Monday, December 15, 2003

311 Hitting The Road To Push New Material Down People's Throats

After spending last fall on the road with Jay-Z, N.E.R.D. and Nappy Roots, 311 are catering their next tour to the more rock side of their fanbase.

The hip-hop- and reggae-influenced quintet has lined up blues jammers G. Love & Special Sauce, piano punks Something Corporate and frat rockers O.A.R. as openers for a summer trek.

The outing kicks off July 15 in Bakersfield, California, and hits mostly amphitheaters, crisscrossing the country until wrapping up September 5 in Santa Barbara, California.

"We always want to make sure our fans know how grateful we are and what a blessing it is to be able to do this, because we have fans that will follow us through thick and thin, whether or not we happen to be on the radio at that time," singer Nick Hexum said. "We just want to give back through putting on as good a show as best we can."

While gathered in their Hive studios recently, 311 said they plan on playing every song from their upcoming Evolver on the summer tour.

"If we push it down people's throats I think people are gonna understand what we're feeling," bassist P-Nut said. "This is one of the most personal albums we've ever made, and I think we're only getting smarter and we're looking to our audience to do the same thing. I think there's a lull in music right now. Hopefully we can influence more bands to look toward being more diverse and breaking that [typical] songwriting mode and have fun and play it as hard as you can."

Evolver, due in late July, is 311's seventh studio album, while this summer marks the band's 10th year together.

"It's better to sell a little bit of records in 10 years than a lot of records in one year, because it's the excitement of the process that keeps us going more than any financial reward or anything," Hexum said. "It's just such a blessing."

311 tour dates, according to the band's management:

•7/15 - Bakersfield, CA @ The Dome (w/ Something Corporate)
•7/17 - Fresno, CA @ Rainbow Ballroom (w/ Something Corporate)
•7/18 - Costa Mesa, CA @ Pacific Amphitheatre (w/ Something Corporate)
•7/19 - Mesa, AZ @ Mesa Amphitheatre (w/ Something Corporate)
•7/21 - Oklahoma City, OK @ Bricktown Event Center (w/ Something Corporate)
•7/24 - Columbus, OH @ PromoWest Pavillion (w/ Something Corporate)
•7/25 - Indianapolis, IN @ Verizon Wireless (w/ O.A.R., Something Corporate)
•7/26 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Heinz Field (Rolling Rock Town Fair IV)
•7/29 - Milwaukee, WI @ Summerfest (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•7/30 - Grand Rapids, MI @ Deltaplex (w/ O.A.R., Something Corporate, DJ P)
•7/31 - Detroit, MI @ Meadowbrook (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/1 - Cleveland, OH @ Tower City Amphitheatre (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/2 - Chicago, IL @ UIC Pavilion (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/4 - Omaha, NE @ Westfair (w/ O.A.R., Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/5 - Minneapolis, MN @ Target Center (w/ O.A.R., Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/7 - Kansas City, KS @ Citimart (w/ O.A.R., Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/8 - St. Louis, MO @ Riverport (w/ O.A.R., Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/9 - Cincinnati, OH @ Riverbend (w/ O.A.R., Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/10 - Philadelphia, PA @ Penn's Landing (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/11 - Gilford, NH @ Meadowbrook (w/ O.A.R., Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/13 - Boston, MA @ Fleet Boston Pavilion (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/15 - Waterloo, NJ @ Waterloo Village (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/16 - Washington, DC @ Meriweather Post (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/17 - Virginia Beach, VA @ Virginia Beach Amphitheatre (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/18 - New York, NY @ Hammerstein Ballroom (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/19 - New York, NY @ Hammerstein Ballroom (w/ Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/21 - Myrtle Beach, SC @ House of Blues
•8/22 - Atlanta, GA @ Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/23 - New Orleans, LA @ UNO Pavilion (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/24 - Houston, TX @ TBA (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/26 - Austin, TX @ Backyard (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/27 - Grand Prairie, TX @ Next Stage (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, Something Corporate, DJ P)
•8/29 - Englewood, CO @ Fiddler's Green Amphitheater (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, DJ P)
•8/30 - Salt Lake, UT @ USANA Amphitheatre (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, DJ P)
•9/1 - San Francisco, CA @ TBA (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, DJ P)
•9/3 - Los Angeles, CA @ TBA (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, DJ P)
•9/5 - Santa Barbara, CA @ County Bowl (w/ G. Love & Special Sauce, DJ P)

New 311 Album Aimed at Old-School Fans, 7-Year Olds Alike

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, California — Nick Hexum was at a go-kart track recently when a 7-year-old approached him about his band.

"He was acting all cool and was like, '311, eh. Well, I like your old stuff,' " the singer recalled. "I'm thinking to myself, 'What? When you were like negative 1?"

Hexum and his bandmates of more than a decade — MC/turntablist S.A. Martinez, guitarist Tim Mahoney, bassist P-Nut and drummer Chad Sexton — laugh about the incident, but they also see where the boy is coming from.

While putting the finishing touches on their seventh studio album last week at their own Hive studio, 311 frequently referred to the record as an evolution for the hip-hop- and reggae-influenced rock band, hence the title Evolver. At the same time, though, much was said about drawing from their past.

"We want to go into the future but have the same spirit of adventure that we had in the old days," Hexum said. "There's more new elements, various vintage keyboards and acoustic guitars and different tempos. It's just more experimental, [which is one of the] things that people liked about Transistor or Grassroots — we had the attitude on those albums about just going to the future rather than looking back."

The new release will feature a few melody-driven summer anthems similar to recent singles "Amber" and "I'll Be Here Awhile," but with more of an edge. "It's not like a ballad-y album at all, just a lot of different tempos," Hexum said.

"From Chaos was a great album, but it's time to do something different, and I think we did that really well," P-Nut added. "We really tried to not be afraid of kicking our own ass."

Along with summing up the motivation behind the album, the title Evolver is a play on Revolver, one of the many classic Beatles albums 311 kept in heavy rotation while recording. Two songs in particular are greatly influenced by the Fab Four: "Seems Uncertain," a Mellotron-driven tune Hexum likened to "Strawberry Fields Forever," and "Sometimes Jacks Rule the Realm," which he compared to "Happiness Is a Warm Gun."

"It's more like a little voyage, a little trip in sound," Mahoney said of the latter. "And it covers a lot of different feels. There's acoustic sections. It moves on to electric band sections. It's cool. It's really a unique departure, ... and there's mandolins on it and so much cool organic instruments on it."

"Seems Uncertain" also features acoustic guitars, but a hip-hop beat gives it a modern twist.

"Lyrically, it's just about all of this sort of uncertainty with all this friction and tension in the world and the sort of post-9-11 fear and everything," Hexum explained. "It's just kind of expressing that sort of doubt. It's like, 'What are we gonna do? How is the world gonna move on beyond the predicament that we've gotten in?' And it's definitely different lyrically and musically than any song of ours."

Hexum explores darker topics elsewhere on the album as well. "Beyond the Grey Sky" was written about his best friend in high school who took his own life a year ago. "It's very dynamic," Sexton said. "It starts really soft and then we build and we keep building till it's just, like, this huge orchestra of rock and beautiful harmonies."

Miami dancehall DJ Supa Dups contributed some beat programming and vocal drops on Evolver, primarily on "Crack the Code."

" 'Crack the Code' is like a love song saying that someone that cracks your code is someone that understands you," Hexum said, "like gets through the whole veneer that everyone has up. It's not like a totally happy love song, it's more about the ups and downs that come with and finding someone that gets through all of that stuff."

The group is leaning toward the heavier "Creatures (For a While)" as the first single.

"It's a perfect example of the whole album, just testing our audience just a little bit," P-Nut said. "It's something that you're going to have to get used to. And I think that's such a such a good thing. I think that's what kept us a little bit under the radar for a while, even though we've sold 6 million albums."

Evolver, produced by Ron Saint Germain, is not due until late July, but 311 will debut new songs on a summer tour beginning earlier that month.

