Thursday, March 14, 2002

Come Original (Hartford Advocate)

Tracing the origins of rap-rock isn't as easy as you'd imagine. That's because there's considerable debate among the chroniclers of rock 'n' roll as to who the primordial rap-rock band was.
Was it the Beastie Boys? Urban Dance Squad? 24-7 Spyz? KoRn? The supposed authorities just don't seem as if they're ever going to agree on who we can thank for the rap-rock genre.

Is it really important? Why, of course it is. Rap-rock is on its last legs, folks -- at death's door, if you will. Overexposure can be terminal. We'll need to know when rap-rock started, so we can include that information on the cenotaph's inscription once the genre finally burns out.

Like so many others in the industry, 311 frontman Nick Hexum can see the dark plague rolling in on rap-rock and wants out. He's going to turn his back on the genre, despite the fact that rap-rock has been his band's bread and butter since 1993 when Music was released through Capricorn Records.

It's not that Hexum doesn't want to go down with the rap-rock ship. More than anything, he's revolted with how stagnant and mundane the whole thing has become and thinks a change is in order.

"I was talking to [KoRn frontman] Jonathan Davis yesterday, and we were just discussing that we're both pretty much over the rap side of rap-rock," says Hexum, the lyrical force behind the Omaha, Neb.-based five-piece. His band's unique sound blends elements of dance hall and reggae dub with Chili Peppers-style funk, street-wise hip-hop, and churning, hard-edged guitar rock.

"We're ready for songs again and singing and melody, but still with like mad balls to it and power and energy."

Hexum says that, while on tour in Europe with Hoobastank and Incubus, he rediscovered the classics, spending his down time listening to post-Rubber Soul Beatles.

"I had this like really intense sort of Beatles study that I'd set up for myself, where I put every Beatles album on my iPod," says Hexum, whose personal influences include Bad Brains, Fishbone, The Clash, and The Smiths. "And then, I had this book, which is basically the story behind every Beatles song. And I would learn these songs on my acoustic guitar, because these chord changes, these melodies, these lyrics, they're just so inspiring."

Hexum says he'll be heading into the band's studio in little more than two months with the rest of his 311 chaps (guitarist Tim Mahoney, vocalist and turntablist S.A. Martinez, kitman Chad Sexton, and bassist P-Nut), to start work on the band's next record, a record that'll take the band into different territory.

"I would just say that if I'm writing from my heart, it's going to be more tunes than raps," Hexum says.

That's not to say 311's next record is going to be Yanni, says Hexum -- just different. "I just want it to be a little deeper," he says, in much the same way 1997's highly experimental Transistor was.

"I don't think we've made our best record yet," Hexum continues. "I think there's going to be a personal and creative growth we go through. We'll totally find our niche, and it's going to be full of melodies and harmonies, rock and more mellow moments and dynamics. Maybe it'll be the next album, maybe not. Either way, I'd like to think that the next evolution is coming for 311."

Fred, I hope you were paying attention.

311 invades the Webster Theatre in Hartford on March 27, with Hoobastank opening. Alas, this show is sold out.