Interview: Nick Hexum of 311
Tue, 08 Oct 2013 13:27:43
Nick Hexum steps outside of 311 with The Nick Hexum Quintet and the group's debut, My Shadow Pages. Not only does he take a break from his usual role fronting 311, he provides listeners with a foray into jazz-infused funked-out space rock. It's worth blasting off with him on this dynamic, diverse, and definitive debut.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Nick Hexum opens up about My Shadow Pages, what's next for 311, and so much more.
My Shadow Pagesfeels like the best way to get to know you.
Yeah, I think it is more personal. There's more of a genuine representation of my tastes whereas a true band is going to be more of a compromise between five guys. You find common ground, and that's a special magic in and of itself. A solo work is a different animal. I had collaborators on every song. Since they were new guys and were moving into new styles, it goes into different territory.
Did you approach it with one vision in mind?
Part of the story is how it started as having a jam band with me and Zack and exploring this jazz-y funk that we both really enjoyed. It's the Medeski Martin & Wood, The Meters, and those cool, somewhat underappreciated funk artists. At the same time, Zack and I had been co-writing songs for some other people and doing some things for TV. It was a way to open up a new avenue for expression and business, etc. To combine the two, it's a lot more fun if we do songs we know are actually going to get used and be recorded. It really took off once I felt the freedom that, "Hey, I can take this anywhere I want to go and let's do something ambient like 'Tidal Wave'. Let's do something a little Americana almost. There's a little twang to "Somewhere in the Middle". I've never gotten twang-y before. There are some real sophisticated jazz chords Luke Miller puts in on the last song, "A Song for Driving". There are so many different directions.
Lyrically, do you feel like you're really telling stories with the songs?
Yeah, sometimes we would talk out stories and I had no idea where they were going. For example, on "Sideways", I was like, "You know those girls who move to Los Angeles and they have big dreams and everything gets crazy for them…" Boom, the song just came out. There are these little vignettes of painting a picture. That morning, I had no idea what we were going to write about. I knew the title "Sideways" had a great angle to it though. It's a cool expression that begged to have a story behind it. Then, there's "The Dreamer". I've always known I'm a bit of an optimist to a fault, but I've never put into lyrics. I never think there's a rainy day ahead in my forecast. It gets me into trouble, but it's also defiant. That's how I want to live. There are very personal expressions and stream-of-consciousness stories.
Where did "A Song for Driving" come from?
I have one friend who always says, "Man, this song is so good to drive to". That was his thing. He would rate which songs are better to drive to. I was like, "Alright, I'm going to make 'A Song for Driving'." It's not morning hour rush traffic. It's like driving at 11:30 at night. For me, it's after the kids are asleep, and I want to just go take a drive to wherever and clear my head. The streets are more or less empty. I'm getting into that mood where you see other cars and wonder what their lives are like and what they're going through. There's a solitude there. There's a melancholy about it. It just all clicked.
What was inspiring you while making the record?
There's this underappreciated and underrated world of jazz-y funk. There are artists like the New York band Soulive. There's an Australian band called The Bamboos. England has The New Master Sounds, which is like an English version of The Meters. There's tons of great music out there. It probably doesn't sell a lot of copies, but it's so good. I've been mining the gems from these underappreciated artists.
If you were to compare the record to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
It'd be something a little trippy and absurd like The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Adaptation. I like to just break mold anytime I can and get into something new. That's what I love about Charlie Kaufman's movies—the wild creativity. I Heart Huckabees spoke to me so much because it's all about the ridiculousness of finding existential meaning in the consumer world.
What have you been listening to?
Gary Clark, Jr., I just saw him perform with Dave Matthews a few weeks ago. John Scofield is one of my favorite guitarists of all-time. I'm going to see him this weekend at UCLA. I went through a little bit of a jam band phase. I flew to Denver just to see Phish and have that experience, and that was a lot of fun. My tastes are all over the map. Having two daughters, they love pop music. We'll have dance hits of the day selectively chosen on our playlist in terms of songs I can tolerate [Laughs].
What's next for you?
Well, the next 311 record is written. We're recording it now, and it's coming out on 311 day—March 11, 2014. So, I have a lot of on my plate with having to go do my parts to that. It's a really exciting batch of songs. Scott Ralston our producer has just kicked ass and actually become like a sixth member of the band with contributing some songwriting, lyrics, and everything. We've never let a producer into the fold that much. Since he's been working with us for so long in some capacity, it was a very natural fit. I also have some new songs for a future second solo album. There's an amazing artist named Alan Hampton, and we've got some plans to write songs. He's an amazing bass player, and he has an album called The Moving Sidewalk. He's incredible.
What's your favorite Nick Hexum or 311 song?