Delta/Piedmont Blues translator Jake La Botz's resume reads like fiction — except for the facts. Raised by his radical leftist union organizer/journalist father in Chicago, La Botz loved acting early on, ushering at local theaters at age 8 to see free plays. He tried high school fine arts, discovered Punk, stole a car at 15 and headed to Colorado. A succession of odd jobs (roofer, oil refiner, boilermaker, obituary writer, construction/factory drone) was punctuated by stints in hobo camps, self-educating visits to libraries and learning guitar.
Visits to his mother in Detroit schooled him on obscure Blues artists. Trips back to Chicago's famed Maxwell Street as observer/street busker put him in mentoring proximity of Blues icons Homesick James and Honeyboy Edwards, who offered invaluable advice on music and life.
After cross-country/global jaunts, La Botz settled in L.A. a dozen years ago and struck up friendships with Steve Buscemi (who advised him against taking the role of Blues Hammer guitarist in Ghost World; he did it anyway) and Slash (who invited him to audition for Velvet Revolver; he lost to Scott Weiland). He recorded four albums and divided time between Delta Blues and acting (his biggest role was in Sylvester Stallone's recent Rambo adventure).
To publicize his latest album, the stripped back solo acoustic Sing This to Yourself and Other Suggestions for a Personal Apocalypse, La Botz is readying his third annual tattoo parlor tour. La Botz, who inked himself at 14 with some India black and a sewing needle, likes the ambiance of tattoo emporiums.
"You get a lot of interesting people that are often in various scenes together," he says. "The modern tattoo shop is like the barber shop of yesteryear. It becomes the local hangout for all kinds of different people, but a lot of artistically minded people. It's a great way to play gigs where there's no constraints that you might find in a more typical music venue. It can be all ages, all kinds of shenanigans can be going on and people who show up really want to see the show."
La Botz's local stop Wednesday is at 8 p.m. at One Shot Tattoo (5971 Glenway Ave., Western Hills; 513-471-5100).
Kings X with Extreme
Sunday • The Square at Union Centre (West Chester)
The new Kings X CD is titled XV, the Roman assignation for 15. But hold on a tick — isn't this the Texas Pop/Metal trio's tenth album?
"Well, if you finagle it enough, we can make this our fifteenth album," laughs drummer Jerry Gaskill, obviously counting a couple of greatest hits packages and maybe an early '80s pre-major label release or two. "Plus the X and the V just look so cool against the background of the photo."
After close to 30 years in this configuration (Gaskill, bassist/vocalist dUg Pinnick, guitarist Ty Tabor), there aren't many surprises when Kings X hits the studio for a new album. The band has found a unique sound and the chemistry remains intact year after year, album after album.
"We get together, we have songs, we record them and we put ourselves into them," says Gaskill. "We all make the songs Kings X songs. In that sense, the process is somewhat different because life changes as it goes along. I see it as the three of us getting together to make a new record with all the changes that have happened to that point."
One of the interesting components of Kings X's working relationship is the trio's prolific solo output, which now totals more than the band's literal album count. Gaskill credits that latitude with keeping the group dynamic fresh.
"It's helped make us a little bit more comfortable in knowing that not everything has to be contained within Kings X," says Gaskill, who has one solo album and another waiting in the wings. "There's a certain satisfaction in knowing that you're doing something all yourself. And there's that same feeling with the group effort, just different."
Gaskill notes that while Kings X has found a familiar way of working together after 28 years, it is their separate evolutions that have kept the trio strong and engaged.
"We've been through all kinds of changes individually that make things seem new all the time," he says. "That's just life going on and finding new things out as we get older."