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The’ 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 band.”

 “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.”

- SC



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