Tuesday, October 26, 1999

311 - "Soundsystem" (Virtually Alternative Magazine)

Here’s an anecdote straight out of suburban youth culture (yes, it’s a true story–we have all lived this scenario in some way shape or form!). Jake–who at 13 years of age believes he resembles nobody, much less a pre-pubescent Eddie Vedder–is being shuttled by one of his parents to a Thursday afternoon guitar lesson. This week, he’s decided to take something of a break; he’ll grapple with no items from The Beatles songbook, nor will he try to master any of the requisite Jimi Hendrix solos. Instead, he plans to exchange the 15 hard-earned dollars crammed into the left pocket of his baggy black shorts for instructions on covering The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go.” At the moment, though, he’s staring out the car window, listening to 311′s Soundsystem CD.

Older ears – the kind that pay for historical consciousness with stray hairs that sprout around the edges–might be able to categorize 311′s music. The pounding bass and drums recall the furious attack of Elvis Costello’s Attractions. The guitar is at times reminiscent of Santana, and at others pounding out a ferocious sound along the lines of The Clash’s Mick Jones. And the dual-vocal attack of SA Martinez and Nick Hexum follows trails blazed by hip-hop and rap. Combined, these five Los Angeles transplants have helped to carve out their immediately recognizable Omaha-stylee sound. More rigorously than most other new rockers, 311 has embraced, as well as developed, new music-making strategies–combining funk with rock as originally trumpeted by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone–and adding some rock-steady reggae with hip-hop flava. And miracle of miracles, they do so without being fey, arch or ironic. For nearly nine years now, 311 has successfully melded the conventional rock/alternative form to rap’s collage aesthetic. “Do You Right”–a 1993 hit–formulated the potential of this fusion. Einstein said E=MC(2): Energy derives by expanding the MC’s role by the power of two. And as Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel would say, “This one goes to 11!”

But the kid on his way to his guitar lesson has young ears. He knows little of the history behind the music that fills his family’s car. “You know,” Jake declares, and it’s already clear that he intends to congratulate himself as much as issue a judgment, “this is pretty cool!” He doesn’t realize that the samples, aural citations, electro beats, riffs and motifs that pattern 311′s highly potent musical cocktail can be traced back to pioneers like Malcolm McClaren and Peter Tosh. He’s probably doubly unaware that at this point in time, listeners are having a hard time discerning the various genres of music.

Or at least one would hope so. 311′s bassist extraordinaire, P-Nut, is a model for civility. He clearly enjoys the give and take of conversation, as well as the burden of elaboration. “I think that’s just the way music is going. It’s pretty obvious that music is in that state now, because so many bands are crossing over and achieving huge levels of success. It’s just going to be more and more evident as time goes on that if you stay in one place, you’re moving backwards, but if you’re moving forward then you’re obviously on the right track.”

One thing is for sure: when it comes to band business, these guys are as serious as a Pixie Stick with a triple-espresso chaser. 311 is known for a relentless touring schedule of 200+ shows annually, as well as averaging nearly an album release per year. P-Nut helps to put 311′s impressive work ethic into perspective: “A lot of bands think that once they’ve gotten their record deal, they’ve made it. They get big egos and become complacent. But in truth, all a record deal means is that now you have a chance to make it. It’s a job, and you’ve got to work.

“Everyone is looking for diversity. People are shying away from strictly one thing or the other. Everything is not so cut-and-dried or black-and-white anymore. The crossovers are going to occur and ultimately the genres are going to bleed together.”

It’s obvious that P-Nut, as well as the rest of 311, is well versed in the ways of the music business–and why not? 311 cut its teeth in the music scene that spreads across the Midwest. In addition, shortly after hitting the road in support of their debut CD, Music, on Capricorn Records, their tour was briefly sidelined when their RV caught fire and exploded, destroying all their equipment and personal possessions. Unwilling to concede defeat, 311 canceled only one show before returning to the stage with gear donated by sympathetic friends and fans.

“Looking back, I think we all worried way too much,” P-Nut says. “I know that’s easy to say now, but if you really believe in what you’re doing, you’ll get the break you deserve. You should do what comes from the heart or everything will ring hollow. At the end of the day, all we want to be able to say is that we did something honest.”

311′s personal philosophy, the power-of-positive-thinking mindset, is reiterated over and again within the group’s lyrical and musical content. “Even if it’s not truly a conscious thing we think about, it is definitely a subconscious thing, definitely affecting all of us. It’s a good place to be,” muses P-Nut. “We don’t see it as a bad thing. Everyone is up for new challenges and that’s what it’s always been about. We always make new hurdles to overcome. So, even at this pinnacle we’re at right now, we’re always looking to push the envelope by outdoing ourselves. That’s the great thing about being in a band: always trying to reinvent yourself and not trying to recreate what we’ve already done.

“I’m not saying we’ve reached the pinnacle of positivity, but we’re definitely keeping things on that side,” P-Nut continues. “We know that having a good philosophy allows us to get the most out of life, rather than being cloudy and bringing everyone else down. Being able to do what you want for a living is such a joy that there’s really no reason to ever complain about it. So, as a result, we sing about good things. And if a problem does arise, then deal with it.”

This may explain why 311 isn’t preoccupied with achieving a preconceived level of success. “We know that radio support is important. We know that when it’s kind, radio can help make a band, whereas when it’s cruel it can also serve to help break up a band.” The music business can be very unapologetically cutthroat–where you’re only as good as your last single. And yet, even in the face of this, 311′s convictions are absolute. “Even after a Platinum album and #1 songs,” continues P-Nut, “we still did not see much support for our last album, Transistor; yet we’re still here doing what we’ve always done.”

But living up to the expectations of a Platinum record isn’t easy, and many bands don’t cope with it well. Fortunately, P-Nut cites strong ties with their label: “One thing we all like about Capricorn is that they never really try and tell us what the content of the album should be. Of course, it will be discussed, but they’ve never tried to push us into a corner and force us to do something that’s musically non-representative of 311′s sound.”

311 has no problem with helping to push this new album to Platinum the old-fashioned way, either–by touring. Remember, this is a band that sold thousands of CDs on their own before signing with Capricorn, as well as issuing two new CDs dedicated to their loyal fans (these CDs are available exclusively on their own official Web site, www.311.com. “First and foremost, we are a live band. The music we write is intended to be heard live. There’s nothing like it when the band is just ripping it up and the crowd is jumping. Everyone’s just feeding off the same intense energy.

“We really put a lot of time into how these songs would come off live, and then wrote them accordingly.” If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the men of 311 should be feeling pretty good right about now. “There are several bands out there right now that are doing it just like we did it years ago–go out on the road and rock the people. Boom! That’s what it’s all about, straight and simple.

