Omar Alfredo Rodríguez-López
(born September 1
) is a multi-instrumentalist
, lead guitarist
for the progressive rock
group The Mars Volta
and the former guitarist for the post-hardcore
outfit At the Drive-In
Rodriguez-Lopez grew up in El Paso, Texas
, but spent some of his childhood in South Carolina
. He started his music career at 15 years of age when he became the singer for the El Paso hardcore band, Startled Calf, from 1990 to 1992. It was during this time that Rodriguez-Lopez met Cedric Bixler-Zavala
while practicing with friend Paul Hinojos
. Since then Rodriguez-Lopez has spent most of his career living and working with his close friend Bixler-Zavala. During this time he frequently collaborated with his friends and future bandmates from El Paso
, which included people like Paul Hinojos
, Cedric Bixler-Zavala
, Julio Venegas
, and Jeremy Michael Ward
At the Drive-In
At 17, Rodriguez-Lopez left El Paso to hitchhike around the country for a year in the early 90's, which was where he acquired an addiction to opiates
. Eventually he got in touch with friend Cedric Bixler-Zavala
who suggested he come back to El Paso. With the help of Bixler-Zavala, he was able to return to El Paso where he could begin to reclaim his life from addiction and join At the Drive-In
as backup vocalist and bass guitarist. After receiving a record deal with Flipside Records
and recording Acrobatic Tenement
with the band, he became their full-time bassist before switching to guitar. After several years, a combination of excessive hype, relentless touring, artistic differences, and Rodriguez-Lopez & Bixler-Zavala's drug habits eventually caused the band to implode. In 2001 Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala left At the Drive-In and the band went on "indefinite hiatus". Hinojos, Hajjar
, and Jeremy's cousin Jim Ward
went on to form Sparta
while the duo focused on other projects.
The Mars Volta
They refocused their efforts on the dub reggae outfit called De Facto
which also included Jeremy Michael Ward
and Ikey Owens
which they had started years before while still in At The Drive-In. Eventually the same collective of musicians in De Facto would be expanded into Rodriguez-Lopez's new band, The Mars Volta
. Once again starting from scratch he wrote and toured with the band which consumed almost all his time and money.
On May 25, 2003 less than a month before the release of their first full-length album De-Loused in the Comatorium, bandmate and close friend Jeremy Ward was found dead of a heroin overdose. This event, coupled with the memories of the suicide of his friend Julio Venegas years earlier, finally convinced both him and Bixler-Zavala to quit using hard narcotics. Since then he has been clean and credited his newfound musical work ethic on his new lifestyle. The Mars Volta's second album Frances the Mute would later be dedicated to Ward.
During the early years of the band he also worked on a low budget movie called A Manual Dexterity which starred Jeremy Ward. The soundtrack A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack Volume 1 was released in 2004. The release of Soundtrack Volume Two, which was originally planned for Spring of 2005, and the film were both delayed indefinitely due to legal problems. Conflicts over ownership of certain footage and Rodriguez-Lopez's reluctance to revisit the project which featured his late friend Jeremy Michael Ward were both cited as reasons for the delay.. However, Rodriguez-Lopez stated that he does intend to release both Volume 2 and the film at some point in the future.
The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quintet
In 2005 Rodriguez-Lopez relocated to Amsterdam, where he eventually wrote and recorded four separate albums. His first solo project was the "Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quintet". Rodriguez-Lopez played several live shows in Europe
with his quintet, which in 2005 also included three members of The Mars Volta Group (Juan Alderete
, Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez
and Adrián Terrazas-González
) and Money Mark
The songs featured on this tour later appeared on the album Omar Rodriguez. It was characterized by long, improvisational songs with Dutch titles and no lyrics. The Quintet also performed live with Damo Suzuki, parts of which were recorded and incorporated into a 25-minute EP titled Please Heat This Eventually, which was released in 2007.
During this time Rodriguez-Lopez was also working on The Mars Volta's 2006 record Amputechture and composing the score to the film El Búfalo de la Noche, a film by Guillermo Arriaga and Jorge Hernandez Aldana simultaneously to his work with the quintet.
On May 29, 2007 Se Dice Bisonte, No Bùfalo was released. It was the third full-length solo album by Rodriguez-Lopez. It featured performances by Mars Volta members Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez, Juan Alderete, Adrian Terrazas-Gonzales as well as cameos by Money Mark and John Frusciante. It was written and recorded between 2005-2006 in California and Amsterdam.
The Quintet later resurfaced in 2007, now known as "The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group" to perform on the "white" stage at The Fuji Rock Festival in Japan on July 28. Performing with the group for the first time was Bixler-Zavala and drummer Thomas Pridgen.
On October 8th, 2007 the EP Omar Rodriguez-Lopez & Lydia Lunch, a collaboration with spoken word poet Lydia Lunch, was released.
