Silent Uproar: You are on tour now, right?
P-Nut: Yeah, we are about two weeks in.
SU: Are the shows going OK? How much of the new material are you working into the set?
P-Nut: Yeah, the shows are going far beyond OK. We are having the times of our lives, we are bringing in even more people then we did last year when we were out with The Roots, and so we are thrilled to always be taking forward steps.
We are playing probably 3 or 4 new songs a night depending on how we feel. I’m sure there will be more new stuff played once the album comes out because now it is kinda the slow point it the show. Kids are more absorbing it then reacting to it.
SU: What does “Don’t Tread On Me” – 311’s eighth studio album - bring to the table that past albums haven’t?
P-Nut: I just think the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ sentiment that goes throughout the whole album, which is why we all agreed it was a good title, is just kind of explaining that we are proud of where we are at. We realize that we are our own kind of entity and we are just going to keep doing what we are doing and no one is going to stop us except ourselves. That is the overall vibe. It is kind of separating ourselves from the normal rock and roll rift raft. Since we have been around for so long we fell that we kind of deserve it.
SU: What about the album name itself, I have read that it also is meant to represent personal freedom is that accurate?
P-Nut: Sure. I think also in kind of an underlying way, since we have been releasing reggae song after reggae song, to come out with an album title like Don’t Tread on Me, reflects the whole spectrum of the band. We felt that people thought we were turning into a kind of reggae band and we want people to know that we are here to rock as well. I think that statement just has it in it, just a fierce individuality in it. Just that we are proud of what we do and we are going to keep doing it whether you like it or not.
SU: Songs like “It’s Getting Okay Now” and “Getting Through To Her” incorporate new sounds and ideas that 311 hasn’t really explored yet - how do you keep the creativity flowing and not copy yourselves after eight studio albums?
P-Nut: I think the reason why most bands end up copying themselves over and over again is because they only have one good writer and then a bunch of supplementary writers. I think that with this band we have a really strong amount of writing equally mixed amongst all the players. So we have been co-producing our albums since the beginning and just learning by leaps and bounds every time we go into a studio situation. It’s just great to look back on all that we have done and we are trying to make that the point of this tour.
SU: The Red Hot Chili Peppers have said that Rick Rubin is the band’s best fit in the studio. Would you say that Ron Saint Germain is 311’s best fit?
P-Nut: Yeah for sure. But also I think what we have learned ourselves is equally important as what would we learn every time from Ron Saint. It all works together. You have to pay attention while you are in that situation.
SU: I know you worked with Shepard Fairey on the album artwork and the live DVD artwork, but how did you hook up with him?
P-Nut: I think our manager first made the link as far as he saw that it was cool art and we can always step up the look of the band, outside of what we decide to wear because that is never going to change much. As far as having a hard image to reflect on the band and reflect the band on tour, Shepard Fairey was just a complete perfect fit. He is a bad ass and he worked with us really well. We told him we wanted a badge or a crest and I think he kinda did both. He came up with a way of mixing both of those ideas and merged them into a great album cover.
SU: Does it to feel good to know you’ve remained relevant and even outlasted several bands that you’ve taken out on tour -- bands that blow up and later dwindle away? (Examples: Korn, Sugar Ray)
P-Nut: It feels great. It just provides that hard work pays off and just challenging yourself is going to be hard work, but it is going to end up treating you right as opposed to just trying to relive your past glories. That is no way to live. You always have to keep stepping forward because that is the only way to keep learning. If you aren’t learning then you are stepping backwards and we refuse to do that.
SU: There’s not really any bands out currently that are similar to 311 any way. Why do you think bands haven’t been successful emulating your sound like all the nu metal bands did with Korn and others?
P-Nut: I think one thing that has kept that from happening is the copycats found the easier sounds to recreate that are just more angry than complicated and intuitive. It is more aggressive and just feeding off of adrenaline. In that way it is great, but it is also something that is just going to wear out pretty easily. So it is going to wear you out, you’re not going to want to listen to it all the time, but it is something that turns you on immediately and that’s why it reaches such great heights at it’s prime and it is also why the bands burn out so fast.
I think one thing that has separated us from that even being possible is that we are really good musicians. We have tried our best to master our instruments and most of our songs aren’t easy to play. Our hits tend to be the ones that are easier to play, but that is not what our fans live and die on. I think our true fans love that the album is a full spectrum of emotions that we throw across. We do release these kind of pop songs here and there, but they are also going to be side by side on the album with great, musically difficult, cuts that most bands aren’t going to be able to play unless they have been a band for a decade. That is one of the great things about being together this long is that we have such a tight bond that you can tell it is us right off the bat even though we aren’t going to be sounding the exact same every time.
