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Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Biography

Birth Place: New York City, New York, United States
Years Active: 1990-present
Genres: Alternative Rock, Punk Blues, Rock And Roll, Garage Rock, Indie Rock

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is an American alternative rock trio, formed in 1991 and based out of New York City. The band consists of Judah Bauer on guitar, backing vocals, harmonica and occasional lead vocals, Russell Simins on drums and Jon Spencer on vocals, guitar and theremin. Their musical style is largely rooted in rock and roll although it also draws influences from punk, blues, garage, rockabilly, soul, noise rock, rhythm and blues and rap.

Throughout the course of their career this experimental sound and occasionally unconventional recording techniques has allowed the band to work with a number of diverse artists including Andre Williams, Dr. John, Alec Empire, Elliott Smith, Beck, Solomon Burke, Rufus Thomas, DJ Shadow, Steve Albini, Rob K, James Chance, UNKLE, Chuck D, Money Mark, Calvin Johnson, Dan The Automator, Othar Turner, Jill Cunniff, Jim Dickinson, Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson, Bernie Worrell, Willie Weeks, David Holmes, Steve Jordan, Martina Topley-Bird and Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys.

The band had been playing together for six months when they had their first recording session with Mark Kramer at Noise NY, in July 1991 and recorded 14 songs over a the course of three hours. This session was issued in its entirety as the first Jon Spencer Blues Explosion album, “A Reverse Willie Horton.” This was an unofficial bootleg issued by Public Pop Can at some point between late 1991 and early 1992 in an edition of 500 or 1000 copies due to a possibility of two separate pressings. It has been suggested that the source of the bootleg was a dubbed copy of a cassette that Jon Spencer let some people copy during a tour with the Gibson Bros. in August 1991.

Their second recording session was recorded by Steve Albini at the Waterfront, Hoboken, New Jersey in November and December 1991. Tracks from both the Kramer and Albini sessions were issued on the 1992 Caroline / Hut release, “The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion,” Crypt Records as “Crypt Style,” and an alternate version of, “Crypt Style” by 1 + 2 Records. This Jon Spencer Blues Explosion album was the only one to be issued by Caroline Records.

The band then signed to Matador Records which issued their album, “Extra Width,” in May 1993. Recording sessions for “Extra Width,” took place in Memphis at Doug Easley’s studio in November and December 1992. “Mo' Width” was issued in July 1994 by Au Go Go Records and made-up of out-takes from the, “Extra Width,” sessions featuring covers of “There Stands The Glass” (Webb Pierce), “Beat of The Traps” (Teri Rodd & MSR Singers) and “Ole Man Trouble” (Otis Redding) as well as an alternate mix of the single, “Afro,” with a much more prominent organ solo.

Their next album, “Orange,” was recorded at Waterworks, New York City with Jim Waters and released by Matador Records and Crypt Records in October 1994. Matador Records released the, “Experimental Remixes,” EP in May 1995 featuring various tracks from, “Orange,” reworked by artists including UNKLE, Beck, Mario Caldato Jr., Mike D, Dub Narcotic Sound System, Moby and GZA (featuring Killah Priest).

On the afternoon of February 6, 1996 the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion recorded the album, “A Ass Pocket of Whiskey,” with R.L. Burnside and Kenny Brown at Lunati Farms in Holly Springs, Mississippi. A further two tracks, “Alice Mae” and “Highway 7,” also recorded at Lunati Farms in February 1996, would be released on the 1997 R.L. Burnside album, “Mr Wizard.”

The Jon Spencer Blue Explosion’s next album, “Now I Got Worry,” was produced by Spencer and Jim Waters and recorded at Easley Studio, Memphis, G-Son, Los Angeles and Waterworks West, Tucson. These sessions took place in February 1996 (the same time as the recording with R.L. Burnside). The album was released by Matador Records and Mute Records in October 1996, reaching #50 in the U.K. Albums chart, and featured appearances by Thermos Malling of Doo Rag, Rufus Thomas and Money Mark and a cover version of, “Fuck Shit Up,” originally by Dub Narcotic Sound System with Judah Bauer on lead vocals.

Work on their next studio album, “Acme,” began in October 1997, when the band entered the studio with Dan Nakamura, a.k.a. Dan the Automator for, “Right Place, Wrong Time,” a cover of the Dr. John hit used on the soundtrack to, “Scream 2.” 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. “Acme” was released in October 1998 by Matador Records in the U.S. and by Mute Records in the U.K.

“Plastic Fang,” the band’s next album, was issued in April 2002 by Mute Records (U.K.), Matador Records (U.S.), Everlasting (Spain) and Toy’s Factory (Japan). The album was produced by Steve Jordan and recorded at Oorong, the Magic Shop and The Hit Factory.

Their album, “Damage,” was recorded between December 2003 and April 2004 at Empire View Studios, NYC, Globe Studios, NYC and Elegant Too Studios with production and mixing credits including Dan The Automator, DJ Shadow, Steve Jordan, Free Association…David Holmes, Jay Braun, Alan Moulder, Danny Madorsky, Chris Maxwell and Phil Hernandez (Elegant Too) as well as the Blues Explosion, Jon Spencer and Russell Simins. “Damage,” was their only album to be released on Sanctuary Records and for this release the band was temporarily known as just the Blues Explosion. The shortened name lasted less than two years and by early 2006 they were again known by their full title. “Damage” was released in September 2004 and featured appearances from artists including Chuck D, Martina Topley-Bird, James Chance, DJ Shadow and Simon Chardiet.

The band recorded the theme tune for Anthony Bourdain series, “No Reservations,” broadcast on The Travel Channel in 2005. Towards the end of 2005 the band went hiatus and the members worked on numerous different projects with different artists. In 2009 the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion released the 22 track retrospective compilation, “Dirty Shirt Rock 'n' Roll: The First Ten Years,” followed by expanded reissues of the albums “Extra Width,” “Orange,” “Acme,” “Now I Got Worry” and tracks from the early releases (the original Kramer and Steve Albini recordings) “Year One.”

In September2012 the band’s album, “Meat and Bone,” was issued on Bronze Rat (U.K.) and Mom + Pop Music (U.S.). It was their first album of new material since the 2004 release of, “Damage,” and was credited to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.