Billy Eli is a successful Austin-based performer. Like everyone else, Eli was shocked when he heard that Joe Stack had flown his plane into an office building Thursday morning. But this hit a lot harder for Eli than for most. For the past three years, Stack had been the bass player in Eli’s band.
“The Joe Stack I knew is far removed from the kind of person who would fly an airplane into a building,” Eli said.
Eli’s friends have been calling, wanting to hear that this is not the same Joe Stack as the Texas musician. But he has had to break the news to them. Eli said that with all the calls he has received, it seems like the incident occurred so long ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been 24 hours.
According to Eli, this act was completely out of character.
“For some people I’ve known, I wouldn’t have been shocked. But Joe Stack was just…we never saw that anger. That to me is as alien as if he were to show up with a horn growing out of his head,” Eli said.
Eli met Stack in Austin about five years ago. Stack was a team player with a good sense of humor. He played some bass and was an excellent technician. He even helped engineer Eli’s recent acoustic album, “Amped Up.”
Three years ago, Stack began playing bass with Eli’s band on a fairly regular basis. According to Eli, Stack always checked his ego at the door. And he was great with the audience when they played in public.
Eli does not want to get caught up in the politics of the aftermath of the action. He just wants everyone to know that the Joe Stack he knew was a good person.
“I read that manifesto,” he said. “To me, I could see the desperation of a guy who was drowning. First he had one straw, then another, then another. Then he just popped.”
As he looks back at Thursday’s events, Eli cannot help but repeat how out of character that was for Stack.
Eli commented, “He was cheerful about all that kind of technical stuff. He was always optimistic. The action itself was a shock. Then to hear about the house and read the rant, it’s just so out of character.”
Thursday’s attack came as Eli arrived in Birmingham, AL, to begin work on a new album. He hopes to be able to carry on. He will try to compartmentalize the event, and one day try to make some sense of it. Until then, Eli knows it will have an impact on his band.
“I know I will pay attention to my band mates and be more appreciative of them. When something like this happens, it makes you realize how easy it is to forget how important other people are to you.
“I don’t defend what he did. It was horrible. But Joe Stack was human.”
Posted by: Sam Moore