Sunday, December 16, 2007

311 Ready for Reinvention on Next Album (Billboard)

After taking more than a year-and-a-half off, 311 is revving back up with a summer tour and a fall studio date looming.

"Morale is really high right now," frontman Nick Hexum tells Billboard.com. "We needed a break, we've been working so hard and long. So, everyone has been doing their own thing. I've been traveling and fishing, doing things I do to relax. Now everyone is really jonesing to get back to our primary purpose, which is 311."

The summer tour, which kicks off June 21 in Tucson, Ariz., with Matisyahu as opener, may indeed include new material. Hexum says the band has a couple songs in the mix. While he's not promising the tunes will get stage time over the next few months, odds are diehard fans will get a sneak peak here and there. More importantly for Hexum is the bigger picture of where the band is in its album cycle.

"I would say we kind of go through a general cycle of making a more straight=ahead album that comes quickly and then we kind of rotate to more of a departure where we take a longer time making the album and inventing more new styles," Hexum says. "And albums like 'Grassroots' and 'Transistor' are more like groundbreaking albums, where the 'Blue' (self-titled) album was more like a culminating of touring and came out more quickly.

"So due to that back-and-forth thing, we're due for more of a groundbreaking, take-a-long-time-with-it album," he continues. "We don't know when it's going to be done. We're not going to make any deadlines and promises, but it's time we slightly reinvent ourselves."

Part of that reinvention has already taken place for Hexum, who has had discussions with his brother/drummer Chad about how 311 needs to follow-up its last effort, 2005's "Don't Tread on Me."

"Chad and I were having a conversation of combining dance hall and funk," Hexum says. "A tiny bit like 'All Mixed up' but much more syncopated. I'd say that the funky, tight, high-energy stuff will come along but I've also been doing a lot of really complex finger picking on acoustic guitar in the style of Michael Hedges. But it's taking influences from all over. It goes from hard rock like System Of A Down to Taproot to Wilco. I'm loving their new album. It's all over the place with our influences. And, we always love reggae."

311 gets fans jumpin' at USANA (Deseret News, Salt Lake City)

WEST VALLEY CITY — Fans attending the 2007 Summer Unity Tour displayed their banded affection for reggae-inspired rock group 311 and Jewish rapper Matisyahu. Standing nearly the entire concert and swaying — usually with one hand in the air — audience members applauded the heavily instrumental songs.

Playing "All Mixed Up" — one of its greatest hits — early in the set, 311 guitarist and lead vocalist Nick Hexum led the crowd jumping. Hexum was certainly engaging as he leapt and sort of lunged around the stage, though he made few efforts at interacting with the crowd. The adoring fans' wild cheering at any general comment ending in "Salt Lake City," however, proved the audience didn't seem to mind.

The five-man band played a number of more recent songs, such as "There's Always an Excuse," and the catchy "Frolic Room," both from the group's 2005 album "Don't Tread on Me."

The band's performance incorporated unique musical and vocal arrangements in addition to newer songs. Four members of the band left the stage at one point, leaving drummer Chad Sexton to his own devices. After playing a four-minute, arm-flailing solo, Sexton was rejoined by his bandmates who had drumsticks in tow and proceeded to play standing cymbals and base drums at the front of the stage.

During 311's cover of The Cures' "Love Song," Hexum welcomed the opening artist, Matisyahu, back to the stage.

The rapper — who swayed and jumped playfully for someone with such a serious-looking beard — did an unconventional rap sequence in the middle of the revisited '80s song that was met with fervent cheers.

A relaxed energy came over the audience as 311 played "Amber," one of its slower greatest hits. Couples seemed to especially enjoy the song, and many sang it to each other as lighting cast a golden glow from the stage.

The upbeat, fast-paced zealousness established during the first few songs wasn't fully regained until the show neared its end. For their second encore, the band played another slow number, "Beyond the Gray Sky," before rocking out again with "Down."

Vocalist SA Martinez took over with his fast-paced rapping and harmonizing until everyone, lovebirds included, were back on their feet, jumping.

311 band takes delight in visiting Salt Lake

From the mid-1990s, 311 has made it a point to play a show in the Salt Lake City area.

"There's just something about Salt Lake," said vocalist S.A. Martinez during a phone call from Cincinnati. "I mean a couple of years after we began touring, we found Salt Lake. It has always been a welcome environment for us. And the radio stations there play the deeper 311 tracks that aren't necessarily heard in other places.

"And then there's the snowboard culture and audience that we have tapped into. We just like coming back to Salt Lake."

Martinez and the band — guitarist/vocalist Nick Hexum, bassist P-Nut, drummer Chad Sexton and guitarist Tim Mahoney — have been together since 1992. And back then, no one ever thought they would still be touring and making music 15 years down the line

"If anyone would have told us that back then, we would have asked what they have been smoking," said Martinez. "We really didn't have any goals except for making music and having fun. I mean, if it isn't fun, what's the point?

"So the moral of the story is, don't have any goals and you'll do fine in life."

The band, which plays its own high-energy blend of funk, hip-hop, reggae and rock, has released 11 full-length albums, including three that were independently released early on.

That doesn't include the two compilation albums ("Omaha Sessions" and "Greatest Hits"), an extended play ("Downstairs EP") and a live album ("Live").

In addition, the band has appeared on soundtracks for the Adam Sandler movie "50 First Dates" and the animated "Surf's Up."

Both outings were cover tunes, said Martinez.

"Obviously, it was different than doing a whole album because we didn't have to write the songs or sequence them," he said. "All we had to do was decide which songs we were going to do, record them and produce them and send them in."

For "50 First Dates" the band chose the Cure's "Love Song," and for "Surf's Up," it did Toots & the Maytals' "Reggae Got Soul."

"We've always had a wide array of musical influences," said Martinez. "I listened to a lot of Queen, Rush, AC/DC and also got into the Smiths, R.E.M. and the English Beat, who we're touring with right now. But I also took in the East-Coast rap scene with Public Enemy and Rakim. So it was a natural thing for us to play all different styles of music.

"The point of it is to, one, have fun, and two, to make sure it's all high energy. We've got a bunch of songs to choose from and sometimes end up playing a song we haven't played since the year before. And that makes for an interesting evening."

311, Matisyahu anchor a night of reggae in Irvine (OC Register)

Guitarist Tim Mahoney of 311 was wearing a t-shirt on stage during Sunday night's show at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater that read "Glory or Death." And for several minutes during his headlining band's set, death was nearly the decision on the guitarist's rig while techs scrambled to resolve a recurring glitch.

