After a combined 40+ years together (311, 24 years; Ozomatli, 19 years) but decidedly different career paths, both bands find themselves at the same crossroads. Both have gone the PledgeMusic route to reach out to their fans for pre-orders of their new records. (311 is using INgrooves for distribution and Ozomatli is using Vanguard Records.) Both bands are releasing albums on March 11th.
I spent over an hour on the phone with the bass players from both bands, P-Nut and Wil-Dog, but easily could have spent four more. I barely scratched the surface on about 25% of my questions. But of the questions I did ask, their answers were candid, refreshing and honest. I thought it would interesting to have two guys who mutually respect each other, interact about the struggles and joys they’ve faced over the years.
We discuss the new records Stereolithic and Place In The Sun, the songwriting process, death of the record label, family music, and what they keeps them entertained when not making music with the bands they’ve been in for two decades.
You had some good years on a major label, but you’ve been able to watch the death of the record label first-hand.
P-Nut: Yes, and they’ve been dead for a long time. I think it does work for some bands who can still garner the attention of the bigwigs and really make money. As independent artists, we can just do what we want to do and we can be the promotion department. We can be the marketing. We can hire our own bookkeepers and all that. It doesn’t have to revolve around a label, especially if you have your own place to record. So, yeah, I think it’s all dead. I think it’s all changing and it’s an exciting place to be.
Oddly enough, the majority of our sales still is physical, it’s probably between 50% and 70% are still physical sales. So people want to hold the disc. They want to have it. And then vinyl is growing and we just got our shipment of vinyl, which we’re excited about. And it’s just cool. There’s something about it. Like the digital, the immediacy is a wonderful thing, and to have all your music with you at one time is great, while you’re driving. But are people still wanting the discs, and they want the art, and they want to read the lyrics. It’s cool. I can’t explain it.
Doing the PledgeMusic route now is not as difficult as it would have been ten years ago, certainly, when I started clamoring for us to be 100% independent, or as independent as you can with a distribution deal, and all that jazz. You do need to have like a tiny bit of infrastructure to support, which is already a pretty big fan base for us. And that’s the whole point. I feel like we have 100,000 people that would cross a train track for us with the crossing arm down. (laughs) So if we give them the music that they want to hear, and they tell their friends about it, that’s really my biggest point.
And as far as the whole album and picking a single, and then marketing and promotion, I can fucking do that. I got a camera. I did all the behind-the-scenes stuff for the teasers. I’m the guy in the room and I can make them as comfortable as anybody. So if I’ve got a camera rolling, I’m going to get great stuff, especially when we are writing, and rehearsing, and just kind of getting our heads wrapped around what this album was going to be. I was lucky enough to capture some of the moments, even while I was in the room with the guys that we can share now. And especially to people who are pre-ordering it, they can see all that stuff, what it took. And it’s just fun to get it out there.
Wil-Dog: Yeah, you know what? That’s really interesting that this PledgeMusic thing is going so well because we tried it on the last record and it didn’t do well at all. So, we didn’t think our fans were into it. But, we still work well within a partnership with another company, or just outside voices I guess. Maybe it’s because we’re such a diverse group of individuals, which we kind of need help with people telling us which way to go, because we’re often kind of like running away from the circle. Everybody in the band with like terms of just ideologically and just with ideas.
Up till now, we’ve worked really well with a smaller label like Vanguard or Concord. In the past it would have a large catalog of older artists that maybe are even dead, but we were kind of the priority of their new stuff coming out. It’s worked but it’s basically a one-off deal. It’s not one of those deals that we signed when we first got together. It’s just a different situation. But it’s awesome that 311 is doing the independent thing, and that’s definitely the direction we’re going into. We just don’t have the infrastructure to handle that at the moment.
P: Yeah, and at the same time, in my cynicism, I’m really thankful for Capricorn way back in ’92 giving us a contract that was for seven albums. It was kind of a commitment at the same time. And what they said to us is, You’re going to go out on the road. If it happens on radio, great, but other than that, you’re going to be a live band. And that’s what we want for you, and that’s all we really wanted.”
Because to be played on the radio in ’92 as a band from Nebraska doing what we thought and still think, is an eclectic mix of sounds, and influences, and played by musicians who take their craft at least somewhat seriously, not coming from the “Hey, I picked up an instrument, so I could meet girls” kind of thing, I picked up an instrument because I had something to say that my words weren’t up to at that point when I was eleven, or even when I started on violin when I was seven. It just allowed me to have more language outside of using my stupid mouth.
