Tag: Rock

Now riddle me this. What has five pieces, always Top 10, easily combines multiple styles together as one, extremely energetic yet completely laid back and the name equals either 14 or 5 depending on how you see it? If you don’t know the answer to this you have been missing way too much.

The five pieces are Nick Hexum (vocals, guitar, keys), SA Martinez (vocals, turntables, DJ), Tim Mahoney (lead guitar), P-Nut Wills (bass) and Chad Sexton (drums, percussion). 10 of their first 11 albums reached the top 10 with the latest effort, their 12th, “Mosaic” being released this month, no doubt will hit the mark immediately. All of this adds up to 311!

Top of my bucket list? The opportunity to pick the brain of one of my favorite musicians, Nick Hexum! As I'm checking this off the list Nick and myself start to talk about longevity in music and how he feels that music has a natural healing and restorative power. He tells me, “It would’ve been incredible just to be involved in music as a hobby but the fact that it is my job, keeps me young. Music is a powerful thing. It was a long time ago we realized that we had a special chemistry and that we are better together. We lucked out finding each other and you don't mess with that formula. Chad and the rest of the band are the reason we are all here. We keep each other going, influencing one another.”

On the topic of influence, he mentions how dad is his hero. Nick says, “He has been my role model in the sense of being responsible and warm towards others. I think when you are in a band you must give credit to your band mates as far as influencing the music but I have to say Joe Strummer is my favorite musician of all time. A story I loved to hear is one that Twenty One Pilots told about some drunk girl that came up to them and said that they sounded like a mixture between 311 and 311. That was a great compliment and there is certainly mutual admiration there.”

When you start out wanting to be a musician you find it easy to imitate people. After all, there had to be that person or band that peaked your interest. Hexum tells me, “The first song I ever wrote I realized when it was done that I just rewrote a Jim Croce song and changed two words. That's how it started but what drew me to Hip pop, Punk, Reggae was the emotion, creativity along with that you throw in that it's groundbreaking and rebellious. I just don't find that in other genres as much. You evolve, change, find the way to your path.”

There it is, the dreaded word “Change.” Nick says that he didn't change much really. He continues, “Just trying to stay focused on the music and keep my head out of the business side of it. If you give in too much to the business end, it starts to be like sitting in front of a focus group doing a painting. If you do that you lose focus on the pureness and you become not so true to your cause.”

One of the things that I have wanted to do is attend one of the bigger 311 events such as “311 Day” or their cruise. While mentioning this to him I also brought up hearing they played a few tunes that we hadn't heard as of this past cruise. “Yes, we did, I was maybe a little bit nervous playing new songs for the first time,” he says laughing. “On the cruise, we broke out some reggae tunes that no one has heard and knowing they are going to end up on YouTube gets you just a little. There is a little anxiety about keeping it on point but for the most part it is just hitting the stage and letting loose.”

I always wonder if an artist can really realize that one decision they had made that led them to what we see as success. Hexum says, “I think it was when we decided that we were going to just tour, tour, tour. That we weren't going to rely on any kind of cultural gatekeepers like radio people or journalists and take it straight to the people. That helped us build the foundation towards touring out of stone rather than sand. The gatekeepers didn't put us here so they can't take it away. We made a direct relationship with our fans. That's why we named our second album ‘Grass roots’ because we were going to live on the road. Now success to me is longevity. It's not about being one of those bands that start out big with a lot of record sales that have evaporated. It is about the process of making music and being allowed more years to spend honing your craft.”

It was now time to continue down memory lane to find the first 311 moment that made Nick stand back and notice just what they had brought to the table. He says, “Well, our first show was opening for Fugazi and it was a sold out one at Sokol Hall in Omaha, Nebraska. It was a Fugazi crowd that came ready to mosh. We kicked into our first song and the place went crazy. Even though Fugazi doesn't really like to mosh I’m thinking the fans didn't get the memo, we blew the place up. That was the moment when I knew we really had something here.”

After enjoying so much that has come about in their music world a lot of hard work has made it all possible. Continuing to write while staying true to yourself along with keeping a fresh approach is important. Nick tells me the secret, “You need to keep mixing up your listening habits and continue to explore while keeping that suspension of disbelief. People become jaded so you need to force your mind to stay open. There are always fresh minds getting into music and bringing inspiration. One of the things that is nice about our fan base, they are gonna be there with us whether we have a hit or not. It feels like we have a momentum that can only be stopped by one thing, us. Because of this, fortunately, I don't feel too much pressure. It all translates into our live show. We like to think that our shows are a vacation for people. It seems that everyone is sharing the same attitude,a way of life and a kinship at a 311 show. We just love being the ringleaders of that.”

Now that their new album “Mosaic” is in the can and ready to be released this month there will be a little time in between now and when the tour starts. So how will Nick keep the new material fresh while remaining focused? He says, “I’m listen to the instrumental versions of the songs on our new album. After living with it for a few months now listening to it as an instrumental is like a breath of fresh air so that is what I have been doing for fun.”

Closing out our conversation I asked Nick for a public service announcement. This is what he said, “I never want to miss an opportunity to thank the fans. Together we are still living this dream and it’s a really special thing. We have the greatest job in the world. All the stories that we have had the opportunity to be a part of with the fans. Whether it has been how a song touched them, reminded them of someone or how they met their spouse at one of our shows those are moments when shared together make it worth while. Just all of us connecting with emotions. I'd like to think that we have spread a positive message and help people to see the world in a more optimistic way.”

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