Jake La Botz has stolen and lived in cars, learned to play blues from the last of the Delta greats (Robert Johnson protégé David "Honeyboy" Edwards), performed in a South Central L.A. church band, acted in indie films and even auditioned for the band Velvet Revolver. Author Jerry Stahl once said of the post-modern bluesman, "Not everybody will get [his music] because not everybody's ready for the truth."
And on September 15, La Botz will reprise his innovative "Tattoo Across America Tour," playing tattoo parlors in 21 cities. The tour starts in West Hollywood (Shamrock Social Club) on Saturday, September 15 and wends it way across 21 U.S. cities coast to coast until an October 15 closing date near Pueblo, Colorado. Among his destinations are Chicago, Austin, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Denver, Tampa, Phoenix and Orlando.
La Botz has engendered a loyal fan base of tattoo aficionados across the U.S., arising from last year's tour as well as from his acting role in Steve Buscemi's cult film Animal Factory. Although he has not ruled out playing traditional clubs, he says, "Musicians don't have to be tied down to the bar touring scenario any longer. There's another way to tour. I encourage artists to think about who their fans are, or will be, and find a new way to get to them."
"It's so much more interesting this way," he adds. "You can be who you really are and relate directly with your fans. At tattoo parlors, there are no dressing rooms, no backstage, nowhere to hide. You really get to know people. In a way, I developed this ethic playing in the streets and subways of [his native] Chicago. This approach to performing has a way of cutting through any sense of artistic hierarchy . . .keeps it real."
La Botz, who self-administered his first tattoo at age 14 ("street style . . . India ink with a sewing needle") and has since received dozens more through his friendships with tattoo artists over the years, has garnered a following in the body-art community. "I'd been getting emails from tattoo shops and tattooed fans for a while, which made me think, 'I should really pay attention to this connection'," he says. "I figured that me and the other tattoo people are somewhat on the fringe of the music and art worlds, so why not do a tour on the fringe?" A notice was fired over his MySpace site, and La Botz became flooded with emails.
In September 2006, he set out to play his first "Tattoo Across America Tour," and received ink in several cities, in more ways than one: "La Botz avoids the mainstream like a Dracula avoids the dawn," wrote the Macon Telegraph. The hometown Los Angeles Times added: "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." The Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "La Botz is skilled at crafting talking-blues numbers that are pure poetry. His storytelling roots lie deep in the Delta and Piedmont, and his material is at once timeless and totally fresh." And, added the Nashville Scen e: "The songs pierce and scrape at the listener's skin like the needle of a tattoo gun, his harsh, grainy rasp — not unlike Tom Waits' — spewing forth blunt, morbid narratives about threadbare lives and the nearness of the grave."
In addition to his ever-mounting indie music following, La Botz is also known to indie film connoisseurs. Director/actor Steve Buscemi cast him in Animal Factory and his later film Lonesome Jim. More recently Jake starred in Joe D'Augustine's comedy, One Night With You, which is making the film festival circuit. He also appeared in the arthouse classic Ghost World (starring Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson and Steve Buscemi) as a member of the blooze band from hell, Blues Hammer. And he just returned from 3 months in Thailand where he filmed John Rambo, fourth in the Rambo franchise, in which he plays a mercenary named Tombstone. After casting him in the role, director Sylvester Stallone heard Jake's CD Graveyard Jones and asked him to sing two original songs on camera. The Lions Gate film is slated for theatrical release in March 2008.
La Botz is also involved in the making of his own film about music and tattoos, which he and director Jeffry Gonzales will shoot during the 21-city "Tattoo Across America Tour," armed only with two guitars, camera equipment and a passenger car.
Sat Sept. 15 HOLLYWOOD, CA Shamrock Social Club
Sun Sept. 16 SAN DIEGO, CA Absolute Tattoo
Mon Sept. 17 PHOENIX, AZ Incision Tattoo
Wed Sept. 19 LONGVIEW, TX Garage Art Studio
Thur Sept. 20 DALLAS, TX Fine Line Tattoo
Fri Sept. 21 AUSTIN, TX Austin Ink Fest
Sun Sept. 23 BEAUMONT, TX Tattoomania
Mon Sept. 24 JACKSON, MS The Ink Spot Gallery
Tue Sept. 25 MACON, GA Beyond Taboo Tattoo
Wed Sept. 26 TAMPA, FL Las Vegas Tattoo Co.
Fri Sept. 28 ORLANDO, FL Cast Iron Tattoo
Sun Sept. 30 ANNAPOLIS, MD (CHURCHTON) American Tattoo
Mon Oct. 1 PHILADELPHIA, PA (SKIPPACK) Liberty Tattoo
Tue Oct. 2 LONG ISLAND, NY (HOLBROOK) Electric Tiki Tattoo
Thur Oct. 4 BOSTON, MA (JAMAICA PLAIN) The Brendan Behan Pub
Fri Oct. 5 BOSTON, MA (WATERTOWN) 21 Nickels
Sat Oct. 6 SYRACUSE, NY Freaks and Geeks Tattoo
Mon Oct. 8 CLEVELAND, OH 252 Tattoo
Tue Oct. 9 CINCINNATI, OH One Shot Tattoo
Thur Oct. 11 CHICAGO, IL (UPTOWN) The Tattoo Factory
Fri Oct. 12 CHICAGO, IL (CRESTWOOD) Body By Design
Sun Oct. 14 DENVER, CO Kitchens' Ink
Mon Oct. 15 PUEBLO, CO (WESTCLIFFE) Jacque's Body Art