The New Cruelty 

You may be wary of technology, but at least you’re not Captured! By Robots. Yet.

If minor nuisances like the occasional computer crash and trying to program your VCR conspire to make you feel ill-used by technology, then pity poor JBOT, aka Jay Vance, of Bay Area “band” Captured! By Robots. Tired of squabbling with human bandmates in groups like Skankin’ Pickle and the Blue Meanies, JBOT decided in 1996 to cut his fellow humans out of the equation and integrate vertically by building his own robotic companions to play with. First came GTRBOT666—an autoharp-playing cross between one of the budget droids in “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” and the automatons from Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” video—and DRMBOT0110. And things were great for, like, one day.

Unfortunately for JBOT, the robots wasted little time in turning on their creator, forcibly implanting a behavior-modifying “biocerebral chip” behind his ear and enslaving him. Now they force JBOT to tour the country with them, publicly humiliating him night after night to the delight of audiences everywhere. Even the addition of The Ape Which Hath No Name, a robotic simian programmed only to give unconditional love, has done little to improve JBOT’s lot—and, to his horror, the robots have recently begun replicating themselves. The following interview was conducted via email with and understandably nervous JBOT. Vance and his droids will appear at Jay’s Upstairs this Monday.

Did your relationship with the ‘bots get off to a pleasant start and eventually sour, or was it antagonistic from the very beginning? Why didn’t you just get into multitrack home-taping or form a one-man band instead? The robots are my babies. I made them from scratch and put a lot of work into them. Everything seemed fine until one day when I spilled coffee on their CPU boards. I think that is what twisted them into menacing, hateful ‘bots. I guess in all practical terms, I am a “one man” band, being I am the only human on stage.

What’s keeping you from running away and starting a new life under an assumed identity? Is it that chip? What else does it prevent you from doing? The chip runs my life. When the robots are angry at me, they zap my chip. It creates sort of a seizure, whereby I shake and tumble about, usually screaming. They monitor everything I say and do, thus leaving is not an option.

Describe a typical day in the life of JBOT. Are there any hobbies or activities you enjoy between bouts of cruelty and humiliation, or have the robots pretty much put an end to all that? Do the robots have any hobbies besides abusing you? My day begins when the robots open the metal box I sleep in. After that, they abuse me in numerous ways I don’t wish to talk about right now. Then lunch, then more humiliation, then a nap, then brain experiments, more humiliation, dinner, then a sharp blow to the head before bed. Then back into the box. The only hobby the ‘bots have is plotting the eventual demise of the human race.

Have any of your friends or fellow Bay Area bands tried to intervene on your behalf? Why don’t you ask for help onstage? Can the robots read your mind? I really have no friends, so that question is moot. I do ask for help onstage, but what is a fellow human going to do for me? Run up and do surgery on me at Jay’s Upstairs? Come now.

What are some of the more unusual and inventively cruel humiliations they’ve subjected you to? They have invented this torture device into which one is strapped and then—look out. They have killed my dog, they made me show my ass on the CD cover, they put Nair hair remover in my shampoo bottle, and the list just goes on and on.

According to the Robotic Resistance Handbook on your website (, robots are entitled to take human slaves when it benefits the robot cause. What sorts of precautions should we take in Missoula? I wouldn’t worry about it just yet. Missoula is not in any immediate danger. Mark my words though—10 years from now will bring about a revolution the likes of which have never been seen. The ‘bots have also captured many roadies and promoters. How else do you think we get shows?

If it’s really in their best interest to take slaves, then what good does it do them to haul you across the country, torturing and humiliating you? Wouldn’t it be, um, smarter of the robots to win the audience’s confidence with a deceptive display of kindness and friendship and then enslave them? SSHHHHHHHHHHH! Please don’t tell the robots!

Are there any perks at all to being enslaved by robots? Any kind gestures or touching moments at all? Not really. The only great thing to happen to me is the Ape Which Hath No Name. He makes my life worth living. His kindness is legendary, and he loves all things. He even loves the robots that captured me.

How long do you think you’ve got before they liquidate you? Your guess is as good as mine.

Captured! By Robots plays Jay’s Upstairs Monday, May 14 at 10 p.m. Cover TBA.

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