P-Nut of 311 on Perry Farrell, Secret Summer Events, and Rocking a Boat

Don't miss out on an unbelievably good time that 311 will be giving locals at the Marquee Theatre this Tuesday.

We caught up with bassist P-Nut to discuss Lollapalooza Chile, this summer's highly anticipated Unity Tour, and the KKK. Side note: P-Nut gets my award for one of the most talkative, friendly bass players the world has ever known.

Up On The Sun: You guys have been working with producer Bob Rock, who has worked with many greats such as Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, and the Offspring, to name a few. How does he do things differently for you guys compared to other producers?

P-Nut: Every person's different just in the simple way that we're all a little different. Bob's Canadian, which instantly makes him different in the subtlest ways. Our humor in America and Canada is slightly different. When we were making Uplifter a few years ago with Bob, there was that uncomfortable growing period where we were figuring out each other's sensibilities, mostly on the humor and satire side of things. He didn't know if we were joking or we were serious. Now that's all gone. He knows where we're coming from and we know where he's coming from.

He was really tough on me specifically as a bass player on the last album, and on this album he has kind of let me do what I want because I guess he broke me in. The last recording experience was very humbling because was pushing me really hard to make it not perfect but really vacuum-sealed lines interlaced with the drums. The rhythm section is really important; we've got to work together. He wanted that to be as powerful as possible. I learned a lot. Hopefully I carried on all those lessons into this album, and that's why this one has been easier for me to record.

UOTS: 311 has been in the studio lately, and we can expect a new release before this summer. Uplifter had less rapping and more rocking than some of your previous albums. What's the title of the upcoming album, and how does it sound compared to some of the other albums?

PN: We don't have a title yet. The list of suggestions is up on our while at our studio, The Hive, so we're mulling all of it over. Historically, this being an even album, number 10, we've done the title of a song for the album. Don't Tread On Me had a song called "Don't Tread On Me" on it. It's time for us to try to do the same, unless we want to buck history, which is fine too. [Choosing a title is] not the easiest thing to do.

But as far as sound, it's hard to say. There's definitely some old school 311 in these new songs, and at the same time, we've never really cared about trying to recreate something that we've done before. Sure, we'd like to sell albums like we did in the mid-90s, but everyone would want to, as my wife would say. It doesn't really matter that much. We can just tour. We've got a great audience that loves to see our show, and we're just going to concentrate on that and build out from there: just taking care of the people who take care of us, not trying to play for an audience of people who may or may not exist.

On this album, I've been let into the inner sanctum of lyric writing by SA and Nick! They've been coming to me semi frequently [and saying], "Hey, we're talking about putting this and this in the song. What have you got?" Right on the fly. I don't want to sit down with a pen and paper and write down what I think would be a good idea. I want to do it right then and there. We had a really great writing session where I wrote the chorus and a bunch of lines in the verses of this song that's a love letter to our fans, and I think it's a standout on this collection of songs. I'm really stoked about that because a lot of times my musical ideas get shot down because I'm a weirdo. At least I try to be a musical weirdo and give people things they haven't heard before. I love writing lyrics and I'm really having a good time with that, so hopefully that'll be something that will stick around with us. I can add to the depth of meaning in these songs.

UOTS: On Uplifter, you guys sing about your appreciation for music, living in the moment, being open-minded, women, and overall positivity. Uplifter is the perfect name for the material on that album, and the single "It's Alright" totally proves that.

P-Nut: That song came about from the bass solo and the bridge. We built that song out from that, and it was really fun. I played that line for Bob, and he was like, "That's a great song." It's a really simple song, but the message is really powerful, and I love playing that bass line!

That's one of the balancing things we have to do: we love playing our instruments, and we can play a lot of notes and we can play really fast or really complex stuff, but at the same time it's got to be a really great song. The song always trumps however much you want to show off. Songs like that and "Don't Dwell" and "Can't Fade Me" and "Wake Your Mind Up" all have these amazing bass lines in them, which would be interesting without vocals on them. And then when you put a good message on top of them and something that really does represent us in that positive way of solving problems and not adding to them, and kind of getting through the teenage years... I think that could be one of the biggest points that we've never even mentioned.

I love the whole It Gets Better campaign. High school is not the end of the world. You might think there's crazy drama, or your world is ending because you don't have enough friends on Facebook. You're going to grow up, and everything's going to be fine. High school is not the whole definition of you. Everyone feels like the world is ending at one point or another with some stupid drama that comes up when you're a teenager. But it gets so much better. Live through this. That's something that is really important to us because a lot of us are parents now.

