It's been something like eight years since the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion gave us a full-length musical offering. More than worth the wait, their new release, Meat and Bone, is as dynamic and explosive as any of the trio's previous recordings. Whether they're ratcheting up the notch on the tension or letting it out in a furious explosion, you can't help but find your ass shaking and your soul shaken.
This new one features 12 songs that deliver their blend of rock and roll, blues, punk, sass, sex, and trash, and each one is an infectious little nugget on which to gnash and gnaw. Taking a little time off from touring, as well as recording, the Blues Explosion - Jon Spencer, Judah Bauer and Russell Simins - are ready to hit the road. We were able to make some time with Jon before they packed up. Up on the Sun: So, it's been awhile since your last full-length recording. Jon Spencer: We did take a break this last decade. Our last studio album was Damage in 2004. We did a lot of touring with that release - about a year and a half.
After that, I was working on another project, a group called Heavy Trash, and I wanted to focus on that. There was no full stop with Blue Explosion, or a decision to quit, or anything like that--just a break.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is scheduled to perform Sunday, June 16, at Crescent Ballroom.
How did you guys get things going again? In 2007, the In the Red label, based out of LA, released a compilation of some of our singles that we'd done with them over the years. When that release came out we started getting asked to play shows, so we did a short tour which included some festivals in Europe. We had a good time, it felt good, we all felt like we were still doing good live shows so we started to play more and more, and in 2011 we started to think about making another studio album.
Meat and Bone is as intense a Blues Explosion record as ever. Was the recording process any different for this one? The way we regarded writing these songs is the same way we have all our other songs. We write by just getting together and playing. The music is a collaboration; I write the lyrics, but the songs come from just playing together. So Meat and Bone, the songs were done in the same way. We've made a lot of our records in this same fashion - it usually starts with some sort of live performance.
The three of us playing together, that really is the heart and soul of the band - the interaction between the three people in the band.
So no special advance planning? When we make a record, it's not like we have a lot of plans. It's not like we talk about it beforehand. We just write the songs and it starts to fully take shape during the mixing process, when you can see some form and see things pulling together. We don't have conversations like "Let's try to make this kind of song, or let's try to do something like that Vampire Weekend record," or anything. There are things we discuss like what studio we want to use, things like that. [But] we believe very strongly in this band and that the band is a defined and strong creature in its own right.
So it was just easy and natural getting back on the horse after some time off? Yeah. We felt awfully good playing again after the break and that good feeling definitely stuck with us and pervaded the recording sessions. It was a pretty easy record to make. Nothing like any bad vibes or in-fighting or anything like that. I definitely think that since we've come back from the hiatus, my sense is that we cherish the work that we do a lot more.
Did anything feel different from past recording sessions? I think that one thing that is different about this record is that we're older now. We've been playing together for more than 20 years, so that age, that wisdom, that maturity - if you will - comes through.
Was there any recorded material that didn't make it onto Meat and Bone? Yeah, we do have songs that got mixed that ended up on the cutting room floor, and some we didn't even get to mixing--so there's definitely some leftovers.
Might we get a chance, someday, to check out those leftovers? Yeah, there might be a single or EP later this summer or in the fall.
I play music with some pretty obsessive gearheads. Do you guys like to geek out over gear? Judah is the good source for gear talk, but I'm happy to do it, too. It interests me as well. We're fans of rock and roll, of music, and also students of music and its history, so, you know, for sure, we get excited about and obsess over equipment. That is something we expand to the studio.
How so? One of the reasons we went to Key Club, the studio in Michigan where we tracked Meat and Bone, is because they have such a great collection of old gear.
Had you recorded anything there prior to Meat and Bone? I did. I learned about the place on an Andre Williams session I did a few years ago. The Canadian band The Sadies had set up a session with Andre Williams when I was on the Heavy Trash tour. We had a few days off so we went down there and we recorded most of the tracks for Night and Day. That recording went unfinished for a few years and was released just last year, I think.
You're gearing up for tour. Excited? I love to play. Touring is a mix of excitement and dread [laughs]... I don't much enjoy travel, especially airplane travel. It's hard to be away from your family, but we do it because playing shows is great. We've been rehearsing and getting ready for the dates and also writing some new songs.
Any special plans while you're on the road? We are heading to Denver and Salt Lake before we hit Phoenix. After we're done in Phoenix, we're gonna go down to Tucson to do some recording with our old friend Jim Waters (Waterworks Recording.) He is the guy we made some of what you'd call our classic records with, like Orange and Now I Got Worry. We are gonna go back there and do a little session.
Are you still doing Heavy Trash? Yeah. I just haven't been that busy with Heavy Trash because the Blues Explosion is now so busy again. Matt (Verta-Ray) and I are working on a fourth album. We've got all the songs written and they are in various stages of completion as far as the recording goes. So right now we have three songs finished and mixed. We're slowing chipping away at it.
Are Judah and Russell involved in other projects currently? Russell plays sometimes now and again with a singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur. For the three of us we've mainly been focused on Blues Explosion. It's been just us this past year.
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Do you guys make time to check out local bands when you're on tour? Oh yeah. Most definitely. Also, if I don't know, I always seek out advice on who would be a good local band to play with... It's been more than a few years since we've been to Phoenix, and we're really looking forward to the show there.