Posted September 12, 2005


Irascible guitarist Spencer P. Jones has been a fixture on the Australian underground music scene since the early 1980s. He first rose to notoriety as a member of drunken cowpunks The Johnnys, after spells in a string of lesser-known Melbourne outfits like The North To Alaskans and the Olympic Sideburns. The Johnnys toured their arses off and cracked it for a major label contract, eventually dissolving in a pool of disinterest and alcohol. Spencer had concurrently been twisting country, the blues and good old-fashioned rock and roll out of shape as a founding member of then inner-Sydney supergroup, the Beasts of Bourbon, and remains in their number. Their “Low Road” album is still a high-water mark for the Aussie underground meeting mainstream acceptance (of sorts) in the early ‘90s. It’s been as a leader of his own bands (Cow Penalty, Escape Committee) that he’s made a mark since then, with a series of seriously great albums. Spencer has also been resurrecting the Johnnys, from time to time. It was at one such show that SALLY LAVER and our resident cartoonist RICK CHESSHIRE of Geelong’s Fried Cat zine cornered Spencer to play 20 Questions. Here’s the result.


What bands did you play in before The Johnnys?

The Emotional Retards, Cuban Heels, Olympic Sideburns, Country Killed, North 2 Alaskans

Were you the predominant songwriter in The Johnnys?


Why did you disband?

There was debt, external and internal disinterest...........ummmm alcoholism!

What has been the most fun band to play gigs with of all of them?

The Johnnys were for about five years, Cow Penalty in New York for three weeks was a lot of fun and Escape Committee the same.

Do you have to be in a certain mood to write songs?

You just have to be broke

Do you get pissed off that the industry fails to notice bands that are ahead of their time or is it something you have just come to expect and accept?

It’s a lottery out there and I have never been easy on the eye. If you get pissed off you don’t last.

What are your thoughts on the business side of the industry?

Businessmen? You never see them at cool gigs, they just jump on the bandwagon later- a necessary evil.

Do you concern yourself with the business side of the industry at all?

If I was managing a band I don’t think they would be very successful.

How long have you been playing in bands?

Since I was 16 - 30 years or so (32 in fact).

Can you play other instruments and do you write songs on the guitar or other instruments?

Mostly guitar, steel guitar, bagpipes, dabble on piano, harmonica and percussion.

What is your favorite studio to record in and who would you use as an engineer if you had unlimited budget?

Metropolis or Sing Sing with Andy Johns, would be interesting.

What current bands do you like at the moment?

In Melbourne it would be Bird Blobs, The Sailors, Muddy Spurs, The Specimens, The Darling Downs, Legends of Motorsport, The Drones.

Do you go and check out new stuff and what have you seen lately?

All of the above plus Gentle Ben, Digger and the Pussycats, Dynamo, Swedish Magazines, Los Dominardos.

What have been the funniest touring moments?

Germany 1992- A drunk roadie fighting a dwarf and the dwarf winning the fight.. Surinam drug dealers chasing the Beasts of Bourbons’ rhythm section around Amsterdam. LSD-fueled mini golf at Coolangatta Airport with The Johnnys.

What has been the worst gig you have ever played and why?

Shotgun Rationale, Blitz Club, Oslo, Norway. Some Nazi skinheads murdered one of the local kids at the club.

What’s the most “rock and roll” moment while touring with a band and were there any gerbils involved?

Speedballing with two hookers in Vancouver - sans gerbils.

RICK: Being one of my all-time favorite songs, could you fill us in about the song “Execution Day”? When, where and what inspired you to write it?

Ex-wife runs off with coke dealer, Sydney 1989.

Are you a cryptic crossword, general crossword or nine-letter type of man?

Nine-letter. (I have the nine-letter grid tattooed on my arm).

What does your average day consist of?

Running late, sleeplessness, goofing off, worrying about my son, trying to impress my girlfriend and eating rice paper rolls.

Do you make a living off music?

Some months I do

Do you like gimps?

Only the ones I work with.

What are you listening to at the moment?

The Muddy Spurs, Brian Wilson, Karen Dalton, The Walkmen, The Harlocks, Townes Van Zandt’s Tribute Album, Louvin Brothers.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Picasso, Norman Mailer, Dennis Hopper, Velvet Underground/Lou Reed, Richard Hell Neil Young, Tom Verlaine, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop.

Where are you originally from?

Te Awamutu, New Zealand.

Did your parents think it was a good idea that wanted to pursue music as a “career” or did they want you to be “normal”?

They knew I was not “normal”, they both got their heads around it eventually.

Do you have any other skills we would be unaware of?

Yes I have many.

What’s your favorite drink?

Coffee, carrot and celery juice, white rum, Tullamore dew with Peronii chaser, Bloody Marys - God, there are so many.

Is your music collection huge and does it mainly consist of vinyl or CDs?

Bigger than most but not as big as I would like it. Three parts vinyl, two parts CDs.

Do you have a dog?

I have a cat.

What’s its name and what sort?

His name is Munster he is a Maine coon.

What sort of car do you drive or are you like Joel from Hoss who will never be seen behind the wheel in this lifetime?

Joel and I sincerely believe that our station in life is to be chauffeured everywhere and at all times.

Where do you see you being at when you are 60?

Arguing with the Beasts of Bourbon over our “difficult” 20th album, converting to Islam, painting masterpieces, popping Viagra, running late, enjoying my son's millions. Celebrating Geelong’s first premiership.