A trickle of mu­sic be­comes a del­uge

> But busy gui­tarist main­tains his fo­cus on ter­rain of Mars

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Music - By Mark Jor­dan

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

For Omar Ro­dríguezLópez, the gui­tarist and chief sonic mas­ter­mind of the pro­gres­sive rock group The Mars Volta, mak­ing mu­sic is a con­stant process.

With “no so­cial life per se,” the El Paso, Texas, na­tive spends most of his time writ­ing and record­ing, be­com­ing fa­mous for his cache of un­re­leased mu­sic and even fre­quently giv­ing com­plete orig­i­nal al­bums to friends as gifts.

“There’s this big myth to song­writ­ing and to ideas … that it’s this spe­cial thing,” says Ro­dríguez-López, dis­miss­ing creative in­spi­ra­tion. “For me, it’s the op­po­site. I con­sider it, in a way, jan­i­to­rial work. You have a leaky sink, and then you put a bucket un­der it. To me, if any­thing, there’s tons of things that es­cape and tons of things that you don’t use, some­times out of lazi­ness and some­times out of the sheer fact that not ev­ery song or idea should be recorded.”

Of late, how­ever, Ro­dríguez-López has hit a par­tic­u­larly rich vein of ideas and the trickle of mu­sic has be­come a del­uge. The past two years have seen a tor­rent of re­leases and projects from the pro­ducer/com­poser/mu­si­cian, in­clud­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions with artists like Ly­dia Lunch, ac­tress-turned-rocker Juli­ette Lewis, and screen­writer/di­rec­tor Guillermo Ar­riaga, for whom Ro­dríguez-López con­trib­uted to the score of this year’s The Burn­ing Plain star­ring Char­l­ize Theron.

Amid all that, he has also been putting out a steady stream of record­ings — seven this year alone — un­der his solo ban­ner and that of his new epony­mous side band.

“I don’t re­ally know why I felt like putting them all out now,” con­fesses Ro­dríguez-López, who re­leases most of his prod­uct un­der his own self-ti­tled im­print. “A lot of times it’ll be ran­dom ... other times friends will say, ‘What­ever hap­pened to that? You should put that out.’ ”

Still for all his fe­cun­dity, Ro­dríguez-López’s main fo­cus re­mains The Mars Volta, the Grammy-winning band he formed in 2001 with singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala. The band will be in Mem­phis on Mon­day night per­form­ing at Min­gle­wood Hall.

Ro­dríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala met in El Paso in the early ’90s and played in a suc­ces­sion of bands to­gether be­fore first mak­ing waves with the punk-in­flu­enced al­ter­na­tive group At The Drive-In.

In 2001, Ro­dríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala, un­happy with the mu­si­cal di­rec­tion of At The Drive-In, left to form The Mars Volta. (The re­main­ing mem­bers of At The Drive-In then went on to start Sparta.) The new group com­bined psy­che­delic ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with dense, pro­gres­sive rock mu­si­cal­ity, sci­ence fic­tion el­e­ments, and a sur­pris­ing Latin in­flu­ence to cre­ate their new, chal­leng­ing sound.

“There’s a lot of Latin in­flu­ence in all my mu­sic, but it doesn’t have to be di­rect and it doesn’t have to be lin­ear and it doesn’t have to heard to un­der­stand it. It just has to be per­ceived,” says Ro­dríguez-López, who cites ’70s salsa star Larry Har­low as a key early in­flu­ence. “I sent him our first EP … and he said he re­ally loved the mu­sic. He didn’t com­pletely un­der­stand it, but he said he could hear and per­ceive such a deep salsa in­flu­ence in it even though it was noth­ing like any­thing he had un­der­stood or heard or writ­ten him­self.”

In June, The Mars Volta re­leased its fifth LP, Oc­ta­he­dron, on Warner Broth­ers. The fol­low-up to their Grammy-winning al­bum The Bed­lam In Go­liath, Ro­dríguez-López be­gan work on Oc­ta­he­dron about the same time and fin­ished it in just three weeks.

In his typ­i­cal pro­lific way, Ro­dríguez-López an­nounced ear­lier this year that the fol­low-up to Oc­ta­he­dron was al­ready com­plete, but since then he has backpedaled, choos­ing to shelve that al­bum in fa­vor of a new one he is work­ing on.

“I don’t know what its go­ing to sound like be­cause I’m in the mid­dle of it right now and maybe this won’t end up be­ing the fi­nal prod­uct ei­ther,” he says.

“... A lot of times I’ll get done with some­thing, and I’ll go, ‘That’s not me any­more.’ I al­ways say, ‘In be­tween ev­ery Mars Volta there’s an­other Mars Volta record you never get to hear.’ ’’

Michael Gg. Rizzi

Omar Ro­dríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala play with a Latin in­flu­ence, ‘‘but it doesn’t have to be lin­ear.’’

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