The Apocalypse Inside of an Orange is a double LP featuring the original quintet and was released on vinyl November 20, 2007. It was also released for digital download.
Calibration a record that Rodriguez-Lopez recorded during his stay in Amsterdam, was released February 5, 2008. It was described as being influenced by electronic music and acid-jazz.
On June 10, 2008 Omar Rodriguez-Lopez & Jeremy Michael Ward was released. It was a collaboration between Rodriguez-Lopez and Jeremy Michael Ward recorded in 2001 before the formation of The Mars Volta and consists of various ambient tracks based on field recordings in the musique concrète tradition.
Rodriguez-Lopez has also continued to release a series of albums recorded in 2001 which include Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fungus and Minor Cuts and Scrapes in the Bushes Ahead. In addition an as of yet untitled collaboration with Zach Hill of the band Hella has also been completed. Rodriguez-Lopez has stated that the album will be "heavier" and "mostly guitars".
Furthermore Rodriguez-Lopez and Hans Zimmer will be composing the score for the upcoming film The Burning Plain.
Alongside his musical career, Rodriguez-Lopez is directing and acting in a film tentatively titled The Sentimental Engine Slayer, which also features his younger brother Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez. Rodriguez-Lopez is co-producing the film with fellow Mars Volta band mates Juan Alderte and Paul Hinojos. A second project also mentioned was a film entitled El Divino Influjo de los Secretos.
Rodriguez-Lopez's compositional and playing style is characterized by, among other factors, unresolving dissonances (in particular a heavy use of the tritone
), chromatic passages, serial composition and lengthy improvisation
. He is also known for his vast array of effects pedals
; in a feature appearing in Guitar World
, Rodriguez-Lopez stated that he "began to see effects as allies in my war against the guitar". In that interview he also stated that he hated the instrument guitar for a very long time. He only utilized it because it was the instrument his bandmates could "relate to". He said he "wrestled" guitar by adding effects and playing oddly to attempt "making it sound like anything besides this thing I hate—the guitar!". However, he claimed to feel more comfortable with the instrument on Amputechture
Rodriguez-Lopez plays guitar left-handed. His style has been likened to that of King Crimson's Robert Fripp (who also uses tritones abundantly). It is likely that Fripp has had a considerable influence on Rodriguez-Lopez. However, Rodriguez has cited salsa pianist and bandleader Larry Harlow as his primary influence. Rodriguez cites the comedian Lenny Bruce, the film-maker Werner Herzog and the New Age anthropologist Carlos Castaneda as three other important influences. Both he and bandmate Cedric have often stated their admiration for early 1970s krautrock group Can, and have even recorded with lead singer Damo Suzuki for the Please Heat This Eventually EP. He has also stated that film is a primary influence on him. David Lynch, David Cronenberg and Takashi Miike are amongst his favourite directors.
Rodriguez-Lopez is also known for being a prolific songwriter, in a 2008 interview he stated that he had 17 recorded, mixed, and completed albums sitting at home.
Rodriguez is also notable for his recording, producing and songwriting techniques. He has been known to refuse to let other musicians in a session hear each other's parts, or the context of their own part, thus forcing them to play each part as if it's a self-sufficient song . He has claimed that he is "ignorant of music theory" and that thus he lacks knowledge in writing music in sheet music form, claiming that his songwriting "comes from emotion completely" . Rodriguez writes all of the music for his projects, then dictates the performance to the musicians involved .
In addition to his producing credits with The Mars Volta and his solo albums, he also produced the first and only LP from the defunct LA-based band Radio Vago.
With Startled Calf
With At the Drive-In
With De Facto
With The Mars Volta
With The Mars Volta
- This model was Rodriguez-Lopez's main guitar for live on-stage with TMV. They had an Ibanez Artcore series bolt-on neck, a single volume control knob, and a single Seymour Duncan JB Jr. pickup in the bridge position. He has many of these guitars, and at one point had one with a Floyd Rose installed, which has since broken.He no longer use those models since Ibanez has made him custom Jetking guitars
- Ibanez JTK2 Jet King Custom Model
- Rodriguez-Lopez began playing this guitar towards the end of 2006. He has both a black and a white version of this guitar, with a red tortoise shell pickguard and one Seymour Duncan JB Jr. pickup. (As seen played on October 23rd.show)
- Ibanez ORM1 Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Signature Model
- A new production model by Ibanez based on his black version of the custom Ibanez Jetking that he uses since october 2006.
(Rodriguez-Lopez has a huge range of effects pedals which he uses both live and in the studio. The above is a list of identified pedals, however the list is not complete.)
De-Loused in the Comatorium
Frances The Mute
With At the Drive-In
With Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quintet
- This model is a low-cost model, similar to Rodriguez-Lopez's AX120 custom, but is available to the general public.
- Rodriguez-Lopez used a black model with a white scratchplate, and a white model with a red tortoise-shell scratchplate