Monday, July 21, 2008

311 Goes With The Flow (Consquence of Sound)

Backed by the fluorescent glow of their lit up logo and of cheers and chants uttered by the diehard fans filling up about half of the 25,000 person capacity Nissan Pavilion, 311 took the stage as part of Washington, D.C.’s stop in the 2008 Summer Unity tour. Within seconds the opening chords of “Down” rang aloud, kicking off a trademark 311 performance – 80 minutes of greatest hits and free-flowing raps, of dueling guitar solos and turntable infused rhythms, of head banging and crowd surfing, and in the end, of a band stuck between the glories days of old and a tired act, delivering a broken record of styles and sounds.

Like so many others, 311 introduced me to the glories of rock, the anticipation of CD releases, and my first experiences of just how crazy a pit can be. Eventually, as I grew older and tastes changed, the five piece outfit from Omaha, Nebraska became more of a guilty pleasure and reminder of what used to be. Still while the days of Transistor on repeat have come and gone, I do find myself, every so often, reliving days of old, and cranking up the speakers just before that one perfect chorus.

But when it comes to 311 live, neither aging, nor changing taste buds can resist the opportunity to see the adrenaline punch sounds of rap ‘n roll up close and personal. For as many summers as I can remember, and as was the case again yesterday, July 21st, a stop to band’s closest tour date was part of my “to do” list.

The scene at Nissan Pavilion on the scorchingly hot Sunday afternoon was typical of your standard 311 show. Tailgating was the prevalent pre-show activity as most opted to dabble in the activities of underage drinking and Frisbee rather than catch the set of Joe Sumner, son of Sting, and opening act Fiction Plane. As the clocked approached 7:30, most began to make their way into the venue, leaving a mess of empty bottles sprinkled across the gravel parking lot.

Right on time, 311 compadre and billed co-headliner Snoop Dogg took the stage. Backed by a band ranging from eight to twelve members in size and a gigantic marijuana leaf hanging above, the 36-year-old, California born rapper entertained fans with a 45 minute set filled with “What’s My Names” and “Drop It Like Its Hots.” While a bit overly repetitive and glutted with shameless self-promotion, Snoop Dogg’s performance was certainly compelling and received well by a venue full of folks mostly clamoring for the band scheduled to take the stage next.

Just seconds after the last beats of Snoop’s set echoed out of Nissan Pavilion, the rain began to pour over the packed crowd making up the venue’s lawn seating. But all was forgotten, all scrambling stopped, all cries for cover hushed when Nick Hexum, SA Martinez, P-Nut, Tim Mahoney, Chad Sexton made their way onto stage. Those in the pit erupted, while those protected by the barrier of seats, responded with equal enthusiasm.

The 1999 radio-approved “Come Original” and “Do You Right”, a single off the band’s 1993 debut, Music, followed as 311 began to make their way through the Greatest Hits so many present that night had come to know and love. In fact, nothing about last night’s performance was different than any other 311 show. The hits flowed one after another. The familiar chords of “Homebrew” circulated the clamoring crowd, while the opening bass solo of “What Was I Thinking” appeared almost like clockwork.

And that was the problem. Everything was the same. Every solo could be anticipated, every call for a “jump” from Hexum was expected, even Chad Sexton’s mind numbing drum solo on “Applied Science” has been an after thought. Sure, tunes like “Beautiful Disaster” and “Creatures (For a While)” will always be a highlight, regardless of the number of times you’ve heard them played, but when fans know what will appear in the encore even before the band is finished performing their main set, when the live renditions of songs become as familiar as the recorded ones, the thrill only last so long.

Last night, 311 neither debuted new material from their upcoming album, nor played anything from their most recent one, 2005’s Don’t Tread on Me. Instead, they went with the flow, performing the same hits in the same way as they always have. While the diehards, overcome half by love and half by intoxication, might not notice at first, eventually, when your concerts become as predictable as your album, even the biggest of fans can’t help but notice.

311 and Snoop Dogg get cozy (The Virginian-Pilot)

311 is making its annual summer rounds. This year, the band shares the bill with rapper Snoop Dogg. We know what you're thinking. Snoop Dogg? Really? We were stumped, too.

311 (pronounced three-eleven) embraces many styles in its music - rock, funk, reggae, punk - but rap isn't one of them. Yet Tuesday, they'll be together at the Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheater.