311 Giving Fans A History Lesson On Unity Tour (MTV)

COSTA MESA, California — As strange as it seems, it's fitting 311 named their summer tour after an album they released independently 12 years ago.

The hip-hop- and reggae-flavored rockers played the same number of songs from Unity at Friday's Pacific Amphitheatre show as from Evolver, which hits stores Tuesday.

And along with "Feels So Good" and "F--- the Bullsh--" — which were later included on 1993's Music (the latter as "Fat Chance") — the second stop on the Unity Tour included three other Music favorites, plus five songs from 1994's Grassroots.

In other words, 311's latest outing is more a celebration of the band's history than a typical supporting trek for a new album. After opening with "Freak Out" and "Lucky," singer Nick Hexum dedicated "Down" to the band's old-school fans, but he might as well have dedicated the whole set.

With a few exceptions, like the perfect outdoor summer-night sing-along "Amber," 311 avoided their most recent albums, From Chaos and Soundsystem, even setting aside hits like "You Wouldn't Believe" and "Come Original."

The enthusiastic audience members, several of whom sported T-shirts from past 311 tours, ate up the set list, dancing in the aisles the same way Hexum and rapper S.A. Martinez were bouncing on their new glossy black custom stage.

With all the nostalgia, fans eagerly welcomed the new songs "Reconsider Everything" and "Creatures (For a While)," especially the latter, a radio hit in Southern California, where the band now lives.

Judging by Friday's show, the new material fits in nicely next to 1995's 311 (a.k.a. the "Blue Album"), which featured 311's biggest hits, "Down" and "All Mixed Up" (see "New 311 Album Aimed At Old-School Fans, 7-Year-Olds Alike").

Another highlight was "Applied Science," which featured a classic rock-inspired drum solo from Chad Sexton. Like 311's last tour, the rest of band joined in on the fun, bringing giant floor toms on the stage for a drumline routine, except this time around they each had cymbals as well.

311 later voyaged fully into the more atmospheric rock of Transistor, jamming through "Running," "Beautiful Disaster," "Rub a Dub" and "Prisoner" as clouds of marijuana smoke filled the air. It was clearly guitarist Tim Mahoney's chance to shine, which he did with subtle solos.

Ending the first set, 311 played "Omaha Stylee," which Hexum dedicated to their hometown (sending a fan in an Eric Crouch jersey into a frenzy), and "Feels So Good," which began as always with Hexum asking bassist P-Nut to "beat that thing."

To kick off the encore, S.A. broke into "All Mixed Up," which he remixed on his hardly used turntables, while the crowd rapped along. And, in what has become a tradition, the show ended with "F--- the Bullsh--," a simple but energetic party anthem.

In the opening slot on Friday's show was Orange County's Something Corporate, who brought fans of their own, including girls holding up "American Idol"-like signs professing their love for the group.

Singer Andrew McMahon proved a captivating performer, pounding his piano and singing passionately like a punk-rock Billy Joel.

With its infectious melody, "I Woke Up in a Car" was the biggest crowd-pleaser, even getting into ears so deep, people were singing it on the walk back to their cars after 311.

The band mostly played songs from its debut, 2002's Leaving Through the Window, but a new song from their upcoming fall album was equally engaging and a bit heavier.

O.A.R. and/or G. Love & Special Sauce are joining the Unity Tour on future dates. 311's next stop is Monday in Oklahoma City.

311 Move From Suicide To Cure On Next Single; Tour Planned (MTV)

UNIVERSAL CITY, California — 311 didn't expect big things from their latest single.

"We knew 'Beyond the Gray Sky' wasn't the most commercial song in the world," singer Nick Hexum said recently. "It doesn't have a lot of repetition. It's dubby and kind of experimental." So why release it?

"We knew that if it helped some people, that'd be more important than the business side of things," Hexum said. "I got a letter that said, 'I'm in drug rehab and ["Beyond the Gray Sky"] is the only thing that gets me through. I don't want to go on [living], but this song lifts me out of total despair.' "

Hexum wrote the atmospheric track after learning that one of his best friends from high school had taken his own life.

"The message is about hanging in there, because you'll be able to see beyond the gray sky," he explained. "It also deals with my feelings of like, 'Should I have known? Should I have tried to help in some way?' It's something people always go through when there's a loss like that. So we're trying to make a positive thing out of it. You just gotta hang in there, if not for yourself, then for those around you that care about you."

311 are changing gears entirely for their next single, which isn't on Evolver, their seventh and latest studio album (see"New 311 Album Aimed At Old-School Fans, 7-Year-Olds Alike").

The tune is a cover of the Cure's "Love Song" from the new Adam Sandler comedy, "50 First Dates." Sandler, a 311 fan, asked them to contribute an '80s cover with an island vibe, since the movie is set in Hawaii. Hexum also produced some other tracks for the movie, including Jason Mraz's version of Modern English's "I Melt With You," Alien Ant Farm singer Dryden Mitchell's take on the Cure's "Friday I'm in Love" and Seal's rendition of Echo and the Bunnymen's "Lips Like Sugar."

311 and director Mark Kohr (Green Day's "Good Riddance," 311's "Don't Stay Home") recently shot the "Love Song" video in Orange County, California. Cure drummer Lol Tolhurst even has a cameo in the clip, in which 311 perform in a tiki bar.

Expect the song and video to surface in late January; the soundtrack album is due February 3. "50 First Dates," which co-stars Drew Barrymore, opens February 13.

311, meanwhile, will return to the life they like best — touring. The band headlines a trek beginning February 29 in Anaheim, California."When we play our show, it's like there's nowhere else our fans would rather be," Hexum said, "and there's nowhere else we'd rather be.

Everyone's bouncing together and it's like this sort of oneness. There's no question our career's going well when we're out on tour." The new batch of dates leads up to a special March 11 show. For the second year in a row, 311 will celebrate 3-11 Day in New Orleans, where they played 59 songs last year. "We don't wanna try and out-length ourselves," bassist P-Nut said. "We don't want to die. We have many more years left in us."

"Three hours and 11 minutes is plenty for any band, so we'll probably shoot for that," Hexum added. "We're planning certain songs you've never heard before, like maybe the debut of 'Sometimes Jack Rules the Realm,' the last track on the new album."

311 might also pull out "Love Song" and another cover the band recently learned, the Clash's "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais."

"That's the coolest song ever written. It fits us so well because it's hard driving, then reggae and then melodic," Hexum said. "It talks about being a white guy doing reggae, so it's the perfect Clash song for us to cover."

311 have yet to name an opener for the tour, for which more dates will be announced, but fans can expect something different than in recent months.

"We like to switch it up," Hexum said. "We've gone from hard-rock bands to O.A.R., which is kind of a jam band, to Something Corporate, which is like piano rock. I'd love to have some sort of emo band, like Jimmy Eat World, 'cause our tastes are very diverse and we wanna show our fans new styles. We'd love to have a straight reggae band." After the outing, the band will decide whether to release another single and keep touring or return to their studio, the Hive. "There's definitely singles left on the album, like 'Crack the Code' and 'Give Me a Call,' " Hexum said.

311 tour dates, according to Jive Records:

•2/29 - Anaheim, CA @ The Grove of Anaheim
•3/1 - San Diego, CA @ Remac Auditorium
•3/3 - Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues
•3/4 - Tucson, AZ @ Rialto Theatre
•3/5 - Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theatre
•3/6 - Las Cruces, NM @ Pan American Center
•3/8 - Wichita, KS @ The Cotillion
•3/9 - Tulsa, OK @ Brady Theater
•3/11 - New Orleans, LA @ UNO Lakefront Arena

311 'Evolves' With Forthcoming Album (Billboard)

Rock-rap act 311 has slated a July 11 for its seventh studio album, "Evolver." The group reteamed with producer Ron Saint Germain (Bad Brains, Sonic Youth) for the Volcano Records set. He last worked with the band on its self-titled third album, released in 1995 via Capricorn Records.