And it’s worked really well, and it gave me confidence. But in ’92 that was such a lofty goal, there was such a Seattle thing going on and we were kind of butting up against that attitude. We felt that was unnecessarily depressing and heroin-sounding. And as Midwestern, middle class, that wanted to play fast, and loud, and soft, and quiet, and everywhere in between, we just didn’t relate to it. So, to be played on the radio a couple of years later and in vast copious amounts was a big surprise. We’ve just kind of been riding that wave ever since.
It’s mentioned in the press release that you had more of a say in the writing process on Stereolithic. How has the writing process evolved and what it might have used to look like on previous albums and how that changed with this album.
P-Nut: Well, I’m such a word nerd, I love doing interviews. Hence our present moment. And it’s always been like that. I’ve always liked talking about the band, and it’s just interesting to me. Like it can be a drag. So it works for some people and it doesn’t work for other people and I love it. And I don’t know if that added to me getting into the room with the lyricists when we were writing songs, but on Universal Pulse, I helped out on a chorus or two and a couple of verses, and just kind of simple things just on two songs.
And the same is the case on Stereolithic. I feel like I’m more like the pinch hitter. Nick [Hexum] will set it up. It’s funny, as open as he’s become, he’s still really, really got a very focused vision on what it’s going to be, and it’s still way more open-minded than he used to, like I said. He’ll go (hums a melody) and then we work…and we work it out together, and we give him what he wants. I really like assisting Nick. And before he would do it, him and SA [Doug Martinez] would of course do it all on their own, and whoever the producer was would work it all out with them and try and make it classic, and timeless, and all these things.
But it’s also got to be inspired, and it’s got to be in the moment, and it can have the life fucking squeezed out of it, which I think happens a lot in our writing process. Like, “Oh, is it cool? Is it cool enough?” Like, “Oh, is it too cool? Should we dumb it down? So like I don’t know. Do you like it? Like just answer that. Like answer the one-to-one perspective. Are…are you happy with it? Then stop thinking about how other people are going to feel about it.” And I think me and Scotch being in the lyric writing, and philosophy, throwing around the studio with SA and Nick, also at the top of their game, help them and just to kind of see even a little bit more.
To add Scotch’s perspective. I mean he’s our sound guy. He produced Transistor. He’s been out with us the last couple of years now and then before that back in the days for years and years, and has had a touch on almost every album. But on Stereolithic, he helped us with the cover concept and he came up with the title, and he wrote a ton of lyrics, and melodies and riffs. And it’s amazing. It’s way more Scotch’s influence on this album than mine. It’s great, because it adds like a little snarky kind of darkness to it that maybe going through the filter before wouldn’t have made it through. And with me and Scotch in the room, we’re like, “Oh, that’s so cool.” And let’s leave it like that and Nick will live with it, and it stays. And I think it just adds to the depth. There’s just more perspective on the album. And Scotch, I don’t know what he’s eating or inspired by, but he’s on a tear. He’s on like a creative explosion that I’ve only seen a few times in my life, and it’s really fun to share it with him.
Let’s take a look at a song like “Simple True” which is one of the funkier tracks on the new record. Is that a riff you had been playing with for awhile and how did that evolve, and how were you able to say, “No, this song must start with the funky bass and keep it that way?”
P: (laughs) It came about while I was upstairs in my very simple studio just playing. And I was recording what I was doing, but I wasn’t really thinking about it. I was kind of trying to do what I don’t always do (laughs), which is like a funny head space to get into. And sometimes it works, and most of the time it doesn’t. And when it does, it’s great. And when it doesn’t, it’s great, because it just gets you that step closer to it. I’m not going to beat myself up for not being totally inspired all the time. (laughs) I just love playing. And sometimes when you do something different that you catch yourself, doing a pattern interrupt, you will write something that you would never do on any other different day. And if you can record it like you can nowadays, you can turn it into a song and that’s exactly what happened.
So I figured it out after I played it and I screwed it up. I made the phrase a little bit too long, and I tried to do it again in the moment, realized that I had gotten what I wanted, and chopped it up and made it in a loop, and then re-learned it after I played it kind of extemporaneously. And it’s so fun to write like that, to really use the digital music format to be your writing pad. And it kind of can affect time, and it’s just so immediate. It’s fascinating.
