Sunday, August 22, 2004

311 Eager to Keep Exploring (Billboard)

After releasing "Greatest Hits 93-03" earlier this year and a double-disc DVD due out next week, 311 singer Nick Hexum tells the rock act is just now settling into what he hopes will be a very long career.

"I predict right now, I could see 311 going for 30 years," says Hexum. "And I've always felt like kind of a late bloomer and I think we still very well might have our best work ahead of us. The thing I love about that is most of the bands that we started out with are gone, like Rage [Against The Machine] and Soundgarden. There are very few that stood the test of time. I'd love to be the U2 or something like that of our era, that is making good music and keeps exploring styles and has a lot of integrity and is popular, without sort of overly catering towards trends."

Having arrived in the mid-1990s as an early rap-n-rock outfit, the Omaha-born, Los Angeles-based band's sound has evolved over into what Hexum calls a "funkier reggae" mix. This is also the path, creatively speaking, the group hopes to continue exploring. The singer points to the single "First Straw" from the greatest hits release as a starting point for the band's next studio project.

With one song, "Waiting," finished and "lots of little parts" ready to be fleshed out, the members of 311 will reconvene in the studio next month with an eye on releasing a new album in summer, to coincide with a mid-June tour.

As previously reported, Hexum is touring with his singer/songwriter brother Zack through swing states in advance of the U.S. presidential election to show their support for Democratic nominee John Kerry. The expected set list from this 10-date tour, which began last night (Oct. 21) in Columbia, Mo., includes cover songs (Beatles, Clash, Bob Marley, Radiohead), tracks from Zack's Trauma debut album "The Story So Far..." and select 311 material presented in more of a punk aesthetic.

"It's going to be an interesting musical experience," says Nick of the trek, which was organized with assistance from music activist organization Air Traffic Control. "For 311 fans, they are definitely going to hear me in a way you may never get another chance to hear. It's a onetime thing. But I'm really looking forward to getting back to 311, which is my bread and butter."