However, plenty of glory was available as the reggae-rock act maintained a festive atmosphere as part of its Summer Unity tour, which also featured recent reggae sensation Matisyahu, living legends the Wailers, scene veteran Pato Banton, and the Expendables during the Irvine stop.

Banton kicked the event into high gear early with an excellent set, nudging the crowd to sing along to tongue twisters during "Gwarn." Though he was beamed by the afternoon sun while dressed in a white jacket, Banton almost never stopped dancing. (Banton and his backing band did break for a couple minutes, posing for photos after encouraging concertgoers to snap pictures and post them on his MySpace page.)

The Wailers introduced their show with a prayer request for Jamaicans affected by Hurricane Dean. The historic act - which once backed reggae master Bob Marley - performed a striking set, including Marley hits "I Shot the Sheriff" and "One Love."

"Stir It Up," another Marley classic, sported thunderous, lung-loosening bass lines, and the stunning "Exodus" closed the band's set with an audience swaying to its steady rhythm.

Under moody lighting, energetic hitmaker Matisyahu arrived dressed in a dark sportcoat, performing "Sea to Sea," from 2005's "Live At Stubb's."
Other notables included "Lord Raise Me Up," the moving "Jerusalem" and an even higher-energy "King Without a Crown," which found the frontman running across the venue's upper edge, climbing the lighting scaffolding and throwing his hands in the air, much to the crowd's delight.

311 wasted no time getting its hits together, opening with its album-perfect 1997 single, "Beautiful Disaster." The band reached further back to 1993 with an equally stunning "Do You Right."

Well into 311's set, Matisyahu returned to the stage, joining the band for its cover of The Cure's "Love Song" with his lightning-quick phrasing layered atop the reggae-fied composition.

Guitar/vocalist Nick Hexum ordered the crowd to "get this place bouncing" just before breaking into "Freeze Time," and lighters went up for cool ballad "Beyond The Gray Sky." A solo from drummer Chad Sexton morphed into an exciting coordinated percussion effort with the entire band.

However, the stage remained dark when Mahoney's guitar setup encountered the aforementioned technical issue, just before the start of the prophetically titled "Nix Hex."

"That's how you know it's live," remarked Hexum.

The problem was eventually rectified, but the lull deflated some of 311's otherwise unstoppable momentum. The act regained its stride with the gear-shifting "Starshines," plus immaculate radio hits "Come Original" and "All Mixed Up."

Dedicating "Down" to its longtime fans, 311 walked off stage a song later, only to return to for its encore, capping the show with "Feels So Good," an assessment of which we could largely concur.

311 preparing for their next album

311 plans to enter the studio and begin recording its ninth studio album sometime this fall, after completing a summer tour with Matisyahu. Frontman Nick Hexum told Billboard.com, "We kind of go through a general cycle of making a more straight-ahead album that comes quickly and then we kind of rotate to more of a departure where we take a longer time making the album and inventing more new styles...So due to that back-and-forth thing, we're due for more of a groundbreaking, take-a-long-time-with-it album. We don't know when it's going to be done. We're not going to make any deadlines and promises, but it's time we slightly reinvent ourselves."

The band recently took more than a year and a half off, perhaps the longest stretch without work in 311's history. Hexum explained, "We needed a break, we've been working so hard and long. So everyone has been doing their own thing. I've been traveling and fishing, doing things I do to relax. Now everyone is really jonesing to get back to our primary purpose, which is 311."

311 kicks off its summer jaunt on June 21st in Tucson, Arizona. Hexum said that the band may play some new songs at a few dates.

311 - and friends - bring unique takes on reggae (Providence Journal)

There's a crisis spreading through our youth faster than a clip on YouTube, that, if not checked and stomped out, threatens to destroy many lives, or at least make for a lot of uninteresting kids. That threat? Boring taste in music, created by a lack of variety.

Fortunately, our friends in 311, Omaha, Neb.’s own reggae/ska/hip-hop rockers, are doing their part to spread the gospel of their internationally inspired brand of music.

“You’re lucky if you live near a reggae station,” guitarist Tim Mahoney says. “They’re pretty rare. You just can’t turn on the radio and hear it. Young people aren’t familiar with it that much, so it’s good to see them get educated about it. It’s all ages, all races. Some sort of everybody likes reggae.”

The band, whose hits include “All Mixed Up,” “Down,” “Come Original” and a cover of The Cure’s “Love Song for the 50 First Dates” soundtrack, has a unique method of education — their Unity Tour, which carries on their tradition of summer traveling with bands with their own unique take on reggae and other related forms of music. The tour comes to the Tweeter Center, in Mansfield, Mass., next Sunday, with 311, Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu, and the legendary English Beat, featuring co-founder Dave Wakeling.

“Last year it was The Wailers and Pepper, with a nice reggae vibe. We’re huge reggae fans. The year before that Papa Roach,” Mahoney says. “We all like Matisyahu, and thought he’d be a good combination for the summer, so we reached out to him and he was into it. [And] we’re looking forward to the English Beat. [311 singer] Nick [Hexum] is friends with Dave Wakeling. The whole night is gonna be good for people to come and hang out all night if they want.”

Mahoney’s sure that if fans check out what’s being offered, they will indeed show up for the whole show, and not just wait for the headliners.

“It’s nice to mix it up. We’re all big reggae fans, and for the summertime it’s nice to put it out there, with some bands on the same [wavelength],” he says.

UNITY IS ONE OF REGGAE’S core themes, and for decades the genre has been a remarkable base for umpteen stylistic hybrids with rock, jazz and punk, inspiring Madness, the English Beat, UB40, No Doubt and, of course, 311.

“I found out about reggae in junior high school. [Rastafarian punk band] Bad Brains was one of my favorite bands, and it wasn’t until I started to get into them that I thought reggae was really cool,” Mahoney says. “They were these black guys playing hard-core punk.”

“The philosophy behind the reggae was that the artists were about good energy and dealt with heavy issues, mostly about positivity, getting past some barriers and the power of positive thinking,” Mahoney says.

The band recently enjoyed a trip to Jamaica, the reggae motherland, for a show on March 11 (“3/11!” Mahoney says)

“I forget what town we were in, but we played in a club there. They have a cliff you can jump off into the water,” he says. “We had a really good time. The drive from the airport was 45 minutes and the whole time they played nothing but Bob Marley in the van. It’s the national music there. Awesome.”

