Lydia Jenkin

Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

On the road again and rocking on

Expect a fiery show next week when Jon Spencer and his band return to New Zealand, writes Lydia Jenkin

Jon Spencer says the band's raw passion for music is undimmed since they started out in 1991. Photo / Supplied
Jon Spencer says the band's raw passion for music is undimmed since they started out in 1991. Photo / Supplied

Jon Spencer - the 40-something leader of the Blues Explosion - has the kind of deep and mesmerising voice that would be a great asset to any politician. But as he talks about his band's latest album, and about life back on the road, he sounds just as excited as he does wise as he muses that they are indeed enjoying it as much as they ever have.

"It's hard for me to remember 20 years ago" he says with a laugh, "but yeah since we started playing together again in 2008, we've enjoyed ourselves very much and that's why we're gonna be going to Europe, and New Zealand and Australia, and why we did the new album - we do enjoy it very much."

Speaking from New York during a rare few days at home, Spencer explains that the band's impetus for making music hasn't changed much since it formed in 1991.

"The Blues Explosion was really a garage band at heart, in that we started the band because we loved music so much, lots of different kinds of music.

"We'd go crazy about different bands and specific records, and we wanted to try to do it for ourselves. And that continues to this day really, we're still voracious consumers of music and music history, and I think we're always finding new obsessions.

"Link Wray for instance, great American guitar player, he's been a huge influence, especially for me, and while he wasn't a new discovery for us, I think his work somewhat loomed over us while we were making Meat and Bone."

That's the group's tenth studio album released last September to strong reviews, and proving that the Blues Explosion aren't a band who simply want to milk their old hits for the rest of their careers - they're still having a great time writing raucous new material together.

"We did take some influence and perhaps a boost from our past on Meat and Bone [Spencer had spent much of 2009 and 2010 working on compiling re-releases of all their previous studio albums including the excellent Dirty Shirt Rock 'n' Roll: The First 10 Years], but I don't see this new record as being a rehash, or a retread. I very much feel like it's a record of today, and a record that reflects where we are now, a band that has been playing together for a long time.

"There are parts of the record that specifically address that, too - what does it mean to be playing in a band for so long? What does it mean to be playing rock 'n' roll as an older person? We're not kids any more, but we definitely couldn't have made this record 15 years ago."

They were a band who set the bar for rip-roaring rock 'n' roll shows in the 90s, and they plan to continue doing that, as they proved when they last performed in Auckland in early 2011. Fans can expect an equally blistering show next week.

"We try to present the music in the best way we can, present it with the energy and excitement that the songs deserve. Of course we'll be playing songs from the new album this time, but we'll play a lot of our older songs too."

True to form, there won't be a set list for the show - it'll all come down to the mood of the evening.

"We like to leave room for spontaneity and improvisation, and room for chaos, or perhaps for things to just spin out of control. It keeps it fresh for us too, keeps you on your toes more, and allows you to respond to the room and the crowd.

"It's a nod to our heroes too, James Brown for instance - I'm pretty sure that James Brown's band always had to be ready for a sudden left turn, so I guess that's what we aspire to."

Who: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Where and when: Kings Arms, Monday, March 4.

Listen to: Meat and Bone (2012)

- NZ Herald

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