While planning a tour to promote his new album, Graveyard Jones, blues musician and actor Jake La Botz stumbled onto the perfect venue for his music – tattoo studios. Pollstar spoke with him about the inspiration behind such a novel tour.

First, thanks for taking time out to answer some questions. How did you decide to do the tour this way? This is a very old-school approach. Was that part of the attraction?

This is how it went down…

I’ve been playing professionally for 15 or 16 yrs. For the first half of that I was strung out like a lab rat on “stuff” and couldn’t tour… had to stay close to the dope man. When I finally woke up from that particular nightmare I found myself sketching a bad caricature of the American dream along with a million other hopeful musicians in Hollywood. After many near misses with labels, managers and other big shots.

I finally figured out that I could go on tour without anyone from the music industry giving me the go ahead. In fact it began to look like I had an obligation to the fans who had been sending me emails asking me why I never play in Poughkeepsie or Fargo or wherever. I felt kinda stupid telling ’em I don’t have a booking agent…I mean it’s not like I don’t own a car and a guitar… so I decided to figure out who they are and go meet them.

From looking at my fans profiles on myspace I noticed a lot of them are heavily tattooed and somewhat artistically ecumenical. Also, having recently played at a tattoo convention in Long Beach, CA and having sold bizillions of CD’s I figured “I’m on the fringe of this art / entertainment deal… so are my fans. Lets do a tour on the fringe… forget about the typical music venues…and actually mix it up on the shop floor.”

Once you had the inspiration, how did you pull the whole thing together?

So I put it up on the internet that I was gonna do this thing and pretty soon I had to turn down shops that wanted to be involved… which is too bad. I’d like to play them all. What I’m thinking is to do this every year… different shops… also Europe, Japan, Australia… what the hell?

But yeah… the old school thing. When I hear stories from my pal and mentor, delta bluesman Honeyboy Edwards, man… he just went off and did it – place to place – him and Robert Johnson did that in the 30’s.

On Graveyard Jones you play with a band. Will they be traveling with you or will you hook up with any other musicians along the way?

Just me and an acoustic guitar.

In Chicago I will meet up with a coupla guys to back me up at the legendary Chess Records Studio on south Michigan Ave. (now it’s the Blues Heaven Foundation) where Howling Wolf, Muddy, Bo Diddley, Little Walter, Willie Dixon, etc. made all those great records.

Your MySpace page lists a huge number of influences, some of whom are apparent in your music. Is there one musician who’s had a particularly strong impact on you?

Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis. Real name was Charles Thompson. As a young man, at the end of the depression, he was a clown traveling with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. In the 40’s he met up with John Lee Hooker in Detroit and learned how to play guitar.

Eventually he wound up playing guitar on Maxwell Street which is where I met him in the 80’s and where I learned about the mysteries of the cheap guitar, the cheap wine and the priceless lineage of blues singers who can connect to the soulful voice way down below the dirt on Maxwell Street.

The tour is being filmed for a documentary. Are you thinking about it as a theatrical release or as something for IFC?

It’d be real nice to get a theatrical release.Or I could pack a big screen and a projector in the car and show it at tattoo shops on the next tour!

What do you think the focus of the film will be? In other words, what do you want the public to take away from seeing it?

I honestly don’t know what I’m going to find on this journey. One thing I’m curious about is what it means to be an artist and an individual in this particular time and place. Also, how music and tattoos tie in together… the sense of lineage that apply to both. And maybe a hopeful message that we can actually just be who we really are without outside approval.

Your songs are drawn from your life, which by the way is a fascinating story in it’s own right. Have you thought about writing new songs inspired by the tour for an album to go with the film?

Unfortunately for me I don’t seem to have that kind of control over what I write about. The songs bubble up on their own time…but it’s an interesting thought.

Anyone who wants to hear more of La Botz or catch him live, his new album Graveyard Jones will be released October 3, and his Tattoo Across America tour kicks off October 7 at Hollywood’s Shamrock Social Club and crisscrosses the country through November 2.