Jonathan Bates’ Big Black Delta plays Every Show like it’s his Last

Photo by James Moriarty

I’ve been a huge fan of Jonathan Bates’ music for a long time. He was in the LA based band Mellowdrone, who I first saw back at the Troubadour in 2003 and loved. I first saw Big Black Delta¬†at the Satellite in Los Angeles in mid 2011 during one of the free Monday night residences. I can’t remember who else played that night, but Big Black Delta made a lasting impression. I didn’t even realize it was the singer from Mellowdrone, since it was just Bates on stage by himself in darkness with a laptop and an array of lights behind him with a harder electronic sound. I did know that I was instantly taken by the music and his intensity. Earlier this year I saw him open for M83 at Club Nokia, this time he was backed by two hard hitting female drummers which definitely made it a more powerful dynamic and I was blown away again.

I was fortunate enough to speak with him the other day and he was nothing more than gracious. When I asked about his intensity on stage, he mentioned the old adage, “I like to play every show like it’s my last, since you never know”. I also asked what was the one record that changed things for him in regards to making music. “Sparklehorse. When I first heard Good Morning Spider… he played all the instruments on that record and I thought, I could do something like that and make my own thing. I even named Mellowdrone after his band, using a three syllable name just like he did”. The “he” Jonathan is referring to is the late Mark Linkous, mastermind behind Sparklehorse. I mentioned that I had known him back in the late 80′s when we worked together at a telemarketing office in LA, he was in a band called Dancing Hoods at the time. Probably dated myself there, but hopefully he got a kick out of my story.