Heavy Trash

Heavy Trash

Jon Spencer effort to ferry popular music from Mississippi to new unexplored banks has been going for the last 20 years.
Punk is wrongly considered a movement that destroys more than building, a bourgeois prejudice. Punk does destroy in order to rebuild.
Jon Spencer is not a punk musician on the pure iconographic terms, but he knows what all the stuff is about and knows how to use it.

He started in the 80s, with cult sonic band, Pussy Galore, an outfit which has in its CV a legendary release, a cassette-only recording revisiting the entire Stones’ masterpiece “Exile on a Main Street“. If any readers can point me to somewhere I can listen to it I’d be grateful forever.

Heavy Trash

His most famous project, the renowned Blues Explosion, began this “architectural” process of deconstructing and rebuilding American popular music, from the blues.
A misleading name. Many rock lovers, the ones who think of Gary Moore’s scholastic solos when the word “blues” appear, ignored the band to rediscover their importance only years later.
Big mistake, Jon Spencer is not a blues musician either, not in the sense of playing pentatonic solos on 12-bars.
The Blues Explosion doesn’t play the blues the way you think at it, but they indeed are a blues act in the “blues’ approach” to life. To get what I mean try listening to RL Burnside album “A ass pocket of whiskey” and you’ll realize how they not only re-discovered this blues legend but recorded this album linking traditional blues to the next millennium. Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it.

The Blues Explosion radically changed the concept of line-ups. So influential, they have become a reference for all the bluesy-garage acts following. From the White Stripes to The Gossip, from the Black Keys to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs everyone leaving the bass player at home has to credit Jon Spencer for showing that guitar/drums combos are enough to rock the world. Years before Jack White became cool.

Heavy Trash

With the Blues Explosion on a “rock’n’roll holiday”, Jon Spencer joined pal and rockabilly aficionado Matt Verta-Ray to form this new project, Heavy Trash.

I bumped into them first time 3 years ago in a small Camden venue and the energy coming out of that show reminded me of how imperative is to see Jon Spencer performing live. He is a stage beast, a sweaty rocker that needs to express his energy in front of an audience; whichever band he plays, he’s eager to convince you, with just the power of his strumming and screams, that he is “right, yeah, all right…oh yeah”.

Ghosts of Bo Diddley and Roy Orbison’s melodies coming out the wonderful Verta-Ray vintage Gibson guitar filled the venue, with Jon Spencer on the counterpart to design angular rhythms and harmonies disbanding them. I love when music builds on one side and tear down on the other, it creates the imperfect balance that rock needs to avoid being redundant.
That night I realized he left the blues. Chronologically moving, it was rockabilly next target in (t)his war of love, a war against nostalgia and melancholy, a mission to bring popular music to the future.

Last week, in one of their London appearances, the duo stepped on the 100Club stage, joined by the Sadies. Characterized by a profound, beautiful sound, that reminded me of Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western soundtracks, they give Heavy Trash a robust asset.
I was surprised to see this Canadian foursome with a strong country-rock twist next to the “rockabilly” duo.
Jon Spencer scraped acoustic Gibson leads the ensemble, rockabilly is a bit more in the background, country-era Elvis is clearly coming out, courtesy of Matt Verta-Ray sound, so impressive it deserves to stand out.

Heavy Trash

If blues was the monumental Explosion effort, Rockabilly the reason behind the formation of Heavy Trash, Memphis Rock’n’roll the passion (and the groove) which stays on the backcloth, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these traveling guys heading towards Nashville, to meet the ghost of Johnny Cash.

On the cover of Heavy Trash second album “On the way out with Heavy Trash”, likely one of the best Spencer’s studio recording, a cartoon represent the two guys, guitars with them, running away from UFO to jump on an old style western train to the next station…will it be Alabama?

Given my unconditional love for them, I do hope Heavy Trash would not extend the Blues Explosion’s holidays indefinitely but, I must admit, they don’t sound a side project but a proper band. A must see live experience.
After two decades of performance over 5 continents, every single gig, even the most inflexible people found themselves dancing.

