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The Weirdo

jason vance
Photography by Michelle McCarron
jason vance

When his classmates voted Jason Vance “most unique,” they hit the nail squarely on its head. Today he dons a black mask and chains and fronts a thrash-metal rock band made up entirely of mechanical robots. Did I mention that he is also an ordained minister? “I was a weirdo,” says Vance. “Back then I was different from a lot of people. I had a Mohawk and all that stuff. I wore trench coats. I was a punk-rock kid.” Besides, he adds, “in those days I was very angry.” He continues: “I don’t do well with authority, and back then I was having all sorts of authority issues. Those years sucked pretty bad.”

At Southern Illinois University, Vance studied music and played the upright bass. Two years into college, he recalls, “I realized I was the best player down there and I couldn’t get any better in a vacuum.” So he transferred to DePaul and earned a degree in jazz studies. (“That and 25 cents buys you a piece of gum.”) After living at home for a while and playing with the popular Chicago-based ska band the Blue Meanies, Vance headed to San Francisco and hooked up with Skankin’ Pickle, a ska-punk band with a sizable cult following. “The money was way more than I had ever seen playing music,” recalls Vance. But he couldn’t stand the egos and drugs that went along with the group, so he decided to become a one-man band—his robot group, Captured! by Robots.

vance-designed robot
“I built robots be­cause I couldn’t play with people,” says Vance, who has no formal training in computers or engineering. Vance, dubbed Jbot, controls his mechanical rock band—featuring Drmbot0110 on drums, Automatom on tom-toms, Gtrbot666 on a double-necked electric guitar and bass, two tambourine- and cymbal-playing apes, and the Headless Hornsmen, a trio of trumpeters with severed heads—using computers and pneumatics, compressed air, to move the mechanical parts.

vance-designed robot
“After nine years, I’m finally supporting myself with it,” says Vance, who still lives in San Francisco with his girlfriend, an ICU nurse whom he met online. Vance also used the Internet to become an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church, and he now marries fans at his concerts—150 couples to date. “I’m pretty proud of  the whole thing. People have made musical robots, but I don’t know anyone in the world who has ever toured with a band of robots. Nobody else would be dumb enough to do this.”

What Ever Happened to the Deerfield Class of '89? - Index

Main Story and Stats

The Valedictorian

The Jock

The Weirdo

The Newspaper Editor

The Hippie

The Cheerleader

The Nice Guy

Additional Stats [web only]
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