“I think that was the motivation behind writing Soundsystem. We wanted an album that was a little bit more in our field of play. Transistor was great for a studio album, and we all think it will age really well, but we’re a band that needs to be in front of an audience.

“Besides, you can’t be a real judge of the band until you see us live. Even though we’ve put years’ worth of work into recording, we’re still a live band. The emotion that comes during a live show is so different than during the making of albums, which becomes a very personal thing. But a live show is this collective experience that we share with everybody.”

P-Nut continues: “For this album, we really want to play the majority of it live, because that was what we had in mind when it was written–to be played in front of a live audience. It can’t be ethereal and dubby; it has to be powerful and straightforward.

“Comparing these last two albums, Transistor was written almost entirely on an individual basis, with not much collaboration going on. This was an important step for all of us, because it allowed us each to grow as songwriters, which in turn, helped to create a much tighter, cohesive songwriting unit when crafting Soundsystem. We worked on these songs for over a year. We haven’t had this much time in the studio since we worked on the Music album.”

What makes a good band is the intangible chemistry that exists in the songwriting processes of the band members. Sometimes, when a songwriter is left to his own devices, there’s suddenly no one there to temper his/her tendencies. “There is always going to be a little reflection of the last album, because we’re not going to completely abandon what we’ve already done–that would be foolish,” states the very self-assured P-Nut. “There’s always going to be a little residue left over, especially from something as different and diverse as Transistor. It was really a fun album to write and record. We are all very proud of it. We even plan on incorporating some of the songs into our live set, as well. But unlike the last tour, where we had a basic set list, we plan on playing a variety of songs, because we know there will be diehard fans attending show after show and we don’t want them listening to the same set every night. Furthermore, it was with this in mind that we structured a small venue/club tour before going out on the full-blown world tour. We’re just going to try and keep everyone happy, including us.”

And happy they are. “There’s always going to be stuff on a smaller scale that goes wrong, but you really can’t get hung-up on that. We are not going to sacrifice the content of the music. We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing; making sure that everyone in the band is happy and work out any differences democratically. We try and keep everything as positive as possible.

“It really is the only way to be. Being in a different town, in front of a different group of people every night and dealing with different problems, is just a fact of life for musicians. The laundry is going to get messed up, the salmon isn’t going to be ready on time, someone is running a half-hour behind schedule and soundcheck is a disaster. With these kinds of things you realize that this is life–you don’t always have to push the envelope–sometimes you just have to deal with the way things are.”

This philosophy can best described by the track “Life Is Not A Race”:

“The world whirls around your mind in a golden spiral/
The natural way that things organize/
You can’t stop entropy, so why even try/
Observe the conscious flow and don’t mystify/
Life’s not a race”

Soundsystem also marks a studio maturation for 311, thanks somewhat to the contribution of veteran producer Hugh Padgham (XTC, Phil Collins, Sting, The Police), in addition to 311′s long-time producer and live sound engineer, Scotch Ralston. The hooks throughout Soundsystem are more subtle; yet still in your face, with tighter changes and a more diverse sonic range. “We wanted someone that we knew had a good record of people to work with, as well as artists that we admire and respect. We were looking for someone who’d give us an objective opinion on melodies and harmonies and bring that old-school element of recording back into the studio."

“Come Original,” the first single released from Soundsystem, shows that 311 can keep current with its dancehall rock attack. Combining Nick Hexum’s melodies with P-Nut’s quirkiness, this first offering is “really just a hard-hitting song that you want to hear over and over again,” declares the very proud bassist. “And that’s only the first track from the new album!”

For now and on into the foreseeable future, 311 will be radiating their brand of positivity to help erase the anger, bad news and unpleasant vibes in the world

Monday, October 25, 1999

311 (Univercity)

We’re a culture spewing forth the notes and sounds of music of all shapes,
sizes, colors, flavors, images, textures, etc. We’re genre happy and proud of it! Leather and spikes. Dreads and hemp. Adidas, contact lenses, clown makeup or nipple clamps. It’s all good. We’re just a-bootie-wigglin’ upon a very nifty era on the time line of music history. We’re standing smack in the midst of that time-line notch wear anything goes.......and if I want to play my guitar with only one string tuned to the key of “Z” naked with mere banana peals to cover my privates and declare myself a rock star, so be it!

But there are the band’s that take that open invite to creativity far more serious than nakedness and banana peels. In a word (a-hem....a number) 311. Hailing from the not-quite-music -Mecca of Omaha, Nebraska, the band redefines all that is ska, raggae and metal-inspired pop rock. Comprised of lyrical mastermind, vocalizer, guitarist and programming wizard, Nick Hexum, drummer, percussionist and programmer Chad Sexton, vocals, S.A., guitarist Tim Mayhoney and bassist P-Nut, 311 has returned from their brief slumber bearing forth an LP of extreme proportions. Answering to the name of “Sound System”, the band’s latest release on Capricorn, is an exotic mesh of music of all genres laced into one colossal sound scape of positive energy. Soothing yet convulsive; wholly jump worthy.........Nick Hexum gave us a brief low down on the latest release during sound check.

: How does your latest record differ from the band's previous releases?
We spent more time on this record than on any other release. I think that allowed us to really focus on the material and focus on our individual performances. I think its a strong rock record but it still has a lot of melodic elements. I don’t know how its specifically different from our other albums - because I think it definitely contains elements of all our records - but it's still a step into the future for 311.

: Did the recording session for this release differ greatly from your last LP, Transistor?
Definitely. First of all we built our own studio - which was a huge challenge but really made the record a great experience. It did two things...first it allowed us a lot of freedom and a lot of comfort. We could work at our own pace, at our own hours, etc... It also made us jump in and really learn the recording process better. Since we were working on our own gear - it was really up to us to conquer the studio and make a great sounding record.

: All of 311’s records have had a sort of vibe to them. A message I guess. What message are you trying to purvey with this record?
I think this record may be a bit darker than our past two records - but the overall message is still one of positively. It's solution oriented music.

: What do you use as lyrical inspirations?
Life experience is the best inspiration but not all of the songs are based on my own life. I'm inspired by relationships, art, tv, movies, music, weather, etc...

: Is there a song on the record that’s particularly personal to you?
I think I'm really close to “Flowing” which is going to be our next single. It's the first song I wrote for this record - which tends to have some impact on my relationship with the song. “Down” was the first track I wrote for the self-titled album and I've always felt strongly about that song as well.

: Did you ever imagine 311 attaining as much success as they have?
I always had high hopes and aspirations for 311 - but this has definitely been a dream come true. We are really happy and appreciative. No complaints.

: What have you learned in your years of involvement in the music industry?
I've met some cool people in the business - but the industry itself can be a drag sometimes. It's political and it's still not tuned in the artists favor. I think technology (online downloads, etc) is going to have a huge effect on the future of the music biz.

