Published Jun 21, 2017From their inception, At the Drive-In were never a band built to last. Formed by singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Jim Ward in 1993, they were the latest in a long line of projects from a revolving cast of DIY musicians in El Paso, TX. Through sheer force of will, the band overcame member turnover, drug addiction and geographic limitations to become a leading light in the late '90s underground. They combined aggression and musicianship while playing a heady mix of post-hardcore, emo and rock. But by the time most people heard their galvanizing major label debut, Relationship of Command, At the Drive-In were through.
That should have been it, but its members — Bixler-Zavala, Ward, guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López, bass player Paul Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar — continue to operate in a similar fashion to the scene that birthed them, consistently collaborating with one another in an ever-expanding web of interrelated projects that comes full circle this month with the relates of In*ter A*li*a, At the Drive-In's first new album in 17 years.
Ward opted out of the reunion, but continues to work on projects, sometimes with members of At the Drive-In, sometimes on his own. But Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-López have blazed a singular trail over the 16 years since At the Drive-In's implosion, most notably in prog-punks the Mars Volta, whose sprawling sound and track lengths have turned off as many as they've turned on. "Rock bands are not exactly magnets of functional people," says Bixler-Zavala. "We have a polarizing effect on people. Love us or hate us, we do what we do because of the chemical ambiguities of our friendship creates music and art."
1974 to 1992
Tony Hajjar is born in August, 1974 in Beirut, Lebanon. After the outbreak of civil war, his family leaves the country, settling in El Paso, TX. At 14, his mother dies of cancer and his father abandons the family, leaving Tony's 18-year-old brother in charge of Tony and his sister.
Cedric Bixler-Zavala is born in California in November of 1974 to a Mexican mother and a half-Spanish, half-German father. His father, Dennis Bixler-Márquez, is a professor of multicultural education and director of the Chicano studies program at the University of Texas, El Paso. Bixler sees Kiss Meets Phantom of the Park, KISS's 1978 made-for-TV movie, and it changes his life. He convinces his parents to buy him Destroyer on eight-track. "I wanted to be Paul Stanley or Gene Simmons," he'll tell CMJ in 1999. "I was a ham at functions and parties. I would sing along. Then breakdancing, punk rock and heavy metal. It was a natural progression."
His Mexican heritage and relatively unique name make him feel like an outsider. "I had more of an understanding and an early concept of racism at a young age," he'll tell Rock Sound in 2008. "Growing up, I learned the value of sticking up for my brown-skinned friends amongst my white-skinned friends." He cites the Elephant Man, as portrayed by John Hurt in David Lynch's 1980 film, as a role model. "There was something about him that I felt I could identify with. It's about people being afraid of something they can't put their finger on and being physically different from others."
In his early teens the avid skateboarder attends his first concert. Local punks the Rhythm Picks run the scene, booking shows with bands like Black Flag and Crimpshrine. Seeing punk doc Another State of Mind hardens his resolve to pursue music no matter the cost. "It told me, 'It's alright, there's a ton of you out there. You just don't have them in your own town.' I had this romantic notion of these guys who quit their job and went for it, they ate shit and played for nobody."
Pablo Hinojos-Gonzalez is born in Los Angeles in July of 1975. He later shortens and anglicises his name to Paul Hinojos. He meets Rodriquez-Lopez in junior high, while Bixler-Zavala plays in a band called Phantasmagoria with his older brother.
Omar Rodriquez-Lopez is born in Puerto Rico in September of 1975, but grows up in El Paso, TX from age 8. He takes to film, making mini-movies starring his family members. He begins playing bass at 12 and adds guitar at 15. He credits his Puerto Rican heritage for piquing his interest in music. "Our culture revolves around our salsa music," he'll tell ThenItMustBeTrue.com, "so when you're a kid in Puerto Rico, pretty much everyone in your family plays a conga or a maraca or a guitar. All family get-togethers are centered around music."