Shortly before the album's release, the group will kick off a U.S. tour July 15 on the West Coast. Dates for that trek, which will extend into September, will be announced soon. The band's only currently confirmed dates are a July 18 appearance at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, Calif., and a July 26 performance at Rolling Rock Town Fair IV, which will take place at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field. As previously reported, that event will also feature performances by Blink 182, Puddle Of Mudd, Def Leppard, Sum 41, and Trapt.

Recorded at 311's Hive Studios in Los Angeles, "Evolver" features such tracks as "Creatures for a While," "Seems Uncertain," "Beyond the Gray Sky," and "Crack the Code." During regular recording updates posted on the band's official Web site, other songs said to be on the album are "What Do You Do?," "Same Mistake Twice," "Reconsider Everything," "Still Dreaming," "Other Side of Things," "Time is Precious," "Seems Uncertain," and "Don't Dwell." The choice of a single has not yet been announced.

Along with the music, the enhanced CD will feature concert footage, interviews with band members, and a documentary short about the creation of the album's cover. "Evolver" will be the follow-up to the 2001's "From Chaos," which debuted at No. 10 on The Billboard 200.

As previously reported, last month the band posted four previously unreleased tracks on its site. All were instrumentals recorded during sessions for previous albums.

311 Loads Evolver for Tour (Billboard)

Modern rock quintet 311 will embark next month on its 41-date summer Unity tour. The outing comes in support of the group's seventh studio album, "Evolver," due July 22 from Volcano Records. The outing is set to kick off July 15 in Bakersfield, Calif., and criss-cross the country before closing Sept. 6 in San Diego.

Opening acts on the tour include Something Corporate, G. Love & Special Sauce, O.A.R. and DJ P. Something Corporate will accompany 311 from the start, through an Aug. 29 date in Denver. G. Love & Special Sauce will join for shows on July 29, July 31, Aug. 1-2 and Aug. 10, before hopping on for good Aug. 13 through the tour's Sept. 5 close. O.A.R. will play dates July 25, July 30, and Aug. 4-11; and DJ P will appear July 29-Sept. 5.

"Evolver" is the band's first album since 2001's "From Chaos," which debuted at No. 10 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 583,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. The group recently completed work on the album at its Hive Studios in Los Angeles with producer Ron St. Germain.

Here are 311's summer tour dates:

July 15: Bakersfield, Calif. (The Dome)
July 17: Fresno, Calif. (Rainbow Ballroom)
July 18: Costa Mesa, Calif. (Orange County Fair)
July 19: Mesa, Ariz. (Mesa Amphitheatre)
July 21: Oklahoma City (Bricktown)
July 22: Des Moines, Iowa (Flags Event Center)
July 24: Columbus, Ohio (PromoWest Pavilion)
July 25: Indianapolis (Verizon Wireless)
July 26: Pittsburgh (Rolling Rock Town Fair IV, Heinz Field)
July 28: Louisville, Ky. (Palace Theatre)
July 29: Milwaukee (Summerfest Grounds)
July 30: Grand Rapids, Mich. (Deltaplex)
July 31: Detroit (Meadowbrook)
Aug. 1: Cleveland (Tower City Amphitheatre)
Aug. 2: Chicago (UIC Pavilion)
Aug. 4: Omaha, Neb. (Westfair)
Aug. 5: Minneapolis (Target Center)
Aug. 7: Kansas City, Mo. (City Market)
Aug. 8: St. Louis (Riverport)
Aug. 9: Cincinnati (Riverbend)
Aug. 10: Philadelphia (Penns Landing)
Aug. 11: Gilford, N.H. (Meadowbrook)
Aug. 13: Boston (Fleet Boston Pavilion)
Aug. 15: Waterloo, N.J. (Waterloo Village)
Aug. 16: Columbia, Md. (Meriweather Post)
Aug. 17: Virginia Beach, Va. (Virginia Beach Amphitheatre)
Aug. 18-19: New York (Hammerstein Ballroom)
Aug. 21: Myrtle Beach, S.C. (House of Blues)
Aug. 22: Atlanta (Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre)
Aug. 23: New Orleans (Lakefront Arena)
Aug. 24: Houston (610 Arena)
Aug. 26: Austin, Texas (Backyard)
Aug. 27: Grand Prairie, Texas (Next Stage)
Aug. 29: Denver (Fiddlers Green)
Aug. 30: Salt Lake City (Usana Amphitheatre)
Sept. 1: San Francisco (TBA)
Sept. 3: Los Angeles (TBA)
Sept. 5: Santa Barbara, Calif. (County Bowl)
Sept. 6: San Diego (Gas Lamp Downtown District)

311 and friends know how to party (Deseret News, Salt Lake City)

WEST VALLEY CITY — It was a party atmosphere Saturday night at the USANA Amphitheater. Those who didn't get out of town for the holiday weekend were apparently looking for an excuse to cut loose, and the hip-hop/reggae/rock quintet of 311 just happened to be in town.

Party on.

Opening its set with the heavy beat of "Freak Out," 311 had the audience jumping up and down in unison for most of its two-hour set. Especially those in front of the stage, where a small general-admission area was set up for a few hundred fans who took advantage of the space to jump, mosh and body surf all evening.

Lead singer Nick Hexum commented after "Applied Science" that this was the most people jumping in unison the band had seen all tour. The song also featured a drum ensemble with Chad Sexton and the rest of the band that resembled something between a Liberty Park drum circle and a college marching band.

The crowd sang along to such melodic songs as "Amber" and went back to the jumping for "Feels So Good," which ended the first set, and encore songs "Creatures (For a While)," "Down," which was dedicated to old-school fans, and a third with an unprintable title.

Guitarist Tim Mahoney did more headbanging than most of the metal acts that come to town, while P-Nut kept the funky beat with his slap bass. Most of the hip-hop vocals for the evening came courtesy of S.A. Martinez.

Something Corporate opened the show and set the party tone for the evening. Saturday was the last stop on the 311 tour for the punk-pop piano-playing band (think of Ben Folds with an edge), and the 311 road crew didn't hold back on the practical jokes.

Despite pornographic pictures on the speakers, silly string and band members being forced to drink shots after every song . . . all compliments of the road crew . . . they managed to put together a good 40-minute set.

The second openers, G Love and Special Sauce, kept the party going with an hour of blues-rap. "That Ain't Livin', " complete with a jammin' stand-up bass solo, was one of the highlights. G. Love opened his set with "Shooting Hoops" and added some lyrics to pay homage to Karl Malone and John Stockton.

DJ P. from Portland, Ore., kept the beat going between each band with some original mixes of hard rock and rap. Somehow, DJ P. managed to successfully mix Guns N' Roses and LL Cool J, Lynyrd Skynyrd and M.A.R.R.S, and do some record-scratching with Metallica and even Journey.

When you hear "Don't Stop Believin' " played over a booming drum and bass beat right before 311 takes the stage, you know you've been to one heck of a party.

70's rock a big influence on 311 (Deseret News, Salt Lake City)

The Nebraska-bred men of the hip-hop/reggae quintet 311 have had a heavy hand in modern radio over the past several years. So the last place you may expect them to find influence for their latest album is in classic rock.

But members of 311 had the Beatles in high rotation while making their latest release, and they say if you listen closely, it shows. "The goal was to expand what we did last record," 311 drummer Chad Sexton told the Deseret Morning News by phone during a recent tour stop near Dallas. "We wanted the rockers to be more rocking and the melodic stuff more melodic. We wanted to take the opportunity to improve it in all ways."

The influence can be seen in just the title of the band's seventh album, "Evolver," a play off the Beatles' "Revolver" album. The cover of the album was shot in the Ambassador Hotel lobby in Los Angeles where Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. "We all grew up in the '70s. We were very inspired by the Beatles," Sexton said, noting that other mega-groups such as Led Zeppelin were also in rotation during the making of Evolver. "(The new record) is more melodic. There's more singing than on any other record we've ever done. There are more melodies throughout the entire record."

