What’s in Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz Ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6-cubic-foot refrigerators.
On the grill
Who are you
Hey, I’m Big John Bates and my latest musical group is called The Big John Bates: Noirchestra. Our most recent LP is called From the Bestiary to the Leathering Room and it’s dark, dramatic and atmospheric. Male and female vocalists leading a string section that is embroidered with rustic, heart-worn lyrics makes it pretty damn epic if you ask me. We tour across North America and Europe all the time though Western Europe is our biggest fanbase. That totally doesn’t suck.
My first concert was Van Halen at the Civic Center in Ottawa in 1980. On the way to get tickets the forks on my bicycle broke and I wound up in a coma. My mother said I was never the same, after that all I cared about was music. One thing that sticks out from the show is that the band never seemed to finish a song, they just kept stopping in the middle (probably because drinks). Either way I was like, hey, this looks like fun … and my momma was right.
I was a metal-obsessed kid, so I formed Annihilator with Jeff Waters in 1984 and we wrote the first two albums in the basement of a women’s fashion store. Think about that for a second (or don't). After I had seen Slayer open for Venom what else was there? But about 1988 I saw the Reverend Horton Heat open for the Cramps in Montreal and everything changed again. Boom, mind blown. Who was this big guitar guy with a metal drummer and … what, upright bass? The real madness began with Lux Interior in high heels cutting his vinyl pants off with a broken wine bottle. Poison Ivy was a cool Gretsch goddess and their primordial garage-roots-insanity was apparently exactly what I had been waiting for.
Top three records
16 Horsepower Low Estate Heard it on NPR in the '90s and was blown away by the understated power of songs like “Black Soul Choir”. The music was sparse but soul-moving, lyrics seemed to be written in a religious fever, and the overall mix led me right into the Denver sound.
Morphine Cure For Pain Such deep grooves and honest lyrics drew me in as well as the fact they used rock-styled song writing with sax and without guitar. The first time I heard this record it made zero yet perfect sense and everything fell into place. When any song from it hits my shuffle player life is good.
Bonobo It Came From The Sea The atmosphere is perfect dusk—as night falls I can sit on my deck and get carried away by this guy’s sound. It opened up a whole new genre to me and I found a new place to enjoy music more passively, which can be ridiculously difficult for a creator. Is that Zen?
All-time favourite video
Slow "Have Not Been the Same"/Die Antwoord "I Fink U Freeky" My favourite video(s) would be a 50-50 split between (then) Slow’s “Have Not Been the Same” and (now) Die Antwoord's "I Fink U Freeky". Then: I just finished business school in Ottawa and was tossing a coin between Vancouver and Montreal and Slow prompted me to up and move to Vancouver without ever having seen the place. Now: Die Antwoord slapped me in the face to remember there's always something new lurking around the corner if you keep your mind open.
What’s in your fridge
Curry Ketchup. So I live on a boat—my fridge is small. However I do have a large bottle of Curry Ketchup that I get on tour in Germany—in fact every tour I get a bottle and bring it home. Why don't we have this here? There is nothing better on fries.
Fresh blueberries. My neighbour is a WestJet pilot and he sneaks stuff into my fridge when he has a long trip. This time it included fresh blueberries which are amazing as ice cubes in vodka. That is all I needed to see, freeze those babies and start pouring the deliciousness.
Homemade salsa. After the last fireworks display one of my pals left me some fresh homemade salsa. What to do ... Well I'll tell ya: de-pit an avocado or two and fill the hole with salsa = nutritious breakfast. Who has time to cook when the seven seas need cruising?
You can buy From the Bestiary to the Leathering Room, and check out Big John Bates's back catalogue, here.