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In the Studio: The Mars Volta Triumph Over Evil Spirits, Write Shorter Songs for "The Bedlam in Goliath"

January 2, 2008 12:42 PM ET

Evil spirits tried to sabotage Mars Volta's new record, The Bedlam in Goliath, which is due January 29th. No shit: Guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez bought singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala a Ouija board in Jerusalem, and the duo is convinced that phantoms conspired to derail the band's fourth album. "It felt like savagery," says Rodriguez-Lopez, who buried the board in an effort to undo the curse. They endured power outages, studio floods, the engineer's nervous breakdown and tracks disappearing while recording in L.A. The duo used the spirits' messages in the lyrics and fed off their energy. "It didn't affect the music so much as the expression of the music," he says. "The concept was to make a more aggressive, vital record."

"Aberinkula," "Wax Simulacra" and "Tourniquet Man" have the staccato guitar and drum blasts of primal punk, and all come in under three minutes. "I rediscovered Bad Brains and the Germs," Rodriguez-Lopez says. No worries: There are still plenty of proggy interludes, and most songs are still five or six minutes. "That's a lot shorter for us," says Rodriguez-Lopez. "They don't have as much as what other people call 'meandering' and what I call 'mood-building.'"

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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