"Music resembles poetry; in each are numerous graces which no methods teach, and which a master hand alone can reach." So said Alexander Pope and no truer words could be spoken.
Music is indeed a great deal like poetry. Cast with the utmost consideration for potency in language, just as the song is as carefully arranged in expressing what burrows deepest within man's complex and convoluted soul. It is a form of expression that has been celebrated, praised, and exercised by the greatest minds in history―an art form that can bear no price.
I happened upon an artist approximately eight years ago―an experience that changed me forever as a fan of music. I wasn't looking for anything different. In fact, I was comfortably nesting in a rut of Classic Rock―I couldn't believe that good music existed outside the glory days of the sixties and seventies. I was raised on Classic Rock―it was Rock and Roll's golden age with its perfectly memorable hooks, attitude and age defining oldies that will forever sit in the back of our collective minds as "that one song."
I can't say I liked Tyler Jakes’ music right away, because he didn't simply emulate the Classic Rock genetics I sought. Jakes absorbed music, vast in difference of time, place, and culture. With a flair for dramatic production he presented the world as he saw it―or perhaps as he wished to see it―with a thick Rock & Roll glaze. Within my first few listens I felt a gnawing conflict in my gut. His music presented sounds that were fresh, raw, new and above all, dangerous to me. It was almost like being a teenager in the late sixties; Tyler Jakes was the secret Black Sabbath record I hid from my Catholic parents. My guilty pleasure.
Tyler Jakes hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota where he had flirted with numerous Rock bands, all of which couldn't be bothered to take the music seriously.
"I was frustrated," he says, "I really wanted to get somewhere, but none of the bands I was in were taking it very seriously. I felt like I was wasting my time, so I quit."
Frustrated, Tyler found a gnawing urgency to escape and take a plunge.
"I packed my bags and moved to Europe. I didn't want to be in a band anymore, I just wanted to get away from it all and clear my head."
So he ventured off for what was supposed to be a six week trip. Unbeknownst to Jakes, the surreal charm of life in Europe would ensnare him completely.
"I fell in love with it," he recalls, "the people, the pace of life, the music, the food...everything. I mainly lived and traveled between the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Eastern Europe has become a second home."
He would remain there on and off for three years, ever observant and embracive.
"The musicians that influenced me when I was there were the gypsies and the 'non-professional' musicians of the villages. Every place I went, someone had a guitar or an accordion or something and we would all start jamming, singing, and dancing."
During this time, he wasted no time writing poetry, lyrics, notes, scraps―what have you.
"I was writing purely for the sake of writing. I had no intentions of putting an album out, but I did want to learn to record. So I picked up a cheap used 4- track and a mic at a swap meet and I spent a year experimenting with sound. I had no idea what I was doing, but I think it turned out better that way."
After returning to the U.S., he had a working demo, "Lie Awake" that came together with his experimentation. A friend from Minneapolis sent it into a local station and it received a great deal of attention. Within a couple weeks, Jakes received a request from the local record store to stock an album.
When I got my hands on what would become that first official album, Lo-Fi Matter, I was presented with a collection of eleven songs that spanned beloved homegrown American genres like dark, swampy Blues, wayfaring outlaw Folk-Country, Cow Punk, all woven together with European allusions that interjected modern and timelessly old fashioned roots. The kickoff is "Lie Awake," which will take you on a bruising Rock & Roll chainsaw ride, giving a taste of Jakes’ clever tongue and the devilish smirking lyrics that are ever-steeped in hysteria and neurosis. His voice alone has been likened to Tom Waits, Marilyn Manson, Peter Murphy, and even Axl Rose; able to cross from a smoky, gravel-pit vibrato to a banshee's scream in a matter of seconds.
The tracks continue, each standing alone individually as a completely unique work. The album is so diverse that there is no solitary demographic to which it can be presented. It could very well find a home on ten unique radio stations. The mantelpiece of the entire album is no doubt "If I Ever Make It Home" with its rambling bindlestiff spirit. There are works that invoke memories of eighties-Jesus & Mary Chain noise rock, the fond days of Grunge in its prime, experimental spoken word No-Wave Punk numbers that, no doubt, take cues from the agitated beat generation of the seventies and eighties, rambling Gypsy and Spanish Folk-Punk, and heavy sliding Delta Blues in the masterful "Mentholated Blues" with its schizo-paranoid lyrics:
I cleanse my memories with a moist towelette,
Then I smoke a GPC mentholated cigarette.
