From Professional Blackjack to Bass Playing, Spencer Robinson is Never Short on Luck
Courtesy of Spencer Robinson
By day, Spencer Robinson is a talent/literary agent in Los Angeles. By night, he is a bass player, solo musician, and former professional gambler, with many adventures to tell about his five year stint as the bassist for the LA rock band Lords of Altamont, while concurrently traveling the U.S, as part of a team of professional Blackjack card counters. A San Fernando Valley resident, Robinson recently took time to speak with the OC Weekly about his recent solo album, his time with the Lords, and his life as a professional gambler.
OC Weekly(Alex Distefano): Tell us how you got the job playing bass for The Lords of Altamont, and your history with the band?
Spencer Robinson: Well being from LA, I was a fan of those guys. So years ago, in around 2004 or so, I wanted to see them live, so I went on their website to see when they were playing, and I saw an ad saying they needed a bass player. So I emailed them and went to the show. I met the dudes in the band, and they were really cool and wanted me to audition. They told me to learn four songs, I learned the whole record ,since I was a fan and a big dork. After the audition, I was in the band eight days later.
I was lucky in the sense they already had a good career going they were touring and had a following . I got thrown into it in a quick way and it was cool I loved it it was so much fun. During my time with the band, we did lots of shows, some of them were in LA. but a lot of them were in in Europe. We toured all over France, Belgium, Spain and all across Europe in my five years with the band. We’d go out there and play three times a year. We’d play smaller club shows in the winter and festivals in the summer. The second record for the band, Lords Have Mercy (2005) was my first with the band. This led to once in a lifetime opportunities to play with some amazing bands and shared the stage with bands like the Who, X, Depeche Mode, The Pixies, The Cramps and more.
Who are some of your musical inspirations as a bass player?
Well I listened to so much music and love all types. But, as a bass player, from early on, I have to say my all time favorite bass players were John Entwistle, from The Who and Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath. I got so much of my inspiration to play bass from them. But, as I got older I got into jazz and stuff like Charles Mingus.
Tell us about your new solo record, Standing at the End of the World.
The record came out late last year. I wrote all the lyrics and music for it. It’s hard to catergorize. I guess if I had to I would say it’s indie rock at this point. But, my music sounds like Nick Cave, or Tom Waits I guess you might say. For guest musicians on this album I have Tom Hernandez on drums and Johnny DeVilla on guitar.
Tell us about your recent live show and plans for more to promote your new release?
On December 29, I did an acoustic show at Diego's in Santa Ana. Frank Meyer and Dino Everett from The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs have started doing something called "The Frank and Dino Show," and I opened for them. It was me on acoustic guitar and vocals, and Johnny DevVilla on acoustic guitar. We did stripped down versions of songs from my EP as well as a new song I just wrote, and a cover of "Never Enough" from The Cure. It was a cool show, we had a lot of fun and it was really moody, a great way way to release the record. The next show is in Sliver lake at on the 14th at the Silverlake Lounge. I do plan to play more. My solo record just came out so I will definitely book and do more live shows, after I just get the Silverlake show out of the way. I love being able to perform my music for people, knowing I have a record out it’s such a cool feeling.
Tell us about your life as a gambler.
For a few years, I was a professional card counter. I was on a team of professionally trained card counters for Blackjack, and we went all over the country playing at different casinos winning tons of money. I did this on my time off from being in the Lords. I would fly from a tour in Europe, then go to Vegas for a few weeks, then to Atlantic City, and so on different casinos and places to gamble. I would do that when I wasn’t on tour, then go back out again every few months. I was on a team that was an offshoot from the ones in the movie, 21 and the book Bringing Down the House. I think the book is much better to be honest, but the film is OK. I don’t regret it at all. I got to travel Europe playing music and got to travel the US doing something different.
It was very fun but took a lot of energy, and it does have risks. It can get a little hairy down in the South. We weren’t ever beaten up by goons, but in certain places in the South and other areas you have to be careful in the parking lot for people who are looking to rob winners and sometimes Casinos will 86 you. Now they look for these types of players and eye in on groups of card counters. But I have been thrown out of many casinos all over, and I know first hand, eventually they throw card counters out. The worst thing was once, I was surrounded by eight hired security guards at Cesar's Palace in Las Vegas they wanted to detain me and tried to convince me to go to this back room with them but after some time passed maybe 10 to 15 minutes I was calm, but managed to talk my way out of it and got out of the casino and split.
How did you become part of this group of card counters?
I got into it out of random luck really. I had a neighbor who was an actor, but a no name kind of guy, I never saw him in anything but a few commercials, but he one day confessed that he was on a team of card counters but it was like a type of secret society. He asked if I wanted to join and i said absolutely. So after a few months of training I went to Vegas, and it just went from there. On my record, the song called Tunica its about gambling and my experiences.
Tell fans how they can reach you and find your new album?
My record is available online at I-Tunes and All those places. Also, I can be found on Twitter(@ 13Spencer) and Facebook well. I have a show at the Silverlake Lounge on January 14, and will be looking forward to playing more shows and sharing my music with anyone who wants to hear it.
Be sure to catch Spencer Robinson perform songs from his solo album, Standing at the end of the World, for an early show, at the Silverlake Lounge,(2906 Sunset Blvd, LA, 90026) Sat. Jan. 14th,( 5p.m. to 9 p.m.)
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