311 : Nick Hexum
From The Beatles to The Vandals

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cc: So the tours that you have been doing, where maybe the kids are being exposed to you for the first time . . . how are you finding the response?

NH: It seems to go well. From show to show it's different. The Glasgow show was awesome - everyone was rocking out in the whole place. It's different to go from years and years out headlining shows that were packed with fans that were really excited, to playing for new people who don't know that much about you. You've got to get used to a different level of energy coming back out of the audience, but it makes it that much more fun when you do see that you're getting some people moving. And we're going to play some different songs tonight. It seems the crowd wants to jump if we give them the right tempo to do that.

cc: Are you playing Flowing tonight?

NH: Maybe we should. I think that's a good idea cause it's very English to me, y'know that sort of bouncing tempo. To me it sounds kinda like London Calling or something like that. I love that song. Definitely that kind of direction is something we're heading towards. Even though there was a fair amount of rapping on this current album, sometimes I do it and I just feel like . . . I'd much rather be singing. I think our next album . . . if there are raps, they'll be short raps.

cc: Now you've said this before at various stages in your career. What does SA [Martinez - co-vocalist] think when you say things like this?

NH: His vocal part in Champagne is singing, and he listens to as much melodic music as I do. He used to be the real rap guy, making all these rap mix tapes, but not lately. Lately he's going to steer an interview back towards his Smiths collection more often than any rap influences. So he's cool with that. Some people would say; so SA's the rapper and Nick's the singer, but that's not how it is. We've always both done both.

cc: Who were your influences when you were growing up?

NH: The first band that blew my mind were The Clash when I was 13. Every one of their albums I just wore out. After that it was Bad Brains and the next phase of American punk like the Descendents - stuff like that. Then there was alternative music like The Cure. Then when I heard the Chili Peppers, that kind of changed things - just to have that level of energy combined with funk was a cool revelation. When I first moved to LA in '88, that was the shit to me. I'd talk to people and go; are you into the Peppers, are you into Bad Brains, are you into Fishbone? They were the founding influences of the 311 sound, and it just kind of moved on from there. The first Cypress Hill album came out and it was like this stoney pot influence that was all the rage in LA. When the whole band moved there in '92, we were really into that, and A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. And still the rock, like Nirvana or whatever. And they'll always be revivals of the classics whether it's Led Zeppelin or old jazz singers like Billie Holiday or something like that.

cc: Your first time in LA must have been kinda Guns 'n' Roses, LA Guns era . . .

NH: It was exactly that. Just Guns 'n' Roses everywhere. I worked at Guitar Centre on Hollywood, which was like the centre of rock 'n' roll hair bands and all that shit . . . and it was pretty humorous really. The thing I was running up against is that I had more of a background of alternative music - which was really alternative at the time, y'know stuff you couldn't hear on the radio. R.E.M. at the time was very underground, and I grew up on The Clash and stuff like that. So coming out to LA, and all these ads in the papers said 'big hair a must, and looks and attitude' - it was all about phony things . . . so it was kinda disappointing.

cc: What's the most enjoyable tour you've been on?

NH: In 2000 we had a really great summer tour with Incubus supporting us, doing outdoor sheds. They were just blowing up, and we were doing real well too. I brought out my own bus, and we'd have huge parties in there every night - just pack the bus with like 30 people - mostly beautiful women - it was nuts!

cc: With 311's name coming from the police code for indecent exposure, there was something very karmic about you playing with The Vandals last year, with having Warren from The Vandals running around naked every night.

NH: Exactly. They're just a hilarious fucking band. Their songs are really funny, and it's cool to see English people getting into them cause they're just really underground in the the States. The Vandals and Pennywise and NOFX are the fathers of the situation, and then you've got the the younger bands, the ones that make all the money; like the Blink 182s and the Sum 41s. But I guess that's a parallel situation with what's going on with our band, with the second generation like the Linkin Parks just selling so many more albums. But that's alright; at the end of the day it's not going to be about money, it's about how you feel, what sort of mark you've left and your legacy. Helping to invent and break a genre is something that's more valuable than cash.

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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