There has not been one day since Ikey’s passing that I have not thought of him. I have times of deep sadness and moments of total laughter, remembering our times together. Ikey left a giant impression on all of us who knew and loved him. I thought I would share a story here.
I think anyone who toured with Ikey and me during The Mars Volta era knew we loved to eat. Every free night on tour, Ikey would call me and ask “where are we eating tonight?” and I would tell him what I researched. Ikey was allergic to fish but loved oysters and shellfish. I would grab Ikey’s tech, Jesse Isaacs, and anyone else who was down to spend a little money on food and head out into the night.
In Tokyo with Sonny and Omar joining us.
One of the first nights of us starting this ritual was in Montreal. My wife, Anne, had done some research and found this amazing Portuguese restaurant called Ferreira Cafe. It was my first tour with The Mars Volta (2003) and we had a night off. Ikey asked me where I was headed and I told him my wife found this amazing restaurant that was seafood heavy and he said “do they have oysters?” That is when I learned about his oyster obsession. I told him yes and he said he was down to go.
In Italy with Timmy, Jesse and Henry. We were toasting Michael Jackson, who had passed that night.
I had Jesse already excited to go (Jesse is now a chef in Boston and doing really well) and Jeremy Ward had told me he wanted to go. I would have to say that out of all four of us, Jeremy was the most unfamiliar with fine dining and he was a little intimidated by the restaurant’s ambiance. I assured him that we would be cool at the spot and I asked for a table by the open window.
In Brussels, having mussels, of course! Justin Meldal-Johnsen rolled up on us.
We all ordered too much food, sharing our dishes and ordering bottle after bottle of amazing Portuguese wine. Ikey got his oysters and Jesse and Jeremy would have cigarette breaks every 15 minutes. We laughed and we all felt we were on the verge of something great. Our friendship was young but we knew we were a crew that would always hang out together. And not only did we love the band we were in, we could feel the upward momentum and that made us celebrate even more.
In Memphis, having seafood gumbo. This is my favorite shot of Ikey and me. Picture worth 1000 words.
When dessert came, I told these dudes “we have to get a dessert wine” and they were not sure what I meant (well…Jesse did because he was a foodie). I told them Portugal is known for port wine and that it goes well with desserts. I ordered a flight of ports for the table (Ikey would always say “get em, Juan”) so we could try a few different ones. I remember we were all getting into it and Jeremy grabbed a light colored port, took a drink and had the most awkward face as if he had just eaten a sour lemon. We all started cracking up and I asked Jeremy “that one is a tawny port…you hate it?” and he shook his head, no. I then asked him what he meant and Jeremy said “I don’t know what my face is saying…but HELLO, Tawny Port!” We all busted out laughing so damn hard!
Ikey on my first European tour with TMV, 2003. Photo by Daniëlle van Ark
After dinner, we hit some bars in Montreal and we said to each other that this – finding a great restaurant in whichever town we were in – should be our ritual. We had such an amazing night. I had found friends who wanted to share a passion of mine (in addition to music, of course). Our friendship was new (I had just joined the band) but our bond was so strong after that night.
Unfortunately, we lost Jeremy soon after that night and, needless to say, it hurt us all. Our nights became even more important to us as we toasted our lives and how lucky we were to do what we did for a living. Our dinner outings grew in size over time, with my other bandmates, or crew members Henry, Timmy, Keith, Amery joining in, and our ritual became important to everyone. So many beautiful memories. We even included a new tradition after Jeremy passed. Every time Ikey, Jesse and I were out to dinner, we would order tawny port in Jeremy’s honor and I would say “HELLO, Tawny Port!” while we clinked our glasses together.
Ikey eventually started a love affair with Fernet, so I asked him why he drank it. He told me “It helps the digestion of food,” and, although I didn’t buy that concept nor care for the drink, I would occassionally join him in his ritual of sipping the bitter aperitif.
So, today, on the one year anniversary of my dear friend and bandmate, Ikey Owens’ passing, I will raise a glass of Fernet in his honor, and possibly a small glass of tawny port, because I am sure Jeremy and Ikey are kicking it together, having oysters and aperitifs somewhere nearby.
Ikey, Jeremy: I miss both of you so much and feel incredibly lucky to have such beautiful memories with you.