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Russell Simins: Exploding With Jon Spencer

russell simins

Russell Simins knows the meaning of the word “commitment.” The NYC drummer puts equal parts soul and power into two successful projects, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and supergroup alter ego Butter 08. A powerhouse, Simins makes up 100 percent of the rhythm section in the bassless punk/blues Blues Explosion. “Bass just never fit into the equation,” Simins says. “A lot of the sound relies on the drums and whatever low-end riff Jon or Judah [Bauer, guitarist] comes up with. We all contribute parts, but we follow each other’s leads.”

Meanwhile, Simins assumes a different role in Butter 08, his hand-picked project that features members of Cibo Matto and other East Cost intelligentsia. On their self-titled debut, Simins not only drums, but sings lead and picks up every instrument and machine he can get his hands on. “In Butter, I’ll have a mike, and I’ll come up with the drum beat and start singing something,” he explains. “Or I’ll come up with a guitar part that goes with the drums. I love making songs, that’s my favorite thing to do.”

Simins’ diversification into six-string was no passing fancy. He actually stopped drumming to pick up some barre chords. “I was very into Bob Dylan, so I just started learning guitar,” he says. “I put down the drums for eight years.” That unbelievable separation ended when Simins was 18, at a Brooklyn jam with Bauer and some other friends. “I just started playing and singing with these people and they were like, ’How could you not play drums?’” he recalls. “I realized it’s an extension of myself, what I needed to do. I don’t regret the break, because I needed that time do other things.”

Style is something Simins would really rather not think about. “I could tell you what my influences are, but there’s a certain thing in my personality that affects the way I play music,” he says. “I don’t really try. I just like to play simple. I like to play grooving. And I like to play hard. I mix them all, and it just happens to work.”

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