So, it turned into a demo that I called ‘Attempted Funk’, and the drums and everything at the beginning of the track where you’re hearing Chad [Sexton] saying “I need to hear something, man, I need to hear something”, is my demo that’s actually on the album, which I really think is cool. It was hopelessly going to be low-fi sounding in the beginning with Chad over it, and then Nick kind of pops through with his little part, and then the song kicks in and it’s just…I don’t know. It’s just fun. It’s just easy. It’s easy to do stuff like that.
And the first line, it makes me think of a moment in our career when No Doubt was opening up for us and we were in Detroit and I was just so out of my head. I’d stayed up all night with our bus driver and we got to Detroit in the afternoon. There were suits everywhere and we started drinking, and the time soundcheck had happened, I was literally under the bus on the pavement. It’s like that first line makes me think of that experience. I don’t know if that’s exactly it, but that’s what it makes me think of, and it’s just funny to kind of live through, not mistakes necessarily but certainly stupid actions and turn it into something fun.
Now, Scotch Ralston went back and dug up some old demos, and those tracks ended up on Stereolitihic. How has that experience kind of going back to something you might have recorded 15 years ago?
P-Nut: It’s just kind of a testament to how good our demos are. Our demos can be better than the end product, and can lose their life when going through the filter. So, it’s good to go back and listen to stuff that is inspired and capable of having like a 2.0. Because we’ll try and make it work. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll just scrap it and move onto the things that we feel have more momentum. But Scotch is good about showing us that, “Hey, there’s this lying around, and what if you put this melody over it?”
The cool thing about “Ebb and Flow” as the “Go” demo is that it was covered by a band called Ontologics, who did their own version of it and it kills. I played it for Scotch before we started writing the lyrics and the melody to set the bar. I was like, “Listen to what these guys did. Like they turned this song into like a science fiction masterpiece. And if we can’t beat that, I think we should just do a cover of their song.”
And it’s just so cool to hear what other people will do with our ideas, like Chad’s ideas, because that’s all him on “Ebb & Flow” music-wise. So Scotch went to the lab came back with what you hear essentially, melodically. And then probably more than a quarter of the lyrics. So, it’s just great. I’m so happy that we got a chance to work with Scotch again, to rip him away from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as he was their live touring guy for a couple of years.
And we mesh so well together, him being from the Midwest and being on the scene as long as we have. And just, not like he’s looking for a break. It’s just something…something just happens where…he’s going to be a dad pretty soon, and I know that that makes creativity explode. At least it felt like it did with me. And I felt that in Nick and SA, and Tim as well, as they’ve all become dads. It’s…that’s what’s cool about sticking around as long possible. You can hear it in the album. We’re inspired, and we ain’t taking no shit.
You mentioned ‘Simple True’ and how it was an easy & fun song to write. Is there a song on the album that was tough to write?
P-Nut: No more than usual, though. It’s just kind of you’ve got to find yourself in a position where you’ve got to perform and you’re either kind of stuck in the mud with the right tools or you have to improvise. And a lot of times, I don’t like to play the songs too much before we record them. Because invariably there’s going to be some change, or I’m going to remember something wrong that I’m going to have to shift and I don’t want to have it like concrete in my head, and not be able to adapt to what you really need to do when the red light is blinking. So, I don’t know.
What I had to do that was hard for me was getting the sound that I wanted in the mix. Chad and Scotch did all the mixing and I’m happy with all my bass sounds on every album. I’m present. I’m there. You can hear my kind of finger attack in the low end of all this. But you’re going to hear me a lot, lot more on Stereolithic because of the way that we queued the bass. You can hear it on ‘Five of Everything’ that I got that kind of twangy, electrical buzzy kind of snappy sound out of my higher strings. And I think it makes the song sound better. I think it makes the song sound way better.
And just them allowing me to be determined to just make it sound a little bit different, and improve it as kind of an experiment. Because what I hear when we’re recording, like how loud I have the bass compared to everything else, I think the band would sound better. I got to add that little touch and it was a little bit of a struggle to convince everybody that it will sound better with more clarity on the bass. It’s not just bass. It’s a bass guitar. It should have some sparkle to it.
For some artists, the only place to make decent money any more is the live. Does that mean more time on the road?