: How do you think the general music scene has changed since the band began?
I think people have gotten more open minded about genre-mixing styles. The music scene is constantly evolving. There’s a lot of artist pushing the envelope - you might not hear it on mainstream radio - but it's out there. I've been listening to a lot of drum & bass music lately which is very progressive
: What advice can you give to someone starting a band today?
Come original.

: Say something to your fans..........
Stay positive and love your life!

311 Interview with P-Nut and SA (VoxOnline)

VOX: Please introduce yourselves to your adoring fans…VOX:How did you come up with the name of the album?
SA Martinez: I’m SA…
P-Nut: I’ll be P-Nut today, thank you very much!
VOX: Now that the album is finished, are you guys dying to get the album released?
SA: We can’t wait to get this record out, we can’t wait to play some shows. We wanna get back in touch with all of our fans. And, basically just have some fun!
P-Nut: Being in limbo like this, sitting on such a good album, is – is impossibly hard. So, the people that see our first shows better watch the fuck out because there’s going to be some danger going on. I’m telling you, I’ve got two years worth of excitement in me and it’s going to blow up all over the stage!
VOX: You guys have some hardcore fans…
P-Nut: The people that I talk to on the Internet are freakin’ out! You know, that just represents the sum population of our hardcore fans. But they are some of the hardest core fans; they’re on top of the news every minute, they got the mp3 of the new track. It’s crazy – you kids are great!
VOX: Any favorite tracks you guys have from the new album?
SA: Favorite tracks…hmmm, there are so many. I like "Freezetime" a lot. I like "Living & Rockin."
P-Nut: We put so much time into the album that I know everyone in the band loves every song. We made sure we didn’t put [on the album] any song that anyone was ‘iffy’ on. We love everything and we put well over a year into writing the music. We fined tuned it. It as strong of an album that we have ever put out. Point blank!

VOX: How would you describe the new album? What direction did you move in…
P-Nut: What I heard people say, which may be more of an objective view, because I am so into the band and everything. I love us (laughing)! They say it’s a mixture of our old and new styles and both of those taken somewhere else. We’re constantly changing ourselves in subtle ways, so, it’s always going to be different. But since we put so much time into it, not only is it different, it’s really good. And, there’s no lack of confidence!
SA: The inspiration behind Soundsystem was based on our love for Jamaican culture, reggae culture; [also] the soundsystem that is incorporated in Jamaican music, the soundsystem that brings all of the people in Jamaica together. And, also the fact that when we go out on the rode on tour we are a traveling soundsystem as well. We just wanted to incorporate that theme into what we are about. So that’s where Soundsystem came from – baby!
P-Nut: Oohhh, baby!
VOX: When is the first single due out?
P-Nut: It’s the eleventh today, hmm., it’s less than two weeks for the release. So, by the end of the month, it should be coming out.
VOX: Ami Vick from Baltimore wants to know what the single will be? "Come Original?"
P-Nut: Yeah, it will be "Come Original.’
VOX: Ami also wants to know if you’ll be doing a video for it.
P-Nut: We are doing a video for it next weekend. It’s going to be at a soundstage in Los Angeles and the director is Kevin Clearlake, who has worked with everyone you can name. He is a really, really cool guy. He showed up and seemed like he was a part of our crew already – it was nice. I thought there was a good connection. But, I am f-o-n-d of directors! I like to see the ideas they want to put us into. It’s so different a media for a bunch of musicians to work in. I find myself very interested and I learn a lot everytime we do a video shoot.
VOX: What is the theme of the video?
P-Nut: Performance based. The shots will be full length of the band and closeups. It’s going to be in and out, straight shots…I am definitely not the person that should answer this question! That’s all I remember!
VOX: Is there anyone you want to tour with?
SA: We haven’t made a decision but it looks like we’re not going to take anyone on this leg of the tour cause we are going back to smaller venues, mainly clubs and bars, getting back to where we started from. And, in those environments, a lot of times when bands play, it’s very loud, very cramped. It will affect your enjoyment of a 311 show, if you’re just inundated with a tremendous amount of noise before hand. We want to keep all the ears fresh and just come out with a 311 show. So, no, there won’t be anyone opening for this length of the tour.
VOX: Any artists that you admire?
SA: There’s a Dr. Israel from New York who has a really good album out. I would be interested in performing with him. P-Nut?
P-Nut: I’d like to have 311 play with Ween someday – even thought their concert last week wasn’t the best I’ve seen in the four shows I’ve been to! But I’d still love to play with you guys. So, call up our management and we’ll work it out baby!
SA: [laughs]
VOX: Anna Wiley from Glenwood, Iowa wants to know if you guys are going to come back to Omaha on this tour?
P-Nut: Yeah, we’re actually going to play the place [311] played at first. It’s in mid-town, right in between South O and downtown Omaha. It’s going to be great. It’s where we opened for Fugazi. Omaha is going to kick ass! It’s going to be scary. You know, we shut that place down. We were the last band to play there cause there was some structural damage! So, it pretty cool that there opening it up for us again. Cause there’s going to be more (structural damage)!
VOX: Loren Mickelson from Loveland, Colorado wants to know what Enlarged To Show Detail II will be like – more of you guys on the road or something else?
P-Nut: Well, you know we have enough footage to do videos 2, 3 and four right now if we were really dead set on it. And we could have, but we would not have been very happy about it ‘cause we know how old the footage is. It’s going to be all from this tour and the recording of Soundsystem. So, it will all be fresh and we won’t be bored with it. We could have sold another videotape with all the stuff we have, but we’re our biggest critics so we knew we couldn’t get away with that! We wouldn’t sleep well with that. It should be released early 2000.
VOX: Haile Urquhart from Lawrenceville, Georgia wants to know where the positive outlook the band has come from. Is it lifestyle or upbringing?
SA: It’s really just an outlook on life, on our upbringing, our environment…
P-Nut: People we hang out with…
SA: Yeah, those people you hang out with. If you are of negative mind you will attract just that. We’re all connected in someway, and we rely on each other, everybody does. If you want to be in a positive environment you really have to focus on yourself and makes some changes in your life. Everyone has the potential to be a positive person, there’s nothing that says you can’t. You might think the odds are stacked against you but you’re wrong! Everyone has their good days and bad.
P-Nut: The right people get it, and that’s the cool thing. When we were first playing and getting the sound – I know what went through everyone’s head. Like, how is this going to come off, like is it going to be a wimpy kind of vibe. Of course not, we’re wouldn’t let that happen. We’re still going to be positive. So, it took a little time, a little learning, but it all worked out.
VOX: Mitch Metz from Caldwell, New Jersey wants to know if you guys will ever play with Bad Brains, or if that is something you guys would like to do?
P-Nut: H.R. is just a little too erratic for us management wise. Like the band wouldn’t care if he didn’t show up for a couple of shows, that’s just going to be expected. Our management is really going to be worried about that and having it ruin the whole show. I wanna play with the legend. That’s what I want to see! It will happen someday no matter what.
VOX: Mitch also wants to know what the picture is on the cover of the Unity album.
SA: It’s a picture of a tree, a detail of a tree.
P-Nut: Tree limbs and stuff growing on it so it looked weird. Good question M-i-t-c-h! Keep it up!
VOX: Will you guys ever play in Alaska?
P-Nut: Well we do have a lyric that says we haven’t been to Alaska. So, we’d have to rewrite "Fuck The Bullshit" if that happens! And, we look forward to changing that. Changing a classic 311 song at least a little bit. That’ll be fun.
SA: The promoter in Los Angeles, Goldenvoice, promotes in Alaska as well. They’ve approached us. I would say we would be in Alaska soon.
VOX: Any chance you guys will play Coachella?
P-Nut: Who? I haven’t even heard about it. Whose involved?
SA: It’s like two days, in the dessert, Rage and all kind of bands will be there…
P-Nut: Ok, ok, I did hear about that. Whoo, that would be great…But, we’ll be doing our own thang!
VOX: Starr from Seattle, Washington wants to know when the tour info will be available.
SA: That should be out pretty soon.
P-Nut: There will be some minor changes.
SA: Yeah, but it’s pretty solid. Our first gig, I think we can say, our ‘foist’ tour spot will be a warm up before some radio gigs that we are doing at the end of September…
P-Nut: A warm-up before the warm-up baby!
SA: It will be in Nashville at the 328 club.
VOX: How have things gone since signing with Capricorn Records?
P-Nut: The relationship has only gotten better over the years. Especially since they have done very little to influence us on singles. Of course they will give us their opinions and that’s to be expected and more heads are better than one. I like how they haven’t been pushy or insistent on anything. It’s a good relationship.
VOX: It’s got to feel good to have made it this far without the critics really getting behind you.
P-Nut: Yeah, fuck ‘em! [laughing]
VOX: Some critics just end up tearing down a band without ever giving them a chance.
P-Nut: Right, that’s going to happen no matter what. The best attitude to have is ignore them or fuck ‘em! [more laughing]
VOX: One more time!
P-Nut: Fuck ‘em! Good direction! [laughing all around]
VOX: Dena from Oceanside, California wants to know if any of you guys plan on getting married or having children in the near future.
P-Nut: Wow, that’s so personal! I’m…I’m pretty much already married. Umm, I’m avoiding children for a good, hmm, ten years right now. It will be a 30’s thang if it happens.  'Cause, well, the girlfriend is not all that into it.  But who can blame her at this point in time.  It would be just too much work.
SA: I’d like to get married some day and have children you know.  I am not exactly sure of a timeline!  But, yeah, I would never rule anything out.   Anything is possible.
VOX: SA, being Hispanic, was or is there a Hispanic population in Omaha?
SA: Oh, yeah. South Omaha was predominantly Mexican and more so now. You have a lot of migrant farm workers who come up to work there. There’s a substantial population there.
VOX: Do you speak Spanish?
SA: No, unfortunately I don’t. My dad never spoke Spanish in the house, probably because my mom didn’t speak it. Yeah, but I wish I could now, that would be awesome.
VOX: Well, you guys have been great! Thanks for your time!
P-Nut: Great job guys. You can sleep well tonight!

