The Mars Volta

The Mars Volta

The Mars Volta on stage at the Vegoose Festival.
Background information
Origin El Paso, Texas, United States
Genres Progressive rock, math rock, experimental rock, psychedelic rock, art rock, jazz fusion, new prog[1]
Years active 2001–present
Labels Universal, GSL, Warner Bros.
Associated acts At the Drive-In, De Facto, Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group, Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Frusciante, Free Moral Agents, Zechs Marquise, Big Sir, Racer X, Sparta, El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Vato Negro, Laddio Bolocko
Website themarsvolta.com
Members
Omar Rodríguez-López
Cedric Bixler-Zavala
Juan Alderete
Marcel Rodríguez-López
Deantoni Parks
Lars Stalfors
Past members
Eva Gardner
Jeremy Michael Ward
Jon Theodore
Blake Fleming
Ralph Jasso
Jason Lader
Linda Good
Adrián Terrazas-González
Paul Hinojos
Thomas Pridgen
Dave Elitch
John Frusciante
Isaiah "Ikey" Owens

The Mars Volta (also known by the initialism TMV) is a Grammy award winning American progressive rock band from El Paso, Texas. Founded in 2001 by guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the band incorporates various influences including progressive rock, krautrock, jazz fusion, Latin American music, and the rhythmic complexity of math rock into their sound. They are known for their energetic live shows, as well as their concept-based studio albums. In 2009, the band won a Grammy Award in the "Best Hard Rock Performance" category for the song "Wax Simulacra."[2] They were named rock music's "Best Prog-Rock Band" of 2008 by Rolling Stone magazine.[3]

Contents

Band name

Cedric Bixler-Zavala stated in an interview:

The Volta is taken from a Federico Fellini book about his films, what he characterizes as a changing of scene, or a turnaround; a new scene to him is called Volta. Y'know, changing of time and the changeover. And Mars, we're just fascinated by science fiction so and it's something that ultimately looked as in anything I write, its meaning is always up to the listener. As the way we write songs and words, if it looks great on paper then to us it's like painting, so if it looks good meaning the second then people usually have a better interpretation than we ever would.

History

Formation and beginning

The roots of The Mars Volta are found in the band At the Drive-In.[4] ATDI imploded on the verge of breakthrough, partly due to boredom, partly to musical differences.[5] Then ATDI members Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López started flirting with an experimental, dub reggae-influenced side project called De Facto, which featured Bixler-Zavala on drums, Rodriguez-Lopez on bass, Isaiah "Ikey" Owens on keyboards, and Jeremy Michael Ward on vocals, loops and sound effects.

Due to creative differences and discomfort with mainstream success and drug abuse,[6] Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala quit At the Drive-In in 2001. The remaining members of the band formed Sparta. During 2001 Eva Gardner joined the members of De Facto on bass, and they recorded two songs with drummer Blake Fleming and producer Alex Newport, which became the first demo by The Mars Volta. The lineup for their first public show at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, California was Rodriguez-Lopez, Bixler-Zavala, Owens, Gardner, Ward, and drummer Jon Theodore. This lineup recorded three more tracks with Alex Newport, which became the EP Tremulant, released in early 2001 by Gold Standard Laboratories.

After the demise of At the Drive-In, Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala found themselves once again starting from the ground up, touring and performing in smaller venues. In their early years The Mars Volta were characterized by chaotic live shows and very heavy drug use.[6]

De-Loused in the Comatorium

Following Tremulant, The Mars Volta continued touring with a fluid line-up while preparing to record their debut full-length album De-Loused in the Comatorium, produced with Rick Rubin and released on June 24, 2003. Whereas Tremulant had no general theme (except the prophetic mentioning) De-Loused was a unified work of speculative fiction telling the first-person story of someone in a drug-induced coma, battling the evil side of his mind. Though lyrically obscure, The Mars Volta stated in interviews that the album's protagonist is based on their late friend Julio Venegas, or "Cerpin Taxt", an El Paso poet and artist who went into a coma for several years after a deliberate drug overdose, recovered and later committed suicide.[5] He died jumping from the Mesa Street overpass onto Interstate-10 in El Paso during afternoon rush-hour traffic.[citation needed] (Venegas' death was also referenced in the At the Drive-In song "Embroglio" from their album Acrobatic Tenement.)

