Saturday, December 16, 2006

311 hit the charts in the early 1990's, a midwest band hailing out of Omaha, Nebraska. Since their debut Music under Volcano/Capricorn, the quintet had a busy decade releasing more than a half a dozen records to date. Today I got the chance to talk with S.A. Martinez from 311 about everything from the new album to what he wants in his Christmas stocking. Enjoy!

Tim: On this Monday after Thanksgiving, what corner of the nation can we find you guys in?
S.A.: We are in the Southeast.

Tim: Are you guys down in Baton Rouge?
S.A.: Yes, we are. We are down in Baton Rouge today. We're doing a make-up Katrina show. (laughs)

Tim: Oh really?
S.A.: It was the show that we had to cancel because of the hurricane.

Tim: With a little less than three weeks left on this current tour, how's everybody holding up?
S.A.: [laughing] Everyone's holding up pretty good!

Tim: One question that everyone wants to know is what the band plans to do for "311 Day" this year. And, I guess its even more fitting since you guys are down there today! Since New Orleans has gone through so much, could Chicago possibly be the home of "311 Day" 2006?
S.A.:Well, we're definitely gonna try to have it in New Orleans again this year. But um, as far as, you know, if there is ever a problem with holding the venue in New Orleans then, ya know, we'd have to find another venue. Possibly another city. But um, yeah, I mean Chicago would be a great place to have a show of that nature. And, so, it's a possibility one day!

Tim: Excellent. How do you feel that the "311 Day" DVD turned out?
S.A.:That was great! I think it was like the fastest to go platinum music DVD that year or something. So it did really well and it turned out great. And, ya know, we'll do something similar again this year. Or next year, rather, for 311 day. Another recording video...

Tim: Going back in the time machine a little bit, you guys played a show here for Q101 called Twisted Christmas about two years ago. It was actually December of 2003. The power went out a couple of times. I'm not sure if you remember...
S.A.:Yeah, Yeah, I totally remember that show!

Tim: You guys played right through it. A lot of bands like Limp Bizkit got a lot of heat that same year for walking off stage (Summer Sanitarium Tour). I thought it said a lot about your band. How does an instance like that speak to the character of 311 as a band?
S.A.: Well, I mean, it shows you how easy-going we are. (laughing) We are. Yeah, you get thrown into all kinds of situations on tour. And um, ya know, you just can't say nothing. The power going out? That shit happens!

Tim: Sure does!
S.A.:When people over react to things like that, obviously those people are a little too full of themselves...

Tim: Well put. I was doing some research and in 2000 LAUNCH did an interview with Nick and P-Nut and they were talking about where they get advice from and where people draw from both musically and beyond. Nick mentioned his buddy from Grasshopper Takeover (who recently toured with 311 this fall at Northern Illinois University).
S.A.: Right

Tim: Curtis Grubb was the guy he mentioned. Is there anyone who you draw upon for musical advice? Or, in general, just who you go to for perspective?
S.A.: Um, (laughs) honestly, the guys in the band. Ya know, if I have a question or I'm working on a song and I want some advice on it, I'll take it to Nick and be like, "Yo, ya know, what do you think about this? And, I'm thinking about doing this here. What do you think about that?" Yeah, he's really good about... I mean, I think he's one of the greatest songwriters of our generation. I think as far as our genre is concerned, then definitely so. Um, so yeah, I'll go to him! (laughs)

Tim: No, definitely! Yeah, I'm always impressed.
S.A.: ...and Chad too. Any of the guys in the band! I have no problem going to them for input or whole direction on something if I'm stuck or need some ideas or something like that.

Tim: Cool. Keeping the theme and moving on to the new disc, you seem to have the mose lyrics as opposed to other 311 albums in the past. Did you have free reign on Don't Tread On Me?
S.A.: Well, it was more of the fact that... I took more of an active role as far as asserting myself a little more on this record. And, ya know, bringing more to the plate as far as we're concerned and whatnot. So, it was more or less me finding myself with a lot of ideas and then finally having the time to put those ideas together. We were supposed to start working on the record in October of last year and what happened was Nick went on this tour with his brother and so it gave everyone else in the band a lot of time to put our demos together. And, so what I did was put my studio at home together and I got to work on all the ideas I had been collecting in putting songs together. I really took that opportunity to string it along like that. When it came time to present the demos, I had something that I thought was worthy. So, that's really how that all came about.

