Can’t stop the Robots
S.F. band Captured by Robots is just one man and the robots that captured him
“I’m constantly getting captured by shit because of these chains,” is how J-Bot explained his fate in a recent magazine interview.
J-Bot, the lone sentient being in San Francisco’s otherwise all-robot band Captured by Robots, has cause to be concerned, tethered as he is to a cumbersome bulk of irons and chains from head to toe. After building this group of robots to play music with, J-Bot ‘s automated band mates turned on him, capturing him by the chains and slicing open his belly—letting his guts spill out into the open. The robots installed a “bio-cerebral chip in his tiny brain” and are now forcing him to do their bidding in what is no longer his band to control.
When I got the chance to talk with J-Bot (formerly known as Jason Vance of ska bands Skankin’ Pickle and the Blue Meanies) about this twisted musical project, it was obvious that the robots had already gotten to him. “They put this chip in my head. That’s all I need. They zap this chip.”
You have to feel for the guy; this is a scary group of musicians that do not suffer the human species kindly. “Say, ‘J-Bot is a little pansy boy.’ Say it or suffer!” is the type of between-song demand they place on the human, who has no choice but to comply, only to be cut down in a dry, mocking, robotic monotone, “That is incredibly funny.”
These are not just glorified Muppets playing in the Chuck E. Cheese band—these robots really play music. “They think it’s going to be fake,” said J-Bot, describing the typical audience mindset entering one of the performances. “Watching people’s expressions … [they look like,] ‘What the hell just happened?'”
Led by the prophecy-spewing DRMBOT 0110, who keeps the beat on a body made up of a snare drum, kick drum and a couple of cymbals, the band cues off its (his? her?) rants of robot domination and human enslavement. “You will continue to advance technology until technology does not need you! Our wrath cometh, and cometh soon!”
With GTRBOT666 manning the flame-decorated Nuclear Autoharp/guitar hybrid (bass and guitar in one), J-Bot forced to sing and flail away on the Keytar (a melted together blend of a keyboard and a guitar), and AUTOMATOM rounding out the drum section with an additional snare, toms and cymbal, the band has the basic foundation of two guitars, vocals, bass and two drummers.
With so much hardware involved, it comes as no surprise that the setup for such a production is pretty involved. “A lot of bands are lazy,” J-Bot said, explaining how the average band really has nothing to complain about. “I’ve got six robots I gotta set up. … It’s awful. Basically I show up to the club early so the ‘bots [can] get set up and checked.” On top of the basic members there are the more human-friendly additions of The Ape Which Has No Name on tambourine ("My tambourine halo plays to the beat of love"), and on “monkey cymbals” his self-replicated son, The Son of the Ape Which Has No Name; and, for this tour, there’s also the recently added Headless Hornsmen horn section, created from the headless corpses of former ska band members.
All of this makes for a quite a display of machine-made good-time rock ‘n’ roll that a lot of people are taking notice of. Touring for at least four months of the year for the past few years, CBR has played with Motorhead and The Melvins, graced the cover of SF Weekly, been featured in Spin magazine and has even been in an illustration in the New Yorker.
“The robots don’t care what I do," J-Bot lamented, and even though audiences love to see the abuse, he confessed, "I don’t love it so much." These are not nice robots; if they treat their human band mate so poorly, imagine what they’ll do to any non-robot hecklers. "They heckle so brutally back," was all J-Bot could offer.