In an interview with The Aquarian Weekly in 2008, Cedric Bixler-Zavala said about working with Rubin, "Rick really over-simplified some of the parts that we thought were unique, and just made them very digestible. He’s got this thing about representing the common man’s ears—I’d rather jab the common man’s ears. If we don’t, we’ll never get to a place where future music exists." [7]

The Mars Volta had no official bassist during the recording session, but Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) played bass on nine of the album's ten songs, with Justin Meldal-Johnsen playing double bass on "Televators." Flea's bandmate John Frusciante also contributed additional guitar, synthesizer and backing vocals to "Cicatriz ESP". After several temporary replacements, permanent bassist for the band was found in the face of Juan Alderete (formerly of Racer X).

Despite limited promotion, De-Loused earned strong reviews, and appeared on several 'year-end best-of' lists. The album remains The Mars Volta's best-seller, with over 500,000 copies sold. The band later released a limited-edition storybook version of the album, available by download from the Gold Standard Laboratories website. The book speaks of Cerpin Taxt (Julio Venegas) and his suicide.

While on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in support of the album, founding member Jeremy Michael Ward died of heroin overdose.[4][5] The band had canceled the tour's second leg, and the first single from De-Loused was later dedicated to Ward. It was this event which finally convinced band leaders Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala to purportedly quit using opioids.[6] “One day, we were all getting high, and Jeremy asked me if I could see he had worms in his head,” Cedric recalls. “I never touched the stuff again. His passing was the final nail in the coffin. We never went back.”[5]

Frances the Mute

Live at Paradiso - Amsterdam 16 October 2005.

As the band resumed touring to support De-Loused, they added Marcel Rodríguez-Lopez (Omar's brother) on percussion. Work on their second album began in 2004. That year the band received the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Vanguard Award.[8]

In 2005, the band released Frances the Mute. The story given by the band on the album's concept concerns a diary that had been found in a repossessed car by late sound technician Jeremy Ward, while working as a repo-man. The author of the diary is unknown but appeared to be someone who was adopted and was searching for their birth parents, and who may have suffered from mental illness caused by the death of a loved one. The lyrics for each track on the album are loosely based on characters and life events described in this person's diary.

Frances the Mute started as a bigger commercial hit than De-Loused, moving 123,000 copies in its first week, and debuting at #4 on the Billboard album charts.[9] Reviews of Frances were generally positive (with a 75 on Metacritic) if somewhat polarized; Rolling Stone called it "a feverish and baroque search for self that conjures up the same majesty and gravity as Led Zeppelin three decades before", while Pitchfork Media called it "a homogeneous shitheap of stream-of-consciousness turgidity."[10] However, even the detractors of Frances the Mute generally praised the band's musical abilities.[11] "L'Via L'Viaquez" was later released as a single, stripped down from its original 12-minute length to five minutes. Frances the Mute has sold nearly 465,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan ratings.[12]

Rodriguez-Lopez wrote all the instrumental parts as well as arranging and producing the recording sessions himself. He used a method that Miles Davis used to evoke great performances from bandmates: refusing to let the other members hear each other's parts, or the context of their own part, thereby forcing them to play each part as if it were a self-sufficient song. In order to accomplish this, the musicians recorded to the pulse of a metronome.[citation needed] While in the studio, Rodriguez-Lopez recruited Adrián Terrazas-González to play saxophone, flute, and additional wind instruments for the album. Terrazas-González was added as a permanent member to The Mars Volta while touring in support of Frances the Mute.

Several songs written during the original recording sessions for the album never made the final cut. Notably, the self-titled 14-minute epic "Frances the Mute", which was originally to open the album and was ultimately supposed to decode the album's concept, was not included due to time constraints. Instead the track was featured as a b-side to the single release for "The Widow". .

Live at Birmingham Academy 30 November 2005 with drummer Jon Theodore.

On May 20, 2005, instead of playing a traditional set at KROQ's Weenie Roast Festival, the band played a 50-minute improvisation jam that was jokingly named on-the-spot as "Abortion, The Other White Meat" by Rodriguez-Lopez. In keeping with The Mars Volta tradition of testing and developing new work live, parts of "Abortion" later appeared on "Population Council's Wet Dream" from Rodriguez-Lopez's 2009 album Old Money.

Mid-way through their headlining U.S. tour, former At the Drive-In member Paul Hinojos left the band Sparta to join The Mars Volta, claiming, "My time with Sparta has run its course, and simply wasn't fun anymore." Hinojos joined as rhythm guitarist and became the band's sound manipulator, the position previously held by the late Ward. Hinojos had previously toured with The Mars Volta in 2003 and 2004.