In 2004, he'll tell Total Guitar magazine that salsa record Electric Harlow by Orchestra Harlow was the most influential album on his guitar playing. He'll later tell the Fader, "Salsa is everything. Everything I interpret, be it rock music or punk music or whatever stage I'm at, is filtered through hearing the clave." He and Bixler-Zavala attend Coronado High School together.
Jim Ward is born in September of 1976 in El Paso. He attends El Paso High School during which time he meets Bixler-Zavala.
El Paso is hardly a hot spot for touring bands. A border town ten hours drive from Austin and another six to Phoenix it's known more for "Tex Mex" music. But it has a lively DIY scene with bands playing house shows and gigs at makeshift venues, though more often than not, it's the same people in different bands playing for one another. "The kids leave as soon as college comes up so it's primarily high school kids and they'll all leave. They'll all go to Austin or somewhere else," Bixler-Zavala will tell UK zine Newest Industry in 1999.
Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-López begin experimenting with drugs in high school, starting with pot and LSD before moving on to heroin, cocaine and crack. Bixler-Zavala has several run-ins with police, including being taken to the emergency room after overdosing on acid. "I thought I was in the body of some kind of Santa Claus transvestite, and my friends was trying to pimp me," he'll tell Rock Sound.
Bixler-Zavala forms Foss with future U.S. Congressman Robert "Beto" O'Rourke. He also joins Los Dregtones on drums and vocals. They play a style of psychedelic rock with hints of reggae and salsa. Bixler-Zavala uses summer breaks from school to "get his feet wet" touring. He uses the MaximumRocknroll-published zine Book Your Own Fucking Life, which provides contact info for places to play, eat and sleep that are friendly to underground bands.
Omar Rodríguez-López joins Startled Calf as lead singer in which Ralph Jasso plays guitar. In December of 1991, they play a benefit gig at Coronado High School. Their set runs long and ends in a riot after the school's security guard hits Rodríguez-López in the face. The whole thing can be heard on the live album, Live @ Coronado HS S.A.V.E Benefit.
1993 to 1997
Jim Ward and Cedric Bixler-Zavala form At the Drive-In in 1993. "I gravitated towards Jim Ward, because I knew he was totally into the work aspect of being in a band," Bixler-Zavala will tell MOJO in 2004. In 1994, Ward and Bixler-Zavala recruit guitarist Jarrett Wrenn, bass player Kenny Hopper and drummer Bernie Rincon; At the Drive-In play their first show on October 15, 1994 at the Loretto High School Fair in El Paso. In November they release the Hell Paso seven-inch EP on Western Breed Records, a label owned by Ward, funded by cash he had been saving for college. Los Dragtones release 5 Song Alibi EP. The same year, the band's bass player, Jimmy Hernandez dies of cancer.
Foss release their debut full-length, Fewel St. The same year Startled Calf release the four song EP I Love Being Trendy and Foss release a self-titled demo and a seven-inch on Western Breed Records. Rodríguez-López drops out of school at 17 to go on tour, but is stranded in Berkeley after his bandmates are arrested. He begins hitchhiking around the country. To fund a growing heroin habit, he sells acid to Deadheads, and eventually his guitar.
At the Drive-In drummer Bernie Rincon commits suicide at the beginning of 1995. Davy Simmons takes over and the band head out on a cross-Texas tour. They release their second effort, an EP, in June. Named ¡Alfara Vive Carajo!, the title translates to Alfaro Lives Dammit!, a reference to a left-wing militant group in Ecuador. Once again, Ward releases it through his Western Breed label. The band book their first national tour, spending 42 days in a 1981 Ford Econoline van. In Los Angeles, the band perform to just nine people, including several staff members from Flipside Records, who offer to put out a full-length.
Despite their growing ambitions and momentum, Bixler-Zavala waits tables between tours and plays in several other local bands; Hajjar teaches chemistry. At the beginning of the year he records a demo with the band Thee Gambede Meatleak on a Tascam 4-track. Titled The Crab, The Bear, The Tiger, The Moose, The Bird, it goes unheard by the general public for two decades. The Houston Press later describes it as "Melt-banana by way of Mr. Bungle."