SU: You definitely have a very distinct sound to where you know a 311 song when you hear it, but it doesn’t all sound the same.
P-Nut: Right, and that is the ultimate balancing act. That is what the real gift is: remaining fresh and being consistent, and having fun, and keeping the kids interested, that is the whole thing. It is pretty amazing and we don’t know how we did it. We are just going to keep doing what we do and having fun and the kids feed off of that and in turn that is what keeps us going.
SU: Do you feel that when playing shows most of the fans are older fans that have been around a while or is a bunch of fresh faces?
P-Nut: I think it is an equal amount. We always see familiar faces out there, which is kind of a funny thing. We were talking about this the other night and someone asked if we recognize faces from the shows each night, and I was like yeah we really do because we have been around so long. There are always tons of new people and we always have people say this is their first show ever, not even just a 311 show, but first rock show ever. So there is always a good mix.
We get so jazzed and are just completely living the dream. I am still 13 and I am never going to grow up. I am so in love with what I do and so appreciative of the people I have ran into on this journey, especially my wife and band mates. I am not religious but I feel really blessed. (laughs) Something like that.
SU: I read that you were filing a lot of footage during the writing and recording process.
P-Nut: Yeah, I got at least 6-8 hours of footage from recording the album pretty much mostly rehearsals since that was the most interesting at the time. When we recorded it, we recorded piece by piece, so that is interesting, but it isn’t as interesting as seeing us all together. I am going to try and put it together in some way or another and put it on the website just for fun.
SU: Can we expect an “Enlarged To Show Detail 3” or some kind of behind-the-scenes DVD down the road?
P-Nut: Yeah, I don’t know. I would like to release it in a consecutive order. It could be really boring for the casual fan, but that much more interesting for the fanatic fans. I think it is more appropriate for the website as the format. So I an kind of leaning that way. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it made it to “Enlarged To Show Detail 3” though. It’s just always good to film as much as possible, and I am the one who is really into, it so I feel like it is my responsibility.
SU: Are there any bands or albums that you’ve been enjoying this year?
P-Nut: I really like the new Mastodon album “Leviathan”. They are a great band. I have been listen to Michael Franti "Everyone Deserves Music", the Deftones most recent one and everything they have done. I am a huge fan and they never believe it when I tell them, they just shrug it off. We are kind of peers and we played together back in like ’93 when they were getting started and when we were getting started so it has been great to follow their career. I think they are the perfect rock band and I love that they have lasted as long as we have and I hope they get the attention they deserve.
I am listening to tons of stuff, I am always listening to Elliott Smith and Cody Chestnut and just having fun with music. I think have to be the biggest Ween fan in a band. I am sure there are bigger Ween fans in college, but I am the biggest Ween fan in a band. I have had a sticker on my amp for 5 or 6 years, it’s been in a bunch of videos, I am always championing their individuality and just how irreverent they are and it’s like having two Frank Zappas in one band. Their shows are unbelievable and anyone who has heard them and have enjoyed what they have heard, should definitely go see them live because they are just impossibly perfect. It is on par with the favorite shows of my life.
SU: At this point in you career, what do you have left to accomplish as a band? Is it all just fun or is there a level of success or a certain goal you feel like the band hasn’t met yet?
P-Nut: I think we are happy with where we are at and we would be satisfied no matter what. We are ambitious, but we are also really thankful so we don’t push ourselves to the point of working ourselves. I think that is what happens to some bands, they think “well we want to get so big we will do anything for it, even change our personalities,” and that is something that we have never allowed ourselves to do.
We are five guys that really care about each other and have known each other for so long that if someone was coming with some fake shit or it felt weird, we would bounce it off of each other and get it out of the way, get through the nastiness and get to the real. So we just keep each other in check and in that way it keeps it really interesting and kind of reliable.
We have a lot of room to go. We have only sold 8 millions albums over the course of 8 albums and while that is a lot, it is also just the spring board for even more success. Mostly on the live tip I see it, just packing in people and having a great time and allowing people to release whatever tensions they have about where our country is and where we are as people and everything. It is just nice to forget about all that and enjoy the music. That is why we became musicians and that is why we are appreciated as musicians, because we offer people a little break from everything.
SU: It is great that after all this time you are still able to enjoy it so much as well. A lot of bands get really burnt out and at this point might still be making music, but doing it for the money rather than for the love of music.
P-Nut: I couldn’t do that and I wouldn’t be here any longer. I couldn’t put up with just re-hash after re-hash. I would find some alternate way of releasing my creativity because that would be a very flat way of living. I don’t see that happening ever.