When 311 DJ and singer S.A. Martinez called us from a town near Chicago, we asked him about the lineup. "Dude, Snoop is so cool.... Historically, we have packaged with acts that vary from one musical spectrum to the next.... It's power in numbers."

Plus, Martinez gets a kick out of the mixed crowd. "I love playing for our fan base, but I also love playing for fans who have no idea who we are."

While we had him on the line, he filled us in on other 311 news.

After the summer tour, the band plans to wrap up its ninth studio album, its first since 2005. This time, 311 is working with Bob Rock, who has produced music for Metallica, Aerosmith and Motley Crue. "We want to break the mold and do something different. It's a breath of fresh air," Martinez said.

The album is scheduled to drop next spring.

Since the guys got together in 1990, the music business has changed a lot, but the band thrives on adapting to new sounds. "One of the hallmarks of our band is that it's open to growth.... It's a natural extension of being alive," Martinez said. "We've always just looked at it square in the face, and it's always been a welcome challenge."

311 has come a long way since its days on the Omaha music scene. "Who would have thought five guys from Nebraska were going to be in this for 18 years? The odds were against us enormously," Martinez said.

Shortly after the guys hit the scene, a fire destroyed their equipment. When they released their debut album, "Music," in 1994, their sound was drowned out by the Seattle grunge scene. Radio didn't take notice until a year after their third release, "311," which sold more than 3 million copies and had the hits "Down" and "All Mixed Up."

"Somehow, we managed to find our way and find our niche and really make magic out of a molehill," Martinez said. "We're a lot like a tasty bottle of vino after a number of years. It just keeps getting better."

Snoop and 311 Got it Rolling (Boston Globe)

It was kind of hard to figure out how it all happened.

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311 and Snoop Dogg

At: Comcast Center, Friday
Punk-rock hipster kids with nipple piercings, camouflage cargo shorts, and back tattoos didn't quite seem like rapper Snoop Dogg's target demographic.

It made more sense seeing the sea of people spaz out as soon as guitarist Tim Mahoney let the menacing first chords of 311's anthem "Beautiful Disaster" rip through the Comcast Center Friday night.

It was definitely 311's crowd. Snoop was a multiplatinum co-headliner on the bill, trying to make his hits accommodate.

With classics like "Gin and Juice," "Ain't No Fun," and "Deep Cover" weaving between newer hits like "Drop It Like It's Hot" and "Sexual Eruption," it wasn't too difficult. He also had Kurupt and Daz Dillinger with him, toeing the line between guest performers and backup dancers.

Plus, in a really twisted, Ben Folds-covering-songs-off-"The Chronic" kind of way, Snoop has managed to transcend race the same way Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan have. Granted, Snoop was onstage with mammoth Nation of Islam-looking security guards; a diamond microphone that made it look like he was rapping into a pimp cup; a skull cap covering his braids; his crazy uncle Junebug dancing across the stage; and his uncle Rio wearing a tiger-skin sequin suit, singing hooks like an old Motown singer. Hanging above all the action? A big marijuana leaf.

Even if it didn't make sense in theory, it came together in action. 311 is an institution on a summertime touring circuit, and Snoop's catalog was built for summer. The fun overpowered the awkwardness.

Snoop's live band managed to neatly transform most of his songs into a near-rock set, just asking for chaos by throwing in the House of Pain classic "Jump Around," then later on trying to get the same crowd to snap dance.

"Hold on," he said. "I don't want y'all lookin' all unorganized now."

Honestly, that pot leaf is probably what brought Snoop and the crowd together. They were definitely the type to wave their lighters in the air, not their cellphones; the illuminated orange dots spread to the back of the amphitheater.

After 311 had torn through the happy slam-dance song "Do You Right," "Love Song," and "All Mixed Up," Chad Sexton let loose on a drum solo that made Snoop's set-ending crash session sound less epic.

While lead singer Nick Hexum grabbed a new shirt, stage hands brought more drums out so that all five members could drum as one for a sort of dark and intense makeshift Taiko drum session. It was easily the highlight of the night, even if bassist Aaron "P-Nut" Wills lost one of his sticks trying to keep up.