Tim: In reading the lyrics to "It's Getting OK Now," the song speaks to death and someone's last days on earth. Can you tell me where the inspiration came from in writing this and who, if anyone, this song refers to??
S.A.: It's really something that I'll find myself thinking about on occasion. Ya know?

Tim: Yeah.
S.A.: It's impossible not to think about the obvious. It's a democratic thing because we all do it and it all happens on the solo tip. Do you know what I'm saying? It's just one of those things that's very unsettleing and at the same time you have to find, I think... I think it would be great if there was in our culture, something in place where we actually practiced death. (laughs) Ya know? I think something like a ritual act or something that would alleviate the fear of that. So, I guess it's more or less something I try to work out in my own mind and find, or try to place the meaning to it.

Tim: Definitely. It's one of those topics that's always a conversation piece.
S.A.:Right, Yeah!

Tim: Excellent. After reading some of the album reviews, people were talking about Solar Flare as being something you could have drawn on Rage Against the Machine for. Can fans expect to hear more of that tone in upcoming 311 albums? Or, in general, how did that song factor into the whole disc?
S.A.: Well, that was a song we had been kinda working on for a little bit. And, in the writing sessions that we had and full band sessions that we had, it was a song that we were just stumbling on as far as lyrical ideas were concerned. Finally, one night I was at the Alleman and I was listening to it over and over and, you know, it just kinda hit me like this is really what it brings out in ME. And, at the time you had the election going on and war in the background. There's just like, uh, we had to. It was like that perfect song to apply it to. And really, once that decision was made, lyrically it just flowed from there. I think it was the angle we were not sure of, basically. Once it was more concrete and became more apparent, it just went from there.

Tim: Do any songs on Don't Tread On Me mean more to you than the others? If so, why??
S.A.: Um, really "Getting Through To Her" would be the one song that brings out the most emotion in me. It's about someone I really care about deeply. This song is meant to reach somebody who is going through a very tramatic experience. I know its not an inspiring topic, but what brought about the song was child sexual abuse. That's something people don't really want to talk about because its difficult too. Understandably, its ugly and it wrecks havoc on everything about a person and their consequent relationships. You name it, you can go down the list and it affects everything about the victim you can possibly imagine. And, so, that song is about reaching and trying to get through to somebody who I care about and love that it happened to. So, to get back to your question... Yeah, (laughs) that would be the one song that speaks to me most out of any of the other songs on the album.

Tim: Here's an easy one, what is your favorite 311 song to play live?
S.A.: Well, ya know what, we've been dusting off some songs recently and one song we've been playing a few times on this tour now is a song called "Mindspin" off of, I think it was on Soundsystem (1999). And, that's a great song! I really forgot about that song completely until someone posted it on our bulletin board and we had a petitition going about for that song in particular and would we play it. So, we sound checked it a few times and...

Tim: Just went with it?
S.A.:Yeah, we played it like four or five times. It would be hard to say what songs out of all the songs we play live that I like the best but, recently, that song is a standout.

Tim: Very cool. This seems like an excellent point to work in a question from one of our readers. Kariann from Chicago had this question for you – What's one song in history you wish you could take credit for writing?
S.A.:I would say (long pause)...something by George Harrison. "Something in the way she moves attracts me like no other lover." I believe its called "Something."

Tim: OK...
S.A.:Yeah, that would be the song that I'd like to take credit for! (laughs)

Tim: If you weren't in this band, what would you be doing today?
S.A.: We get asked this question. I never know the answer to that one. Because, I think Nick put it best once time when he was asked a similar question he was like, "If I wasn't in this band, I would be trying to start this band." (laughs)

Tim: Exactly!
S.A.: So, I always thought that was a great answer to that question. If I wasn't in 311, I'd be trying to find something like it!

Tim: Well, on that thought, are there any new bands that catch your ear? Or, that you might want to tour with that you haven't yet?
S.A.: Gosh, I am so out of the loop when it comes to new bands. Let's see, hmm...that we haven't toured with...

Tim: Even if you have, just in general...
S.A.: Well, I like The Mars Volta. I'd love to play with those guys some day. I've never seen them live but I hear great things about their show and I love their songs.

