THE BLUES IS STILL NUMBER ONE
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.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
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