The Mars Volta continue to defy convention
Psychic intermediaries — revel in the sheer intensity of
Omar and Cedric of The Mars VoltaTaking their name from a mysterious red planet and legendary filmmaker Federico Fellini’s word to describe change or transition between scenes, The Mars Volta is known for their ability to generate frighteningly vast soundscapes that defy convention. Originally conceived as a sideproject of the well-respected Long Beach, California hardcore ensemble At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta revolves around guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, whose auspicious alliance has seen them release five full-length albums together over the course of the past seven years. Tearing up the Billboard charts and filling capacity shows, Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala thrive on gleaning inspiration from a plethora of sources, incorporating elements of progressive rock, metal, jazz, Latin, electronica and even motion-picture soundtracks into their unique melting-pot approach.
“I’ve never considered myself a musician, let alone a full-time one,” says Rodriguez-Lopez. “I have many different interests that satisfy different parts of my personality. For example, I’m currently editing my fifth full-length film, not including all my shorts and documentaries. When The Mars Volta began, I set out to start making a film about the band, thinking that I would capture every moment of this horrible failure that we were about to embark upon. Now I realize that it’s an endless project and every time I think I have my ending something incredible happens so I have to keep going. I always have five or six projects on the go at any given time. My friends and managers think it’s an impossible way to work, but it’s the only thing that keeps me interested and feeling fulfilled.”
Filling their days with writing and recording music has become second nature to Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala, who are affiliated with an endless array of side and solo projects. Their most recent studio album, 2007’s The Bedlam in Goliath, represents the blood, sweat and tears that came as a result of the inexplicable chain of calamities that haunted the record’s production — power outages, disappearing tracks and mysterious injuries, to name a few. While entertaining the masses may not be his primary concern, Rodriguez-Lopez acknowledges he is driven by his own desire to act as a living Rosetta stone — a psychic intermediary destined to spend his life as an artist traversing the chasm between sender and receiver.
“Everything I do, whether it’s music or film or whatever, is a form of therapy,” he says. “Cedric is much the same. He spends a lot of time in his daydreams, and I’m the anchor that pulls him back down from space to say “Hey! Can we please get some of that on this plain?” I transcribe his wonderful thoughts for this dimension. We’re not entertainers, but I am concerned with personal growth and sharing what I’m learning about life. That’s how you figure yourself out. It never ends. It’s like breathing — the defeat and triumphs, all the tribulations — I can’t put it down.”
- The Mars Volta perform at MacEwan Hall Wednesday, May 21
by Christine Leonard
Originally published May 15, 2008 in FastForward Magazine.