Big John Bates

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Big John Bates
Bigjohnbates frankwesp.jpg
Background information
Also known asJohn Bates
OriginVancouver, British Columbia, Canada,
GenresDark cabaret, dark rock, alternative rock, garage rock, thrash metal
LabelsAlternative Tentacles, Glitterhouse, Roadrunner, Disk Union, Rookie Records, Frontman
Associated actsBig John Bates: Noirchestra, Big John Bates & the Voodoo Dollz, Bates Motel, Annihilator, Sloan, The Real McKenzies, Bif Naked
MembersBig John Bates
Brandy Bones
Past membersJT Brander
Leanne Chapman
Kris Miehm
Timothy Hagberg

Big John Bates is a Canadian punk cabaret and metal guitarist and vocalist.

Early life[edit]

Although born in Toronto, John grew up in Ottawa and started teaching himself to play guitar at 14. His birth father was notably a sideman for the Beaumarks, with a lean towards Buddy Holly. John was infatuated with guitars and motorcycles, hanging around the local music shop (Domenic's - managed by Exciter guitarist John Ricci) watching and learning everything he could. Bates' early guitar bodies were made by his brother Bruce in high-school workshops while John attached and soldered whatever electronics and necks he could scavenge from old Silvertone guitars. His first professional guitar was a Gibson Marauder but it was stolen when his parent's house was robbed during a party. While saving for a replacement he focused on lyrics and vocals. This led to forming his first band Annihilator in 1984 with Jeff Waters on guitar/bass and John on vocals/lyrics. They co-wrote the material that compromised the first two Annihilator LPs over a two-year period in the basement of a women's fashion shop under Bank Street in Ottawa.[1] After a residency in Val D'Or Quebec with drummer Paul Malek and bassist Dave Scott, John and Dave quit the group to form Ligeia which released an underground demo in 1987. When that group split John started his own band, Bates Motel, while attending business school. After graduation he moved to Vancouver, where Bates Motel recorded a FACTOR-funded LP produced by Jeff Waters in 1996. The CD sold very well but John's style moved in a different direction, creating "Big John Bates" in 1999.

Musical career[edit]

Big John Bates: Noirchestra[edit]

The Noirchestra was unveiled in 2012 however [2] recording originally began in 2010 with the song Scarecrow Close which was featured in Hot Topic stores across the US. Brandy Bones also received a Hofner Strings endorsement for upright bass. During the 2011 US tour the band completed demo recordings at Mark Robertson's studio (Legendary Shack Shakers) in Nashville, TN from which a cover version of Rawhide (song) 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".[3]

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. Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra claimed that "Headless Fowl was extremely cool"[4] and included the release in the Alternative Tentacles catalogue. The EP 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 dark rock 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 (CA) and The Paceshifters (NL) 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 and the group was joined by drummer Ty-Ty. They performed dates in the U.S. and on their second 2016 European tour they were completed by chamber-punk violinist RequiEmily. In March 2017 the Noirchestra completed their first tour of Japan; playing nine shows in six cities and recording two songs in Kyoto with Alternative Tentacles artist Ultra Bide.[8]

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" in Wilhelmshaven, DE. Recording for the LP was completed once again aboard the Caleuche in Vancouver and was mixed by Felix Fung at Little Red Sounds.[9] The LP was released by Rookie Records April 12, 2019 and garnered exceptional acclaim by press in Europe and Canada.[10] In 2020 the Noirchestra appears on the Netflix series Snowpiercer in the second season, performing jazz covers in the Night Lounge.

Big John Bates & the Voodoo Dollz[edit]

The group formed in 2000 and musically considered themselves garage music that also encompassed 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. The group received one of Canada's first Jagermeister music sponsorships as the group used Jager onstage with shots, syringes and flaming pasties. A Gretsch guitar sponsorship also followed with John featured in the 2006 Gretsch catalog with his Black Falcon. Bates supported notable artists such as the Fuzztones, the Blasters, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Solomon Burke, Koko Taylor, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, The Boss Hoss and Andre Williams.[11]


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.[12] 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".[13]

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


Big John Bates: Noirchestra

  • 2010: Scarecrow Close (Rookie Records 7")
  • 2012: Headless Fowl EP (Frontman Records 12" EP)
  • 2012: Battered Bones (Frontman Records / Rookie Records LP+CD)
  • 2014: Black Timber, Bitter Root (Rookie Records 7")
  • 2015: From the Bestiary to the Leathering Room (Frontman Records / Rookie Records LP+CD)
  • 2019: Skinners Cage (Frontman Records / Rookie Records LP+CD)

Big John Bates & the Voodoo Dollz

  • 1999: Vibro-Psychotic (Nearly Nude Music 7")[14]
  • 2001: Flamethrower (El Toro Records - re-release of Voodoo Bar-B-Q)[15]
  • 2003: Mystiki (Devil Sauce Recordings)
  • 2006: Take Your Medicine (Wolverine Records)
  • 2007: Live at the Voodoo Ball (Devil Sauce Recordings DVD)
  • 2009: Bangtown (Rookie Records / Stag-o-Lee Records / Devil's Ruin Records)
  • 2010: Clockwork Blues (Frontman Records DVD)

Bates Motel

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


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



  1. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "Big John Bates Performs 'Taste the Barrel'". Retrieved 2017-10-26. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Day Two: Big John Bates and Brandy Bones Bates Interview". Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  4. ^ "Big John Bates". Retrieved 2020-07-11. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "Big John Bates". Retrieved 2017-10-26. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "Halifax Pop review Big John Bates". 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2014-07-12. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "Announcing: The Headless Fowl LP – Big John Bates". Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  8. ^ "BIG JOHN BATES / ビッグジョンベイツ | JAZZ ONLINE SHOP". (in Japanese).
  9. ^ "Big John Bates Skinners Cage". 2019-04-12.>
  10. ^ "Five Things To Know About Skinners Cage by Big John Bates". The Province. 2019-04-19. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  11. ^ "Truemmer Booking Homepage". Retrieved 2014-07-12. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ "What's In Your Fridge: Big John Bates". Georgia Straight. 2016-07-29. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ "Big John Bates Discography at Discogs". Retrieved 2014-07-12. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ Lejtenyi, Patrick. "Big John Bates - Voodoo Bar-B-Q • Pop & Rock Reviews •". Archived from the original on 2007-07-08. Retrieved 2014-07-12. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]