Max Henry Gottesman is a natural born entertainer with a lust for life.
For proof, look no further than Gottesman’s musical alter ego, LJ … a rafter swingin’, groin-rubbing, cuts-and-blood-covered juggernaut who fully embraces a no-fucks, come-what-may vibe in the name of having a good time. Usually there is some lost clothing by the end of their set too, sometimes all of it. “I have scars, I’ve set myself on fire in the past,” says Gottesman. “It’s just hard to sit still.”
What makes LJ & the Sleeze special is bonkers songwriting paired with a scrappy, in-the-red, dirty rawk sound — surprisingly tight – plus the stage shenanigans. But the band never feels gimmicky though, rather like an amplification of all the rock n’ roll tropes we know and love, something Richmond has been lacking as of late. At a recent City Beach gig, LJ jumped on a table and literally brought the house down.
“Glass was everywhere. I had a huge chunk in my foot at the end of the show, dick in my hands, getting treated by someone,” Gottesman recalls. “They said they were a veterinarian. I was actually a little worried.”
LJ & The Sleeze is the raucous result of its mastermind’s lockdown blues during the pandemic, which resulted in boundless free time inside a newly constructed home studio. Gottesman, well known around town for running sound at joints like Fuzzy Cactus and Tin Pan, got the name LJ from a random passenger on a cruise who fancied their leather jacket.
You’ve heard of Jekyll and Hyde: Well, Gottesman is California sober (think no booze, but the green stuff is all good), very unlike musical persona, LJ.
“I’m married, have two dogs and a home. I was selling solar and remodeling homes in the middle of the pandemic,” they explain. “I have a pretty together thing. I haven’t done blow in four years … LJ really was me asking myself, what would I do if I was the opposite of myself? So basically, I’m living vicariously through myself.”
Their former band had just gotten the masters of its latest recordings when the bottom dropped out of the world as we know it.
“The pandemic hit and the protests had started. We had just gotten them, but it honestly didn’t feel like it was the time and place for three white people to be putting out music,” they say.
Instead, Gottesman spent a lot of time creating alone, which wasn’t easy: “I’m a very social person. I was lost in the void a lot. There’s no point, no prompt. I had a driving force to just create.”
What started as a single artist’s vision became a whole experience that pairs well with personal safety hazards and potential drunk-in-public citations. Gottesman even learned how to play drums and wrote a song a day. “In the end, I was like, ‘Here’s an album.’ I can’t play everything perfectly, so those recordings are what they are. I’m not the most gifted musician in the world.”
Gottesman has since recruited players for live shows and is re-releasing the original, self-titled debut this week with a Saturday show at Fuzzy Cactus that should feature charmers such as “Booty Call Baby,” “Small Dick, No Brain,” and “2 Stoned 2 Bone.”
“Some of the things I was recording were goofy, some were tough guy, some do not give a fuck,” they recall. “I swear I walked my dogs four miles a day and listened to the Beastie Boys, AC/DC and Guns n’ Roses on repeat. I can just write an album with these three bands in mind.”
Gottesman also put out a criminally insane art project that might make you feel sideways like you’re on drugs, including videos to accompany many songs — definitely worth a click on the interwebs. These include but aren’t limited to: a one night stand with a blow-up doll, cocaine benders, and alien abductions with less than conventional self-birth through one’s own naughty bits.
“Originally, the ending was different for that one. I came out of a stock image vagina. But I love the final cut with the dick,” Gottesman says. “I don’t know how it’s still available online. So far, nothing has been taken down or flagged. I think that’s hilarious.”
This weekend’s Fuzzy show marks the re-release of a single cassette of songs featuring music from the band’s earlier efforts, “Keepin’ It Sleazy” and “Put Something Sleezy Between Your Legs,” which should make for a good night of cheap thrills.
The songs on “Stay Sleezy” (Eight Ball Records) were recorded with a full band. “Some sound identical [to the original versions], but it’s tighter,” they say. “Some feedback I got early on was that the original was too raw for people. So this is a response to that. I think it’s got the energy of the live show.”
Gottesman notes there’s plenty more sleazy goodness ready to drop when the time is right. “I have a new album fully recorded, ready to go. If I keep on writing, I feel like I’m going to have a never-ending backlog. Like Prince’s vault or something.” [Laughs]
Kidding aside, Gottesman is overjoyed by the response LJ & The Sleeze has been getting and they really like the idea of playing a part in keeping things sleazy in RVA — especially as the cost of living goes through the roof lately.
Gottesman remembers moving to this city seven years ago when it was “inexpensive, easy and run by punk and art people.” Now people go to Scott’s Addition instead of drinking a 40 ounce on the porch. “It’s all salmon shorts and flip flops,” they say.
At least things are looking up for the band: “I’ve never had a response like this in a band I’ve sung with from the start. From our first show, folks were going wild” says Gottesman proudly, “and the ride continues.”
LJ & the Sleeze fully intend to keep it rowdy. “I don’t know what else I can do to top being naked on stage and rubbing my dick on a window, but I gotta keep the commotion up if I can.”
LJ & the Sleeze play Fuzzy Cactus with DJ Too Sweet, Paint Fumes and Magic Wand, Saturday, Feb. 12 at 9 p.m. 21+ and proof of vaccination is required. 221 W Brookland Park Blvd fuzzycactusrva.com