Tuesday, October 24, 1995

311 (Rational Alternative Digital)

311 recently released their third album in three years. And continued on what seems to be their constant tour. The new album finds a slicker sounding 311. But don't think they've gotten weak-sounding, their self-titled album is also very hard hitting. When they played last week, they completely immersed the crowd in their fusion of funk, reggae, rap, and metal for two and half hours. I had a chance to speak to P-Nut, the bassist, before the show and here's an overview of our conversation.

What are some of your influences, people that have inspired your bass playing?
I listened to a lot of Steve Harris from Iron Maiden, Cliff Burton from Metallica when I was growing up. When I started playing slap, I was listening to Mark Kahn and Flea, and Stanley Clark, the originator. Just lots of different music, lots of different styles. I'd put on an NWA album and make up bass lines over it to get ideas, just 'cuz I liked the tempo. I didn't have a drum machine to give me tempos. That's probably why I enjoy rap so much.
Did you start off as a band with an idea of how you wanted to sound or did it just sort of happen?
Not really, we always wanted to put, like, heavy guitars with reggae or dance hall, or something jazzy. We always wanted to make stuff like that and just have rap in the sound. Just tough music.
You've pulled it off really well.
Thanks, we've been workin' on it for a long time, I'm really pleased with it.
How do you feel about the new album?
I like the new album better than all of the others.
I'm still partial to "Grassroots," but I still need to give the new one time to grow on me.
Yeah, it'll grow in. It's just a little bit different. We've changed a little bit. We got a little wider, we wanted to do more reggae. Plus it sounds so good!
Yeah, it hits hard.
It's got a fuller sound, it sounds great. I wanna remix "Grassroots" and make it sound better.
Did you switch producers?
Hell yeah! The producer we have now is so much better!
When did you move out to California?
In the very beginning of '92, We moved out and within 6 months we got signed and within three months we were in the studio.
What made you decide to sign with Capricorn?
It was the only deal. We really wanted to sign, and we liked the idea of being on a smaller label. They told us they wouldn't hassle us about the music that we make. They said they'd keep us out on the road and that's exactly what we wanted to hear so we decided to go with them.
You have pretty much toured constantly for the last three years. Have you recorded your albums on the road or how have you found time to record them?
We usually take time off in the winter to do another album. We're gonna take two months off this year. Maybe we'll work on putting together a live album from the tapes that we've made from the shows, and then just keep touring.
Three great albums in three years is quite an accomplishment!
I love that! I think it's fantastic!
Are you gonna slow down after the live album?
Maybe a little after this one. Not too much, that's for sure! We'll always be pumpin' out tons of music. We can't help it.
Who writes your stuff? Is it a collective process?
The vocalists write all of their lyrics, but as far as the music it's pretty collective.
When did you shave your dreads off?
um.. In February, when my girlfriend left me. I gave them to her. She put them on a painting. It's really cool.
You have been playing with ska bands lately, like No Doubt and the Voodoo Glow Skulls. Are you guys into ska?
I love playing with ska bands! Nick has got a sticker on his guitar speaker cabinet that says "Support your local ska band." We support every thing that's good.
How did the song for the "Hempilation" compilation come about?
That's one of our favorite songs off of HR's "I Love" album. That's such a great album--a great tune to smoke marijuana to! We always wanted to do, like, a Bad Brains song, or something of that flavor. It's strictly reggae up until the end when we put our own part on to it. I thought that song deserved more credit than it's ever gotten because no one's ever heard of it.
I have a lyrical question and maybe you can answer it. What's the "Naz?"
The "Naz"--that's taken from a guy named Lord Buckley who is our guitar tech's grandfather. He was like a Vaudeville kind of speaker. He was right before the whole beatnik thing where people would just get up and tell stories. And one of his most famous ones was called the Naz. It's about Jesus of Nazareth. I love that song!
Yeah, either that one or "Don't Let Me Down" are my favorites off of the new album. I noticed you have an web page and an e-mail address. Are you all into the computer thing?
Well, we don't get to do it that much. My mom's the one who runs our web site. So at least if I'm not doing it, someone that created me is. She is always doing it. She's addicted to that stuff .
I thought your web site was really cool.
We did an interactive interview when we were in the studio. By the time we got done, it was like 30 minutes long. We had people from all over--England and America.
I've noticed a prominent theme to your albums. Like "Grassroots" has more of a hometown theme, whereas the new album has sort of a "how messed up society is" type theme.
We're not the band that bitches very much.
No, but I think there's a good, positive, take-a-look-at-life type attitude to it.
I think it comes off in a positive way. If it doesn't, you should look at it again and see that it does.
"Guns are for pussies", I think, is an example of what I'm trying to talk about.
I like to think I had a lot of influence on those lyrics. Me and Nick wanted to write those lyrics because it's just so factual. I'm always bitching about my friends who pack guns. It sucks--there is so much fear that isn't necessary.
A few people have tried to pass you off as Rage Against The Machine rip-offs. Any one who listens to your stuff knows that's not true, but I wanted to give you a chance to respond to that.
I'd say that if you listen to our music with no vocals, some of our songs have the same sort of energy from it. It's rap and metal and just raw, and tons of bands do it, but not that many do it well. So being classed with Rage in that level doesn't bother me whatsoever. But if you listen to the albums side-by-side, you're gonna feel good after listening to our albums, and you're gonna feel pissed after listening to their album. And we're very proud of that. We don't have anything against those guys. I don't really get into the screaming part the whole "you're gonna burn" over and over again. I got over it really fast. I listened to that album a couple of times. I don't get Zach. I don't like his attitude I think he should get over it. Just cross that barrier and enjoy life for what it is instead of just poking at it for so many things. It's just so much better to feel good. Being classed with them is funny sometimes, but people have to have a reference to something.

311's punk-reggae mix is funky fun (The Daily Weekend)

311's punk-reggae mix is funky fun
By Kari Jones
Daily Weekend editor
"Hey, sorry I called (45 minutes) late, but we were just, uh, goofing around on the bus, you know," 311 lead singer Nicholas Hexum apologized in a mellow, barely audible voice in an interview last week. It was difficult to believe that the demure Hexum on the phone was the same man who jumps on stage every night, grabs the mic and belts out lyrics like "Don't you know that the devil is in me / and God, she is too!" Perhaps it was a piece of Nebraska surfacing in the Omaha raised, Los Angeles based band.
Wherever it came from, Hexum's dual nature was mirrored by the crowd at 311's sold out St. Andrew's show last Friday. It's rare to see a band who can whip the fans into a kicking, clawing, moshing frenzy, and then bring them down to a peaceful grooving level, all within the same song. But leave it to 311 to do it with their unique blend of punk, reggae and every other interesting sound under the sun.
Not surprisingly, Hexum cited a wide variety of bands from Cole Porter to DeLaSoul as his personal musical influences. "Bob Marley really affected my life," he stressed.
The sheer mass of fans at Friday's show reflects an upswing in the band's popularity. SA Martinez (co-vocalist and master of turn-tables) even paused toward the end of the show to thank the crowd for showing up. "Yeah, we played downstairs (at St. Andrews) last year to like six people, so it's cool to see so many people here now," he said.
311's growth in popularity may have happened recently, but fans seemed equally familiar with the band's older material as they were with newer songs. "Nix Hex" and "Hydroponic" (from 1993's "Music") drew just as many screams, applause and increases in crowd surfing as "Don't Stay Home" and "Hive" (from their latest, self-titled release "311.")
Perhaps, as Hexum pointed out, that's because the new album is 311 at their explosive, intense best. "We always said one day when we felt like we had totally kicked ass, we would call (our album) `311' because it would be the best representation of who we are," Hexum explained. And if the album never gets consistent radio play, that's just fine with him.
"We model ourselves after bands with huge, live followings like Pantera and Phish," said Hexum. "Building through the underground... is a longer, harder road, but it can be done."
The band has been on a long, hard road of touring hell since May and plans to continue on until Christmas, take a break, and then head right back out again. Since Hexum has already hinted at the afore-mentioned "goofing" on the bus, one might wonder what touring with the band is really like. Words of advice: When you ask a band like 311 what the craziest thing that ever happened to them on tour was, be prepared for the obscure.
"I guess the craziest thing was driving down the road in an RV that was completely on fire and ready to explode," Hexum said. "It was a huge inferno like something out of Die Hard 3. We lost all of our equipment."
There is some confusion as to how the fire started (goofing gone awry?), but the point is that the band pulled themselves up from that flaming low point, got some new equipment, and kept on truckin.' They even have a new video for "Don't Stay Home," that has appeared on MTV exactly twice, according to Hexum.
"It's basically a crapshoot whether it gets played or not," he explained. Hexum didn't seem overly concerned about video hype, however, and once again praised the off-beat road to popularity.
"We're just grateful that (our popularity) happened from the fans," he said. He described the fans as "stoners, skaters," and then lovingly added "people like us." In the future, 311 plans to stay loyal to their following and hit the road as often as possible. "We're just gonna keep touring and building through the underground," Hexum said.
And if a little "goofing" occurs on that underground road, with 311's fun, funky, altogether joyous sound ... it can easily be forgiven.

