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 "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, "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 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.


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 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 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."