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Today's word on journalism

Friday, January 20, 2006

Variations on "truthiness":

"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."

-- Mark Twain, author, newspaperman and humorist (1835-1910)

MENTORS WANTED: Media professionals in all fields wanted to serve as email mentors for journalism students. If interested, send email slugged "Mentors" to Ted Pease (

My short but stellar career as a rock star in Blind Iris

By Jon Perry

December 21, 2005 | In the summer of 2003 I became convinced I was going to become a rock star. And why wouldn't I? My band, Blind Iris, had just found out our song "Drive" was going to be included on the new Tony Hawk video game, which was expected to sell millions of copies worldwide. A big accomplishment for a six-month-old band based out of Logan, Utah. With so much momentum, my band mates and I couldn't see any way we wouldn't be the next overnight success in the mainstream music world.

There are a few questions you are probably asking right now. First, how did Blind Iris get on the Tony Hawk game? Second, what happened to the band when the game was released? And third, is the band still together? To answer these questions it's easiest to go back to the beginning.

Blind Iris was formed when Tyler Forsberg (drummer) and I, Jon Perry (singer), members of a popular local folk/rock band named Eggs Blackstone, joined forces with Scott Donovan (guitarist) and Jeff Erickson (bassist), members of a local jam band named Lt. Dan. Along with guitarist Rhet Perrott, the five of us set our sights on starting a hard rock band aimed at making it big.

"We decided we needed to quit our old bands," said Forsberg, "because we knew we could never make it if we weren't completely focused on the new project."

To create momentum, we booked a show at The White Owl three months in advance. Using that show for motivation, we began to practice three or four times a week. It was during this time that I met local rock guru James Shook, lead singer and guitarist of Jen Shin, a local reggae band. He recommended we use ASR Studios in Avon to record our music. It was also during this time we decided to press some stickers to get people excited for our first show, but first we needed a name.

"Perrott suggested Blind Iris," said Donovan. "For lack of a better name and time constraints, it stuck."

Our first shows were rough. People came expecting to hear slightly altered versions of our old bands. Instead they got a whole new blend of high intensity rock n roll.

"Our first gig at the White Owl was pretty raw," said Perrott. "In fact we probably sounded like s---, but we were only three months old and trying to fill a three hour show." We continued playing shows and writing, despite the lukewarm response from the public.

In early May we made our first trip to ASR Studios. It was there we met owner Ned Allen. Allen had been in the local music industry for years and had previously owned his own label, Holliday Records. This was exciting for us because his label had once included Jerry Joseph and the Jack Mormons, a band we all liked. With the help of Allen and James Shook we recorded our first demo. Allen liked what he heard and became a supporter of Blind Iris, as well as a good friend.

Erickson soon announced he was moving to Boise. We then faced the challenge of finding a new bass player. After a few auditions we decided on Spencer Allred, a seasoned veteran in the local music scene. Within two weeks, Allred introduced a bass line during practice that evolved into a new song. Around this same time Forsberg announced he had talked with a Radio DJ in Denver who said to send him one of our songs and he would try to play it on the radio. We wanted to send something fresh so we went back to ASR Studios to record Drive.

During the Drive session, Allen told us he had a good friend who was one of the owners of the software company Neversoft. Allen told us he felt our song Hard Track would be a good song for the upcoming Tony Hawk soundtrack and that we should burn a CD with Hard Track and a couple other songs on it and he would send it to his friend.

"We thought that Ned was pulling our leg." said Perrott. "We'd all played Tony Hawk Pro Skater games and didn't think there was a snowballs chance in hell we would ever get our song on the game."

In mid-July I received a phone call from Donovan. "I have big news," he said with excitement in his voice. "Neversoft picked Drive to be on their new game."

I was in shock. In a heartbeat my unrealistic music dreams seemed to be coming true.

As I found out more about the game it made sense why they had picked Drive. First, unlike the previous four games in the series, Tony Hawk's Underground (THUG) was a reality-based video game. For the first time, the user would be able to get off their skateboard, drive cars, climb buildings, and do other things to improve their status while their world cycled through night and day. If you listen to the lyrics in Drive you'll see they go along well with the theme of the game. Second, the soundtrack focused more on underground bands, going along with the title of the game.

Over the next three months we did a lot of waiting. We took the semester off from school and didn't book any shows because we figured we would have to pick up and leave when a label picked us up and put us on tour. We set up a website and sent out press kits to nearly a hundred different labels. The response was almost always the same. Labels weren't signing bands because the music industry was in a slump, or rock music wasn't selling unless it was Emo Emo or Screamo. Still we figured when the game came out in late October we would get signed.

By December we had recorded a full album and announced our big break to the local press, which included stories in the Herald Journal and Utah State's own Hard News Café. The release of the game had boosted hits to our website, but we still didn't have a label and we'd only played a couple of shows in the last six months. We decided to quit waiting for our next big break and make it happen. We started booking shows and even signed up for City Weekly's annual Showdown to Austin held in Salt Lake City.

The Showdown to Austin is probably Utah's biggest battle of the bands contest. Around 60 bands from all along the Wasatch front signed up. The bands then played in three separate shows, each time competing against four other bands. The winner of each show moved one show closer to winning the grand prize, an all expense paid trip to the South by Southwest Music & Media Conference in Austin, Texas.

Blind Iris won the first two shows we competed in, earning us a trip to the finals at Port O' Call. During those shows we met numerous people in the Salt Lake music industry including Neal Middleton, lead singer of the popular band Royal Bliss. A guest spot on Fox 13's morning show two days before the finals, conveniently during the Sundance Film Festival, also helped build our confidence that someone was going to contact us and offer us a lucrative deal.

"We were really starting to think we had it in the bag," said Forsberg. "Everything just seemed to be falling in place, from the people we met to the exposure we were getting."

On Sunday, January 18th, we met in our band shed before driving down to the\ Showdown finals. "I remember we all seemed a little stressed out," said Allred. "We knew we wanted to win but I think the pressure was finally getting to us."

At 9 p.m. we opened up the show that we felt would either make us or break us. I remember putting everything I had into it but never really feeling the confidence I had during the previous to shows. Regardless, I felt pretty good about the performance overall. We watched for the next three hours while the other finalists competed. When they were done we waited for the results to be announced.

Gina from X96 announced the final standings. "Third place goes to Rune." The crowd applauded as I blew out a sigh of relief. "Second place goes to the Matt Lewis band." Once again the crowd applauded as I thought to myself "we are going to win." I felt my body tingle with delight as I remembered all of the hard work and sacrifice we had made to make this work. "Finally it's all going to pay off!"

"First place goes to Kelly V." The crowd went crazy. Every tingle I had in my body moments before went ice cold. I felt like the brightly lit elevator of hope in which I had blissfully riding suddenly went black, and rapidly fell to the ground. We had come all this way just to get fourth place. The band was demoralized.

Driving home that night I could have sworn I could hear someone laughing at me. In the V for Victory article in the next City Weekly my suspicions were confirmed -- God Bless Bill Frost.

Looking back on that night, I see it was the last time I thought I was going to be a rock star. In fact I think it was the last time I wanted to be one. Our band as a whole began focusing more on the music and less on the dream of going big. We released our first album and played shows all around Utah and surrounding states. We all agree the shows we've valued the most have been in the Logan and Preston areas where we were in the company of good friends.

In April of 2005, we decided to call it quits. The reason was simple. We just didn't have the time anymore. Blind Iris fans will be happy to know that in March of 2006 we plan on releasing a new album and playing a few shows for old time's sake. The album is will be pretty much the same story you just read, just sung in time to pounding drums, sonic bass lines, and melodic guitar work.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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