P: I think we’re going to be ending up doing more, just as I know the belt is kind of tightened all around the industry. There are so many festivals and those are so lucrative, you can plan little short tours around those shows and do well, and then you don’t have to have a heavy duty crew. You can skeleton crew it and you can do great. You can hit all kinds of people, and you can build up an audience from that.
And that’s kind of where it’s at unless you’re top priority, and that’s OK. Sometimes you don’t want to know. All that influence can push you around the smaller shows and the smaller tours. You’re going to be connecting with the most hardcore of your fans along with some casual people that those people dragged to the show. And that’s how you build an audience. Even if you’re maintaining, even if both bands have kind of plateaued but are still grasping for new musical truths, and finding them, there’s something in the air. Bands are making great albums, and so are younger kids. I think it’s finally time to take the damn music back (laughs) or something like that. Like I don’t know. It just feels more alive than it has in the past ten years for me right now in the scene.
W: Yeah. And I feel that way, too. Absolutely. I know that there is a couple of years that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue even doing music for a living. I mean I will always play music, but I kind of found myself not having as much fun.
P: Right. The job part of it.
W: At that point, it was a 17-year marriage with my band. It just seemed like there was other things out there that I might want to do in my life instead of be with these guys. (laughs)
P: Over, and over, and over, and over.
W: Yeah, and kind of talking about the same shit. And I don’t know if it’s the same for you guys, but…we became men in the band. And some of the relationships, the way they were, when we were in high school or whatever, still play out.
P: Of course.
W: There’s still a similar dynamic with different guys. But you know what, it takes work to change those habits, and it takes work to be in a relationship. So for me, I think every person in my band went through this at some time. And I think although Ozomatli is my baby, and I started it, I think that it took me longer, because I always thought I was going to always do this.
P: Right, right.
W: So I think some of the other guys are much further along than I am in this process. I think they’ve all done this and now I’m here and it’s like I’ve never thought about leaving the band before. It just feels good to be past that now where I’m like OK. I think I did just need some time off. This is the first time in like 19 years that we basically had four gigs in four months
W: And…and I’ve enjoyed it so much, and now I have the energy to continue. It’s changed.
P: Yeah, and we haven’t played a show since like August, and I’m dying.
You have to survive financially via the live show now
P: That’s always been the case. The record sales even in our copious amounts still paled in comparison to the shows. It’s always been about the shows. And me, as an up-and-coming writer in the band, and not one with the heavy duty publishing income, that it’s always been the shows, especially for me. But as I write more, I can expect to see little kind of supplementary income from publishing. But I never really expect much out of that. That’s more like books for a semester of college. I don’t sweat it that much. I’m more into hustling at shows and making sure that our core is excited, and they know when we have a new album coming out.
That’s been kind of a weird thing with even being on a label. I haven’t trusted labels since the ‘90s, because every time we sat down with them, it was always the same thing. It’s like we know exactly what to do. We know this band. They’re saying, “We can get you back to selling 40,000 albums a week.” It’s like, that sounds great. Here, take a chunk of our hard work, which is almost all shows, and then it just kind of just sits around and turns into us making money for other people. Now, we’re the owner of what we’ve done for this amount of time, and taken it to our audience who seem really excited about it.
Wil-Dog: I mean for us it’s, I don’t think we’ve caught up on Twitter or even on Facebook. Because we are the band right before all that stuff. So, and I think even our fans, as they’re getting older, they’re kind of catching up on social media. I feel that we need help getting the message out. I don’t think that we hold the message at this point for our own career, unfortunately. We need you to know from other people’s help, because not all of our fans even follow us on Twitter at this point, or on Facebook. Like other than like our super core fans.
I think we have – since the band has gone through so many members changes in terms of even front people — we’ve gone through four emcees and we’ve got a string of DJs while trying to catch up to Cut Chemist started the band with, who you can’t replace a…a musician like him on turntables, because DJs don’t play the instrument the same way as a musician that plays other instruments do like Cut Chemist did. So, we were always trying to replace these guys that started the band with us that we were never able to replace. We ended up going from a ten-piece to a seven piece band, and now we have all original members other than our drummer.
