Ah, the chants. 3..eleven…3 3 eleven! That’s how the band’s welcomed to Central Park Summerstage. From then on it was a back to back groove machine. P-Nut’s mask came off soon and the rock was on.
311’s label was kind enough to forward me an interview they’d conducted, I guess, for press purposes. Not a big fan of ‘interviews’ like those but this one is pretty in-depth about the process of making Uplifter. Now that I like. I won’t post the whole thing, just a few questions. For those of us who like to know about gear, the band scores major points by giving details on their site. I don’t know of another band who went to that length to talk about equipment.
Headlining the Unity 2009 tour with Ziggy Marley and The Expendables, the band is promoting its brand new album Uplifter [produced by Bob Rock]. I’m sure you’ve been exposed to their new single ‘It’s Alright.’
Excerpts from Q&A sent by label:
Q: Was the approach to writing and recording this album any different from your past experiences?
NICK: Yes. There was a feeling of going back to the drawing board. We decided to take our time to somewhat reinvent ourselves this time around. The addition of Bob Rock provided a fresh approach. He got in there and had us really hash things out. We would try any idea no matter how crazy.
Another way this session was different is because we broke up the recording in two halves with a tour in between. We thought we had ten keepers in the first batch then we went on tour. While on tour we wrote eight more songs which kicked the first batch’s ass! All eight of the second batch made it and only three or four of the first. We absorbed energy from our fans when touring and put that energy into the second batch. Also, we used a chant that our fans spontaneously do before shows as the intro to one song. That’s a unique thing to have the fans write a part. (Thanks y’all!) This recording cycle has been our most enjoyable for me since the blue album in ’94.
P-NUT: On this album, I think we were all more open to eachother’s ideas, so a good idea was further developed through open-minded discussion and experimentation.
SA: The biggest difference on this record is the collaborative effort we shared with Bob Rock. Every record is different as much as every day, every moment is different. The musical stew that is Uplifter was just enhanced with the seasoning of Bob Rock. I mean when your last name is Rock, well, that’s just a lot of minerals.
TIM: Working with Bob was great. I enjoyed the process of making this record and feel he really pushed us and got the most potential out of us.
Q: What can listeners expect to hear? And what will listeners be surprised to hear?
NICK: To me, it sounds simply like 311 taken to the next level. The reggae, rock, and hip hop are there, but there is new guitar textures and tones that will surprise people. There is a funkiness to our reggae that I love and a danceable-ness to our rock that is new. Space in the riffs make you want to move your body. There is also a new creativity in the overdub phase. Bob and I would have keyboard days where we would set up and make up parts on the spot. We’d drop in counter-melodies and flourishes that give the tunes more emotional impact. Bob would also do that with Tim on the guitar. This recording session felt like we were letting go. It didn’t have to be planned or rehearsed. Our playing is to the point that we can “throw and go.” Set up and see what comes out. The level of creativity was much like the early days because we were not self-conscious. In the early days we had so much creative spunk in us we would explode on tape. The challenge back then was to attempt to tidy it up because our playing was not at this level. Now we’ve learned to trust ourselves and just let our unique vision unfold. Now we know who we are. There is a confidence to this album that is new. It was exciting to see the whole thing unfold.
P-NUT: Listeners can expect to hear a fully realized and operational 311 machine. Throughout this collection of songs you are going to hear inspiration, invention and power.
SA: Well, it sounds like 311 I think it’s safe to say. This might be our most balanced record. Above all listeners will hear a deepening and a refinement of our sound.
TIM: I think all the songs sound like 311. It’s been years since our last record, so hopefully folks will dig where we’re at now.
Q: How was working with Bob Rock? What did Bob bring to the table for this album?
NICK: Bob was a perfect fit for 311. He’s a full serve guy. He’s a true song guy, an amazing engineer, and a great mixer. He introduced us to a lot of techniques and equipment as well as bringing in a new approach. He was a unifying force because everyone likes and respects him so much. We’d say, “Let Bob be Bob.” He would help us take our original ideas to a new level. He made no attempt to change us, but he helped us bring out our 311-ness. Bob is a pro and a gentlemen and it was a real pleasure. I’m looking forward to working with him again.
P-NUT: Bob brought freshness to our routine of making an album, and his experience and communication led us to great musical feats. I believe together we’ve actualized the best album we are capable of. This has been a super-fun recording experience. I can’t wait to play these new songs for all.
SA: Bob doesn’t bullshit. Not to say we’ve worked with anyone who does, but it’s more of a style and approach. Bob was the wise elder in this endeavour. Let’s face it, he has years of experience of working with a wide variety of acts. He’s a maestro when it comes to teasing out what will work in a song and what won’t. He was a calm and reassuring presence and it was a real pleasure working with him.
TIM: It was a great experience working with Bob Rock. We have a lot in common when it comes to music, guitar tones, favorite guitars and guitar heroes, gear, etc. I really enjoyed working on guitars with him. I learned a lot. He’s a very creative guy.
Q: Any interesting stories behind the making of Uplifter?
NICK: The making of the Guitar Hero spoof video was a blast and very out of the ordinary. I think P-Nut and our manager, Adam, came up with the concept. We’ve never really done any kind of acting before so the real challenge was keeping a straight face. We made up the dialogue on the spot. Director Joe Lynch was great to work with. We kept suggesting different funny things and Joe was like, “Hilarious! Use it!” I was happy to be able to keep a straight face though and stay in character. One of my only other attempts at acting was playing one-on-one with Shaq for the “You Wouldn’t Believe” video. I couldn’t get the huge grin off my face and it was supposed to be a big mean showdown so all of my hoops footage had to be cut. I think we’ll do some more humorous videos because we like taking the piss out of ourselves.
P-NUT: We crafted a song from a bass line that I wrote at Bootsy’s house (Bootsy Collins) over the summer of ’08, I played it for Bob at our show in Maui, and he said, “remember that”, I told him not to worry. When we got back together after the touring we worked out verses and the structure, making what I believe is one of the many highlights on the album. The original bass line inspiration is now the bridge which turned out to be along the lines of Graceland by Paul Simon, which still surprises me to this day. I love not planning things out and basking in the results, 311 is capable of almost anything in those moments.