The band barely came up for air in its 90-minute set. The only time it did was when Hexum said the group was finally coming out with an album after three years and that "we want to see if we can get everyone in here to jump to the beat."

After the whole House of Pain experiment earlier in the evening, Snoop had to be somewhere saying, "Good luck."

Thursday, July 17, 2008


311's a killer upbeat, reggae-inspired, rock band With a huge following, a loyal fan base and a positive almost cheery outlook that fans can't get enough of. They've gone out of their way over the years to ensure their shows are for their fans, the best example was when they did the 68-song set on 311 Day in 2004. That's unheard of for bands to do, so when they came out and did that 68 song set, the fans went crazy! they sound just as good as they do on the radio up close and personal! Every album is something new and exciting and it's not just one song that kicks ass, it's the entire album! 311 is one of those bands that never leaves you disappointed and that's why their so kick ass!
Today I got to interview SA Martinez (vocals & DJ) and here's what he had to say..

JuicyBands: What do you guys usually do on the tour bus to pass time?

Martinez: We watch a lot of movies. Chad always brings a lot of early '90s, late '80s movies with people like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, we’re all really into those. We just chill, in fact we just watched that movie Tombstone not to long ago.

JuicyBands: Tombstone, never seen it; how is it?

Martinez: It’s cool, I liked it. We’ll probably watch it again before we’re done touring, you’d like it, you’ll have to check it out.

JuicyBands: That’s awesome, I’ll have to check that out for sure. The last album you guys came out with “Don’t Tread on Me” was absolutely phenomenal, It kicked ass and everyone in every age range loved it! I heard you guys are working on a new album, how’s that going?

Martinez: Thanks, we were all really happy with the way that album came out. It was actually my favorite album we’ve released so far. The new album’s coming along, we’ve been touring non-stop since our last album was released back in 2005. We decided to take some downtime to clear our minds so to speak, we really got into it and ideas just kept on flowing. We started working with a new producer and the guy’s amazing! He goes by Bob Rock, the guy’s phenomenal and working with him is one of the best moves we’ve ever done. He’s produced albums by Matalica, Aerosmith, Motley Crue and so many other talented artists out there. He definitely knows what he’s doing, so we’re all really excited!

JuicyBands: That’s awesome! I’m so excited for you guys, I can’t wait to hear it. Do you guys have an idea of when it should be coming out?

Martinez: We don’t have a date set in stone but it shouldn’t be to much longer. We have 10 songs for the new album written and finished. Everything’s recorded on those songs except for guitar. Drums, bass and vocals are done on most of the songs, so we just got to mix and master and it’ll be ready to go.

JuicyBands: This will be the 8th album 311 has came out with, every album’s new and fresh, how excited are you guys about the new album?

Martinez: We’re stoked, we’ve really put a lot of thought into this one and I can’t say enough about our producer Bob Rock. It’s gonna be awesome!

JuicyBands: Will you guys be giving your fans a sneak peak of the new album and playing some of those awesome new songs you guys have been working on, on the road?

Martinez: We've talked about it. I don't know if we've come to a conclusion. My gut feeling is we probably won't, but if it leaked closer to the release date, and it was proper audio leak, it would be fine with us.

JuicyBands: So you guys have been touring with Snoop Dogg..that’s crazy but at the same time it’s different, new and exciting; how’d that come about?

Martinez: We go with anything [laughs]. It's easy to really pair us with any genre of music. We've done the H.O.R.D.E. tour, we've done hip-hop packages, we've even done the reggae groups. Thankfully, we have that luxury. It makes it easy in a way. It's easy because our style of music is varied. Snoop came along because... honestly, it just came out of the blue. We were talking with Ben Harper for a second, and the Black Crowes, and then Snoop came along, and promoters really saw it happening. His agent and our agent were just kind of gelling and talking. It’s been quite an experience and it’s really cool.

JuicyBands: You get to spend the summer hanging out with Snoop, how awesome is that?

Martinez: It’s killer, really awesome! I don't think many kids from my high school can say that they’ve spent the summer with Snoop, but we’re like, yeah…we did. [laughs]

JuicyBands: [laughs] That’s just how you guys roll, you guys are officially the coolest kids in school. That’s definitely really awesome! People are into so many different types of music these days and one thing I’ve noticed is whether they be into hip hop, rock, country or even ska, they’re still really into 311. You guys have established a gigantic variety of fans that love you guys to death. How was performing at the Rothbury festival, did you guys have a blast?

