Explosive Blues Revival Interview’ W/ Jon Spencer
Underrated and ultraviolet, Jon Spencer has a 25 yr old rock
career under his belt and bellbottoms. It’s led him nearly everywhere,
but started in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he was born. After
attending Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, he relocated
to Washington DC to form Pussy Galore in 1985. When asked if there
was any chance of a future Pussy Galore reunion, his response was:
“I can’t see any real reasons to do that. I think
the band did its thing and ran its course. We were asked to play
the All Tomorrow’s Party festival that The Melvin’s curated
a few years ago, but the band is done, and I have no real interest
in getting it back together.”
Pussy Galore recorded their debut album “Right Now” on Caroline
Records in 1987 before Jon would split from the band, taking with
him band member Christine Martinez (who later became his wife),
and formed Boss Hogg. [Pussy Galore released a 7”, an EP, a cassette-only
front to back cover of the Rolling Stones “Exile on Main St.” and
3 albums before the split]. The Blues Explosion formed in New York
City in 1991. Originally titled The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
the name was narrowed down to just Blues Explosion in 94.
At the height of Blues Explosion’s career, they would tour with
more mainstream Garage Rock bands, such as The Hives and Beck. Afterwards,
Spencer went on to sign with a massive Indie record label Matador.
After a publicity stunt gone awry from a Tom Waits replacement rumor,
Blues Explosion would have more fans and followers than friends
or enemies by now. However, something throughout the course and
time would keep Spencer somewhat underground, and outside of the
Super Bowl stadium limelight. His world tours, recordings and ‘sold
out’ record pressings certainly override all of his downtime, not
to mention the videos featuring Wynona Ryder, Judah Bauer and John
C. Reilly. By now, Jon Spencer would have built quite the extensive,
rock celebrity-sized, entertainment resume including becoming a
Calvin Klein model. When catching up with him and asking what he’s
been up to the past five to ten years of 4-5 year hiatus from the
industry, he went on to explain the following:
"In 2004 we put out "Damage,"
which we toured all over the world with, and in 2007 we released
a series of Jukebox 7”on In the Red Record Label which was a compilation
of singles we had been doing throughout the years.
After 15 years of working balls-out and nose-to-the-ground,
we took a break. Last year we reissued the entire back catalogue,
which had gone out of print through Shout Factory Company. As that
began to roll out a year later, we began to tour again, and now
on this little trip down to Texas and back."
Often described as Experimental, Alternative and Blues, Jon
Spencer’s music defies a lot of labels that would place him in one
category or genre alone. Their
rock omits an ultraviolet, boogie, Blues-filled fuzz, good
for any vintage record player. Some of their audience consists of
intellectual, record snobs with exclusive collections funded by
student loans that have a genuinely good taste for unique music.
“We’ve done our own thing,” Jon goes
on to explain, “and always have. We’re not your standard pop, Rock
n Roll format band. We’re very much punk, and straightforward. We
didn’t have any problems getting our rights back from Matador. The
band owns everything and all I’ve ever done was licensed material.
When the records run out of print, the rights go right back to the
“I’ve seen the Blaxploitation
films, such as, ‘Shaft’ and ‘Superfly’,
but can’t say I’ve ever been inspired by them in the Blues Explosion.
I'm a bit older and grew up in the 70's and films like those were
very much a part of the mainstream culture and time I grew up in,
but I can't say that songs like "Bellbottoms” were directly
influenced by them. It was more or less in my head from when I was
kid. The Blues Explosion is technically influenced by, as far as
Soul artists goes, Stax
Record artists, Otis Redding, Booker T and Rufus Thomas."
In closing the interview, I asked Jon Spencer if avoiding drugs,
alcohol and drama contributed to his ability to maintain an active
band for twenty years and he answered.
“No, I never said that.”