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Photo: 311, 2014: (from left) P-Nut, Chad Sexton, Nick Hexum, Tim Mahoney, SA Martinez.
The echo and reverb guitar sounds on 311 records have always reminded me of the way the guitars sounded on Clash records when they dabbled in reggae and dub. Did you listen to those records a lot?
“Oh, yeah. Thanks! You know, for our sounds, it comes from a variety of sources. I’m more on the digital tip – I’ve got a master of plugins and a lot of audio software that I really love. When you hear my guitar tone, it’s probably a digital re-creation of cool analogue gear. Tim is more of a purist. He doesn’t let any digital stuff touch his sound. He’s got every effect pedal in the world and three different amps going at different times, and he combines those sounds. I think it’s a nice blend to have one vintage guy and one modern guy. You can tell Tim and me apart – I tend to be on the right channel, and he’s more likely to be on the left.”
Friday Afternoon is a short little epic. It’s trippy and dreamy, and then, when you least expect it, it goes into a blast of Iron Maiden-like dual-guitar soloing. I heard that you were inspired by the structure of The Beatles’ Happiness Is A Warm Gun for this song.
“Yeah, I was. With Happiness Is A Warm Gun, I realized that you can make left turns work. The first song I wrote that had that quality was Sometimes Jacks Rule The Realm; I think there’s been one on every album that we call an epic. It’s cool to have all those changes and have them work.
“There’s the really heavy part in Friday Afternoon – it gets slow and there's a reggae off beat to it – and it goes into a Bach quote for about 20 seconds. I checked with my lawyer, and he said that it was OK to quote people who are in the public domain. Going from a Bach-inspired part to a section that has been described as Iron Maiden-like, that’s what gets me going. That’s a cool bit of weirdness.”
Speaking of dreamy, there’s a real wistful quality to the vocals in Tranquility. I hear a Beach Boys influence there.
“Absolutely. The Beach Boys were huge for me. My dad and I used to go camping in the summer, and we’d take a few Beach Boys cassettes with us. We’d play them over and over again and sing along. Brian Wilson’s writing and his harmonies have always been an influence. But I think that song also has a philosophical and spiritual influence that comes from U2. It doesn’t sound like U2, but it has a similar kind of lyrical weight. Like I said, we mix it all up.”