Seeing the Dead Boys play live was a dream I’ve had since I was thirteen years old. I just never expected it to come true. Last year, when I got to interview Cheetah Chrome for the first time and see he and his band perform an awesome set list that included some Dead Boys classics, I thought it was as close as I’d ever get. When I heard that Cheetah and Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz would be going on tour with a new Dead Boys lineup, I have to be honest in saying I had really mixed emotions. Jason Kottwitz, who’s been playing with Cheetah for years, had already earned my respect, and Ricky Rat has been a mainstay in the punk world for decades. I suppose the real question in my mind was who the hell would ever sing? Who on earth could possibly fill the shoes of Stiv Bators? Stiv was my hero. He had more charisma and more stage presence that just about any other singer I could ever name. There was something so raw, so fucking real about him. You just couldn’t stop watching. So I’ll be honest when I say I had real and serious doubts about this. Who was this Jake Hout, and how would I ever stomach watching him front one of my favorite bands of all time?
The thing was, after interviewing Cheetah, I knew what Stiv meant to him. I knew how important it would be for Cheetah to preserve his legacy and let all dignity associated with the Dead Boys remain intact. Because of this, I went to the show expecting something decent. What I got instead was a performance that blew my mind. This lineup is no joke. Cheetah and Blitz played like they’d never stopped playing together. Kottwitz and Rat were solid and very talented additions to the band. Jake Hout, however, was the one that impressed the living hell out of me. I’ve had many friends comment that the band is “Not the Dead Boys” or something similar. I get it. I’ve seen bands that were reincarnated with new front men just to earn a few bucks. And they normally make you cringe. This is not the case here. Hout exhibits a stage presence and charisma that’s rarely seen. And despite being so charismatic, remains humble enough to know how lucky he is to be fronting a band that he’s loved and admired for so long. The music industry is not normally a place dripping with humility. Jake Hout is that rare artist who is incredibly talented, but also very grateful. So before you judge, go take a listen. Trust that these guys know what they are doing and would never settle on doing this half-assed. The band means too much to them. The Dead Boys are on tour now and I’m excited to say I’ll be seeing them again at the Bowery Electric in NYC ( January 28 and 29). Stiv is looking down with a smile, gentlemen. I know he approves.
J. Please tell us the story about how you wound up in the Dead Boys lineup.
J.H. I’ve known Jason Kottwitz for years. He and Cheetah have been playing together since 2013 and Jason always thought I’d be a good fit. Cheetah was doing his own thing at that time with his solo album and newer songs. But when the 40th anniversary was coming up, they scouted for singers for a Dead Boys set and Jason thought of me. Misty, Cheetah’s girlfriend, showed him some video of me as well and eventually I won the job.
J. I understand you were in a Dead Boys cover band. What was it about these guys that drew you in and made you such a fan?
J.H. Yeah , for years every Halloween me and a crew of Bay area musicians would do a zombie Dead Boys cover band called the Undead Boys. I’ve loved the Dead Boys since I was a kid. It was my favorite band when I was young and just never faded for me, really. It’s the sweetest spot right between Rock and Roll and Punk Rock of anybody in my opinion. It’s got the magic of invention in the music. Something was beginning! You just can’t fake that feeling. Also, for reasons I’m not sure of really , I’ve just always made people think of Stiv. I’ve played in several different bands, different kinds of music, and his name always comes up. I’ve got that kind of wild, rascally, sexual way of performing. I didn’t mean to be doing Stiv you know. It’s just we’re similar in some ways.
J. What was it like to step on stage with Cheetah and Blitz for the first time as a Dead Boy?
J.H. Oh man, it was crazy! We played the Whiskey a GoGo in Hollywood. Beyond my wildest dreams type of thing. I was so over come and high on life I totally wasn’t paying attention to how much I was drinking and was just pounding back the Jameson’s and Guinness. Cheetah didn’t know how well I can handle the drink yet, and was like “Holy shit, this bastard is wasted!” Hahaha! I wasn’t nervous at all though. I know the material inside and out. I nailed the gig and right there and then Cheetah knew it was gonna be me.
J. How do you think Stiv would feel about this lineup?
J.H. Well, Cheetah and Blitz say he’d be proud. All his close friends at the gigs tell me he’d love it. This always makes me tear up to think about it. Obviously, we all wish it could be him up here. He just can’t make the date, ya know. I think about it everyday. I mean to honor him.
J. What’s life like on tour?
J.H. Madness! We all jump in a little van and run in circles all around the country. We are always on the run and we’re all wild. We party like monsters. We just did 14 dates straight, with only 1 night off and then it’s on to the next.
There’s always some logistical nightmare. Floods, hurricanes, bomb threats, con men, terrorists & of course, insane Dead Boys! Its a very full lifestyle.
J.The Dead Boys are such an iconic band in the punk genre. When you look out into the audience, do you see mostly older fans, younger ones or a mix?
J.H. We draw all ages. Its great! Every gig there’ll be some real ol’ timers right down to the fresh faced kids and everyone in between. I think the majority is on the younger side. It’s amazing to see how the music still resonates. I love giving the old school that feeling again, making the time all fade away for a moment. But what really gets me going is knowing we’re passing the legacy on to the new generation.
J. What’s the plan going forward?
J.H. After this West Coast run we’re gonna meet up in New York in January for a couple gigs then head to UK for a couple weeks. We’re gonna do Europe later in the year and more American dates I assume. We’ve talked a bit about writing new stuff. Cheetah’s got some riffs. I’d love to just get him and Johnny together in a basement like the old days and rock ’em out till we come up with somthing. It’d have to be really goddamn good with a legacy of such weight. But we’re experts at the sound so on the one hand it’d be kinda easy. Cheetah was playing this sweet, kinda tragic lick the other day at soundcheck and Johnny just busted in with a super aggressive beat to it, I sang some suicidal dirty talk & it was like… Wow. That sounds like Dead Boys! Exciting! Got my fingers crossed…