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Interview: Jonathan Bates from “Big Black Delta”


Jonathan Bates is Big Black Delta.  BBD flanks him with two drummers, sometimes both female.  They rock.  They rock very hard.  Imagine the intensity of Depeche Mode with the layering of Mercury Rev and you might have figured out 40% of what BBD is all about.  We caught up with the front-man, lead-singer, songwriter and teacher Jonathan Bates this past month to revel in his musical (in)sanity.

This interview is by Matt & Aurora.

Conceptually BBD has never been done before, at least to my knowledge.  This was a well thought out plan that well…just works.  Was this a day dream that just materialized?

JB: Absolutely.  As cliche as it sounds I was just trying to make music I could listen to.  Things just kind of manifested themselves on their own.  Involving the likes of Caspar Newbolt and his artwork just made sense.  He heard what I was doing, and we began a year long dialogue about our favorite artwork and design.

Mellowdrone, your previous experimental indie-rock project, procured multiple placements in film (Prom Night, Driv3r) and on shows like Project Runway, Cane and Six Feet Under.  What would be a BBD ideal placement and why?

JB: Ha! Those placements happened without my influence.  They were done and negotiated by dudes in rooms I never saw. Part of being on a major label I suppose. So I’m absolutely not qualified to say what BBD would be good for.  Not my forte.

Befriending and scoring key gigs with shooting star(s) M83 along the way could help any band with exposure.  It seems that your relationship is granular.  Did you cross paths during the recording process last year in L.A. or other?  Have you influenced each others music?

JB: When I was making Big Black Delta, I was no longer playing on tour with M83.  I was pretty solitary.  Staying up nights and never going out kinda thing. We’d all become friends, so we usually hung out and ate pizza and watched movies. That kinda shit.  It wasn’t till later that I started to play around and the guys in the band had heard what I was doing.  They’ve all been very kind and supportive of what I was and am doing, so whenever M83 asks me to do something, Im always down and its always fun.

What are some electronic bands/artists that have influenced BBD?

JB: Sisters of Mercy, Depeche Mode, SONOIO, Tim Hecker, Danger, Makeup and Vanity Set, Belong, Telefon Tel Aviv, Glass Candy, Kraftwerk, the soundtrack to Bloodsport, anyone who appreciates space and melody in their music.

Being a positive influence in the L.A. musical community as a front-man, producer and teacher, what advice do you pass on to aspiring musicians/artists?

JB: Just be you, dude. And if you don’t know what that sounds like, embrace that.  Its ok to be lost.  Its ok not to know.  If you can truly impress yourself, cool shit usually follows.

How different is the songwriting process (if at all) when working with two females as opposed to writing with other men? Does gender play a part at all in the sound of BBD?

JB: So far, all of the Big Black Delta stuff has been written by myself, so I wouldn’t know how to answer that question.

The music industry is transitioning year over year.  It appears as though albums are dying a slow inevitable death with streaming becoming the future of the business.  Is streaming helping Big Black Delta get where it wants to go?  Is it too early to tell?

JB: If it gets the music to you faster, I embrace it.

Tell the world about one artist, product, service, instrument (anything) that has changed your life in the last 12 months.  Don’t hold back!

JB: Jump roping and sex.  If you’re working on something, and the answer doesn’t present itself, walk away.  Then jump rope or do whatever kind of exercise you dig.  Change the blood and oxygen in your head.  It has done wonders for my objectivity.

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TAGS: Small Yellow River, Great Advice, LA bands on the rise, Sex with a Jump Rope, SONGS TO LISTEN TOO

Special Thanks: Kelsey Heng for the photo of Jonathan.