Mutual appreciation leads to Blues Explosion’s retro-flavoured Heavy Trash



By Steve Newton

The first time you hear Heavy Trash-the new rockabilly project from the Blues Explosion’s Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray from Madder Rose and Speedball Baby-it’s easy to imagine how the Cramps might have sounded if they’d laid down tracks at Sun Records in the ’50s. This impression goes over well with Spencer when he fields a call from the Straight at his Big Apple abode.

“I take that as a compliment,” he replies. “I mean, both Matt and I love old records, we’re fans of a lot of older sounds and styles, and that certainly fuelled what we were doin’. And he’s got his own little studio on the Lower East Side, so because we had our own place and unlimited access, we could take our time and really mess around with this stuff.”

According to the duo’s Yep Roc Records bio, when Verta-Ray was a youngster growing up in Canada, he would argue with his buddies that Johnny Cash was cooler than Kiss. “There’s not much of an argument there as far as I’m concerned,” quips Spencer, signifying that he would also rank the Man in Black ahead of the Men in Makeup.When not busy with their own recording acts, he and Verta-Ray would hook up and indulge their fondness for the bare-bones boogie of yesteryear. “We’re big fans of each other’s bands,” he says, “so a couple of years ago we just started playing on our own, and writing songs together. I guess it was the mutual love of rockabilly that sorta sparked the thing.”
Heavy Trash features 13 originals written, produced, and mixed by the two at Verta-Ray’s Hed Studio, where he has recorded the likes of Robert Quine, Andre Williams, and Rudy Ray Moore. He and Spencer handled vocals, guitar, bass, drums, organ, and synth, but also had 20 friends and musical associates taking part in various capacities.When they make their local debut at Richard’s on Richards on Friday (October 28), they’ll pepper their own material with covers by Carl Perkins and Sleepy LaBeef, and be accompanied by the Sadies, currently serving as both opening act and backing band on the Heavy Trash tour.

“They’ve played with Neko Case and a lot of different people,” notes Spencer of the Toronto combo, “and they’ve got their own thing goin’ on. We did a short tour with them back in June, and it went so well that we agreed then and there to try it again. And the Sadies were insistent that we take the show to northwestern Canada, so that’s what we’re doin’.”

Spencer’s geography skills may be somewhat lacking, but his previous Vancouver gigs with R.L. Burnside and the Blues Explosion have shown that, more importantly, he’s thoroughly adept at rockin’ the house. As for Heavy Trash’s other half, how can a guy named Verta-Ray not be impressive?

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