Originally from Venezuela, Jonathan Bates found his way to Miami, Florida at the age of seven. At seventeen, he attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. In late 2000, he decided Berklee was not for him and found a better "home" couch surfing in Los Angeles, all because of a girl.
Through his exploration of LA, he started the band Mellowdrone, who put out several EPs independently as well as an LP on Columbia Records. Feeling as though he was drowning after the last Mellowdrone record, Bates decided to take a long break from the "band" aesthetic. He felt the need to create something different, without any rules, in hope it could expand his consciousness. He bought a used laptop from close friend, Alessandro Cortini (Nine Inch Nails, SONOIO) and began sound-designing and circuit-bending to make original, simple music. By doing everything slightly wrong in the studio, on purpose, Bates set out to make music that wasn't bound by gravity. He didn't limit himself instrumentally either. "Give me anything, and ill make it work. Especially if it’s stringed," Bates noted. This musical re-discovery, combined with Bates' favorite dinner table conversation, UFO folklore, and the Big Black Delta project was born.
Citing “being out of tune” as a muse, the songs on Big Black Delta’s debut LP BBDLP1 are the spawn of Bate’s imagination and inspired musical exploration. It was recorded entirely on the used laptop from Cortini in and all over Los Angeles, from assorted apartments and friends’ houses to backyards across the city, often at all hours of the night. Guests on the album include Cortini, who played his buchla on “The Zebrah,” as well as Morgan Kibby (M83, White Sea) whose vocals are featured on “Dreary Moon.”
“Snare tones are more important than guitar tones,” Bates explains in an interview with Kevin Bronson ofBuzzbands.la on what his foray into electronica has revealed. “It’s amazing how one simple sound can change everything, but using just that one tone can make a song sound like it comes from the ’80s.” About the first song released from the LP, Bronson praises, “BBD’s banging track ‘Huggin & A Kissin’ sounds like Every Eighties Band We Loved."
Outside of constantly envisioning new songs for Big Black Delta, Bates continues to be called upon to collaborate. He has been extensively involved with M83, having been a part of the band as a touring guitarrist, recording vocals for their upcoming album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, as well as teaming up with the group for a remix of Daft Punk's “Fall” featured on the Tron Legacy Soundtrack: R3CONFIGU3D. Bates also co-produced “Mountaineer” and “Lady Killer” for the band White Sea (Morgan Kibby of M83) and often writes and performs with them. As for other collaborations with friend Alessandro Cortini, Bates was featured on his solo project SONOIO's track, “Houdini," and also did a remix of the song which was released on SONOIO's remix album.
Although Bates likes to create his soundscapes in the modest confines of his home studio, the live show is an experience unto itself. Live vocals, dancing, orchestrated light show, and dueling female drummers (Mahsa Zargaran and Amy Wood). Need we say more?