Tim: I saw them open for System of a Down...
S.A.: Yeah, them and ummm...them! (laughs)

Tim: OK, that works for me! Final question here. What does S.A. Martinez want in his Christmas stocking this year?
S.A.: In my Christmas stocking this year...

Tim: Sure, tis the season!
S.A.: I want a reliable cell phone with great self-service! (laughs)

Tim: I second that! Couldn't agree with you more! Well, thanks again for the interview. I appreciate your time and have a great show tonight!

Here's the 3-1-1 (Rebel Yell, Vegas)

It's an alternative/reggae/funk musical group, it's the Omaha police department's code for indecent exposure, and it is not meant to be any kind of reference to the Ku Klux Klan. Without ever rocketing to astronomical superstardom, the band 311 has managed to maintain a successful career for 15 years now, much of it because of a loyal fan following. The guys of 311 have gotten used to life on the road, as touring has played a huge role in bringing the band's music to the masses. Touring is a tried-and-true method and tradition for 311, which began with the band's Omaha, Neb., grassroots.

On Friday, March 3, the Omaha rockers, who now call the Los Angeles area home, will headline UNLV's Rebelpalooza, a campus festival held annually at the intramural fields. The band is excited to be playing in Vegas as part of the university's music bash, 311 bassist P-Nut, said. "Vegas is a hot spot. I think people instinctively travel to this town to see great shows. It's never a miss, always a hit. People know how to have a good time."

Last year saw the release of the group's eighth studio album, "Don't Tread on Me." While reviews have been mixed, the sound is undeniably 311, and faithful fans should not be disappointed.

Rebel Yell: So tell me about the new album.

P-Nut: It's us continuing doing our thing. People are like, "What are you doing different?" Our normal routine is a focus on coming from a different point of view. To 311 fans, it's a formula they understand.

RY: I find it interesting that most people know 311, and your songs have made it to radio multiple times, but the band has never exploded into glaring commercial success in the mainstream pop world. Why do you think this is?

P-Nut: Exclusivity. We've been very successful as a touring band. When radio comes around and decides it understands us for a year here or there, it helps the camp. We're gonna focus on touring. When the public comes around to understand us, we'll be ready for it. The couple of times we have tried to write pop songs, it just doesn't work. It won't leave a deep impression.

RY: I read you were studying upright bass a few years back. Have you incorporated this into the music at all?

P-Nut: I recorded a little upright on "Evolver" and the 3-11 Day DVD that came out Oct. 26, 2004. With left -hand technique, where I was a little sloppy before, I now have a more classical left - hand swagger.

RY: I also saw you have an interest in writing screenplays.

P-Nut: I'm in the process of writing an obsessive love story from the mind of a delusional sociopath. A fun stalker movie.

RY: Are you drawing from personal experience?

P-Nut: There's a little bit of truth.

RY: Has the issue of stalkers ever been an issue for the band?

P-Nut: No. Thankfully our fans are really down-to-earth.

RY: Is this spring tour still in support of the new album, or is it more about building toward 3-11 Day in Memphis (a concert the band has traditionally played every other year since 2000 in New Orleans, but was relocated for 2006 because of Katrina)?

P-Nut: That is more what we're supporting. We're supporting the whole career. We spent last year supporting the album, and now we're focusing on 3-11 Day. We've already practiced 80-some songs.

RY: How did 3-11 Day come to be?

P-Nut: The fans started suggesting it. We started hearing fans were having parties on 3-11 and listening to the music. In 2000, we busted the first one out. In 2002, we played 50 songs. In 2004, we upped it to 68 songs. We're hoping to beat that this year.

RY: Wow. As a musician, how do you maintain the stamina to play so much music in a show? Isn't that a killer on your fingers?

P-Nut: I've got small craters in my hands that public works comes and fills up before the show.

RY: How does your wife deal with you being on the road?

P-Nut: If my wife wants to come out, there's always room for her.

RY: How did you meet?

P-Nut: I met my wife at a show in New Orleans.

RY: Was she stalking you?

P-Nut: We were ravenous about each other.

RY: When do you expect to go back into the studio to work on another album?

P-Nut: Probably in July/August. The great thing about having our own studio (The Hive in Burbank, CA) is we can just go in whenever we want.

RY: Where did the name P-Nut come from?

P-Nut: My name came from my skull shape as a kid. It's kind of elongated … and salty.

RY: So, P-Nut, why should UNLV students go out to see 311 play at Rebelpalooza?

