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Q&A with Captured! By Robots

A Music Machine

The story of Captured! By Robots is full of drama. San Francisco-based musician Jason Vance created robots to accompany him after struggling to find musicians who werenít addicted to drugs, consumed with egos, or otherwise damaged. After Jason created the robots, they captured him and placed a chip in his brain, transforming him into JBOT. Now his performances with his six musical machines are a popular spectacle in the Bay Area and beyond. At a pit stop for sandwiches while returning from Los Angeles, JBOT spoke to SF Station during a phone interview.

SF Station (SFS): How come you donít play in New York or L.A.?

JBOT (J): The attitude now is too cool for school. I just have had bad experiences playing in L.A. and New York. To get any kind of attention you have to sell your soul. Itís just not worth it.

SFS: Right. You already sold your soul to robots, isnít that correct?

J: No. They took it. Now our relationship has turned into a functionally dysfunctional relationship.

SFS: What was the first thing you ever built?

J: When I was a kid I had an Erector Set, Legos and all sort of crazy stuff like that. The first robot I built was a guitar player because I couldnít find one that wasnít disturbed or didnít have an ego the size of California.

SFS: Did music or robots come first?

J: Iíve been playing music since I was a kid. I started with trombone then I moved to bass, guitar, drums. Robots were just a means to an end.

SFS: Would you say the robots are a metaphor for other parts of your life or society?

J: In a way, they were created out of a need because I couldnít get along with people in bands. Maybe it symbolizes my utter failure in dealing with people and collaborating with damaged people. Maybe it symbolizes as a society we are becoming more internal. How do you collaborate with a person?

SFS: Did you find yourself, after starting Capture! By Robots, becoming more independent in other ways?

J: Yeah. The biggest problem I had on the road was my roadies. So now, I just tour by myself. They stole from me, got high all the time, and stole drugs from my friendís medicine cabinet. Who needs that? Damaged people, damaged peopleÖ

SFS: Have you rid yourself of damaged people now, or do you still encounter them?

J: Most of the people I deal with these days are pretty solid. As soon as I find out theyíre messed up, I just rid myself of them because I donít want anything to do with that anymore. The problem with a bad machine is itís just a bad machine. Of course, Iím damaged in certain ways.

SFS: What happened in past situations with band mates that made you see them as damaged?

J: My band mates would be high on meth for three days at a time. Before they would start coming down, they would go from good friends to mortal enemies out of their freaking mind. My old guitar player was meth-ed out all the time, and I was great friends with her. For years and years we were two peas in a pod. She got on that meth and just changed. Sheís dead now. She died of a heroin overdose. Itís just disgusting what people do if theyíre damaged.

SFS: Do you think you were saved by the robots that captured you?

J: I think it was being saved. I disliked people a lot. By playing with the band, I have found a love for people. People have been so kind to me while Iím on the road by putting me up or Iíve become friends with promoters who are incredible people.

The relationship with the robots used to be incredibly adversarial, but itís definitely changed over the years. Now, people really enjoy them ripping on me, but I think they still have love for me in a certain way ó I do haul their ass around everywhere. Itís definitely not as vicious as it was before.

SFS: What caused the change?

J: I think itís time. As time went on, they saw how much I sweat and work, and everything Iíd done for these robots. This is my entire life now. I donít have another job. This is everything.

SFS: Youíve been playing long enough now with the robots; I imagine the questions about the robots might get old. Do you wonder when people are going to start asking more about your music?

J: If it werenít for the robots, no one would give a shit about my music. If it werenít for the robots no one would come see me play. I would put us up against any other band for entertainment, fun, and rock and roll. As far a live act, I donít think many bands can compete with us.

Captured! By Robots performs at The Bottom of the Hill on December 12th. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 8:30pm and the show starts at 10pm.