The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Alternative Press: Building a Better Explosion (PRESS, US)

November 1998 Alternative Press

These article originally appeared in Alternative Press but was later included in a press release sent out by Matador Records to promote The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion release Acme. Also sent out with several other photocopied articles/reviews and a 10″ x 8″ black and white band photograph.

“Wire Tapping

Building A Better Explosion

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion line up a bevy of cooks in their new soul kitchen, Adam Heimlich smells what’s cookin’.

On the walls of Greene St. Studio hang framed gold records for Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks,” L.L. cool His Bigger And Deffer, and Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back and Fear of A Black Planet, alongside a dozen other hip-hop classics. It’s in this basement complex in Manhattan’s newly malled-out Soho district that the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion have put the finishing touches on their latest Matador album, Acme.

Work on the album began back in October 1997, when the band entered the studio with Dan Nakamura, a.k.a. the Automator – who produced Dr. Octagon’s The Octagonecologyst, as well as some tracks from Cornershop’s When I Was Born For The 7th Time – for “Right Place, Wrong Time,” a cover of the Dr. John hit used on the soundtrack to Scream 2.

“I’ve been very lucky to be able to do whatever the fuck I want,” says the well-mannered Spencer. “The reason we did that Scream 2 soundtrack was to try working with a producer. We were definitely into the Dr. Octagon record – it’s a great record, and also a bizarre kinda record. So besides ‘Right Place.’ we recorded some other songs.”

For Acme, Spencer – who’s been producing his bands’ music since the days of Pussy Galore – wanted to open up the recording process to see how giving others free reign would affect his songs. It’s an approach the Explosion tested on their 1995 EP Experimental Remixes. This time, says Spencer, “I was totally open to anything that came back.”

The next stop for Acme was Steve Albini’s studio, Electrical Audio, where the Blues Explosion cut some tracks in the days following their 1998 New Year’s Eve Chicago performance. “Steve’s we cut everything live, like we always do,” he says. “I Wanted to use Steve because I knew he would do a good job and the tapes would sound great, and we could send them to anybody because we had a great starting point and couldn’t really go wrong”

Work on Acme continued right up until the start of this summer, when Spencer and the bandmates Judah Bauer and Russell Simins started coming through the hours of tapes produced, engineered or remixed by Spencer, Albini, Nakamura and invited guests such as Atari Teenage Riot’s Alec Empire, Moby, Greene St. veterans Nick Sansano and Greg Shaw, Cypress Hill co-producer T-Ray, Big Star and Panther Burns producer Jim Dickinson, and others. “We went with the songs that were a lot more groove-oriented,” says Spencer, “There’s not much high-energy, flat-out rock stuff. It’s more soulful.”

Despite the team effort, Spencer thinks Acme sounds coherent and not like the JSBX’s previous remix foray. “It’s picking up where [1994’s] Orange left off,” he muses. “It’s definitely very different than [the 1996 album] Now I Got Worry, that kind of really nasty rock record.”

To illustrate Acme’s seamlessness, Spencer explains how the album came to have no production credits.

“Some songs, I had two mixes of the same song and I’d edit them together, just taking the parts that I like,” he says. “It was only after working for months that the album started falling into place and making sense.”