P-Nut: I think we offer a live experience that most bands can't double. How many positive bands can stay together for 15 years and keep making a difference? As fragile as everything is right now, everybody adds their own part. We're teetering so awkwardly right now (society) that it's great to appreciate the good times we have while we have them.

REBELPALOOZA, featuring 311, will be held this Friday, March 3, and is free to all UNLV students with a valid student ID. More information is available at

"Don't Tread on Me" is available in stores now. For more on 311, visit their Web site

A Secondary Sense (Schweg Web)

311, whose roots are in Omaha, Nebraska now residing in California released their 15th album, in August of 2005 of their almost 20 year career. The album did well and the band is now on a cross country tour of 35 shows. They will be playing in Clarkston, MI on August 10th. I had a chance to talk with bass player P- Nut, this is what he had to say:

WRITER’S NOTE: This interview was conducted live and has been edited for content and length.

Schwegweb: How much of the creative process are you involved in?
P-Nut: "Probably just at my fair share, Nic Essay and Chad have multiple talents as well as Tim and I but when being creative with Nic and essay both being able to write music as well as lyrics, and Chad turning in to a producer extraordinaire that’s what he brings to the table besides his great song writing ability. Me and Tim have been just concentrating on our instruments. Tim has become a fantastic soloist and I’m working on trying to control my creative energy in a more understandable way up until this point what I bring to the table has been kind of off the wall kind of just trying to write something that’s really fun to play, concentrating on the song in more of a secondary sense. And now the older I get I’m concentrating on song composition and taking the body of the song as a more important piece than just the bass line. It’s a learning process and in having a lot of fun with it and we’re lucky to have as any talent people as we do in the band."

How did you get the name P-nut?
"I got p-nut from a friend of mine when we were about 14 we were playing in a garage band basically and we were all just rocking out and I distorted my head shape to even lengthier, and then it kind of stuck."

How did 311 come together as a whole?"
"Well Nick had Chad with him [in California] I’m guessing about in 1988 because we had gotten everything together by 90. Nick went out there everything kind of fell apart nick moved to Germany, Chad came back to Omaha he hooked up with me in the end of 89 and we started playing songs together with a different guitarist kind of as a three piece and nick came and saw us play at my high school that essay had subsequently graduated from the weird thing was that Chad and essay were roommates in college so that was like an instant link to the Martinez factor and I had met him through my wondering through our part of the neighborhood so there was a nice little link to bring him in to the whole as soon as possible especially after we got together after 1990. We started rehearsing as more or less a four piece in February of 1990 and then went to our 1st show June 10th at Silver Hole in Omaha opening up for Fugazi. Then we had at least a couple hundred people at every show minus the hand full of shows we did, immediately following our first show, just to get everything started. Things got started a lot faster for us a lot faster then, I think, any other band in our position. We came out pretty much as a fully formed band especially with nick and Chad having as much experience as they had. Me and my friend Jim were what basketball coaches call “gym rats” we were the same thing with our garage band we practiced all the time we ate, slept and drank it. It was meant to be we were all such big music fans that we had to add our ideals in to the big huge universe of music."

How did 311 develop such a unique sound?
"Well we never limited our selves to any one sound that’s how we came up with something that is so like hyphenated or like a run on sentence to describe all the styles that we permeate. We’re just huge fans of music like I said and no matter if you like it or not its going to come out in your music, I think the only way you can do like a singular influence band is if you limit your self, and I don’t think we have ever done that."

What, if any, were the dark periods of 311?
"I think transistor was kind of a dark period. When we were writing all those songs it’s kind of got a cloudy vibe to it., and the tempos are kind of slower than some of the other albums, the way it was recorded was kind of darker. Musically I guess we went through that, and we go through ups and downs just personality wise. What ever will happen to whoever in the band we will all kind of feel it in one way or the other, because we don’t really exist too much with out each other, our live are entangled upon each other."

So you guys are all pretty much best friends then?
"Yah for sure, we have to be in one way or the other. Putting out a genuine show has everything to do with the people playing with."

How has growing up in a small town like Omaha influenced your music?
"I think growing up in that environment forced us to go against the trend, and really please our selves first and worry about everybody else later, and I think that we have gained respect for writing music that we wanted pretty much all the way through our career. And then a cover song here or there, as suggested by Adam Sandler for the 50 First Dates sound track something that we didn’t come up with on our own but was very successful and fun to do. Its just cool to give respect to The Cure because the positive damage that they did to music as a whole, they are just great."

