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Here is my interview with 311’s Bassist, Aaron “P-Nut” Wills for AltWire.net. He was a very cool dude. I’ve seen them perform live twice in the past and they do not disappoint. There are those bands, when you are listening to their album, it’s fantastic, it feels like best album ever and then when you finally get to see them live, and they turn out to be a let-down. This is not the case with 311. Their energy is non-stop. Constantly rocking, 25 years later.
Thanks for chatting with me today. How are you doing today? I see that a typical day for you starts at 5am, mind going into details?
Aaron “P-Nut” Wills: Haha, that’s the reality of the situation. I was up at five. The side note that I don’t get to share or leave out intentionally is that I am pretty sure i went to bed at 7:30pm last night. I was reading books with my 4 1/2-year-old and I remember him telling me to keep reading because i was falling asleep. Classic dad. I know I finished the book, and I remember turning off the lights but that was about it. I think I woke up at about 9 and realized I was already asleep for quite a while. Getting up at 5am makes sense.
On the subject of kids, I know you have a younger child as well. I have a 19-month-old myself, any parenting tips?
P-Nut: I have a 19-month-old as well as a 4-year-old so congratulations.
Congratulations to you as well.
P-Nut: You know, just have fun with it. Have fun with it and keep your voice down. Haha.
I was fortunate enough to see you guys back in ’08 during the Unity Tour with Snoop Dogg at the Backyard here in Austin and again in 2011. You guys are a blast live!
P-Nut: Austin is full of great musicians. One of our best situations career wise is when we all 5 are on stage and plugged in and its go time. Its something we have always been excited about and we still look forward to every time a new show is booked.
This is 311’s 25th-Anniversary. You are releasing 311-Archive at the end of the month, which will have 4-discs full of unreleased tracks, b-sides and demos. How did you guys come up with this idea? Were you ever anxious in the past to release some of these tracks but waiting for the opportune moment?
P-Nut: Yeah, We were holding on to it. We put all the trouble into writing them, even in an unfinished state. They are just waiting and the larger the collection got the more eclectic it got. People would hear little bits here and there. The way it came about was when we were asking our fans, would you buy this? Or did you buy the greatest hits album? Or did you buy Omaha sessions? The Older stuff? Ok well we got vault material, which would be the default name, so we came up with “Archive” and people are into it. It’s great that we have had a career long enough to where we can release 81 songs on an album like this. There is about 26 pre-existing songs on the album and about 50 tracks that are unknown or rare. That could be a whole bands career. So it’s fun to have those as are backdoor, our parenthetical music vault to release.
25 years is a long time. An impressive amount of time for a band to stick together. How do you guys, for lack of a better term, keep your sanity after so long?
P-Nut: The more I think about the past and how we kind of planned on this slight possibility of lasting this long, I don’t know. We kind of had it in the back of our mind like hey, there’s a chance we may be able to last 25 years if we keep our heads on straight, don’t over indulge, don’t get caught up in the unnecessary one way or another. We also have a job outside of the band, which is job number one. Besides not over indulging which a lot of people get caught up in, we kind of planned on it. We have all stayed fairly healthy, physically and spiritually. We are in the moment kind-of-people and we are just enjoying the ride.
Do you have any memorable moments when you guys were first coming up?
P-Nut: There was a moment in the first show, when one of the guys I first started playing with, Larry Moore got the whole crowd clapping 20 minutes into our show. It was a really mellow song as we were opening up for Fugazi. I just remember being blown away thinking this is exactly where I want to be. This is going to change everything. if I only get to do this once, then I am totally thankful and I would love to do it another 3000 times, even at this point.
Would you say that could have possibly been one of those “Wow, we made it” moments?
P-Nut: You don’t really think about that. It’s just what we shared at that moment. Then afterwards you realize how much momentum you gained personally or professionally. Sometimes it happened in waves, two at a time. The first three albums were one a year and there was something about that, building up momentum too and again we were doing 100 shows a year. I don’t know where we got the energy from but I’m happy we had it and I think to a certain degree we are still riding that wave from the ground work we laid from ’90-95. I was in high school for two of those years just slugging it out, trying to make it work, figuring out who we were, and getting as good on our instruments as possible.
You guys are releasing a craft beer this year?
P-Nut: Yeah, we are working with a group of guys, called the Rock Brothers, out of Tampa Bay who are working with Cigar City Brewing. Cigar City only makes beer in Florida so you can’t have any but the Rock Brothers sell outside of California, that’s kind of their thing and they have worked with many bands before. We are making an Amber Ale that is about 5.5% ABV. It will have a nice little skunky, Kush smell to it.