Baltimore Sun, 1995

After a couple of album and a lot of touring, the average band would be overjoyed to hear that its latest album is beginning to catch on with radio. But singer and guitarist Nick Hexum of 311, a band founded in Omaha and now based in the Los Angeles area, says radio play is nice but not something he thinks about much.

"Videos and radio and all that, that's something that's out of our hands," he said from a tour stop in Asbury Park, N.J. "So we just focus on putting on a really good live show, because radio and video isn't where the roots of music are.

What we're doing is a continum of the most basic form of communication, going all the way back to, like, an African drum circle, where a few people banged on drums and the other people danced. That is what has been going on for thousands and thousands of years, and we're just one tiny piece of the time line."

Even so, Hexum said he has been somewhat surprised at the warm response "311" has received from radio programmers. "Alternative radio says that we're too rap or too funky, and R&B-rap radio says that we're too rock," he said. "It's like we're sitting right in between many formats. But it's more rewarding in the long run to be in the noman's-land area, because I guess we're paving our own path in some ways."

311 Drop the 411 (Daily Wildcat, 1995)‏

311 is focused on fusion of punk sounds and hip-hop vocals. The band appeared recently at the Party Gardens in Phoenix to promote their newly released, self titled third album. Mutato Reporter Eben Gering discussed the band's views on performance and sound with guitarist Tim Mahoney.

Mutato: How has your audience changed since you first toured?

311: Well, it has changed in that it has grown. I see a lot of the same people at the shows now that I saw when we first started playing. We've kept a lot of fans over the years and found new ones. It's been a steady, slow growth. I see people with lots of different concert T-shirts at the shows. It seems like our fans are people who grew up listening to punk or reggae and also enjoy hip-hop. Probably some Seattle fans (laughs).

Mutato: Have MTV and increaded airplay altered your objectives as a band?

311: We just write the songs that are natural and true to us. We released and album of songs we're proud of. If a radio station wants to play one of our songs, then that's cool, because we want to try and touch people with our music. No ammount of commercial success is ever going to change the way we write music.

Mutato: Did you think you'd get as big as you are at the start?

311: We've surpassed many of our dreams already. We've just been working for the last five years and try to go with the flow and keep on keepin' on (laughs).

Mutato: The last album seemed mellower than your first two. Does this reflect a permanent shift in stylistic direction or a temporary departure?

311: Well, we recorded 21 songs, and only 13 were put on the album. There were some pretty funky, weirder songs that didn't make the cut. I think the album just reflects where we're at at this time. It wasn't a conscious choice, just what we sounded like. It's one of our albums I guess.

Mutato: What about those songs that didn't make the cut?

311: They'll all eventually get released. There's a sound track for the movie National Lampoon's Senior Trip I guess it was called? or Class Trip? So we gave them some songs that didn't make the album, and they chose a song called "Outside". We have another song we recorded later for the Hempilation called "The Herb". They'll all eventually get released. Whether it's on a compilation of B-sides or what, we don't have any definite plans right now. We play them live though.

Mutato: Do you ever feel ripped off by new bands with reggae, hip-hop, punk style sounds?

311: No.

Mutato: Are you interested in bigger concerts with other performers, like Lollapolooza?

311: We're really into doing our own shows, and we've never been offered Lollapolooza or anything like that, so I don't know what we'd do in that position. We'll see. Maybe we'll get offered that.

Mutato: What do you guys listen to when you're not on stage?

311: Well, lots of different stuff. Old jazz, new jazz, lots of reggae, rock, Pantera (laughs). Acid jazz, just a whole good party mix of music.

Mutato: What do you have planned coming up?

311: We're out through Thanksgiving right now. We're going to take a few months off then go back on the road, probably February. We're going to try and step it up and travel with production.

Mutato: Are you ever playing Tucson again?

311: Yeah, we'll be back to Tucson for sure. Probably next summer we'll come and play Phoenix and Tucson both.

Mutato: What is your philosophy about live performance?

311: Its really a lot of what we're about. It's really fun. If we make a record, and then we get to go out and play it live for the fans, people can come out and hear them. We all enjoy listening to live music.

Denver Paper (1995)

It's been three, maybe four years since "Funky Drummer" K. James put me up on 311 and I've been jamming to them ever since. It's nice, I think, to realize that I am not the exception but the rule to the base of 311's fandom; they like to meet people and make new friends everywhere, they also like that people come to them through the advice of others. Once you hear the positive vibes and the searing musical energies of these fellas- born of the grassroots of Omaha, Nebraska- you'll understand why so many people recommend them. And, if you've ever seen them live you know why folks keep coming back! I had a talk with lead vocalist Nicholas Hexum about the strong new album, the upcoming tours and the group's GRASSROOTS appeal.
CR: How's it going and what's the group been up too?

Nick: Pretty good. We've been recording non-stop. We've finally finished the album and then, like tomorrow we're going back into the studio to do a song for this (project) called the HEMPILATION...

CR: When is the new album expected to be out?

Nick: July 25th is the release date.

CR: Are there any changes on the new album as far as the style and the music that's going to be on it?

Nick: As far as the style it is very similar (to the former albums), but it's a lot stronger statement. We took a lot more time to prepare and we got the producer we wanted. We're really happy with this one- so we're going to call it 311. Before we'd tour every year, but this time we're gonna stay out a little longer because we feel really satisfied.

CR: Yea, I hear you guys really like to do the live shows, what kinds of places are you going to be touring to?

Nick: We're gonna be doing a West Coast thing, until May. Then, after about two weeks we're gonna come back (and get ready). In June, we'll be going over to Europe. We're gonna play a lot of festivals and stuff. After that we're gonna come back (in mid-July) and tour the States indefinitely through the fall.

CR: (Speaking of touring) What's the groupie thing like?

Nick: There's definitely that element around us, and its different in different cities, but we don't get into groupies. We do get into meeting people and making friends where we go...

CR: Tell me about the Grassroots, word of mouth policy and staying in touch with your audience.

Nick: Its the best way to do it. Radio play and Press really don't affect us. I like to read about bands and stuff, so I'll do interviews. But, we really like to downplay the whole image thing and be ourselves. Let the music speak for itself. That's the way we feel comfortable in relaying it...Initially, we really didn't have a choice in it, that's the only way we could do it, but I'm glad it happened that way.

CR: Cool. I know that you guys have been to Denver a few times, what can Denverites expect from you at the Big Adventure?

Nick: Denver is like one of our favorite places to play. We have had a really good, long standing relationship with the Fox Theatre and some really great shows in Denver and we're really looking forward to playing Fiddler's Green. (They can expect) Sweaty. Moshing. Stage Dives. Envergy. Loud. It's not all high energy, (though). We start out hard, then we'll go into some jams. Mellow out a little- take you on a little trip... But mostly we're gonna ROCK THE HOUSE!

