The Southern Gothic Death Cult that is Big John Bates

Thursday Throwback from fall 2014

While I haven’t done much fanzine-oriented writing in some time, I recently caught up with Vancouver’s BIG JOHN BATES on tour with Paceshifters and White Cowbell, and thought, hell, why not do a casual interview for the fans:Big_John_Bates_in_Springfield

BS: First, you guys put on a righteous show – from the very first growl I was drawn in. I’m curious how this particular pairing of bands you are traveling with on this tour came about. You’re all so different, and yet it totally works.                                 

BJB: ‘From the first growl’ – who would expect it to be Brandy’s growl! But she has a very soulful scream. I guess the touring lineup might look strange at first, but all the bands bring great energy to the night. We’ve toured with White Cowbell before and became pretty tight. That was the final Voodoo Dollz tour in 2010, and it worked really well, so we decided to do it again. The Paceshifters are doing great in Holland, and Clem from Cowbell ran across them the last time Cowbell was over there, so he put it on the table when our agent was booking the tour.

BS: Your live show has certainly evolved over time, and while the vibe is still very theatrical, I’m wondering if there were any specific aspects you decided to hone in on for this particular leg of tours, or if you’re just following your guts and keeping it BJB. 

BJB: Well, if you look at where I started with Annihilator, then definitely. And the Voodoo Dollz was a great decade of being a show band as well – there can be so many learning experiences in the music world, right? As far as this band goes, I think that Brandy and I have played so many shows together over the past 5 years, that we know each other extremely well onstage. And our newest member Leanne (cello) fits in so well personally and musically, it’s like she was always a part of it. Come to think of it, great live bands are some combination of chemistry and bravado sautéed with talent.

BS: As an observer, one of the first comments I heard when the band took stage was “SHOW US YOUR TITS!”, which was shut up pretty quick once the show started LOL! The girls in your band hold it DOWN! Is sexism, in general, an issue you tackle together as a band?  

BJB: Brandy is the best person to answer that, but I can tell you that she has zero tolerance for sexist fools. And as attractive as they are, these women bring so much talent to the stage, that people quickly figure out they owe the girls respect. Plus Brandy once boxed a little; insulting her is asking to see her right cross.

BS: I absolutely love the balance between male and female energy that goes on at a Big John Bates show. At the same time, I cannot help but comment on how powerful the female presence is – it’s truly a thing of beauty, and I wonder if this is ever something that you’re asked about. How do you keep it in balance? – it seems there is team work to keep it thus. 

BJB: I have always tried to play with women in bands ever since I was a part of the post-punk world. After playing metal, I found bands like Siouxsie, the Cramps, and the Gun Club all featured strong female performers. It’s important to have that energy and appeal, important to not just be a boys club, important to embrace the perspective that female musicians and lyricists bring to the table.

BS: In terms of live shows/tours, how as a band do you decide upon what you’re all willing to do together?

BJB: In this group, Brandy and I are the team that keeps the rubber side down, and we keep it professional. We don’t jam, we rehearse, and we do it with focus. We look at tour offers well in advance and make our lives work around them. We have all given music a priority in our lives, so we focused on other types of work that offer flexibility – for instance Brandy has a degree in Bio-Cultural Anthropology, but is also a tattooist at Dark Day in Vancouver. But everyone needs to handle things their own way, so after we get offers, we go to the other players and see what we can do to move dates around a bit to accommodate everyone. Leanne has similar flexibility in her schedule, and also loves to play, so that has been a pretty seamless relationship. And while we do work with different drummers a lot, we try to keep good people in our tribe, so we can go back to them and see who is interested.

BS: It’s an all-around great band and sound, so just wishing you all the best on the road. Highlight for your fans what cities this tour will take you to, and anything on the horizon you would like to feature.

BJB: The 2014 Bitterroot Tour went all the way to Winnipeg, down through the states and back to Bellingham – 19 shows in 23 days. We are now finishing our new album for a European release date in April. We have a tour scheduled for May-June in Europe and our agencies are looking at festivals this summer. After that the idea is to take the album on the road in North America in the Fall. We make the outline, life fills in the colours.

Check out their latest album “From the Bestiary to the Leathering Room”You can follow BJB on twitter, facebook, or youtube to hear clips and keep informed of upcoming tour dates.