Rocker resurfaces in industry as Big Black Delta 

click to enlarge Techno rocker Jonathan Bates aka Big Black Delta, says writing music alone has, paradoxically, brought him closer to people.
  • Techno rocker Jonathan Bates aka Big Black Delta, says writing music alone has, paradoxically, brought him closer to people.

Jonathan Bates used to observe rock star protocol. As a bassist-vocalist with Mellowdrone, he played the game by the big-studio, major-label rules, expecting accordant stardom in return. In retrospect, he calls it the "archetypal experience," and it ended with the group's demise. After that, he gave up and did anything to avoid composing new songs, like joining M83's touring band, working as a gear tech and even being a delivery man. Left to his own devices, he stumbled upon a Zen-like new solo path and started recording at home as the techno-rocking Big Black Delta. In June, he released a great self-titled sophomore disc on his own Master of Bates imprint.

What else did you do, post-Mellowdrone? I drank. Probably more than I should have. And I read. I consumed. I didn't output anything. And that went on for about a year and a half, and it was a weird thing to go through. But I had to do that. Because after coming through that, I was like, "OK, so now I get it. It's about doing whatever's right for that moment, and that's it — that's the only thing to think about." It wasn't that complicated.

What brought you out of your funk? It was serendipitous. My buddy Alessandro [Cortini], who's the keyboardist for Nine Inch Nails, was actually just selling his laptop because he needed to get rid of it. And I never had recorded mobile like that. I always had been in a studio with a huge Pro Tools rig. But he was like, "Dude, check out this laptop and see what you can make with it." So then I started just messing around at 2 or 3 in the morning because I had insomnia. And it was a lot healthier than just sitting around and drinking wine.

When did you realize you had something as Big Black Delta? Oh, I never thought I had something. Even still today, it's a trip just to be talking about this, because it's funny to me. I feel like the universe seems to like you when you're minding your own business. So I enjoy not being around people. I've got great pets, I've got a great chick right now, and I've got a lot of cool plug-ins and synths and instruments, so I don't need to go out very much. And if I do that the right way, I end up writing music that brings me closer to other human beings. There's some kind of paradox there — hating people but loving the connections!

Your latest, unconventional video for "Side of the Road" just features you dancing on a cheesy "Tron" grid. Only minus the red and blue racers, right? I know! But we just couldn't afford them!

IF YOU GO

Big Black Delta

Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Tickets: $12

Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com

About The Author

Tom Lanham

Pin It
Favorite

More by Tom Lanham

Latest in Pop Music & Jazz

Thursday, Jul 28, 2016

Videos

Readers also liked…

Most Popular Stories

© 2016 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation