Wednesday, December 20, 1995

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

Backstage With 311

After making his acquaintances in Los Angeles last spring, I find 311' s pink-haired front man, Nick Hexum, backstage at an east coast date waiting for the delivery of a bottle of hair die that will give him his new look. His timid body language and soft-spoken voice contrast with the powerful live performances his fans have come to now and love.

The recent success of "Don't Stay" has introduced 311 to the modern rock radio scene, as well as MTV. But this is no great importance to Nick. A self-proclaimed "non-media darling," the band has escalated through the underground music scene by "putting on good shows, writing good songs," and word of mouth.

Nick adds: "If we make our songs for ourselves and for our hardcore fans and radio and MTV happens to like it . . . that's fine. It just matter what your motivation, you intention, is to start with."

Hexum started a band with guitarist Tim Mahoney and drummer Chad Sexton in 1988. The trio added bassist P-nut in 1990, and got their first break opening for Fugazi in Omaha that spring. When back-up vocalist SA Martinez joined a year later, the circle was complete. Like most young bands, 311 headed for L.A. in 1992 and signed with Capricorn Records a couple of months later.

At first listen, you might group 311 in with other white rap/rock acts such as Rage Against the Machine or the Beastie Boys. But upon closer inspection, an array of musical influences become evident. By sweeping the spectrum with elements of funk, reggae, hip-hop, and melodic jazz, 311 is carving their own musical niche. The unique musical voice remains in tact thoughout their new release, 311, despite the stylistic roller coaster that carries you from track to track. From the heavy guitar driven "Hive," to the reggae inspired "Purpose," 311 continuously break normal musical barriers by changing styles seemingly with every verse. Hexum explains that "...311 is just a product of what we like. Hip-hop hard seems if you listen to both, then why not play both. Reggae, jazz, whatever we listen to is what we come out playing."

In addiction to pioneering sound, 311's intelligent lyrics often concern themselves with important themes. A close examination will reveal songs expressing views on everything from gang violence to racial harmony to morality and drug abuse. Lyrics from "Misdirected Hostility" indicate that Hexum speaks from personal experience.

Marijuana has also been a constant pulse in 311's work, from "My Stoney Baby" on their debut, Music, to "Offbeat Bare Ass" on their follow up, Grassroots. And this past year, 311 joined forces with N.O.R.M.L proponents Cypress Hill and the Black Crowes, among others, to record the CD, Hempilation, which, not so coincidentally was released by Capricorn. The past four years for have been almost dream-like for these Omaha natives. And the most interesting part is that they did it all the old-school; not through imitating what they heard on the radio, not through walking the well-worn road of power-pop-punk, but through innovative sounds and a grueling tour schedule. Often playing five shows a week for five months straight, 311 continues to realize the importance of remembering who they are. You will find no pretension, or cockiness from the member of this band. They are just five white guys from Omaha, Nebraska who are doing what they love, and being successful at it.

Tuesday, December 12, 1995

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

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.