But "Evolver" isn't a record full of "Strawberry Fields"-type songs. That notion is quickly erased with the heavy guitar sound of the opening track "Creatures (For a While)."

The principle songwriters for 311 are the two vocalists, Nick Hexum and S.A. Martinez. Many of the lyrics, Sexton said, once again are of a personal nature to the band. "Beyond the Gray Sky," for example, was written following the suicide of a longtime friend. The idea has always been to write about issues that are close to the band, "then relate it to a mass level. Things everyone experiences at one point in life."

Playing in Salt Lake City is nothing new for 311, which played twice in the city within a few months in 2002. But Sexton described the current tour as the band's best ever, and said that it offers something new even for old-school fans. "This is better than any of our 'From Chaos' tours. Even if you've seen us play before, it's a different experience. From all standpoints, we feel like we've taken it up a notch. Not only is everyone having fun but all the bands are good."

Hot Numbers (New York Post)

THEY'RE unassuming, underrated and unknown to most everyone over 25 - but with the kind of show they unleashed Tuesday at the Hammerstein Ballroom, the boys of 311 won't suffer from the un's much longer.

They are music mongrels who'll bite into most any style that lends itself to a jam, especially reggae-infused hip-hop, funk-metal and psychedelic rock.

Yet unlike other cannabis-fueled noodlers, the Omaha five don't forget they're up on stage to entertain, not gaze at their toes.

They also recognize that a jam shouldn't go on forever.

For the second of two sold-out shows at the Hammer, 311 stayed true to itself and laid down one of the strongest jam concerts of 2003 - and that's saying something in a year when both Phish and the Dead are cutting heads on the road.

Part of 311's secret is the twin vocal attack by Nicholas Hexum and S.A. Martinez.

Hexum handles the more melodic aspects of the vocals and Martinez lends the tunes his emcee skills. It's a sweet 'n' sour combination that loosened the stiffest of dancing bones.

It wasn't a perfect show. On the song "8:16 a.m.," the jam turned tedious with repetition. But there were towering moments, too - including "Beyond the Gray Sky" from the band's new "Evolver" CD.

"Beyond the Gray Sky" has a lovely, ethereal midtempo melody that floated on Tim Mahoney's guitar work, which seemed to pay tribute to the late Jerry Garcia's liquid leads.

That number, like much of 311's songbook, plays better live than on disc.

Maybe that's because of the group's relationship with the audience.

The band and its fans were like lovers in a passionate tangle, when the question of who's making whom more excited is moot.

Chad Sextion (Ink 19)

When you get to arena-filling status, it must be nice to basically get your pick of instrument endorsements. Besides the adulation and the riches, for any serious musician, success brings those two magic little words -- free gear (or at least one hell of a discount).

Take 311's funky powerhouse drummer, Chad Sexton, for example. Sure, he did the drum corps gig and he can rip off the cleanest 11-stroke roll you've ever heard in your life. But more notably, with the success of their 1995 "Blue Album" and subsequent tours, Chad finds himself with the luxury of playing basically any kind of drums he wants to. And he doesn't mess around. Like many of his peers, including No Doubt's Adrian Young, and both Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters, Chad is driving an Orange County drumkit.

Still, while Orange County surely makes some high quality, and esoteric, instruments, Chad still longs to have his first kit back. We caught up with Chad during the recording of 311's as-yet-untitled upcoming album to talk about hole-ridden snares and sentimentality.

Describe the first drum set you had.

It was before second grade, a long time ago. I was at a hotel with my parents -- I can't even remember what state it was in. And they had a friend that was at that hotel that had an old red sparkle Gretsch kit, and he just thought he should give it to me for some reason. So that was my first drum set, even though I never really had it all set up correctly. I wasn't behind it rocking, I would just bang on it. But finally we got rid of that set, which is funny... I know the girl who has that set today, in Omaha. And she won't sell it back to me. She just will not relinquish that drum set. It's just weird. I've offered much compensation for it. I told her I'd buy her a whole new kit, anything she wanted. She just won't let it go.

How did you get involved with Orange County drums? What's their story?

The guys that started that had a drum shop called Orange County Drum and Percussion. They started making drums, and I think they started out with just snare drums, but I'm not 100 percent sure. But it so happened that the demand for the drums increased to the point to where they had to shut down the drum shop side of it and just strictly make drums. I met Dan Jansen, who is one of the owners there, in about 1994. He gave me a snare drum and I really, really enjoyed it, it had a great tone. From there we developed a relationship, and it just worked out better for me. I absolutely love those drums.

What kind of snares were you using on Transistor ?

It depends on what song you're listening to. For the most part I generally tried to stay with a 5.5 inch x 14 inch or 6.5 inch x 14 inch. Sometimes I was using a free floating cage. I don't know if you've seen the snares they're making with the holes in them, but lately I've been using this one snare that's a 5.5-inch x 14-inch free floater that has these holes in the shell. The holes are about 1.5-inch in diameter, all around the shell. There's about five of them, in between each lug casing. It just cracks.

What is the difference between a drum with holes in it, like that one, and a regular solid-shell drum?

Really, when you hear that snare compared to another snare, the difference is that there's more snare sound, more responsiveness. You can't necessarily tell that while you're playing it. If you're hitting it and you're above the drum, you can't really tell. You have to have someone else hit it and you be standing like five to 10 feet away from the drum, and then you can really tell the difference.

P-Nut Keeps Things Loose By... Keeping Things Loose (Bass Player Online)

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.

Best Reason To Play Drums (Pearl)

All five members of 311 grew up in the 1970's in Omaha, Nebraska. Nick Hexum, Tim Mahoney and Chad Sexton lived on the west side of town and went to Westside High School together. P-Nut and SA Martinez lived on the south side of town and went to Bryan High School together. During high school, Nick and Tim played in a rock band together called "The Ed's". Nick was also in the high school concert jazz band with Chad.

At seventeen, Nick graduated early from high school and moved to downtown Los Angeles in pursuit of a music career. When Nick returned to Omaha for Chad and Tim's high school graduation - the three of them jammed and realized they had a special musical chemistry. They soon added a keyboardist named Ward Bones and called themselves "Unity". In late '88, Nick, Chad and Ward moved to LA and made an unsuccessful stab at getting a recording contract.

Disillusioned with the L.A. scene, Chad soon moved back to Omaha and began jamming with P-Nut and a guitarist named Jim Watson. Months later, Chad persuaded Nick to move back to Omaha and join them. They played their first gig opening for Fugazi on June 10th 1990. In 1991, they parted ways with Jim Watson and added Tim Mahoney as lead guitarist. At that time, SA Martinez began to make guest appearances with the band - and was eventually added as a full member. 311 was complete (Nick, Chad, Tim, P-Nut and SA).

In 1990 & 1991 the band released three independent records on their own label (What Have You Records). The records were called "Dammit," "Hydroponic," and "Unity." With these records and their solid live show, the band quickly established a following in the Midwest and then set out for the West Coast. They rented a small house in Van Nuys, California and all moved in together. These were very lean times for the band. Just before disintegrating into total poverty, they were signed to Capricorn Records.

311's first cd "Music", was released with little fanfare in February of '93. The band hit the road in support of the record and was temporarily sidelined when their touring RV caught on fire and exploded on the shoulder of the highway. The fire destroyed all their equipment, clothes, money and personal possessions. Despite losing everything - the band members escaped the blaze with minor burns and injuries. They decided to persevere and they only canceled one show before returning to the stage with equipment donated by fans and friends who heard about the disaster on the television news.

In July of '94 they released their second cd "Grassroots." By this time they were touring the US non-stop. They moved out of the house in Van Nuys - put their stuff into a storage space and literally just lived on the road. They put all their energy into their live show and steadily developed an incredible grassroots following nationwide.

