Q&A: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Jon Spencer

Jon Spencer (center) of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Last time I saw the Blues Explosion in Vegas, you guys played House of Blues with Liars and Yeah Yeah Yeahs ...

That was the first time, I think, for both of those bands out to the West Coast. At that time Karen O was dating Angus, the singer of the Liars. I was a fan of both of those bands, that’s why I asked them to come on tour with us, and I thought it was a nice tour. That’s the last time Blues Explosion played Vegas. I think I’ve been to Las Vegas at least once or twice since with Heavy Trash. And Blues Explosion played Las Vegas at least once, maybe twice before that. And I’d played in Las Vegas also with the Gibson Bros. and probably with Boss Hog and maybe even with Pussy Galore. I’m not 100 percent sure.

What do you think of a Vegas casino as the host site for Matador at 21?

I guess it’s kinda cool. I’ve never been to a show in Las Vegas, but I saw Tom Jones once in Atlantic City and enjoyed that very much. But yeah, it’s a little kooky that Matador wanted to do it in Las Vegas. But it’s their party.

You play the festival Saturday. Are you planning to hang out for the rest of it?

We’re in Los Angeles on Thursday and then Friday we’re gonna drive out to Las Vegas, so we’ll be there Friday night, although I don’t know if we get there early enough to see Guitar Wolf, which is a shame, because I really like Guitar Wolf a lot. And then on Sunday we play in San Diego.

Having been on Matador for nearly a decade, do you feel a sense of community with the other folks on the label?

Totally. I love that label. I knew those people, the people who started that label, from before there was a Matador Records. I knew them from the New York scene. They were people I knew from around the way, people that I would see and hang out with at shows and in bars. I knew Gerard beforehand, and his reputation preceded him from Homestead and his fanzine, Conflict. It was a great label to be on. I really respect those people and I really enjoyed my time there. I totally trusted them and always felt that they had my back. They really were my peers. I felt very much at home.

Do you have some favorite Matador albums?

Guitar Wolf, Planet of the Wolves. There was a New York City group called Railroad Jerk, and those were close friends of mine—we shared a practice space together. I like their records, in particular the album The Third Rail. And I like what Marcellus Hall did after that with a group called White Hassle that released an album [National Chain] on Matador. And another New York City artist that was really nurtured by Matador, Cat Power. She’s somebody that I’ve known for a long time. Her You Are Free album was the one that really kinda knocked me out.

You’re in the midst of a massive JSBX reissues series, right?

That’s right. It’s just about wrapping up. We’ve reissued six albums and one compilation, all on Shout Factory. The last two, Orange and Acme, are just about to come out.

Most of them were Matador albums to begin with, weren’t they?

Everything except the very first one, what we’re now calling Year One. Everything else was originally released in this country on Matador, yeah.

Did you choose Shout Factory because they specialize in reissues?

Everything had gone out of print, and everything had reverted back to the band—the band owns everything. And Shout Factory got in touch with me about doing it. I think those are great records, I’m proud of those records, and I wanted to make them available again, so that’s what we did. But rather than just throwing them back out there again, every album has added material. I tried to be as complete as possible and include everything that was recorded at the time of the album. Some of these album reissues are two discs, there was so much material—studio material, live material. The outside packaging looks pretty much the same as the original album issue, but inside each one has a booklet with a lot of photos and liner notes by a New York City writer, a guy named Mike Edison. I tried to make these reissues the best they could be so they would not only be of interest to someone new to the band but also perhaps an older fan who already has them. It was a huge project—a lot of time and detective work.

The Blues Explosion took some time off and is now back at it. Was that just a break for recharging purposes?

Yeah. I mean, we worked very hard for 14 years straight, just balls to the wall. And at a certain point, I wanted to try other things and try making music with other people.

And now, you’re enjoying being back at it with those guys?

Very much so. It feels so good to play with Blues Explosion again.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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