Big John Bates

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Big John Bates
Bigjohnbates frankwesp.jpg
Big John Bates: Noirchestra
Background information
Also known asJohn Bates
OriginVancouver, British Columbia, Canada,
GenresAmericana Noir, Rustic Punk, Southern Gothic, early Garage Rock, Thrash Metal
LabelsAlternative Tentacles, Glitterhouse Records, Roadrunner Records, Disk Union,[1] Rookie Records, Frontman Records
Associated actsBig John Bates: Noirchestra, Big John Bates & the Voodoo Dollz, Annihilator; Sloan (band); The Real McKenzies; Bif Naked
MembersBig John Bates
Brandy Bones
Past membersTimothy Hagberg
JT Massacre

Big John Bates is a guitarist/vocalist known for his metal roots, Americana Noir guitar style and a long association with Gretsch guitars. His current group is the Big John Bates: Noirchestra - dark rock with roots and prog elements - whose dramatic performances and atmospheric sound have been described as "relentless, film noir-inspired, Dracula-awaking grooves".[2] After hearing their first EP, 2012's "Headless Fowl", Jello Biafra stated the band was "extremely cool"[3] and included the band in his Alternative Tentacles catalog.[4]

Early life[edit]

Born in Toronto, the Bates family adopted John as an infant and moved to Ottawa when he was five. He taught himself to play guitar by age 14, learning songs with friends from Syracuse over summers in the 1000 Islands. He also picked up rock techniques from Exciter guitarist John Ricci at 15. 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. John formed his first professional band Annihilator in 1984 with Jeff Waters, initially co-writing the material for the first two Annihilator LPs.[5] John left the group in 1986 to attend business school then moved to Vancouver to continue his musical career.

Of note his birth father (Philip Baker) performed with the rock'n'roll group The Beau Marks who had the first number one hit ever recorded in Canada. His birth mother (Patricia Cleveland) has lineage including John's great-uncle, US President Grover_Cleveland (4x removed) and great-grandfather, founder of the Presbyterian Church of Canada Aaron_Cleveland (6x removed). His adopted father (William "Bill" Bates) was a semi-professional ice hockey goaltender that was a draft choice of the New_York_Rangers and his adopted mother (Joan Bates née Beatty) was the first female employee of Library_and_Archives_Canada.

Musical career[edit]

Big John Bates: Noirchestra[edit]

The Noirchestra was unveiled in 2012 [6] and their dark, edgy rock style is influenced by their underground musical tendencies - a style also embodied by fellow Cascadian Mark Lanegan. Recording originally began in 2010 with the song Scarecrow Close which was featured in Hot Topic stores across the USA. This success was followed by demo recordings at Mark Robertson's studio (Legendary Shack Shakers) in Nashville, TN (2011) from which a cover version of Rawhide was released. The LP/EP pair Battered Bones / Headless Fowl was recorded in early 2012 at Todd Simko's New Westminster studio. The tracks were mixed and mastered in Denver, CO 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 co-headlining tour of the US and Canada with Murder By Death (band).[8] Videos for the post-rock instrumental "Amerkin" and the psyche-country "Taste the Barrel" were produced by Chris Ray and Hora Morrior and released on YouTube to support the tour. "Taste the Barrel" was also featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's TV show Arctic Air.

"Battered Bones" was supported by a Fall 2012 headlining tour through the EU and North America. These dates included CMW in Toronto and the Halifax Pop Explosion where their dramatic performance earned the festival's highest rating among bands such as Black Lips, Elliott Brood and Wintersleep.[9] The band began this tour as 4 piece but the 4th member subsequently disappeared without a trace during the tour. Following the tour Frontman Records compiled 13 tracks from the sessions and released them digitally as The Headless Fowl LP.[10]

2014 saw the band release the 7" single "Black Timber, Bitter Root" mixed by The Smugglers (band) guitarist David Carswell (New Pornographers, Destroyer_(band)) on Rookie Records and completed a 22-date headlining tour of Europe in May 2014. The band again became a 4-pc, adding cello to their live sound and completed 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 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. After this tour Bates and Bones met electric violinist RequiEmily and invited her to join the group. The LP saw its Canadian release in Spring 2016 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.[11][12] In May/June 2017 a third round of EU touring that completed the promotion for "Bestiary" with both club and festival shows. In summer 2018 the band performed festivals and shows while beginning the recording of their upcoming release "Skinners Cage" (release date Mar 2019) in Wilhelmshaven, DE.

As of 2016, the Noirchestra is composed of Big John Bates (guitar/vocals), Brandy Bones (upright bass/vocals), RequiEmily (electric violin) and Ty-Ty the Saviour (percussion)[13]

Big John Bates & the Voodoo Dollz[edit]

The group formed in 2000 and musically considered themselves a garage band although they were embraced by the neo-psychobilly scene. They cited 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. 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. Big John Bates has 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[14] (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 used in the French film "Un singe sur le dos" by Jacques Maillot. All of their recordings were engineered by co-producer Todd Simko (Pure). The final recording for the Voodoo Dollz was done in 2010 by Big John Bates, Brandy Bones and drummer JT Massacre at Faceplant Studios in Vancouver. Two songs were recorded; the first Noirchestra song "Scarecrow Close" and the final Voodoo Dollz song "Bad Pussy" There was also a video shot in Minneapolis, MN by Ryan Schaddelee featuring Big John at the mercy of the Voodoo Dollz led by Brandy Bones. The Scarecrow Close 7" single was released on Rookie Records and was also available at Hot Topic across the USA.


Bates first band was as a founding member (singer and songwriter) of Annihilator, the "highest-selling thrash metal band from Canada". Meeting Jeff Waters through mutual friends with the intention to cover AC/DC songs, they instead decided to write originals together and the two of them formed Annihilator.[15] John then recruited bassist Dave Scott and Jeff brought in drummer Paul Malek. The band rehearsed relentlessly over a two-year period, honing their craft as songwriters and beginning the band's live 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 included on the three following albums. Bates also contributed a guitar track to "Remains".[16] John still continues to co-write with Jeff Waters for Annihilator.

John also performed as guitarist for Bif Naked for a brief period during her Plum Records period.


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)[17]
  • 1999: Vibro-Psychotic (Nearly Nude Music 7")[18]

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. ^ "Taco Fest at Swangard Stadium". Retrieved 2017-08-10.
  3. ^ "Truemmer Booking Homepage". Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  4. ^ "Alternative Tentacles - Store". Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  5. ^ "Former Annihilator Frontman/".
  6. ^ "Big John Bates Performs 'Taste the Barrel'". Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  7. ^ "Day Two: Big John Bates and Brandy Bones Bates Interview". Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  8. ^ "Big John Bates". Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  9. ^ "Halifax Pop review Big John Bates". 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  10. ^ "Announcing: The Headless Fowl LP – Big John Bates". Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "BIG JOHN BATES / ビッグジョンベイツ | JAZZ ONLINE SHOP". (in Japanese).
  13. ^ "What's In Your Fridge: Big John Bates". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. 29 July 2016. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  14. ^ "Truemmer Booking Homepage". Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  15. ^ "What's In Your Fridge: Big John Bates". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. 2016-07-29. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ Lejtenyi, Patrick. "Big John Bates - Voodoo Bar-B-Q • Pop & Rock Reviews •". Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  18. ^ "Big John Bates Discography at Discogs". Retrieved 2014-07-12.

External links[edit]