Who were your personal influences?
"My earliest were probably Iron Maiden and Metallica when I was really focusing on the instrument, the bass. That’s something that could really make me a stand out as a rock musician I guess."

If you weren’t playing music what would you be doing?
"Probably producing movies if I had that opportunity, I would have pushed myself in that direction one way or the other. Writing stories and getting them on film with out compromise."

What is your favorite place to play?
"We just did Red Rocks about three or four days ago, that’s pretty hard to beat. As a city I think New Orleans, as a band we have had so many monumental shows there."

Does 311 really have a holiday in New Orleans?
"Yah the mayor before the current mayor or New Orleans decreed March 11, 311 day in New Orleans."

So you guys have a show every March 11, there?
"No it’s a biannual, and we weren’t able to do it this year because the venue that we usually play at was damaged by the hurricane."

What is your favorite CD to listen to?
"I would be listening to the Artic Monkeys, What ever people say that I am, That’s what I’m not is a perfect album."

Are you as energetic off stage as you are on?
"No, I’m pretty much a polar opposite off stage of how I am on stage. I’m a kind of mellow person. I can get excited pretty easy, if I’m on a basketball court ill be all over you. I can draw from that kind of energetic persona but I’m defiantly not like that all the time I don’t think anybody could be."

How did 311 get its name?
"It came from a police code when the original guitarist who I was talking about earlier got arrested for being naked in a public swimming pool. That was 311 for indecent exposure. Late in my own studies I found that that’s the same thing that Lenny Bruce got arrested for, for saying “cock sucker” on stage, it was another kind of cool link to it."

LA Places: Essential Features (Chad Sexton's Drum City)

Located amid local recording studios and shops, Chad Sexton, drummer for rock band 311, has opened up a drummer’s haven called Chad Sexton’s Drum City. Having worked at Joe Voda’s Drum City, a drum store in his hometown of Omaha, Neb., Sexton worked alongside his mom, Linda McDonald, who managed the drum store for over 20 years.

Although Voda’s Drum City is long gone, Sexton admits he’s long harbored the idea of owning a drum store in the back of his mind. His vision was to provide a place where drummers of all ages could come and get the personal attention and variety they craved, something that the Guitar Centers of the world often lack.

“The mom and pop-style drum store is what I’m trying to open up again,” says Sexton, “which had more to do with being a place to hang out and see what other drummers are listening to, to see what they’re doing. I’ve realized how much of my musical background was picked up at the drum store.”

Although CSDC will provide everything a drummer could want – drum sets, signature drum sticks, tour supplies, drum lessons, repairs, and personalized service – Sexton’s main goal is to bring variety back to music retail.

“I’m trying to walk the fine line of doing business but also stocking a lot of stuff, so that new drummers, old drummers, pros, and beginners can come in and see something that the other stores aren’t stocking,” he explains. “Unique items like cymbals with holes drilled into the middle of them, an 11-inch pair of high hats, or colored drum sticks.”

With high vaulted ceilings and skylights, Chad Sexton’s Drum City is a spacious store with a dedicated room for cymbals, another for one for one-on-one drum lessons, along with providing a sprawling selection of drum sticks, carrying signature lines from drummers such as Danny Carey of Tool and Adrian Young of No Doubt.

Yamaha, Mapex, ddrum, Zildjian, Sabian, Istanbul, Vic Firth, Pro-Mark and Toca Percussion are just a taste of the brands at CSDC, with Sexton’s Orange County Drum & Percussion yellow drum set proudly on storefront display.

Sexton’s experience as a drummer began as a tot, taking his first lesson at age seven, then spending five years as a teenager in a drum corps group called the Sky Ryders. “All those years of drum corps were my main lesson,” says Sexton, who admits his drum style in 311 often mimics the fast-paced drumming of drum corps. “It’s like a boot camp for chops.”

With mom at the helm as manager and a focused vision, Sexton is excited to open the doors to his drum store. He prides himself upon working hard at every aspect of the business, winning loyal customers and providing a positive vibe that makes newcomers feel at home.

“Me and my mom do the ordering, we set up the store together, we place things where they think they should go. I take out the drums sets and put them together,” says Sexton with a smile. “Just like I used to do as a teenager. It’s kind of surreal.”

