Archive for May, 2010

Prior to Big John’s recent home town show at The Bourbon, we had a chat about his risque entourage, rockabilly, his plans for 2010 and more.  Gig review and huge, high quality photoset in Renegade Rock Review Vol. 25.  Our green room conversation, below.

Weasel: After several weeks in the US, you’re now back home.  Welcome back.  Any notable tales from the road during your visit down south?

John: Everyone asks me that when I come back and there’s so many dates.  Some of the horror stories and the horrific drives.  Like, playing in a hurricane in Florida: We were onstage

Photo credit: Kris "Photo Gopher" Mayor

and actually, they’d tarped all the monitors.  We were outside and waiting for the “eye” to come over so we could do our set.  We were watching the water rise because it rained, like, I thought Vancouver rain a lot but holy shit. DeLand, Florida.  That’s where they made The Creature From The Black Lagoon. [laughs]  There’s always good people that we meet.  We toured with Reverend Dead Eye, who was awesome.   He did a one man band, sort of gospel kind of thing.  A one band band from hell… [laughs]

Weasel: Although you’ll be frequenting many places throughout B.C soon, can you please tell us more about the Pin Up Bizarre Kustom Kulture Show tomorrow, in Silverdale?

John: Yeah, I think it’s the second year they’ve been doing it.  They’re expecting a lot of cars; I think about a thousand or more.  It sounds like it’s going to be a real fun time.  It’s a one day event.  A lot of bands from Washington we played with, they got Three Bad Jacks from California playin’ with us.  It’s pretty much a west coast kind of situation.  A lot of pretty pin-ups. [laughs]

Weasel: In regards to the traveling burlesque part of your show: Do you ever have issues in certain states, countries or areas of the world with such a risqué part of your entourage?

John: Yeah, in Huntington Beach this year they wouldn’t allow the girls to dance; they said it was against their liquor license.  Although that’s Orange County and we did the show in two other places in Orange County so… They also tried to shut us down in Bismark, North Dakota.  They actually had the show cancelled and moved.  We had it moved outside city limits and they were getting political pressure.  The venue we played in eventually got shut down.  It does happen.  North Dakota’s pretty bad.  We’ve done all ages shows here.  We’ve done it on the island at The Big Time Out, we’ve done it in Holland.  We played this thing called the Kids and Billies festival.  It was last June and all these kids and their families…it was a family thing, right? [laughs]  We did the show and then the announcer came out after we were done, and we were one of the headliners, one of the last two bands.  He came out and grabbed the mic and said “Every one young kid needs to see more tits!” [laughs] It’s true, they were just there.

Weasel: Being “Gretsch” endorsed obviously accounts for a huge part of your sound, but are there other guitars used in your live set or on your most recent release, Bangtown?

John: No, I don’t think so.  Well, I have some old Kays, some acoustics and stuff.  I have a National-Dobro and I (also) play banjo on it (Bangtown).  So yeah, I used a bunch of different guitars on it but as far as electric guitar I’ve got about five or six Gretch’s and they’re all…some of them are from the 50’s and some of them are new and all have different tones.  It’s kinda just what I’m comfortable playing, you know?  I don’t really need to play a Les Paul or anything. [laughs]

Photo credit: Kris "Photo Gopher" Mayor

Weasel: I’m unsure of your awareness or concern with this subject but I’m curious what a rockabilly musician’s take is, on the scene itself.   What I mean by this is how the rockabilly scene in particular seems to be known for its share of elitism and conformity—which some may argue is the antithesis of rock or punk rock culture.  Do you recognize what I’m referring to and do you have any thoughts on the matter?

John: [laughs] Yeah, most of the “rockabillies” won’t come and see us play.  Some do, like the open-minded people do but for a lot of people—they only like their stuff traditional and if it’s not traditional they’re not interested.  And you gotta give them the credit—they’re allowed to like what they like, right?  But in Europe they call us “punk-blues”.   I know there’s a rockabilly element to what we do but it’s not rockabilly enough for the “rockabillies.” [laughs] So, I don’t know if that helps (you).

Weasel: Yeah, that’s what I was going for there.  2009 saw the release of Bangtown, along with your longest Canadian tour to date.  What does the remainder of 2010 hold in store for you and your crew?

John: 2010 is going to be… We’ve got area shows, regional shows all summer.  So, that’s Washington, B.C and Alberta.  And then September, October and November through December is one long tour.  We start in the U.S for a month and then we do seven or eight weeks in Europe and then the remaining two weeks in Canada with Intergalatic Cowboy.

Weasel: Great.  Thank you very much, John.

John: Thank you, man.

