Monday, November 18

Spencer’s Explosion creates distinct blues sound

Spencer’s Explosion creates distinct blues sound

Band, on third tour, to make appearance at the Palace

By Nisha Gopalan

When John Spencer sings the blues, no one gets depressed.

The largely one-word song titles such as "Bellbottoms" and
"Dang" on the John Spencer Blues Explosion’s (JSBX) latest release,
Orange, seem to capture the dynamic nature of the band’s music.
Imagine each song title followed by a exclamation mark.

Vocalist/guitarist John Spencer, drummer Russell Simins and
guitarist Judah Bauer (that’s right, no bassist) continue to
perfect their trademark unpretentious and uninhibited
blues-inspired, feedback-laden, ’70s-driven, rockabilly-esque

"Yeah, we’re called the Blues Explosion, but it’s not really
traditional blues," says Spencer, who virtually has legendary
status in the underground music scene due to his involvement in
Pussy Galore (r.i.p.) and his other current band, Boss Hogg, headed
by his wife, Christina.

Spencer and the Blues Explosion have enough respect for blues
performers such as Hound Dog Taylor and the House Rockers, to draw
inspiration from, and not mimic, them. Furthermore, while he has
seen many of his favorite blues performers live, he is reluctant to
meet them.

"When you do meet somebody, an artist, whose work you really
like, you almost wish you hadn’t met them," says Spencer of lost

Spencer goes on to explain that he also has no overwhelming
aspirations to collaborate with some of these blues musicians whom
he admires.

"It would be a thrill," says Spencer about working with any
blues musician he admires, "(but) I’m not really crazy about
collaborations. I sort of like to do my own thing." The closest
thing to a collaboration that the listener gets to hear on Orange
is an appearance from fellow blues fan, Beck.

The compositions transcend the traditional melodic,
verse-chorus-verse formula yet successfully use repetition.
Musically and lyrically, the repetitions in songs like "Full Grown"
become so infectious that a head nod progresses into a foot tap and
ultimately permeates the whole body.

"I think with this record we were just trying to make a better
sounding record. All the songs, we pretty much knew. We’d been
playing them for a couple of months live, whereas in the past
albums we’d do stuff that’s kind of improvised," explains

While Spencer emphasizes the fact that the band "always records
live," they also delegated more time in the recording of Orange to
improve the sound of their album.

So just how long did they take to record Orange?

"(It took) five days or something," says Spencer who quickly
points out that five days is "short to most people, but it was long
for us."

And during those seemingly few days, the band lays down the core
tracks and thereafter Spencer adds to the recording.

"I just do the rest on my own with Jim Waters, the engineer
­ add strings or whatever I think the song needs," says
Spencer who adds that he usually has a good idea, before they even
record, of what sounds to include.

The band is presently in the midst of its third consecutive
tour. Most people may remember the JSBX as the opening act on the
Breeders tour, last spring.

While they are currently headlining their own tour, Spencer says
that he enjoyed being the opening act: "I like that situation where
there’s no pressure and you can just go out and do anything. It’s
always the most fun to play in a place you’ve never played before,
play in front of people who’ve never seen you (before)."

Judging from the jam-factor on the records, the "sweat of the
Blues Explosion" as Spencer sings on "Sweat," their live shows keep
them true to their element. While Spencer reveals that their live
performances are not particularly improvisational, he does hope the
live show will reflect the band’s sincere love of music.

"I don’t think we’re trying to be a soul band or a funk band. I
think we just do what we do and hopefully that makes us (appear)

MUSIC: The John Spencer Blues Explosion performs Wed. at the
Palace at 8 p.m.

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