In July '95 they released their third cd "311" and once again set out on tour. By '96 the shows and the fanbase had grown considerably - and the media which had basically ignored 311 until then, began paying attention. In September of '96 (14 months after the release of the "311" album) the song "Down" hit the airwaves and became an across the board success at radio and MTV. "Down" went to #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart and the follow-up single "All Mixed Up" went to #2.

After the success of the "311" album (which is now triple platinum), 311 released a long form home video called "Enlarged to Show Detail" containing live concert footage, interviews, videos, backstage footage, etc. To make it a unique item, 311 bundled the video with a 5 song EP containing outtakes from the "311" cd. The home video debuted at #1 on Billboards Music Video Sales Chart and is now a platinum video. After releasing the home video, 311 went back into the studio to record their fourth cd "Transistor". "Transistor" debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 and is now platinum.

In September of 1998, 311 re-issued some old material on the "Omaha Session" EP. The EP contains 9 songs from the bands 1989-1991 independent releases ("Dammit," "Hydroponic" and "Unity"). In November of 1998, 311 released 311 Live - a collection of live recordings from the 1997 US Tour. And in October of 1999, 311 released their fifth cd "Soundsystem" which debuted at #9 and toured extensively in the US and Japan.

In 2000, the band purchased a recording studio in North Hollywood. After making some renovations and bringing in their own equipment, they renamed it "The Hive" (which is also the name of their fanclub). The studio was active in the 70's / 80's. Missing Persons and Adam Ant recorded albums there and most recently it was used as a voice over studio for movies, etc.

The band has also released their sixth cd From Chaos, which is also the first special enhanced cd from the band, featuring exclusive interviews with the bandmembers, an in-studio photo gallery, and video trailers for ETSD 1 & 2.

Guitar Center Talks With P-Nut of 311 (Guitar Center)

Since their 1993 debut album, "Music", 311 have garnered a massive fan base for their inspiring, positive rap-rock-reggae music and energetic live shows. The band is currently back in their Hive Studio and busy at work, writing and rehearsing new material for their next album. 311's bassist, P-Nut, was kind enough to take a little time to talk with Guitar Center about his gear, the band's writing process, and practicing on his vintage Fender Jazz Bass.

GC: What do you think about the bass rig you that have right now? What do you use and why?

P-Nut: I had been using the same rig for close to six years. My old rig was three SWR SM-900s, the tube-pre-amp solid-state amplifiers, which are kick-ass workhorses! I always got a little scared because they would clip pretty easily and I never really wanted to run them that hot. I was always lacking a little bit of volume, even though it was the clearest tone I had ever heard in any amp, that's why I put up with it for so long. So I would mostly rely on my monitors when I would play live. But now, I switched over to a SWR Bass 750 and a Stereo 800. The Bass 750 is the main pre-amp and the Stereo 800 is just the slave. The cabinets that I was using before were two Goliath IIIs, which are the 4 x 10s. Now I've got a Megoliath, which is pretty much a union of those two cabinets that I used to use, but in one box. With that, the huge front port, and the Speakon cable, it is just amazingly loud and huge sounding, especially for the low B. For the first time in my professional career, I've had to turn down instead of reaching my limit. Now I pretty much have no limit! I've found it a couple of times, but generally speaking, on a normal show, it's amazing. I just turn it up to 11 o'clock and it is warm and clear.

GC: What's the coolest recent addition to your setup?

P-Nut: Pretty much those amps! That takes care of me so deeply and I'm so happy with the new speaker cabinet and the new amp. It's just amazing. I've been playing the same basses, Warwick Streamer Stage IIs, for seven years. Before that, I had a Tobias 5 string bass, which I pretty much just played live. I didn't get a chance to record with it because it burned in our 1994 fire.

GC: What is it that you like about the Warwicks?

P-Nut: The first person that showed me how cool they were was Norwood from Fishbone. I really think he was the first guy in rock (if you can call what Fishbone does rock because it's so experimental) to show just how amazing they are. He's got great taste in instruments and amplifiers. I wanted to try it out and ever since, I've been hooked! It's so crunchy and bottomy and beautiful at the same time, like a work of art, and the perfect instrument at the same time.

GC: How many different Warwicks do you have? Are they all five-strings?

P-Nut: They're almost all five strings. I've got an acoustic four string, the Alien, which I got a first run of--they only made 100 of them. I love that bass. I'm going to be playing that on the road a lot on this next tour because we're going to be adding a little acoustic part to our show.

GC: So, it's got a pickup inside or something like that?

P-Nut: Yeah.

GC: Do you run that through your amp or do you just go straight into the PA?

P-Nut: I'm gonna run through an SWR Strawberry Blonde acoustic amp, which I used in Chicago for our first radio acoustic thing that we ever did, which was really, really fun! It sounded so much better than the SWR Working Man 15 that they brought as well. It was just warmer and clearer. I am waiting for that and I can't wait to play through that at home before I leave.

GC: What do you want to get next?

P-Nut: Not too much, I'm pretty happy. I usually find something I love and I just wear it out until I find something better. Right now I'm completely satisfied as a professional musician. I've been doing a little bit of vintage hunting around and I picked up a '64 Fender Jazz Bass. It's custom cherry red in really, really good condition, which means it's beat to s--t. I love it. It's so much fun to play.

GC: Have you done any other instrument collecting?

P-Nut: No, more looking than collecting, which is probably the way to do it. You don't want to be all crazy and frivolous. You want to make sure when you buy an instrument like that, it's really important to you. I've got a Paul Reed Smith Standard that I noodle around on. I've got a mini Martin acoustic guitar, which is really, really fun to play and tiny so you can take it anywhere. I've got a Streamer LX, like the cheapest four string bolt-on maple body bass, which is a slap machine; I beat it!

GC: Do you imagine that you might use your new Fender for recording at all or do you just play it for fun?

P-Nut: I actually did try and record with it, but I had some buzzing problems mostly from the nut and I put a little duct tape over the nut to bring it down, but it just kind of deadened the string so much that I kind of scrapped it and went back to my Warwick, which is usually what I always do when I try and experiment.

GC: Do you ever use any effects or processing live or recording?

P-Nut: I've got a Mo' Bass in my head setup as a backup amp. I actually did a lot of recording on From Chaos using the Mo' Bass just as a regular amp. I think it's based off of the same amp that I use, the Bass 750. So, I think that's why I liked it. I found out that it had a slightly different tone and it worked better on some songs while recording than my actual Bass 750. But, I didn't use any of the effects on it, which is mostly what it is designed for. It was just more for me to keep myself entertained while I was waiting to take another take or just getting through the day, just screwing around with it. I don't have enough practice with effects to really want to work them into our songs that much. I'm more of a fuzz guy. I have a Big Muff, that's pretty much my only effect.

GC: So you run bass through that?

P-Nut: Oh yeah, for certain songs and certain sections of songs.

GC: If I had a basic amp and instrument and I wanted to improve my sound in some way, what would you suggest that I get?

P-Nut: I would say get a better bass, just off the top of my head, because that's what you're touching, that's what you're really thinking about. And then go for the amp. I think that's pretty much how I did it. I remember coming home from the store I eventually started working at as a teacher, Russo's in Omaha, Nebraska. I brought home a Randall all solid-state amp and played the new Pixies album, which was Dolittle at the time. I just couldn't believe how great it sounded. It is good to treat yourself to each because it will improve your sound on both ends. It's good to do little stair steps. You don't need to go out and buy the best thing right away. The best teacher I had, who I only had for a couple of months because he was English and he was having problems staying in Nebraska (which is hilarious in itself) played a Washburn--like a two hundred dollar bass. He was the most smokin' bass player I had ever worked with - before I played in Europe with Les Claypoole, of course!

It's totally within the person. You can make anything sound good, but gear is important as well and that's why I use the best. Gear is really fun especially once you've been doing it for years and years. It just gets that much more exciting, and it keeps you more in that kid state of mind where you get excited about things.

GC: How does the band write? Can you describe the process that a typical song might go through from beginning to end?