Friday, November 17, 2006

311: Across A Wire

Every year on March 11, thousands of fans migrate to New Orleans to celebrate 311's music the way other's celebrate 420. It's a universal day of peace, love and understanding, and in the past, the band has performed for upwards of six hours with material ranging from their early independent releases like "Dammit!", "Hydroponic" and "Unity" to their latest smash single "Don't Tread on Me."

311 guitarist Tim Mahoney, who started his day with a wake and bake, paused to reflect on the band's holiday and the good vibes being shared each night on the band's Summer Unity tour with the legendary Wailers and Pepper.

Austin In Austin: Have you ever made out in a dark hallway and displayed the kiss that made the day?

Tim Mahoney: I think S.A. [Martinez] might have. That's funny' cause if you knew him, that's such a natural thing for him to say. I have made out in a dark hallway, but the rest of that gibberish I'm not sure about.

AIA: How did you end up with Pepper and more importantly, The Wailers, on your current tour?

TM: We've been playing with Pepper for a while now. Our styles vibe together well. The Wailers, that's one of my favorite bands of all time, space, continuum or whatever. For me, the vibe is just unreal. To hear all of those classic songs with Jr. Marley singing, it's just great. By the time it's our turn to play that vibe is just perfect for us; it's the best line-up we could ever hope for.

AIA: How did 311 Day come to be?

TM: Well, we've celebrated 311 day as long as we've been a band. There just so happened to be a couple of years in a row starting about five years ago, where we were consecutively playing in New Orleans. So then we just looked at the situation and decided it would be cool if we just created a holiday for ourselves, and the band, and our fans. And New Orleans is such an awesome city that's always embraced us. This past March, we weren't able to actually do it in New Orleans because of all the damage done to the city. The area where we normally play wasn't up to safety regulations and that sort of thing. There weren't enough generators. There was a whole bunch of stuff in the air, so we did it in Memphis working with the same promoters and it turned out great. I forget how long we played for that evening. We just try to outdo ourselves, but it kind of got to the point where we only have five hours to work with.

AIA: Only five hours?

TM: Well, yeah. But we play songs that we haven't played in 10 years and that sort of thing. We're so fortunate that we have fans that would come from every single state except for Hawaii to be there. And we played Hawaii after that, so it wouldn't have been that reasonable for those people to have come then.

AIA: Does it surprise you each time you add up the years and you realize it's been 16 years? And a follow-up question to that, how have you managed to stay relevant in the process?

TM: It's almost like time travel when we go back and play those older songs, because it puts you back in that place. Plus, they're fun to play because we've become such better musicians since then that we're able to play these songs in ways they weren't before. As far as the actual music, we've always just tried to channel beautiful melodies or super rockin' riffs that we just enjoy playing. And the lyrics are just things that everyone can relate to, that are timeless in a sense. We've always just tried to influence people in a positive way with our music. That's been the attitude all along.

We just try to get people to be kind to one another. All I can really do is try and be a good person and influence people in a positive way, to try and have people get all that they're supposed to get out of music.

AIA: Between 311, Pepper, Damien Marley and Matisyahu, there seems to be a recent rise in reggae-influenced music on the popular, mainstream level. Is this something you expect to continue or last?

TM: It blows my mind still that every city doesn't have a reggae channel. People just don't get exposed to it enough. I'm glad I did when I did through those old Bad Brains records. It's not surprising to me; it seems like each year it grows a little bit more, spreads out a little more.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

NICK HEXUM can hear the storms coming again. He is singer-guitarist with the band 311 and is calling from his island home in the Florida Keys, where he owns a six-acre plot of land about a mile off the southeast coast, a place he calls "this most beautiful island that I love with all my heart." And he remembers what happened in 2005.

That was a year of big destructive hurricanes, labeled with the otherwise innocent names of Wilma, Rita, Dennis and Katrina. Hexum's house was battered but survived, and he realizes that others obviously had it much, much worse. Thousands across the region lost homes, jobs, lives. The devastation led Hexum to delve into researching climatological issues and take up global warming as a cause.

"Hurricanes are going to get worse," Hexum says grimly. "We are on an upward trend of hurricane strength because we're on an upward trend of global temperatures. We really felt it hard-core last year."

