Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 07th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

“Down” with the Tao

Who knew 311’s Nick Hexum had a spiritual side?

For us MTV-generation types, it’s almost impossible to hear “Down”—the tune that propelled the Omaha rap/reggae/funk/rock group 311 to chart-dominating, triple-platinum-selling glory in the mid-’90s—without picturing the most striking image from that song’s video: the band’s members meditating at the feet of a levitating, Sumo-esque spiritual master. Unforgettable as that scene was, though, it seemed slightly at odds with the band’s urban look and aggressive sound; you had to wonder if meditation was really a part of these guys’ regimens, or if they were just a bunch of street kids wearing spirituality like a trendy henna tattoo.

Today, as vocalist Nick Hexum tells GT about his meditative approach to live performance, there’s no doubting his sincerity. “When I’m onstage, I’m concerned only with the note that I’m singing at that very second,” the singer explains calmly. “If you get into the whole, like, ‘What does this person think of me?’ or ‘What song is coming up next? Am I gonna be able to hit that note?’ it becomes a real drag. I try to be as completely in my body and in the present as I can be, and it’s been a big breakthrough for me.”

Hexum believes that this practice—being fully present in every situation—is the key to happiness. “Being completely engrossed in this conversation makes it enjoyable,” he offers, “but if my mind’s thinking about what I’m gonna do next or thinking about what happened yesterday, life can go by in a sort of daze of non-presence, of constant planning, worrying and so forth.”

The singer, who says he was first exposed to these concepts about a year and a half ago via books such as Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now,” expects his newfound wisdom to spill over into 311’s music. “I think that there’s gonna be a whole new level of enjoyment in the band, and that leads to success,” he muses. “I don’t wanna sound cocky, but I do think that we’re getting ready to have a new golden era of 311, because these kinds of philosophical breakthroughs are going to translate through to the music, and people will connect with it more.”

Longtime fans couldn’t be more ready for a new 311 album to connect with—the band hasn’t put out a recording since 2005’s Don’t Tread on Me. According to Hexum, the reason for this uncharacteristic lapse between albums is simply that the group wants to put out the best music possible. “Deadlines are like fertilizer,” he ventures. “You can dump a lot of fertilizer on [the music], but it’s not a natural, organic, letting things grow at their own pace. So we’re letting things happen naturally and making sure that every song is something we’re really proud of—a real step forward.”

For the next album, slated for release in 2009, 311 has enlisted big-name producer Bob Rock, who helped bands like Metallica, Mötley Crüe and The Cult create their biggest-selling albums. Though Hexum says the decision to work with Rock is definitely indicative of “an interest in taking a step toward ‘big rock,’” don’t expect a huge departure from the band’s previous efforts—this will be classic 311, with all the fun, spirituality and optimism that goes with it.

This last quality—optimism—is one of 311’s most unique attributes. According to Hexum, having a positive attitude comes naturally to the members of this band. “To me, it just feels right to be grateful for the abundance we have in America,” he says. “I felt very much at odds with the [recent] wave of angst and screaming and ‘Society sucks’ and ‘We hate our parents.’ If people feel that, they should express that through music, but I didn’t feel that way. I felt a lot of gratitude, and maybe that’s why we’ve lasted [for so long]: because we had more of a big-picture view: Sure, there are problems in the world, but life is, overall, really great if you choose to enjoy it and participate in it.”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Making a Scene

As it celebrates its 30th year, Santa Cruz County’s Open Studios is one of the most successful in the country—and a make-or-break event for many local artists


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


At Clothes Range

FashionART’s 10th anniversary show introduces a new generation of designers on the edge


A Ritual & Initiation

The Pope has come and gone, but his loving presence ignited new hope and goodness in many. While he was in NYC, China’s ruler arrived in Washington D.C. East (China) and West (Rome), meeting in the middle, under Libra, balancing sign of Right Relations. The Pope arrived at Fall Equinox. Things initiated at Fall Equinox are birthed at Winter Solstice. The Pope’s presence was a ritual, an initiation rite—like the Dalai Lama’s visits—offering prayers, teachings and blessings. Rituals anchor God’s plan into the world, initiating us to new realities, new rules. The Pope’s presence brings forth the Soul of the United States, its light piercing the veils of materialism. The Pope’s visit changed things. New questions arise, new reasons for living. A new wave of emerging life fills the air. Like a cocoon shifting, wings becoming visible. The winds are different now. Calling us to higher vision, moral values, virtues that reaffirm and offer hope for humanity. A changing of the guard has occurred. Appropriately, this is the week of the Jewish Festival of Sukkoth (’til Oct. 4), when we build temporary homes (little huts in nature), entering into a harvest of prayer and thanksgiving, understanding our fragile and impermanent existences. We are summoned to reflect upon our lives, our humanity, our nature, our spirit and each other. Offering gratitude, becoming a magnet for others. We observe. We see the needs. We love more.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist


Downhill Cellars

An easy-drinking Chardonnay from Downhill Cellars


If whales have a message for humans, what might it be?

“Do not come in the water and join us.” Howard Hall, Santa Cruz, Retired


Wargin Wines

The wine world is buzzing about this Pinot Gris