Last Thursday evening, October 21st, driving his young daughter Anna home after picking her up from daycare, our co-worker Andy Kotowicz was involved in a terrible car accident that, so incredibly sadly, proved fatal. In what qualifies as nothing short of miraculous and definitively heroic, his daughter was pulled from the remains of the car, while it was on fire, by a local business owner who witnessed the accident. Though this same person tried and was unable to rescue Andy, I can think of no greater favor to our friend than saving his daughter’s life. And, in some small measure of thanks, we will all be eating as many Rizzo’s French Dip sandwiches as we can hold for a very long time. “Thank you” seems ridiculously inadequate, but thank you. Thank you.
Andy was under care at Harborview Medical Center in a coma until Saturday evening when he was taken off life support in the company of his immediate family. He was an organ donor and a recipient for his kidneys was found very soon after his passing. This is a small indication of the kind of guy he was.
Before taking the job at Sub Pop, Kotowicz worked for a time at Spongebath Records in Murfreesboro. Today I talked to Seth Timbs, who worked with Kotowicz at Spongebath during his tenure there (1996-1997). Timbs said that he hadn't seen Kotowicz in three years, but had kept in touch in the ways we keep in touch today — email, Facebook — while admitting that, with the news still so fresh, he was at a loss for words. After citing his intelligence, his sense of humor, his "encyclopedic" knowledge of music and the universal good will he seemed to garner from anyone who knew him, Timbs paused and said simply, "He was just a great guy, you know?"
In a 2007 interview for the Sub Pop website, Kotowicz talked a bit about his time in Tennessee, and the path that took him from Ann Arbor to Murfreesboro, New York and eventually Seattle:
I lived in Nashville for a couple of years after I graduated from college. In ‘96 and ’97, I worked at a little label in Murfreesboro, TN, where I got to know a guy named Andy McLenon pretty well. He was the general manager for a time. Before that, he and his partner Jack Emerson, who sadly passed away a few years ago, ran a label/management company called Praxis. They worked with Jason & the Scorchers & Georgia Satellites. Andy knows everyone and everything about music. Anyway, after a couple years, it kinda seemed like it was time to move on and my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) and I decided to move to New York. Andy left at the same time to work for Seymour Stein, who was starting a Nashville branch of Sire. One of the last days at Spongebath, he said to me "You’ll never guess who I met last night." The answer was [Sub Pop partner] Jonathan [Poneman]. They had met through Seymour and they were both in town for a Mike Ireland show, I think. Andy knew that I was a big Sub Pop fan and one of his greatest attributes is that he will become your greatest advocate and will sing your praises to anyone who will listen. I owe the guy a great debt of gratitude. Soon after, Jocelyn and I moved to New York, where I worked for a couple of different labels, Razor & Tie being the first. ... Meanwhile, I’d started corresponding with Jonathan and Megan, thanks to Andy. We traded records and met a couple times and when the sales job came up, they offered it to me.
You know, it's a funny world we live in: Watching my Facebook news feed go by this weekend, I had no idea why a bunch of my Seattle friends all seemed to be discovering the same sandwich joint at the same time. Now, sadly, I know. Kotowicz was 37 years old. A couple more remembrances here and here.