My pal Chris Breksa owns an amazing tattoo shop in Silverlake called Alchemy Tattoo. During my recent visit, I got to know one of the other tattoo artists, Jake. He’s a tall, lanky guy with long, black hair that arouses flashes of the movie Detroit Rock City, rocking out to the band Zeke, The Ramones and late night hangs. I went to dinner with Chris, Jake and his girlfriend Jennifer and learned that not only are they fun people, but total sweethearts. Jake started a band called The Lords of Altamont which he still plays with, and in his former life was a roadie with The Cramps.
AMY: So what year did you start The Lords Of Altamont?
JAKE: We started in 1999. I had a surf band before this one called The Bomboras. We were signed to Rob Zombie’s label through Geffen and then when that was squashed we were on Universal.
AMY: What other bands have you been in?
JAKE: Untamed Youth, The Go- Nuts (a super gross nec-rock band), The Finks, The Gallows, Eastern Green, and The Fuzztones, which was out of New York.
AMY: What instrument do you mainly play?
JAKE: Mainly, I play keys… Vox, Farfisa, Hammond, Wurlitzer, piano, but for the past 15 years I’ve been singing while playing keys. Ripping off The Sonics, hahaha!!!
AMY: Who taught you how to play piano?
JAKE: It’s kinda funny… Remember Bomp! Records? Greg Shaw put out all these records of all these 80’s garage bands and I would just try to play along with them in my bedroom. I went out and bought a Vox organ and it was single notes for awhile. Embarrassing. I got a teacher for two months once but I told him that I wanted to play like Little Richard. I really wanted to play real deal organ. So he said that I had to play piano first and he made me learn “As Tears Go By,” the song by The Rolling Stones but he gave me a Phil Collins version. I was just real uninterested and there was some awkward moments between us. So I just stopped going.
AMY: I can relate because I had this guitar teacher who just wanted me to learn Blink 182 when I asked to learn punk rock. Even though I hated that band he insisted. He had long, blonde hair to his knees, drove a monster truck, and was a true British metal head. He eventually asked me, “Why are you really learning guitar?” He actually thought I was paying him thirty bucks a session to get close to him! He said that’s why most women took lessons. I put down the guitar until my twenties after that.
JAKE: Yeah, I dealt with a hand creeping up my leg, too. I didn’t put down the organ though.
AMY: Guy or girl?
JAKE: A guy. I was 17 and he was in his 30’s. Moustache, curly hair… looked like Mr. Carter.
AMY: Jesus! Sex, drugs & rock & roll. You can’t even learn an instrument without getting hit on.
Lords of Altamont singer Jake Cavaliere – by Molly Adams
JAKE: Given your choice, would you have learned Ramones, Dead Boys or T.S.O.L. ?
AMY: Dead Boys.
JAKE: Fuck yeah!
AMY: How many Lords albums are out?
JAKE: Five albums. We just did one that’s a tribute to December 6th at Altamont Speedway and what happened that fateful day.
AMY: The Stones concert.
JAKE: Yeah, but a lot of people are saying, “Oh my god! You’re immortalizing a horrible day. It’s a day of death and murder!
AMY: I don’t completely see it that way. The Stones played, a lot of other things were happening…
JAKE: Yeah, for us it’s the day the Summer of Love pretty much ended.
AMY: Yeah, it was 1969, right?
JAKE: Yeah, Brian Jones had died.
AMY: The Manson murders…
JAKE: That happened just up the street too. Vietnam was happening and everyone was protesting, there was a lot of unrest during that time. The proto punk aggression was coming out. The Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper even…
AMY: The Doors were one of the first dark bands to hit the mainstream. Being drunk, wearing leather pants, acting out and the screaming and sexiness. I don’t like the Doors but I understand the impact they made.
JAKE: Yeah, imagine being a square, clean cut guy in 1966 and showing up to this gig. There was no bass, too, so that was the beginning of that. Although The Seeds also had no bass.
Lords of Altamont – Photo: Molly Adams
AMY: So were are the Lords most popular?
JAKE: Any where French speaking.
AMY: Like Canada?
JAKE: I don’t think I can get in there with my criminal record.
JAKE: Just bar fights… Nothing big. Canada can be really strict about criminal records when traveling in and out. When Michael Davis joined the Lords there now was two of us had to sweet talk our way around the issue.