Martinez: Yeah, it was awesome, we had a great time. We definitely extended some of our songs for that show. We have a variety of fans and we’re so thankful for that, that's why we pair so well with ... you name it. Our fan base is wide and varied, and it just reflects the music. We have such a great fan base, and it's a great thing to be a part of because it's natural. It wasn't created. None of these things are created, great bands and their followings; all together sharing the stage, it’s awesome.

JuicyBands: That’s really awesome, there’s no greater compliment then to have a subculture spring up from your music. How do you guys figure out what songs you’re going to play at each show?

Martinez: We'll go out on tour and we'll have 80 or 90 songs ready to play any night. We'll play a different set every night. Some songs will be in most of the sets. Not all the radio singles, but a good portion of them will make it into each night's show. Then we'll rotate them, take suggestions from the forum on our Web site, ask the audience what they want to hear; we try to keep it fresh for the band and the fans because we'll have a lot of fans that come to multiple shows. These days fans are so connected, and they know what's going on as it's going on, so you have to do your best to keep it fresh and unique because that is what separates the men from the boys. It's easy to play the same set every night, and a lot of bands do it. And I understand it. It's a trap that you set up for yourself, but we switch it up and it keeps us excited and the fans happy.

JuicyBands: Thanks so much for the interview, you're so awesome and you guys kick ass! Best of luck to all of you.

Martinez: Absolutely, anytime, thank you.

Concert Review: The Unity Tour featuring 311, Snoop Dogg, and Fiction Plane (StarPulse)

Opening the Unity Tour was England's Fiction Plane. While fans are still learning of this band, the Unity Tour has given them mass exposure to American audiences. After opening the entire North American tour for the first leg of the Police reunion tour, Fiction Plane has received some well-deserved accolades from audiences around the country. Another tidbit of information is that bassist and lead singer, Joe Sumner, is the eldest offspring of Gordon Sumner, better known as Sting. Joe's appearance as well as his voice are reminiscent of his father, but he has his own talents to offer and heads up an excellent live band. His bass guitar skills are apparent, while guitarist Seton Daunt plays with flashes of soul and brilliance not normally found in such a young artist. Drummer and sole American Pete Wilhoit is a virtual drum machine, playing with power and speed when necessary. Together, these guys can rock the house.

The band opened up the show with their latest single, "Death Machine," in which they discuss a certain American president and his current war. And it's not a pretty picture ("Don't look so smug when we're at war / You're not the boss you're just a whore / You keep yours shoes so clean / F*** you and your death machine…").

A respectable crowd had gathered at the foot of the stage to welcome Fiction Plane, proving that they are building a fan base. "Cigarette," from their poppier first record "Everything Will Never Be OK," is a harsh anti-smoking, ex-girlfriend-inspired tune which was well-received ("Girl you smoking cigarettes / Rancid poison on your breath / Taste yourself you smell like death / To love you I must drink my meth"). "Two Sisters," the first single off their second album "Left Side Of The Brain," closed the show, with Sumner giving us a Rock God jump off the tower speakers.

Next up was the infamous Dogfather of Rap, Snoop Dogg. His well-known grand entrance was enough for a standing ovation from the throngs. Something new I learned about Snoop was his Canadian heritage. I had no idea. I learned this because of the gargantuan green maple leaf hanging above the drummer. Strangely, this was about the time the "fog" machines began pumping out smoke from the audience. Crazy.

He was very conversational with the audience, making many requests, mostly to the female fans in the crowd…if you get my drift. One high point for me was their cover of the Tom Tom Club's "Genius Of Love," possibly performed due to the influence of the Grandmaster Flash sample of the same song some years ago.

Although the vast majority of fans were there to see 311, Snoop Dogg was given much respect and put on a great show with a posse to rival that of Lawrence Welk.

By the time 311 took to the stage, the sold-out crowd was primed. By now, they had heard the alt. rock of Fiction Plane and the rap/hip hop of Snoop. Now it was time to hear those genres, in addition to reggae, funk, metal, and punk all rolled into one. 311. The Omaha natives were among friends here in Kansas City, jut three hours away from where it all began.

