Big John Bates

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Big John Bates
Big John Bates in Springfield.jpg
Brandy Bones & Big John Bates
Background information
Also known as John Bates
Origin Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada,
Genres Americana, post-punk, garage_music, early psychobilly, deathrock, thrash metal
Labels Alternative Tentacles, Disk Union,[1] Frontman Records, Rookie Records, Glitterhouse Records, Roadrunner Records
Associated acts Annihilator; Sloan (band); The Real McKenzies; Bif Naked
Members Big John Bates
Brandy Bones
Ty-Ty the Saviour
Past members Timothy Hagberg
JT Massacre
Notable instruments
Gretsch Hofner

Big John Bates is a guitarist/vocalist endorsed by Gretsch guitars known for his rustic / garage / blues-punk style and he also plays mandolin and banjo. His professional career began as singer and writer for Annihilator. The "Big John Bates: Noirchestra" grafts lyrical vignettes with theatrical performances and orchestral, gothic Americana drawing broadly from alternative underground. From the beginning Jello Biafra stated the first EP "Headless Fowl is extremely cool" [2] and included the band in his Alternative Tentacles catalog.[3] The Noirchestra features singer/songwriter and Höfner upright bassist Brandy Bones, violinist RequiEmily and Ty-Ty the Saviour (Rich Sticks) on timpani, percussion and trap kit. They often include mandolin and cello on their recordings and occasionally live.

Early life[edit]

Born in Toronto, the Bates family moved to Ottawa when John was five. He taught himself to play guitar at age 14, learning songs with American friends over summers in the 1000 Islands and techniques from Exciter guitarist John Ricci. Bates' early guitar bodies were made by his brother Bruce in high-school workshop and wired by John from old Sears guitars. After high school John had his guitar and amp stolen, leading him to focus on lyrics and vocals. He formed his first professional band Annihilator with Jeff Waters which he was in for two years. After leaving the group John returned to business school then moved to Vancouver in 1992. He continued devoting himself to underground music, creating the musical identity Big John Bates after his previous deathrock band Bates Motel.

Musical career[edit]


As a founding member (singer and songwriter) of Annihilator, the "highest-selling thrash metal band from Canada" Bates began his career with notoriety. Meeting Jeff Waters through mutual friends with the intention to cover AC/DC songs, Jeff instead decided to write originals together and the two of them formed Annihilator.[4] John then recruited bassist Dave Scott and Jeff brought in drummer Paul Malek. The band rehearsed 5 days a week over a two-year period to hone their craft as songwriters and began the band's touring legacy with a residency in Val D‘Or Quebec. During this time Waters and Bates co-wrote most of the tracks from the albums Alison Hell and Never, Neverland before the first version of the band dissolved. John later co-wrote songs on King of the Kill, engineered the demos for the record deal, and sub-sequentially wrote songs for the three following albums. Bates also contributed a guitar track to "Remains".[5]

Big John Bates & the Voodoo Dollz[edit]

Citing influences such as Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, the Cramps, Reverend Horton Heat, early Alice Cooper, the pioneers of swing music and the new burlesque revolution, the group Big John Bates & the Voodoo Dollz was formed in 2000. They were the first touring band to incorporate burlesque performers and performed over 1000 shows and festivals throughout Europe and North America.

Shortly after forming the band John bought his trademark handmade Gretsch White Falcon 6136 (after a conversation with Rick from SCOTS and Elvez) from the bassist in Badfinger and it remained his main guitar for the duration of the band. BJB & the Dollz supported such notable artists as the Fuzztones, the Blasters, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Solomon Burke, Koko Taylor, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, The Boss Hoss and Andre Williams[6] (Dynamite Magazine).

Each of their four albums (and live DVDs) had different drummers and upright bassist sCare-oline. She also incorporated traditional and gothic bellydance early in the group's career, performing while the songs "Whiplash" and "Salome's Last Dance" were played with guitar and percussion. Documentaries in North America on the A&E Network and Discovery Network interviewed John about the influences of both film-maker Russ Meyer and authors Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane on the lyrical content and neo-burlesque styles. Bates' version of "Tainted Love" from their Mystiki album (2003) was the director's choice for the French film "Un singe sur le clos". All of their recordings involved engineer/producer Todd Simko (Pure).