Rodríguez-López breaks down in Baltimore and calls Bixler-Zavala for help. He comes back to El Paso, gets clean and joins At the Drive-In on bass. The band, which now includes Ryan Sawyer on drums and Adam Amparan on guitar, return to Los Angeles in July and record their debut for $600. Acrobatic Tenement is released in August. Fall on Deaf Ears, a band featuring Bixler-Zavala on drums, releases their self-titled EP. Hajjar and Hinojos to join At the Drive-In. Bixler-Zavala's close friend Julio Venegas commits suicide, having shot rat poison into his arm.
In February, the band embark on a lengthy tour that runs through June. The dates are supposed to be in support of their next record, but label Off Time Records doesn't get the EP, El Gran Orgo, until September. The EP features Rodríguez-López and Ben Rodriguez on guitars. Ward is notably not part of the sessions. The EP is named after a character from the Alejandro Jodorowsky film Santa Sangre. When the band try to move on to another label, Off Time threatens to sue. Off Time later sells the EP master without the band's permission. Fall on Deaf Ears bass player Laura Beard and guitarist Sarah Reiser, both 17, are killed in a car crash.
The band sign with Fearless, who release In/Casino/Out. "They took a chance on us, no one else was taking a chance on us," Bixler-Zavala tells Newest Industry. "All the other labels that represent certain genres of music never wanted to take a chance on us." The record features the song "Napoleon Solo," which Bixler-Zavala writes about Beard and Reiser's deaths. The band's constant touring and Fearless's support help raise the band's profile. In 2015 the AV Club will describe the album — which was recorded live off the floor in just three days — as "the first sign that the band's frenetic energy could translate onto record."
In retrospect, the band feel that there are things missing though. "We didn't get to execute maybe 30 percent of the ideas that were initially planned for the record because of lack of time," Bixler-Zavala tells Newest Industry.
The song "Terranova Compost" appears on the compilation Some Three-Word-Bands from Wester Breed, while "Salient" shows up on The Eagle Has Landed comp from Tranquility Base. Rodríguez-López and Bixler form De Facto, a dub-reggae band, with Jeremy Michael Ward, Jim's cousin, and keyboardist Isaiah "Ikey" Owens. Bixler plays drums, Rodriquez-Lopez bass, and Owens keyboard while Ward mixes vocals, guitars and samples in-between. They begin playing local shows around El Paso.
Years of touring, explosive live shows and the band's unique sound and look (Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala's massive afros are regularly cited in print pieces about the group) pay off. In July, Fearless release the Vaya EP, which Allmusic.com calls it "absolutely astounding," going on to proclaim that the band "seem to have finally come together and found the true and beautiful essence of their music." A music video, directed by Dan Tierney and the band, is made for "Metronome Arthritis."
At the Drive-In are courted by several major labels, but they opt to be the first artist signed to Digital Entertainment Network's (DEN) new record label DEN Music Group (who will later sign Montreal collective Bran Van 3000). The label is run by Gary Gersh, who signed Nirvana and Hole to Geffen, and John Silva, who manages Beck and the Beastie Boys. The new online venture promises short-term contracts and 50-50 revenue splits with artists.
In CMJ, Bixler-Zavala cites DEN's focus on "the art and the process" over radio-friendly hits as the reason for the unorthodox decision. "We're not going to sit down and whore ourselves for the radio." In October, At the Drive-In relocate to Long Beach, CA to begin work on their next record. The same month, they play the inaugural Coachella festival. As a testament to the many circles from which At the Drive-In derive their sound (and fan base), the band head out on tour with emo pop-punks the Get Up Kids and later, alt-rock stalwarts Foo Fighters and politically minded rap rockers Rage Against the Machine. The latter two groups give the band their first taste of playing in stadiums. "It's pretty intimidating to walk out there and see all those people, and they really don't want to watch you play," Ward tells MTV News at the time. Nevertheless, Rage frontman Zach De La Rocha is encouraging, telling the program "They're probably one of the only bands that we'd go on tour with in arenas, because we respect what they do. It's not just a rock band — it's a rock band with a message that we respect."