Check where they are playing [myspace], come on move your ass!

If you want to know more about any Jon Spencer related projects, [pop catastrophe] is one of the best fan website I have ever come across, if it is not here, Jon Spencer didn’t do it!!

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Heavy Trash

Photo Tip

After few years shooting concerts it happens you encounter a band again.
Usually I come back either because I am a fan, they have become very big (and the pictures are likely to interest someone) or they are touring a good album which I want to listen to live.
I don’t come back if I found them boring the first time, so don’t expect me to photograph Athlete again!

There are some useful bits of knowing a band’s stage presence in advance. On a “3 songs no flash” rule your main problem is time; predicting things is of help.
Knowing which part of the stage the leader usually is, suggests you where to stand. Being in the right spot is very important especially with no-pit venues where it is difficult to move.
Bands are on stage in the same way most of the times. Expect Manics’ James Dean Bradfield on the left, Nicky Wire on the right, Motorhead’s Lemmy on the right, We are scientist guitarist on the left. I said most, not ALL. I have always seen Jon Spencer on the right, this time he was on the left!
It is useful to know if you are facing an energetic set or a quiet one. It helps knowing the genre they play but it isn’t that automatic.
If you have been there, you know in advance if a band is likely to play in a dark lighting, with strobo or bright lights. Jon Spencer plays quite in the dark, Shellac in daylight conditions. All good information to have.

What if is the first time you are shooting at someone? My suggestion is don’t be shy and snooty, talk to fans, they are bored waiting and will be happy to help you. Ask any question a competition to decide which of them knows more will start. Fans are a source of fantastic tips. You’ll know the most unexpected things.
Heavy Trash

~ by Valerio on February 2, 2008.

20 Responses to “Heavy Trash”

  1. Perhaps it sounds weird but I only have an album of JSBE: ACME or something like that.
    It didn’t impressed me so much at the time. End of the story.
    This stunning post will carry me to listen him again, nevertheless.
    Ehi, this evening I was finally able to download SPW.
    We will talk about them again, I suppose.

  2. Valè, noi te volemo bene … ma ridacce 36 pleuri!!!!!!!!!
    Enhanced review, coming soon.

  3. Grazie per averci consigliato di andarli a vedere!!!!
    un saluto.

  4. Hei, Make up your mind, a good or bad gig?, speak out I’m curious!

    Diamond, Acme is a good one, as the first release (with the wonderful afro) and also Now I got worry, but JSBE is a great live act, none of the studio recording match them live.

  5. …ti rispondo qui…
    a me il concerto è piaciuto tantissimo…lui (Spencer) è molto “teatrale”, parla tantissimo con il pubblico riuscendo a coinvolgere tutti…
    inoltre…hanno suonato per tre ore circa (cosa che non accade molto spesso…) quasi senza interruzioni e…senza annoiare per un secondo.
    Insomma…i miei 18 euri se li sono meritati!
    Che te devo dì…io me sò divertita!!
    Unica nota negativa: il costo della birra!!(TROPPO ELEVATO PER LE MIE TASCHE!)

  6. dimenticavo…straordinario il batterista…!!

  7. I commenti seri a breve, sia quelli a mezzi col socio in inglese sia quelli su Nova Muzique. Qui posto per ora poche cose:
    1) Sadies divertentissima party band tra Gun Club, Byrds e bluegrass adrenalico e notevole backing band (loro si hanno suonato tre ore!!!) … voto anch’io per il batterista come migliore del lotto 2) Gli Heavy Trash visti a Roma sono uno spettacolo … come i “medicine show”, ecco! 3) Mi è sfuggito il senso di Matt Verta-Ray (a parte la magnifica chitarra) 4) Highlight? Una tipa, spero non tu Denise, è salita sul palco mettendo al collo di JS una collana, lui ha ringraziato per dovere e l’ha immediatamente appesa ad un microfono giustificadosi col fatto (abbrevio) che non sapeva che tipo di incantesimo le avesse fatto, qualcosa tipo il jujitsu (?!?!?) ah ah ah.

