Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chats with 311

If you're from Omaha, you know about 311.

Even if you're not a fan, you probably know a lot about them. You also probably have a friend whose sister used to babysit for them. Or someone who went to Westside with Chad Sextion. Or a girlfriend whose sister dated Nick Hexum.

I'm a lifelong Omaha resident and I know my 311 - songs, history, trivia, etc. They've been one of my favorite bands for a long time. I think it's because I grew up with them. It's like mama's cooking: When it's all you consumed for so long, nothing else tastes quite as good.

I'm certainly not drinking the Kool-Aid, so to speak. I like them a lot, but I'll admit that their latest album, "Uplifter," isn't the best thing on the planet. It has producer Bob Rock's hands all over it, in good ways and bad, and I think it sometimes suffers from wanting to please a lot of people.

On the same token, I really like "Jackpot" and "Never Ending Summer," two jams that are destined to become classics in their live shows.

Anyway, I spoke to Nick Hexum (vocals, guitars) and Chad Sexton (drums) for a little while this afternoon.

They're both very down to earth, humble guys and say they owe a lot to their start in Omaha.

Hexum talked about having an "Omaha work ethic" that helped them work really hard on their band. Sexton said they used to sit at a table assembling CD packages for record labels and radio stations in an effort to get a record deal.

When they're back in town, the guys spend time with their friends and family. Sexton and Tim Mahoney find it necesarry to get some La Casa pizza (I can't blame them... it's sooooo good). Hexum likes to walk through his old neighborhood and look around.

One of my favorite parts was when Sexton talked about the smell of Omaha and the smell of Joe Voda's Drum City and how he really knows he's back.

One of his favorite places, Chu's, is gone now, though. Formerly near 64th and Center St., the place has been razed.

"I can't find a frickin place like that. I don't even think they have them in Omaha any more," he said.

My favorite part of my interview with Hexum was about 311 Day. If you don't know, the band has a huge concert every two years on March 11 (3-11, get it?). The last few have been 5 hours long, which is just a silly amount of music.

Anyway, Hexum said the first one was kind of on a lark when the band happened to be on tour in New Orleans on March 11 in 93 or 94. They charged $3.11 for admission and had a blast during the show.

"I remember that one in particular. We drank a lot of jagermesiter," he said. "Then Chad performed the encore with his pants off."

* * *

The band performs at the Mid-America Center on Nov. 14. Look for more from the interviews in the next few weeks both here and in the World-Herald.

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