The crowd at the club were mostly vacationing Americans, but “the local stage hands were tripping out. They had never really seen rock music, and got a kick out of it,” Mahoney says. “It was pretty laid-back show. It was cool hanging out with the Jamaicans. I can’t wait to go back.”

The Jamaican stage crew, who seemed to know what they liked no matter what it was called, are evidence of Mahoney’s belief that music is, at the end, just music, and that “influences come from everywhere,” which has enriched 311’s music.

“We really don’t mind anyone labeling us. That never bothers us. I can only speak for myself, but no one is really thinking about that too much,” he says. “Everybody in the band likes a wide variety of music. I grew up listening to old Van Halen and Led Zeppelin and I love Willie Nelson. My girlfriend’s from Miami so I’m listening to a lot of salsa music.”

THIS PAST SPRING, a whole new group of people got an education in 311 — American Idol fans, via the relatively adventurous musical tastes of Seattle’s Blake Lewis. The band was contacted by the show’s producers for permission to let Lewis sing its “All Mixed Up.” Mahoney says they agreed without realizing how much mileage they’d get from it.

“We didn’t know [Lewis] was such a big 311 fan. He really kicked (butt) on ‘All Mixed Up,’ ” he says. “After he sang, the judges said they didn’t know who we were, and he said, ‘They’re my favorite band. They’re great.’ It was the best publicity ever.”

And after that, 311, in turn, became big Blake Lewis fans — “Nick went a couple of times to the tapings of the show and hung out with [Lewis] and made friends with him,” Mahoney reports, adding that the diminutive beat-boxer also covered their version of “Love Song.”

“That was cool too. We were rooting for him. We knew another guy, Brandon [Rogers], who used to sing for Christina Aguilera, but he got voted off early,” he says. “Blake brings a little more current, modern hip-hop influence to the show. It’s nice how it worked out. He didn’t win, but either way, he’s going to have a good career. Hopefully we can get him out to one of these shows.”

Mahoney sort of sheepishly admits that he and other members of the 311 crew became followers not just of Blake Lewis but of American Idol, which is not the most rock-star pastime.

“Early on I didn’t really follow it, but it was so funny. Me and our studio manager Jason, and Chad [Sexton], our drummer, were out there every Tuesday night watching,” he says. “We were like, ‘Dudes, we’re watching American Idol. What happened to us?’ ”

311 Back to Rock & Tour

311 is back on the saddle with a new record and a series of performances. Revealing on recent interview, vocalist Nick Hexum said that the band, which is known very experimental in its genre, records this one 'back' to their usual rock sound. He also made sure that this one would not repeat the same mistake 2005's "Don't Tread on Me" did.

"I would say we kind of go through a general cycle of making a more straight ahead album that comes quickly and then we kind of rotate to more of a departure where we take a longer time making the album and inventing more new styles," Hexum said.

"So due to that back-and-forth thing, we're due for more of a groundbreaking, take-a-long-time-with-it album," he continues. "We don't know when it's going to be done. We're not going to make any deadlines and promises, but it's time we slightly reinvent ourselves."

Though no aimed release date was spurted, Hexum confirmed in March that a new song titled "I Was Wrong" was done. In what has come as a result of his discussion with drummer Chad Sexton, the song combines dancehall reggae with funk. "A tiny bit like 'All Mixed up' but much more syncopated," Hexum explained. "I'd say that the funky, tight, high-energy stuff will come along but I've also been doing a lot of really complex finger picking on acoustic guitar in the style of Michael Hedges."

As of their tour, the band has confirmed this year's "Summer Unity Tour", which will run 50 shows from June 21 in Tucson, Ariz through late August. Several opening acts will be featured throughout the tour, predominantly reggae artist Matisyahu, along with bands The Rivalry, Particle, The English Beat, and Swizzletree

311 Planning to Take Time Off

311 frontman Nick Hexum says now is a good time to catch the band, because it might become a bit scarce in the near future.

Hexum isn’t sounding the farewell alarm, however. But he does feel that after the group fi nishes touring to support its latest album, 2005’s “Don’t Tread on Me,” “it’s time for a little bit of a break so we can figure out what the next thing we do will be.

“I wouldn’t feel satisfi ed if our next album could be so closely compared to the previous one,” adds Hexum, 36, who co-founded the punk-reggae band during 1990 in Omaha, Neb., and relocated to Los Angeles in a year later. “It’s time for a step.

“At certain points you have these revelations of, like, ‘OK, this is where we need to go.’ I think we need to step back and think about that for a while.”

Hexum says the move is “pre-emptive” and there’s no trouble in the group.

“I want to take time off before we get sick of it,” he says.

And while he knows “it’s a risk to let your name die down by stepping out of the spotlight,” Hexum also is confident that “our (fan) roots are so solid that if we take a little time off, it’ll be OK.”

Hexum plans to fi ll his time with other projects, including reggae-style covers of pop standards he began recording several years ago, as well as his liberalhexum.org Web site, which focuses on global warming and other environmental issues.

Ultimately, he says, “I’m waiting for that bolt of lightning to hit me that I get when I write my best music. So I have to keep my chops up, and doing the covers is a great way to practice.”

Interview with 311 Bassist P-Nut (UnRated)

UnRated Magazine was able to speak with the bassist from 311, P-Nut a few days prior to the kick off of their 2007 summer tour with Matisyahu. P-Nut sheds some light on the future of the band, 311-Day '08, and his current side project.


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Dan: What's going on P-Nut?
P-Nut: Oh I'm just chillin out here in California.

Dan: How's the weather?
P-Nut: It's great. It's really nice I'm going to miss it a little bit when I'm gone. That's one of my favorite things about travel especially now that I've been living in California for 15 years. With all the variation of weather that we used to get out in the Midwest and it's so consistent out here, that the only time I ever get to see weather is when I travel, so I look forward to that.

Dan: We definitely understand where you're coming from living in Chicago
P-Nut: Yeah no doubt right. the extremes.

Dan: Thanks for taking the time to interview with UnRated Magazine.

Dan: Do you guys have a new album in the workings?
P-Nut: You know it's only in the tiniest of beginnings. It's not even really worth talking about yet. We're really just focusing on the tour. But that's our next step after conquering America.