Visit Big John and The Voodoo Dolls online:  – bigjohnbates.com / myspace.com/bigjohnbatesandthevoodoodollz

Interview with Little Miss Risk of The Voodoo Dolls

Category : Informant Inquisition | | Date : May 23, 2010

May 14, 2010
The Bourbon
Vancouver, B.C

I’d yet to witness the rambunctious live show that Big John and his Voodoo Dolls have notoriously shared with many here in Vancouver and abroad.  Being back home after a trek down south, I chose to swing by The Bourbon for both a chat with Big John (interview here) and to validate the tales of his live prowess.

Waltz Darling (presumably named after Malcom McLaren’s album of the same name) led the evening’s revue.  The bluesy, yet new wave influenced four-piece were cohesive and—thanks to the perfect engineering—well represented from the word go.  Playing “Far From Today” and “Slackjaw” early on showcased a perfect blend and contrast of both electric and acoustic guitars.  Atila Breti’s vocals were unique enough, considering today’s rock n’ roll norm; his voice was reminiscent of a man somewhere between Micheal Stipe (R.E.M) and Fred Schneider (B-52’s).

“Love Song #5″ contained a seraphic verse: bass driven and inter-woven with delicate leads—though the bland chorus took away from its essence, overall.  Another mellow, yet wholly more delectable number “In Red Blood” pulled their influences even further back in time during the 50’s style ballad.  The band has its Eastern European roots both ethnically and clearly musically, heard on the polka fused “Oh My Dear.”  An enjoyable opening act, to say the least.  Catch their CD release at The Railway Club on June 12.

Unaware of the mid-slot burlesque performance routine, I sat intrigued as Villie Loveless graced the stage with her dangerous curves.  Between an impromptu music interruption (which to my pleasant surprise was “Hechizo De Amor” by Tiger Army) and a lack of any moves I’d consider exciting—her routine left me hoping for a more fruitful follow-up.  Voracious V donned a straight jacket and seductively she slipped out of its grip amidst a killer, Tarrantino-approved tune.  Her style, moves and overall grace had the show moving in the right direction.  Ms. Crystal Perious (Dollhouse, Sweet Soul Burlesque) followed who had a deep, soulful voice that could move mountains—an interesting, unique attribute.  That was, however, where the appeal seemed to both start and end.

John too had some ladies of his own to showcase during his bluesy, punked up, rockabilly set.  The Voodoo Dolls (who were a tad more fit for fighting) were introduced playfully, while he and his band started with “Bangtown,” showing promise beneath the stage’s blue and green lighting.  “Gothsylvania” spoke spooky lyrics while the Dolls strutted in a sugar skull styled masquerade.  The gals turned to naughty nurses and borrowed a victim from the crowd—whom they medicated with Jägermeister via a prop syringe—during “Shotgun Shack.”  The tune, about getting off the wrong train stop, played out with that ol’ locomotive style and swagger.

A good cover can be key when homage is paid to grimy groups such as Judas Priest and Turbonegro on “Breakin’ The Law” and “All My Friends Are Dead,” respectively.  Original cut, “Rattle On” heard Brandy Battery’s sweet vocal interjections and J.T’s rattle of both cowbell and pipe, welded to his tiger-striped drum kit.  Following it was yet another apt tribute when The Cramps’ “Goo Goo Much” played near the end of the set.

Though the girls were a notable part of the show, the tight trio before us needn’t rely on any distraction.  John’s reverberated Gretsch was expectedly defined amongst heavy, bouncy stand-up bass lines.  A full out jam ensued with J.T incorporating unorthodox drumming on the face of the bass drum and bass guitar strings alike.  The Dolls proved they weren’t about to be shown up by any of the above; they fired up their flaming tassel outfits just before the multi-song encore that included the classic “Voodoo Bar-B-Q”, the gritty, psycho “Dig Myself a Hole” and finally “44 Love Bites.”

As the story goes, Big John Bates and his vicious Voodoo Dolls know how to throw a dance party.  Take that hipsters.  Leave it to a few scraggly rock n’ rollers and their dames to have Gastown’s ass rockin’ into and through the weekend.

…Weasel Was Here

HQ PHOTO ALBUM (29 PICS!)
SL = Slide Show FS= Full Screen

Photographer: Kris “Photo Gopher” Mayor


Visit these artists online:

Big John Bates & The Voodoo Dolls – bigjohnbates.commyspace.com/bigjohnbatesandthevoodoodollz
Waltz Darling – myspace.com/waltzdarling

“Bangtown” music video

“Dig Myself A Hole” – live in Palermo, Sicily – 2008

Category : Renegade Rock Review | | Date : May 21, 2010