The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Under The Radar: Interview (PRESS, NEW ZEALAND)

22 December 2010
Short interview with Jon Spencer about The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion activity and his recent work with Heavy Trash. View the complete article and website at
After a six year hiatus, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion have reformed on the back of a massive set of re-issues, released over 2010. UTR caught up with Jon Spencer himself to find out what else he’s been up to, where to from here and why the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion isn’t really blues at at all.

It’s been six years since the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion went on hiatus, and you have been focusing on Heavy Trash?

Well my main focus of the past years has been Heavy Trash the rockabilly band I have. We’ve released three albums and the third album came out about a year ago. We’ve toured Australia but didn’t make it to NZ. That was about a year ago. So Heavy Trash has been taking up most of my time, between making records touring the States and Europe and South America and Japan. Besides that there’s been the great big bunch of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion re-issues that took years to get together and ready. They’re not straight re-issues – each one of the albums includes as many bonus tracks as possible – some are two CD’s. There was so much stuff around and we tried to be as completist as we could, so we had to find this material, get together and make sure it sounded alright, and then what would and wouldn’t be used and how it would fit together. So it was a massive project and a lot of work to get the project down.

That all came out this past year in Europe as well and hopefully in NZ and Australia so you guys can get ‘em down there too. Rather than just let them come out we wanted to mark the occasion, so the Blues Explosion started playing some shows. Next week we’re going to Europe and then in January we’re going to NZ and Australia. So besides the Blues Explosion and Heavy Trash making three albums over five or six years, I got together with my other band Boss Hog and we got invited to ATP and organized a European tour around this a couple of years ago. Cristina (Martinez, of Boss Hog) and I did a record so we released an album.

What would you consider the musical differences between Heavy Trash and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion?

Heavy Trash is a more traditional band. Heavy Trash is rockabilly and Jon Spencer isn’t rockabilly. With Heavy Trash I’d known Matt (Verta-Ray) for a number of years and while it wasn’t an excuse to play rockabilly together, and of course there were a lot of musical influences, it was a starting point. It’s more traditional than the Blues Explosion and as a lyricist and a singer it allows me to do different things that are not so easy to do with the Blues Explosion. And in terms of differences overall, I’m simply writing music with different people in each band so there’s going to be overwhelmingly different outcomes.

The Blues Explosion is often associated with blues music, but this isn’t really the case. Is this frustrating?

We’re not a blues band, but that’s what we get for calling this band what we called it. The manner in which we construct songs and the way in which we combine different elements and the levity and playing – the life in our music, makes it entirely different. You have to be careful because we’re not a joke –it’s without irony and it’s very serious. It’s something we can have a sense of humour about but still be serious and I think that’s confusing to. Also, while we’re not a blues band we do take influences from blues artists and we do spend a lot of time hanging out with blues artists but if you asked me I’d say we’re a rock ‘n roll band.

What are you working on going forward? More Blues Explosion releases?

We’re working on new material and after Australia we have more tours planned so I think we will continue to work through 2011 but it remains to be seen to what level of intensity but there will definitely be some more stuff going on. We played a few times over the last few years before we got together – two three years ago when we did the jukebox compilation in the red we played seom dates and did a tour in Europe but this is the first time we’ve been back together.

Interview by Matt Williamson