Dan: How excited are you guys to be playing with Matisyahu this summer?
P-Nut: Yeah it's gonna be great! I think it's perfect. We played with The Wailers last summer, and they're kind of like the perfect heritage reggae band. Matisyahu is a cut from a new cloth, nice reflection and such good vibes it's gonna be fun.

Dan: How much longer do you guys plan to tour and make music, because I know many of your fans dread the day you guys say you're done?
P-Nut: There is no real endpoint, except for this moral coil, that's the only thing that could really get us away. We love working with each other. We've said it before, if we ever need to take a break from each other's personalities, or we need to live a little different side of life besides touring and recording, we can do that. Just like we did this last year where we were totally free to do whatever we wanted and nothing really on the agenda except for this summer tour and planning out 311-Day '08. You know those are really the only things we're talking about right now and it feels really good we're really excited about doing this tour and then 311-Day '08 and then starting to make an album and really just putting our whole selves into it. While we're recording just be there for that and not have any kind of time schedule and really make the perfect album. you know that's not possible but it's a goal to shoot for.

Dan: Speaking of 311-Day '08 do you guys know where that is going to be yet? Is New Orleans ready to have you guys back, or are you having one more 311-Day show in Memphis ?
P-Nut: I think it's going to be New Orleans . Yeah we're really excited about getting back. That's part of the reason we're not playing New Orleans this summer is because we're planning on making a return in the spring. We've got all kinds of crazy ideas that we're shooting around and trying to see if they will work at all but we're really excited about getting back to New Orleans and at this point it seems like it's going to work out.

Dan: What tunes you currently listening to?
P-Nut: I've been listening to the new Deftones, here and there, as noisy as it is, but I love them for it, they can do no wrong. I'm still listening to Coheed and Cambria #4 disc, and I love all the stuff that the Iron and Wine people put together, or that guy, it's just great songwriting. You know and then I digress into heritage rock, and I've been listening to a little bit of Steely Dan, and my wife left a Fleetwood Mac album in my car that I listen to unapologetically. I can't believe the production techniques of both of those groups. The clarity and the precision and the warmth of all the instruments is just amazing, and just kind of washes over you. Where in this digital music age, the tones are a lot more irritating, it's more like scratching your hands across a chalkboard, and that's the analog to digital difference.

Dan: Have you ever done a side project or has anyone else in the band ever had one?
P-Nut: It's funny you ask that Dan because I have been working on a side project for the last half year. I listened to some demos of a friend of mine that I play basketball with sent over to me and he was playing in a two-piece, they were bass player-less, and they were playing candid track onstage and I thought that was an abomination. But I thought it was really cool that they pulled it off and I'm sure that they did just fine, but as a bass player, I loved the songs. So I asked them to let me come in and play, and they were happy to have me come in. I brought them into our studio in North Hollywood and we recorded 17 songs, and I got production credit for the first time on a solitary basis.

Dan: Congratulations that's pretty cool
P-Nut: Yeah it's really fun, and the coolest part of it is there's no pressure. It's kind of like really, really good demos and I just hope that this will get the band, 'Hollows Follow,' more attention, and as much as I can play together with the guys I'll do that. But never to get in the way of 311, but it's so much fun and so different. The album is all about the lead singer Owen breaking up with his girlfriend, so it's kind of angry and kind of loud so it's really fun to pound out live and we've been doing that around Hollywood, about 4 or 5 times now. Owen and Josh practice all the time, and that's another thing that kind of brought me over the edge was I saw how dedicated they were. We even got a rehearsal space and we've been practicing a lot. It's gonna kind of suck not playing with them while I'm out, but if the trade off is playing in front of 20,000 people as opposed to 20 people, I think I can handle it until we get back in September.

Dan: Has 311 ever considered doing an all-acoustic disc or having a small tour of all-acoustic shows?
P-Nut: We were talking in a favorable way about this boat cruise that we did out in Long Beach that was 5 years ago that we did for a radio station out here in Los Angeles. We just floated around the bay and played all acoustic and it was really fun but I don't know that we would ever do and album like that. Doing special shows and just more on the novelty side rather than planning a whole tour around it, because I think it would get a little bit unsatisfying for the fans and the band. We would be kind of limited with that, if it was here and there, just to kind of pepper that idea around, it would kind of keep us on our toes. It's a great idea but I don't know that we would do it on any kind of consistent basis.

Dan: When you guys are out on the road, what is your favorite place to eat at, and in what city is that in?
P-Nut: Well we have a band tradition of going out and eating on our days off. A lot of times we'll find a Mortons, I've definitely fallen in love with America 's finer steakhouses. And being a Midwest man, I just can't help it, I've got to have a big slab of beef on my day off as is usually the case, you know eat some cow.

Dan: Thanks very much for taking the time to share some of your greatest insights with UnRated Magazine, and we look forward to seeing you out on tour here soon.
P-Nut: Oh yeah Northerly Island ! I bet it will rain.

Dan: I was just there last night for the Honda Civic Tour, with Fall Out Boy and The Academy Is and it was a beautiful night, so lets hope you get some of that same good weather for your show.
P-Nut: Oh cool I like The Academy Is they are nice guys, we ran into them in Japan last year.

Dan: Well thanks again for your time we look forward to seeing you here in Chicago shortly!
P-Nut: No problem, well I can't wait. We're getting athletically ready to deliver as good a show as possible every night, especially in Chicago.

Dan: Very cool we're excited to see you guys out with Matisyahu
P-Nut: Oh it's gonna be great. we'll see you guys then

Thanks first and foremost to P-Nut for taking the time to speak with UnRated Magazine and thanks to Sony BMG Music Entertainment for making this interview happen.

311 Eyeing Time Off After Tour (Billboard)

It's not a farewell gambit of any kind, but 311 may be taking some time off when it finishes touring to promote its 2005 album, "Don't Tread on Me." Frontman Nick Hexum tells Billboard.com he foresees the group taking its first extended break since 1998, when 311 built its own studio.

"It's time for a step," he explains. "I wouldn't feel satisfied if our next album can be so closely compared to our last one. I think it's time for a little bit of a break and a little time away from each other, not out of necessity but as a pre-emptive thing, before we get sick of it.

"At certain points you have you have these revelations of, like, 'OK, this is where we need to go,'" he continues. "I think we need to step back and I need to talk to the guys and we need to think about that for awhile."

Hexum notes that it is "a risk to let your name die down by stepping out of the spotlight a bit. But I feel like our roots are so solid that if we took a little time off, that'd be OK."

