Radio is getting 311's number

November 16, 1995|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

After a couple of albums and a lot of touring, most bands would be overjoyed to hear that their latest album is beginning to catch on with radio. But as far as 311 singer/guitarist Nick Hexum is concerned, radio play is a nice plus, but it's not really anything he much thinks about.

"Videos and radio and all that, that's something that's out of our hands," he says, over the phone from a tour stop in Asbury Park, N.J. "So we just focus on putting on a really good live show, because radio and video isn't where the roots of music are.

"What we're doing is a continuum of the most basic form of communication, going all the way back to, like, an African drum circle, where a few people banged on drums and the other people danced. That is what has been going on for thousands and thousands of years, and we're just one tiny piece of the time line.

"That's what music really is about," he says. "The fact that we're connecting to people through radio and stuff is cool, but that's not really what we're about. We're about the immediacy of the live show."

That's one of the reasons the band decided to call its current album "311." As Hexum explains, "We always said, when we really feel like we've hit our stride, we're going to call the album '311.' On this new album, we recorded everything at once, to capture the live energy. We were most pleased with the album."

Even so, Hexum is somewhat surprised at the warm response "311" has received from radio programmers. "Alternative radio says that we're too rap or too funky, and R&B/rap radio says that we're too rock," he says. "It's like we're sitting right in between many formats. But it's more rewarding in the long run to be in the no man's land area, because I guess we're paving our own path in some ways."

Granted, 311 isn't entirely alone, as such bands as Rage Against the Machine, Fishbone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have trod similar stylistic turf. But Hexum doesn't think of his band as simply being a blend of rap and rock; in fact, he feels that the key elements in 311's sound are hard rock energy and melodic allure.

"I like to listen to music that's very rhythmic and very hard sometimes, but my favorite to listen to in my own time are the classic melodies," he says. "Just now I was just out in the bus listening to Joan Armatrading."

But having an interest in melody doesn't necessarily mean that he only wants to croon mellow tunes. "One of the things that has really influenced us is that our drummer, Chad [Sexton], played in drum corps, marching bands that are all about rhythms yet are so melodic," Hexum explains. "That's why dancehall reggae is one of our big ingredients, because it's both the funky rhythms of rap, but it also has a tone to it and a melody. To me, it's like the perfect little hybrid. "So we're trying to bring both of those things forward. But we're definitely known for the hard-rock side of what we do, because we go off when we play live."

Dial 311

To hear excerpts from 311's new release, "311," call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6247. For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2A.

When: Saturday, Nov. 18, 9 p.m.

Where: Hammerjacks

Tickets: $13

Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (410) 659-7625 for information.

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