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]