I managed to have a chat with TJ, lead singer from No Operator, about their experiences on the mainland!
did your band start?
Operator started in Nanaimo. Oliver was in a band called Johnny Good until the
band broke up. I was living with Oliver at the time and we started jamming in
2008 and decided we wanted to get a band together. With a few member changes
and a lot of time being underdogs we are finally starting to make some of the
successes we had hoped for.
James: How has Vancouver helped your bands career?
TJ: Playing in Vancouver has helped us in a number
of ways. We have met many people in the industry who have helped us realize who
we do, and do not want to be. It has helped us gain perspective on what is
required to be remembered by fans and promoters. Rednyne has been amazing to
work with and is giving us so many opportunities we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.
Hammer Records has believed in us since the second we stepped onto the mainland
and bands like Ugly Men , Fey, Grizzly Bones and Kiss Of The King (to name a
few) have been amazing to share the stage with and help us feel right at home.
Most of all the Vancouver has matured us in a way that allows us to breathe in
our own skin and show our true colours.
James: What is your favorite venue to play in Vancouver
TJ: I don’t know that everyone in the band could
agree on one over another. To be honest I don’t know that I can either. The
Cellar was great because of the great sound, great parking and people who show
up seem to be really passionate about local music. Joes Apartment also has
great sound but it also has a little catwalk in front of the monitors that I
love to hang out in and get interactive. The best turnout/show we have had so
far was at Joe’s. We actually have a picture you took that is from behind the
stage that shows the place packed right to the back and I remember every single
person rocking out. It was an amazing feeling.
The Roxy is definitely the
strongest venue though. We have only played there once but it was an unreal
experience. The big difference between everywhere else and Vancouver is
unfortunately in Vancouver, if your headlining, the second you are done you
have to RUSH everything off the stage to make way for DJ’s. This isn’t the most
difficult task in the world until the DJ and the Bouncers are literally on the
stage, with their equipment, standing in your way yelling to get off the stage.
A 10-15 minutes procedure turns into almost a half hour of intense frustration.
I wish there was a venue that allowed for live music until close. I don’t know
if that’s because the venues will not allow for this or because the scene will
not allow for this. Either way, playing at 7 sucks and having your set cut
short only to be rushed off the stage sucks. Hopefully a venue a scene can be created that
will allow for live music right until 2am packed with people who love local
James: Where do you plan on going? Staying? Moving?
TJ: As far
as location I think we are going to stay based out of Nanaimo. Steve Holtby our
bass player lives in Vancouver and that helps a lot with promoting and
networking but the rest of us all have really good jobs that allow us to fund
the band as well as girlfriends and wives who have lives rooted here in Nanaimo.
I think it also helps us stay sane. None of us are city people and I think we would
go crazy very quickly, break up and end up living in a tiny apartment 20
stories up wondering why the fuck we moved.
Vancouver Island has a unique scene
and sound that I think gives us an edge in Vancouver. Overall living on the
island helps keep us grounded and collected in such an intense and chaotic environment.
Musically we will be moving in many directions, while staying right where we
are. With member changes and maturity both as a band and individuals, we are
definitely highlighting the depth our band now has. Dave our drummer grew up on
punk rock and played in The Day He Quit before us. He showcases a shit load of
dynamics and talent while making it all sound comfortable and effortless. Ben
our new guitarist is an unreal musician and comes from the metal side of
things. For old songs he has given the parts I used to play life and body (ok
fine he’s 100 times better at guitar than I was, get over it..) and for new
songs he is adding a completely new element that wasn’t in our scope before.
Being freed from guitar I am having way more fun playing with melodies and
ranges that I never thought possible while Oliver and Steve are harnessing all
this new energy into something we never thought possible. We have fire in our
eyes and are hell-bent on success.
favorite Vancouver story starts in Vancouver but ends in Nanaimo. It was our
first trip over on our new to us Handy-Dart bus. After a show we went straight
to the ferry terminal and slept in the parking lot waiting for the first
sailing the next morning. We had some starter issues but nothing a smack of the
hammer wouldn’t fix. At about 5am a lady woke us up to get moving down the line
we were holding up. We tried to start the bus but surprise surprise she
wouldn’t engage. Ben went under the bus and started smacking the starter with
the hammer like we had done before but she still wouldn’t turn. After 10 tries
or so with the clanking of the hammer, grinding of the starter trying to start
and the terrible noise an engine that won’t fully start makes, it turned over.
Once turned over it usually needs time to warm up before moving or it will
stall, but we didn’t have that luxury so we started lurching and sputtering
The lady who woke us up looked at us all pissed off like and asks “Is
that thing even going to make it off the ferry?” “Oh yea, she’ll go. Just needs
a few smacks is all” I replied. She looked even angrier of course. So we got
onto the ferry and pretty much slept the whole time. When we docked in Nanaimo
we had to start the whole ordeal over again. After clanking and smacking and revving
it she starts. This time when she turned over, the starter got stuck in
engaged. You know that loud electric/mechanical rev sound an older vehicle
makes just before it start? Well that’s the sound this bus made, but it
wouldn’t stop. With Ben underneath the engine (he was smacking it with a hammer
again) the engine just made this awful “WUAWUAWUA” sound. I turn the ignition
back and it kept going, so I pulled the key out and it kept going. I ran out to
the front of the bus and fumbled to open the hood, with an engine that sounded
like it was going to explode in may face, and finally opened it up and thought…
Ben and I just stared at the
convulsing engine while Dave came bursting out of the bus (he was sleeping when
this all started) pulling a hoodie over his head wondering what the fuck was
happening. Finally a ferry worker came around the corner with pliers and pulled
the battery terminals off. After he did that he just walked away. I kind of
yelled after him, “were gunna need a push off” but he didn’t respond. They made
cars go around us and then finally the ferry was empty and the workers we still
just staring at us. One lady actually helped finally by saying “Looks like
you’re going back to Vancouver... You can set up a tow truck to pick you up on
that end”. That was not an option so we finally convinced a guy operating the
luggage cart vehicles to push us off. So here we are in the belly of a
completely empty ferry, vehicles and below deck passengers waiting for No
Operator to get off the ferry. The luggage cart is balls to the wall, barely
able to push our bus. I’m steering the bus, the other guys are beside it walking
what should be the ultimate walk of shame, tired eyed with back backs, beards
and tattoos but instead they are just laughing their asses off as all the ferry
workers and awaiting passengers just glared at us with hate in their eyes. We
ended up getting a tow from there, but 3 starters, some new wiring and
thousands of dollars later we can
finally be confident that she’ll start every time. In bus we trust.
in the works with the band?
TJ: I don’t want to give too much away but I will
give some information out for people to draw their own conclusions. We have at
least 3 new songs and many more being worked on. We haven’t recorded anything
new in a while. Most of us have never been to Montreal but would really like to
visit sometime soon. We love playing with the band Ugly Men. And last but not
least, Bus is getting restless
If you have a second, check them out on Facebook HERE.