It’s been eight years since guitarist Jon Spencer, bassist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins have recorded an album together as the garage-rocking Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy. “I was playing in a rockabilly band called Heavy Trash, Judah played with Cat Power and Russell played with a bunch of different people, most recently Joseph Arthur,” Spencer says. But the band has returned in a big way, with reissues of its classic Matador catalog (including “Orange,” “Extra Width” and “Now I Got Worry”) and one sledgehammer of a comeback disc, “Meat and Bone,” tracked on Sly Stone’s original mixing desk in a Michigan studio.
Did you ever plan on recording together again?
Well, we didn’t put a full stop on anything. We didn’t quit, we didn’t end it — I just kind of said I wanted to take a break because I was interested in pursuing some other projects. So that’s all it was — a break, with no official end.
Were you surprised that you still had the spark?
Every step of the way, there’s been a compilation that came out, and we began to get some serious offers to play shows. And I was nervous about playing together again: How would we sound? Could we still deliver the goods? So we began touring again because we wanted to, we made this record because we wanted to, we don’t owe anybody anything, and we also don’t have anything to prove.
You did the theme for Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations”?
We did it because Anthony himself asked us to. And God bless him — or whatever channel he’s on now — they still use that theme. But we got word he wanted us to do it, and I’d read his book “Kitchen Confidential” so I knew he was into punk rock. So we had dinner with him, talked about food and music, and then a couple of weeks later, we recorded the song.
You also covered “Black Betty” for a Volkswagen commercial?
Yeah, for the Super Bowl before last. And that — same as the “No Reservations” theme — was actually recorded in Australia, on days off, with a few years in between.
What inspired your new single, “Black Mold”?
Last summer, Hurricane Irene was predicted to hit New York City, so, in preparing for any flooding, I found some old boxes of LPs in the basement that had gotten damp, and the LP jackets were all rotting, mildewing and moldy. So that’s what the song is about — black mold can be quite deadly.