Hexum plans to fill his time with other projects, including the LiberalHexum.org web site he launched to discuss global warming and other environmental issues. Musically he plans to return to the ongoing concern of "continuing my musical education" -- primarily by recording reggaefied covers of songs by Nat King Cole, Chet Baker and "a really eclectic variety of stuff," he says.

"I've been doing some jazz standards but also some rock and pop things," Hexum says. "Me and Dryden [Mitchell] from Alien Ant Farm got together and did an Edie Brickell song, so there's a lot of different things."

Whether any of these recordings will ever be released "remains to be seen," according to Hexum, though he says there are "no plans" to do so at the time. Mostly, he says, it's a creative exercise.

"I haven't had the bolt of lightning hit me that I get when I write my best music," he explains, "so in order to keep my chops up and so forth, doing the covers is a great way to practice."

311 is currently touring with the Wailers and has dates booked into early September.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Last Word Features

Last Word Features
311 Feature By Alan Sculley

This summer marks a return to action for 311 after a hiatus that stretched for more than a year. But anyone who was concerned that the decision to take time off was a sign of discord within the group can rest easy.

Singer Nick Hexum says if anything, 311 is in a better place than ever.
"Everybody is getting along really well and there's a lot of, just a real vibe of gratitude that's going on that everyone's just like, this 311 thing that's going on around us is really an amazing, special thing to be part of," Hexum said in a recent phone interview. "We're kind of talking about that a lot, how cool it is that we get to do this." The band has plenty of reasons to appreciate its circumstances. Despite being off the radar for so long, 311 appears to have reached a new level of popularity. The summer dates (with Matisyahu opening) are at amphitheaters and this represents the group's biggest tour yet.

"It amazes us," Hexum said. "We would have been happy just to go out and play theaters because this tour is more intended just to get our chops up and get geared up to go right into the studio to make our next album."

The band went on hiatus after completing its tour in support of the 2005 CD "Don't Tread On Me" simply because of some burnout.

"I felt like we were a little bit on a treadmill of album tour, album tour, back and forth," Hexum said, noting that the band made "Don't Tread On Me" right after touring its 2003 CD, "Evolver," a CD that included the hit single "Love Song." "Because we felt like there was a good amount of momentum after that number one hit of 'Love Song' and stuff, we decided to go and knock out 'Don't Tread' as quickly as possible. So we didn't have that time to really reflect and appreciate, and you need to go get bored every once in awhile. So then you look forward to that excitement of touring. When it goes tour, album, tour, right without any down time, maybe there was a little sort of drop in the appreciation of the work side of it. Now since we've had this break, there is just a total excitement and rebirth of the energy among the band members."

During the time off, the band members didn't exactly go their separate ways. In fact, Hexum said there was plenty of contact and camaraderie as he and his bandmates – SA Martinez (vocals/deejay), Chad Sexton (drums), Tim Mahoney (guitar) and P-Nut (bass) -- settled back into life in their home base of Los Angeles, where the band has a studio called the Hive.

"I haven't gone a week without seeing the guys because we'll all just kind of gather out there (at the Hive), "Hexum said. "Even if I'm not really working on anything, I'll just stop out there and make some lunch or work out or shoot some hoops. So I run into the guys quite a bit. And Chad's been opening a drum store close to the studio, so he was in an out over there quite a bit. He's also opening a barbecue restaurant next door to the drum store. So he's been real busy. I've seen him a lot because of the location and stuff. Because of having our own studio, having the Hive, that we've really modified a lot to be like our dream place, it makes it so easy to run into each other and hang out quite a bit."
What didn't occur during the down time was much work on music, which was fine with Hexum.

And even though the summer tour is being viewed as a way to gear up for the making of a new studio album, Hexum said this tour will focus more on the entire 311 catalog, rather than road testing new material or focusing on any of the band's eight CDs.

"We don't have anything that's ready to be played as of today," Hexum said when asked how much songwriting has been done lately. "But I would say because of the real high morale that's going on between the band members, I wouldn't be surprised if we do put a completed song together and bust it out on the tour. But right now we've just been really getting into dusting off some old gems that haven't maybe been in the rotation. There are certain obscure songs that we had kind of neglected that we're bringing out.

"Me personally, I'm kind of waiting until we get together (after the summer tour) to make the stuff up on the spot because I want to have more of a collaborative, cooperative kind of sound," he said. "The tour will get us warmed up and polished up and get our chops up. And then we'll go in and just pretty much do it (write and create) in the studio…It (the Hive) is a really comfortable place where we can just hang out, order some food, drink some coffee and just hang together, and just make a day of it and be creative together."

The time off gave each band member time to decompress and focus on their own lives. For Hexum, he also emerged from the hiatus with a different outlook on how he should view songwriting and the creative process. The other band members, he said, have bought into this way of thinking as well.

"We've gotten into new philosophies of being a conduit for the energy that we're just sort of transmitting, rather than feeling we're that we're responsible for it," Hexum said. "(The artist) Michelangelo was talking about how did he create one of his most brilliant statues. He said the statue was already inside the piece of the stone. I just cut away the stuff that was blocking it. I feel like when I play the guitar I try to just channel the energy that comes from someplace else rather than thinking it's all about me and I have to be responsible for everything. I'm responsible for doing the legwork, and then I try to leave the results up to some other creative energy force. That may sound a little mystical and hokey, but it's just the easier way. If you think you're responsible for everything, then you can get into perfectionism and writer's block and things that aren't really helpful to the creative attitude."

Hexum said he also used the hiatus to focus on some personal, inner improvement. He developed a regimen of meditation and also spent time reading up on various forms of spiritualism.

"The great guitarist John McLaughlin of the Mahavishnu Orchestra was asked, because he's such an amazing guitarist, how do you become a better musician," Hexum said. "And he said become a better person. If you work on yourself and you're coming from a more peaceful, centered place, then it's going to be reflected in the music.

