A Secondary Sense – Interview with P-Nut of 311

by Nate Michayluk / Schwegweb.com

311, whose roots are in Omaha, Nebraska now residing in California released their 15th album, in August of 2005 of their almost 20 year career. The album did well and the band is now on a cross country tour of 35 shows. They will be playing in Clarkston, MI on August 10th. I had a chance to talk with bass player P- Nut, this is what he had to say:

WRITER’S NOTE: This interview was conducted live and has been edited for content and length.

Schwegweb: How much of the creative process are you involved in?
P-Nut: “Probably just at my fair share, Nic Essay and Chad have multiple talents as well as Tim and I but when being creative with Nic and essay both being able to write music as well as lyrics, and Chad turning in to a producer extraordinaire that’s what he brings to the table besides his great song writing ability. Me and Tim have been just concentrating on our instruments. Tim has become a fantastic soloist and I’m working on trying to control my creative energy in a more understandable way up until this point what I bring to the table has been kind of off the wall kind of just trying to write something that’s really fun to play, concentrating on the song in more of a secondary sense. And now the older I get I’m concentrating on song composition and taking the body of the song as a more important piece than just the bass line. It’s a learning process and in having a lot of fun with it and we’re lucky to have as any talent people as we do in the band.”

How did you get the name P-nut?
“I got p-nut from a friend of mine when we were about 14 we were playing in a garage band basically and we were all just rocking out and I distorted my head shape to even lengthier, and then it kind of stuck.”

How did 311 come together as a whole?”
“Well Nick had Chad with him [in California] I’m guessing about in 1988 because we had gotten everything together by 90. Nick went out there everything kind of fell apart nick moved to Germany, Chad came back to Omaha he hooked up with me in the end of 89 and we started playing songs together with a different guitarist kind of as a three piece and nick came and saw us play at my high school that essay had subsequently graduated from the weird thing was that Chad and essay were roommates in college so that was like an instant link to the Martinez  factor and I had met him through my wondering through our part of the neighborhood so there was a nice little link to bring him in to the whole as soon as possible especially after we got together after 1990. We started rehearsing as more or less a four piece in February of 1990 and then went to our 1st show June 10th at Silver Hole in Omaha opening up for Fugazi. Then we had at least a couple hundred people at every show minus the hand full of shows we did, immediately following our first show, just to get everything started. Things got started a lot faster for us a lot faster then, I think, any other band in our position. We came out pretty much as a fully formed band especially with nick and Chad having as much experience as they had. Me and my friend Jim were what basketball coaches call “gym rats” we were the same thing with our garage band we practiced all the time we ate, slept and drank it. It was meant to be we were all such big music fans that we had to add our ideals in to the big huge universe of music.”

How did 311 develop such a unique sound?
“Well we never limited our selves to any one sound that’s how we came up with something that is so like hyphenated or like a run on sentence to describe all the styles that we permeate. We’re just huge fans of music like I said and no matter if you like it or not its going to come out in your music, I think the only way you can do like a singular influence band is if you limit your self, and I don’t think we have ever done that.”

What, if any, were the dark periods of 311?

“I think transistor was kind of a dark period. When we were writing all those songs it’s kind of got a cloudy vibe to it., and the tempos are kind of slower than some of the other albums, the way it was recorded was kind of darker. Musically I guess we went through that, and we go through ups and downs just personality wise. What ever will happen to whoever in the band we will all kind of feel it in one way or the other, because we don’t really exist too much with out each other, our live are entangled upon each other.”

So you guys are all pretty much best friends then?

“Yah for sure, we have to be in one way or the other. Putting out a genuine show has everything to do with the people playing with.”

How has growing up in a small town like Omaha influenced your music?
“I think growing up in that environment forced us to go against the trend, and really please our selves first and worry about everybody else later, and I think that we have gained respect for writing music that we wanted pretty much all the way through our career. And then a cover song here or there, as suggested by Adam Sandler for the 50 First Dates sound track something that we didn’t come up with on our own but was very successful and fun to do. Its just cool to give respect to The Cure because the positive damage that they did to music as a whole, they are just great.”

Who were your personal influences?
“My earliest were probably Iron Maiden and Metallica when I was really focusing on the instrument, the bass. That’s something that could really make me a stand out as a rock musician I guess.”

If you weren’t playing music what would you be doing?
“Probably producing movies if I had that opportunity, I would have pushed myself in that direction one way or the other. Writing stories and getting them on film with out compromise.”

What is your favorite place to play?
“We just did Red Rocks about three or four days ago, that’s pretty hard to beat. As a city I think New Orleans, as a band we have had so many monumental shows there.”

Does 311 really have a holiday in New Orleans?
“Yah the mayor before the current mayor or New Orleans decreed March 11, 311 day in New Orleans.”

So you guys have a show every March 11, there?
“No it’s a biannual, and we weren’t able to do it this year because the venue that we usually play at was damaged by the hurricane.”

What is your favorite CD to listen to?
“I would be listening to the Artic Monkeys, What ever people say that I am, That’s what I’m not is a perfect album.”

Are you as energetic off stage as you are on?

“No, I’m pretty much a polar opposite off stage of how I am on stage. I’m a kind of mellow person. I can get excited pretty easy, if I’m on a basketball court ill be all over you. I can draw from that kind of energetic persona but I’m defiantly not like that all the time I don’t think anybody could be.”

How did 311 get its name?
“It came from a police code when the original guitarist who I was talking about earlier got arrested for being naked in a public swimming pool. That was 311 for indecent exposure. Late in my own studies I found that that’s the same thing that Lenny Bruce got arrested for, for saying “cock sucker” on stage, it was another kind of cool link to it.”

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