An Interview with Chad Sexton (University Reporter, 1995)‏

Intro by Kenneth Gamble
Interview by Jeff D. Rose

With their third album exploding on the scene, the Omaha raised, Los Angeles based 311 is one of rock's most explosive and experimental up and coming groups. The quintet comprised of Nick Hexum (lead vocals), Chad Sexton (drums), Timothy Mahoney (guitar), P-Nut (bass), and SA Martinez (vocals) fuses hard rock, funk, rap, and reggae into a potent musical cocktail. It's only fitting that the band members, who draw their influences from everybody from Bad Brains to Bob Marley to Nat King Cole, grew up in the center of the United States, Nebraska to be exact, where east meets west, providing a perfect breeding ground for the 311 sound and its many dimensions.
Before forming 311, the band was previously called the Fish Hippos, playing covers such as the Cure and REM in the local club scene. After finding their own sound and unity, 311 played their first gig in 1990, opening for Fugazi, and has put out one album per year since 1993. They tour non-stop, selling out clubs and theaters nation-wide thanks to the massive grassroots fanbase they've cultivated over the years. Their first album titled MUSIC (1993), was created with the goal of taking rap and making it musical. After penetrating the club scene and accumulating an energetic fan base, 311 spit out their second album titled GRASSROOTS (1994). The album name came from the bands philosophy of wanting to grow up slowly, the right way, and from the ground level up.
And now, with their new release titled 311, the band joined forces with producer/mixer Ron St. Germain (Soundgarden, Living Colour) under Capricorn Records to produce a definitive view of the musical forces that make them so unique. The band feels it's the best example of who they are as a band and how they've evolved into a whole. They manage to bring their eclectic mix of reggae, rock, funk and rap to another level. With songs such as "Don't Stay Home", "Hive" and "Guns (are for pussies), 311 blend razor-sharp musicianship with diverse musical styles and an aggressive attitude. Yet they are quick to point out that attitude does not always equal anger; while some rock'n roll bands are busy contemplating the woes of their artistry, 311 have taken a seemingly rare musical path - they've maintained a positive outlook. Thanks to Capricorn Records, on September 14, we were able to catch up with Chad Sexton in a phone interview at the creative shop, inc. in Atlanta. Jeff Rose got the chance to ask a few questions that 311 fans are curious about after their recent tour stop in Atlanta.
UR: For all those people out there who don't really know what 311 is all about, how would you define your music?
Chad: I would define our music as just a collaboration of all the music we like to listen to and energy wise it just gives off a very positive vibe. We try to talk about positive things.
UR: What was the last album you bought?
Chad: The last album I bought was probably Jamiroquia.
UR: What other artists do you draw your influences from?
Chad: As far as inspiration goes, I can only speak for myself. Everybody in the band has different ones, but mine are people like Carmen McCray, whose a jazz singer, or Dennis Chambers, whose a drummer. We all get inspired by a lot of different things from classical music to jazz to rock music to reggae. There's tons of musical influences with this band.
UR: How did you hook up with your producer Ron St. Germain?
Chad: You know, we had listened to albums that he'd done before. We've always liked his style of production and we just got in touch with him to see if he wanted to do the 311 record and he did. So we just went from there and worked things out. He's a really great guy to work with.
UR: How's Capricorn supporting your records and videos right now?
Chad: (Excited) Their doing great, man. They just help us out with all the promotions. Our communications are really good with them and our relationship with them is really positive right now. Hold on one second alright. Can you hold on? (As a loud banging is occurring in the back ground) Sorry about that. (the banging stops)
UR: (Laughs) No problem. Because your sound is so unique, how did your fans take to it at first?
Chad: Well....(Short Lull) Our fans take to it quite well. Its just when you introduce this type of music to someone that hasn't heard it before, it might take them a little longer to get used to the style or used to the musical changes. As far as our fans go, they accept it right away and they love hearing the music. Its just the bigger industry type people that don't like to listen to records like more than once. (Seriously) If they don't like it, you know, on the first listen then they don't listen to it (again). That's how our band kind of is. You listen to it the first time and its like, that's different, but you don't know really how to take it. So our band has to grow on you and like I was saying, its harder to get the bigger industry to recognize you when your more... maybe unique sounding or different, you know, however you want to put it. But our fans really love the music.
UR: What kind of music did you play back when you were the Fish Hippos?
Chad: You know, anything from Replacements, REM, maybe even a little bit of the Cure. That's what we use to play like in our cover bands back then. But, I don't know, just other alternative bands that were big at that time.
UR: Mostly covers?
Chad: Yeah, mostly covers. In Fish Hippos, we started to do a little bit more of the original stuff. The covers were more of the 1988 era, instead of the 1990 era.
UR: 311 had the chance to tour the U.S. with White Zombie a while ago, but you guys decided to tour in Europe. Can you tell us why and how did the tour go?
Chad: Well, we knew we had to get over to Europe sooner or later and we just wanted to do that the first thing this year in June. It seemed like a good time to do it. Europe was really good to us. The shows were a little bit smaller and the people who liked the music, reacted the same way (as Americans) to the music. I was really pleased with Europe.
UR: Where have you had the best crowds out of all your U.S. tour stops and what's your favorite place to play here in Atlanta?
Chad: So far... the best shows have been New York, Atlanta, Omaha, and maybe Lawrence, Kansas was really good for us. Baton Rouge is always really great. As far as my favorite place in Atlanta, my personal would be the Fox. That was a really great show for me.
UR: When and where are you coming back to Atlanta?
Chad: There's no set date as of yet, but... Hold on real quick. (he screams to someone in the room with him, Hold on a second... yeah the phone. Just chill out mother fucker!) (Laughing) Damn, I lost my train of thought.
UR: (Laughter all around) That's cool. The question was when and where are you coming back to Atlanta?
Chad: Like I said, we haven't set a show there yet, but I would guess it would be like at the end of, I'm just guessing, maybe at the end of November, maybe around that time. I know we haven't set the date yet, so we don't know where we're playing or when.
UR: But your definitely planning on coming back in 95'?
Chad: I can probably say 90% sure.
UR: When you guys are out on tour, other than eating, what do you do after a show?
Chad: Basically, we just, you know, hang out a little bit with people that we meet. And then we smoke pot, take showers, and pretty much go to bed and get up the next day and start the whole routine over.
UR: Other than music, what do you like to do just hanging out as friends?
Chad: Smoke pot. Smoke lots of pot. (Laughter) Theres not a whole lot to do. If there's a park in the city, then we can always go walk around and that's always fun to go check it out and stuff.
UR: Seeing you brought up the smoking pot issue, How does 311 fit into the Hempilation and tell what Hempilation is all about?
Chad: (More seriously) Hempilation is just a collaboration of musicians that feel the marijuana laws are unjust. More so for the reasons of manufacturing paper and whatever else you would do with hemp, clothes, you name it. We just feel the marijuana laws are unjust. Lobbying by companies such as Budweiser, oil companies, the NRA, everybody that lobbies against having marijuana legal. This (Hempilation) is just a statement that is what we think about these laws. And we don't agree with them. All the artists feel the same way on this.
UR: What's your relationship with Graffix, because they're one of your sponsors right?
Chad: Sure, you could say that. Our relationship with Graffix is just that we hooked up with them maybe a couple years ago and their really nice to us. And we sport their gear, use their bongs, and show all our fans, that know we smoke, that we do use their bongs. And it s nothing really more than that. They just give us free pieces when we need them and we're willing to sport their clothes and hats and use their bongs.
UR: What's your relationship, if any, with NORML?
Chad: There's not really a relationship there. We have not really officially ever signed up for NORML. I mean, I guess we would if someone came to us and offered it to us. But, we're potheads, (laughs) we're kind of lazy, so we haven't got around to doing it. But we do support them and we think NORML is a great organization.
UR: Since you've named the band 311, do you have a reoccurring thing where you see the numbers 311 all the time? I know we do.
Chad: (Laughing) Yeah, we catch it everywhere.
UR: Do you ask for room 311 at hotels?
Chad: (Laughs) Yeah.
UR: Well that about raps it up. Look forward to seeing you guys in 95', enjoyed the last show. Good luck on the rest of the tour. Thanks a lot, Chad.
Chad: Yeah, no problem. Take it easy.

