Boss Hog’s Cristina Martinez and Jon Spencer get angry

Boss Hog
Cristina Martinez, front center, and Jon Spencer, back left, lead Boss Hog into Philly's Underground Arts.

The musical and matrimonial partnership of Boss Hog’s Cristina Martinez and Jon Spencer has forever blasted forth with the sounds of dark, swampy blues, fuzzy white noise, musique concrete, and snotty punk nestled upon a rocking, hip-hop-rhythmic bed. The Hog’s lyrical éclat was a primal scream of dislocation, sex, stress, and despair. But have a kid and take time off to raise him -- as Martinez did after 2000’s Whiteout until 2016’s Brood Star EP-- and things change. Now, with son Charlie off to college, they've released the full-length Brood X, involving the political and the sociological, something rarely displayed by the Hog.

“I certainly would not have had a problem staying home, cooking, and cleaning,” said Spencer, also known for the swaggering Blues Explosion, Heavy Trash, and the experimental thrash-noise ensemble where he met Martinez, Pussy Galore. “I didn’t have a son when I was young. I’d been touring and recording for a while, so taking a break would’ve been OK.” 

Martinez chimed in, “It’s not as if I’d been cursed with having a child. We were blessed, and I got the good end of the deal staying home. My impression is that Jon would love to be at home,” she said with a laugh. “It’s fun here.” Spencer said, "I know. I’m here now with the cat and no pants on.”

How the new-school empty-nesters recorded together at all as Boss Hogg parents comes down to Charlie’s burgeoning adulthood and musical personality (he’s an electronic artist, NoFate), “which left us time to do our thing again,” said Martinez. “It is clear, however, that the pace we work and product we put out comes from love rather than a schedule.” To that end, the artwork accompanying Brood X is about cicadas “and their cyclical ride. That’s very much the Boss Hog way.”

As they write songs together, the Boss Hog way is now often geared toward messages, considering “Ground Control” and its shouts of “Where did my city go?” and “Sunday Routine” and its “We lack for motivation/ We need the agitation.”

While the latter finds parallels between the New York Times’ section of the same name and Manhattanites who find themselves happily outside the norm, the angrier former track was penned and recorded in 2015, before the latest Trump-ian travails, but certainly borrows from national politics. “It was about personal struggles, environmental issues, our place in a changing New York -- a protest song that required that feel, necessary to fight the current administration,” said Martinez. Spencer chimed in: "Why are we being so polite? Our president is [an] ... idiot, and we can’t believe what’s going on. We wrote this before this clown got elected. … But there’s more power in that song now that he’s there.”

Rather than be like so many artists who find themselves depressed with neurosis and unable to move because of political events, Boss Hog insist on moving forward -- hard, fast, “engaged and positive,” said Martinez. “It’s easy to be overwhelmed. Believe it or not, we want to lift people's spirits.” Spencer said that Boss Hog have a new song (“Save Our Soul”) on the quasi-protest album Battle Hymns, but that he personally has never been a fan of preachy, protest rock-and-roll. “At this point, you almost have to ... write universally because we’re in a crisis situation and it's all hands on deck.” When asked whether spreading awareness and hope was a new thing for Boss Hog, Spencer said, “Sure, we wrote about hedonism and being totally outside society -- but that could be a political act. Rock-and-roll should be about such abandon. We’re just feeling our way through all this.”

Boss Hog at 9 p.m. Saturday, with the Tough S-s and Taiwan Housing Project,  at Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St. Tickets: $15-$18. Undergroundarts.org.

Continue Reading