  8. Ok, translation for the english world.

    Denise loved the concert, Andy & Lollo didn’t. Not really understood why but they’ll tell us soon.

    Everyone agrees Sadies’ drummer is great.

    Andy, I think Jon Spencer is the fun of Heavy Trash, he is singing and playing acustic strummings but it is Matt Verta-Ray that “make” the band’s sound.

    Medicine Shows where fantastic, I wish I saw one in my life!

    You Italians, let yourself free to have fun sometime, without feeling bloody guilty. The pope is not always seeing you, music is not only depressing!

  9. nono! non ero io!…
    al contrario di Spencer, non sono così “teatrale”…
    io ascolto e basta.
    In effetti…anch’io ho avuto la stessa impressione per quanto riguarda Matt Verta-Ray…ma forse era solo un po’ assonnato, annoiato…avrà bevuto troppo vino dei castelli…boh!?!

  10. Vale…scusa se non scrivo in inglese ma ho già notevoli difficoltà con l’italiano…;)

  11. Sorry Valerio but I don’t understand … Pope, fun, italian approach … I guess your comment is on the wrong blog, referred to wrong people. Heavy Trash live in my opinion? Too much form, not much substance, consequently a not funny gig. So my ass didn’t move!
    PS “Medicine show” was a leg-pull (I hope it’s the right word)

  12. It can be that Rome gig wasn’t funny, I wasn’t there.
    Both time I saw Heavy Trash (they become 4 or five if you include Blues Explosion) it was so fun and rock’n’rolling that it was impossible to stand still. I just found surprising that it wasn’t like that.
    Matt Verta-Ray is always on the quiet side, but I believe his job on guitar is the key of HT sound.

    Denise I am translating since many people reading here don’t understand italian, anyone can write whatever he likes in any language.

  13. Hi,

    marvellous article and great photos. I’m a big Blues Explosion/Heavy Trash fan and have a website dedicated to the all the releases the band members have appeared on (and much more. 1300 entries in total/about 900 records).

    Heavy Trash discography here:


    If anyone is interested in the band/s then please give it a look. Any additional information, records, gigs not listed or corrections are most welcome.


  14. Vale…sicuramente la chitarra di Verta-Ray è la colonna portante del sound degli HT…ma ti ripeto, l’altra sera era abbastanza “evanescente”…soprattutto al fianco di quel matto di Spencer…

  15. Pop catastrophe, your site is just AMAZING. I added a couple of lines on this article with a link to it.
    I didn’t know Jon Spencer played together with Steve Albini in 1989…I’d love to listen what came out. Yesterday I was listening to Pussy Galore after a while, a band to rediscover.
    I would not point out the Eros Ramazzotti collaboration!
    I haven’t managed to find the RL Burnside album, where is it?

    Denise, I agree Spencer is so full of energy that the only way to stand next to him is to concentrate on playing!!

  16. magari è così, come dici tu…ma a me piace pensara che abbia esagerato col vino dei castelli….ehehehhe!
    Ciao Vale…prima o poi riuscirò a mettere in fila due parole in inglese, promesso!

  17. TWO Burnside albums.

    A Ass Pocket of Whiskey


    and two tracks on Mr Wizard


    if you go to Artists A-Z scroll down to ‘R’ and all the burnside records are listed together there:


    Yep, The Ramazzotti one caught me off guard as well.

    Finally we can all rejoice in the fact that once upon a time THE BLUES WERE NUMBER ONE!

  18. Simply fantastic and inspiring work, I love it. Plus we use the same WordPress theme, so we both must be super cool :)

  19. i am gonna show this to my friend, dude

  20. Awesome site you have here but I was curious if you knew of any community
    forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article?

    I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get advice from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thank you!

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