IF there was an Australian version of EGOT — people who’ve won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony — iOTA would definitely be one of the few artists who could say they’ve done it all.
iOTA is a multi award-winning singer, songwriter, musician, producer, playwright, stage performer, film actor and visual artist whose publicly acknowledgement mental health issues have run parallel with his career.
Growing up in Pinjarra, a regional town in Western Australia, the “half-Maori kid” learned early to suppress his sexuality in the homophobic town. He quickly took to wearing a metaphorical mask to hide his sexuality, but music turned out to be his salvation.
“I had a lot of struggles being gay and growing up in a country town. I think back on it now and it seemed everything was up against me, against being authentic. It felt like I had lots of barriers and hurdles to get over,” iOTA told the Star Observer.
In 1996 iOTA moved to Sydney at the age of 25, where he was finally able to come out. He would spend the next few years as an ARIA-nominated rock star but eventually transitioned onto the stage in what would become a career-defining performance in the title role of Hedwig & the Angry Inch.
Australian theatre fell in love with iOTA. He went on to play Frank N Furter in Rocky Horror and was asked to perform and write with Craig Ilott for the Sydney Festival curated production, Smoke and Mirrors.
The lights of Hollywood inevitably beckoned iOTA, where he was handpicked by Baz Luhrmann for a role in The Great Gatsby and most recently garnered international attention for his scene-stealing role as Coma the Doof Warrior in Mad Max:Fury Road — a leather encrusted blind war-boy punk who charges the armies into battle suspended over a thumping sonic beast-truck.
“I wasn’t sure what my role was going to be until I went into the headquarters and they showed me the model of the truck with this guy sort of dangling with a guitar and when I saw that I thought, ‘oh fuck, this is going to be amazing’,” he told Star Observer.
“I saw Mad Max 2 at the drive in when I was 12. I know that 12-year-old would’ve just loved the Doof Warrior.”
The 46-year-old decided to put together a show called Wolf Number Nine, accompanied by his four-piece band Poo Poo Da Blue, which will combine music from his career and tracks from his recently released self-titled EP.
“I just haven’t done gigs in so long, I can’t help but put a historic kind of gig together that’s got lots of bits of pieces of myself musically in there,” iOTA said.
“I could go in there and just do all new material, I think people would want to hear a bunch of older stuff too. I thought, ‘what I would want to hear if I went to see me’… and make it an even spread of things.”
iOTA admits some pre-tour nerves, but anyone who has seen him perform live knows seeing him in his natural habitat is an electrifying experience.
“I’m a bit nervous, apprehensive I suppose, about everything really. I’m confident and excited as well, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said.
“It’s frightening until there’s no turning back, it’s like a world where you take control of anything that could possibly go wrong. I feel like when I’m onstage it’s the only place where I feel like I know what I’m doing.”
Wolf Number Nine tour dates:
Melbourne: Saturday 27 February, Corner Hotel
Sydney: Thursday 3 & Friday 4 March, Oxford Art Factory (as part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival)
Adelaide: Friday 11 March, ‘SPIEGELTENT’ Garden of Unearthly Delights
Brisbane: Saturday 19 March, Woolly Mammoth
The Star Observer is a proud media partner of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.