Interview with Nick Hexum (Vermont Collegian, 1995)‏

Following are some exerpts from a phone interview that I did with Nick Hexum while the band was in Columbia, South Carolina.
Collegian: How's have the shows been going on this tour so far? Have they been selling out?
Hexum: Fuckin' great. Yeah, I mean, packed houses every night.
Collegian: That's great. And you guys are obviously doing bigger venues this time around.
Hexum: Yep. We're just, you know, slowly stepping everything up every time we ... every time we go out, we play the next step up; and, you know, it was just like, we're not into any sort of ... we're not like a band that's looking to like bust out all at once. We're looking at it, like, slowly build up the following through ... you know, not through hits, but through making good albums and through word of mouth, and through live shows, and, you know, that's the whole grassroots philosophy right there.
Collegian: Yeah. I hear the shows are gettin' pretty wild.
Hexum: Yeah. I mean, I like to call us the no-hit wonders because its like, the amount of people that we get at our shows is amazing considering that we don't have any fuckin' Top 40 hits or anything. So I'm really stoked to see it.
Collegian: So you guys pretty much haven't stopped, it seems like, for a few years - hittin' the road pretty hard.
Hexum: No, I mean, its been ... we're either in the studio or touring, pretty much non-stop, and, you know, its like, I think we finally have earned a little relaxation time. I think in like February and March, we're gonna just chill, which, you know, I'm looking forward to. I mean, I've been havin' a fuckin' blast out here, but, at the same time, I miss having, you know, a kitchen and a car, and, you know, like a bedroom, and shit like that, that a lot of people probably take for granted; but I wouldn't, you know ... I'm not complaining. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but we're gonna take some time off.
Collegian: That's cool. Now, you were talkin' about the fact that you guys don't really have any hits or anything like that, but actually I think your songs have started to break into radio a little bit, haven't they? Are you guys starting to get into the major radio markets?
Hexum: You know, I really don't keep much track on that, cause its not something that I can, like, control; but I've heard that we are doing well on that aspect. But to me its like ... we've come so far without any real hits, that it almost is like ... it doesn't have that much of effect, because whether we're on the radio or not, we're still gonna be, you know, playin' to pretty good-sized audiences and ... but, you know, the idea of radio is a good idea. I mean, free music comin' over the airwaves is a great thing, but there's a lot of pussy-ass programmers that only play the safest, you know, crap that they can get their hands on, so, you know, I really ... I just try and focus on things that I can control, which are, you know, putting on a great live show and good albums, and beyond that, its out of my hands.
Collegian: Yeah, we don't even have a radio station here that plays 311, which is pretty sad to say, and I mean, I don't know if that's typical of the rest of the country - I don't think it is, because I think we have lame radio - but, you know, it might be hard for a band like you guys who, I think, are really unique and have a unique sound that may not, kind of, break into mainstream radio so easily.
Hexum: Yeah. Well, I think its, like, we definitely set out to do something that's a little more difficult because, you know, when you're combining reggae and rap and rock styles all into one song, its like there's no format for that. I mean, okay, there's R&B and rap radio, which just plays, you know, black music, and then there's rock radio, which plays rock, but there's nothing for something that's like smack-dab in the middle, you know what I'm sayin'? But we definitely wouldn't consider, you know, changing our style just to fit into the radio, and that's ... you know, that's the most important thing to us. To us, you know, it would be selling out to make fuckin', you know, punky pop or whatever's all over the radio right now, you know what I'm sayin'? Its like, we're definitely down for, you know, the funk and shit that really makes us happy.
Collegian: Exactly. As far as the album goes, we'll just talk about that, because its something that we just ... we love this new album. We listen to it, like, every day, honestly. We've found ourselves kind of like addicted to it, but, um ... is this like, for you guys, would you consider this the album where it kind of all came together and, I mean, it seems like you really solidified your sound and its just a real solid album all the way through, and I was just wondering if you could talk about that.
Hexum: Well, we had always had the plan of like ... its just like, whatever we're talkin' about around the recording of the album, is like what comes out in the title and, like, when we recorded Music, we were takin' rap and making it more musical and more melodic as far as we're concerned, and so that's why we called that that; and then on Grassroots, we were talkin' about, I mean, there was kind of like some conflict with the label. They wanted us to come out with some fuckin' radio-friendly poppy hit that could get us over, and we said 'Fuck you, we're not doin' that,' and we said we're gonna run our shit through grassroots means, you know, and so we called our album that to, you know, really, you know, to just state for the record what we're up for.
And then ... and we had also always said a long, long time ago, is that when we feel like we have just made the quintessential 311 statement, when we're in our total prime and when we feel really satisfied with what we've done, that we're gonna call it 311. And so, originally, we were gonna call this new album "Hive," because "'95 we go for the hive" is like a little somethin' that we'd been sayin,' but, you know, we just ... we felt real good about it, and we said: 'Look, you know, this is what we do, and if people don't like this album, then they don't like 311. This *is* 311.' So that's why we called it that.
Collegian: Cool. Where does the name come from?
Hexum: You know, it really is just a number. Its just like ... I'm not the one that made up the name. It was actually a guy that's not in the band anymore, that was only in the band for like a very short time, and like, P-Nut goes, 'Well ... How 'bout the ...' He goes 'Jim has this name 311' and I was like 'I love it,' you know, 'Boom!' (snaps) First second I heard it I said 'I like it. Let's be that.' And then he goes, 'Well, you know, I think its, like, the police code for insane man on the loose,' and then it turned out that police code for indecent exposure, and, you know, we make up all kinds of different things for it, so its like ... really, it just means five guys from Nebraska makin' music, you know, its just a name like Nick or John or anything else, you know what I mean?
Collegian: I'm a big lyric guy, and I know that you write most of the lyrics - you and SA write a lot of the lyrics and stuff. I love the lyrics, and I think its something that you can get into ... its something you may not notice right away because you're into the music and stuff, and there's a lot of 'em, but I think you just look into it and there's some really amazing lyrics, and you guys ... do you write as a team, or how do you guys write, as far as the lyrics go, or how do you write your tunes? "Make it instrumental/add a little vocals..."?
Hexum: Yeah. Usually, like ... well, it depends. I mean, sometimes I'll come forward with a completely finished song that's got all the parts kind of worked out, you know, but, uh, other times, like Chad'll write an instrumental and then me and SA will get together and put various raps that we've written on our own over it. And, sometimes they can be just completely ... like the song called "Random" is called that because the vocals are completely random topic-wise, you know what I'm sayin'? They don't have any, sort of, theme, but I like that sometimes - just random imagery, you know? And there's other songs like "Don't Let Me Down" has got, you know, a real heavy, sort of, theme about, you know, depression, and, you know, more heavy topics, and like, at one point SA came forward, you know, with, like, a rap that was, like, about aliens and shit, and he wanted to put that in that song, and I was like 'C'mon, man. That really doesn't fit in the context of what we're doin' here.' So sometimes it can be random and other times, you know, we'll have a theme.
Collegian: But actually there are ... I mean, you do have a lot of references to ... the possibility life beyond earth, you know, and space and the galaxy and stuff like that, and obviously, you know, there's a lot of imagery in the CD and stuff like that. I mean, could you talk about that? What's that all about?
Hexum: Well, I mean, its just ... if you consider the, you know, the number of stars that there are in the sky and, I mean, to think that our star is the only one that can sustain life is really egotistical and ridiculous. I mean, it just seems very, very probable that there are other life forms in the universe and its ... you know, I can't say for sure, but its just something that we would, you know, believe and ... and I've always been in like - even back in the days of our first album, you know in "Hydroponic" I'm singin' about, like, spacial physics, the relations between, like, how everything is getting infinitely smaller and infinitely larger, that, like, the form of our solar system, with the sun being the nucleus and the planets being the orbitals, the electrons; is exactly like that of an atom, what we know as the model of an atom. So everything is part of a larger body and it gets infinitely smaller and infinitely larger, and, you know, we've always just sort of been into trying to grasp things like that into what our tiny little role is in this, you know, cosmic huge universe. And its pretty mind-boggling, and we just kind of throw out images of, like, what we talk about and what we think about.
Collegian: Yeah, I think its cool, because I think the sound - especially in a few tunes - it kind of gives you that feeling, too, you know, I mean you guys ... I don't know how to describe it, but sometimes the sound kind of reaches this level where its like, I don't know, its almost, like, other-worldly, 'cause its got this kind of cool quality to it.
Hexum: Yeah, we get into ambient, sort of, trippy, you know, effects and shit like that, and other times, we'll just be just straight-up, raw, no effects, just hard-rockin' guitars, balls-out shit. But, you know, we like to dabble all over the place.
Collegian: Yep. Exactly. You were talkin' about the Hive before. What's that referring to, would you say? I mean, to me, it seems like just the whole, kind of, swarm of people who who are at the shows and stuff like that. Is that what's that a reference to?
Hexum: Its that, and also, you know, the nucleus of it being our band. It was just something that kind of evolved out of a joke, that in ... like, '94 was the 'go-for-self era' - when someone would do somethin', we'd be like 'oh, I see, its the go-for-self era, when someone would like, you know, grab something for themselves, or something like that. But now we said, 'alright, but all that shit's over in '95,' '95 we go for the hive,' and its just like we've ... we just made a commitment to really all work together to get our music out to a larger group of people and, you know, the hive does include the people that come to our shows, the people who write articles about us, like yourself. I mean, its just like everybody that's down with the 311 positivity sort of vibe.
Collegian: And talkin' about the positivity, I mean, I know people make a lot about that - I know I've read that in just about everything and obviously that's an important thing for you guys, as far as the positive vibe. I mean, um ... and it seems to me, at the same time, you guys are real positive, but, still, at the same time, you're not, kind of, averse to, like, you know ... "If you hurt her again I'll fuck you up" and, you know, I mean, its not like you guys have the angst and stuff going, but its not like you guys are pussies either, you know what I mean?
Hexum: Right. Yeah, we don't try and, you know, hide any side of what we're doing, but I would say the prevailing, you know, images are positive.
Collegian: Yep. Would you say that that is kind of an influence from like reggae philosophy or just how you guys feel in general?
Hexum: Yeah. Yeah, I think the whole reggae ethic has definitely influenced us a lot, like from ... you know, from growin' up listening to Bob Marley and .. you know, it definitely comes from that.
Collegian: "Grew up punk, listening to the funk"?
Hexum: Yeah (laughs)
Collegian: Were you kind of a punker growin' up?