During mid-2005, the band toured in support of the album with System of a Down and curated the All Tomorrow's Parties festival.[13] In addition, a full-length live album named Scabdates was released on November 8, 2005.

Amputechture

Upon finishing the majority of touring for Frances the Mute in fall 2005, Rodriguez-Lopez traveled to Amsterdam and wrote what became Amputechture, which was released on September 8, 2006 in Europe, on September 9, 2006 in Australia and on September 12, 2006 in the U.S. Rodriguez-Lopez spent much of his time in Amsterdam working on and performing various solo projects most notably under the name "Omar Rodriguez Quintet." During this time Rodriguez-Lopez also composed the score to the film El Búfalo de la Noche, which was written and directed by Guillermo Arriaga and Jorge Hernandez Aldana respectively. The Mars Volta as a whole performed the score.

Amputechture was produced by Rodríguez-Lopez and mixed by Rich Costey. Jeff Jordan provided the artwork, making it their first album not to feature the work of Storm Thorgerson. It was once again a concept album, but rather than telling a story, the album was a series of vignettes, with each song telling a different story. It became the last album with drummer Jon Theodore, whom Rodriguez-Lopez fired before touring in support of the album. Rodriguez-Lopez said in an interview with an Italian fan site that Theodore was the only member in the band who wasn't happy playing live and brought down the moods of the rest.[citation needed]

The Mars Volta playing with John Frusciante in Toronto on September 25, 2006.

John Frusciante was featured on every track on Amputechture, except for "Asilos Magdalena." Rodríguez-Lopez contributed the solos and riffs where the guitar work needed to be doubled. Bixler-Zavala said in an interview, "...he taught Frusciante all the new songs and Frusciante tracked guitars for us so Omar could sit back and listen to the songs objectively. It's great that he wants to help us and do that."

On July 28, 2006, the drummer's spot was filled by Blake Fleming, formerly of Laddio Bolocko, Dazzling Killmen, and the very first Mars Volta demos. A new song titled "Rapid Fire Tollbooth" was debuted live on September 22, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois, as reported by fans and attendees of the show who had received set lists from the stage. The song originally appears on Rodriguez-Lopez's solo album Se Dice Bisonte, No Bufalo. The song eventually evolved into the track "Goliath" from the band's fourth studio album.

On September 25, 2006, The Mars Volta played a unique set on the opening night of a double-header in Toronto, Ontario. Cedric Bixler-Zavala fell ill and could not perform, so The Mars Volta played with John Frusciante on third guitar. The set consisted of over 47 minutes of instrumental material, including a lengthy cover of the Pink Floyd composition "Interstellar Overdrive." On October 17, 2006, while opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the band played with drummer Deantoni Parks as Rodriguez-Lopez had fired Fleming because of complications within the band. Parks remained with the band only until the conclusion of the Japanese tour because of his prior commitments with other bands. On October 31, 2006 in Cleveland, Ohio, as Parks couldn't perform, The Mars Volta played approximately 40-minute improvisation set as a rehearsal for another drummer, Thomas Pridgen.

The Mars Volta on stage at the Vegoose Festival.

On a 2006 episode of The Henry Rollins Show, The Mars Volta performed "Tetragrammaton" and "Day of the Baphomets" in a rare television performance. Afterwards, they did an interview with Rollins about the creation of Amputechture.

The Bedlam in Goliath

Thomas Pridgen playing at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in Saint Paul, Minnesota on April 21, 2008.

In 2007, Thomas Pridgen became the new permanent drummer for the band. Pridgen's first full-time appearance was at the March 12 show in New Zealand, where the band debuted the song "Idle Tooth" which was later renamed "Wax Simulacra" for the forthcoming album. After shows in New Zealand and Australia, The Mars Volta toured a few West Coast venues as the headliner, then entered the studio to record their fourth LP, The Bedlam in Goliath.[14] One of these performances was captured in a live concert DVD (which still remains unreleased to date) shot by director Jorge Hernandez Aldana.[15]

Despite finding a permanent drummer and getting the band back on track, the recording and production of the album was reportedly plagued by difficulties related to a bad experience with a Ouija board purchased in a curio shop in Jerusalem.[16] According to Rodriguez-Lopez, their original engineer experienced a nervous breakdown, his studio flooded twice, and both he and mixer Rich Costey claimed that various tracks would disappear at random.

