September 21st 2006
The Hammond Star
Hammond, LA newspaper
Jak Locke's rock experiments to reach Hammond audience
article by: Renee Allemand

Most of the time Marrero, La.-based singer/songwriter Jak Locke goes it alone.

The 26-year-old independent musician has been tinkering around with sound since he was a student at John Ehret High School. He's self-produced a total of five original albums since 2002, on which he plays everything from the guitar to the saxophone. (The latest, "Broken Crescent," was inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with song titles such as, "The Lake Could Turn Against Us" and "Scripted Failure.") His home is a do-it-yourself "junk yard" of recording equipment and instruments.

Locke moved on to Nicholls State University and got a bachelor's degree in government in 2002. While his intention was always to become a musician, his time in Thibodaux, La. netted him relationships with local musicians and club owners as well as a treasure trove of songwriting subjects.

Yet Locke has a hard time classifying the music he creates.

"As far as the sound, I'm still trying to figure out an accurate description that's less than five words," he said. "'Crescent City Junkyard Gothic Funk.' Or something like that. It's different."

It's an interesting mix of metal, straight-up rock and funk inspired by Locke's own experiences as a starving artist. But while his look borders on hobo-chic, his lyrics belie a deep appreciation for literature and poetry, even in stream-of-consciousness babbling. Some of his best work, he said, were the result of mistakes, such as a "bad chord that ended up sounding better than what (he) was initially trying to do."

The spirit of experimentation is rampant in his cross-genre influences, which include Beck, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and jazz artists Vince Guaraldi and Oscar Peterson.

Don't expect love songs, either. But even in Locke's dark world, there is hope.

"You'll never hear me sing a love song. Lyrically I tend towards the uglier side of life; real tragic and hopeless situations, doomed romances, struggling, dirt-poor living and that sort of thing," he said. "But usually there's an underlying counterpoint. You know, 'this is horrible but why should that stop you from enjoying yourself?' If you have nothing better to do than worry about things that are out of your control... you really must be doing fine."

That sentiment was applied well after Katrina, which disrupted many of Locke's frequent acoustic shows at New Orleans coffeehouses and plugged-in shows in the metro area. For awhile he considered moving to Austin, Texas, thinking his career here would be dead in the water. But Locke said the storm's challenges actually forced him to expand his reach.

"The hurricane shut down a lot of venues in New Orleans, many for good, so I ended up being forced to book much more out of town and out of state if I wanted to continue making a living," he said. "The hurricane was probably the best thing that could have happened to me because I've never been at a better place in my career."

That do-it-yourself attitude has taken him far beyond his own doors. He is now a regular performer at bars and clubs all over Southeastern Louisiana and Southwest Mississippi from Galliano to Pascagoula.

That same attitude is something new musicians need in what he sees as a hostile local music scene, he said.

"As far as I can see, there's an overall attitude of 'every man for himself' with no real cross-pollination or networking happening," he said. "A good portion of the blame is on the bands themselves, but a lot of it rests with the venues that don't respect the bands and the region itself for being pretty barren territory for an original band to try and stake out a following to begin with."

Expect a high-energy show when Locke and his band rock Augustines Pub, 226 N. Cate St., on Sept. 23. The cover charge will be $5.

"I'm not one of these performers who's content to just stand in front of the microphone and strum my guitar and sing--I never understood that," he said. "My band and I have a lot of fun at the shows, large crowd or not. Each person paid to see a rock show, and that's exactly what I give them."

In the works for Locke are demo production gigs for two Houma bands, the creation of a zine titled SCRAPE for unsigned bands in South Louisiana, a new music video and a graphic novel that Locke eventually plans on self-publishing.

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