Hexum: Yeah, I was in a way, but I wasn't like the ... you know, the pissed off at everybody outcast, you know? I was more of just, like, lets fuckin' get together and mosh and have a good time, you know what I'm sayin'? I mean, I love the release of punk, but I'm not, you know, nihilistic about, you know, 'fuck everybody.' I'm much more into bringin' people together and stuff like that.
Collegian: Exactly. One thing people ask us every time we mention you guys - because we talk about you a lot - and ... people are just like 'Nebraska - where the hell is that?' And for us, that's a long way away, but, I mean, what were ... how did you guys get your musical influences? I mean, obviously, its a huge city, but it seems like it wouldn't be the place for your style of music, I guess, is what I'm tryin' to say ...
Hexum: No, I mean, there's not like a bunch of bands doin' our sound at all in Nebraska. It was definitely a brand new thing when we came out of there, but, um ... I don't know, I feel that Omaha being geographically located right in the middle of the country is also, you know, sort of representative of how we draw from influences from all over the country - you know, we've got ... I used to listen to old school rap like Run DMC and shit like that as well as, you know, California bands like Chili Peppers and X and stuff like that. You know, its just ... we're just grabbin' from all over the place, and, you know, people would assume that we were not exposed to much in Nebraska, but there surprisingly is a cool punk scene there, there's reggae bands, you know, and you can get rap records or anything else in Nebraska. So people's misconceptions about what we're gonna be like because where we're from is, you know, somethin' we have fun laughing at because its, you know ... nobody determines what anyone's gonna do just 'cause where they're from, you know what I'm sayin'? Its like, you can make any style of music being from any geographical location, any race, anything you want - its all out for the public domain and, you know, we're not gonna recognize any, sort of ... you know, walls.
Collegian: Yep. I think a lot of people reference you guys, you know, obviously, with the Bad Brains, and, um, having that be an influence ...
Hexum: Yeah, that was a huge influence. Absolutely.
Collegian: And, I mean, of course, you guys ... we reviewed the "Hempilation" CD in one of our latest issues, and I think that we dubbed that the best song on the CD. And that's obviously ... not really a Bad Brains tune (HR). How'd you guys end up doin' that? Is that something you had wanted to do?
Hexum: Well, High Times gave us a list of songs - of pot songs - that they wanted us to pick from to cover, and - incidentally, "Hydroponic" and "My Stoney Baby" were a couple of the ones on there - but we said, you know, 'Have you ever heard the song "Who's Got the Herb?" and they were, like, 'Uh, no, never heard of it," and we were, like, 'That's the dopest pot song ever.' So, they were like 'Well, we're gonna have to hear it first," and we were, like, "No, just trust us. Its the bomb.' Steve Bloom is like - the music editor over there, he's the one who pretty much put the shit together - and now he's like, 'you guys were so right,' that the "Hempilation" wouldn't be complete without that song. So, you know, we're really happy with how that turned out, and its a tribute to someone who really was a big influence, and, you know, its unfortunate he has so many personal problems ... you know, getting arrested and everything else, but it doesn't taint the music, you know what I'm sayin'?
Collegian: Right. And I know a lot has been made about your support of that issue in general, but, I mean, I know that's not one of the main things that you guys are about, but, you know, it was something that you guys were psyched to be a part of, I understand.
Hexum: Yeah. I mean, its like ... its not like we're a, you know, a ... strictly 'lets legalize pot movement band' at all. Its just ... we're being honest about what we do and stating for the record about how we feel, you know what I'm sayin'? And, um ... its just one facet of what we're doin', but its somethin' that we do for fun, and its definitely a safe ... you know, safer thing to do than getting drunk, you know what I'm sayin'? Its like, people don't get in fist fights and crash their cars when they're stoned like they do when their drunk. So, I mean, its like ... its pretty ridiculous that its illegal, and I think that people are slowly, kind of, figuring that out, this mentality of grouping all drugs together, of putting, you know, cocaine and marijuana in the same group is just plain stupid, and, you know, eventually, I believe that people will figure it out, and I don't know if it'll happen in our lifetime or not, but its just ... its too much of a waste of taxpayers' money to go after stoners. Its just a waste.
Collegian: Yeah. In the opening tune, in "Down," you guys say "we've changed a lot." How have you guys changed, would you say, over the years? I mean, I know ... it seems like you guys have definitely changed even from your sound and stuff like that, and I think in some of the songs the lyrics talk about drugs being a factor maybe in the early days and maybe not being so much now, or ... I was wondering if you could just describe some of the ways that you guys have changed over the years.
Hexum: Well, I think ... (sighs) ... I think, you know, as people grow up, they figure out what makes them happy and how to stay happy, and, um, definitely, for me, you know, not doing hard drugs is something that keeps me happy, and, I, you know ... most of us are really health-conscious people - we like to exercise, we like to eat good, we like to get a lot of rest, and, you know ... and it makes it so we're in a better mood and we have more fun on stage and so forth. We're not like a fuckin' regimen where everyone has to do the same thing. I mean, we've got P-Nut, who's the token slacker, who, you know, smokes cigarettes and doesn't exercise and eats bacon cheeseburgers all the time, but, you know, we love him just the same. But, you know, like, the rest of us are kind of, more like non-smoker - non-cigarette smokers, that is - you know, we like to work out and just ... But as far as how we've changed ... musically, I think its stil, you know, combining dancehall reggae, hard rock, funk, rap, jazz - all the same ingredients - but we've just ... you know, gotten more focused on what we like to hear, and I think on this new album, we don't take as many abrupt left turns musically, like we've got ... more of the songs have a similar groove through the entire song. Like, on the first two albums, we'll just snap straight from a fucking heavy groove into a reggae groove, like, instantly, and, you know, that might've been a little bit more hard for people to comprehend. And so, I don't know ... its kind of hard to define how we've changed, but, you know, its just a ... its such a gradual thing, you know?
Collegian: What is the song "Down" about?
Hexum: Just, we've always been down, you know, down for the hive, down for what we're doin', you know ... not like down as far as like depressed or something. It just means, like, we're down for each other. That's all it means. Down for our fans, you know its just ... like that.
Collegian: Yeah, like I was sayin', we just really love this album and I was wondering how you hooked up with Ron Saint Germain, who produced it, 'cause obviously, I mean, he's great, and all the artists that he's done have been some of my favorite albums, and I think that obviously was a great thing for you guys to hook up with him.
Hexum: I agree. On our first two albums ... Eddy Offord came to us and, you know, he heard one of our demos and, like, called us up and was, like, 'I love your band, I want to produce you' and this and that, and then on our second album, we had a lot of problems with him, from him being completely wasted all the time, and being arrested and finally, you know ... we had to fire him. So that - considering all that shit went on while "Grassroots" was recorded - it turned out great, but then, I mean, you know, considering how much adversity there was at the time, I feel pretty pleased with how it still turned out, because we were extremely stressed out during that period. But, on this new album, we finally got ... we said 'who the hell in the whole world would we want to have' and it was, like, no question about it - Ron Saint Germain. I mean, when we used to live in Omaha, we would listen to Quickness and I Against I and just be like, 'this is the fuckin' rockin'-est-sounding shit I've ever heard. We've gotta record with this guy one day, you know, and it was like a dream. And we met him, and we just hit it off, and he's just like this super-energetic guy. He's super positive. He took us up in his airplane and, you know, he parties with us. He's just a great guy, as well as he's done every single style of music there is, you know? It was a real pleasure to work with him, and I think we might do some more of that in the future.
Collegian: Why did you guys move out to L.A. in the first place?
Hexum: We just felt like ... I mean, we had become, like, the biggest band in Omaha and there wasn't any labels there and it was like being the biggest band in Omaha really doesn't mean that much because ... I mean, it was a great place for us to develop our talent, and, you know, get used to rockin' crowds and develop our songwriting and everything like that, and it was a very nurturing crowd to, you know, there were a lot of enthusiastic audiences there, but we really felt like we had gone as far as we could. We needed to get out where there was record labels and things like that, and so we moved to L.A. just to ... get noticed, you know what I mean? Its like, we go to Omaha quite a bit, like 3 or 4 times a year, and I'll be there for Thanksgiving as well as for Christmas, but I just really ... there's just so much to do in L.A. I love all the restaurants and clubs and, you know, the culture there is a lot more immediate. It takes a little longer for things to get to the middle of the country. The shit starts at the coast and sort of moves inward. But you can be from anywhere, you know what I mean? Its like, we didn't need to move to L.A., but we just kind of wanted to, just for ... you know, to totally immerse ourselves in music and try and become a ... rather than being a big fish in a little pond, try and conquer a larger pond (laughs).
Collegian: Yeah, and it seems like the transition was pretty smooth for you guys. That's, I think, you know, the general perception. Didn't slow you down at all, that's for sure, as far as makin' music.
Hexum: It was like, it was only ... like, when we moved out to L.A., there was a couple months where shit was real tight, as far as, 'cause we didn't have any income comin' in, or none of us had jobs or anything, and so we were just, like, we were like, 'Please sign us now,' and it happened just in the right time before we were flat broke, you know? So it actually all worked out really nicely.
Collegian: That's cool. Has that changed your influence at all, do you think? I mean, life in L.A., has that, like, affected your songwriting and lyric writing and stuff?
Hexum: Um ... I would say not that much. I mean, I would say that we're exposed to the new, fresh, like, hip-hop and reggae styles a little quicker when you're in L.A. because, you know, because that's where the shit comes from, but, um ... but as far as like the mix of the styles we're doing - we were doing dancehall back in 1988 when we lived in Omaha, and so its like, I would say its stayed pretty consistent, and I don't really see any outlooks on the ... you know, any changes in the future. I think we'll always just really be focused on keeping the music melodic and having, you know, singing being a big element in our music, because, I mean, I love the immediacy of rap and we'll always have that element, but to me, if its all rhythmic and no meledy, it doesn't have the classic lasting power that, you know, a great ... a great song, you know, a great melody has, so ... we'll just keep blending the both, you know?
Collegian: Yep. And its cool. I mean, I think there's not many bands who are able to deal with success, you know, kind of in a good way, but that seems to be the case with you guys, and, as far as, you know ... you guys just seem to be handling it. I mean, bigger shows and more people and stuff, and I mean, obviously, its just gonna get bigger and bigger, but you guys aren't really afraid of that at all, are you?
Hexum: No, because we know ... we'll keep aproaching everything the exact same way, you know, its like, we're not gonna start getting into, like, our image, and you know, I mean, some of these bands are so fucking image-oriented and they can't even play that good. You know, we're always gonna be about the music and about putting on a good live show and, you know, just being ourselves, and we're not gonna be, like, a big glamour band or any of that bullshit, you know what I'm sayin'? Its like, the more people that come to our shows, the better, and we're gonna keep the exact same approach.