311 Size Down Venues For Late Summer Tour (LiveDaily)

With a new single on the radio, a video shoot completed, and an album titled "Soundsystem" (Capricorn) in the can awaiting its Oct. 12 release, 311 is readying to hit the road for a coast-to-coast tour. The festivities begin Sept. 20 at Nashville's 1,200-capacity 328 Music Hall, and so far more than 60 shows are planned through mid-December.
Though a few radio station festival dates will be hit along the way, the tour will generally stick to venues more intimate than the band's multi-platinum status might suggest. According to the Nebraska-bred band's official web site (www.311music.com), the club and theater tour materialized at the request of fans. The band is expected to return in the spring of 2000 for a tour of larger venues.
Festival dates will include The Big Day Off Festival at the Meadows Theatre in Hartford on Sept. 24, the HFStival at Washington, D.C.'s, RFK Stadium, and the Rave Festival at Boston Pavilion on Sept. 26, and a date Oct. 30 in Tampa, Fla.

311 and Incubus Make Plans For Summer Tour (LiveDaily)

Corn-fed alt-rockers 311 have announced dates for a summer tour with Incubus. Focusing on theatres, the 30-plus shows will begin May 23 at the Cox Arena in San Diego, CA and continue through early July.
311's blend of hip-hop and rock was most recently realized on its 1999 release ''Soundsystem,'' which featured the single ''Come Original.'' The Nebraska-based band has been on the road virtually non-stop since the release of "Soundsystem," and is currently winding down its spring tour with Jimmie's Chicken Shack.
Singer Nick Hexum explained what inspires him to write lyrics in a posting on the band's official website.
''I love to hear that people have taken our lyrics to heart. Some people just listen to music to groove or rock to, but others take a closer look. I feel a responsibility to talk about a way out of problems, just as much as the problem itself. Many people say our message is positive, but that's just natural. I couldn't imagine not finding things to like about life. On [''Soundsystem''] there is some darker content, but we'll never wind up competing for the gloom market.''

311: An IGN Classic Interview With Nick And S.A.

In law enforcement circles it's universally known as the code for indecent exposure, y'know, gettin' nekkid in public.
But if you happen to be under 30 and somewhat tapped into the popular music scene, then 311 takes on a whole new meaning, standing for something altogether different.
Y'see, 311 is also the name of one of the hardest working, ultra popular sonic quintet's to grace today's music scene. Comprised of Nick Hexum, vox, guitars; Tim Mahoney, guitars; SA Martinez, vox, turntables; Chad Sexton, drums; P-Nut, bass; 311 originally hails from the Midwestern epicenter of all things corn huskish: Omaha, Nebraska. In a feat hitherto unheralded in the vaults of the modern day pop maelstrom, the band has managed to crank out a total of nine albums, numerous EPs, videos, and countless bootlegs since 1990 (their most recent, Soundsystem just hit the stores a few weeks ago). But, as if that weren't enough, they've toured incessantly throughout the US and the world during the past six years, to boot. IGN For Men Senior Editor Spence D. sat down with the guys from 311 and attempted to get the inside skinny on what makes them tick. Here's what they had to say.
IGN For Men: Growing up in Omaha, did you all watch Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom? What did you think of Marlon Perkin's always sittin' safely in the helicopter while making Jim do the dangerous animal wrestlin'?
Nick Hexum: Yeah, we watched it. We also tried to rip off their logo for a 311 t-shirt that said "311 - Music of Omaha" instead of Mutual of Omaha. They found out about it and sent us a cease & desist so we had to stop making them.
IGN For Men: This one's directed at SA, on the turntable action, do you rock the 1200's?
SA Martinez: Yeah, 1200's baby.
IGN For Men: And what kind of needles do you endorse?
SA Martinez: I don't endorse needles...shooting up is for losers. I do use Vestax mixers though.
IGN For Men: What's your most prized record?
SA Martinez: Most prized record is too tough. I just bought some great old reggae albums in Santa Cruz yesterday at Streetside Records. I got a pretty rare HR record, Aswad and a bunch of stuff.
IGN For Men: Can you cite some of your influences, specifically non-musical ones such as literature, cinema, theater, or art?
Nick Hexum: The Simpsons, Stanley Kubrick, Robert Anton Wilson, Art Bell....