P-Nut: A typical song is kind of hard to describe. The cool thing about being in 311 is that it happens a lot of different ways. It can come all the way written and lyrics by Nick. It can come with all the music written by Chad. And then we collaborate on a lot of songs as well; that can take many, many different shapes. On Sound System, I collaborated with Nick on two songs. And on From Chaos, I collaborated with Chad on two songs.

GC: So obviously those collaboration type things would have your bass parts written as the song goes along, right? When it's something they're bringing into the band is there some sort of a bass part already in there and do you take that and do it? Or are you coming up with your own thing that would fit the idea that they came in with?

P-Nut: It could happen either way. A lot of times they leave it up to me and a lot of times they bring me specific things because Nick, Chad, Tim and SA have great ideas about what the bass part should do. I'm very open to learning their ideas and trying to get their vision to come out because it's important. I expect the same when I come to the table with things.

GC: Do you come in with something that might have a melody or lyrics or something like that and say "Hey try this"?

P-Nut: I've always wanted to come in with lyrics, but it's intimidating! Just like writing music with the other guys because they're just so good and I respect them so much. I make sure that when I come to the table with music it is as good as can be. And if I do come to the table with lyrics, I want it to be brilliant, if I'm capable of such. They've written so many songs that are really touching and people tell us every day how we've brightened up their lives just that little bit. It's fantastic! So it's kind of a daunting task to try and bring lyrics to the people that I consider masters.

GC: Do you have a home studio or equipment that you use for songwriting?

P-Nut: Yeah, I have a Roland VS-1680 as pretty much an idea keeper whenever I come up with little noodles or riffs or whole songs, I like to put it in there. I've got a huge bank of information in there. It's great. It's a very beautiful tool to have.

GC: Do you use any kind of other external kind of processors or effects or anything along with that?

P-Nut: It's pretty much just the keyboard, a bass and an amplifier. I have a keyboard, a Roland XP60, which is really fun to use. I kind of wish it had some more drum sounds. I guess that's my fault for not getting more, but I do like to come up with rhythmic ideas, a lot more than I come up with melodic ideas. It's a little bit more in my blood.

GC: You guys moved to L.A. in order to get signed. Do you think that was a necessary step? Is it important to be under the noses of record companies in this age?

P-Nut: Yeah, I think it was a great idea for us because it definitely moved the ball along. Maybe something that was inevitable just happened a little bit faster because we dedicated ourselves to moving out here. It helped us as far as concentrating on what we wanted to do. We all moved together, we all lived together for about two and a half years and it was great. So, it brought us together really closely. We practiced every day and it has a lot to do with how tight we still are. So, it's a good move to run off to college and dedicate yourself to learning, which is rare in these days. Or run to California and concentrate on music. Or go anywhere, you know, you can do that nowadays--it doesn't have to be southern California. At the point that we decided to go to California, we made SA a full member because before he would just come out on a couple of songs and just be a guest rapper. We were like, "we're going to California, you better come along and start writing lyrics." That added to our depth. It was a big move and it changed our history so everything was meant to be.

GC: Do you practice a lot? And if so, what do you do?

P-Nut: I practice all the time. When I'm home I usually play my Fender because it's so different than my Warwicks and it's really inspiring. I can feel how old it is. It's ten years older than me and I just love that idea--I just think that's so funny. I know it's never been played in the way I play bass, so it feels like a brand new instrument to me at the same time. It's very inspiring on both sides. It helps me sit down and do that instead of just watch TV. Because it's a four string, it allows me to have more space for slapping so that's pretty much all I write on. And because I know it's never been played on like that, it feels really good and it sounds great when I plug it in. It is kind of dirty, but that's ok.

GC: Do you warm up before a performance? If so, how?

P-Nut: I usually do about 30 minutes of Yoga and stretching before I go out on stage. I do ten sun salutes: five really, really slow and then five or ten really, really fast. But that's like a whole body thing because you're going up and down and you're stretching your arms and your calves and breathing in a rhythmic rate. It helps that my wife is a yoga teacher.

GC: Do you pick up a bass at all before you hit the stage?

P-Nut: Nope. I probably should, but doing the stretching and breathing really gets me mentally ready just as much as playing for a little bit to get your hands ready. Whatever works for you. I know that Flea warms up before he plays and I know that I've never seen him get tired on stage. I know that I do cramp up a little bit, but I can always play through it.

GC: Have you or do you shop at Guitar Center at all? What do you think about it?

P-Nut: Yes, I shop at Guitar Center! I got my '64 Fender at the Hollywood store. I usually walk straight to the vintage room. I didn't know the store had gotten so large! I guess I had never walked in right where all the pro audio stuff is; I didn't know that was such a deep sector of the store. It was huge! People were everywhere, too. It was great. The fun thing too is I can kind of sneak in. I know Chad and Nick get stopped when they walk in there and sometimes have to take pictures. Since I change my appearance so often, I can walk in and out of there, no problem.

There's a room that's pretty much all basses now, which is really cool and a whole wall of Warwicks, which is beautiful. It's stepping up. It's getting a lot more upper-crust, instead of medium and beginning musician. It's very professional--I like it! Bass players deserve attention. I mean, without us it would be a thin, thin musical world!

311 Dials Up a Style All on Their Own (Pittsburg Live)

One of the highest compliments 311 has ever received didn't come at an awards show or via a sterling album review. It came in a newspaper, in the classified section.

Drummer Chad Sexton says a friend told him about a want ad searching for musicians who liked jazz, rock, country, reggae and 311.

"We were the only band presented as a style of music," Sexton says. "He said he thinks we're the only band represented that way, and I think that might be true. There are a lot of other bands that can cross over and go from one style to another, but I think we take the cake in that arena."

Indeed, 311, which will play the Rolling Rock Town Fair on Saturday, is not your average band of musical alchemists. They're not hip-hop, but turntablist S.A. Martinez can lay down some slick rhymes. They're not rock, but they can bring the sound and fury like a heavy-metal band. And they're definitely not going to remind anyone of Jamaica, but 311 has played the occasional reggae festival with success.

311 Gets Sensitive (Boston Phoenix)

When I get 311 singer SA on the phone for an interview, he’s hanging out on the shores of Lake Michigan on a nice summer day in Milwaukee, gearing up to play a show later that night. The LA-via-Omaha band’s seventh and latest album, Evolver (Volcano), has just hit stores, and he can’t stop gushing about it. "It’s my favorite 311 record by far. It’s our best songs, and it’s probably the best sound we’ve gotten since our debut, Music." It’s also a hit: Evolver is the fourth consecutive 311 studio album to debut in the Billboard album-chart Top 10, and the single "Creatures (For a While)" is getting plenty of airplay on modern-rock radio.

It’s been eight years since 311 released their homonymous third album, which went triple platinum on the strength of the raucous funk-metal smashes "Down" and "All Mixed Up." They weren’t able to maintain that level of popularity for long, but the profound influence they’ve had on some of today’s most popular rock groups is hard to deny; Linkin Park, in particular, sound as if they’d spent more than a little time studying 311’s deft combination of hip-hop, melody, and heavy guitars. Always a feverish live band, they’ll perform this Wednesday at FleetBoston Pavilion with fellow college-rock faves G. Love & Special Sauce and Something Corporate.

Evolver is the latest result of 311’s fruitful collaboration with producer Ron Saint Germain, who previously worked with them on 311 and 2001’s From Chaos (Volcano). It’s also the first album they’ve made at the Hive, the Hollywood recording studio they bought two years ago and have been refurbishing ever since. "I really can’t say how much it’s helped us, in so many ways," SA raves about the studio. "We get to rehearse, write, demo, and record there. It played a huge part in the structure of the songs and the sound that we got. Prior to making the record, we revamped the control room and brought in a new recording console, and I think that made a world of difference."

"Creatures" is a classic 311 party jam that finds singer Nicholas Hexum blowing off stress after a tough day at the, uh, office. SA sings harmony and provides his trademark rap counterpoint; the rest of the band thump along as playfully as ever. " ‘Creatures’ is really just a reaction to demands that are placed on us individually and how we deal with them. We’re fortunate that we’re in a position to do something we love. At the same time, you’re trying to make everybody in your life happy, and sometimes you might not want to do certain things, but you do. It’s about being who you are and letting go."

