An Interview with 311’s Doug “SA” Martinez
Posted On 14 Aug 2017
311’s Doug “SA” Martinez
The American Rock band, 311, recently released their twelfth studio album, Mosaic, to high praise and acclaim from music critics and fans alike. The record debuted at number 6 on the US Billboard 200. “‘Til The City’s on Fire” was released as the second official single August 8, 2017.
In a recent interview, 311’s singer, rapper, and DJ, Doug “SA” Martinez, goes into detail about working with “producer extraordinaire” John “Feldy” Feldman (lead singer for Goldfinger, as well as wrote and/or produced records with several notable artists) on Mosaic, gushes over how much he loves California, details his reaction to the recent tragedies in the Rock world, and his personal feelings about the state of Rock music today and where 311 fits into it. “I think, especially with the new album, that we are sending a message that Rock music is still here, alive, and kicking. It’s gone out of sway, but that is the cycle of things. Trends come and go, but I think that Rock is going to be on a rebound and we are going to be a part of it. Rock is an energy. It is an energy of resistance and being free. Rock is about freedom.”
Playing with 311, have there ever been any technical issues as the DJ or anything else?
As far as the band goes, there has been some missed cues, but I don’t think that we’ve ever had anything that’s been detrimental to the show as a whole. When something is off, everyone feels it, but you’ve got to just roll with it. For example, my wife was at a show and something happened during the show. She said, ‘wow, what a great show,’ but I said, ‘really, you didn’t notice that?’ We, the band, notice everything, but for the most part, people have no clue.
Have you ever had something happen that turned out to be a happy accident?
Yeah, sometimes stuff like that happens. You know like when something cool happens that wasn’t exactly planned. Anything can happen when you’re up there on stage. I remember, one time, I had a bottle of water thrown at me and I caught it. I finished my rap, took a swig, and threw it back out into the audience flawlessly.
How do you feel about 311 being considered pioneers of a certain hybrid sound? What have other bands said to you about your influence on them?
We were obviously influential early on. Many bands were bringing an energy that we were trying to emulate as well; high energy Rock music. We definitely had an imprint on the Rock of the 90s. Then, subsequently as that decade closed out, many bands like Linkin Park emerged and before that Limp Bizkit. Bands like that, and other bands obviously, were influenced by what we were doing. That is the nature of Rock n’ roll. You get inspired as a young person. If you’re musically inclined yourself then you get off on all this energy and want to get off on it. It’s a natural progression, especially when you link up with other musicians and bands that have the same interest in music and can hold it down as well. It’s an interesting lineage of bands that emerge and then breakthrough like that. And it’s not the case all the time. We’ve seen many regional bands throughout the years come and go. It’s not easy to maintain momentum, carry on, and generate a fan base that supports you. It takes a lot of work, but when it is on, it’s on, and it’s a great thing.
How do you keep up with the pressure to evolve and change your sound? Has the dynamic changed at all moving into the new records? There’s similarities in sound, but you guys have grown up as well.
You know with this record, we reached a plateau at a certain point in making it and putting it together. We reached out and started working with John Feldman. He’s a producer extraordinaire and a peer. He’s really inspiring to work with and brought us a fresh shot in the arm. It was great and something the band really needed. I think that we could continue to work with him. We only really did a very small portion of the album with him. We had three quarters of the record done when he came along. We felt that the record needed another dimension and he really brought it. He has a tremendous record of accomplishment of hits and making hit albums. I think it was just a matter of opening it and seeing what else we could do. He’s within our world musically so it wasn’t that big of a stretch. When you go into different sonic terrain, it is confusing for us for a little bit, but once you accept it, you can adapt and move on. It was great. He’s a huge energy.
I was expecting you guys to do something more punk because of John Feldman (Goldfinger). Then again, he has produced such a wide variety of sound.
Oh my God, yes! Honestly, I’m not even that familiar with everything that John has done. I only know of a few things, but I was just so amazed when it was moving along. What he did for us was totally unexpected. Also, Goldfinger has toured with 311. He’s like a long-term acquaintance of ours, inspiration, and a friend more so than anything else. It was just so great to work with someone that felt like a brother. He felt like a part of the band. Most producers weave themselves into that dynamic when you’re recording, but with him, it was more like he was what a peer with tremendous ideas and talent can provide to the mix. I mean he has such a love for the band. I can honestly say that he loves the band. He’s been wanting to work with us for a long time, which is a great thing.
That’s cool because then you not only get to collaborate with another artist, but someone who is also a fan of your work.
There’s so much music on this record. It really feels like a gift to the fans. With all the variations in the sound that I have never heard from 311 before, the progressions are impressive. How do you feel about your part in the band moving in to this record? Did you get a chance to stretch your legs? You have also done a few side projects as well. How does that effect 311?