THE BUZZ IS GETTING LOUDER IN THE 311 HIVE (Vermont Collegian, 1995)


311 will rock your world. While many people in these parts may not realize it, one of the hottest live acts on the planet will be making an exclusive area appearance when L.A.'s 311 (pronounced three-eleven) blow out the walls at Burlington's Memorial Auditorium on Thursday night, the second Memorial show presented by the folks at Club Toast, who brought us the incredible Fugazi show last spring.
Ironically enough, 311's first gig ever was opening a sold out show with Fugazi in their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, in 1990, a show that both announced their arrival on the local scene and generated a huge buzz on the band, a buzz that has grown steadily louder with each passing year and is presently a swarming hive that centers around the band's infectious and urgent blend of hard rock and hard rhymes mixed with funk, dancehall reggae and jazz that has been whipping crowds into celebratory moshing frenzies across the country.
Case in point: last year, over 90% of their shows sold out in advance while many others had to be moved to larger venues to accomodate the masses, a tribute to the band's grassroots, word-of-mouth approach and complete devotion to the music via their live shows and their albums, both of which have won them appeal from a wide range of fans, the majority of whom are under 21 and thankful that almost all of 311's shows are all-ages (as is the show Thursday).
This year, sparked by the late-July release of "311" - the definitive 311 statement and easily one of the best albums of the year - the band has taken it to the next level, packin' 'em in at larger venues across the country.
"We're just, you know, slowly stepping everything up," said vocalist and guitarist Nicholas Hexum modestly when I spoke to him over the phone from Columbia, South Carolina, recently while the band was enjoying a rare day off from their relentless touring schedule. "Every time we go out, we play the next step up. We're not a band that's looking to like bust out all at once. We're looking at it, like, slowly build up the following through making good albums and through word-of-mouth and through live shows, and, you know, that's the whole grassroots philosophy right there."
And make some good albums they have, starting with "Music," their powerful and frantic 1993 debut for Capricorn Records that essentially is a best of old 311 tunes from their first three independently-released records and documents the band's goal to take rap and make it more musical. "Music" brought us 311 anthems like the hard-rockin' "Unity," the metallic crunching riffs of "Hydroponic," the funky and melodic "My Stoney Baby," the super hard rockin' and rhymin' "Feels So Good," and the classic melodies and vocal harmonies in "Do You Right."
"Grassroots" - released a year-and-a-half later - on the other hand, was completely written in two months and is more cohesive on the whole, while trying to capture the raw energy of 311's live show at the time. Highlights are the super-heavy opener and single "Homebrew," the super funky rhythms of "Lucky," the jazzy and reggae-flavored "8:16 a.m.," and the 311 anthem "Omaha Stylee," a thickly-grooved raga stomp that combines a thunderous bottom-end riff, courtest of P-Nut's rolling 5-string bass attack and Chad Sexton's tight, offbeat drumming - who together make up one of the best rhythm section's going - Timothy Mahoney's smooth guitar work and vocal trade-offs between Hexum and vocalist/scratch-master SA Martinez.
The song describes an incident that occurred in the summer of 1993, when the band's RV exploded into flames, destroying all of their equipment, the VW van they were towing and most of their personal belongings as they barely escaped with their lives, yet mananged to return to the stage for a performance in Omaha the very next night, solidifying the band's commitment to one another and to their music as well as giving birth to a new life-affirming perspective that runs through "Grassroots."
The evolution of the 311 sound, however, did not really all come together until the release of "311," by far their best offering yet and proof positive that the band has solidified its distinctly unique and powerful sound that blends the metallic crunching of guitars with power-funk bass lines, tight, popping drum rhythms, dancehall groove and the powerful vocal team of Hexum and Martinez - one of the best around - who can both rhyme hard as well as sing and harmonize beautifully, displaying a versatility that is seldom heard in today's musical world.
The album offers insights into the band and what they are all about in the their trademark straightforwardness and honesty in "Jackolantern's Weather," with the lines "I always say what I feel and that is a promise/Nothing in life is above being honest." Other highlights include the crunching metallic guitar wall of sound and combination of spoken and sung lyrics in the opening "Down"; the chunky guitar riffs and tight, offbeat drums (as well as the Vermont reference) of "Random"; the super funky and bouncy "All Mixed Up"; the super heavy and hard rhymin' "Hive" with its telling statement about their live show: "It ain't nothin' but a party everybody get loose"; the light and bouncy ska riddims mixed with hard changes in "Purpose"; the super-rockin' "Loco"; the instant classic "Don't Stay Home" - the first single - which is about the need to enjoy life to the fullest while we still can; the following "DLMD" (Don't Let Me Down), an "ode to a beat up girl" that deals with issues like depression; and the bouncy ska funk of "Sweet," about the pleasures of life on earth.
"We had always had the plan of like, whatever we're talkin' about around the recording of the album, is like what comes out in the title," said Hexum of the album. "Like when we recorded "Music," we were takin' rap and making it more musical and more melodic, and so that's why we called that that; and then on "Grassroots," there was kind of like some conflict with the label - they wanted us to come out with some fuckin' radio-friendly poppy hit that could get us over, and we said 'Fuck you, we're not doin' that,' and we said 'we're gonna run our shit through grassroots means,' and so we called our album that to just state for the record what we're up for."
"We had always said a long, long time ago," continued Hexum, "that when we feel like we have just made the quintessential 311 statement - when we're in our total prime (all the members of the band are around 25 years old, while P-Nut is only 21) and when we feel really satisfied with what we've done - that we're gonna call it "311." We felt real good about it, and we said" 'Look, you know, this is what we do, and if people don't like this album, then they don't like 311. This is 311.' So that's why we called it that."
Though Hexum said that it still combines the basic ingredients that 311 throws into their musical brew, "we've just gotten more focused on what we like to hear, and I think on this new album, we don't take as many left turns musically. More of the songs have a similar groove through the entire song" as opposed to the first two albums where "we'll just snap straight from a fucking heavy groove into a reggae groove, like, instantly, and that might have been a little harder for people to comprehend."
A major reason why "311" sounds so good is because of producer Ron Saint Germain, whose production credits include albums for Bad Brains and Living Colour as well as mixing for Soundgarden and Tool. Another reason is that it was recorded at Sound City Studio in Van Nuys which sports a client list that includes Nirvana ("Nevermind"), Rage Against the Machine, and the new Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Regarding their involvement with the legendary producer, Hexum said that "it was like a dream - he's just a great guy as well as he's done every single style of music there is, you know? It was a real pleasure working with him, and I think we might do some more of that in the future."
And while the video for "Don't Stay Home" has recently been put in the regular rotation on MTV, it has taken awhile for 311 to break into the mainstream - due in part to the uniqueness of their sound and/or ignorance on the part of some programmers - its not something that 311 worries about or even really thinks about at all, choosing instead to focus entirely on makin' music and bringin' it straight to people all over the country.
"To me, its like, we've come so far without any real hits," said Hexum, "that it almost doesn't have that much of an effect, because whether we're on the radio or not, we're gonna be playin' to pretty good sized audiences. I just try and focus on things that I can control, which are, you know, putting on a great live show and good albums, and beyond that, its out of my hands. I like to call us the no-hit wonders because its like, the amount of people we get at our shows is amazing considering that we don't have any fuckin' Top 40 hits or anything, so I'm really stoked to see it."
Hexum added that 311 "definitely set out to do something that's a little more difficult because when you're combining reggae and rap and rock styles all into one song, its like there's no format for that. But we definitely wouldn't consider changing our style just to fit into the radio, and that's, you know, the most important thing to us. We're definitely down for the funk and shit that really makes us happy."
One theme that can be found both in the lyrics and music of 311, as well as in the artwork on the CD, is the band's interest in the possibility of life beyond Earth. "If you consider the number of stars that are in the sky," said Hexum, "to think that our star is the only one that can sustain life is very egotistical and ridiculous."
He also mentioned that it is something that he has been singing about since their first album, like in "Hydroponic," where he sings about "spacial physics - the relations between, like, how everything is getting infinitely smaller and infinitely larger" with the form of our solar system, "with the sun being the nucleus and the planets being the orbitals, the electrons - is exactly like that of an atom. We've just always sort of been into, you know, trying to grasp things like that into what our tiny little role is in this, you know, cosmic huge universe. And its pretty mind-boggling."
Even 311's music can take on an other-worldly quality at times, as if the phat guitar riffs are somehow heading up to space in the hopes of communication. "Yeah, we get into ambient, sort of, trippy effects and shit like that," said Hexum, "and other times, we'll just be straight-up raw, no effects, just hard-rockin' guitars, balls-out shit. But, you know, we like to dabble all over the place."
When pressed to explain the concept of the "Hive," which is also the name of their fan club, Hexum acknowledged that it did, to some extent, refer to the ever-growing legion of fans with "the nucleus of it being our band," adding that "we just made a commitment to really all work together to, you know, get our music out to a larger group of people. You know, the hive does include the people that come to our shows, the people who write articles about us, like yourself. I mean, its just like everybody that's down with the 311 positivity sort of vibe."
This positive outlook on life and music is one of the major things that distinguishes 311 from many of the more angst-ridden bands that have been enjoying significant success over the past few years, and Hexum - who grew up listening to Bob Marley, among other things - acknowledged that "the whole reggae ethic has definitely influenced us. It definitely comes from that."
Other influences that Hexum cited were old school rap like Run DMC as well as California bands like the Chili Peppers and X, among others, and just about anything else they could get their hands on in the crossroads that is Omaha. "We're just grabbin' from all over the place," he said. "People would assume that, you know, we were not exposed to much in Nebraska, but there surprisingly is a cool punk scene there, there's reggae bands, you know, and you can get rap records or anything else in Nebraska."
Hexum also acknowledged that the Bad Brains were "a huge influence," which is why there was no doubt which song they wanted to cover for NORML's "Hempilation" CD, they chose to tribute HR, the troubled lead singer of Bad Brains, who in 1991 recorded "Who's Got the Herb?" with his solo group Human Rights.
"We're really happy with how that turned out, and its a tribute to someone who really was a big influence," said Hexum, "and, you know, its unfortunate he has so many personal problems - you know, getting arrested and everything else - but it doesn't taint the music."
Regarding their interest and involvement in the project as well as the issue of legalization, Hexum said that "its just, we're being honest about what we do for fun, and its definitely a safer thing to do than getting drunk. I mean, its pretty ridiculous that its illegal, but ... I think that people are slowly, kind of, figuring that out. Its just too much of a waste of taxpayers' money to go after stoners. Its just a waste."
Several years ago, after 311 had conquered the very nurturing Omaha pond, they headed out to the musical ocean that is L.A. to see if they could swim, and within a couple of months got signed by Capricorn, just in the nick of time. "When we moved to L.A., there was a couple of months where shit was real tight, and so we were just like 'please sign us now,' and it happened just in the right time before we were flat broke. So it actually worked out really nicely."
Regarding Omaha, Hexum said that "it was a great place for us to develop our talent and get used to rockin' crowds and develop our songwriting and everything like that, and it was a very nurturing crowd, there was a lot of enthusiastic audiences there, but we really felt like we had gone as far as we could. We didn't need to move to L.A., but we just kind of wanted to, to totally immerse ourselves in music and try and conquer a larger pond."
Since then, 311 has either been in the studio or else touring "pretty much non-stop," said Hexum. "I think we finally have earned a little relaxation time," which they will take in February and March of next year, after they complete a five-six week tour opening for Lenny Kravitz.
"I've been havin' a fuckin' blast out here, but at the same time, I miss having a kitchen and a car, and, like, a bedroom, and shit like that that a lot of people probably take for granted. But I'm not complaining. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
As far as the music goes, Hexum said that he didn't really forsee any major changes in the future. "I think we'll always just really be focused on keeping the music melodic and having, you know, singing being a big element. To me, if its all rhythmic and no melody, it doesn't have the classic lasting power that, you know, a great song, a great melody has, so we'll just keep blending the both."
And as far as dealing with the success and growth that is certainly imminent for 311, its not something that they're really afraid of, said Hexum. "We'll keep approaching everything the exact same way. We're always gonna be about the music and about putting on a good live show and just being ourselves. You know, we're not gonna be a big glamour band or any of that bullshit. Its like, the more people that come to our shows, the better, and we're gonna keep the exact same approach."

