Captured! by Robots: Robot Love Always a Bad Idea

Fans of creepy comics and unintentionally retarded sci-fi films from the ’50s, take note: Bad, and sometimes fantastical, things happen to regular Joes every day. Take musician Jay Vance, former bassist of Skankin’ Pickle and The Blue Meanies, for example. You’ve heard stories like his before: Boy, loving rock ’n’ roll but hating the tanked-up musicians required to make the rock ’n’ roll creates his very own robot band. Things quickly turn ugly—as they often do in these stories—when the robot band turns evil and enslaves him by implanting a biocerebral mind-control microchip into his skull. That’s right. He is now indeed Captured! by Robots. [Cue creepy theremin music] Intent on forcing him to tour the country as they humiliate him in front of his flesh and blood brethren, the mission of these dastardly robots is simple: Letting the humans in the audience know that they could be next.

These aren’t bullshit Chuck E. Cheese lip-synch bots, either. GTRBOT666 plays his built-in guitar and bass with a clackity precision, and the spastic percussion is provided by the built-in hammers and pedals attached to DRMBOT0110 and AUTOMATOM. And when these three aren’t making a hellacious racket, they’re just plain mean, hurling juvenile obscenities and electric shocks (via the biocerebral microchip, of course) at Vance—or JBOT, as they have re-christened him. And, as if he didn’t have it bad enough, JBOT is also forced to wear bondage headgear and a shirt with fake guts pouring out.

The band’s bots aren’t all evil, though. JBOT eventually created a sweet ape robot, the comforting and always kind THE APE WHICH HATH NO NAME (and later, a smaller, equally sweet ape called SON OF THE APE WHICH HATH NO NAME, natch), who he turns to for support. “I do sometimes hug TAWHNN when I’m feeling down in the dumps,” he says during a break from his current Greatest Hits tour. “He always makes me feel better.”

The new Greatest Hits CD—a double CD set consisting of songs from the 2003 Ten Commandments and 2004 Get fit With Captured! by Robots tours—is due in stores in April.

What’s the most unlikely thing you’ve used in making a robot?

I used a John Deere tractor gearshift cover for GTRBOT666’s head. It’s super weird looking. My friend sent it to me. He works at a dealership.

Touring with such angry band mates must be unpleasant. Are the long rides in the van very uncomfortable?

Not really. The bots go into a sort of hibernation, where I can do almost whatever I want, and they recharge. Driving actually calms me down a lot; I find it to be very Zen. I do all the driving, and no, I will not make a “Drivebot.” All of you in readerland who say that to me must realize that I hear that like a thousand times a day. C’mon, come up with something better. I am so tired of hearing that. “What about a Roadiebot?” Ha! Oh, that’s rich. Fuck you.

Who gets luckier with the local gals after gigs, you or GTRBOT?

Well, I get luckier in slappin’ that ass, while GTRBOT gets luckier in ripping the flesh off of that ass. He’s a bit mean.

It must get lonely on the road. Is robot/human love always wrong?

Yeah, basically. I had a guy once come up to me and asked me if I was into sex with robots, and I was like, “Dude, you want to have sex with The Ape Which Hath No Name?” That is so wrong. TAWHNN preaches platonic love of all mankind, not some dude’s penis in TAWHNN’s robotic orifice.

You’re in a robot band. Is your audience frighteningly male?

No, actually. If I were doing ’80s metal—or hell, new metal, or whatever—I would expect it. But we are a different animal. We have the mix in music styles that keep the lovely ladies around. We change from metal, to old school funk, to techno, to reggae… Plus, we have lots of humor, and drama. There is always the interplay between the good of the apes and myself, and the evil of the other bots. I would say the ratio of guys to gals is about 60/40, but that’s a pretty good ratio for any rock band.

What can audiences expect from the Greatest Hits tour?

We will be playing songs from the last three tours—Captured! by Funky Robots, The Ten Commandments, and Get fit With… We will be putting on a very energetic show with an emphasis on less talk, more rock.

Will you be touring again this fall?

We will tour, but I don’t know what the theme will be yet. I’m only going to have two months to write and develop 10 songs. Someone kill me…please?

What new bots are you working on?

None right now. The RV is full, and if anything will be done, it’ll be additions and improvements to the already existing bots. DRMBOT is going to get a major overhaul when I get time, and she might absorb AUTOMATOM, so all drumming is coming out of one robot. She’s definitely going to get a double kick pedal, and double snare sticks soon.

Will you be making a record-scratchin’ DJBOT or maybe a dancin’ BREAKNBOT?

Nope. I was going to do a scratch bot, and had it made, but trashed it, because scratching is so overdone lately. It’s a sound I’d rather not hear in this band. As for breakin’, the only breakin’ in this band is my bones and the robots’ linkages.

What was your first bot?

A very sucky version of GTRBOT. It was a slide guitar, which was powered by a power screwdriver attached to a bike chain linkage.

In what ways do the bots humiliate you offstage?

They force me to sniff propane, eat my boogers, call myself a little pansy boy… You know, general humiliation.

What is weirdest thing to happen to C!BR on the road?

I once had a kid in Iowa jump on my back at a show, and he wouldn’t get off. He was choking me, trying to ride me like a horse. I kept trying to shake him off but he wouldn’t get off. So I did that pro-wrestler move where you plant your feet and dive backwards, crashing his back into the floor with my fat ass on top of him. The crowd scattered after I did it, and the “OOOOOHHHH” sound the crowd made was audible over the loud robot rock happening. It was a gut reaction thing, and I wish I hadn’t done it later. I apologized to him, but I could’ve broken the little guy’s back. Note to everyone: JBOT don’t play. If you knock me down on purpose, or jump on my back, I will go medieval on your ass. I’m sorta crazed about that shit.

Mean drunks hate robots. Ever get beat up at a gig?

Who me? Nah, people are generally scared of me. I don’t know if it’s the mask, or the guts, or maybe the odor—the guts smell pretty bad; I think they’re infected. Like I said before, I don’t take too much shit. If someone is stupid enough or drunk enough to start shit with me or the bots, I will stop the show and deal with the problem. I am very fair, and will usually just deal with the situation by being nice and speaking to the person. If being nice doesn’t work, then I get mean, and verbally humiliate the jerk. The bots are always on board for helping in that way. Usually when there is a problem, security deals with it. If security isn’t around, then usually the crowd at the show lends a hand in controlling the idiot. If no one is dealing with it, I have no choice but to throw down. That has only had to happen a few times, and when it has, it has been pretty quick and the drunk either passes out, or is carried out.

How do you think your songs have changed since the first album?

I’ve become a much better songwriter, and the bots have so much more ability on their instruments now, it’s amazing. We’ve moved more toward a heavier sound, and have the ability to play any style of music now, which we take advantage of. My programming has gotten better, too. I would challenge most people to listen to our new album, and if they didn’t know it was robots playing, I’ll bet they couldn’t tell. That is success for me.

Do you talk to the bots when you’re alone with them?

Yep, I yell at them when they’re fucking up. They don’t listen, though.

Captured! by Robots performs with Riddle of Steel at The Gearbox (at Lil’ Nikki’s) April 16.

Brian McClelland is Live Music Editor for PlaybackSTL.

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