JAKE: The Cramps, MC5, The Stooges, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Dead Boys, and Lords of the New Church. I want to get a tattoo one day like a Mount Rushmore of my icons. It would be Stiv, Lux, Michael Davis of MC5 (because I love him very much), and there is a battle for who would be the fourth…
JAKE: But he’s still around! Joey? Johnny Thunders?
AMY: Joey was so lovable, he would be a good addition. So you toured with The Cramps as their roadie? Have any crazy stories?
JAKE: It all started when I was in The Bomboras and we did three tours with The Cramps and when that ended they said, “Jake we never tour with unsigned bands but we want to take the Lords out.” So Ivy was having trouble with one of her fuzz pedals and I fixed it right before the show and she was stoked. So I became their stage hand for many, many shows to come. I’ve seen about 140 of their shows.
Lords of Altamont – Photo: Molly Adams
At the Chicago House of Blues the stage was six feet above the audience and The Cramps decided they didn’t want barricades. So the club said well it will be minimal security then. Usually,The Cramps shows were more of a rock & roll crowd then hardcore punk. First song ends, people start climbing on the stage and snagging pedals and cords. Lux and Ivy are looking at me pissed. So I’m pushing people down and then more people get the idea to jump up there. Pretty soon, the audience gets that there is just one scrawny guy defending the stage. Now I’m getting hostile and some dude pulls off my shirt and pulls me down in the crowd and I’m looking like another tattooed asshole in the pit. Band stops the show. So security is pulling me down while Lux, Harry Houdini, and Chopper are trying to pull me up onstage. I’m getting graded against the stage which breaks my ribs. They finally pull me up and they start the show again while I’m sitting in the stage waiting for the next problem. Lux throws his mic stand, it hits Ivy in the head, then boomerangs and shears my face and continues down my collarbone. I had to get nine stitches that night.
AMY: Lux must’ve felt really bad about that one.
JAKE: It was really sweet and sad at the same time. They finish the show while I get rushed to the hospital and they are saying we have to stitch this up before it dies (because the skin was just hanging off my face like a flap.)
AMY: OH, GOD!!! UGH!!!
JAKE: They take me to the Chicago local county hospital. There are guys that look like they have been in car accidents, all bloody, handcuffed to their wheelchairs waiting in the hallway; it’s a grim scene. So Lux rushes over and is so concerned. He’s huddled up on the end of the bed, looking over his shoulder saying, ” I did this???” He was so, so concerned. I was trying to console him. The best part was that I had a denim jacket with the arms cut off with my band name on the back. The drummer Harry grabbed it and walks into the hospital wearing it. This hospital was kinda like a jail, they had metal detectors, cops everywhere… Harry says, “Hey, what’s up?!” I told Harry to look in the pockets of the jacket and he pulls out a set of brass knuckles and then he reaches in the other pocket and pulls out a switchblade. So I told him to get that outta there.
AMY: How long where you in the hospital for?
JAKE: They just loaded me up on Vicodin and let me go. I can’t grow a proper beard anymore. That’s why I have these muttonchops.
AMY: To cover your scars? Scars are cool though!
JAKE: I need all the help I can get.
AMY: I saw them when I was 16 and he was wearing a skin tight latex onesie with heels and he ripped the crotch out and was jumping around naked and my teenage mind was blown. Then you have Ivy in her leopard print leotard, so thin, with that snarl on her face. Lux and Ivy were the model of the ultimate, rock & roll couple. I always thought Lux and Ivy were crazy, doing pills and getting into trouble, but my friend Jim lived with them when he first moved to NYC and said they were actually very domestic and in their own little world. Not really going out to parties that often.
Lords of Altamont – Photo: Molly Adams
JAKE: Yeah, it was great to hear all the old stories from them personally, as opposed to people who knew them.
AMY: I used to work at The Continental in NYC. Did you guys ever play there?
JAKE: The Lords were 86’d from there for lighting the keyboard on fire and sometimes the drums. We did it all the time, so it was lame.
AMY: Did you figure out how to light stuff on fire on your own?
JAKE: Yeah, I burned a lot of shit down and ruined some of my tattoos, set clothes aflame. Burned off one of Quinn’s tattoos…
AMY: This rock & roll game is really dangerous for you.
JAKE: Well then you add alcohol and everything else.
AMY: Where are you from originally?
JAKE: L.A. Southgate to be exact, about 25 minutes from L.A. proper.
AMY: What did you listen to as a kid?
JAKE: Beatles, Stones, Judas Priest.
AMY: Was your family cool?
JAKE: My dad was in a motorcycle club and my mom was the wife of a dad in a motorcycle club.