It’s Good Blues Week.
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion plays the Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay on Friday and the Arena on Saturday.
While it’s not really going to come across in print, this conversation started with John Spencer Blues Explosion guitarist Judah Bauer trying to explain how to pronounce his name. The operator got it wrong, I got it wrong, the interviewers before me got it wrong, and even his friends down here don’t have a 100% success rate.
“Say my name, can you say it? Nah, I’m just kidding. Never mind. It just doesn’t sound right when you guys say it. It sounds like a question… I think my parents wanted to have the weirdest name on the block. It’s not really anything to do with religion.”
What does sound right is the most recent swaggering JSBX release Plastic Fang. It sounds so good the band are back in Australia after almost three years.
“Pretty much all I’ve been doing since the record came out is touring,” Judah explains. “I’ve been on tour with my other band as well. We’ve just had a record come out as well. So I’ve got to finish with Blues Explosion and then spend a couple of weeks on the road with 20 Miles before I just collapse.”
How much time do you get off between Blues Explosion commitments to spend working on your other projects?
“This year I had to fit in around Blues Explosion. It’s two or three weeks Blues Explosion before I have a day off and the do two weeks with 20 Miles, the a couple of days off before Blues Explosion again. It varies, you know. Because I did mostly Blues Explosion this year next year will be more Twenty Miles. It’s hard to do two bands justice. But I asked for it, and I got what I wanted, so I’m thankful”
Sounds like you made a Crossroads kind of deal there…
“Yeah, I don’t know how long I can just keep pushing it, so I might as well do it all now. I have a feeling I’ll be doing this forever, but I can’t keep up this pace forever, so I’ve got to pay my dues early,” he chuckles, “so I can get the pearls of wisdom and play my arse off later. Some people stay home and practice, but I can’t do that so I have to play shows every night to get better.”
On to pearls of wisdom…
“I just found a pearl of wisdom the other day, and it’s maybe taken me ten years to figure this out. I’ve heard this idea many times, and I realised I was playing too many notes. Miles Davis is rolling over in his grave, but physically I didn’t realise that. I’ve been trying to slog through all these parts, but I know it now. Less is more, man. You have to leave as many spaces as you can. The show is like three times better because of it. At least in my mind. No one else will notice, I suppose,” he laughs.
Does that change the way you approach the next couple of albums you work on?
“I don’t know. When you’re on tour you’re really up to speed, so maybe if I went home I might slip back into beating my way out of a guitar solo.”
Maybe there are a certain number of notes you have to play in a week, and if you miss a night you have to get more into the next one…
“I don’t know. It’s about fear, you know,” he jokes. “Too many notes going through my childhood. I’m coming to terms with it through my guitar solos.”
Live do you hope people are going to be feeling your pain through your playing?
(laughing) “They’re going to feel my perseverance playing, because I’ll be playing less and less is more. They’ll be feeling good. They wont know why, but they’ll be feeling good. I think you’ll have to put something in here like bullshit detector going off blah blah blah.”
What do you think about some of the hype surrounding Australian rock ‘n’ roll bands like The Vines?
“I really couldn’t care less. Do you think that guy can tell me anything about life? Whatever. I always love Australia though, Australia is like Texas, you know. You get a big welcome down there, and they caught on to us before the rest of the country. You guys love to party, it’s great for rock ‘n’ roll.”
Do people pronounce your name properly in Texas?
“I don’t know,” he laughs. “I think so.”