IGN For Men: What's the collective band's favorite late nite snack...y'know, what food do you mack late at night to inspire creativity?
Nick Hexum: We usually get pizzas after the show...but that can kill you. So were moving over to salads and fruit. But last night we had sushi. Chocolate is pretty popular on the bus. Cereal is good, too.
IGN For Men: Why did y'all pack up and move from Omaha to LA? Did you suffer serious culture shock comin' from the Midwest to the sunny CA coastline?
Nick Hexum: We've moved to LA to pursue the dream and get a record deal. It worked. We all live in Hollywood now.
IGN For Men: Looking over your album titles--Music, Transistor, Soundsystem--they all have to do with music. From whence do these titles come from and are you trying to create a continuous theme by naming them all after various sonic terminology?
Nick Hexum: We are just trying to make all of them one word titles. And here's a small bit of trivia for you: all album titles are also mentioned in the song "Transistor" (311, Grassroots, Music, Transistor, Soundsystem).
IGN For Men: What do y'all do on tour during the downtime? Do you play video games? Do y'all have Playstation, Dreamcast, or N64 on the bus? If so, what are your favorite games and who's the best player.
Nick Hexum: We had N64 at the studio. Kobe Bryant Basketball and James Bond are the best games. On the bus we have Sega Dreamcast. Playing a lot of Soul Caliber and some NFL2K. Waiting for the basketball game to come out.
IGN For Men: I recently spoke to Kid Rock and he told me that the band watches Forrest Gump all the time on tour. Do y'all watch movies on the tour bus? If so, what are some of your staples?

Nick Hexum: We have a DVD player on the bus and we have a lot of movies to choose from but we haven't watched anything yet. I will, however, recommend American Beauty which is out at the theatres...good film.
IGN For Men: Who's tunes do you take with you on tour?
Nick Hexum: We all bring a lot of CD's. All different styles. Lately I've been listening to a lot of jungle and drum & bass.
IGN For Men: Have any of you ever been indecently exposed? If so, where and when.
Nick Hexum: No....but you can see P-Nut in some tight purple briefs in our home video "Enlarged to Show Detail."
IGN For Men: Who's your favorite superhero.
SA: I like Shazam because he has that sweet van.
P-Nut: I like the Punisher because I collect the comic book.
Tim: I like Wonder Woman ...just because.
IGN For Men: What's your spirit animal? You know, the animal you most likely identify with?
Nick Hexum: Ram.
IGN For Men: If you weren't in 311 you'd be...____________________ (fill in the blank with an alternate career choice).
Nick Hexum: Working on computers.
IGN For Men: What kind of soundstystem do y'all travel with-- Discman's, walkmans, boombox, etc.?
Nick Hexum: All of the above and then some.
IGN For Men: Do you prefer performing live to being in the studio or do you enjoy both for different reasons?
Nick Hexum: Both for different reasons...but playing live is the best. That's where it becomes a collective experience where you can really share something with the band and with the crowd. It's definitely magic.
IGN For Men: It took you a year to record Soundsystem...that seems like a pretty long time to be locked down in the studio...how does that compare with the length of recording some of your previous records?
Nick Hexum: We spent much more time with Soundsystem. We really wanted to take our time. We have felt rushed with all the other records. It was nice to work at our own pace this time.

IGN For Men: You've worked with DJ Spinna in the past...how did you come to hook-up with an underground hip-hop producer such as him?
Nick Hexum: Our A&R guy at Capricorn Records hooked us up with him. He did a couple dope remixes but I don't think they were ever released.
IGN For Men: What underground hip-hop joints are y'all rockin' in the tape deck?
Nick Hexum: Black Eyed Peas is a current favorite.
IGN For Men: What's your favorite daytime television show?
Nick Hexum: Sunday afternoon football.
IGN For Men: What's the band's motto, y'know, what words do you all live by?
Nick Hexum: Stay positive and love your life.
IGN For Men: How are you coping with pre-millennial tension?
Nick Hexum: We're putting out the welcome mat.
IGN For Men: What's the future game plan of 311...what are your long-term goals?
Nick Hexum: We're going to be touring for a long time so I really can't look past that. There's a lot to look forward to, though.

Original Thought (Baltimore Sun)

"Come original, you got to come original/All entertainers, come original," sings 311's Nick Hexum on the song "Come Original." Despite the awkward grammar, there's no mistaking Hexum's meaning - there's no value to be had in trend-chasing or imitation. If you want your work to matter, you need to do something distinctive.
To their credit, the members of Hexum's band, 311, have done just that with "Soundsystem" (Capricorn). Even as other bands are cashing in on the rap/rock fusion that 311 helped pioneer, the band's new album moves beyond the obvious variations to deliver something unique.
"Come Original," for instance, does just that, mixing a lilting, dance-hall vocal with hip-hop rhythms and crunchy guitar for the A-section, then shifts to a more aggressive pulse based on slap-bass and turntable scratching for the rap-style B-section. That alone is more musical variety than most bands manage, but 311 shifts gears yet again on the song's bridge, laying down an angular metal riff that seems to soar over the pulsing bass and drums.
Thanks to the lyric, "Come Original" may be the most obvious example of 311's eclectic approach, but it's hardly an isolated example. From the easy, Caribbean-inflected flow of "Strong All Along" to the punchy, muscular groove of "Large in the Margin," 311 offers a wide array of stylistic ideas here. But even when the sources are obvious, what the band does with its influences is neither pat nor predictable.
Indeed, if there's any common thread to these songs, it's the way the group balances rhythmic fluidity with textural intensity. In other words, no matter how much 311 wants to punish your speakers, the band never wants to interrupt your groove. So even though there's a fair amount of guitar shred in songs such as "Freeze Time" or "Can't Fade Me," 311 never detours into straight-out thrash, preferring instead to keep the music at a nice, funky simmer.
Wanting to "come original" doesn't mean the band doesn't occasionally pay overt tribute to its musical muses. Even though "Life's Not a Race" uses no congas or timbales, it's hard to mistake the influence Santana exerts over the track, from Tim Mahoney's sweetly searing lead (very much in the Carlos Santana vein) to the "Black Magic Woman"-style breakdown at the song's end.
But even when 311 wears its sources on its sleeve, the band never seems to be slavishly imitating the artists it admires. These guys would rather "come original," and that's the best reason to discover their "Soundsystem."

