Mars Volta: 10-Year 'Dictatorship' Ends After 'Noctourniquet'

Mars Volta: 10-Year 'Dictatorship' Ends After 'Noctourniquet'

New album "the last record of its kind," says Omar Rodriguez-Lopez

Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez says the band's sixth studio album, "Noctourniquet," will be its last -- at least in terms of how he's approached writing and recording the group's music during the past decade with singer/lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

"It's been 10 years of totalitarianism and dictatorship, doing things my way of having complete control over everything," says Rodriguez-Lopez from South by Southwest, where he was promoting his film "Los Chidos." "The only way the group can go on now is by changing that and opening it up. As far as the Mars Volta is concerned, [Noctourniquet is] the last record of its kind."

"The Malkin Jewel"

Due March 26 on Warner Bros. Records, "Noctourniquet" was recorded on the heels of the band's 2009 release "Octahedron," which debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 84,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. At the time, Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala had an eye-opening argument that led to the former realizing the songwriting process needed to be more collaborative if the Mars Volta was going to stay together.

"[Bixler-Zavala] said, 'This isn't a collaboration. You make the music, shape everything, and I get to sing on top of it. I want to truly collaborate and be a part of it,'" Rodriguez-Lopez recalls. "Now I want to ask people for opinions and let them write their own parts. I want it to function more like a traditional group."

The Mars Volta also includes drummer Deantoni Parks, keyboardist Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez (Omar's younger brother) and bassist Juan Alderete de la Peña.

With the group's future secure, Warner Bros. marketing director Hannah Keefe says the label is in the midst of a fan-centric campaign that includes YouTube clips of Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala answering fan-submitted questions and a music video contest for new single "The Malkin Jewel." Warner is also focusing on indie retailers, where purchasers of Noctourniquet will receive a free lithograph poster.

"We're always looking to serve the fans first," Keefe says. "When we put something out -- whether it's a song, photo or video-they get the first look."

The album has also received a residual awareness boost through the recent announcement that post-hardcore band At the Drive-In -- of which Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala are members -- has reunited after 11 years to play select performances, including Coachella in April.

"It was a slow burner over the years," Rodriguez-Lopez says of the reunion, noting that the group met several years ago at his home in Mexico to make amends. "I apologized for breaking up the band in such a selfish, immature way. I got to hear them out and they got to hear me out."

Two other factors were also at play in the band's reunion: a lucrative offer from Coachella founder/booker Paul Tollett to play at the Goldenvoice-produced festival and the group gaining control over the masters for its albums Acrobatic Tenement (1996) and Relationship of Command (2000) last year.

Rodriguez-Lopez says At the Drive-In has formed a still-unnamed label that will rerelease the albums. The reissues won't feature any new or remastered tracks, he notes, but will likely include photographs and video footage that documents the band's career. And he says the band hasn't ruled out future performances or the possibility of recording new music.

"I keep saying no, but I've also said for the past 11 years that I'd never play with them again," he says. "I'm extremely focused on Mars Volta and figuring out that thing. That's where my priority is."