Do you have a name for the beer yet?
P-Nut: Yeah, it is just going to be called the 311 Amber. The next beer we are going to do is going to be called “Beautiful Disaster” and I will have a lot more control over it. It is something I had an idea for when we first sat down with the guys. I want it to be like an Imperial IPA with like 11.3% ABV and serve it in bombers.
That sounds good!
P-Nut: It’s easy for them. All they have to do is buy these ingredients and bottle it. It’s not like making an album. It’s really like cooking for them. You can cook it up and if it sucks, you can try again with different ingredients. They can turn it around really fast. For us and the fans who do enjoy beer, it’s going to be a really fun experiment and I think anyone who drinks our stuff will really appreciate what we come up with.
I’m into it already. What would you say your favorite beer is?
P-Nut: That’s kinda tough. I’m California-centric. The stuff that come out of San Diego county. I really love Stone. I live near Pasadena and there is a place 4-5 miles away from me, so whenever they have something new, If I’m not there, I’m wishing I was.
Next time you guys are in Austin, you should come check out (512) Brewery or Austin Beerworks. I also saw you guys were partnering with BK Racing.
P-Nut: Yeah, they love the band and they love putting the logo on their cars. We are going to reciprocate by making our tour laminate this summer an effigy of the car.
P-Nut: It’s the least we can do.
How did you guys work that out?
P-Nut: It just happened. It’s kind of like the cruise. It was like, “We love you guys, we want to represent you on the cars.” Then with the cruise it was like “We know you would be good at this, you have the perfect fan base to sell out boats, so let’s do this.” It’s great. It’s stuff like that is the little extras you get for being around for a long time and hopefully being fun to work with.
Speaking of the cruise, I love the idea of giving back to the fans. You guys clearly have an appreciation for the fans.
P-Nut: It’s just our little, tiny subculture. When you start digging into it, there are a lot of cool people involved and it spreads a lot further than anyone who doesn’t know would think. It is a lot of fun to be apart of it and it keeps your heads up. It’s easy to keep doing, easy to keep promoting, it’s not negative, it’s genuine with who we are and if it makes people feel better even temporarily while we are on stage or even with their headphones on. If it takes their mind off of something for a little bit, that can mean the world to people and that’s one of the things that keep us going.
So what’s on your playlist or what are you jamming to currently?
P-Nut: I’ve been listening to the whole Milky Chance. Here’s the thing, If the whole album isn’t good, its hard for me to like even bits of it. if I have to skip bits of it, then I probably wont even listen to the song that I do like that much. That album, Sadnecessary, is absolute work of genius and the new Kendrick Lamar album is just a stupid, stupid work of genius.
I agree on that one.
P-Nut: It sounds so good. the musicians sound fantastic. I love the Los Angeles aspect of the whole thing and George Clinton starting it off. This is hip hop!
What’s your favorite song to play live?
P-Nut: A song called Hive from the self-titled Blue album. It always gets the crowd moving and is super fun to play. The changes it in are pretty harsh, we kind of threw these riffs together and it can be kind of jarring. I like that in my music. I don’t want to be gently massaged. I play bass so that’s kinda what I’m for.
What were some of your influences growing up?
P-Nut: Magic Johnson. Every science fiction book that I ever read. Beyond music, all of my video game life.
You’re a gamer?
Whats a game you are currently playing?
P-Nut: I’m still rocking Diablo 3 an hour or two a day. I’m kind of looking for something new. I’ve found all the nooks and crannies of the game already. I’m looking for more story, I guess.
If you are looking for suggestions, right now I’m currently playing Witcher 3. I definitely recommend it.
P-Nut: Ok, I’ll look out for it.
Thanks for talking with me about the craft beer, the racing, the 25th anniversary album. It looks like you are also kicking off the Unity Tour this summer which starts in Scottsdale, AZ and ending on Omaha.
P-Nut: Right. we will be in Vegas for two days right after the Talking Stick Resort and of course that’s always fun. That is one where we will be playing the blue album in its entirety and we will have a bunch of special merch celebrating the blue album. While all this is going on, we are still writing new music. That’s what we did yesterday, we did three songs already that we are really excited about. If we keep working at this pace we should have a new album early next year.
Awesome. I will be seeing you guys in August when you make a stop in Austin again. Thanks again for chatting, congrats to you, your family and your band.
P-Nut: Thank you, great chatting with you as well and good luck with your 19-month-old.