From their first song, "Beautiful Disaster," the band had the crowd in a frenzy. Sharing singing duties, as usual, were Nick Hexum and SA Martinez. The band played most of their hits as well as many other selections that kept the crowd on their feet and jumping for much of the show. Driving the band was the rhythm section of drummer Chad Sexton and bassist P-Nut who showed off their excellent musicianship. Lead guitarist Tim Mahoney exhibited why 311 is unrivaled in their surf-punk-reggae stylings.

Some of the more well-known songs performed were "All Mixed Up," the reggae tinged cover of the Cure's "Love Song," "Come Original," "Don't Tread On Me," and the wonderfully smooth "Amber" ("Brainstorm, take me away from the norm / I got to tell you something / This phenomenon, I had to put it in a song / And it goes like…Whoa, amber is the color of your energy / Whoa, shades of gold displayed naturally").

To close out the first set Hexum announced, "This one is for all the hardcore 311 fans!" The band then tore into what seemed to be an ode to their fans with "Down" ("We've changed a lot and then some some / Know that we have always been down down / And if I ever didn't thank you you / Then just let me do it now").

During "Applied Science," drummer Sexton was joined by the other four members of the group all on stand-up drum kits. This "extended drum solo" thrilled the fans and showed the diversity of talents in 311. It was a marvelous detour from the norm.

The three-song encore showed us again what a green concert this was with "Who's Got The Herb?" Although 311 has not released a studio album since 2005's "Don't Tread On Me" (a new release should see the light of day next year), they still have the unique ability of selling out concerts. This type of following from a dedicated fan base is rare these days and 311 let their fans know how much they appreciate it. The Unity Tour is one of the must-see shows of 2008.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Press Pass with 311

It's been nearly four years since category-defying band 311 has released an album, but fans expecting to hear some of the new songs during this summer's tour will have to wait until the record's release in early 2009 to listen to the new licks.

While the band has already recorded about half of the tracks for their new album, bassist Aaron "P-Nut" Wills says the band will refrain from adding them to their setlist while on a 34-date, three-month tour with Snoop Dogg.

"It's kind of unfortunate. It would be nice if we could, but I don't know if that's really the point [of the summer tour], to air out new songs," P-Nut says during a recent phone interview. "Playing a brand new song for an audience who hasn't heard it once can be hit or miss and it's kind of like throwing out information a little too early. So we're shying away from it, even though it would be really fun to play those songs."

While the lack of fresh material may be somewhat disappointing to fans, it has not stopped them from swarming to see the Nebraska-born band. 311 has developed one of the most loyal tour fan bases today,

based on a rep for rowdy live shows and a history of hits like "Do You Right," "Down," "All Mixed Up," "Don't Tread on Me" and their cover of The Cure's "Love Song." Earlier this summer, drummer Chad Sexton likened the following to that of the legendary Grateful Dead.

P-Nut attributes the phenomena of their following to their steady diet of tour dates every summer.

"We knew that's when the dead toured, they didn't tour in the winter. That's when people have more free time, so they can travel if they want to come see multiple shows," he says. "It makes sense just given the society we live in. Summer's more easygoing and lends itself to more entertaining possibilities."

One of those "entertaining possibilities" is the presence of hip-hop artist and emcee extraordinaire Snoop Dogg.

"Snoop is the master of ceremonies like no other. He has a good time all the time and you can tell. He creates this really great atmosphere for us to come out and tear the roof off every night," says Wills.

Following the tour, the band will head back into the studio to polish off their as-of-yet-untitled album being produced by Bob Rock (Metallica's Black Album, Mötley Crüe).

Wills believes the break for the summer tour will allow a little more examination of their latest recordings compared to previous all-in-one-shot sessions.

"We wanted to live with the songs for a while rather than just polishing up demos. Give it a full arc instead of it being a point a to point b, let it generate its own personality," he says, stating his early appreciation for some "soulful" songs from frontman Nick Hexum and some heavy-hitting compositions by Sexton he simply calls "money."

