311 is one the stoniest, most pot friendly bands in the world. For over 10 years they have been busy jamming about pot, love, liberty and enlightenment.
The band has its roots in Omaha, Nebraska; all five members of 311 grew up there in the 1970’s. After playing in different groups throughout their youth, they came to their current line-up in 1991.
311 is made up of Nick Hexum on lead vocals and guitar, SA Martinez on vocals and scratches, Tim Mahoney on lead guitar, Chad Sexton hitting the percussion and P-Nut on bass.
Between 1990 and ’91, the quintet released three albums in quick succession, titled Dammit, Hydroponic, and Unity. Known for their dynamic live show, 311 toured heavily and steadily established a dedicated fan base.
In 1993, 311 signed with Capricorn Records and released their first CD, titled Music. In 1994 they released Grassroots, and the next year the self-titled 311. They continued touring, and in 1996 the single Down made it onto mainstream radio and MTV, and went to #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart. The follow-up single All Mixed Up reached #2. The 311 album went triple platinum.
In 1997, 311 released Transistor, which also went platinum. It was followed by Soundsystem in 1998, From Chaos in 2001, and Evolver in 2003.
311 has always been known as a pot smoking band with a laid back, pot smoking fan base. Many of their songs repeatedly reference weed and its mighty effects on the mind and soul. Here’s just a few samples of their many stoney lyrics:
“Mother nature supreme, step back and dream the hydroponic scene/ Found around, knocked out of bounds, wound into the mind of my stone cloud.”
“311’s got the herb and you can’t avoid that/ And ya do want your hands with a fat blunt sack/ Chill with Indica and Guinness, steer clear of white powder/ Kick it, you sing it in a space, go out to play it louder.”
? Who’s Got the herb?
“I am the one who scores the herb/ When we’re on the road P-Nut rolls it up/ Throw me a joint on stage what’s up/ I will tell a cop that I know my fucking rights/ and we can match wits all night/ For real he said if I had nothing to hide/ Then of course I wouldn’t mind if he looked through our ride.”
? Offbeat Bare-Ass
311 is in the top five as this article is written, yet many people have never heard of them. But hum a tune like Prisoner or Down and most people will ‘fess up and say, “OK, I know that one.”
One of 311’s most appealing qualities is their aura of humbleness, and a drive to try new things musically by thinking out of the box. Their music is a cross between reggae, LA pop, and thought-provoking alternative rock, with a sprinkle of hip-hop for flava.
After a decade they can still connect with their fans in a way few bands do in this age of money-hungry corporates making music that’s less about art and more about their wallet size.
At their July 2004 concert in New York, 311 entered to a standing ovation filled with screaming girls and waving fans. The multi-platinum selling band opened with one of the new songs off their seventh album, Evolver, bringing the whole crowd to their feet.
SA Martinez and Nick Hexum harmonized perfectly, like a finely tuned instrument. Nick is the perfect front man for 311 as he commanded the crowd to get up, make some noise and bounce around. The crowd happily obliged.
The rhythm section of Chad, Tim and P-Nut was thick, solid and beefy. 311 showed how a well-rounded professional rock band can perform at their best for almost two hours. The crowd gave back the same energy as the band from start to finish.
311 is a true band for the fans. They still blow the doors off little clubs as well as large amphitheaters and concert halls, which helps keep their integrity level extremely high with their fans. They have sold millions of disks yet don’t have that “sell out” feel; it’s a cool mixed scene for the fans. Somehow 311 still feels like an underground scene, yet it’s not.
A few days after their New York show, Cannabis Culture was able to interview 311’s bass player, P-Nut.
CC: Your show the other night was a totally tight, professional performance as always. You guys always sound right on.
P-Nut: We love to get into the details of our music, and I think that’s what stoner musicians do. I think that’s what is great about bands that experiment in a responsible way with herbs and psychedelics.
I agree. There’s a time and place.
There totally is. That’s why we have made such philosophical advances in the last 50 years, because we have had really outgoing visionaries seeking the “Total Unknown.”
So where do you guys really stand on pot? I saw a video of one of you guys rolling in buds saying we play for weed a while back.
(Laughing) Right, right.
Do you consider yourself a pot band?
I consider myself a marijuana activist. I’ve bailed people out of jail, I bailed a friend out of jail actually…
Was it over a dime bag of weed? (laughing)
No, it was over 4,000 plants.
(Shocked) Is that where the album Hydroponics came from?