And so we just never stopped trying to replace that energy and just keep it with just who we are now as a band. And so in some ways we haven’t necessarily completely recovered. I think we recovered, but all those fans that we made in the first six, seven years of our life, a lot of them left and went onto other things, because of all of the member changes we had. Because then after 2na, we had Jabu, who did a really great job for us, and he was on two albums with us. And then a lot of people fell in love with him. I don’t think it’s…I mean that’s so long ago, that those people are like grandparents now. Some just got tired of us not figuring out what we were going to do. It’s only been like the last ten years that we’ve had a solid crew, and that we’ve kind of been on top of our game a little bit more.
Wil-Dog has been be difficult working with different drummers along the way?
W: Yeah. Well, we did. Mario was with us for ten years, and we had we played together prior and we just had a great relationship and we still do, and play very well together. So, yeah, I’m missing him right now. It’s tough having a new cat. And I don’t know how you are, P-nut, but I think most bass players are pretty hard on drummers.
P: Or the other way around.
W: Or the other…and the other way around. Yeah.
P: (laughs) Yeah, Chad comes from such a disciplined school of drum core, and then he’s such a rock maniac full of passion, that’s great. It’s volatile. We can get along. We can be some of the best of friends in our five-man group, and then also we can be like the loudest at each other, and most disagreeing, because he can be kind of inflexible, and I can be…I can be kind of strange. So, it’s with his discipline and my kind of spontaneity clash, is kind of tough. But we write. We write great stuff together. His kind of aggressive shuffle, lock funk just falls right in line with how and why I want to keep making music until I’m old and gray, and in the 4th dimension.
W: Yeah, I love his drumming.
P: Yeah, I met him when I was 15.
W: He kind of pioneered the style.
P: Yeah, definitely. You can hear his influence here and there for sure. And he’s just coming up with better and better stuff. And as a writer, even the riff that he comes up with has really shaped the band and…the bread and butter might be what Nick comes up with, and it’s accessible to more people, but Chad’s rock is why we have such a good core of fans. So, it’s kind of fun to write with both of those guys. And the older they get, the more open-minded they get. So, I get to spread my kind of ideas around more and more.
W: Oh, good.
How about you Wil-Dog?
W: Nah, I mean Mario, even though he was out of the group, he still played on the record, and we’ll probably use him for every record from now on. He has two kids and doesn’t want to be out on the road and he just got tired of being a side guy for ten years. And in a relationship that’s 20 years old that he probably would never really get a stake in, unfortunately. But so, no, but the songs, to answer your question, the song was between us and Robert Carranza, the guy that we worked with since we started who co-produced an album and engineered it with us, we just kind of decided on which songs we would have drums or not. Because basically all the songs were written with a drummer.
“Tus Ojos” from the new album has a strong, driving beat to it, but coming from a drum machine, or beat.
W: It’s actually just placing beats on ProTools and moving them around till they feel right.
P: It’s so funny how digital music is like an art like that. You can puzzle piece, and shape, and make it sound like something.
W: Yeah, and I think because of our hip-hop influence growing up, that we don’t mind the loop mentality.
P: Well, that stigma has long gone, if you ask me. It’s just another tool. And if you use, you can still make fantastic art. In fact, it’s one of the newest tools to use and it’s so creative, and immediate, that the game has been raised because of the accessibility of digital manipulation in music. It’s a beautiful thing.
W: You know what? There is a live drummer in that. So, it’s kind of like the melding of two worlds. It’s on pretty much all of our stuff.
Explain where your El Gavachillo project came from
W: I had a girlfriend in high school from Michoacán. I used to hate banda music. I think in Nebraska now they’re playing banda music, P-Nut.
P: We just caught up. (laughs)
W: You know, we played the Ranch Bowl once and everyone was talking about you.
P: First place I saw a show. I saw the Chili Peppers in ’88 at the Ranch Bowl. It was John Frusciante’s first tour, and it was incredible.
W: Wow. So that’s when he was like 19, huh?
P: He was a teenager, yeah. He was a teenager and he dropped his pants at one point during the show. (laughs) I guess a girl was asking. He was just being polite.
P: How was that show? Was it fun? Was the audience good?
W: Oh, awesome and they were giving away three dollar pitchers of beer. It was great. And it’s just afterwards everyone is, “Our hometown heroes are 311.”
P: But they turned the Ranch Bowl into a Walmart.
W: Oh, no!
P: A slap in the cajones. It’s bad.
W: Oh, that place was awesome.
P: Yeah, it was a bowling alley. It was a gig. And it had a volleyball court in the sand, and it was great. It was daytime, nighttime, multimedia. It should have worked. I don’t see why it’s not continuing.
