July 15, 2015 Interview – SA Martinez of 311
When musicians get together and start a band, usually their short-term goals are to get a gig and entice an audience. Then as they continue to hone their craft, their goals get more grand. If they are lucky, they will get a record deal, tour, and build a fan base. Then there are those who live the Rock-n-Roll dream and transcend twenty-five years of major success like Omaha, Nebraska’s 311. Combining a variety of elements from Hip Hop, to Reggae, to Rock, to Metal, and everything in between, 311 have been one of Alternative Rock’s most storied acts with a list of top-selling records. Releasing their eleventh studio album in 2014, entitled STER3OL1TH1C, and their Archive box set in 2015, 311 continue to push their creativity, tour, and put on one of the best live shows around. Recently we sat down with vocalist and turntablist SA Martinez for a look into the history of 311, their plans for the future, performing live, and more.
CrypticRock.com – 311 came together over twenty-five years ago now. In that time, the band has really established themselves as one of the most respected Alternative Rock style bands around, achieving multiple platinum and gold records. Tell us, what has the journey been like since you became a full time member in 1992?
SA Martinez – It has just been a never ending Rock-n-Roll fantasy. As you said, it has just been a journey. It is amazing it has lasted as long as it has. It is amazing what we have built over the last twenty-five years and just the support that we have through our fan base is unreal. Honestly, it is something that I do not think most bands ever get to witness. To have made it last as long as we have, and to continue, it is pretty remarkable.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, it is definitely something to be proud of. When you joined the band full time back in 1992, you added a new dynamic to the band. You were a DJ and a second vocalist. Looking back all these years later, was there sort of instant chemistry when you became a full time member, especially considering you worked with the band in the past?
SA Martinez – Oh yeah, I knew all the guys. I really was there from the get go. I was there even before Tim joined the band (laughs). I introduced P-Nut to Chad, since I was a band member, but I never really became a official member until 1992. It has been in the blink of an eye. It has really been one continuous moment, and it is crazy.
CrypticRock.com – We are actually approaching the twentieth anniversary of the triple platinum self-titled album. That album combined a variety of styles and really took the Alternative Rock scene by storm. What do you think made that album so special?
SA Martinez – That was a combination of a lot of things coming together. We had been building a base through the first two records that we put out, then the third record came out . At the time, radio was still a big factor in making or breaking a band, so we had the great fortune of having a few songs that really did well on radio for us. We established the groundwork, we had a base, and then it was just a matter of just blowing the doors open. That is really what kind of happened, it was really just a perfect storm. It was an incredible time in our history to really see it unfold like it did. Basically, ever since then, it was something that enabled the band to exist on our own merit and make this career a reality. It was a great time in our lives and it will always have a special place.
CrypticRock.com – Right, and you had mentioned that you and the band were on the radio when radio was still a popular and successful format for promoting music. You had MTV as well.
SA Martinez – Absolutely, video too! We were fortunate in that those formats and mediums really mattered. It is just not the same anymore. Even just the video aspect did not even last that long. Radio is still a factor, but video was a huge factor, then it just went away. It came about in the ’80s, then just kind of vanished at some point in the late ’90s. It is cool that we were able to experience what those mediums were capable of. We are lucky that we have a great live show that people love to see.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, and it has worked out for the best in the long run for sure. The band has continued to explore and experiment with sound from album to album. Is that something that 311 sort of thrives on?
SA Martinez – Yes, I think that, musically, we are pretty much into everything. To explore whatever it is that we are feeling at the time, and to work it into the sound, it is a great thing. I think every record is unique in that way. There are certain characteristics to the band and our style, but this is not a one lane thing for us. We are open to all possible worlds.
CrypticRock.com – Speaking of new records, 311 did put out a new record in 2014 titled STER3OL1TH1C. It was actually the eleventh record overall. What was the writing and recording process behind the record?