"It's kind of a weird way to make an album, but I feel like if it's going to last forever, then you should learn to live with it as an artist for a while."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

311’s SA Martinez lists his house in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz area for $2.195M

Another member of the rock band 311 is trying to sell his Los Angeles-area home. SA Martinez, who sings and spins 311, has placed his house in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz area on the market for $2,195,000. As we exclusively reported back on June 11, 311 drummer Chad Sexton in April sold his house at 2125 Upper Kress Street in the Hollywood Hills for $1,700,000. We’re still catching up on a few long-overlooked items, including this one, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times’ Ann Brenoff in her ‘Hot Property’ blog on July 8. Indeed, Martinez placed the 3,145-square-foot house, at 5054 Los Feliz Boulevard in Los Feliz, on the market on July 9, according to the MLS, which suggests that Brenoff was tipped off about this item (in which case, good for her). The other way that one can assume that Brenoff was tipped off? There are details about the property mentioned in Brenoff’s post (e.g., the house’s ‘Tennessee oak-covered patio’ and its ’300-gallon saltwater aquarium’) that appear in no other online listings for the house (i.e., they might appear in a hard brochure for the property, but not in any online information about the property).

In any case, records show that Martinez purchased the house, which sits on a 0.21-acre lot, back in 1997 for $650,000. Built in 1927, the Spanish Colonial-style house has four bedrooms and five baths, along with vaulted ceilings, an updated kitchen, and mahogany accents, according to public records. Outdoor features include a 496-square-foot pool/guest house with Nana wall systems and a circular drive, according to listing information. Deidre over at Luxist made the property her ‘estate of the day’ last Sunday. Check out an online listing sheet for Martinez’s house – complete with photos. It’s not clear yet where Martinez, an Omaha native, is off to. If we find out, we’ll of course share that information here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

311 Are the New Grateful Dead (MTV)

For a band that hasn't released a shred of new material in over three years, funk-rock outfit 311 are certainly busy. They'll be spending much of this summer crisscrossing the U.S. with Snoop Dogg, co-headlining a tour that runs through August 16 in Waikiki, Hawaii, and not surprisingly, tickets are selling fast.

In a world where attention spans are rapidly shrinking, how does a band like 311 — who have successfully toured the states every summer since 2005's Don't Tread on Me — still pack arenas while staying musically dormant? Drummer Chad Sexton thinks he's got the answer.

Sexton said that, over the course of 10 albums, they've managed to assemble a rabid fanbase who've supported the band through thick and thin. They're a loyal bunch, and their devotion rivals that of even the most die-hard Deadhead.

"I think we have the same appeal as a band like the Grateful Dead," he explained. "We have some Deadheads in the band, and when they stopped touring, Phish kind of took over for them, and maybe Dave Matthews Band has some of that same appeal as well. We can jam on our [songs] like those bands, but I'd say we're kind of a band between — and I'm not comparing us to these bands, but just in the level of status and accomplishment, and that they're still together — U2 and Phish. It's somewhere in the middle of that, and we're hoping to define that a little better over the next couple of years. It's a weird phenomenon: We keep playing, and kids are having a great time every summer.

"We've picked up a comparable following, I guess," Sexton continued. "We wanted to make sure we tour every summer, regardless of our records, because we're here to play live music. We don't want to spend a summer getting away from the people."

But 311's fans will wait just so long for a new record, which Sexton said the boys have been working on for the last year, with former Metallica producer Bob Rock at their side. 311 are recording a number of new tunes and, following this tour, will return to their Hive Studios to finish tracking the rest of the LP — which they'd like to release early next year.

"I don't know about other bands, but we get tunnel vision if we just sit around and keep writing and keep recording, so it's very healthy for us to get out and play in front of people," Sexton said. "So far, [the record is] sounding like 311, just with Bob Rock helping us get the roadmaps and the energy of the songs down, in how he's recording it. We've experimented a lot in recent years and shifted this way and that way, and with the current climate out there, with record sales, it could be a coincidence that [our sales] just went down, down, down because of the Internet, or maybe we've been too experimental. Maybe we should get back to the basics — the 311 basics."

To that end, Sexton said the new material's got a Music and Grassroots feel.

"I would think that the last three records were our growing pains," he added. "We figured, 'Why not get back to basics?' We can experiment further with our sound, but we've been doing that for a while now. We forgot to take a look back and say, 'Let's do that again,' because all of a sudden, going back to that original 311 sound is new to us again. Some characteristically 311 sounds come out when we do get back to basics, and we're probably putting our best foot forward with this album. Sometimes it's important to see where you came from. We went back and explored what we did [on those albums], and we're concentrating on that energy."