Walmart is the devil. But back to El Gavachillo……
W: Well, I had this girlfriend in high school that was really into banda music. And she used to take me to see banda music. The first time I saw it live, I was just like “holy shit, this is fucking awesome.” And just the amount of power that a 17-piece band, tuba, three trumpets, three clarinets, three valve trombones….I don’t even know. It’s two alto horns. Congas, bass drums, and I was just really enamored. So I got really into the music after that. Started collecting the albums and CDs from the bands and got really into the music. And a few years later I got a tuba and I started playing tuba. This was like 20 years ago I started. And I got a tuba, started taking lessons on tuba, and I realized really quickly how hard tuba was for me, and how it wasn’t going to be easy as I thought being a bass player, that I understood what to do, but not how to do it. And just…
P: (laughs) Yeah, it’s technique, right?
W: Yeah, it’s just a lot of brass and it’s just a different. Even though I could play the lines on bass, it was just such a different thing. So that kind of sat under the garage for awhile, and then I had an idea to hire a banda band to back us up on our last song, which was a ranchera, which is already a song that they could do, and it would be easy for them to learn. And so we Banda La Juvenil, and they came in to the rehearsal. At the rehearsals I started calling out different songs, I guess banda standards, and I was singing them just for fun in rehearsal. And these guys tripped out, because they knew all these tunes that they play.
And so we did the Hollywood Bowl. We had an after party and the band shows up and they were like we want to play at this…it’s like a little club. It’s called the Virgil now. I guess it was Little Temple Bar then. And they were like, “But you have to sing.” Those are your fans, so you have to sing. So I was like, “Fuck it.” So I just sang and then after that people started inviting me when they would play at a wedding just to show me off. Like, “Look at this white guy that sings our music” kind of thing.
W: And I would just go sing with them, and then more and more people started asking for me to play at quinceaneras and stuff to sing. And so I started doing it, and I was like, “God, should I?” And then friends of mine who were like producers on Spanish TV shows, wanted me to be on their TV stations to do interviews about. And I was like no, no, no. I’m not really doing this. I was like it’s just a kind of a joke. And then I just started thinking about it, and how much enjoyment I got out of it, so I was just like, “I’m going to really do this.” I’m going to start over and I’m going to pay my dues. I realized that my success in Ozomatli really meant nothing in the real scene of original Mexican music. It doesn’t. It’s a completely different animal and completely different people. Even though you might see a lot of Latinos at a Ozomatli show, those Latinos don’t listen to this music. We’re more Americanized and that music is much more Mexican. So I changed my name to El Gavachillo, which means little white guy.
W: Well, a gavacho is a derogatory word for a white person in Mexico. And illo kind of puts an endearing spin on it, it kind of makes it more loveable. So, it’s kind an in between of derogatory and loving.
W: Yeah. And so I just started doing it, and I went to mariachi voice lessons. I started taking Spanish lessons, and I just started paying my dues, and recording a lot, and just meeting as many of the musicians in L.A. as I could that are here doing it. And it’s interesting how it’s paying off now. I’m actually a host for an international TV show that’s starting March 4. It’s a video show in Spanish and it’s going to be seen in Mexico, Central America and Colombia on a really big station. And I got a deal in Mexico to sing. So it’s kind of opened this whole new thing for my life that I’m learning so much from, and I never, never in a million years would I ever know the people that I’ve gotten to meet prior to doing this, and just learning about a different culture that I thought I knew, because I grew up here in L.A. that I realized I knew just almost nothing about. And just how it is for a person like me, an outsider, which that music has absolutely no outsiders. It’s…you’re a Northern Mexican if you do anything with that music. If you’re a publicist, if you’re anything. It’s just navigating within that world as an outsider, it’s special. And I love it. I love it.
P: That’s kickass. Congratulations.
W: Thanks. Thank you.
So how do you find time to balance that with Ozomatli, OzoKids?
W: You would think that Ozomatli is super busy. We’re not that busy. And right now. It’s just like anybody. You just balance for…for what you want to do. The OzoKids album, we dropped that two years ago on the same label as They Might Be Giants.
W: But it didn’t fly like we thought it was going to do. It wasn’t a big hit, and we’re not sure why. Maybe the priority there at that label is They Might Be Giants. So, we’re not sure why it didn’t go over. But we still do those shows, but those are usually a matinee show attached to an Ozomatli night show on the same day. We wouldn’t necessarily go out on a tour with Ozo Kids at the moment.