I think side projects are great. Every time that you get to do that, it is an incredible experience. For me, it is always an opportunity to learn how to add extra layers and texture to the sound. When you are open to other musical worlds, other doors open along with other inspirational surfaces. With Los Stellarians, I expose myself to a lot of music that I have always loved and I get to delve deeper into that and made new discoveries. Then, with Ghostwolf, I get to do a 180 from that, but I think it is important to keep inspiring yourself to do something that adds to the madness. Then when I step back into the 311-world, it allows me to add new sounds and dimensions to that music. Then again, working with someone new adds a whole new element to it. When you start a record with someone that you have never worked with before, you have no idea where it’s going to go. Sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes you’re a little unsure, but when we sat with John Feldman, it was just like, ‘yes, this feels really good; this feels right.’ He pushes you. From my experience, I always take something from my producers. It could be the littlest thing, but regardless, you can add that to your arsenal. You know, it’s amazing how much you grow. You don’t realize it at the time, but when you reflect on it, it’s a cool thing.
How is the new record influencing the live show? Do you still get excited by playing the classic songs at live shows? Are there songs that you wish you played more often?
We have such a huge catalog. We don’t even get to get through half or a third of the songs. For me, I like the progression of the set of songs that we play live. For the song selection of the set that we are playing, we don’t really play most of the songs from the past three records. It would be nice to pick-and-choose from that. We try to please everybody. We try to please the radio listeners, the casual fans, but you also have your hardcore fans who love the deep stuff. Most of the time, they’re the ones who want to hear all the new stuff. So, we will be playing a lot of new material on this tour. I get excited to see how people respond to the new album.
Earlier on, you might have been more focused on the career of the band, but now you have grown up and have families. How do you balance all the different aspects of your life and the rigorous schedule?
Well, it is something that we’ve take in stride. We work a lot, but we also have a decent amount of down time. We really have the best of both worlds in that we get to do what we love to do and we get to spend time with our loved ones. Often, they come out for a little bit on the road. Everything takes work and attention. It’s a matter of focus and making it happen.
I am a Los Angeles native and I have grown up with you guys at the KROQ events. As you guys have gotten larger, it seems like the culture of California has gone with you. How do you feel about being an ambassador of the California energy and vibe as you tour around the world?
I love California. We are Nebraska natives, but we feel Californian through and through. We have lived in California longer than we have lived anywhere else. I will say it again. I love California. The one thing with 311, for example, and even the Los Stellarians, is that, culturally, it is sort of a Southern Californian thing. I was talking to KROQ DJs recently about how KROQ is a magnet for bands like us by playing the songs that we play. Also, California is the base for all the bands that we were in to before we moved out there; Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, you name it. It’s a scene. It’s always been a scene and it’s always changing. It’s funny, from early days until now, people have and will hear us, and say, ‘I don’t know that much about the band, but I always thought that you were from California.’ We get immediately associated with that, which is great. It’s always been a dream of kids who’ve grown up in our area to move out to Los Angeles and be in a Rock band. That was what we wanted. It’s the same thing with Los Stellarians. There’s a low-rider culture that is uniquely California with the oldies, freestyle, cars, clothing, image, and everything. All of it is what Los Stellarians is about. I love California. The only thing that I would want is more rain. Not a lot, just a little more. SoCal sorely needs a steady day of rain. That is my environmental message.
You have a huge vinyl collection. Do you search for record stores for hidden gems when you are on the road? Have you bought anything recently? Is there anything that you currently are obsessing over as far as a sound or genre?
Oh God, yes! I do have a huge vinyl collection. As far as my record collecting goes, for the past several years, I focus on more Soul, Disco, Oldies, etc. Collections will get out of hand easily. It’s good to reign it in. I’m not bringing it home unless it is this, this, or this. I’m so glad that I’ve gotten past the free-for-all impulse buy record collecting. Now it must have purpose.
That is like everything in life.
Do you have a favorite track on the new album?
Oh man, there are so many good ones. I can’t say that I have a favorite. The record really runs the gamut of a really unique listening experience. I think ‘One and the Same,’ which is toward the end of the album and is getting a lot of attention, or chatter, but I think it is one of our best songs. It goes everywhere in that song. It has this great contemplative verse thing happening and then this Punk Rock anthem at the chorus. It’s just a dope song. There are so many gems on this album.
How do you feel about the recent sudden deaths that have happened in the Rock world?
It’s always hard to lose great talent such as that. It always comes as a shock. Whenever those things happen, you reflect on what that artist has meant to you. Chris Cornell, for example, was a huge one. They just kind of gut check you. You know, we are on this mortal coil. As time passes on, it is going to happen more and more. It’s always hard to have to accept that, but that’s what happens.
What is your current feeling about the music industry?
I think, especially with the new album, that we are sending a message that Rock music is still here, alive, and kicking. It’s gone out of sway, but that is the cycle of things. Trends come and go, but I think that Rock is going to be on a rebound and we are going to be a part of it. Rock is an energy. It is an energy of resistance and being free. Rock is about freedom. You cannot deny what is in your soul. The more that you try to oppress that and hold it down, it’s just going to come back that much stronger and that much more ferocious. I think that the future is bright for Rock n’ Roll and music in general.
311’s new record, Mosaic, is available now for purchase and they are currently on tour in support of that record. For more information, go to www.311.com.