Before 311 began writing this album, Sexton said they created a list of producers they wanted to work with, and the one name they could always all agree on was Rock.

"We remembered how we felt when we first heard [Metallica's self-titled LP, a.k.a. The Black Album], and he's just so smart," Sexton said, adding that Rock has helped the band be a better band. "One of the things he's helped us improve, and it's hard to put a finger on how it will affect the music, is our communication as a band. And so I would say, if I were to pick — and I'm not being hard on us — but the last three records, maybe the communication wasn't as solid. ... Recording has been a lot easier this time. It's always challenging, but I'm loving what we're getting."

Sexton said 311 hope this summer's trip with Snoop yields some kind of collaboration, either onstage or perhaps recording a cover in the studio. Teaming up with the D-O-double-G would work best on this summer's tour, Sexton said, because 311's forthcoming LP will be the band's most mature effort to date.

"I think people will be surprised by how nice and solid it will sound," he said. "There's something you can't really vocalize or explain about the experience behind what's going on. But I'm thinking people will think it sounds really solid, which comes from being in a band for 18 years."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

311 mix reggae, rock, funk into tight blend (Deseret News, Salt Lake City)

Summer nights were made for a 311 concert. And the band mixed a little reggae, rock and funk together in a tight package Monday.

The word of the night was energy. Some of it was from the stage but a lot of it was in the audience.

When the lights went out, 311 — guitarist/vocalist Nick Hexum, vocalist SA Martinez, drummer Chad Sexton, guitarist Tim Mahoney and bassist P-Nut — stepped to the stage and launched into "Beautiful Disaster."

The band also cranked out "Come Original," "Champaigne" and a reggae version of the Cure's "Lovesong."

With an array of spot and strobe lights, highlighted by a colorful splashing background, 311 pleased the audience not only with songs and audience participation, but with Sexton's blistering drum solo. During which, the rest of the band added their own percussive dynamics on extra tom toms and cymbals.

"All Mixed Up" and "Down," the latter which was dedicated to"old-school 311 fans," sounded as current as they did 10 years ago.

Speaking of old-school. The original gangster Snoop Dogg primed the audience for the funk of 311 with his explosive brand of rap and hip-hop.

His trademark "Gin & Juice" and more current works "Chronic" and "Drop It Like It's Hot" were highlights of his hourlong set. Monologues and freestyle pieces were salted with rap-star profanity as Snoop (born Calvin Broadus) cruised through his set that also included "Ups and Downs" and "Sexual Eruption."

Snoop Dogg's set was preceded by reggae trio Fiction Plane. Although the three sounded more like the Police, only unpolished, the band did get the audience in the mood for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rothbury Interview: 311 (Grand Rapids Press)

Last week, I interviewed S.A. Martinez, one of two vocalists for rock-reggae act 311 (he shares vocal duties with singer/guitarist Nick Hexum). When we spoke, the band was working on a new album and getting ready to hit the road with Snoop Dogg. Their Unity Tour, which kicked off a few days after our conversation, includes a stop Friday at Rothbury.

Press: You're working on a record now. How's the new stuff shaping up?

Martinez: The new stuff is the bomb, man. We put the last record out in 2005, then we focused on touring for a while there and didn't worry about writing a new record. We took some down time and had some space and just kind of cleared the mind, so to speak. So when we recommenced with writing, we really got into it, and things just started coming and coming. We've got 10 songs done with the producer we're working with.

Who are you working with?

Guy by the name of Bob Rock (who has produced Metallica, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, etc.). He was on a short list of producers that a rep from our label had put together and wanted us to consider. We met with a few of the guys, and things really just kind of gelled with Bob. His discography speaks for itself. Honestly, I can say I'm not a huge fan of any of those bands (laughs). But that being said, working with him was one of the best moves we've ever done.

He definitely knows what he's doing, and he's brought something out of 311 that's never really been there before. We're all excited.

Where are you in the process, then?

We have 10 songs written. Everything is recorded on those songs except for guitar. Drums are done on all the songs, and bass, and vocals are done on most of the songs.

So mixing and mastering await once you're done with the tour?

Yeah, and then finishing writing. We'll shoot for at least five or six quality songs to complement what we've got.

This will be the 10th record?