I stole some ideas from a third world war,
But now the police officer’s at my door.
The wordplay continues with absolutely striking classic Blues constitution, but slowed down to an absolutely sinister degree. The crowning achievement of this entire album has to be its grand finale, "Bring Me Down" with its outlaw Blues decor, the unforgettable guitar line, and Jakes’ scathing lyrics:
Well I'm a pendulum swinger on the midnight train.
In the codeine garden I'm a child of the rain.
I'm the voice of another; you don't have to pretend,
'Cause I ain't your brother, and I ain't your friend.
I leave it all up to the judge and jury,
'Cause some get lost and some get found.
I'm going up top without a worry.
There ain't nobody gonna bring me down.
Well everybody get together, you got to love someone,
Like birds of a feather flying into the sun.
That gun wasn't loaded, I tried to explain.
It must have just exploded down memory lane.
The instrumental second half erupts into your ears, summarizing the entire album and every single one of its influences in a hellfire of guitar fury and finally, tender Latin strings mark the glorious exit. He proudly proclaimed later that "this song was recorded with a Radio Shack microphone and an analog Tascam 4-track. After I was done recording it, I ate some chicken and mashed potatoes." It's amazing what can be done with so little. This was the very first track I heard and it set the stage for everything to come.
His goal was a simple one; stay true to himself, his trials and life experiences, no matter what. The music would thence come together effortlessly. When Lo-Fi Matter was officially released in late 2005, Pulse of the Twin Cities drew comparisons as broad as Bob Dylan and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, remarking that Tyler "is intent on laying down some truly dirty Rock and Roll here...Lo-Fi Matter is a great starting point." Rift Magazine reported that Jakes "displays great range and talent as a song writer. . . . Somebody get this man some more canvas!" Later, "Lie Awake", was featured in the short film "Under The N", with Tyler also performing the film's score.
Still bitten by the travel bug, Jakes packed his bags and headed west for Northern California's beautiful coastline and the eccentricity of San Francisco. It was here that he forged his Bootleggers, a band that was completely on board with his creative think tank. Here, he could rely on able musicians to bring about his vision of music for a crowd and in fact, expand on his sound. They set out to record a new album with harder Rock & Roll leanings, creating anthemic staples like "Rise," "Off The Track," and the epic "I Can't Take Anymore." The album is littered with as much diverse inspiration as Lo-Fi Matter, offering up tints of sweet Country-Blue brine with "114th Street Devil Woman" and "Pretty Up Our Love," while keeping a hefty Punk influence in the abrasive and unforgiving "Ballad in Plain F" and "Death Valley Surf Safari."
In 2008, Tyler Jakes released the full length LP Rocking Hoarse Calypso to ecstatic live crowds and delighted critics. Vernon Reid of the Grammy-award winning Living Colour described Jakes songwriting as being "gritty and witty." With two well received albums in his repertoire, Tyler Jakes and his Bootleggers commenced upon an expansive tour of the West Coast during 2008 and 2009.
Soon after his promotional tour, Jakes felt the urgency to once again purge. He set forth upon his follow up; the prodigious, ambitiously realized Burning Down The Underground, which in this listener's opinion, was his crowning achievement up to that point. Bursting at the seams with genre-defying achievements in lyric and style, it serves as a glimmering demonstration in the universal potential of music with a mind for originality and ambition. There isn't a single track that can be skipped without feeling its absence in the listening experience. Jakes’ mastery in recording had also come full circle, offering truly dynamic grit and crunch to his sound.