That experience was enough to further inflame Hexum's existing environmental concerns. He bought a hybrid car (a 2007 Lexus), founded a nonprofit organization,, and is having solar panels installed at his Laurel Canyon home.

This year, he raised $15,000 in pledges for by running the Los Angeles Marathon (his first). He also has a solo project in the works, a collection of ancient pop standards ("Sweet Lorraine," "Smile," etc.), rendered as reggae songs, that he hopes can be used to raise more funds. Its working title: "Too Darn Hot."

"I love 311, but those things are very important," says Hexum, 36. "So I'm going to take a little time off and work on those other things."

That means an indefinite band hiatus will begin at the end of 311's current tour, which closes this weekend with shows at the Greek Theatre and the Santa Barbara Bowl. Hexum isn't sure how long it will last.

"I'm leaving it open-ended," he says, "because if there is any kind of deadline, that will ruin it."

The hiatus comes just as 311 is experiencing one of its most successful tours, playing bigger rooms and with more sell-out crowds than when 311 albums were going triple-platinum. Hexum can't explain the surge in numbers, but says many new fans seem to be in their late teens.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Nick Hexum: Man on a Mission (Washington Post)

Move aside, Brad Pitt -- 311's Nick Hexum is on a mission to tackle global warming.

"I agree with Al Gore's statements that global warming is a bigger threat than terrorism," the singer told us yesterday. Hexum launched Liberal Hexum in April to inform people about environmental issues and to raise money for the cause.

"I first got interested in forming a political action committee, but the red tape was too much," he said, before unleashing enough global warming statistics to make a scientist envious. Hexum said he had been mulling the idea of working for environmental causes for some time, but when his house in the Florida Keys was hit by four hurricanes in 2004, he decided to take action.

While he isn't ruling out taking his cause to the Hill, Hexum says he's mainly focused on getting the word out. "A lot of people don't understand the urgency of global warming," he said. "It's a struggle for our Earth, to save it for our grandchildren."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Promise Keepers (Santa Barbara Independent)

When vocalist Doug “SA” Martinez told The Independent that 311’s show at the Bowl would be one for the history books, it may have seemed like a bold statement, but let it be known across the land that the Omaha, Nebraska quintet does not lie.

With a résumé boasting nine full-length albums, 17 singles, and 18 years, 311’s live shows have become a powerhouse of diversity that revolve around their deadliest weapon: the set list. Even the few bands who can match the depth of their discography often fail to display the same diversity in their live shows, making 311 a constant fascination even to the fans who have been following them since the beginning. With more than 80 songs in rotation for their Unity tour, the set list offered by the boys last Saturday was the best I’ve heard at the Bowl in years.

Following a kinetic jumpstart by Pepper, the day began with a historic footnote as the Wailers returned to the Bowl for the first time in 27 years. Though the absence of Tuff Gong was noticeable, the reggae ensemble presented a concrete performance, checking off the hits one by one until they were joined by Pepper for a closing performance of “One Love.”

311’s lengthy set maintained a gymnastic balance among all of their albums, beginning with the mellow grooves of “Welcome.” Of course the necessities were present, including “Beautiful Disaster,” “All Mixed Up,” “Come Original,” and “Down,” but what really sent the show over the edge were the tracks normally forgotten in the live circuit. Much to the delight of old-school fans, 311 played a plethora of old jams, including “Prisoner,” “From Chaos,” “You Wouldn’t Believe,” “I’ll Be Here a While,” and “What Was I Thinking?”

An eclectic encore put the finishing touches on the night as 311 returned to stage with the Wailers, joining forces to jam out to the classic Bob Marley song “Exodus.” The 11-piece ensemble transformed back into five rockers, who finished off the night with “Creatures.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

311 Rocks Tech Campus

Rock veterans 311 hit the Burruss stage with their signature beats and in your face vocals last night, giving the Tech crowd everything they were looking for, and officially kicked off the 2006 fall semester, "(311) is a show Tech's been looking forward to for a very long time. We've had a lot of requests for it over the past five or so years. And obviously it sold out in about eight days, so this is something the students have wanted for a very long time," said senior Jon Hardage, director of concerts for Virginia Tech Union.

Their long anticipated Virginia Tech debut wasn't easy though. Hardage said, "This is actually the only college on their tour, so it's kind of unexpected that they accepted the offer. They are a hard band to get because they're so popular," Welbilt, a band from Fairfax, Virginia, opened for 311. According to Hardage, "Welbilt is getting very popular regionally, especially in Virginia and Maryland. They play real good rock n' roll."

