LOS ANGELES TIMES


October 5, 2006

POP MUSIC
Coming to a tattoo parlor near you
By Melinda Newman, Special to The Times

Tattoos have played a leading role in singer-songwriter Jake La Botz's life since he self-applied his first one with India ink and a sewing needle when he was 14.

Jake La Botz's unique concert tour blends music and body art. He requires only $400 and a place to sleep.

That pentagram has long since disappeared under ink applied at the hands of more experienced, and hygienic, tattooists.

But now he has found a way to bundle his love of music and body art with a cross-country tour of tattoo parlors to promote his fourth CD, "Graveyard Jones."

"Here's this blues man burning in hell, playing the devil's music," La Botz says of Graveyard Jones, a skeleton tattooed on his right forearm and featured on the cover of the self-released album. He flips over his arm to reveal a portrait of Jesus, who shares equal billing on his skin.

He's lost count of how many tattoos he has, but the number will increase by one on Saturday. La Botz, a Buddhist, will add a tattoo of meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche on the opening night of the guitarist's 20-date tour, at the Shamrock Social Club on the Sunset Strip. La Botz, who is, of course, dressed all in black, hasn't decided if he'll leave each tour stop with a permanent memento: "I'll see how things go."

For Shamrock owner and friend Mark Mahoney, La Botz's musical appeal comes from the hope that breaks through the weariness. "There's the horrible heartbreak, which he's experienced to the nth degree," Mahoney says, "but he's come out the other side of it."

Indeed, La Botz's story reads like a how-to guide to a dissolute life. Reared in Chicago by his father (his mother was largely absent), by third grade La Botz was skipping school for months at a time to listen to country and blues records in the public library. After dropping out of high school, he slept in stolen cars, drifted from town to town working dead-end jobs and developed a world-class drug habit.

A professional musician since he was 22, La Botz, now 37, migrated to Los Angeles in 1996. As recently as five years ago he had to take a job as a courier to pay his bills. "I discovered I wasn't a human being, I was actually a doorknob," he says of the dispiriting experience.

The idea for the tattoo tour came after fans kept asking La Botz to play their hometowns and he would beg off because he didn't have a booking agent. But he realized he was missing a prime opportunity.

"I'm the kind of guy who's been living on the fringes of the entertainment world," he says. "My fans are similarly kind of on the fringe and I thought I'd do a tour on the fringe."

After he pitched the plan on the Internet, offers started rolling in from tattoo shop proprietors. His only requirements: $400 and a place to sleep.La BOTZ'S music may be on the fringes, but that is only because the mainstream is so out of touch with art born from American roots. His tunes are plain and homespun, and often darkly humorous. Bob Dylan is an obvious influence; so too are Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits and a legion of bluesmen. On record, his vocals are weather-beaten and gravelly, in sharp contrast to his gentle speaking voice.

In tattoo parlors, he has found something sacred in a place most would not look and is taking a film crew along to interview shop owners and tattooists.

"Artists have to relate with something that is kind of from the other world, and I often wonder if that is why the tattoo shop tends to be a holy place," he says, noting that even members of opposing gangs are neutral there.

La Botz is also intrigued by how the art of tattooing is passed down from one artist to another, similarly to the way playing the blues is handed off from one generation to the next.

As a late teen, he sneaked into blues clubs in Chicago to see journeymen such as Robert Johnson protégé Honeyboy Edwards and other colorfully nicknamed characters like Homesick James and Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis, all of whom became mentors.

"I would play stuff and they would basically tell me if it was right or not," he says.

Another vestige of his time with the bluesmen: a gold front right tooth: "I saw myself as a descendant of [these] guys and I wanted to be like them," he says.

After years of playing on street corners and clubs and with his substance abuse spiraling out of control, in 2000 he released his first album, "The Original Soundtrack to My Nightmare," to leave proof that he had been here. "I literally thought I wasn't going to live much longer," he says, "and I thought, 'I better make an album before I go down.' "

He got clean soon after and "realized I was a songwriter and I had to follow that path."

He has also found a foothold as an actor, appearing in Steve Buscemi's "Animal Factory," "Ghost World" and "One Night With You," the directorial debut by film editor Joe D'Augustine. He played the humbly named "Generic Troubadour No. 14" in last season's "Gilmore Girls" finale.

But somehow, it all comes back to tattoos and music.

A few years ago, Mahoney was tattooing former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash as La Botz's CD played. Slash then asked La Botz to audition for Velvet Revolver, a role he lost to Scott Weiland. "I was dreaming the rock star dream for a week," La Botz says, joking that he even contemplated buying leather pants.

And now, La Botz's 19-year-old daughter, Raven, whom he didn't see from the time she was 2 until she was 17 because of his addictions, wants her first tattoo and needs her dad's counsel.