On November 5, 2007, The Mars Volta released a document by Jeremy Robert Johnson titled, "The Mars Volta's Descent into Bedlam: A Rhapsody in Three Parts."[17] The document includes a history of the band and describes the obstacles and inspirations they encountered in the creation of The Bedlam in Goliath. On November 20, 2007 "Wax Simulacra", the first single from the forthcoming album, was released with a cover of "Pulled to Bits" by Siouxsie and the Banshees as the b-side.

The band kicked off their supporting tour with a December 29, 2007 "secret show" at the Echoplex in Los Angeles, California, followed by a special New Year's Eve performance at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.[18] That night they played their first ever acoustic set, which included six songs and live performance of "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" The band then departed on a club tour of east coast U.S. throughout January, with an album release show at San Diego's Soma, followed by another month's worth of European dates from mid-February to mid-March.

On January 2, 2008, The Mars Volta released an online game called "Goliath: The Soothsayer", based on a true story that inspired their forthcoming album The Bedlam In Goliath. The album chronicles the band's purported experience with the "Soothsayer", a Ouija board owned by vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and its transition from a source of fun on tour to a psycho-spiritual force that almost tore the band apart. The game was available for a limited time exclusively via Amazon.com.[19]

On January 17, 2008, the band made their U.S. network television debut, performing "Wax Simulacra" on The Late Show with David Letterman (Rodriguez-Lopez, Bixler-Zavala and Hinojos had appeared on the show with At the Drive-In in 2000). On January 22, they made a surprise appearance at Toronto, Canada's MTV Live studios, where they performed "Wax Simulacra" and an extended version of "Goliath." In late January, the new album debuted at a career-best #3 on the Billboard 200.

Omar Rodríguez-López playing at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in Saint Paul, Minnesota on April 21, 2008.

The song "Wax Simulacra" won the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance. It was the band's first nomination and win.[20] The band members thanked their families and Bixler urged people not to forget the memories of the recently departed Lux Interior and Ron Asheton.

Octahedron

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez had discussed the band's next album as early as January 2008, the month that The Bedlam in Goliath was released,[21] claiming "I consider it to be our acoustic album."[22] Cedric Bixler-Zavala had expressed an urge for the album to not be released on a major label.[23] In February 2009, Rodriguez-Lopez claimed "the next two Mars Volta records are already recorded and waiting for a release date."[24]

On April 14, 2009, The Mars Volta announced their fifth studio album, entitled Octahedron. It was released June 23 in the United States and June 22 in the rest of the world. According to Vintage Vinyl Records St. Louis MO the LP will not be released until July 21 with 500 limited edition LP's.[21][25] In the spirit of distillation of the band's sound, Rodriguez-Lopez asked saxophonist Adrián Terrazas-González and guitarist/sound manipulator Paul Hinojos to leave.[26][27] Regarding their departure, percussionist Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez noted that: "it's like we got a whole new band. It's two less members — we got to play differently."[28]

The first single released in North America was "Since We've Been Wrong". The first European single was "Cotopaxi".

An excerpt from The Mars Volta's performance at the All Tomorrow's Parties, UK 2005 A Nightmare Before Christmas festival was featured in the All Tomorrow's Parties film, which was released in cinemas during October 2009.

During the Octahedron tour, the show on October 23 in Raleigh, NC was unexpectedly cancelled. It was supposed to be the final show of the North American leg of the tour, but was cancelled due to an argument between Bixler-Zavala and Thomas Pridgen, the drummer at the time, which ended with Pridgen abruptly leaving the venue. A month later, Pridgen confirmed his departure from The Mars Volta via Facebook stating he was "not in TMV anymore".[29] In a February 2011 interview, Pridgen said he left the group "because the singer had a jealous ego trip. There's nothing more to elaborate on."[30] The band later completed the tour with drummer Dave Elitch.[29] They played throughout Europe and Australia until the end of January 2010.

In October 2010, The Mars Volta played two shows in Brazil and Chile.[31][32] Long-time keyboardist, Ikey Owens, was absent during these dates due to touring commitments with his own project, Free Moral Agents.