Let's see, not counting our live album or greatest hits, I think it will actually be our eighth album.

It's rare for a band to be as productive as 311 for as long as you have been, with basically the same lineup the whole time.

Initially, early on, that was what we had to do to really forge our way in the industry. If a band tours, you have to really tour in support of an album. Early on, we weren't blowing up on radio at all, and our bread and butter was the live show. So we had to keep fueling that fire, so yeah, we put out an album, went on tour, got back, then put out an album again (laughs). We did that for three straight years, then it became every other year for a long time.

This has been the biggest separation between albums because the last one came out in 2005. Now we are at that point where we can tour in support of our catalog. We're becoming a heritage band, so to speak. We can really just rely on what we've done in the past. But it's great now to have some new music in the chamber.

So now you've got the liberty to really spend time on a record.

Yeah, totally. I guess we've worked up to this point where we can do that, thank God. To keep that kind of consistency up, I mean, something's not gonna go right.

Will you be playing new stuff on the road?

We've talked about it. I don't know if we've come to a conclusion. My gut feeling is we probably won't because ... it's been three years since our last record, and I guess we really don't want to see the first material from it on YouTube. It will be more special for us and our fans to at least keep it to a leak right before it comes out (laughs). Hopefully it won't come to that.

Dude, every record leaks.

Yeah, it's the nature of the beast now. But if it leaked closer to the release date, and it was proper audio leak, it would be fine with us.


There is a new model, like take it for free or pay what you want, and it's OK for a band like us, but most bands don't have the luxury to be able to afford to do that. In a way, it works for some bands. But a lot of bands just have to have some kind of monetary supplement there to work.

How did the tour with Snoop come together?

We go with anything (laughs). It's easy to really pair us with any genre of music. We've done the H.O.R.D.E. tour, we've done hip-hop packages, we've done the reggae groups. Thankfully, we have that luxury. It makes it easy in a way. It's easy because our style of music is varied. Snoop came along because... honestly, it just came out of the blue. We were talking with Ben Harper for a second, and the Black Crowes, and then Snoop came along, and promoters really saw it happening. His agent and our agent were just kind of gelling and talking. We're looking forward to it.

You get to spend the summer hanging out with Snoop.

Exactly. I don't think many kids from my high school can say that.

You guys will be playing the Rothbury festival soon. Are you familiar with the event at all?

We have heard of that festival. How many years has that been going on now?

This is the first time.

The first time? I was under the impression that it had gone on for a couple of years. Maybe I was confusing it with 10,000 Lakes or some other festival. You kind of get confused after a while. But if I understand the premise, it's jam-oriented, correct?

Mainly. My sense is that it's going for the original Bonnaroo crowd, considering that Bonnaroo's gone more mainstream in the past couple of years. There's some indie rock and hip-hop there, but it's primarily jam bands. Phil Lesh, Trey Anastasio, Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews...

For that show, we will definitely extend some songs. That's what we'll do for that audience. That's why we pair so well with ... you name it. Our fan base is wide and varied, and it just reflects the music. We have such a great fan base, and it's a great thing to be a part of because it's natural. It wasn't created. None of these things are created, great bands and their followings.

There's no greater compliment than to have a subculture spring up from your music.

How do you feel about festivals in general then? You're playing to a huge crowd, but it's not necessarily people who came to see you.

Yeah, it's always interesting putting set lists together for festivals. We played Langerado last spring, and we were going on right before the Beastie Boys. You give them stuff they're familiar with, and at Rothbury we'll give them that, and we'll give them stuff they're not familiar with because it'll be that type of audience that's into experimental music and extended soloing that's not on the radio.

With a catalog as big as yours, how do you approach building a set list anyway?

We'll go out on tour and we'll have 80 or 90 songs ready to play any night. We'll play a different set every night. Some songs will be in most of the sets. Not all the radio singles, but a good portion of them will make it into each night's show. Then we'll rotate through the catalog. We take suggestions from the forum on our Web site, but we try to keep it fresh for the band and the fans because we'll have a lot of fans that come to multiple shows.

These days fans are so connected, and they know what's going on as it's going on, so you have to do your best to keep it fresh and unique because that is what separates the men from the boys. It's easy to play the same set every night, and a lot of bands do it. And I understand it. It's a trap that you set up for yourself.