Feb. 13, 2008 - Issue #643: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
Big John Bates revs up his ‘hot rod blues’
If you’re the type of hepcat who likes more bang for your buck
when you go out to see a show, if you’re the type who doesn’t
want to see a simple regurgitation of a CD on stage, then Big John Bates
& the Voodoo Dollz are with you.
Inspired by the showier showmen, like Alice Cooper and the Cramps’s Lux Interior, Bates and his crew of mischievous maidens take the live band experience up to the tartier tiers, to those back bleachers where people go to be naughty.
“I’ve always liked the theatrical shows,” Bates explains
over the phone from his home in Van City. He’s still waking up;
however, he’s got the big voice of someone who’d be ready to go
at the drop of a drink. “But it’s hard to do all of that with a
big guitar in my hands.
“I mean, I suppose I could have gotten another guitar player to come
and help out,” he continues, “but it was much more entertaining
to find the Voodoo Dollz.”
The Dollz, led by pin-up model Little Miss Risk, are the pastry on the
sonic pudding, of course, with their bumping burlesque choreographed to the
“hot rod blues” that Bates, bassist Scare-oline and drummer JT
“I think our old drummer Stagecoach coined ‘hot rod blues’ three or four years ago,” he explains. “It just made sense, ‘cause a lot of the people that are into what we do are into the sort of the kustom kulture crowd, around the world. And I don’t know, there’s a lot of blues in old school rock ‘n’ roll, and we just fire it up. Add some nitrogen and some nitrous oxide, and boom boom boom. You know what I’m saying.”
It likely doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that this combo
of down-and-dirty rock ‘n’ roll and naughty nymphs is a
titillating formula that works, either. With three albums and another on
the way, the band tours a lot, with regular bouts across the pond in
Europe. And with a devil-may-care attitude, Bates has had some pretty
There was the time when an audience member showed up looking exactly like
Bates’s photo on the back of one of the band’s
albums—from hair to shoes.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he laughs. “I thought I
was one of a kind, and I was, like, ‘Oh! Not so
While the group invites audience members to get their freak on and dress
up, he admits this was maybe a bit too creepy.
And then there was a week where Big John Bates and the Voodoo Dollz played
both a Belgian prison and a squat in downtown Brussels.
“The squat show was cool because it was like, I don’t know,
maybe a 50-storey building with all of these families living in it. It was
huge,” he says. “It was an old hotel, and it was just sitting
downtown ... as if it was right on Whyte Avenue or something. It was this
empty building with all of these people living in it.
“This one, they’d turned the ground floor into an art gallery.
It had really cool urban art. And it was really ‘60s, like James Bond
‘60s, so there was all of these old carp ponds and stuff inside,
where you’d have to walk over bridges to get to different places. It
was really cool. But it was not what we were expecting, being good little
Did he really say “good”? I think he may have meant
“very, very bad.” V
Sat, Feb 16 (8 pm)
Big John Bates & the Voodoo Dollz
Starlite Room, $12
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