Sixth album

Shortly after Octahedron's release, Omar claimed to have put the supposed follow-up "on hold", as he felt the album was boring. He claimed to have started working on a completely new album as the follow-up. In an April 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, Rodriguez-Lopez talked about trying to loosen his grip in the studio. He claimed to have finished writing the album, and was awaiting lyrics and vocals from Bixler-Zavala.[33]

In May 2010, The Mars Volta entered pre-production for their sixth album.[34] On December 9, 2010 a statement was made via the ORLProductions Twitter page, which read: "In LA finishing up the new The Mars Volta album". Another notable comment made on Sargent House's Twitter page confirmed Deantoni Parks as the band's official drummer.[citation needed]. In an interview with Rob Perez on NocheLatina.com, Rodriguez-Lopez stated that "The record is done. Whenever the record label decides to put it out that’s when we’ll hear something new."[35] He also stated the upcoming album will feature thirteen songs which, "[are] a simplified version of what we've done before", and commented on his songwriting process, stating "I want to collaborate more. I've had 10 years of kind of being a benign dictator in this band and I want to make it more like a democracy." [36] Cedric recently took the opportunity to make a few remarks on the sound of the upcoming Mars Volta LP: “Sorry no spanish [sic] on this record, no Zeppelinesque voyages, no Santana like flourishes or vishnu accuasations [sic]. No congas, no Hammond organ stabs, no 30 minute songs, no drums that sounds like mosquitos buzzing in your ear. Just future punk. That’s the only way to describe it from my point of view.”[37]

At the March 19 Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group show at SXSW Bixler-Zavala performed as a vocalist, which led to speculations of this being the secret Mars Volta show under the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group moniker, presumably for legal reasons (this rumor was confirmed by the lineup and songs that were performed at The Mars Volta's tour opener in Norway on July 1). The Group (with Bixler-Zavala on lead vocals) continued to tour throughout April, playing material to be released on the upcoming Mars Volta album.[37] Absent from these shows was keyboardist Owens, who was busy with his own band, Free Moral Agents. When asked about the upcoming Mars Volta album he stated that he knew "absolutely nothing [about the album]".[37] He also stated that he was unsure as to whether he would be performing with the band at their scheduled summer dates or not.[37] On July 2, bassist Juan Alderete revealed via his Twitter account that Owens was no longer in the band as "He is producing bands these days." [37]

Part of the The Mars Volta's summer 2011 tour will consist of them playing dates opening for Soundgarden on select dates during the summer of 2011. This is in addition to their opening slot for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in their one-off gig in Hong Kong on 9 August 2011. [37]

The Mars Volta played new songs during their set at Splendour in the Grass in Australia in July. Cedric said to the crowd that he was "inviting them to a private rehearsal for their new album".

Cedric Bixler-Zavala has stated on his Youtube channel that the new Mars Volta full-length will not be released until 2012.

Band members

According to the liner notes for Amputechture, The Bedlam in Goliath and Octahedron: "The partnership between Omar Rodríguez-López & Cedric Bixler-Zavala is The Mars Volta. These compositions are then performed by The Mars Volta Group."

Current

Former

Sound manipulators

  • Jeremy Michael Ward – (2001–2003)
  • Paul Hinojos – (2003–2004 live offstage, 2005–2008 joined officially in recording and onstage, also performed additional guitar)

Drummers

Bassists

  • Eva Gardner – (2001–2002)
  • Flea – (2002 in studio for De-Loused in the Comatorium sessions, also performed trumpet on Frances the Mute)
  • Ralph Jasso – (2002)
  • Jason Lader – (2003)

Keyboardists

  • Isaiah Ikey Owens – (2001–2010)
  • Linda Good – (2002)

Wind

Guitarists

  • John Frusciante – (2002–2008 in studio, occasionally part of a live setting)

Timeline

Discography

Studio albums

Filmography

  • Coachella (2006)
  • All Tomorrow's Parties (2009)

References

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  33. ^ [1][dead link]
  34. ^ stereokill.net. "The Mars Volta begin work on album six". stereokill.net. http://stereokill.net/2010/05/the-mars-volta-begin-work-on-album-six/. Retrieved 2011-07-01. 
  35. ^ "Interview with Omar Rodriguez Lopez". Nochelatina.com. 2011-02-22. http://www.nochelatina.com/Articles/8701/Interview-with-Omar-Rodriguez-Lopez. Retrieved 2011-07-01. 
  36. ^ "The Mars Volta added to Sonisphere bill - ticket details | News". Nme.Com. 2011-03-14. http://www.nme.com/news/the-mars-volta/55423. Retrieved 2011-07-01. 
  37. ^ a b c d e f Scoczynski Filho, Fernando (20 March 2011). "The Mars Volta Surprise SXSW, Debut New Material". antiquiet. http://www.antiquiet.com/news/2011/03/mars-volta-sxsw/. Retrieved 25 March 2011. 

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