P-Nut (BassPlayer)

Most multi-platinum bands achieve success in one of two ways: either they make it big suddenly with a hit single or two-often falling into oblivion as quickly as they rose to the top-or they scratch and claw their way up the charts, leaving a string of high-quality but underappreciated records in their wake. The latter is the case with 311, a Nebraska-bred quintet raised on equal parts of sweet corn, hard rock, reggae, rap, and funk. This is no case of corporate image-mongering, aggressive marketing ploys, or heavy-handed A&R tactics. 311 has achieved success the old-fashioned way: they've earned it.
Anyone who's witnessed a 311 concert knows these guys are the real deal. There's drummer Chad Sexton, one of the most tasty, solid, and innovative stickmen in modern rock. There's guitarist Tim Mahoney, who's as likely to spin out a delicate Garcia or Santana lick as he is to pound out a highly syncopated power-chord riff-a man who's half Deadhead, half metal monster. There's Nick Hexum, who can wield a guitar with the best of 'em but who often unstraps his axe to concentrate on his sweet, always-dead-on vocals. There's SA Martinez, who at any time might be spinning a turntable, delivering a hard-hitting rap assault, singing in sublime harmony with Hexum, or just clowning it up with kooky dance moves. And there's P-Nut, whose rubbery, happy-go-lucky stage presence is as strong as his ultra-tight, ultra-syncopated, super-smooth bass lines. Together, they put on a show that's equally great for watching, listening, or moshing.
In 1991, after gathering an army of local fans in Omaha, 311 picked up and moved to Los Angeles. P-Nut-the band's youngest member, now 23-had to graduate from high school early to accommodate the relocation. Within months, the band signed a deal with Capricorn Records and recorded their first CD, Music; sales weren't great, but they expanded their fan base considerably during the extended tour that followed. In '94 they recorded Grassroots, and once again P-Nut had to put most of his possessions into storage for another long haul on the road. The next year, 311 recorded their eponymous "Blue Album" and toured some more. It wasn't until late '96 that radio and MTV began playing the record's second single, the aggressively rap-driven "Down." The more melodic third single, "All Mixed Up," was even bigger, giving the "Blue Album" legs that stretched well into 1997 and propelling sales to well over the two-million mark. 311 had arrived.
The ride isn't over. Not by a long shot. The band's most recent effort, Transistor, is their most musical and melodic to date. And P-Nut is playing with more creativity, taste, and depth than ever. "For the last album I wasn't necessarily 100% there, and I think it sounds like it," he said during our interview at his brand-new Hollywood Hills home, just before 311 kicked off its '97 tour with a month-long swing through Europe. "I definitely spent more time in the studio for this album, and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out."
Like their touring compatriots No Doubt before them, 311 is set to make some serious noise in '97 and '98. If they do, you can be sure P-Nut's bass style-now matured and enriched by the open-minded diversity of his listening tastes-will be a major contributing factor.
Since you became a professional musician, in what directions have you been trying to go with your bass style?
I've actually just been trying to maintain everything. When I was younger, I tried to be really inventive and made a big effort to do my own thing; now I shy away from that and just try to be more confident and lay into the pocket better. But I'm expanding, like every musician should. I'm going back to figuring out songs from records, like I used to do when I was a kid. I don't know why I got away from that for so long-but lately I've broken out records by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Curtis Mayfield and begun figuring out the bass lines. I think that's really good for my brain.
Any examples?
I figured out the Chili Peppers' "Knock Me Down" [Mothers Milk, EMI], which I love-that's a fun bass line to play. I also had to figure out the Clash song "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" [The Clash, CBS] for a Clash tribute album we played on. [Ed. Note: At press time, the Clash tribute was untitled and without a label.]
What kind of personal goals did you have when making Transistor?
I wanted to write more, and I did, so I feel better-but I still need to write even more, so I'm already thinking about the next album. That's good, because I never want to get stuck in one area.
I knew a lot of people would be listening to the new record, but I tried not to let that bother me too much. I didn't even think any of my songs were going to make it, because they were the first ones I wrote by myself-so I didn't have crazy high hopes. Plus, I didn't write the lyrics, so I couldn't tell how they would turn out until they were done. But I think "Creature Feature" [see music, page 49] ended up being one of the more musical tunes on the album.
Actually, most of the songs on Transistor are really musical. I knew that was going to be the dominant feel of this record, compared to the rock formula we used on the last album.
What are your earliest musical memories?
I remember hearing music around the house, but I couldn't tell you what it was. My parents didn't listen to a lot of music; it wasn't a part of their daily routine. I grew up wanting to have music playing all the time-probably because I didn't get to listen to it much when I was a kid.
Was your home environment liberal or conservative?
It was very liberal. The first album I bought was Motley Crue's Shout at the Devil [Elektra], and my mom was right there. I was 10 or 11 at the time. I can't say she approved, but . . . .
Did you play any instruments in school?
My first instrument was violin, which I took up in the second grade. I decided to take it up because my brother was playing the saxophone, and I wanted to do something different from him-so I picked a stringed instrument.
Can you still play violin?
I could bow some notes and they wouldn't squeak, but that's probably as far as I'd go. But I could probably remember everything if I sat down and worked at it for a couple of weeks-especially since I've kept my hands agile.
When I was in the fifth grade, I quit the violin and went right to bass. They wouldn't let me start on bass right away, so I had to take six weeks of guitar lessons, at a music store in a mall. The teacher was pretty cool; I learned [Deep Purple's] "Smoke on the Water" and [Yes's] "Owner of a Lonely Heart," along with some chords-three of which I still remember today. I did get an acoustic guitar later on in case I wanted to make up some more chords. Someday I'll get to that-but not right now. I'm still learning the bass.
What made you want to start playing bass?
Everyone who was musical in my neighborhood was playing either guitar or drums, and I wanted to be doing something else-and playing bass seemed like the natural thing. Plus, I was listening to a lot of Iron Maiden records back then, and I really liked the way Steve Harris made their music sound. He was definitely the first bass player who grabbed me. He's a monster.
When you were taking guitar lessons, did you have a bass?
No, just a guitar-a horrible Les Paul copy. But it was all wood, just like all of my basses are now. That, along with my violin experience, started my fascination with wood. I like wood instruments-that's the way it should be. I like wood furniture, too.
My first bass was a Precision copy called a Phantom. I didn't play it all that much, though, because my bass teacher was really structured; he prearranged what was going to happen and didn't let things happen. He had also kept the same set of strings on his bass for eight years. That's totally cool, and it does give a great sound-but it just wasn't very exciting for me. I'm sure he could have gotten some great dub sounds out of that bass, but I guarantee he wasn't! That's probably why I didn't play as much as I should have right when I started out.