"Some bands like to express angst and more painful emotions. 311 has always been more about joy," the singer noted. "We've been trying to work on increasing that. I've been working on it myself, and I feel like the other guys have been, too. It feels like there are a lot of good vibes going around."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

311 and Matisyahu (Santa Barbara Independent)

I think I knew every song played during the 311 and Matisyahu show at the Bowl last week. Before you go calling bullshit on that claim, let me explain: First and foremost, I have known and loved 311 since the release of their first independent albums-they were the soundtrack for everything in my life from pre-dawn surf missions and run-ins with the police, to high school keg parties and botched first dates. Similarly, I have appreciated Matisyahu’s infectious and one-of-a-kind Hasidic reggae since first hearing a bootleg of his breakthrough Bonaroo set in ‘05.Given my longstanding fandom, I had seen both bands perform live long before Wednesday night’s gig and-though it was far from a disappointment-the latest performance regrettably sounded exactly like the 311 and Matisyahu concerts of my past. In short, it was enjoyably familiar, though decidedly lacking in artistic growth. And it is for this reason that I knew every song. This is not to say that I could sing them all word for word, but I had definitely met them before and-in the years since our first introductions-it seems they haven’t changed a bit.

That being said, I am sure good times were had by all in attendance. From the stiff-legged jive jumps of Matisyahu to the bouncy hip-hop, punk, and reggae attack of 311, the show’s energy prompted the first real mosh pits of the ‘07 season. And then there was the bliss of the aforementioned familiarity. As bad as a re-run can be, it can also work as the ultimate user-friendly tool in your quest for party pleasure. In that vein, when 311 took the stage and the first chords of “Down” filled the night, I was grinning despite myself, my hands-both holding full keg cups-high in the air, my spirits high, feeling completely content to be exactly where I was-some 13 years and 3,000 miles removed from the first time that very song made me wave my beer around on a warm summer night.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Amphitheater welcomes 311 with guests The Wailers, Pepper

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.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Unity Tour headed for the Amphitheatre (TBN Weekly)

TAMPA - 311 with special guest Matisyahu brings the Unity Tour 2007 to the Ford Amphitheatre on Wednesday, July 18, 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $37.50, general admission dance floor; $35 and $25, reserved seats; and $20 festival lawn and available at the Ford Amphitheatre Box Office, online at www.livenation.com and www.ticketmaster.com, and all Ticketmaster locations, including FYE and Spec's Music, or charge by phone by calling at 813-287-8844 or 727-898-2100.

311 return to the road, and they are fired-up and ready to make this an amazing summer tour. Formed more than 15 years ago in Omaha, 311 are pioneers of mixing rap, reggae, funk and metal to create their own unique blend of vibe music.

The band is composed of 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. It was this philosophy that eventually brought them together to make music with a positive message behind it.

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.

“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.”

Hailing from Brooklyn NY, Matisyahu brings his electrifying fusion of reggae and rock with an unbelievable energy and positivity. When Matisyahu emerged with his debut album, Shake Off the Dust ... Arise, in 2004, his musical persona seemed to some a novelty. Here was a Hasidic Jew, dressed in a black suit with a broad-brimmed black hat worn over a yarmulke, and sporting a full, untrimmed beard, who nevertheless performed toasting raps about the glories of traditional Judaism over reggae beats in a dancehall style directly from Jamaica, punctuating his performances with stage diving.

It may have seemed like a joke at first, but Matisyahu was serious, and he began to attract press notices to go with the enthusiastic audiences that packed his concerts. Breaking big on the scene with his song "King Without A Crown", Matisyahu delivered an original, uplifting, powerful performance. Matisyahu toured around the country and prepared a second studio album produced by Bill Laswell. The final product, Youth, appeared in March 2006 and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of “Best Reggae Album.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Unity Tour headed for the Amphitheatre (Tampa Bay)

311 return to the road, and they are fired-up and ready to make this an amazing summer tour. Formed more than 15 years ago in Omaha, 311 are pioneers of mixing rap, reggae, funk and metal to create their own unique blend of vibe music.

The band is composed of 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. It was this philosophy that eventually brought them together to make music with a positive message behind it.

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.

“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.”

Hailing from Brooklyn NY, Matisyahu brings his electrifying fusion of reggae and rock with an unbelievable energy and positivity. When Matisyahu emerged with his debut album, Shake Off the Dust ... Arise, in 2004, his musical persona seemed to some a novelty. Here was a Hasidic Jew, dressed in a black suit with a broad-brimmed black hat worn over a yarmulke, and sporting a full, untrimmed beard, who nevertheless performed toasting raps about the glories of traditional Judaism over reggae beats in a dancehall style directly from Jamaica, punctuating his performances with stage diving.

It may have seemed like a joke at first, but Matisyahu was serious, and he began to attract press notices to go with the enthusiastic audiences that packed his concerts. Breaking big on the scene with his song "King Without A Crown", Matisyahu delivered an original, uplifting, powerful performance. Matisyahu toured around the country and prepared a second studio album produced by Bill Laswell. The final product, Youth, appeared in March 2006 and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of “Best Reggae Album.”

Thursday, May 24, 2007

311 preparing for next album (The Rock Radio)

311 plans to enter the studio and begin recording its ninth studio album sometime this fall, after completing a summer tour with Matisyahu. Frontman Nick Hexum told Billboard.com, "We kind of go through a general cycle of making a more straight-ahead album that comes quickly and then we kind of rotate to more of a departure where we take a longer time making the album and inventing more new styles...So due to that back-and-forth thing, we're due for more of a groundbreaking, take-a-long-time-with-it album. We don't know when it's going to be done. We're not going to make any deadlines and promises, but it's time we slightly reinvent ourselves."

The band recently took more than a year and a half off, perhaps the longest stretch without work in 311's history. Hexum explained, "We needed a break, we've been working so hard and long. So everyone has been doing their own thing. I've been traveling and fishing, doing things I do to relax. Now everyone is really jonesing to get back to our primary purpose, which is 311."

311 kicks off its summer jaunt on June 21st in Tucson, Arizona. Hexum said that the band may play some new songs at a few dates.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

'Mixed' Emotions (Entertainment Weekly)

If you were one of the few to recognize the song Top 12-er Blake Lewis performed on American Idol last week, 311's 1995 modern rock hit ''All Mixed Up,'' then you were likely as surprised as we were by the choice. But what threw us for an even bigger loop was when Lewis casually mentioned, at the Top 12 party later that night, that 311 singer Nick Hexum was in the audience for the show. Naturally, we had to investigate this very important Idol development, and what we discovered after tracking Hexum down on 3/11 (a day he spent two hours chatting with fans online), was an even more interesting backstory to this tale of a fan and his favorite band...

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Nick, what did you think of Blake's rendition of ''All Mixed Up''?