UOTS: What's the idea behind the cover art for Uplifter? It's very visually intriguing.

PN: The art demanded to be released as it was. We bought it and got the rights to it and adapted it to fit in the logo and the name of the album. The artist was really cool about changing things around a little bit. We're thrilled to have that in our [catalog] of album art. It's really a standout because it's just a genius piece of work. [The artist's] name is Christian Montenegro. He's an Argentinian badass. [He makes] really cool art, even alongside the stuff that we grabbed. His personality really lent us to using it as well. We had to change it; we couldn't just put his art on there. I could see artists being specific about wanting to leave it. I wouldn't want to change a song to sell Pringles [or something], but hopefully we're not that bad. He didn't mind augmenting his work for us.

UOTS: You're on the artist roster for Lollapalooza Chile, which will take place in April. What is the band expecting of Perry Farrell for this new festival?

PN: I was thrilled we got invited. It's about time! We've been around for 20 years and we never did a Lollapalooza show. Doing the inaugural Chilean Lollapalooza is going to be something we'll be able to hold onto for the rest of our lives.

I'm expecting the unexpected. I've seen pictures of [Farrell] performing totally naked. As a band, we've followed [Jane's Addiction's] career since they were a local band out here in Los Angeles, and we've been influenced by their creativity and their freedom and their sound. We pretty much ripped off our drum jam that we do in the middle of our show straight from them. They're a big influence on us more as a symbol of how to be a great band. We don't really sound like them, but I don't think we'd be the same band if they hadn't existed. We're really happy to be a part of anything that Perry and Jane's Addiction is doing as a whole.

UOTS: The 311 Caribbean cruise to Turks and Caicos is coming up, on which you'll be playing four shows. How does a five-day rock cruise differ from normal shows and regular environments where you'd normally play gigs?

PN: We're going to find out. This is going to be a first for us. The only thing we've ever done on a boat is an acoustic thing for a radio station out [in Los Angeles]. It was really fun, but this is going to be [on] a huge ocean liner, and it's all 311 fans. It's going to be a hot mess of fun no matter what. But is it going to be fun on the crazy side or is it going to be fun on the surprising side? We'll see. It's going to be a learning experience for all those involved, band and fans included.

UOTS: Any word on who will be joining you on this summer's Unity Tour?

PN: It's confirmed, but I don't think I can say it just yet. I really wish I could. It'll be announced really soon, and anyone who was alive in the 90s and likes great music will be really really stoked about this summer. So save up your money for when we come into town because you're going to be really excited about who we're bringing with us.

UOTS: The 311 website says that a special event will go along with the summer tour. Can your fans get any hints about what that might entail?

PN: It's going to be a multi-day event with a bunch of bands. We're going to play another album in its entirety. We played Music in its entirety over Halloween last year in Atlanta. We're going to play another album this summer for the people who come out for that event. That's going to be super awesome.

There are so many things going on with the band that I don't even know what to be more excited about. All of those random factors in the cruise, because we've never done it before, are going to be hilarious [since] it's such a different environment. And then the summer is going to be like normal, except on steroids. With the bands that are coming out with us, that's going to be huge. We do amphitheater tours every summer no matter what, no matter who's out with us. It seems like this is going to be selling out every night. I know if these bands were coming through, I would be really excited about seeing the two together. The thing this fall is going to be just crazy. This is a great year. My son is five months old, so I'm getting used to being totally overwhelmed with how kickass everything's been lately. I'm a thankful person.

UOTS: I know this question is such a joke to you guys by now, but I want to set the record straight! I don't personally believe the KKK rumor, but what's really the story behind the band's name?

PN: The story behind the band's name was that the original guitarist, Jim Watson, got arrested [for] skinny-dipping in a pool. The police code for indecent exposure is three-eleven. We were looking for a name that didn't really mean anything, like The Smiths. Morrissey picked that name because it was the blandest thing. In the 80s [there were] all these really fancy names for bands.

[I think people should] let the music speak for itself. The same thing is true with us. 311 can mean anything you want. You can associate meaning to numbers in very profound ways, or you can do it in very idiotic ways, like in the case of the KKK reference for us. First of all, we're a multicultural band. We're philosophically positive. We're inclusive, not exclusive. All of these things make [that controversy] very laughable. At the same time, when [that rumor] first came out and our songs were being played on the radio for the first time, people wanted to know if it was true. They wanted to talk about it. We've used it because it's such an easy springboard to jump into the denial pool. Just perfect.

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Lenni Rosenblum