Interview- Trashy, but not garbage: Jon Spencer still force to reckon with

htJon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray: a little grease and grit doesn't hurt in rockabilly.

Sometimes it takes an artist a lifetime to perfect a sound – just ask Jon Spencer of the rockabilly duo Heavy Trash. Spencer, who admits he came to music "quite late," has been heavily involved with it since the '80s, most notably with
his eponymous blues-punk band, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. But Spencer turned to rockabilly for inspiration with the new band he debuted in 2005, a collaboration with Matt Verta-Ray of alt-rock outfit Madder Rose which just released its third album, Midnight Soul Serenade.

The Hook: Tell me about Midnight Soul Serenade.
Jon Spencer: Matt and I wanted to do something new–- challenge ourselves, but the listener also. The first album was a studio experiment, representing the birth of the band. Then we began to play out live, which reflected in the second album. This third is the maturity, signaling that the band has arrived. It's a little less rock 'n' roll, a little more moody.

The Hook: It seems dark, greasy, dangerous.
JS: With intention. I use grease in my hair, Matt and I are a little dark, in complexion and moods. We're certainly attracted to the grotesque, but there's also a great joy in what we do. One of the things I like most about rock 'n' roll is that while it's full of life and life-affirming, it does have a dark side to it. Without that darkness it wouldn't be as compelling and attractive.

The Hook: Any thoughts looking back on Elvis?
JS: He was a very good-looking guy and he certainly could sing a song–- he really did something amazing, created a synthesis of different kinds of music. There are so many different levels on which to enjoy Mr. Presley, with the different phases of his career, the different influences he's had on our society.

The Hook: What inspired the turn to rockabilly?
JS: I've always been influenced by this kind of music, fascinated by it. It's the ultimate form of rock 'n' roll–- pure fantasy, pure escape.

The Hook: What next?
JS: I just keep doing my own thing–- I came out of the hardcore scene, always believed in independence, doing things for yourself. When I was younger, I felt very much a part of the underground scene, felt really plugged in and part of the community– but that's long gone now. These days, I don't really feel a part of anything.

Heavy Trash performs at The Southern on Saturday, November 21. The show starts at 8 pm, and tickets are $10.