When I was 14, I started taking lessons at a different shop-a place called Russo's-and they were just the best. The people there were a lot closer in age to my generation, and they listened to music that was more similar to what I was listening to. Plus, they were all fantastic musicians. That place was the only store in Omaha like that; all the others specialized in band instruments, because that's how they stayed in business.
My teacher at Russo's was totally mellow. All he wanted me to do was to bring in music; he'd figure it out, and by the end of the hour he'd have me playing it. That got me very motivated and got me to start figuring out stuff on my own. By that time I had moved up to a Fender Jazz Special, which I eventually put EMGs into. My teacher, though, had an early, Telecaster-style Precision, which I thought was the coolest thing. [Ed. Note: A similar instrument is featured in The Great Basses on page 88.] I remember bringing in the Chili Peppers' "If You Want Me to Stay" [Freaky Stylie, EMI], which of course is a Sly Stone song-and my teacher laughed so hard; he couldn't believe someone had covered that tune, because he liked it so much in the original form. But I stood up for the Chili Peppers, because they did a damn good job with that song-and also because they had a lot of balls trying to cover a Sly song.
My teacher had me listen to a lot of Level 42, because Mark King is such an amazing thumb-smith; I learned a great deal from that. That's actually how I started doing double-handed slaps, because it sounded so cool when Mark King did it. Later on, I heard Les Claypool using the same technique-but he was also adding extra thumbs, pulling different strings in different sequences, and strumming. He's an amazing musician, too.
Were you playing with other people at this point?
I was playing with the first 311 guitarist, Jimmy Watson, who's still doing stuff in Omaha. I was also playing with a drummer friend of ours. Later, when I was 15, I started playing with Chad-and he blew my mind the first time we jammed together.
Did you lock up instantly with Chad?
No question about it; I've never locked better with another musician. Even from that first time we played together, down in his basement, he had that same snare sound: so bright and sharp. I was almost deaf by the end of that day.
Chad had been in a drum corps-and when you're playing the snare with seven other people all doing the exact same thing, I'm sure you feel that connection with the other people. And even though Chad and I have a strong connection when we play together, it has to be even stronger when a bunch of guys are all playing exactly the same part.
Have you played on anyone else's records?
I've done things for local people in Omaha, but that's about it. I'd like to do other stuff-I'll take inquiries, although I'll be pretty busy for the next year! Actually, Chad and I have had little rumblings all through our career about someday doing something different-maybe even in the jazz vein. We'll probably do it in his home studio just for fun, but who knows?
What kind of theoretical background would you bring to a project like that?
Ignorance! [Laughs.] Complete and total ignorance. I'd just have fun with it; I'd feel no pressure, and I could just go off. A head shop in Los Angeles called the Galaxy has something called Acid Jazz Night, where people just show up and play-and I played bass on one of those nights a few weeks ago. It was really cool. That was the first time I'd played with any other musicians outside of 311 in any kind of public forum, which wasn't all that public. There were about 50 people there, and I don't think anyone knew who I was, which I liked even better. In Los Angeles, it's easy to blend in-even when you have a bass strapped on and you're playing with a band.
I'm playing bass for many, many reasons. I like the role that goes with it; I like feeling no pressure; and I like the way it lets me be very loose onstage-and just in general-because there are no confines. I think I was made to be a bass player.
It's interesting how popular you are among bassists, considering your lines tend not to be flashy or obvious. Why do you think people notice you so much?
Actually, when I started out, I was trying to play as much as I could-and it seems the older and more confident I get, the more relaxed I'm getting with just laying down a bass part. I still have the flashy stuff in me, but I'm trying to use it with more taste. I like being not too demanding on the ear; I like to mesh. But also, especially onstage, I like to freak a little and just enjoy myself. My role is completely different live from what it is in the studio, because on the records I try to blend in really well, whereas onstage I try to make the bass stand out more-even if it's not that much louder. I'm feelin' it, baby.
What do you consider the characteristics of the perfect bass line?
I don't know. The perfect bass line is impossible to get; it shouldn't even be attempted, because you'll always fail. Simply put, in any given bass line, there's either too much going on or too little going on. You couldn't give it a superlative like "perfect," because it would take so many different factors to make a musical part perfect. Also, one line can be good in one way and another can be good in another way, and yet the two can stand by each other. There are probably thousands of quintessentially perfect bass lines-but there is no one, for sure. Jaco got pretty close, though.
Are you a Jaco fan?
Yeah-not a very big one, though. I know his solo albums better than his work with Weather Report, although I have Heavy Weather [Columbia]. Chad listens to a lot more of that kind of music than I do; in fact, he exposed me to it.
Would you ever try to figure out one of Jaco's bass lines?
I'd try; I don't know if I'd succeed, though, because I'm really no good on fretless. It's really difficult for me, because I learned the violin through the Suzuki method-and I've definitely applied that kind of thinking to the bass, even though it was unintentional. I don't necessarily think of the notes all the time and where they fit with everything else. I play more by memory-with my right brain. I'm used to just remembering a sequence of hand positions. That's actually something I'm trying to get out of by writing music, because writing is listening as much as feeling where you are, which may be one reason why I find it so hard to write.
The bass isn't a super-difficult instrument, although it certainly isn't the easiest, either; it takes a lot of physical muscle compared to other instruments that require more finesse. Plus, there are very few people out in front of the bass world, so there's lots of room for expression; the bass hasn't been flogged until it's purple, like some instruments I know! That's another reason why I was attracted to the bass-especially in the beginning, when I couldn't really name any bass players who stuck out besides Steve Harris.
What kind of bassist do you think you'd be if you had received more formal training?
I might be less outgoing, I hate to say. I'd like to think that since I learned the bass with a looser, less educated, more rootsy and feel-oriented approach-one where I play music only because I love to play music-my playing style ended up being looser. I believe that's because I don't feel much pressure. I would like to be one of the better bass players out there, but I also know I'm young and have a lot to learn. I always think about all the people who can play every chord and name every scale and put together a song in their head without ever playing it.
Heavily trained bassists also tend to have more exacting tastes-and sometimes don't approve of Les Claypool's playing, for example.
That's so wrong-horribly wrong. It's probably equally wrong that I don't know as much jazz theory as I should, but the jazz players should recognize and accept Les as a modern pioneer. There's no question about that. In my mind, anyway.
