Devils and dharma
Former Pasadena resident Jake La Botz returns to the Redwood Saturday
By Bliss Bowen 11/01/2012
Listening to Jake La Botz’s music, with its slinky blues progressions, devilish temptations and hand-crafted mythology, you might expect the musician/actor to be a hard-bitten, seedy character. That description may have fit in the 1990s, before he sobered up and re-charted his life, but nowadays he’s just creatively twisted. In other words, original.
La Botz left LA for New Orleans two years ago, hoping to re-juice his music career. While there, he met a casting director who got him into some films, including Walter Salles’ “On the Road.” In his small role as “Okie Hitchhiker” he sings “Hard to Love What You Kill,” from his rivetingly dark 2008 album “Sing This to Yourself…And Other Suggestions for a Personal Apocalypse.” New Orleans wound up in his rearview mirror too, as he bounced to his hometown of Chicago and New York, where he’s based now. Earlier this year, he earned enthusiastic reviews as a devil named the Shape in the Atlanta production of Stephen King’s play “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” with music by John Mellencamp.
“Everybody’s pretty sure it’s gonna have a life from here,” he says of “Ghost Brothers,” “but when and where remains to be seen. They really let me do what I wanted to do; on one of the songs they allowed me to adapt to my style and sound. They’re really cool songs. They run the gamut of American music, from blues to ragtime, gospel, rock ‘n’ roll.”
He “wrote most of a new album” in New Orleans but hasn’t recorded it. “I’m tired of putting out my own records,” he explains. “I’ve sort of gone on strike from making a new album until somebody pulls up and joins me on it. We’ll see. A few songs are definitely among my best, and they seem to be popular when I play them out.”
They’ll be in his set Saturday when he returns to the Redwood, assuming Hurricane Sandy cooperates. (At press time, he was hoping to fly out of Manhattan by Thursday.) He’ll also lead a meditation class, something he’s begun teaching in recent years — yet another twist in a life story that reads like a novel. In January, he’ll teach meditation at Vassar College.
“There’s a history in Buddhism of people who break into spontaneous poetry,” he says, discussing the connection between music and meditation. “Music is this primordial source … when we feel moved by music, we feel stirred to our guts, it’s so magical and right there. I don’t write ‘Buddhist songs’ and I don’t sing spontaneous songs of enlightenment. But I do find that because music is so stirring, it can really open people up. There’s a possibility just to have a very simple human connection, which is beautiful.”
La Botz plays the Redwood Bar, 316 W. 2nd St., downtown LA, 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3. Info: (213) 680-2600. He leads a free meditation practice and talk at the Aikido Center, 1211 N. Main St., downtown LA, noon-1:30 p.m. Saturday. Jakelabotz.com