Although the single covers familiar territory for 311, Evolver takes off in enough interesting new directions to justify its title. "Sometimes Jacks Rule the Realm" is a moody unplugged epic that deals with the frustration the group felt recently when, after deciding to test the European market, they found themselves touring as an opening act for the first time in ages. "Crack the Code" rides a mean dancehall groove, but its sentiment is unabashedly romantic: "You are the first to crack my code." "The bulk of the songs on Evolver are about relationships," admits SA, who counts notorious softies Coldplay among his favorite new bands. "On ‘Crack the Code,’ we’re opening up more and being more honest with who we are. It might be uncomfortable, but the best lyrics are the most uncomfortable ones."

One of the disc’s most memorable choruses (along with some smokin’ Jerry Garcia licks from guitarist Tim Mahoney) comes on the reggae-metal power ballad "Beyond the Gray Sky," which addresses the recent suicide of Hexum’s best friend from high school. "Suicide is always something that’s so unexpected and tragic and sad," SA acknowledges. "But if it’s in you and you’re creative, you can make something beautiful out of it. It’s about taking something that’s so wrong and understanding it a little more. That’s what the song does for others as well. If somebody’s pondering suicide, maybe it can help them."

As someone who does a lot of rapping in a rock band, SA is the kind of guy hipsters love to hate. But 311 have been playing down their hip-hop influence in recent years, and the new album continues in that direction. "When the band started out, we were heavily into Public Enemy, Urban Dance Squad, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bad Brains. The energy behind all that was a big influence, but we’ve always been into melody. Evolver is the least rap we’ve ever had; there’s a lot more melody and harmony. I would say we’re more in that vein now. That will always be a part of what we’re all about — maybe even a larger part in the future."

311 play FleetBoston Pavilion in Boston, with G. Love & Special Sauce and Something Corporate

Nick Hexum Buys An Island (Miami Herald)

For Nick Hexum, singer with the hip-hop and reggae-inspired rock band 311, a modern-day version of the Keys castaway fantasy cost slightly more - $2.7 million.
That's how much he shelled out in May for Money Key, which consists of several acres of land and mangrove on the ocean, off Summerland Key.


The California-based performer paid a visit to Money Key in March after spotting it for rent on the Internet.

``I stayed there for a week, fell in love with the place and by the end of the stay made them an offer,'' he said.

Hexum's key includes an octagonal wood house, Internet access, satellite television and a we're-all-alone-out-here feel that fosters birthday-suit sunning. Hexum also rents the island out for between $4,800 and $6,500 a week.

``When I realized it was do-able, I just couldn't pass it up,'' said Hexum, who doesn't know how Money Key - one of two islands in the Keys with that name - got the moniker.

Some Keys islands were homesteaded, then bought from Florida's internal improvement fund, which sold off excess lands, according to Hambright. Others were bought by the federal government for conservation.

Survival of the fittest: 311's Evolver (La Salle Collegian)

With Ron St. Germain (Bad Brains, Tool) back on the production helm for a third time around, Omaha hip-hop/reggae rockers, 311, spent the past year writing, recording, and mastering what is now their seventh full length album, Evolver.

Appropriately named, the LP's title takes a spin off of The Beatles 1966 release, Revolver. While the band admits to being huge fans of the fab four, they had more things in mind when naming the record. In a message posted on the band's website, lead singer and guitarist, Nick Hexum wrote, "After 14 years together as a band, I think we've really grown and evolved as people, musicians and songwriters…The new album will have plenty of classic 311 rockers, but as we take another step forward in the evolution of 311, the record also branches out into some new territory. All of this led us to the title Evolver. We think it suits the album perfectly."

It appears that Hexum wasn't lying when he alluded to the uncharted territory. The five-some, which consists of Hexum, co-vocalist S.A. Martinez, bassist P-Nut, lead guitarist Tim Mahoney, and drummer Chad Sexton explore new grounds on Evolver, perfecting everything about their already distinct style, blending melody and harmony with an edge and spirit of adventure that fans might associate with past albums such as Transistor, 311, Grassroots, or Music.

Stand out tracks include the Beatles-esque "Seems Uncertain" where Hexum's call for unity is accompanied by acoustic guitar, a mellotron keyboard, and a hip-hop drum tap.

With "Beyond the Gray Sky" the boys prove that they can noodle and croon with the best of their reggae and jam-band influences. The song resonates in airy guitars until Mahoney hurtles into a climactic solo towards its end.

Their self-proclaimed original funk and dancehall mixture is most evident on songs like the bass-happy "Don't Dwell," "Give Me A Call," and "Crack the Code." Meanwhile, the hard hitting first single "Creatures (For Awhile)," Grassroots-like rocker, "Other Side of Things" and the catchy "Still Dreaming" bring back a sense of intensity and force found on earlier efforts.

While that level of intensity may vary from album to album, Evolver displays a degree of musicianship that the band has truly grown into. The best evidence of this would be the closing track "Sometimes Jacks Rule the Realm," a rhapsody of sorts that includes the use of acoustic guitar, a warm bassline, and a mandolin that sway into a melodic bass instrumental entitled "Coda."

As opposed to their two previous releases, Soundsystem and From Chaos, this, the latest edition to the 311 catalogue, comes with a blend of styles that sounds much more natural and organic. Lyrically, it is much more personal and mature overall. And like any intriguing adventure in music, Evolver elevates, soars, dips, swerves, crashes, and rebuilds. 311 has survived with this new effort, ensuring there presence until the next time around.
Now in their tenth year as a band, alt rockers 311--guitarist/vocalist Nick Hexum, vocalist SA Martinez, guitarist Tim Mahoney, bassist P-Nut, and drummer Chad Sexton--recently released "Evolver" (Volcano), their seventh studio album.

Produced by Ron Saint Germain (Creed, Tool), "Evolver" sees the Omaha, NE, quintet continuing to mix rock, hip-hop, and reggae with the distinctive, thick sound that has won them gigs with everyone from No Doubt and Deftones to Jay-Z and N.E.R.D., and has helped them to sell more than seven million albums. "Evolver" is 311's second set for Volcano Records; in 2000, the group filed a breach-of-contract suit against its previous label, Capricorn.

33-year-old guitarist Nick Hexum spoke with liveDaily via telephone while on the road with Something Corporate and G. Love & Special Sauce. 311 opens a new round of tour dates in October.

liveDaily: How have things been the last few years? It seems like it's been pretty turbulent.

No complaints. We say there's ups and downs, but really, we've never been, like, totally frozen out of the radio. Some songs are more embraced than others, but we do all right. We never play to empty houses, almost always sold-out shows. We actually talk a lot amongst ourselves about how lucky we are to have been doing this for so long.

What was the story with Capricorn?

The Capricorn thing is ancient history. Let me just say that we really take a lot of pride in being loyal, and we've had a lot of very longstanding relationships with our manager and agents. We never wanted to sue anybody, but Capricorn kept f---ing up, so we sued them and said we wanted out of the deal. And we hit them right at a time when their distribution deal with Universal had run out, so nobody was going to make a new deal with them when they were in litigation with their star band. So we basically forced them to sell us to the label of our choice, which, Volcano called and said, "Do you want to be part of our team?" So we met with them, renegotiated our deal, and it's been a cool thing.

You brought back Ron Saint Germain for "Evolver," after self-producing "From Chaos," and working with Hugh Padgham (Police, Phil Collins) and Scott Ralston on 1999's "Soundsystem."

Yeah, Ron Saint Germain did "The Blue Album." He's the one that kind of broke us big. We give him credit for that. The experience that he brings is very, very valuable.

What's he like to work with?

