Published on May 2nd, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
311’s Nick Hexum On The Past, Present & Future Of 311 Including Its 2019 “Sounds Of Summer” Tour
The band known as 311 was formed close to 30 years ago in 1990 in Omaha, Nebraska. Now based in Southern California, 311 continues to mix rock, rap, reggae and funk into its own unique hybrid sound. 2019 will mark 20 consecutive headlining summer tours for 311, all while having 12 full-length studio albums — over nine million albums in the U.S. alone — to its credit.
Prior to the release of its 13th album via BMG, 311 will be hitting the road for the Sounds Of Summer tour with co-headliner Dirty Heads and special guests The Interrupters, Dreamers and Bikini Trill. The tour kicks off in Dayton, Ohio on July 2nd and is scheduled to run through August 20th. As part of Live Nation’s National Concert Week, $20 tickets for the Sounds Of Summer tour — and thousands of other Live Nation-produced shows — are available for select shows from today through May 7th.
I had the pleasure of interviewing 311 singer and guitarist Nick Hexum by phone on April 30th and highlights from our chat are below. The rest of this interview will be broadcast as part of a future edition of the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast. In the meantime, more on 311 — which also includes vocalist Doug “SA” Martinez, bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills, guitarist Tim Mahoney and drummer Chad Sexton — can be found online on its official website via www.311.com.
It’s been very interesting to me when a band transitions from being a huge club band to becoming an amphitheater kind of act. 311 has been an amphitheater act for 15 to 20 years now. But what exactly was the jumping-off point for being a band that has a couple of hits in the clubs to playing arenas and amphitheater?
Nick Hexum: We kind of have gone back and forth. I suppose it was around Transistor, our ’97 tour where we had just had such a big smash with the song “Down” and then we followed it up with the album Transistor and then we took Incubus and Sugar Ray out on an on amphitheater tour. Sometimes we decide to just scale back, like we did the clubs with the Soundsystem tour, which even though we could have been playing amphitheaters we decided to play clubs just to get back to that insane feeling.
Since then we’ve just kind of gone in and out of it. A couple of summers ago we did more of a theater tour even though it was summer… But for me it’s the more, the merrier. Every extra heartbeat there you can kind of feel. So I love having bigger crowds, keeping the ticket prices low just to have more energy, more people there .
As somebody that’s been following you since the mid-90s, one of the more interesting things to me about 311 beyond your transition to amphitheaters is is how you guys were among the first to do a lot of things beyond melding genres. I would say you were one of the first bands to have a beer like what you did with Amber Ale and you’re one of the first bands to have a cruise. I’m wondering how much of that is organic versus how much of that is saying, “We want to be the first band to do X. Y and Z.”
Nick Hexum: I would say it’s more just organic excitement for different things. Like for me, to have our own cannabis line of products, that’s been something that five years ago when e-cigarettes first started coming out. I was like, “Whoever gets this right, it’s just such a better way you should use cannabis today”… There’s just different passion projects, and then 311 Day of course would not only be one of the first but also the only band to kind of have a convention.
To have 311 Day, that just happened because our name happened to be that date and then we had a show booked in New Orleans and we said, “Let’s call it 311 day because it’s on March 11th and then we’ll see we’ll play three hours of eleven minutes.” Then after that we just had to keep topping ourselves over and over again to make it bigger and some way more songs, more nights, whatever it was. And so it really it just came from you know rock & roll fantasy, our rock & roll dreams.
You just made a good point about having a very unique name, and I remember when you were on David Letterman 20-ish years ago and the announcer called you “three-one-one.” I’m curious when that kind of stopped when people realized your name.
Nick Hexum: I guess it did take people to get used to… I remember the time poor Ed McMahon, when he was really old and he was on the Carson Daly Show with us the same night. And he goes out and introduced us and he says, “Ladies and gentlemen, 3LW.” He got confused with the R&B group called Three Little Women… in front of the whole crowd and everyone just booed. I felt so bad for all that, man… He was like, “Well I’ve had the pleasure of introducing 3LW before and I just got a little confused. Please bear with me.”
That’s definitely a memorable experience there but I’m sure that was painful at the time.
Nick Hexum: It was. It was packed with our fans so they all just had a good laugh from it… We weren’t the first band to use a numeric name, but we were kind of early on that. There were other bands like right before us like 24/7 Spyz and 3rd Bass. And then it seems like there was kind of a bunch after that — it’s a bit of a “90s thing” to have numbers.
So in closing, any last words for the kids?
Nick Hexum: We’re just so grateful to have the support of our rock & roll dreams as we get close to our 30th year. I’m just so thankful to our fans for helping us do something that we would be doing as a hobby as a career. So thank you to all of them.