INTERVIEW: 311 finds the secret sauce in three decades of ‘Music’


311, courtesy.

SACRAMENTO — In an industry where tastes can be fickle and the business unforgiving, it’s difficult to find sustained success. Yet outliers—artists who find a way to push forward despite headwinds—are out there. Add 311 to that group.

Music (30th anniversary edition)

Out now
Get the album on Amazon Music.

The rock, reggae, funk and hip-hop hybrid formed in Omaha, Neb. in the late ’80s, gigged and made music locally on its own before moving to Los Angeles in the early ’90s, where they got a record deal soon after.

“We’re all really big Bad Brains fans from way back in the day,” guitarist Tim Mahoney said recently at Sacramento’s Aftershock Festival, where 311 performed. “They’re kind of the first ones to show us you can do rock and reggae together.”

Their 1993 major label debut, Music, was immortalized with an anniversary this year.

“It’s amazing to think it’s been 30 years since that record came out,” Mahoney said. “My knees hurt just thinking about it.”

Mahoney said the band has been honoring the record in its live show, adding extra cuts into the set every night.

Well-reguarded producer Eddy Offord, known for his work with Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, oversaw the album, showing 311 things in regards to recording, tracking and preparing that’d never experience self-recording in Omaha. They still apply those learnings to this day, Mahoney said, even if the band records digitally these days.

And despite it being so long ago, sometimes it feels much more recent to the band. Mahoney said the key to the band’s longevity is pretty simple.

“We’re pretty good about getting along,” he said. “We learned early on when we moved from Nebraska to California; we lived in a little house with five of us in there. … No one’s petty little individual things get in the way. It’s a bigger picture thing. … Especially as we’ve been getting older, I just feel so thankful to be here playing music.”

The band’s fan community has also continued to grow. The demand spawned an annual 311 Day concert every March.This year the official gathering took place on a cruise ship. Next year’s returns to land for a pair of shows at Park MGM in Las Vegas.

“It’s like a convention kind of vibe,” Mahoney said. “The fans enjoy being around each other, and whether it’s the cruise or not, we see a lot of the same people coming back.”

One hallmark of the event is the deep songbook from which the band draws for its longtime fans. The deep cuts are encouraged, rather than the band’s hits.

“We can really play a lot of songs we don’t normally get to play,” Mahoney said. “It means a lot to us to get to do that  and provide an area where all the fans can get together and enjoy each other’s company.”

For 2024, 311 already has shows planned in Japan, Hawaii and Germany. The band is also expanding its extracurricular activities with its own beer, Come Original IPA. Mahoney said that was bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills’s doing.

“He’s such a beer head; he’s like a beer snob,” Mahoney said, wit a smile. “P-Nut drinks it, so it must be good.”

The band also has a new album mostly done; the songs are recorded and just need to be mixed. The band is hoping to release it early next year.

Everyone in the band writes music, so each member brings ideas to the table, the band fleshes them out and then they send them to vocalists Nick Hexum and S.A. Martinez.

Bad Brains is a musical reference point for some of the new material, said Mahoney, who pointed to a mixture of clean tone reggae and high-gain heavy metal for his own guitar work. There are even infusions of jazz and some slight old-school country along the way, he said.

“I love all sorts of music, and that kind of informs where I’m coming from, as well as the rest of the band individually,” he said.

Follow writer Mike DeWald at

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