He's... I say this lovingly: he's a spaz. He's so energetic and gets in there and he's jumping around the room and screaming. He's always so adamant about whatever he's saying. He's a really funny guy. He's from New York and wears leather pants every day--he's cool.

Stylistically there's a lot more stretching on "Evolver" than its predecessor, "From Chaos."

Well, briefly, on "From Chaos" we were like, our fans love the old stuff, they want rap-rock. We didn't want to expand too far on that particular album. But then on "Evolver" we said, "You know what, let's go crazy. Let's let our imaginations run wild. Let's try new things, do whatever comes naturally, from the heart."

Certainly "Beyond the Gray Sky" was from the heart.

Yeah, it's about my best friend in high school, who took his own life. As you can imagine, it just put me in a complete tailspin. You just don't know how to deal. You feel a lot of guilt, like "shouldn't I have been there for him?" "[Why] didn't I see the signs?" or whatever. It was a song about me dealing with those feelings, and also it's a message to people that feel depressed and might consider doing something like that. Hang in there, there's a blue sky beyond the gray sky. I believe it's one of the deepest lyrical songs we've ever had.

The song "Creatures (For a While)" shows a lot of resolve.

"Creatures" for me is just more of � blowing off steam from urban tension. It's about, just going a little bit crazy and being stripped down to your most basic self. I'm really proud of that song because it's so fun to play live.

Positivity is always mentioned with you guys. I spoke with Chad years ago and talked about how it seemed that there was just one depressing Top 10 rock song happening after another. Is there something in the Nebraska water that makes you guys so level?

I would like to propose that there's something in the water everywhere else besides Nebraska. Honestly, these people in these bands--they're privileged and blessed people to be able to do what they do, yet they always find something to bitch about. Me, personally, I would feel embarrassed to be complaining about my life, when so many people have it harder. I don't have a really good explanation, but [the positive attitude is] something that comes naturally for us.

It implies that you guys have been through more than most people know about, to have that kind of outlook.

One thing that kind of shaped our attitude was--and we were already positive people before this--but we had an RV fire on our first tour in '93. It was more of an explosion, because the gas tank caught on fire. We barely escaped with our lives, and lost all of our possessions. After that we were like, "At least we've got each other, we've got the music in our heads, we've still got our hands to be able to express ourselves." I suffered second-degree burns and my hair got all charred and burned up, so I shaved my head. It was one of those close calls that makes you appreciate life that much more.

Where do see yourselves five, 10 years from now? The same thing?

Basically, we don't see any end in sight. We want to want to keep changing musically. We're rocking harder than ever, but I can't believe that we're going to be jumping up and down, doing the things we're doing now, when we're 50. We definitely want to do stuff in between albums, side projects. I enjoy producing other people, I've been putting together a label deal for my brother who is a gifted singer-songwriter, I have a clothing company.

I'm not at all trying to say that 311 has become less of a priority. I want to do four tours on this album, alone. But as you grow older you get other interests. P-Nut's married and might have a kid in the next few years. I got engaged. But as long as our fans can learn to be a bit more patient, we're going to keep going for a long time. Let the good times roll.

Evolving on Drums (Modern Drummer)

Way before rap-metal infiltrated rock's mainstream,
the LA-by-way-of-Nebraska quintet 311 laid the
groundwork for that hybrid genre. In fact, their
fusion of hip-hop, funk, reggae, and hard rock has
been very infuential since the band formed in 1990.
Through innumerable musical fads, 311 has stayed true
to a signature sound, while members continue to push
themselves creatively. Nowhere is 311?s staying power
and commitment to innovation more evident than on its
seventh release, appropriately titled Evolver.

"People sometimes get into bands for reasons other
than the love of music, whether it's to make money,
get women, or because they want to be on TV," says
drummer Chad Sexton. "We put 311 together because
we?re music fans and musicians at heart. We see the
trends that go on, but we like to think they don?t
affect us. Our band just tries to stay true to music
we have fun playing, while also keeping our audience
in mind. We want to write songs that will be exciting
for our fans and affect people in a positive way. So
far, that?s worked for us."

With the band's heavy Beatles influence apparent on
tracks like "Seems Uncertain," Evolver has a warmth
largely missing from albums recorded since the ?70s.
Sexton says that's due to 311's "natural" approach to
recording. "The warm sound you hear is very much an
analog byproduct," he says. "We've always recorded our
albums to tape instead of digitally, and we'll
continue to do so as long as they make tape. Pro
Tooled tracks don't even compare to analog."

Chad is happy with his performance on Evolver, but
admits he doesn't find the recording process all that
enjoyable. "The whole experience is very challenging
for me," he admits. "But that?s a good thing. I never
want to go into recording an album and have it be so
easy that I feel like I didn't challenge myself."

311 Looks Forward to Old and New Fans at Pershing (Daily Nebraskan)

311 has proven the naysayers wrong.

Since the early 1990s, the band has been a pioneer for successful Midwestern bands, with a following to prove it.

But lead singer Nick Hexum maintains that the band still isn't quite mainstream.

"Our songs are a little too experimental to be on pop radio," Hexum said.

"We are still a little under the radar, but that's fine with us," he said.

311 will perform tonight with Alien Ant Farm at Pershing Center. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.

As the title of its latest album ("Evolver") suggests, the machine that drives the group is hybridization.

Whether it be acoustic guitar, emphasis on harmonies or melody, or smooth sailing reggae beats, Hexum said the band always tried to add new elements to its musical recipe.

The result is 311's signature tight sound. But Hexum said the energy from the live shows was what really mattered.

A 311 show is a swarm of vigor. From the stage, Hexum said the crowd looks like a "bunch of bouncing balls."

"It's such a great feeling to see everyone united, to really see everyone move in synchronization in a room," Hexum said.

"My life kind of changed when I saw the (Red Hot) Chili Peppers in '88," he said.

That was his initiation to the magic of a live show and the art of losing inhibitions.

Hexum said he and his band mates had a non-verbal connection with the audience.

"It can be spiritual when it's really happening," he said.

"It's just like letting the music flow through me and whatever happens happens."

Tonight the crowd can expect 311 rarities like "Uncalm" as well as staples like "Down.".

Playing older songs doesn't get monotonous, Hexum said.

"When we play those songs the energy increases in the room," he said.

"I definitely look forward to those songs."

The nucleus of 311's community is "The Hive," which was started by bassist P-Nut's stepfather, Pat O'Reilly. O'Reilly started the fan club to spread the word about 311 in the early days.

Since then its role has changed, and now O'Reilly and P-Nut's mother Joan, mainly work with fans through the band's Web site.

"A 311 show is like a big family gathering, with old friends and new friends and the most wonderful music-inspired spirit I can imagine," Joan O'Reilly said.

Joan O'Reilly will be at tonight's show.

"It's just like (P-Nut's) first performance at the Christmas show in kindergarten, only bigger," she said.

The original five members -- Hexum, S.A. Martinez, Tim Mahoney, Chad Sexton and P-Nut -- have stayed together for more than 10 years, seven albums and 13 tours.

"We feel that we have lucked upon a chemistry," Hexum said.

"We feel we have a symbiotic relationship, that we can do better together than apart."

As its ability to musically grow has kept 311 in the mix, Hexum said evolution is key to the band's future.

"To keep expanding on what we've started -- that's the plan," he said.

311 will have a song on the soundtrack to Adam Sandler's latest movie "50 First Dates." Hexum is also working with Dryden Mitchell, lead singer for Alien Ant Farm on a cover of The Cure's "Friday I'm in Love" for the same soundtrack.

Although Alien Ant Farm could very well have headlined a tour of its own, the members of the two bands have always been close friends, so when the band was asked to join 311 on tour, it quickly obliged.

Alien Ant Farm guitarist Terry Corso recently quit the band.

Through the band's publicist, the band members commented that Corso is gone for good.

"It was a positive split, this is just like any other typical relationship and sometimes people just grow apart," Alien Ant Farm's members wrote via e-mail.

The members of the band said they were not sure who would replace Corso, but they have a couple of prospects.