Andy Goes to the Slammer

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In Iota's first few years, they worked their asses off playing a ton of obscure Salt Lake City shows and were generally ignored by the larger Salt Lake music scene. Then they got signed to one of the biggest stoner rock labels in the world. 

"I used to send Iota demos to Scott, the owner of Small Stone Records, not with the intention of getting them released, but to get feedback," said Joey, lead singer/guitarist of Iota, who did graphic design work for Scott and was introduced to him by "Dirty" Dave Johnson of The Glasspack. "He always said the same thing: that they were bad."

Iota's first drummer Jason Jenson and Joey formed Iota, initially playing fast, abrasive, punk-driven Kyuss/Milligram heavy rock, gradually foraying into their current groove-laden, sweet stoner jam stylings. Current bassist, Oz Yosri, joined in September 2005 and Joey and Jason parted ways in 2007. Josh Nerbel, ex-drummer for Acroma, played on Iota's fourth demo, Dimensional Orbiter. This time, when Joey sent Scott his annual Iota demo, Scott told Joey that Small Stone had to put it out.

Joey and Oz picked Andy Patterson to play on their new album, Tales. Andy was a natural choice, with his powerful "chunk" drumming amplifying Iota's already-epic music and songwriting.

It was Andy that Iota was planning to take to SXSW to play a coveted slot in Small Stone's Friday night showcase, until disaster struck. Iota played Denver Friday night. They were on the road to Austin with good friends Kingdom of Magic, and had played a rippin' house party in Pueblo Sunday night, where Dave Bogart [Blackhole, Erosion] sold a ton of merch. Then their van broke down right after they left Pueblo.

"We got it fixed, broke down 10 minutes later, got the belt back on and then drove an hour and a half and it broke down again," says Joey. "After the third time breaking down, it was 2 a.m. in the middle of the desert. After much debate and argument, we decided to tow the van back to SLC so we could get it properly fixed and go to Austin."

But as they were waiting for the tow truck, the cops came by. Andy had an outstanding traffic fine, enough to go to jail.

"The tow truck showed up while Andy was being put in handcuffs," says Joey. "The cops introduced us to the tow truck driver, Mike. We bonded with him; he was a character straight out of a movie. Towtruck Mike put the van on his wrecker, and sat there for two hours with us while we tried to figure out how to bail Andy out. We finally got him out on a credit card and there was much rejoicing."

Towtruck Mike offered to drive Iota all the way back to SLC for a cheap rate.

"He was going down Price Canyon at 80-90 mph with our van on his wrecker," says Joey. "The whole time he was telling us about all the dead people he's pulled out of the canyon—cars that had flipped over, wreckage- all kinds of carnage. It's rated one of the deadliest canyons in the US, yet Mike was still ripping down the canyon, asking us things like, 'Have you ever seen a burnt-up body?' Everyone was gripping the seats.

"Then he started telling us about a time he was going 90 mph through the canyon and almost hit a herd of elk, but was able to maneuver his way through them miraculously, without hitting one," says Joey. "Sure enough, within five minutes, we saw a huge herd of deer ahead of us, and I thought, 'We're going to die,' and he steered us through the deer without hitting one. They all survived, and everyone was cheering. But I looked back at Andy and his eyes were anime-huge with fear."

Iota were still going to drive to Austin, but Andy woke up sicker than a dog Wednesday morning. "Things turned sour," says Joey, and he called the label boss Scott and told him they wouldn't be coming. Scott told him they would be coming, and got Rick from Sasquatch to agree to fill in. After Joey and Oz finished crapping their pants at the thought of playing a showcase with an unfamiliar lineup to a bunch of people who would be seeing Iota for the first time, Joey got the van fixed by his automechanic cousin in two hours, invited Luke from Xur along and started driving Wednesday evening. Iota drove 21 hours nonstop to Austin.

"Everyone but Luke thought the van was going to break down; Oz especially was damn certain the van would break down, but the tension in the van started easing up around Oklahoma, and we started looking forward to the beer and barbecue of SXSW," says Joey.

They got to Austin Thursday night at 11:30 p.m. and Scott gave Iota his hotel room, four blocks from where they were playing. The next day, they practiced at Dixie Witch's and SuperHeavyGoatAss' practice space, and rehearsed with Rick from Sasquatch for about 45 minutes. At the showcase Friday night, Joey and Oz jammed with Rick for about 40 minutes, shifting smoothly from one stoner burn to another.

"When we started playing, it was totally relaxed and awesome," says Joey. "Rick launched into a totally different rhythm than we'd practiced, and there was a long jam in the Key of C. We've always planned loose structures in songs so we could improvise, where we could stretch our wings." It never really hit Joey how many people were going to listen to Iota and have opinions on the album. "But at this SXSW, when we were about to pull out, we met all the people that were helping us out and were there to see us, I saw there are actually consequences to putting an album out on a label that is going to distribute it; that we had to own up to what we created," he says.

"I also never realized how many people there are in this country who are willing to help you out," says Joey. "Like Scott, Rick from Sasquatch, and Towtruck Mike. It was a really, really good feeling, that community bond. The icing on the shitcake for sure."