The diversity between tracks like "Topaz Satellite," a Molotov cocktail of Rock, and "Color It A Mystery" with its slow bindle-over-the-shoulder Country shuffle give the album a sense of epic proportion. "Unleash" gets the party started off right with a Stonesy blues harp and grungy grind, followed up with the equally as slovenly "Vibrator." One of the true highlights, "South of Northern California Girl" is a brilliantly conceived, trumpet-laced acoustic tale that could have easily found a place in any rambling gypsy's songbook. The song's facetious conclusion is worth the price of the entire album alone. It's a thing of beauty and pure joy to witness such clever workmanship in songwriting. Jakes’ most somber work to date rests in "Nothing To Hide," a Mark Lanegan-league ballad that is gutturally crushing. The final tracks, "Lazy Daze" and "Goodnight, Sweet Lady" give the album a sort of grandiose conclusion in the same vein as The Beatles' White Album; entirely well suited for a work that covers so much territory. Overall, it's an ode to fine musicianship and ambition. The album was very well received, picking up airplay on over 150 stations across the U.S. and Canada, charting multiple times in the Top 20.
Tyler is now promoting his latest effort, Evil, set for release on March 5th, 2013. He has already begun making waves in the top 20 of Alternative and Rock stations, finding company with the likes of Pulp, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alice in Chains, and even Jimi Hendrix's back-from-the-grave chart topper. His first single, "Out Of It" is a supercharged highway rocker that'll get the blood boiling with its bone crunching Queens of the Stone Age dulcorate and Foo Fighters-esque big chorus. Connections with musicians go a long way and Tyler has plenty of help here; "This Is A Robbery," features the trumpet of Jason Marks (of Malamanya), blazing like the Pixies scoring a spaghetti western soundtrack. Minneapolis virtuoso Steve Clarke lends his bari-sax to a Gogol Bordello meets Morphine surf-punk tune called, "The Wolf." The true fist-clutchers must rest between "Deathtrain To Amarillo," "Blood Money," and "Fifth Fang"; full of sinister vocals and dark grooves; sickly twisted tales of being strung out on the road, and associating with unsavory characters. The finale, "Lucid Dream Epilogue" plays like a bittersweet memory that pays tender homage to some terrible pain. On its dissolution the guitar trickles out, licking its chops before its final savage attack, and then bam! Guitar ferocity that leaves no Rock and Roll junky without their fix.
Twelve songs deep, Evil covers a whole lot of territory; seamlessly blending garage rock, heavy blues/punk, and a tinge of dark gypsy folk that has no doubt come from Jakes’ time spent in Eastern Europe. It is as delectably varied an album as any of his releases and yet, it stands as his most cohesive work to date. He does not limit himself what so ever. There are nods to nearly every artist in the back of Jakes’ constantly gyrating mind with a flowing lucidity that weaves it all together seamlessly. In addition to the release of Evil, Jakes has worked tirelessly to bring his uncompromised sound to vinyl for the very first time. There is no finer reason to invest in a turntable and sound system than right now. The needle will never feel quite as savaged and brutalized as when it grinds to the fruit of Jakes' ruthless labor.
With so much to offer and engines running on all cylinders, the question no doubt still remains: "So what? Why isn't Jakes involved with a record label by now? Isn't that the first step in producing music? Why should I give him an ounce of my time?" The answer is quite simply put―maintaining artistic freedom and integrity. Record labels have much to offer, and yet over time they can only serve as an anchor that will prevent unchecked expedition. Tyler Jakes' music is a completely self-operated entity, which is a massive feat unto its own. After Rocking Hoarse Calypso, he gave this entity a label. Skulltrax Records is now your source for all things Tyler Jakes, as well as the beginnings for a collective force of likeminded musicians that are brave enough to take the same plunge. Great things have very small beginnings.
As Jakes has proven, the craft of song is far more delicate than is given credit. He does not forsake a moment's fleeting thought if he thinks it might manifest into something rich. This is precisely why his songs are so impulsive. They are crafted with utmost care and attention with a burning drive to experience and depict, just as the greatest artists, poets, and essayists know; days are not to be spent in vain, but experienced, shared and portrayed with the tools afforded us. Jakes’ experiences portrayed through his music broadened my horizons to an infinite degree. His music instilled a hunger for experience, knowledge, and appreciation. There are few scholars left in the world that are truly worth their salt. Tyler Jakes is definitely one of them.
Article made by Hunter Gatherer/2013
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