Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
After a three year album wait, New York City alternative-rock group The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion released their new record Freedom Tower: No Wave Dance Party 2015. Comprised of Jon Spencer, Judah Bauer, and Russell Simins, the trio kicked off phase three of the USA Freedom Tour and will bring their “high-energy rock’n’roll and super-dynamite soul” to Toronto’s Lee’s Palace tomorrow night. Ahead of the show, we gave Jon Spencer a call to discuss creating their new album, what makes New York fascinating, and groovy artists he enjoys. Dive into our exclusive interview below:

AMBY: Hey Jon. Welcome to AMBY, it’s a pleasure to speak with you today.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Hey Alicia, how are you?

AMBY: I’m great, thanks. Yourself?

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: I’m alright, thanks.

AMBY: I’m stoked we could make this interview happen today. Cheers for your time.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: It’s my pleasure. Let’s do it.

AMBY: Absolutely, right into it then! Once again, you’ve joined forces with Russell and Judah to release your tenth record Freedom Tower: No Wave Dance Party 2015. For our readers at home, tell us a bit about the experience you had creating this new album.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: The last record, Meat + Bone, came out in 2012. We made Meat + Bone and that was our first proper studio record for quite a long time. We made that record and then played all over the place; we spent probably a good eighteen months on the road playing concerts. After that, we wanted to keep doing it and were having a good time, so we decided to make another record. We decided to write some songs [laughs]. We had a session for the album in Arizona with our old friend Jim Waters in Tucson where we had a session and recorded these new songs. We ended up letting those songs sit on the shelf and then we wrote a whole bunch of other songs. That second batch of songs, that’s what became this new album. Freedom Tower was recorded here in New York City. The record seemed to be taking a more dancey and funky turn. I think Freedom Tower greatly benefited from who we worked with. We tracked it in a very funky homemade studio which was set up to really work with live musicians and most of the technology was pretty old. Then we mixed it in a very modern style and worked with someone who is much more attuned to hip hop and electronic dance music.

AMBY: You took the record on the road as part of the Five Borough Freedom Tour where you played neighborhoods in Staten Island, Manhattan, Jersey City, Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Queens. New York seems to mean a lot to you. Going back to where it all began, almost twenty five years ago, do you remember what initially attracted you to the city?

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: I’ve been here for almost thirty years! I moved here with my other band, Pussy Galore. In the mid-eighties, the city was quite glamorous but also pretty dirty and dangerous. It was a fascinating place. I fell in love with not just the music, but also the filmmakers and the art scene. I was into the city itself. It was kind of a romantic thing.

AMBY: You pay homage to New York on the album. Being that this was all based around there, what are some of your favourite things about living there now?

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: My friends are here [laughs]. It’s funny because pretty much a lot of the things that I fell in love with before, those things are long gone. Not just the city has changed, but I’ve changed too. The kind of things I do are a little different from what I used to do when I was in my twenties. One thing that’s kind of the same is how I enjoy the anonymity. It’s being in a place with a lot of people and walking around the streets… I can be in my own little world. Not to say that New Yorkers are unfriendly, or that I’m unfriendly, but you can kind of shut yourself off if you want to.

AMBY: Come Monday, you’ll embark on more tour dates across North America. Which cities do you look forward to playing the most this time around? Are there any you haven’t visited in a while?

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: I think so. It’s been a while since we’ve been over to West Virginia. Certainly Toronto has always been very nice to us and it’ll be nice to go back to Lee’s Palace.

AMBY: I have to bring up the fact that Dance Party is a super groovy record. My personal favourite track which definitely evokes some dance moves is Do The Get Down. What are some of your favourite “dance party” or dance songs by other artists?

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: James Brown is always a long time favourite and also a big influence for all of us in the Blues Explosion. You could probably throw The Meters in there as well. There are many, countless rap and hip hop artists there as well. Public Enemy, in particular, has some of my favourite records.

AMBY: Nice. When it comes to newer acts or bands, who have you been enjoying as of late?

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: The band we’re going to be playing with in Toronto [We Are Hex], I really think they’re a fantastic group and people should definitely turn up early to catch them. There’s a Canadian artist named Bloodshot Bill who’s from Montreal and he’s a real favourite of mine. From Detroit, there’s Danny and the Darleans.

AMBY: While on the topic of new music, there are some great musicians that follow our website who are in smaller up and coming bands. To wrap things up, if you could give fans of yours some advice on the music industry, what would you tell them?

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: I think as long as you’re heart is in the right place, you have a good start. I don’t think anyone should be in a band because they want to make money [laughs]. You should only do it because you don’t want to do anything else and because you’re in love with music. As much as you can, do things yourself. You don’t need to wait around for permission from anybody, and you certainly don’t need to wait around for handouts. Sure, you might need to work a day job or something, but if you’ve got the money, you can do what you want; you can make your own kind of record and your own kind of music.


Thank you The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, for giving us your answers!

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Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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