Texas prog-rockers the Mars Volta will embark on a North American tour opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers this Friday in Portland, Oregon. But the bill isn’t the only thing the two bands are sharing. On the Mars Volta’s latest disc, Amputechture (due September 19th), guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez solicited his friend (and RHCP guitarist) John Frusciante to step in for him. “I’ve never thought of myself as a guitar player,” explains Rodriguez-Lopez. “I don’t like the guitar. I always felt like I got shafted and stuck with the instrument.” This might come as a shock to fans, considering the band is perhaps best known for its moody, meandering guitar soundscapes. But with the exception of a few killer solos, Rodriguez-Lopez has stepped back from the lead-guitar position altogether, opting instead to play composer and musical director. “This is the role I’ve enjoyed the most — shaping the drums, having a certain sound,” he says. “I work individually with each and every band member. Once they get the notes and rhythm down, we talk about feel: ‘Exactly like that, but it should sound a little more like it’s underwater.'”
As the title suggests, the concept behind the album was “to cut certain things, to destroy the old in order to make way for the new,” says Rodriguez-Lopez. “I would hate to have this band and to put all my energy into it and at the end of the day have us be known as ‘the jam band’ or ‘the long song’ band,” he says. “There are no thirty-minute songs on this one.” Still, most tracks clock in at eleven-plus minutes, and except for the surprisingly rollicking “Viscera Eyes” — which was originally written for At the Drive-In, Rodriguez-Lopez’s former band with Mars Volta vocalist Cedric Bixler — the majority of songs adopt the same style the band built for its first two albums: grandiose, alien guitar and bass atmospherics that swirl around Bixler’s nasally Robert Plant tremolo. “The band will always have a particular sound because I’m writing the music and Cedric’s vocals are very distinct, but the more that we can do to steer ourselves toward new land, that’s the main objective,” says Rodriguez-Lopez. The album hits record stores on September 19th.