Jon Spencer Experiments With Automator At Controls

Trashy rocker teams with wigged-out rap producer on Dr. John cover and songs for new LP.

From the twisted '50s vibe of his band's debut Crypt Style to the

blaxploitation rewrites of 1994's Orange, Jon Spencer has delivered his

warped interpretation of nearly every period in rock 'n' roll history.

With few eras left to translate, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion leader plans to

boldly go where no art-trash rocker has gone before...

"The future," Spencer said recently from his New York home. And if the stars

are where he's headed, then who better to travel with than Dan "The Automator"

Nakamura, the much sought-after producer responsible for the out-of-

this-world sounds on rapper Dr. Octagon's leftfield Dr. Octagonecologyst


Last weekend, the Blues Explosion headed into the studio with Nakamura to

record a version of Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time" for the soundtrack to

Scream 2, due out in November.

Despite Nakamura's sonic handiwork, Spencer said the track "is still the Blues

Explosion playing live in the studio."

The collaboration worked so well that the Blues Explosion and Nakamura

plan to head back into the studio next January to begin work on the follow-up to

the JSBX's 1996 album Now I Got Worry. Spencer said the group

already started recording three tracks -- "Wanna Make It All Right," "Gimme

a Chance" and "Torture" -- during their recent session with Nakamura.

"We're definitely looking to do something different for the next record," Spencer

said. "Trying to work with someone like Dan is part of that, something new. I

think we want to smooth it out a little bit. We definitely got the raw thing out of

our system on our last record."

This time around, the band leader was open to experimentation, trying out

beats and strings in places Spencer might not normally have. "He has the

same attitude I have, which is the wide palette," Nakamura said. "Anything

goes: anything that sounds good, that works, we'll try it out. If it doesn't work,

we'll switch it."

Nakamura described "Torture" as a "more laid back song" for the manic band

leader. "It's like a slower, rock -- not ballad -- but it's in the slower speeds. It

has heavy drums and has Jon singing as opposed to some of his more manic or

ranting-type songs. It's got the rich vocal, 'cause it's a love song, but not really. I

did a little mixing to make it not hip-hop, but funky beat type stuff. We added

some samples and strings here and there, just bringing it all on to make it as

cool as it can be. No boundaries."

While he has broad ideas of where he wants to take his next record, Spencer

said that the specific details won't reveal themselves until the group gets

back in the studio. "Different songs seem to ask for different kinds of

approaches or treatments in the studio," he said. "With the Blues

Explosion we don't try to plan things out too much beforehand. I think it

will be different. Compared to like a Smashing Pumpkins record, there's

gonna be some raw shit on there."

For Nakamura, the recent studio sessions offered both artists a chance to

feel each other out in preparation for the work ahead.

The producer said that contrary to what one might expect from Spencer's

frenzied live show, in the studio he's nothing but calm. "He's actually a mellow

guy," Nakamura said. "He thinks about what he's doing, there's nothing crazy

happening. I wouldn't say it's a controlled environment, but he's not

going at two-million miles-an-hour. It's cool.

"Now we know each other," he added. "Now we can go cause damage."

[Fri., Oct. 31, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]