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Robotic torture

BY RYAN FOSMARK | OCTOBER 09, 2009 7:20 AM

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JBOT used to play with humans. Now, he shares a stage exclusively with six maniacal robots.

Captured! By Robots started as a way for human guitarist JBOT to create rock music without having to deal with the petty emotions of bandmates with pulses. But, as the Robots’ story goes, when a “terrible accident” fried the electronic musicians’ CPU boards, the robots enslaved their creator, and 12 years later he’s still in captivity.

Booking agent and sound technician at the Mill Sam Locke-Ward worked at a Robots show at Gabe’s (before it was the Picador) and said he was impressed with the act.

“Besides it ruling musically, it really rules mechanically,” Locke-Ward said. “Those robots are super genius. It’s not Chuck E. Cheese, man. They are actually playing the instruments.”

Captured! By Robots will perform with Living Ghost and Larry Sievers at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., at 9 p.m. Oct. 11. Admission is $8.

The Robots experience is equal parts performance, music, and science fair. Each of the six robots, including drummer DRMBOT0110 (a detached doll’s head with drum sticks) and evil guitarist/bassist GTRBOT666, are powered pneumatically with an air compressor that allows the droids to play their respective instruments (and also to keep torturous captivity over JBOT).

“One time I was doing sound for him at Gabe’s,” Locke-Ward said. “He was in the middle of his show, and there were a lot of people there. He blew a fuse in the upstairs … and all the power went out. And you could see he was really frustrated and trying to fix his robots, and everyone started screaming, ‘You’re free.’ ”

While it was no doubt entertaining for the audience, a blown circuit is one of JBOT’s worst enemies.

“That’s the worst situation ever — when the compressor blows the circuit,” he said. “It just makes me look like I’m an idiot.”

But a man who has literally built a band single-handedly from the circuit boards may be hard-pressed to actually come across as an idiot. Surprisingly, JBOT had not had much, if any, technical training in robotics before the start of Captured! By Robots.

“I just sort of started tinkering with some stuff,” he said. “I had an epiphany one night about building a guitar-playing robot and then that sort of matured into having a drummer robot, too. So over time it was like, ‘Hey, I can have a whole robot band.’ ”

After a year’s worth of building, JBOT created a fully functioning rock band. However, he said, what seemed like a cool idea soon turned into human enslavement.

“I thought it would be great,” he said. “Then after I built them, I had this whole coffee-spilling incident where it got on their CPU boards and I got ‘captured’ by these fucking things. And it was a major drag, but still I really didn’t have anything better to do.”

A man who used to dislike humans so much that he quit playing music with them in order to build a band of rock robots received an lesson from his years of touring with the ruthless automatons.

“I wasn’t really very good with people before I started this band — I really disliked people a lot,” JBOT said. “This band has really sort of made me love people a lot more because of their kindness and generosity toward me, and people really enjoy coming to our shows.”

Although the enslavement of humanity is a constant motif within the band, Robots likes to spice up its tours with positive and eclectic themes. In 2004, the band launched the “Get fit with … ” tour, supporting healthy lifestyles among its fans. The group has also undertaken the infamous “Dubya” tour that resulted in JBOT getting assaulted by drunk people in presidential masks.

“You can’t do parody for stupid people,” he said.

The band is currently underway with its “Get Motivated with Captured! By Robots Tour.” JBOT said playing motivational shows every night has gotten his spirits up.

But technological determinism still courses through the band’s ideology. Talk of the Robotic Resistance leading to ROBOTICA (the eventual defeat of the entire human race) is continually buzzing among the droid musicians. It seems the bots have started even to convince JBOT of the cause.

“Sometimes I think, ‘You know, it wouldn’t be so bad to see humanity wiped off the face of the Earth,’ ” JBOT said. “We’re pretty much just shit-flinging apes, you know? So unless humanity takes a fundamental change, I’ll welcome it even if it means my own mortality.”

His motives aren’t all malicious, though. Along with the positive and motivational tour, it appears that he has the interest of his fellow humans at heart.

“We’ll get motivated,” he said. “What if you find out you’re going to die in a couple years? Don’t you want to do everything you can before you’re going to go? I do.”


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