"I know I'm going to have to be the guy who puts it together, which is a little weird," says La Botz says, shaking his head and sounding like the most suburban of fathers — well, almost.

 

LA WEEKLY

Rock Picks
For the week of Oct. 5–12
By L.A. Weekly Music Staff
Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 12:00 pm

Jake La Botz
at the Shamrock Social Club

Blues man Jake La Botz came up the right-proper, fucking hard way: a teen renegade on the streets of Chicago, dabbling in a mixture of antisocial activities (from car theft to jabbing up his own rudimentary tattoos) and exploring the rich, deep blues tradition as a street singer (with Chi-town legend Blind Arvella Gray) and beside Delta-blues originator “Honeyboy” Edwards. That lovely, lurid background forged a musical power that, as heard on his current CD, Graveyard Jones, demonstrates not only an innate mastery of the blues, but also displays what he calls a “condensed rock & roll mythology.” Tonight’s appearance, in Mark Mahoney’s Sunset Strip tattoo parlor, presents La Botz’s considerable musical force in an ideally offbeat setting. Show at 6 p.m. 9026 W. Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd. (Jonny Whiteside)

 

PHOENIX NEW TIMES


Exterior Decorator
Tat cat takes his ink strains on the road

By Ed Masley


There’s really not much to the sound of Jake La Botz’s latest record, Graveyard Jones, that screams out, “This is tattoo-parlor music!” But apparently a Starbucks tour just wasn’t in the cards. And, well, that is a pretty cool tat he’s sporting on the album cover -- a cowboy skeleton playing Dobro while waving a bottle of hooch in the air. So if La Botz wants to launch a full-scale tour of 20 tattoo parlors, well, we figure, that’s his call -- a call he apparently based on all the e-mails he’d been getting these past few years from tattoo shops and fans with inked-up body parts. The erstwhile street performer who tried out for Velvet Revolver and portrayed a musician in the movie Ghost World will showcase songs from Graveyard Jones -- a record he calls “a jug of condensed rock ´n’ roll mythology waiting to be mixed with your consciousness” -- during his Tattoo Across America Tour. The neo-bluesman will also be filming the show for a documentary about “outsiders, tattoos, music and the search for community in the contemporary world.”

 

TAMPA TRIBUNE


5 Minutes With Jake La Botz, Musician
By CURTIS ROSS The Tampa Tribune

Published: Oct 12, 2006

TAMPA - Jake La Botz gave himself his first tattoo at age 14. Soon, he and his friends were inking one another, with mixed results.

"Those things were all so sloppy-looking, I've tried to get most of them covered up with more professional-looking tattoos," La Botz, 37, says from his home in Los Angeles.

He has had many of those old tattoos and much of his body covered by ink.

"I don't know how many; I've got a lot," La Botz says when asked about the number of tats he has.

When La Botz wasn't under the needle, he was developing an approach to music influenced by both the early '80s hard-core punk scene in his hometown of Chicago and the city's better-known blues legacy.

His current tour finds La Botz performing solo in tattoo parlors across the United States, including Las Vegas Tattoo Co., 1829 Seventh Ave. in Ybor City. La Botz plays there Sunday. Call (813) 248-3004 for information.

Where did you get the idea to tour tattoo parlors?

I had some idea of this in the back of my mind for several years. I have all these people saying, "Come play in our town," but how do I book a tour?

The fans who write and say, "Come and play," I realize these guys, like me, are heavily tattooed. I decided to follow that thread and see how these things come together.

The shops seem to have been receptive.

I'm gonna play at places that aren't regular places. I didn't realize at first it would be tattoo parlors. Could have been empty lots or abandoned churches. I had this connection to friends of mine in the tattoo world. I talked to a couple of guys who said, "Yeah, come play in my shop."

There are so many interesting tattoo artists out there. Some are friends; some are friends of friends; some I've never met before. And they just have fascinating stories. I mainly became interested in who they are.

There's a shot of one of your many tattoos on the cover of your new album, "Graveyard Jones."


I've got a lot. At a certain point they begin to blend in. I'm not so covered that they all blend into one, but you never know after this tour. I'm already scheduled to get a portrait of the great Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

You learned the blues from Honeyboy Edwards, and you were part of Chicago's hard-core punk scene. Is there a musical connection?


There's a direct connection with some primordial raw energy; I'm not saying all punk rock has it, but there's definitely the possibility of that in punk rock, and there's definitely a real connection between blues and punk rock.

When I was a teenager, the punk rock hard-core scene was really happening in Chicago, in '82, '83. It was so fresh, really like something that seemed to be completely run by teens.

Here's something that was absolutely our own deal. And you don't have to answer to anybody else. The community spirit of it really attracted me to it. But it was mainly the sex and drugs.