NICK HEXUM: Well, dawg... [Laughs] I think he did it well. I was surprised when I first heard about it, because usually Idol is all about the big, cheesy Celine Dion stuff. So I wasn't imagining that a song like ''All Mixed Up,'' which doesn't have the big huge pop-ness to it, would go over too well, but Blake pulled it off. The opening part is really hard to sing. It's like an ascending half-step jazz chord, and he nailed it. He gave it a cool arrangement that had a little bit more of a straight groove than our version. He changed it around and had a lot of fun with it. I have only positive things to say.

What about the judges' comments? Were you offended that they didn't recognize the song?
No, I wasn't mad. Our fans think of 311 as a kind of secret society, so it made sense that these really pop-oriented people wouldn't be familiar with us. What I thought was funny were the judges' comments about what a contemporary song choice that was. Yeah, we wrote that song about 12 years ago.... [Plus,] all these industry suits were sitting around me, and they were like, ''Who was that, Sublime?''

Was your phone ringing off the hook?
Yeah, and the funny thing about is that everyone assumes that no one else is watching it among my friends. They're all texting me as if they're not. They'll start with the excuse of, ''Well, my girlfriend watches the show,'' or ''My kids,'' or whatever. So my phone was blowing up. It's a guilty pleasure. Why not cop to it?

Were you a fan of the show before?
I was familiar with it. I watched early on and kind of sat out the last couple of seasons. But in general, I think it's good TV. The fact that the emotions are so real... These people are really ecstatic or crushed right there before you; you can't deny it even if you don't care for the musical selection or format. I think the most brutal part is when they make them sing after they're eliminated. Like that girl [Alaina Alexander] who sang the Dixie Chicks — that was really brutal.

Do you have a favorite past Idol?
Fantasia. She can just sing her ass off. She's so right there with no pretenses. She was one person I really got behind, but I didn't vote or anything.

How did you hook up with Blake and end up in the audience?
Actually, my brother Zach [Hexum] is friends with [Blake's fellow top 12-er] Brandon Rogers, and Blake got in touch through Brandon asking if he could do the song. But I didn't get to meet Blake — we just texted.

How does your brother know Brandon?
Zach is a singer-songwriter and Brandon produced quite a bit of the vocals on his new album. There's a lot of cool layered harmonies and more R&B influences that Brandon brought to it. And he did it all without any sort of auto-tuning or digital editing. It's an awesome album, and, while he's working on it, I'm looking for a distributor for it.

So is your loyalty now divided between two contestants? Who do you root for?
They both want to make it to the top 10 so they can go on tour together. I'm pulling for both of them. And honestly, anything I do as far as an endorsement is not going to tip the scales at 30 to 40 million watchers. But my take on Brandon is, he's so versatile. No matter what they make him do in the next few weeks [as far as theme shows], I think he's going to surprise people as time goes on.

Were you happy Ryan didn't give you an on-air shoutout during the show?
I made sure that opportunity did not present itself.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

311 Interview (Buzzine)

God-forbid a band these days has a positive outlook: here’s one that has cranked out hits without threatening any police, any coast, and not even anyone’s bitch. They’re hard, melodic, multi-timbral, and don’t require a Special Forces advance team to clear the room prior to entry.

Pure talent, a constant connection with the fans, and a low profile seem to be key elements in the formula that keep SA Martinez, P-Nut, Chad Sexton, Tim Mahoney and Nick Hexum pumping out the evolving gems on album after album. On vocals, guitar and programming tidbits, the lanky Hexum sat down with me in their Southern California rehearsal/recording studio:

Aaron Stipkovich: Touring with Jay-Z must have been a bit of a “look over your shoulder” experience, no?
Nick Hexum: (Laughing) He had a real extensive security staff. Basically, in the top echelon of hip-hop it’s gone beyond your normal…you know, big black guy as a bodyguard. Now they have CIA-looking white guys in suits with the earpiece. It’s gone to a whole new “Secret Service” level.

AS: Definitely. And they’re usually not even big giant buff guys. They’re usually guys that can fit an Uzi or some other device to disembowel you…(laughs)
NH: (laughs)Yeah, trained killers.

AS: Let’s talk about that for a minute. What are your thoughts about how the entire planet has changed? Not necessarily the World Trade Center incident, but just from the days when you first started being a band and you guys were just hanging around, just thinking about music, chillin’. Now, with ten times more security, economic, financial, and promotional issues…the music is almost gone.
NH: Yeah, now a lot of musicians keep themselves so separated from their audience…like…in the early days, when we were doing our own little club tours, we were responsible for our own stage security. There was no barricade, and people were rolling onto the stage. We had one guy that would be there to point and the offender would jump back out, or he’d go push them back out in the crowd. It was like one collective thing. Now there’re people…I don’t want to name names, but people that aren’t that famous that they don’t even need bodyguards, and have bodyguards just to feel important. It’s like they want the, you know…intimidation factor. I mean, it’s like I see some of these people and I’m like…rent-a-posse. “Who wants to beat you up?” or “Who wants to kill you?” or like, “Are you really being mobbed?” like “‘Beatlemania’ around you just because you got a Top 20 modern-rock hit?” you know…right, right. It’s like, there’re a lot of bands that are smaller than us that have all full-time bodyguards. We’ve never had that because we don’t go around beefing with people and we don’t have anything to…we don’t want to keep ourselves separated. We like to mix with people and I really…you know, sometimes people look at me and they’re like, ” Oh, my God, that’s him,” and I know that they might be scared to talk to me, so I’ll just make the gesture and be like, “Hey, how’s it going,” because I want to be approachable. I want to have a lot of contact and let people know that we’re just like them and that we’re not trying to become aloof.

AS: Yeah. Why? That sounds like a really basic question, but why is it that you want to keep the contact and keep that interaction with your fan-base? Is there a specific reason, or you just don’t want to become something else?
NH: It’s just….to use a terrible phrase, “Keepin’ it real,” you know? We just want to be as normal as possible, because I believe that when you put on an air, some people might blow up real big because they’ve got an image like Pimp has, and they’re really, like, you know…putting on a character that’s going to become easily noticeable and definable, and it’s going to blow up, like, “Wow, there’s this new guy,” but then, after a while, you kind of start seeing through the facade and are like, “Okay…musically, maybe he can’t cut it,” so we just want to….we know if we’re keeping ourselves as honestly representing how we are as much as possible…then there’s not going to be some fa├žade that, at some point, people are going to see through. Like, we’re always just being ourselves–we’re never saying that we’re any more than just five friends, music fans…we work really hard at our music…we love to put on really high-energy shows, we work really hard at our making of the albums, but we’re not trying to glamorize our lifestyle beyond the fact that we talk about, you know, “Yeah, we like to smoke weed and hang out and have a good time”….but it’s not that we’re like, you know…banging super models and being something that we’re not, you know? I’m just…scooping up my dog’s shit this morning, and you know it’s like…(laughs)