311 Rides the Wave of Popularity with the Release of Their New Album (1995)‏


It is rare today to hear a music group that is forging it's own style; playing something original and unique that hasn't been heard before. However, after decades of rock and roll, one group has still managed to find uncharted territory to explore. I am speaking of 311, the high energy, maximum impact quintet from Omaha, Nebraska.
311's individual style is something of a mix between funk, reggae, the heavy metal overtones and rap-style vocals of Rage Against the Machine, and the shear energy of the Beastie Boys. To the hastily judgemental listener, 311 usually sounds like a Rage copy, but this is far from the case. Most listeners slowly grow to love them for all their styles of music, once they have been recognized.
In their new, self titled album, 311 presents the same aggressive punch that can be heard in their previous 2 albums. In the 311 tradition, the album opens up with a fast-fretting, heavily distorted rocker named "Down". The fourth song is "All Mixed Up", which presents an irresistible mellowed-out style. Guitarist Tim Mahoney's playing in this song, as well as in a handful of other 311 tunes, incorporates melodious chords noticeably influenced by reggae. The two band members devoted to vocals, Nick Hexum and SA (Doug) Martinez, add their own personal spice to the songs, sometimes singing harmoniously and sometimes dishing out the vocal gymnastics in a fast-paced rap style.
The fact that 311 has two members solely devoted to vocals gives their music a great deal of diversity. SA has a higher-pitched, typically more concordant voice that complements Hexum's deeper voice perfectly. When they sing fast, such as in "Jackolantern's Weather", it's very hard not to get up and jump around to the music. Likewise, when they sing in harmony, such as in "Purpose", it's equally as hard not to sing along.
The lyrics, generally written by Hexum and SA, usually set a "just plain fun" atmosphere around their music. The lyrics frequently poke fun at people or weighty topics in the form of a half non-intelligent "spaghetti rhyme". A good example of this is "Random", which tries to focus on aliens and space travel, but goes off on a million tangents in a million directions. Sometimes they directly confront a serious issue, as they do to domestic abuse in "Don't Let Me Down". But the majority of their songs are simply about frames of mind or are expressions of emotions; always amusing and always high energy.
The album continues in this fashion, with all high-points and no lows. It closes appropriately with "T & P Combo", which combines everything inherently 311 for a final, fast-paced encore.
It is no surprise that 311 is now gaining popularity very quickly. Their latest album is a complete success. You may have heard their newest hit, "Don't Stay Home", already crackling over the airwaves. "311" presents a variety of music styles that are likely to appeal to all kinds of teenagers who want to hear a new flavor of alternative rock. I personally like this album so much because it has always left me in a good mood. In this case, 311 has definitely succeeded in what they set out to do with their music (and they always have). I highly recommend it.

JACKPOT! (CMJ, 1995‏)

If there's one thing to be said for a hard-working, hard-touring band like 311, it's that the group has been able to carve a niche for itself on its own terms over its three albums. Having such a singular sound means that 311 is the kind of band that's best described by what it isn't, rather than pinning diwn what it is. It isn't some cartoonish rap/rock hybrid, it isn't a funk/metal band, it isn't a post-Hendrix punk band; instead, 311 takes the various things that other wannabes in those categories aspire to and contribute them into one ideal, super-charged sound. Bands are generally judged by their deeds, not their words, but here 311 cuts through "Down" with slashing turntables, incorperates funk chops to "Misdirected Hostility" and adds reggae tinge to the vocals on "Random," proving the band's mettle. Clearly, there's more to this band than just four guys on guitars playing rock, and one listen through Nick Hexum's and Sa Martinez's shouted lyrics reinforces that there's more to 311 than meets the eye. Produced and mixed by Ron St. Germain (Bad Brains), 311 is the band's most cogent and coherent alum to date.

311, Phunk Junkeez, 1000 Mona Lisas (Los Angles View, 1995)‏

It's easy to see why 311 sell out all-ages clubs every time they hit Los Angles. These five Omaha, Neb. transplants deliver on their promise to create a percolation metal-rap-funk fusion for their hometown every time. At last Friday's show, all the basic elements of a great 311 preformance were there: crunchy power-guitar churns; slap-and-pop bass lines; psychadelic-inflected bridges; and, of couse, the desperate give and take between romance and wrath in singer/rappers Nicholas Hexum's and Count SA's voices.

The set was heavily seasoned with spirited cuts from their newest cd, the self-titled 311, which was what the crowd wanted to hear. Although the group's 1993 debut Music was a much hookier work, the quintet has now blossomed artistically into a band with as broad a creative base as funkmeisters Fishbone. And Friday's faithful crowd seemed ready for just about any style 311 wanted to throw around.