No, this was around the Blue album era [311’s breakthrough album]. We were starting to make a lot of money and some friends of mine got in some trouble for, you know, for being blatant.
They were testing the 215 laws in California. He was testing it just for the first time and growing just for a buyer’s club and they raided him. He just got out of jail. This was like eight years ago, and he just got out.
He’s doing good now. And I bailed a friend of his out, and Woody Harrelson once bailed out my good friend, and I took care of his assistant after a different bust.
Do you still smoke on the road?
Oh yeah. Nick doesn’t really smoke that much because it’s hard on his throat, and SA hasn’t smoked since college, but me and Chad and Tim do all the time. Chad doesn’t like to smoke before shows, that would be hard, but me and Tim do. We have done it so much together over the years it’s like a routine, but I wouldn’t lower it to that. It’s more like a ritual.
We love it so much. We pay respect to the herb and we treat it in a good way and I think we use the inspiration to help heal the people out in the crowd who are looking for release from stress. I think that’s one of the things that has really led to our longevity is that we put a positive spin on things and alleviate stress, just like pot does to your system. Ahh… it’s just such a good thing.
We don’t like to make a big deal about it, and I think that’s what keeps us safe. Cypress Hill smokes on stage every single night. I’ll knock on wood for them, because I love those guys, but they have never gotten busted, and that’s almost hard to believe. It makes it seem like it’s a lot less of a police state than the press would have you believe.
I know you guys just did the Omaha, Nebraska, show for free. How was that?
Well we did not do it totally for free, but it was totally free for the people, it was kind of bankrolled by the mayor of the city and one of the local banks. It was pretty cool, pretty intense. We took a huge pay cut and would have done it for free, but it costs us $30,000 a night just to do a show.
I guess you still have to pay for little things like gas, electricity, employees, security, etc. Everyone forgets about that stuff.
It was a total dream come true. We did it in the middle of the city; it was a place we always dreamed of doing a show, and it was a very unlikely place to put on a show. I think it has been done only a few times by bands like the Beach Boys. It was really intense, we had a lot of fun. It was probably the coolest show we’ve ever done.
We’ve played bigger shows, but doing it at home and just getting that many people to come out. People were saying attendance was at 25,000 to 35,000.
That must have been great for you guys.
Yeah, we were really excited about it. I think Nick’s got it in his head to pull off another 311 day back home, which I don’t see having to twist any one’s arm over. It’s a nightmare as far as the preparations, but the resolve and the outcome are so huge, it’s just fantastic.
311 has never really “sold out to the fans.” Even though you have hit songs you’ve maintained an integrity level that seems really hard to keep. How do you think you’ve managed to do that?
I think our music lends itself to a more sophisticated audience than your average rock band any day, and even more so than your average pop band. I don’t know where 311 fits into these judgments, but we’re getting played on top 40 radio and we’re now in the top five next week.
I just watched 50 First Dates, with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, and your cover of The Cure’s Love Song was in it.
Adam Sandler was really hands-on about us doing a song from a short list of songs that he wanted in the movie. He thought we would be great after seeing us live, so it was really cool. It’s nice to see him taking care of his empire, which he’s got nothing short of. He’s a great Saturday Night Live success story.
I have a question for you from one musician to another. Who do you think is the greatest rock band of all time?
It would have to be Led Zeppelin. The Beatles were great players and composers and everything, but I think if you put the Beatles head to head with Zeppelin at their prime they would have dwarfed them. Pink Floyd would definitely be up there too.
I can’t believe you said Zeppelin because that’s mine too.
It’s like, the best rhythm section ever, the best avant-garde guitarist, and best front man. They were all about experimentation and never doing the same album twice, living on the edge and rock ‘n roll.
Yet although it’s got a romantic appeal, there is no way to actually go through life like that. The Grateful Dead did it, but I don’t think there is any other band that can live on the edge like that and make it last.
The bad part was that Jerry’s early demise ruined this massive group movement and following. Your band is beginning to get a scene like that.
Yeah, people have been starting to talk about our band in the last few years as building up a following like that, like we’re a phenomenon.
We do 100 shows a year so I guess we are a heavy touring band. I think what makes people want to come out and see us is that it’s what we love to do.
I tried hardcore to meet you guys the other night backstage. I had some of Vancouver’s finest on me. I tried real hard to give you guys some great stuff, but the girl running the venue looked all freaked out, so I felt weird giving her anything to pass along.
Next time just deal with our people.
Thanks for the candid conversation.
? 311 are currently working on a new studio album, due in the summer of 2005.
? 311: www.311.com