SA Martinez – We had bought back a longtime associate of the band, Scott Ralston. He engineered our first record ,and pretty much worked on every record we have done in one aspect or another. I think maybe there was one or two records in the middle that he was absent on, but he had done live sound for us for a bit in the early days. Then we lost him for whatever reason, then he came back, and resumed that role. He came back into the mix and really was just coming and going through some of our older material that we were kind of just sitting on and he said, “How come you guys never finished this or that?” He started to tease out some of the things we had done and that we had just sort of forgotten about. Like any record, we have new and fresh ideas emerging all the time. STER3OL1TH1C was interesting because we were sort of going back in the vault, reexamining some things we had put aside, then obviously, we were working on new things. It was an interesting record and the mix really made that record. The mix just bought everything together and made it all make sense. It was a fun record to do.
CrypticRock.com – It came out excellent. It received very good reviews from fans and critics. Did that reunion with Scott kind of re-inspire you to go back into the vault and to finish these older songs?
SA Martinez – Yes, not for any particular reason, but a lot of times when you are making a record there is so much coming out. There is so much output happening that you cannot tackle everything with what it deserves. You have deadlines. It was not because we never felt that it was not going anywhere. It was just a matter of making the time to work on something and putting the time into something.
CrypticRock.com – Of course, completely understood. This year, 311 actually has released a box set entitled Archive in honor of the band’s twenty-fifth anniversary. This set has a lot of great material exclusive to the set. What was it like putting this set together?
SA Martinez – It was the type of the thing where we are reaching that point where it is a big milestone. To be able to be doing something for this many years, we wanted to sort of bookmark it so to speak. We wanted to encapsulate it in a way that is cool, and to give something back to the fans that they might want to hear. The hardcore fans absolutely want this type of stuff. It was just about putting it together and it making sense. We sent it off to our longtime mastering guy, Joe Gastwirt, and voilà.
CrypticRock.com – Right, like you said, these box sets are really exciting for fans because you get a bunch of really nice material all in one package. This is really all about the fans, and this is what is great about it.
SA Martinez – Totally, it is stuff that we obviously had, but as the years go on, you just accumulate stuff, and what are you going to do with it (laughs)? It is just something that bands at this point in their careers, like us, can do. The fans have been all about it.
CrypticRock.com –You are actually on a lengthy Summer tour across the USA. After all these years of the touring you have done, how do yourself and the band prepare themselves for the performance each night?
SA Martinez – Resting up is important. You just warm-up like you are doing any physical activity for over an hour. It is a big event with a 311 show, there is a lot is going on. The live show is basically what makes this band, so it is important, but in order to get ready, all of us have our own routine. For me, it is all about warming up, getting loose, and feeling good. I never have a problem doing that.
CrypticRock.com – Right, the band has been doing this so long, it probably is second nature going out there each night.
SA Martinez – Pretty much, it is what we know. At this point in time, it is who we are and it is what we do. It is like going to church, or however you want to look at it (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Understood, speaking of live shows, you will in fact be playing The Great South Bay Music Festival on Long Island in New York.
SA Martinez – Yes, we are looking forward to that one. It should be a great festival.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, they are doing a great job with it and have a great mix of bands. I had one last question for you, it actually pertains to Horror movies because, in my publication, we cover all types of music but we also cover movies, particularly Horror films. I am interested in, if you are a fan of Horror movies, are there any favorites?
SA Martinez – I am not a big movie goer, I cannot keep up with the output that is out. Obviously, I am a The Shining (1980) fan, that movie never gets old as far as Horror movies go. That is probably my number one, it does not get any better than that flick. It is such a weird genre because at some point in time, no disrespect to it, but some of it is outlandish.
CrypticRock.com – That is very understandable. The genre is not for everyone. Some of it does get a little ridiculous and, particularly, the newer Horror films seem to like to remake older films.
SA Martinez – Oh man, I am so sick of that, and not just through Horror. I do not keep up with the genre, but you do see titles remade all the time. Perfect example, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), I grew up with that movie, and then they remade it. Are you kidding me? You cannot improve on that.
CrypticRock.com – They do that a lot with a lot of different genres of films. There are some decent remakes, but they are few and far between. Like you said, the originals really cannot be improved, so why even touch it?
SA Martinez – Yes, there are so many ideas and stories that need to be told that are fresh. You have to feel for the young movie makers that just need a break. To be honest, you see it a lot, not just in movies, but in the world in general where it is just like corporations take over. At that point, it is because of a brand they are trying to resell or repackage. That is the sickening part. That is what turns me off from anything that tries to resell something.