Q&A: The Mars Volta, Hyacinths and Myths

Read more

Never let it be said that El Paso’s experimental prog rockers The Mars Volta doesn’t take you on some sort of mental voyage. Sure, if you’re a lover of complex, unpredictable arrangements and a narrative filled with mythological story lines. Aren’t you? The positively music composing addicts of Cedric Bixer-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López recently unraveled their sixth studio album Noctourniquet, in which it’s claimed to have been inspired by the “Superman comic nemesis Solomon Grundy and the Greek myth of Hyacinthus.”

Curious to get a deeper understanding about the influences and state of mind these musicians are when composting, vocalist and lyricist Cedric describes the title of this latest, as the “mental mantra that stops the night from bleeding.” Shit get’s even more cryptic, “A little boy with the voice in his knives.” Yah… So, I reached out to the band’s peeps, and kindly enough, Cedric responded to my Q’s. I speculate there’s a inner, playful child warped in in a field with characters of darkness. Dang. Now even I’m getting kinda cryptic. It’s pretty contagious. But what’s clear is that TMV continue to evolve and transmit mind-twisting, audio experiences of nocturnal bliss. Read on to know what he has to say about the band’s musical ventures, the myths that influenced Noctourniquet, and the new sounds the band wants to experiment on.

Hello, please describe to me your physical surroundings and current state of mind you find yourself in while writing the answers for this interview?

I’m in a bathroom doing vocal warmups and I’m feeling Minnesota.

Both of you have ventured out in various musical projects and returned to old ones, like At the Drive-In. As musicians of many projects and many records, what are some words you would personally describe for each project? Pick three projects, cause I know there are many.

ANYWHERE – (Me on drums, Mike Watt on bass, Christian from Triclops! on acoustic guitar) Witchy Sandy Bull ragas.

EL GRUPO NUEVO de ORLG – “Cryptomnesia” like a wearing a bag of doritos (with holes cut for eyes) over your head to your daughter’s quinceañera.

DE FACTO– chill fool!

Talking about all of these musical projects, you have tapped into a wide variety of music styles from prog rock to dub-reggae influences. Are there any areas in music you wanna pan out that you haven’t yet?

Goth merengue, muzak for elevators, narcocorridos, dub-mime, amish-core, rap waltz, and sneeze guard hymnes. We are currently writing an anthem for the Westboro Baptist church (boro-core), and churro rock.

Who are your guilty pleasures in music and film?

Guilty pleasures in music and film are Marley and Me, One Direction, Waterworld and Color Me Bad.

What’s the strangest/craziest thing you’ve seen a TMV fan do?

I once saw a TMV fan tea bag himself. He was gluten free.

Talk to me about the recording process of Noctourniquet. You’ve previously mentioned in other interviews that the Ouija board had played an influence in one (or some?) of TMV albums. Are there any peculiarities that have influenced Nocoturniquet?

Recording was the same process. It took 3 years, cuz I took my time. Between writing the vocal melodies, lyrics, and the all the Real World reunion reruns that were being back to back on MTV, I had my work cut out for me. It was tough but I did it. He made me slick my hair back into a pony tail cuz he said I come up with really great parts when I look Steven Seagal.

If you could “see” Noctourniquet (maybe you do?), what would it look like? Quite powerful arrangements by the way!

Thanks. I’m glad you like the arrangements. Omar use to work at a flower shop, so he has a lot experience with arrangements. I have often pondered just what does a Noctourniquet look like, well I will tell you…… it looks like a shake weight being comforted by a Sears poncho.

It was stated that this new record was influenced by the Greek myth of Hyacinthus. How’s that?

The role of the hyacinth was conceived through a particularly tricky game of hacky sack. (Omar was an all state champion for three festivals in a row at the Bonnaroo Music Fest 2004-2007). Omar passed me the “sack” and I returned with a rather nifty backwards pele style kick which found said “sack” in a patch of hyacinth flowers. Having been a florist he picked some up and said take these flowers and look up their meaning on the internet, and boom there it was.

Have you ever taken any hallucinogenics while writing music? Just a sincere question, and not that I think you guys are tripping while composing.

We sometimes consume large amounts of Marzipan while recording.

There’s a lot of sociocultural and artistic coalitions in El Paso, being Cd. Juarez’s twin city. Has this disrupted or challenged your creativity or everyday life in any way?

I don’t live in El Paso, but once won an avalanche from Chavelo.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of sharing two cultures.

Least favorite part about two sharing cultures is that now I have to wear a fanny pack just to put all my Chicanoisms in there, there are just so many.

What do you think about the new taco ramen? Heard? Too gross? Tell us what delicacies are some of your faves to make?

Taco ramen, no mamen!

The Mars Volta is Remezcla‘s Artist of the Week. Stay tuned for a curated playlist of their all time favorite tracks by TMV on Thursday! Also, Noctourniquet via Warner Bros. is available on iTunes, so download it below:

[insert-video youtube=Yh0stkLanx4]