (Alex was our producer at the time). He was like a rich white kid from Harpenden so it was a very interesting dynamic. We went to Edge. Edge is actually really important in the story because that’s where we performed all of our music and people going to see us, etc.

So that was my first time I went to the edge and I went with them. We were drinking a lot, I can’t remember the concept of this, but me and him decided to come up with funny names and I think his name was based on what he was wearing at the moment. He might have been wearing an army vest or something, but he went with something military for his name. I thought it was funny to call myself cocaine. At that point. It was just cocaine because obviously I was the blackest person in Edge.

If you remember Edge, it was an alternative club so it was mainly white people that went there. Then I went in there, I realized I was probably the only black person here. So I thought it was funny to call myself after a white substance. I thought it was funny. And it is funny to see people get uncomfortable, especially when you tell them your name is cocaine.

K: I want to ask because you’re a local artist, how would you describe the local Luton music scene? Do you think being in Luton has been maybe a barrier for you or do you think it has helped you find more creative opportunities?

Q: The scene in Luton is very good. I have a lot of good ideas, but ultimately we are overshadowed by the neighbors (London!). Yeah, you do have some really special individuals, people who are good. But to be honest with you, it’s all about coming together. It’s very hard to do that because people want different things and people don’t really talk as much as they should talk. Um, because I treat it, I kind of think of it like raising a baby. Everybody needs to communicate, you know, to be on the same page about what they are trying to achieve. I’m working with some super talented people but it is tough, you always need representation and we have no representation.

I believe the word is subjective. It’s very much about the individual. Some people fix their normal life with the music, some people keep it separate. Some people don’t have a normal life.

Quocaine O’Malley

There’s no facilities by the council which really accommodates musicians and musicians, a place for them to showcase their talent. They do it for rock because, you know, people in the council are predominately white and they get the “urban” space (I hate that word!), which  gets ignored because the people who have the power like rock music, and that’s why rock music will get played in places like the Hat Factory. There’s no representation. There’s no help. There’s just kids trying to use the Internet to propel them to where they need to be.

K: Do you think it’s a structural thing? Do you think it’s more of an individual thing? How can the mainstream provide more support?

Q: You have to be willing if it’s an individual thing, because you have to start a movement. You have to start a movement that has power behind it and then they support the movement. But it’s about finding someone who’s ready to understand and take on the stress with starting the movement. That’s what I’ve always tried to do, is just grab a couple of people, gain momentum, have everybody look and then use that momentum to propel you into opportunities and other things that we desire. Yeah, it’s really an individual effort and an example is the Bute Street Film Festival which started when one guy wanted to do it. He wanted to do it and he found the people who could do it, got them together, ie us, and then did it. And that’s literally that’s it. You need one tenacious person and you need people who can help him. You need a support system. That’s the only way you have to start a movement and then the rest will follow. Everybody’s reactionary that way usually.

K: Yeah, I think we’ve seen that a bit more, even with the rise of protesting in the past two years. Young people especially have been a lot more passionate or as you said, they react more when certain things are happening. You did mention how you need a support system for this and maybe even more accessibility when it comes to people in the music scene collaborating. How do you juggle music with other responsibilities, because I know you mentioned the impact of everyday life as well. How is that something you manage? Do you have any advice for artists out there or people who are thinking of becoming artists on how to deal with that?

Q: I believe the word is subjective. It’s very much about the individual. Some people fix their normal life with the music, some people keep it separate. Some people don’t have a normal life. For myself, I just do it, you just get up and go to work and listen to music, then come back and hopefully you can make some music on your free days. Sometimes I just lay down and do nothing but watch TV shows, because that’s how you feel. It really depends on the person.  I’m lucky because I have all the equipment and I have the space to be able to create, so for the most part, every day, I’m always creating.

K:  How do you see yourself continuing with music, where do you see yourself five, 10 years down the line?

Q: For the sake of respecting that the tongue has power and whatever you put into the universe will happen, in five years, I will be a billionaire with his own private jet. I see a lot of people who are positive in that manner. They just say positive things and positive things will happen.

K: Maybe you need more of that in life because life can get so draining and horrible and sometimes you just need to dream, as cheesy as that sounds. I had one other question. Would you say you have a top three list of artists that influence you quite a lot now or just in general, listening to those artists?

Q: Yeah, my top two would be Jay-Z and Kanye West. I wouldn’t even think I have a three, because it would be disrespectful to anybody who’s inspired me, but for sure, Jay-Z and Kanye West. I listen to the music that inspires me, but nobody like Kanye West has made me feel like I need to go make music.

K:  Are there any last things you want to say?

Q: I’m going to drop the Outlanders single, featuring Fready. It should have a video with it. I’m still thinking of a concept, but yeah, it’s going to be a big single in my life. It’s a big song, and hopefully people like it.

K: I also believe you’re doing a collaboration with Youth Network?

Quocaine: So it’s the video, the experimental video for Around Six. And what I’m trying to do right now is try to make it a lyric video somehow.  Yeah, what we wanted to do is conceptually, a run and gun shoot. But if I’m able to do that again, I’ll put a story behind the pictures and then you’d have a very conceptual music video, but that had a little bit of a concept in terms of being on your way and being on transport etc.

Khadijah Hasan is a graduate from King’s University in London.