P: When we were out with Ziggy Marley, he was doing the same thing. He was gigging with us at night but at ten in the morning, they were all getting geared up to go anywhere to play in front of kids, and it was so cool. And they’d come back so happy, and musicians are all oiled up, and just might as well. It’s like the opposite of the Prince thing. Prince always plays after the show at some dinky place. Burns the place down.
P: But whatever way you can play more, and be yourself more, and learn more about yourself, as you grow, and get older, and have more opportunities, it’s so badass. And when I saw They Might Be Giants, it did the same thing. I saw the kid’s show at Royce Hall, which killed and they were like…”Ok, we’ll come back at seven. We’re going to do it again and it’s going to be louder.” And it’s like oh, man, “I can’t do it.” But it was great. I love the kids’ music scene right now. It’s sick with Dan Zanes, and Elizabeth Mitchell and what They Might Be Giants are doing, and the Ozo album. I mean my son is such a music junkie, that if it’s good, he’s going to like it. We don’t even have to push it on him. He’s like, “This is awesome.” He just chews it up. He’s great.
311 did a cover of “Reggae got Soul” for the Surf’s Up Soundtrack, when is the 311 family record coming out?
P: Shia LaBeouf fucked that whole thing up. I blame Shia. Sorry, had to get that out.
W: Wait, what happened?
P: Shia LaBeouf was like the voice of the main character in Surf’s Up and I blame him, because everyone is blaming him. It’s just soup du jour. (laughs) I think four out of five of us have kids, and three out of five of us have multiple kids. So, it’s a matter of time. And that’s how I feel. And I think we’d make a really fun kid’s album. As I think…it’s just…it’s like backburner…double…double back, but we have our studio, and we have time, and Nick has a side project, SA has a side project. I recorded with another band in 2008 called Hollows Follow and produced that album, lower case p produced this album. And there’s…there’s time to do stuff like that, and there’s definitely passion, and it’s just a great thing to do. Kids and parents deserve kickass music to listen to while they’re driving around our metropolitan wasteland. (laughs)
Speaking of driving around our metropolitan wasteland, you are a bit of a Tesla Motors junkie.
P: I am. I’m kind of weird about it. It’s gotten that way. I was kind of car junkie, my grandfather was a car junkie and my dad is a car junkie. I would feel like I was kind of born into it. And luckily I found music as an esoteric way to make money outside of my other kind of strange passions, which there’s no way to make money on. I always thought it would be cool to be like a test driver for new automobiles, but eventually that probably would have bored me to death. Then Tesla came around and this is the perfect combination of technology and automotive badassness that billion dollar companies that have been around for 100 years couldn’t put that mousetrap together, and they weren’t even trying. They were avoiding it at all costs. So it takes some entrepreneur from South Africa to come together, get his resources together and really seriously, I feel like it’s going to change the world.
W: Yeah. Do you have one?
P: Yeah. I had a roadster. I sold that. I bought an S for the family. I got a signature series. And I was driving that family S so much that I sold the truck and the roadster to buy another S. So, we’ve got…we’ve got two S’s right now. I’m not buying another car for like ten years. And that will be OK, because it’s going to last and it’s like the safest thing on the road. I love them, and I don’t want my wife driving around in anything not as safe as something that I want to be in. So, two of the same car. It’s a little boring, but two is alright.
W: It doesn’t matter.
P: Yeah it’s just to look in the garage and see something different. Like when I had the roadster here, it’s just so cool to look at because it was just like a knife, like an automotive carbon fiber knife. And I really enjoyed it, but having a second kid, there’s just no time for it. And I’m 6’4 and there was no room for me, and I got 30,000 miles out of it and it was super fun. And early on in Tesla, they would do road rallies. So we would go through Topanga Canyon, and Stunt Road and stuff like that and Mulholland Highway and just tear those canyons up. And that was some of the most fun I’ve had in my life. And we also did a gathering at Laguna Seka up in Monterey. And that was probably was the funnest thing I’ve ever done outside of the unspoken and being onstage. It’s sweating from driving so fast, and going around corners, is just…it’s an adrenaline rush like I’ve never really wanted to do because I was never into roller coasters and stuff like that. I like being on the ground.
