Hurtling like a manic three-headed beast through­out the ‘90s into the mid-2000s, The Jon Spencer Blues Explo­sion blazed a trail for some of the most suc­cess­ful rock bands of the recent era with their dis­tinc­tive stripped-back take on blues-rock. After a few years respite to focus on other pur­suits, Blues Explo­sion arrived back on to the world stage in full force, cul­mi­nat­ing in last year’s release of Meat & Bone – their first new stu­dio release since 2004. Epony­mous front­man Jon Spencer explains how a stint in Aus­tralia resulted in the deci­sion to return to the stu­dio to put together a new full-length LP.

Has it felt like a fresh start since return­ing from the hia­tus?
We took a few years off and didn’t work at all for around three or four years, then got back together in 2008. We started play­ing together just because we wanted to, and it felt very good so we kept on doing it. After some time we fig­ured we should make another record – it just felt right. When we made the new record, it was the same way we went about tour­ing – just for us. We didn’t owe any­one a record, it’s not as if we made Meat & Bone because we were in a con­tract or had an oblig­a­tion to some com­pany. We did it just because we wanted to do it. The feel­ing within the band, the three of us, has been very good and very pos­i­tive. While the album cer­tainly car­ries on the tra­di­tion of the work we’ve done in the past, it does in some ways feel a bit fresh and new.

You had an exten­sive reis­sue series a few years ago, how does it feel look­ing back on that process?
The pur­pose was to make those records avail­able again. They were going out of print, so we made it that peo­ple were able to pur­chase, lis­ten and enjoy. I’m proud of them, I want to have them avail­able for peo­ple. It was a very big job, I didn’t want to reis­sue the records in a straight fash­ion. I wanted to be as com­plete and exhaus­tive and as thor­ough as pos­si­ble. We’re a very busy band, we wrote and recorded a lot of mate­r­ial for every one of those records. I was try­ing to tell the story of the group, not like ‘here’s this old record again’. The whole series was try­ing to tell a story for those first ten years. Am I a nos­tal­gic per­son? No, not really. And I’ve got to be hon­est with you, before I started that job it was some­thing I didn’t want to be doing. I would much rather be work­ing on new music or a new project.

There’s a per­cep­tion that the Blues Explosion’s ‘90s out­put was ahead of its time.
I think they’re great records, I’m still very proud of them. It’s the same way that some of my favourite records stand out­side of time, or they’re time­less, rather, I think that some of these records that we’ve reis­sued are the same thing. I don’t really know what other peo­ple think of us, I’ve tried not to give it much thought. If we did then I think the band would be dead in the water. We’re mak­ing the kind of records that we want to lis­ten to and play­ing the kind of shows that we want to see.

Was there a dif­fer­ence between return­ing to the stage and return­ing to the stu­dio?
When we make a record, we’re not try­ing to cap­ture the live per­for­mance. They’re both very dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences. When we work in the stu­dio, there cer­tainly is some sort of per­for­mance. It’s the three of us cut­ting the tracks live, so most times we are cap­tur­ing some kind of per­for­mance. But most times they’re very dif­fer­ent things. As far as the record, we come at it a dif­fer­ent way than we do a show. On stage in the past three of four years since we took that hia­tus, it just kind of fell right back into place. Me per­son­ally, I find it ter­ri­bly excit­ing to play in this band. That’s where it really gets going for me.

You’ve been in Aus­tralia recently with both Blues Explo­sion and Heavy Trash.
Blues Explo­sion have been there since Heavy Trash, it was one of the things that got us going on the Meat & Bone record. While we were over there, we were asked to record a song for a tele­vi­sion adver­tise­ment, a cover of the song ‘Black Betty’. It was kind of funny, because I was there for Big Day Out a while back and the band Spi­der­bait had a hit with that song. So I was think­ing why the peo­ple just didn’t use their ver­sion or the orig­i­nal for the adver­tise­ment. Any­way, we were asked to record and we had a bud­get and a day off, then we cut this demo in Syd­ney, I believe. That expe­ri­ence kind of proved that if we wanted to make a record, then we could go do it.

Are you think­ing about another Blues Explo­sion album in the near future?
We’re going to be tour­ing a long time, on and off. Beyond that, we haven’t dis­cussed mak­ing another record. Right now it’s just a lot of shows, and that’s really what we love to do, and part of the rea­son why we made Meat & Bone.


Jon Spencer Blues Explo­sion will be tour­ing nation­ally along­side their appear­ance at Golden Plains.

March 7 – The Zoo, Bris­bane QLD
March 8 – The North­ern, Byron Bay NSW
March 9 – The Hi-Fi, Syd­ney NSW
March 12 – Astor, Perth WA
March 14 – Fowlers Live, Ade­laide SA
March 15 – The Espy, Mel­bourne VIC
March 16 – Cor­ner Hotel, Mel­bourne VIC

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