How is he a pioneer to you?
He's playing bass as a lead instrument at all times; it just doesn't stop. The guitar and percussion are playing mostly rhythmic parts, but his bass runs the band-even more than his vocals. He's singing through his instrument and carrying the whole load. Jaco did that, too; he controlled the musical flow in his band in the same way Les runs Primus.
A lot of people accuse Claypool of being sloppy.
You can find mistakes in his playing, sure. But they're great mistakes! I mean, if you can't laugh at your bass lines, you're too serious. There's a time and place for all kinds of playing; you're not going to put on a Primus album to sit down and work on theory-you'll play it because you love to hear what that particular artist does on his instrument. I put Les in my personal hall of fame just for that reason; I think anyone who can make a unique piece of art deserves to be immortalized in some way. Les is one of a kind, and he doesn't give a fuck what people think. I love that about him-although I don't really feel the need to control the band with my bass playing the way he does. Not yet, anyway.
There aren't a lot of people who would listen to Primus, Jaco, and dub reggae records all in one day. Do you make a conscious effort to vary your listening?
Yes, but it also comes naturally. My brother had me listening to all kinds of crazy stuff when I was a kid; he's older and hung out with different people, so he brought different things to the table.
A lot of the younger bands are doing the same thing we are-trying to fuse styles-and I think it's a really good thing. I believe that if you listen to a lot of different types of music, you'll play different styles, unless you're deliberately limiting yourself to one. Screw that; you should be able to do anything you want. There are no limits, unless you put them on yourself.
What would you say to rockers who say, "Jazz sucks," or vice-versa?
Those people are missing out. You should feel sorry for them-and if you're one of those people, you should change yourself, because there really isn't anything to lose by listening to different types of music.
Do you see yourself ever losing your musical elasticity as you get older?
Oh, yeah. You get more set in your ways; you just get used to thinking a certain way. And that way of thinking only reinforces itself-you get more rigid because you've heard the same thing come out of your mouth so many times. That's even true of what I'm saying now.
Even in your flashier days, you've always been a highly supportive player. What is it about support that attracts you?
Support is necessary in the bass realm-but there's a time for everything. It shouldn't be overdone, and it shouldn't be underdone, but it's all up to the individual. As you mature as a bass player, you become more confident with just sitting in the pocket. Whether that's good or bad is hard to say-especially if you're coming from a more crazy, flamboyant attitude and heading in a direction that's more slower-paced and cerebral. I think if there's any musical area you don't know or haven't experienced, you should explore it. There's always room for growth.
Your recorded bass tone has changed over the years. Are you still searching for the ideal tone?
I think I got it on Transistor. I pretty much recorded the whole album using one Warwick Streamer Stage II 5-string with Seymour Duncan Basslines pickups in it. Those pickups are great. I didn't really want to change my tone that much; I adjusted the onboard EQ, but that's about it. My tones on our other records had been pretty bass-heavy, so this time I really wanted to brighten up things. I like a tone that's somewhere in between warm and midrangy, right in the nice, punchy area-extreme low end, but with punch on top. It helps that I use custom-gauge strings, which go .040, .060, .080, .100, .130. It makes sense numerically-I like the extra .010 going from the E string to the B, because I want the B to be that much lower. It also feels good to have the B string that thick.
Listening to so much dub and reggae music must have had an impact on the tone you want.
Probably. I love a good, over-bassy, '70s dub sound-although I've never really gotten one like that on record.
How did you get turned onto Warwick basses?
I saw and heard Norwood Fisher [of Fishbone] play them, and I was sold instantly. I didn't necessarily like the style of the Thumb Basses I had always seen him with, even though I do have one of those now-but I knew Warwick would have something I'd like. Those basses are just beautiful works of art. When I was looking at Warwicks, I asked what the company's best bass was; they showed me the Streamer Stage II, I liked it, and I took it home. I brought that particular bass out on the road after we recorded Grassroots, and now it has a lot of cool wear spots on it.
When you're not touring, how do you spend your free time?
I've been home for almost six months now-which is weird for us, because we've toured so much in recent years. I'm pretty spoiled, so it will be nice to get that road discipline back. When I'm home, I'm usually propped in front of the TV or the computer. I like to float around America Online and see who's talking about 311; I go into chat rooms and pretend to be nobody, which is great. I'm getting pressure from the band to get a public screen name, which I'll have to do someday. There are already five or six impostors out there claiming they're me-and some of them are even starting to fool my mom! On a couple of occasions she's had to call me up and ask if something I'd supposedly said was true, and I've had to say, "No-I'd tell you first." My mom is online all the time; she talks to everyone about 311.
Have you ever "met" one of your impostors online?
No-but if I did, I couldn't do anything; I'd have to just sit there and watch. If I tested one of them, which I definitely could, everyone would figure out it was me.
How do you spend your free time on the road?
During the day it's pretty slow. I do some reading, and I'm sure I'll be reading even more on this tour, because it takes even longer to set up our stuff these days. I used to be pretty lazy on the road, but this time I'm bringing out my bike, so I'll at least get exercise. I've taken out my skateboard before, but skateboard exercise isn't that great, and you can screw yourself up pretty easily if you fall. I'd hate to be crippled onstage-although I'd always find a way to play.
Are there any things that bother you in today's bass world?
I think there's a lot of low-end mediocrity, especially in pop music. Constant unison lines are a dead giveaway for that, as well as a lack of expression. I mean, even in a song with A sections and B sections that repeat, you can still play a different bass line during the different sections. Paul McCartney did that a lot. "With a Little Help from My Friends" [Sgt. Pepper's, EMI] is a prime example; it's so cool and tasty, and it's a very outgoing line, too.
What one thing helps you to avoid falling victim to "low-end mediocrity"?
Listening to as much different music as possible. That's the way I learn things and appreciate things the best, and I hope it comes out in my writing and my playing.
Are there certain traps bassists fall into that prevent their lines from being as good as they could be?
People often get lost in the mix by not playing lines that jump out-but then again, it's easy to play too much. With the bass, you're always balancing on that razor's edge between playing a percussive role and a melodic role. It has to be interesting for the musician, but you've still got to lay down the groove. Victor Wooten and Stanley Clarke both have that down, which I think comes from playing with other fantastic musicians for years and years. But I'm in no hurry to get all the culture I need to become a better bass player; right now, I'm just enjoying what's going on with the band. I think if I tried too hard, my playing would come out false. I'm just trying to let it grow on its own.