How about you Wil-Dog? What do you do in your free time?
W: Well, you know what? I enjoy hiking. I love to hike. I love playing basketball. I’m always fearful of jamming my fingers.
P: Oh, yeah.
W: And when it happens and I have to go out on the stage and play…I don’t play that many notes as it is. So I can do it with one finger. I can play bass with one finger, because my band is so busy, bass isn’t really allowed to be that busy.
Since you’re both basketball junkies – Who wins a 1-on-1 game between you two?
W: Oh, P-Nut you’d kill me.
P: How’s that? I’m the assist master. I tend not to be that aggressive. I’m just having fun.
W: Well, I’m the guy that tries to be the best guy on the floor that’s not. So…
P: Turnover, turnover, turnover. No, I don’t think….who knows? We’ll have to find out. We’ll do a pay-per-view.
W: That would be awesome. We’ll make like fifty cents.
P-Nut: How did you guys start the Zona Rosa Coffee/Ozo Espresso relationship? Because it’s so cool to see you guys at Whole Foods.
W: Micheal Moreno had started Zona Rosa around the same time we started Ozo. So Micheal called me up wanting Ozo to play. He had a street festival out there. That was 19 years ago. And so we went and played, and then we just became really good friends. We would just hang out all the time, me and him. And then he was like, “I’m going to start doing the coffee thing” Because he…well, he has a café. So he started roasting and I was like, “You’ve got to do an espresso thing and it’s got to be Ozo coffee,” and it was like that. It was like put the Ozo logo on it. Let’s do it. And it’s just that simple.
P: That’s great. No chance to mess it up. Just go direct. Direct to the source.
Any additional questions for each other?
W: That bass solo you do in your concert. How do I do that?
P: (laughs) I don’t know. I don’t plan it out. I just make it up as I go along. Those are my favorite ones.
W: Do you have any favorites?
P: The night that Michael Jackson died, I played a solo on my ten-string at the Central Park Summerstage. Not the Simon and Garfunkel mega stage, but the little Summerstage, which is super fun. And a big honor, get the little key to the city. And something was in the air that night. I was a Michael Jackson fan more in the periphery but still really felt the vacuum when he left us. And kind of inspired on the dark side of things to play my ass off. And I had a couple of bass player friends in the audience that were like…and Chad our drummer was like, “That’s it. I think you just played your best solo.” I’m like what did I do? But we tape everything, so I have to go back and listen to it sometimes. It’s fun to be extemporaneous but sometimes you don’t know what you did. You don’t have a chance to refer back to it. And leaving it on the stage is kind of my point, but there’s probably a song or two in there that I could dig out if I start going through those tapes and stuff like that. And…
P-Nut a question for Wil-Dog?
P: When can we play a show together? It’s been…it’s been so long. We’ve been like ducking each other for forever.
W: I know. I know.
P: It’s funny. It’s almost comedy at this point that we…that we haven’t.
W: I know. It is.
P: Although, we had to have played the same festival like in the…speaking of the periphery, like kind of played a show together. But…but then again, off the top of my head, I can’t think of the specific one.
W: Well, we played your PowWow festival in Florida. We were like the second band, but I didn’t get to say hi to you. I was feeling sick.
P: That’s right. And we were talking in one way or the other on Twitter or whatnot and we didn’t run into each other. I think I might have even been hanging back at the hotel, because it was so f’ing hot. So, we did play a show together. Appreciate that. But we need to do it again. We need to get everybody on stage together. I want to see that more and more with my band and just play out a little bit more. Not necessarily play the songs. I want to stretch out as a musician with musicians who stretch out.
W: I’m down. We should do that. We should do the two-bass hit thing at Zona Rosa this summer.
P: Yeah. We just need together a couple of times before we sit down and do it (laughs), or even just once. Or…or even…
W: Just come up with grooves?
P: Well, we should get…..do you know Eric Bobo from Cypress Hill? Or someone like that, a percussionist. It would just be cool having someone holding down the meter because all the off-the-one stuff and just it makes a little bit more sense. And it would be just something fun to add to having two basses, which might not be able to grab people’s attention if there’s a little percussion going on. And you can sing, too. I like that. (laughs)
W: Well, I’ll try.
P: Well, let’s do it. I think that sounds like fun. We’ll send the video to Dan. He’ll be stoked.
W: There you go.
Damn right I would be.