See also: 311 Live Made the Crowd Feel So Good See also: P-Nut of 311 on Perry Farrell, Secret Summer Events, and Rocking a Boat See also: 311's Doug Martinez Talks Cover Songs, New Record, and Summer Touring
Once upon a time, five guys in Omaha, Nebraska, decided to fuse funk, reggae, rock, and hip-hop.
It's been an eventful 24 years since they decided to do so. Anyone who's bothered to turn on a rock radio station in the '90s or 2000s is well-acquainted with 311's vast catalog. They've put out 10 albums, including their most recent,Universal Pulse, in 2011, and have charted Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart 20 times. They've sold more than 8.5 million records in the U.S., and have provided chill rock anthems for summer boat trips and pool parties world-wide.
311's fans are loyal, but a major part of their success over the years is their adaptability. The band is open and willing to reinvent themselves over the years, and future music from the band looks to bear this idea out.
Up On The Sun talked with the band's rapper/DJ Doug "SA" Martinez about dubstep, a new album in 2013, and what's different about this tour.
Up On The Sun: 311 has such a wide age group of fans. It spans from preteens to the diehards in their 50s. Are their differences regarding the expectations of these groups when it comes to your live performance?
SA Martinez: We try to construct something that, you know, represents our whole career. We try to play something off of each record. Obviously we try to play songs that the casual fan might know, you know? It's really tough to be honest, putting together sets. [Laughs.] It's not easy to do.
Are there songs from a certain time period or album that you enjoy most playing at the live shows?
Well, we've actually been playing a lot of songs from our third record, our biggest selling record. We've been playing songs on this tour that we haven't really played that much at all in awhile. That's been cool. I don't really have a particular favorite record or song that I enjoy playing more than others, but it's great to play songs that we haven't played.
How do you personally view the progression of 311's music from when you guys first started out over 20 years ago?
Well, you know, our music really encompassed a lot of different musical styles and genres from the get go, which has always been a really cool thing, especially back when we started up. You know, we have some jazz-core elements in songs from the first record, obviously reggae, rock, and hip-hop on others, so it's been a pretty steady mix for the past 20 years. And we continue to draw inspiration from...you know, I would say....call me back in two years. I think I'd have to really have like two years [laughs] of no 311 involvement to really give it a good perspective of what the span of catalog really would mean. It's hard to, I guess, define that, ultimately, because we've been living it. Gosh, we have songs on this past record that could've been on our first record I feel like, you know what I mean? So, it's bizarre, but at the same time it's our life's work.
Universal Pulse, charted new territory for you guys. I feel like it was more short and to the point, and really rock-driven. What led you guys down that path, musically?
Well, it had to do with time constraints, actually. We were working with a producer who also worked on the record before that one. So we had already had the initiation period with him. The honeymoon was already over I guess, you know? We just focused on the songs that we felt the strongest about, and it really wasn't about how many songs can we do in the shortest amount of time. It was more, what can we really do within this amount of time? And the result was the eight songs that are on the record. We didn't have anything extra...there were no B-sides. And I think also now that we're obviously a more mature band, we're able to, you know, get to work, and shed any excess and really focus on the materials. Not to say that the next record will go anything like that at all, but it might, and if it does, it wouldn't surprise me, you know? Musical cruises are an emerging trend. You guys did on last year. Can you tell me what the best part of it was?
Well, it really was an incredible experience. You know, people that just have a great love of music and life, also seem to happen to enjoy 311. It's a lot of like-minded individuals that get together, hang out, make life-long friends. The community that has sprung up around 311 is so beautiful. I mean, you hear so many stories. The other night we were in Chicago for a meet-and-greet, and this couple came up, and they had met at a 311 show. The guy was like, "Thank you for my wife, and my life!" And you know, it was so touching, and that happens like all the time! [Laughs.] Constantly! And that's the great thing about what we do, I guess. We're in the happy-people-making business. And there's something special about that. And the cruise is a culmination of that energy. [It was] nothing but love.
In the early '90s you guys were seen as so adventurous because you helped spur the rock/rap thing. What are your thoughts about the influence of EDM and dubstep on current rhythmic rap/rock?
About dubstep? [Pauses.] I think that bands and musicians, they will latch onto or adopt or be inspired by something that is new to the ear. People making new music is always great though. You know, you can never have enough new music. Whatever is inspiring to people that makes them what to create you can't say anything bad about that. Um, I can't say that we're going to have anything like that, as far as dubstep in our music, but who knows, you know?
So, lately, I've really been listening to a lot of older salsa, blues, and some crazy Latin, early 70's New York sort of music scene. Not to say that that is going to have anything to do with 311 thought! [Laughs.]
You never know!
Yes, you do never know! But you know, music is just a great, never-ending, giving creation that we all love.
What does that future hold for 311 right now? More touring for now? Any side projects?
Working on the new record eventually. And just, keeping the fans engaged. This is our livelihood, you know? So it's important that our fan base is excited about what we're up to. But I think that uh, it's a profession that runs so deep. And I think fans have a lot of patience with us. I mean, our fans. I can't say, like, rock fans in general, but I know 311 fans are very loving people. They've given us everything. We owe them everything.
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311 is scheduled to perform Tuesday, August 28, at Mesa Amphitheater.