Interview- How to: Industry vets 311 on the secret to musical success

interview-311311, twenty years strong.

To all aspiring musicians or hopeful up-and-comers in the music biz, Omaha natives and industry veterans 311 have some advice for you: keep working hard, and your glory day will come. Or will it?

311 came of age in the early 1990s, when the band members drove themselves to out-of-town gigs, financed their own tours, and played their hometown every night. Nearly two years of hard work paid off in a record deal, and the band recorded such classics as "Down" and "Amber" ("whoa, Amber is the color of your energy"). They worked with producers as prestigious as Bob Rock (whose clients include Metallica and Bon Jovi) with a mixture of rock, reggae, ska, and punk to diverse audiences as amphitheater headliners.

But they hit a rock recently when their 18-year relationship with label Volcano Entertainment came to an end, bringing the band, now based in L.A., to a "new phase," according to guitarist Tim Mahoney. Where does a band go when cut loose into an industry landscape that operates so differently then when it first began?

The Hook: Well, you've been around for 20 years now. Are you finally feeling fulfilled and ready to call it a day?
Tim Mahoney: I'm ready to keep it going. We're out of our record contract, and it's exciting to see what happens here. I don't know if I'll ever feel fulfilled, there's a lot of things we've gotten to do, and I don't want that to end.

The Hook: 311 started as a real grassroots creation, so how did you stay true to your music and your goals?
TM: In Omaha, we played every Monday night for a long time until we developed a following. It's always about playing live–- it's easy to get music out there and have people hear it, but as far as earning money, that's harder.

The Hook: With the number of musicians ever increasing thanks to platforms like MySpace, how do you continue to challenge yourself and remain relevant?
There are a lot of people living here in L.A., and it's very humbling to see all these great guitar players, and it reminds you that you've got to work and continue to grow to get better. All five of us are still inspired to keep the band sounding better. Finding inspiration is the key.

The Hook: If it's easier to get yourself out there today, what's the secret to success?

TM: I could go on the internet and quickly hear something new as we're on the phone. Spreading the word about your band is getting easier, but you still have to go out and play and enjoy playing a lot.

311 plays the Charlottesville Pavilion Sunday, October 24. Ballyhoo! opens. Gates open at 6pm and tickets are $35.

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I feel sorry for you RJ. The interview is because 311 is playing at the Pavilion on Sunday night. You know, local paper talking about the local scene. Stop being such a hater, you will live longer.

In other words, you had nothing good to say in the first place. I feel sorry for your mommy.

In other words, you had nothing good to say in the first place. I feel sorry for your mommy.

Whoa somebody just got out of St. Cecelia's for the Terminally Literal...

How exactly is there no argument? I gave a few reasons. In fact, in my first post, I mentioned they hadn't had a hit since the 90's. "Amber" might have been 2000 or 2001, but that's still nearly a decade. Then again, after you questioned my original post, I gave a couple more reasons that, even though you responded to, I guess don't register as a "real argument".

I really don't think it's necessary for me to go to the trouble of pulling up sales figures, or whatever it is you'd like for me to do to further explain, but my point is that 311 was a poor choice for a "How To" on "musical success". There have been a number of more successful acts to come through town in just the past year that would have been more fitting for this particular article, that's all. Hell, half of the interview is talking about them leaving their record label and how hard it is to earn money in the business. Doesn't exactly scream "success" to me.

Also, calling a song terrible because you don't like the title is a pretty horrid argument, but carry on as you will..

Why "have become more of a running joke" ? "Me & my friends don't like 'em" isn't a substantial argument.

I can't say I'm wild about ersatz reggae with 80's drum production, but the decision to write a feature is much smaller than booking a concert venue. Do you think that was a mistake too? Will they?

Ok... When was the last time 311 put out anything close to a decent record, let alone a "successful" one. It's ok, I'll wait... It's not the fact that they were featured, moreso the title of the article.

Couldn't tell you (about any 311 record) since I've never listened to one; just a tune or two of theirs on the radio. My beef, albeit a minor one, is about offering opinion as critical judgment without real argument to inform at least why you have that opinion (because regardless of critical pedigree that's all it is).

So for example, if I were going critique "Amber", I'd say "this song is awful because it has a trailer park girl's name like Amber (or Tiffany or Brittany) for a title." See that's how it's done.

Could a reggae band from omaha ever have been relevant?

Of all bands, why on earth would you interview 311 for a piece like this? These guys haven't had a hit song since the 90's, and have become more of a running joke than an actual successful band. Get real, Hook.

311's had sucessful singles since the 90's. Amber in 2000 as you mentioned. Creatures from Evolver, 2004. Don't Tread on Me hit number one on the charts in 2005/06. And Hey You going into the top 10 as well. That's sucessful enough as far as radio goes. Each album has had a single in the top 10. So back down.

That's not what makes a band sucessful in my book. 311 has toured even year since they became a band. Every summer since 1997. If they weren't sucessful there, they wouldn't have the funds to keep going. They put on a great live show or else they would have wore down a long time ago.

They didn't leave their record label. They fulfilled their contact. Again, screams sucess. If that's not enough for you, name another band who has been around 20 years, who never left the scene and still has all it's original members. Very few.

Oh, and Love Song in 2004. Creatures was 2002.