Big John Bates: Noirchestra[edit]

In 2010 Vancouver's Big John Bates and Montanan Brandy Bones made the first Noirchestra recordings with drummer JT Massacre at Faceplant Studios in Vancouver. The Scarecrow Close 7" single was released on Rookie Records and was also available at Hot Topic across the USA. Further recording was done in Nashville in 2011 (with Orian Case on drums) at Mark Robertson's (th' Legendary Shack Shakers) though most of the drumming for Battered Bones/Headless Fowl was done in early 2012 by Timothy Hagberg. The tracks were mixed and mastered in Denver by Robert Ferbrache (Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Wovenhand, 16 Horsepower), creator of the "Denver Sound".[7]

These sessions were split with six songs (and two videos) released in North America as Headless Fowl in April 2012 by Frontman Records and the remainder released in Europe as "Battered Bones" on Rookie Records (Germany) in Sept 2012. The "Headless" release was accompanied by a March/April 2012 headlining tour of the US and Canada with Murder By Death (band). "Battered Bones" was supported by a Fall 2012 headlining tour through the EU and North America. These dates included the Halifax Pop Explosion (2012) where their performance earned the festival's highest rating among bands such as Black Lips, Elliott Brood, Wintersleep and Deer Tick.[8] They also had their song "Taste the Barrel" featured on the Canadian TV Series Arctic Air.

In 2013 Frontman Records compiled 13 tracks from the sessions and released them digitally as The Headless Fowl LP.[9] In 2014 saw the band release the 7" single "Black Timber Bitter Root" mixed by The_Smugglers_(band) guitarist David Carswell (New Pornographers, Teagan and Sara) on Rookie Records and their song "Taste the Barrel" featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's TV show Arctic Air.

Bates completed a 22-date headlining tour of Europe in May 2014 and a Can-Am tour with White Cowbell Oklahoma and The Paceshifters in Nov/Dec 2014. On their time off the band wrote and recorded their sophomore LP From the Bestiary to the Leathering Room in their recording studio aboard the Caleuche, Bates' boat moored in Vancouver's False Creek. They followed the release with a two-month European tour May–June 2015 (Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria) with a CAN-AM tour following in Fall 2015. The Canadian release in Spring 2016 was followed by dates in the USA and a second EU tour in Nov/Dec 2016. In March 2017 the Noirchestra completed their first tour of Japan playing 9 shows in 6 cities and recording two songs in Kyoto with Alternative Tentacles artist Ultra Bide.[10][11] In May/June 2017 a European tour will complete touring for "Bestiary" with both club and festival shows.[12]


Big John Bates: Noirchestra

  • 2015: From the Bestiary to the Leathering Room (Frontman/Rookie Records)
  • 2014: Black Timber Bitter Root (Frontman/Rookie Records 7")
  • 2013: The Headless Fowl LP (Frontman Records/iTunes Digital LP)
  • 2012: Battered Bones (Frontman/Rookie Records LP)
  • 2012: Headless Fowl EP (Frontman Records/Alternative Tentacles EP)
  • 2010: Scarecrow Close (Rookie Records 7")

Big John Bates & the Voodoo Dollz

  • 2010: Clockwork Blues (Frontman Records DVD)
  • 2009: Bangtown (Rookie Records/Stag-o-Lee Records/Devil's Ruin Records)
  • 2007: Live at the Voodoo Ball (Devil Sauce Recordings DVD)
  • 2006: Take Your Medicine (Wolverine Records)
  • 2003: Mystiki (Devil Sauce Recordings)
  • 2001: Flamethrower (El Toro Records - re-release of Voodoo Bar-B-Q)[13]
  • 1999: Vibro-Psychotic (Nearly Nude Music 7")[14]

Bates Motel

  • 1996: Tales of Ordinary Madness (Tomcat Records/Nearly Nude Records)
  • 1988-1992: Various Cassettes (self-released)


  • 1986-1987: Various cassettes (self-released)



  1. ^ディスクユニオン
  2. ^ "Truemmer Booking Homepage". Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  3. ^ "Alternative Tentacles - Store". Retrieved 2016-11-11. 
  4. ^ "What's In Your Fridge: Big John Bates". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. 2016-07-29. Retrieved 2016-11-11. 
  5. ^ "Report: Former ANNIHILATOR Frontman BIG JOHN BATES Touring Europe - "Imagine A Rockabilly Version Of The MISFITS Featuring BIF NAKED On Upright Bass"". May 23, 2015. Retrieved 2016-11-11. 
  6. ^ "Truemmer Booking Homepage". Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  7. ^ "Day Two: Big John Bates and Brandy Bones Bates Interview". Retrieved 2016-11-11. 
  8. ^ "Halifax Pop review Big John Bates". 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  9. ^ "Announcing: The Headless Fowl LP – Big John Bates". Retrieved 2016-11-11. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Brave Words".  External link in |website= (help)
  12. ^ "Big John Bates – Noirchestra". Retrieved 2016-11-11. 
  13. ^ Lejtenyi, Patrick. "Big John Bates - Voodoo Bar-B-Q • Pop & Rock Reviews •". Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  14. ^ "Big John Bates Discography at Discogs". Retrieved 2014-07-12. 

External links[edit]