Captured by Robots!
April 23, 2011
(Photos by Dana Haidar)
The Deal: I first discovered Captured by Robots! a couple of years back and was absolutely astounded by the entire spectacle. A combination of my two loves: robots and music, along with satirical commentary between human and machine. Holy crap, I fell in love. “JBOT” had been a musician for years, previously in the band Skankin' Pickle. After getting fed up with having to rely on non-dedicated, drug-using humans in 1996, he got the idea to build himself robot musicians that he could program to play his music. Thus, he started from scratch, not knowing a thing about how to make a robot, and miraculously created his band.
He claims the solitude on tour isn't so bad. However, sleep is certainly taken for granted in a robot band. But you don't have to worry about getting dreaded “loft boners” when you are surrounded by robots. The only real downfall is the lack of extra hands for breakdown, as well as driving, not to mention appreciation from his band members (robots have no souls). When I talked to him after the show it took him what seemed like hours to breakdown the bots and he had food poisoning to boot but had to tough it out regardless. Talk about dedication.
The Good: Watching his creation is almost like watching a musical Mystery Science Theater. Sassy robots play intense songs, covers and originals, and shit-talk about murdering JBOT in his sleep among other things. Him and his bots have several themed sets they play, each tour differing from the next. This night, it was the “Bring Forth the ROCK” tour and JBOT came on stage with a fake long wig, blue jeans and a blue jean American flag jacket — shirtless, garbed in chains, wearing a gimp mask, captured by robots.
As the robots began pumping to warm up and DJ Stroupe Nasty's jams radiated in the background, the entire joint filed in toward to stage, entranced with anticipation. As JBOT fuddled with numerous mechanisms and sound checked all of his bots, I grinned like a little kid because I knew what was next. The intricate technology he created went into their sequence: GTRBOT666 strumming bass and guitar strings simultaneously, DRMBOT 0110 and AUTOMATON playing drums, The Headless Horsemen belting into horns, and the Apes playing tambourine and cymbals while JBOT jammed out, starting his set with a cover of “The Boys are Back in Town” and then leading into “Mississippi Queen” followed by several other covers.
It doesn't matter how many times I have seen him perform, I am still absolutely baffled as to how robots are playing what we are hearing, regardless of the fact that they are right in front of me. I can't help but ask myself: how the hell can one guy be smart enough to build robots, learn musical scores, and program his creations to play them? Before I can even really start pondering, next thing you know, he is picking up his guitar and showing off his skills, playing the solos in his songs as The Headless Horsemen, his robot horn section, chimes in from the back left of the stage, coincidentally answering my question. I guess he's just that talented.
As the robots began discussing amongst themselves how they should've been aborted, JBOT disappeared for a little bit bickering with the bots from backstage. His two ape-bots, The Ape Which Hath No Name and his son are typically the nice guys throughout the set, bringing compliments and sweet humor to JBOT, this night claiming they were historical rock figures. DRMBOT 0110 and GTRBOT 666, the other two talking bots, are complete jerks when they do speak and consistently piss off JBOT. AUTOMATOM and The Headless Horsemen (who had skulls for heads this round) are silent but fierce. They are all out to humiliate JBOT and mutilate his self-esteem and the occasional body part. He is their slave and suffers the consequences accordingly.
The Bad: What could possibly be bad about musical robots that want to eat you and their slave alive?
The Verdict: The entire gimmick is certainly something special and I would highly recommend that you come out and experience it for yourself. Currently, JBOT is finishing up his Spring tour by heading North then back toward his home in California where he plans to continue brainstorming a long-standing idea for a television show. It is almost guaranteed that he will be back around next tour. He typically makes a stop at the Milestone every time. Until you too can be captivated by Captured by Robots, check out his website , written from the point of view of the evil DRMBOT 0110.