311 headline at Jayhawk Festival (Rolling Stone, 1995)‏

"He's kind of our role model, the way he's built his career touring and through word of mouth and just making music for himself and his fans. We really admire that." That's 311's Nick Hexum waxing poetic on the fact that his band got to headline a bill that included Reverend Horton Heat at the first annual Jayhawk Music Festival at Clinton Lakes, outside Lawerence, Kan. The show, which raised a whoppong $40,000 for the Association to Benefit Children, was arranged by the Kappa Sigma frat at the University of Kansas.

Random Notes

Not all Funk Metal sucks, as 311 are out to prove. An Omaha-raised, LA-based quintet with gnarly grooves galore, 311's third, self-titled effort is a believable pastiche of slick chops, Pop panache and Metal mayhem which seems to include just a little bit for every listener. Thanks to yet another outstanding effort by producer Ron St. Germain - an NYC dancefloor mixologist best known in the Rock world for his work with Bad Brains, Living Colour, and Soundgarden- 311 is phat without trying to disown their White roots. Lead vocalist Nick Hexum bumps 'n grinds his way through fourteen tracks that even the Red Hot Chili Peppers wouldn't wince over. Highlights of this pleasant preformance include "Guns (Are for Pussies)" and "Misdirected Hostility," but you'll have to decide for yourself. Don't call 911, 311 is on it's way. Kyra Burton

Is Omaha the next Seattle? Probably Not, but 311 is becoming the next big thing (Hypno, 1995)‏

After hours and hours of California gridlock, Omaha natives 311 have finally gotten their moving van into their new hometown of Los Angles. Besides wanting to record their new album in L.A., 311's rapidly growing success and non-stop tour schedule made such a move inevitable. 311's previous two albums have already sold over a hundred thousand records based entirely on their fiercely energetic funk-rap-rock sound. Their third album and newest release for Capicorn Records, self titled 311, may be the album that takes them to the next level. As we wait to find out, HYPNO writer Susan Delpino catches up with Nick (vocals) to discuss everything from bad acid to gun control to Newt's politics.

Tell me about the little blue aliens on your CD cover. Did you know there was once a problem with some bad acid with the alien's face on it?"Laughing... ha, no. That's funny. Wait til I tell everyone else. How bad was it?"

A lot of people got really sick. There weren't any deaths, I don't think...""No, it really was a totally different reason. On our first album we were thinking about how we were going to make the best musical rap album with a lot of funk. In conjunction with that, we were thinking about space and other life forms out there. It may not make a lot of sense to some people, but that was sort of our 'grassroots.' In many of our lyrics, we talk about space and other life forms. It's also a cool image. I swear it didn't have anything to do with acid, but that is funny."

How do you feel about Red Hot Chili Peppers or Beastie Boys comparisons?"It doesn't really bother us. Those are two of our most definite influences, and we have a lot of respect for both bands. We have jazz and reggae singing which aren't present elements in these bands, so yes there are similarities, but there are also many differences."

311 shows are known for intensity, so do you encounter many problems with security at certain venues?"A lot of it is lack of communication. The problems arise when we play venues that normally don't have moshing-type bands. There was this place in Orange County where they never had a big band, and the security didn't know how to handle it. The bouncers got really belligerent and created more violence than our fans. There were times I had to step in. To avoid this communication barrier, we try to let those venues know what to expect before the show."

How do you feel about Newt Gingrich's attempt to ban rap music, moshing, and many other types of musical expression?"Whether it be gangster rap, moshing, or even bands promoting pot smoking, any conservative effort to ban musical expression actually gives the bands the press they need to sell records. Their theory always backfires. 2 Live Crew would never have gone platinum if it wasn't for conservatives bitching about them. Our first admendment will never be abolished, but then on the other hand, these conservatives could kill the National Endowment for the Arts, which would have a negative effect."

What kind of chemistry happens between the band members when it comes to writing?"There's no set way things happen in 311. Sometimes a jam session will produce a song that everyone helped to write. Other times I'll bring a completed song, and everyone will learn it, and we take it from there. It's always different."

What are some topics 311 chooses to write about?"We write about different observations on life in general. We're a bunch of optimistic guys, really. We believe life is what you make out of it, so you have to enjoy yourself. Life is too short to be surrounded by negitivity."

Since we're on the topic of your new album, tell me about the lyrics "Guns are for Pussies." Does 311 support gun control?"It's really not that political. The song is about someone who needs to carry a gun. 311 sees it as giving into your fears, which therefore is a mental weakness. A stronger person can get through life without having to carry a gun. That's what this song is all about."

I know many interviews can become pretty monotonous, but is there a question you wish someone would ask and never do?A long pause...
"Um, not really. There's always certain people who ask what our name means. We don't really have a prepared answer for that. It's something we don't really define so we always change the subject. I can't think of what I'd like to be asked, but I can give you a lot of questions I don't like to answer.
"No let's no do that. I don't want to do this interview over." He jokes.

Is there anything else you would like to say?"Yes, 311 is a band you must see live to figure out what we're all about. You haven't heard 311 until you've heard us live."

311's Wild Ride (95/96)

With it's infectious mix of reggae, hip-hop, and punk, 311 can turn a crowd of jaded teens into a raving mosh pit. Over the course of three albums and several tours, 311 has slowly built its fan base to the point that the quintet's concerts in major markets like Los Angles, Atlanta, and New York sell out. Sitting in the back of the tour bus before a recent show, vocalist-guitarist Nicholas Hexum talks about the band's live performances. He's flanked by a Sega Saturn video system (one of the band's favorite pasttimes), and Rush's "Xanadu" plays in the background.

"Most people say you don't appreciate the band fully until you see us play live. I think that's true of any good band. If you can't cut it live, something's wrong," he says. "When you play live music and you have a large group of people dancing, that's the same thing that's been going on for thousands and thousands of years, all the way back to drum circles where poeple would dance. We're just an extension of tribal music."

As if to support Hexum's theory, 311 has traveled like nomads for the past five years, migrating from Omaha Nebraska to Los Angles in 1992. Now, the group )which also includes drummer Chad Sexton, guitarist Tim Mahoney, bassist P-Nut and deejay S.A. Martinez) has moved out of its house and simply live on the road. The payoff hasn't come yet. 311's most recent, self-titled album (produced by Rom St. Germain) only briefly appeared on the Billboard charts, and the band's video hasn't found its way into MTV's "Buzz Bin." But for Hexum, touring provides the most satisfaction. He hopes the band can maintain a cult following and doesn't envision selling millions of albums and becoming the next Green Day or Offspring.

"We don't play punky pop rock, which MTV is all over. I think our time is a little more down the road. I would like to be like the Grateful Dead," he says, adding that the band played a song by the Dead on the night after singer-guitarist Jerry Garcia's death. "The Deadalways focus on their live shows and have people who travel around to see them. They're very successful, but they did it without hits and mainstream press. As far as how they approach the buisness side, they can't be beat."

Born in Wisconsin, Hexum moved to Nebraska by the time he was one. Ever since he can remember, Hexum knew he wanted to play in a band. He started with piano lessons, then learned to play guitar at age twelve. While a teenager, he spent one year in Greenborough, Maryland (just outside Washington D.C.) where he was first exposed to rap, but he says a broad range of music has influenced him.

"When I first heard the Clash, that had a big effect on me. Bob Marley also definately changed my viewpoint a lot," the 25 year old says. "I had a big jazz period, and I still like to listen to Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday."

311's music has a hip-hop vibe that compares with that of the Beastie Boys, but its eclectic influences and positive attitude distiguish it in the world of skate music. The band appeals to the skateboarder/surfer/snowboarder crowd, but doesn't cop a bad-ass attitude. If 311 has any kind of message to offer, it's one that urges it's fans to avoid violence.

"We get a lot of fan mail from people who appreciate what we're trying to do," Hexum says. "I know we're a lot more positive and have more heartfelt lyrics than the tough music stance that prevails. I like lyrics that have meaning behind them, and I like to hear a good love song. I'm not going to try to sound all hard. We're just being ourselves."

On 311, the songs "Misdirected Hostility" and "DLMD," a track about a battered woman, reflect the band's position against violence. In "Misdirected Hostility," Hexum rejects the gloomy nihilism of punk rock: "I cannot handle all the negitive vibe merchants... 'cause all that angst shit is just cheesy." The group's views come across clearest on the track "Guns (Are for Pussies)."

"We believe people carrying guns, especially young males, are pussies. They are giving into fear. It takes a strong person to hold your head high without one," he says. "There are groups in our genre- not just gangsta rappers- who pose with guns on their covers. I think they're a joke."

Hexum also says that 311 tries to cultivate a culturally diverse audience, reporting that women and kids of all ethnic backgrounds often attend their concerts.

"Our audience is generally people like us who don't fit into any specific group," he explains. "There're stoners, skaters, and all kinds of suburban kids. It's not only white males; there's a lot of diversity. If you only appeal to one special group, you limit yourself. I think if I express all the different sides of my personality, someone will relate."