AS: (Laughing) Yeah, shit…I remember the days when, you know, your van burned down and you were, like, scrambling for gear. You were still just like right on the verge of getting a ton of airplay. It doesn’t seem like you guys have changed much, personality-wise.
NH: Not much. We just always remind ourselves how grateful we are to have this position and to be able to make a career out of that. It’s hard to know how to reciprocate to the fans in just the right way. But we do things like taking requests, like being in touch with our fans through message boards. They’ll say, “We really want to hear this certain obscure song at this show; there’s going to be a ton of us there…it means a lot to us…can you please…?” We’ll be like, “Okay, but we’re going to have to re-learn it because we haven’t played it in years…” just being responsive to them like that, and we did a couple of free shows recently–one on UC San Diego campus and one in the middle of downtown San Francisco. It was kind of a corporate sponsorship thing because Nissan picked up the bill as far as putting on the staging and paying for the PA and anything like that. But you know, it wasn’t like there was a big Nissan poster behind the band or anything like that. It was just like there was a car on the site that you could check out to come. And so it was a modest, corporate thing, which, as long as it’s done tastefully, it’s okay. I mean, some bands do it more than others. There are some things that other bands do that we wouldn’t be comfortable with. This is actually the first time we’ve done this type of thing. The Liquid Mix Tour was the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour, but we figured if it doesn’t say Sprite behind us on stage–and it doesn’t–it’s not all like, you know…whore-ish. If it’s just about the music, it’s okay, if they’re kind of connected because they were picking up the bill to put a lot of promotion behind it…get the big venues and pay to have Jay-Z, and who knows how expensive he was, you know…so some of that stuff can be okay.

AS: Yeah. Is there a point where you draw the line, or is it that kind of thing where you look like you’re “pimpin’ out”, you know, for some soda or something? I mean, have you been in the position where you said, “You know what? This is wrong–let’s not do this”?
NH: Yeah, Doritos commercial. Sorry, that’s just not…we don’t want our song….” They made one and showed it to us and said, “Look how cool this is–your music in a Doritos commercial.” They open the bag and a 311 song comes blazing out, and they close it and it’s like…what song was it? It was back when “Down” was…it was “Down”, and we were like, “Yeah, it’s a well-done commercial, but that’s not what we want our music to be associated with.” I mean, I’m not saying that we would never do it. I mean, as we were just discussing, I’m such a huge fan of Apple computers that if there could be a tasteful way to put one of our songs in an Apple commercial, maybe we’d do that because that’s something that we’re so into, you know? But we just go on a case-by-case basis.

AS: I was really impressed with the way you were able to pull off your previous album as such a polar opposite from the previous stuff. At first, everyone was kind of, “What? Where’s that (singing, ‘Don’t Stay Home’) feeling? What happened to you guys? What’s this ethereal, spacey bullshit?” But then, after it sank in a little bit, you can’t turn it off. Cheers to you.
NH: Yeah, and we’re even taking it a whole different leap forward this next joint, so… the one thing is to expect the unexpected with us. I’ve been listening to a lot of Beatles and a lot of punk, so, we’ve got a few songs that are like this “Beatle-esque-punk” with these huge soaring harmonies, driving guitar, up-beat, slammin’-like stuff that’s more English influenced than what you’re used to. It’s not rap-rock. And then, there are some other songs which are kind of exploring. We’re trying to make a hybrid of hard-ass rock dance hall.

AS: I don’t think that’s just recently for you guys, by the way. I mean, you said, “What I’m trying to do now is promote this positive,” I think. I mean, listen to your own damn music, man–you have been promoting positive! I mean, it’s just a feel-good sound since day one.
NH: And people say, “How did you get this way?” and I’m like, I don’t know—it’s just as blessed as we have been, besides being in 311, as blessed as we have been to live in such an affluent society with so much freedom and to be able to do whatever we want. I would feel embarrassed if the bulk of what was coming out of my mouth was negative and complaining because we have been really, really truly blessed, and I am always reminding myself of that because I get depressed and down like anybody else–or frustrated–but to say, “Hey, lets look at the bigger picture here. Most people in the world are oppressed or impoverished or oppressed,” you know, just like really, we should spend more time counting our blessings, and that’s been a thread running through the lyrics forever.

AS: Was your comfort level challenged a bit, touring with someone like Jay-Z or some of these other bands that don’t have quite that same attitude lyrically and lifestyle-wise?
NH: No, they were nice to us and said hi in the halls. We didn’t really hang out that much. Not with the Jay-Z camp. But, you know, it actually went by fairly quick. It was just a three-week tour. Everyone was really respectful and I actually made an appointment to meet Jay-Z and get my picture taken with him on the last day of the last show. But I can’t judge him–maybe he has stuff going on. You know Jam Master J got killed, so maybe there are needs for him to have that kind of security force, but all I know is that I am never going to give in to that kind of paranoia, and I am always going to want to be a man of the people and talk to the kids as much as possible.

AS: Lastly, after 311, what’s left for you?
NH: Well, I don’t see an end to 311, but I do see that I am really enjoying producing works for other people, such as my girlfriend is an amazing singer, and were kind of creating this sound for her that’s…she’s Hawaiian…and were creating this kind of Hawaiian, R&B, dance hall. It’s like its this tropical hip hop-reggae, So it’s all about murder then. Yeah, (laughs) its fun, and she’s got the voice of an angel. And then my brother is…
AS: Can we talk about your girlfriend then? What’s her name?
NH: My girlfriend’s name is Nicole. She’s a singer. And my brother, Zack, is eight years younger than me, so he is getting going, but he is an amazing singer/songwriter on his own. Kind of along the lines of The New Back, or maybe like Coldplay, John Mayer…just these intelligent singer/songwriter kind of guys. So I’m thinking, you know, got some deals in the works about maybe having my own label for these other projects, I’m working with producing them to get their demos ready to make some deals. I’ve got a lot of extra energy. I really enjoy working. I get up early in the morning, and work, to me, is fun. I don’t see 311 ending, but there are so many things that I would like to do that I will be able to do, even if I was too old to perform–even though The Rolling Stones are proving that you are never too old to perform.