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,
GenresGarage 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 membersJustine Apostolopoulos
Leanne Chapman
Kris Miehm
Timothy Hagberg

Big John Bates is a Canadian rock and metal musician.

Early life[edit]

Born in Toronto to a Haligonian couple (as per a radio interview in 2011 his birth father performed with The Beau Marks); John was adopted as an infant and grew up in Ottawa. He taught himself to play guitar by age 14; picking up techniques from Exciter guitarist John Ricci while hanging around Domenic's Music in Bell's Corners. He was also picking up styles off friends from Syracuse, New York while working summers in the 1000 Islands. Bates' early guitar bodies were made by his brother Bruce in high-school workshop and John soldered in electronics and attached necks scavenged from old Sears guitars. His first real guitar was a Gibson Marauder but after it was stolen he couldn't afford another so focused on lyrics and vocals. His first band Annihilator was formed in 1984 with Jeff Waters with John as singer and Jeff on guitar. The pair co-wrote all of the material that compromised the first two Annihilator LPs.[2] After an ill-fated residency in Val D'Or Quebec, John and bassist Dave Scott left the group to form Ligeia which released an underground demo in 1987. John then began Bates Motel and attended business school before moving to Vancouver, continuing with Bates Motel and a FACTOR-funded LP produced by Jeff Waters in 1996. The second LP's writing took a different direction and began the evolution to Big John Bates in 1999.

Musical career[edit]

Big John Bates: Noirchestra[edit]

The Noirchestra was unveiled in 2012.[3] 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 by Robert Ferbrache (Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Wovenhand, 16 Horsepower), creator of the "Denver Sound".[4]

These sessions were split with six songs, 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).[5] Videos for the post-rock instrumental "Amerkin" and "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 Europe and North America. These dates included Canadian Music Week 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.[6] The band began this tour as four-piece, but the fourth 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.[7]

2014 saw the band release the 7" single "Black Timber, Bitter Root" mixed by The Smugglers guitarist David Carswell and released on Rookie Records and completed a 22-date headlining tour of Europe in May 2014. The band again became a four-piece, adding cello to their live sound and completed a Canadian and American tour with White Cowbell Oklahoma and The Paceshifters in winter of 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. The LP saw its Canadian release in Spring 2016 followed by dates in the U.S. and a second European tour in the winter 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.[8][9] In the early summer 2017 a third round of European 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.

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 including Little Miss Risk and performed over 1000 shows and festivals throughout Europe and North America. 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.[10]


Bates first band was as a founding member 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.[11] Bates then recruited bassist Dave Scott and Jeff brought in drummer Paul Malek. The band rehearsed relentlessly over a two-year period before settling in Val-d'Or. During this time, Waters and Bates co-wrote most of the tracks from the albums Alison Hell and Never, Neverland before the first incarnation of the band dissolved. John later co-wrote songs on King of the Kill, engineered the demos for the record deal, and subsequently wrote songs included on the three following albums. Bates also contributed a guitar track to "Remains".[12] Bates 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

  • 2019: Skinners Cage (Frontman Records / Rookie Records LP+CD)
  • 2015: From the Bestiary to the Leathering Room (Frontman Records / Rookie Records LP+CD)
  • 2014: Black Timber, Bitter Root (Rookie Records 7")
  • 2012: Battered Bones (Frontman Records / Rookie Records LP+CD)
  • 2012: Headless Fowl EP (Frontman Records 12" 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. ^ "Former Annihilator Frontman/".
  3. ^ "Big John Bates Performs 'Taste the Barrel'". Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  4. ^ "Day Two: Big John Bates and Brandy Bones Bates Interview". Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  5. ^ "Big John Bates". Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  6. ^ "Halifax Pop review Big John Bates". 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  7. ^ "Announcing: The Headless Fowl LP – Big John Bates". Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  8. ^ ja:ULTRA BIDE[circular reference]
  9. ^ "BIG JOHN BATES / ビッグジョンベイツ | JAZZ ONLINE SHOP". (in Japanese).
  10. ^ "Truemmer Booking Homepage". Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  11. ^ "What's In Your Fridge: Big John Bates". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. 2016-07-29. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  12. ^ "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.
  13. ^ Lejtenyi, Patrick. "Big John Bates - Voodoo Bar-B-Q • Pop & Rock Reviews •". Archived from the original on 2007-07-08. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  14. ^ "Big John Bates Discography at Discogs". Retrieved 2014-07-12.

External links[edit]