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.”