The Mars Volta broke up
A million records sold, shows with RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE in the US, a sold out European tour and then the split after the European tour was canceled. That doesn't sound very realistic ... But that's exactly the story of AT THE DRIVE-IN, one of the most influential and progressive bands of recent times with an almost legendary live reputation - a group that you will miss. Now Omar (guitar) and Cedric (vocals) are back exactly, the two with the Afros, with a no less exciting band called THE MARS VOLTA.
Our conversation took place in Berlin's SO36, shortly before TMV played an energetic, if sonically somewhat confused show in the opening act of LES SAVY FAV. The rock catchiness of some ATD-I compositions was certainly missed by some of those present, but TMV songs lead you into new rhythmic and tonal realms that have great charm and great power. In the meantime, TMV have signed with Universal - the part of the interview in which the gentlemen held the flag of the indie spirit high, we treated with the delete button for a special occasion ...
The ending of At THE DRIVE-IN is probably not your favorite topic ...
Cedric:"It's okay, we knew we couldn't get around the subject, haha.
There were a lot of rumors about the split, what really happened?
Cedric: There was this last tour: some shows went well, but others really sucked and people noticed that something was wrong. At that time we had a really lousy management team that simply could not or did not want to see that we had to say stop and give us a break. We were just not taken seriously and treated like little children by them. In addition, there were also personal and, above all, musical differences within the band. The others just wanted to be more rock-oriented and we wanted to do what we're doing now.
Omar: All of these reasons eventually led to the two of us quitting the band. It seemed like the honestest step to take.
Cedric: We were six years as a band, quite a long time, and most people think we only started with the One Armed Scissor video.
Do you have any contact with the other guys who are now playing together at SPARTA?
Omar: They are not talking to us at the moment, because if it had been up to them, ATD-I could have continued for a long time, but for us the point was simply reached where we wanted to end the matter. Then they had to bring something new to the start, so to speak. But we have been very good friends for the past ten years, and I firmly believe that time will heal these wounds. At some point we will be in contact again, but at the moment they cannot understand our decision.
Shortly after ATD-I split up, you were on tour again with DEFACTO, your dub project. Was that an attempt to break away from the existing rock context?
Cedric: First of all, I have to say that DEFACTO has been around since 1995. So it just looked like we finished one thing and started another. DEFACTO is something that we have been doing for a long time and will definitely continue to do so!
Omar: Both bands have been running parallel for a long time. After an ATD-I tour, the other three went home, while Cedric and I went on tour with DEFACTO again or made a DEFACTO record. When we canceled the ATD-I European tour, the DEFACTO tour was already booked.
Let's get to your new band THE MARS VOLTA. Alex Newport had already produced ATD-I's 98 album In Casino Out and now also your new EP Tremulant. Was that a conscious step back to the roots?
Cedric: Alex is first and foremost a friend, but it was also a conscious step back to our roots. Alex was originally supposed to produce the last ATD-I record Relationship of Command, but then we met KORN producer Ross Robinson, whose way of working we liked even more. That's why we made the record with him back then, which of course led to tensions with Alex, but he now understands that we just wanted to make a different-sounding record at the time.
Omar: With THE MARS VOLTA we really wanted to start over and not jump from one moving train to the next. When ATD-I ended, as always in life, when a certain phase ends, we had to redefine ourselves and find out what exactly we wanted to do. And then it became clear to us that we didn't want to start with a giant producer again straight away. On the other hand, we of course want to sound good and have a good sound on the record. It would have endangered the development of this band if we had made another record with a well-known producer immediately after ATD-I and then immediately went on a huge tour with a big band. Instead, we stayed at home, rehearsed a lot and played a few local gigs, and then went to the studio with our friend Alex Newport, who knows exactly what we want. Afterwards we did a tour in the USA with our friends LES SAVY FAV, and now also in Europe. In addition, we hardly ever give interviews, so it is indeed a redefinition, whereby we do not have to start from scratch, as we have already made a name for ourselves through ATD-I and of course some people now want to see what exactly we are doing .
Was there actually a point where you thought about letting the music sit for a while and devoting yourself to other art forms? I know Omar paints ...
Omar: Actually, our whole life revolves around music. We live in a house where we record and have all our instruments ...
Cedric: ... which our ex-partners and our parents like to make fun of, because we never had a plan B, there was always music.
Omar: On the other hand, the new beginning with this band gave us more time for other things. I painted more while Cedric wrote more, simply because we were more at home.
Cedric: Omar has also started working on a film that is not quite finished yet!
Omar: I wrote the story and directed it. Then I also made a documentation about DEFACTO, which should be ready soon. Still, music is the basis and inspires all of our other activities.
What is your current musical inspiration?
Cedric: Everything from Brian Eno. We like him very much! Otherwise we hardly hear any current rock stuff.
Did you move from El Paso, Texas to Los Angeles three years ago in any creative way?
Cedric: Our lives have hardly changed as a result of the move. In contrast to the drummer and bass player from ATD-I, we didn't move directly to LA but to Long Beach and that's really a lousy bastard. When we go to a show and tell people that we live in Long Beach, they always ask us why there? Haha. It's actually not that different from El Paso, because we live right downtown and there is a large Hispanic population there. We lead a very simple life there. When we're home we rehearse and record songs or we go to shows. So it didn't have a big impact, but now we have the opportunity to see good bands more often, which was not the case in El Paso. And mostly only we were at the concert, haha.
Have you ever thought of going your separate ways musically?
Omar: No, because we've been good friends for so long and played in bands together before ATD-I. Even when we were at ATD-I, we were on tour together, had a different band and lived together.
Cedric: We have learned to allow ourselves enough freedom. However, there were rumors that we were gay, haha!
Omar: Some friends of ours have said before that they admire our friendship. And it does seem special indeed. I think it's simply because of our common background, our Hispanic ancestry, our similar upbringing, and our identical musical tastes. However, it is really very rare that something fits so well and that in turn irritates other people, at least it irritated the other ATD-I members ...
After you even played in the opening act for RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE in the USA with ATD-I and their fans hated you, would you consider trying something like that again with TMV?
Cedric: It was really not very nice, but it was an interesting experience to be booed by thousands of people. On the other hand, after every show there were a few people who liked it too, and that's all that matters. We don't want to conquer the whole world! Often people won't believe you when you say it's enough for just a few people to understand what you're about, but that's the point! RATM knew themselves what kind of audience they attract. At some concerts, RATM guitarist Tom Morello even had to announce us as his favorite band so that people wouldn't throw things at us even though he hardly knew our music. RATM are actually a pretty intelligent band with very good lyrics themselves, but once you have that hard guitar sound, certain videos and a lot of airplay, you mostly play for the tough guys, haha!
Omar: But we would do it again if we feel like it's right for us. Ultimately, it always depends on the band you play with, e.g. with PJ HARVEY it would certainly have turned out differently.
What's next for THE MARS VOLTA?
Cedric: After this tour we go to Japan and then play at a big desert hippie festival at home in California ...
Omar: ... then we will hopefully record a complete TMV record and then possibly a new DEFACTO record!
- MARS VOLTA
© by Ox-Fanzine - Issue # 47 June / July / August 2002 and Robert Ehrenbrand
- MARS VOLTA
© by Ox-Fanzine - Issue # 60 June / July 2005 and Ox
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