If no one had heard of them before they took the stage, Welbilt made their introduction quick and memorable. They played an almost continuous 15 minutes of music, and perhaps would have made it longer had they not literally broken some thing.

"It's a Welbilt tradition to blow something up at each show," lead singer and guitarist Nate Ihara told the crowd.

After a momentary pause to fix the problem Welbilt picked up where they left off. Ihara's face glowed with sweat. He occasionally flicked the sweat from his brow, where it got caught in the stage lighting and hung momentarily in the air. They continued to play for close to half and hour with unexpected confidence for a band opening for such staples of the American music scene.

The crowd was anxious. In the half-hour from the end of Welbilt to 311, several Burruss wide chants of "311" rang out.

This was the first 311 concert for junior biology major Elizabeth Arwood and her friend Caryn Clements. Arwood's expectations would be met if she heard anything from the "Motive" album, and fears that her Thursday Genetics class may be sacrificed because of the concert.

The unique sound of 311 is hard to categorize. Eric Miller, a freshman engineering major, said, "They're hard to place in a genre really. They're rock, but they have a groove, you know? A funky type of rock." When asked what he wanted to hear them play, Miller summed it up in one word, "Amber."

Finally the house lights of Burruss hall were killed and only the red glow of the exit signs remained. The crowd's anticipation overflowed and the screams rivaled the columns of blaring speakers.

On stage vocalist and scratcher Douglas Martinez engaged in a vocal duel with lead singer and guitarist Nicholas Hexem. Back and forth they went in such 311 classics as "All mixed up." Martinez's body bounced up and down as he spouted off the lyrics. Hexum, standing on the amps or facing up with Martinez, poured himself into his performance and Tech responded. Waves of hands in the air, and mouths completely in sync with the song could be seen throughout the auditorium.

Guitarist Timothy Mahoney, and Bassist P-Nut were the stoic bookends that contained the lyrical chaos of Martinez and Hexum in the middle of the stage. And of course Chad Sexton provided the beat that is 311. The most important thing on stage, though, could have been a silent Peace Lily atop a stack of speakers whose exact purpose, aside from being pretty, is unknown.

Bassist Matt Waller of Welbilt described opening for 311 as a "dream come true." "I've loved 311 since I was like 14, and I've always wanted to meet them," he said.

"Personally I had never heard of them," admitted senior Coleman Collins. "The best part is the energy." For many others in Burruss hall on Wednesday night, this was also their first meeting with the band. 311 made sure to make it a memorable though.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Amphitheater welcomes 311 with guests The Wailers, Pepper (TBN Weekly)

TAMPA - 311 with special guests The Wailers, Pepper will take the stage on Sunday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m., for a pavilion-only show at the Ford Amphitheater.

311 is touring in support of last year's release of "Don't Tread On Me," their eighth album in fifteen years. The band was formed in Omaha, Neb., by five self-described 'friends for life' (singer and guitarist Nick Hexum, singer S.A. Martinez, guitarist Tim Mahoney, drummer Chad Sexton and the bassist known only as P-Nut) whose common link was a passion for both music and life.

They have sold millions of albums and even had a video certified platinum, all serving as a strong testament to the unique relationship 311 has with its fans. In 2004. the band recorded a cover of the Cure's "Love Song" for the Adam Sandler movie "50 First Dates." It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Radio Chart, making it the band's second No.1 hit and their sixth single to crack the Top 10.

"When we first started the band, we were always sure something good was going to happen," said drummer Chad Sexton. "And we've never gone backwards in any way since."

The Wailers reached legendary status through the music of Bob Marley who fronted the group until his death from cancer. With many of the original members still involved, the group will perform all of the classic Marley tunes as they were meant to be heard. The Wailers lineup will include: Aston Barrett - bass (original), Junior Marvin - lead guitar (original), Al Anderson - lead guitar (original), Chico - trumpet (original), Gary Pine - lead vocal, Drummy - drums, Keith Sterling - keyboards (played with Peter Tosh), Roxanne Prince - backing vocals, and Marsha Scott Hines - backing vocals.

Tickets are $35 for reserved seats and general admission dance floor and available by calling 898-2100 or online at