The song "Doorman's Echo" appears on a split seven-inch with the Aasee Lake. De Facto release a self-titled EP as a limited vinyl pressing.
DEN becomes a victim of the dot-com bubble, going bust in May. Gersh and Silva, who co-own Grand Royal Records with the Beastie Boys, absorb the label and its roster, signing a new distribution deal with Virgin Records for the new additions. Rodríguez-López says the deal was based solely on Virgin wanting At the Drive-In. "[Being on Grand Royal], it just seemed like the perfect thing," Rodríguez-López tells Alternative Press. "They had the right attitude and seemed to be doing it for the right reasons, yet they were sort of considered a major."
ATDI record with producer Ross Robinson who's associated with the then-wildly popular nu-metal genre after producing records for Korn and Limp Bizkit. Cognizant of his public rep, Robinson sees At the Drive-In as a way out of the nu-metal ghetto. At the Drive-In are wary, but Robinson agrees to record a single song free of charge to prove his worth to the group.
"Ross, at that time, had the reputation for being the wild guy who would throw things or drive you around, doing things like method acting."
To get Hinojos's pumped for recording, Robinson takes the bass player through the hills of Malibu in his SUV, whipping around corners with no barriers between the road and the rocks below.
According to Bixler-Zavala, Iggy Pop becomes a fan of Robinson's production work after hearing Limp Bizkit's "Nookie," and the two strike up a relationship. Robinson tells Pop about At the Drive-In and passes older releases to the singer, who likes what he hears. Pop sings on "Rolodex Propaganda" and voices the ransom note read at the beginning of "Enfilade."
In April, the band release a split twelve-inch with Czech band Sunshine, on Boston indie label Big Wheel Recreation. At the Drive-In contribute two tracks, "Extracurricular," and "Autorelocator."
Buddyhead Records release a remix of "Rascuache" as part of a split seven-inch with the Murder City Devils, whom Bixler-Zavala calls At the Drive-In's "brother band" on Lollipop.com.
Grand Royal release Relationship of Command in September. The cover art features a Trojan Horse-esque image, mirroring Bixler-Zavala's lyrics of bringing heart into a passionless situation. The European version of the album includes bonus track "Catacombs" while the Japanese version includes it and "Extracurricular." "Catacombs" also appears on a split seven-inch with Burning Airlines released by Thick Records.
The album is immediately acclaimed. Allmusic.com calls it a masterpiece, while The Village Voice consumer guide says that "In a bad time for young guitar bands… these ambitious yowlers are a reason for hope." In a three-star review, Rolling Stone calls the album "a bracing tonic for our millennial malaise." It peaks at just 116 on Billboard, but tops the "Heatseekers" chart, while "One Armed Scissor" reaches number 26 on the "Alternative Songs" chart, with the help of a video directed by the band. Hajjar and Hinojos direct a subsequent clip for "Invalid Letter Dept."
Nevertheless, Rodríguez-López is unhappy with the mix. "People think that was a raw and energetic record, but what they're hearing is nothing compared to what it truly was before it was glossed over and sent through the mixing mill that was Andy Wallace," Rodríguez-López tells Alternative Press, noting that it's the one record he's played on that he can't listen to.
In November the band's van skids out on ice and flips onto its roof. Bixler-Zavala and Hajjar are taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
They perform "One Armed Scissor" on a number of late-night TV shows, most notably the Late Show with David Letterman and a performance on Jools Holland, in which Rodríguez-López's flailing limbs knock his guitar out of tune during the track's opening salvo.
Relationship of Command makes many critics' best-of-the-year lists. Its reputation grows in the ensuing years. The band tour the record hard, but in an uncredited October 2006 interview posted on Mars Volta wiki the Marble Shrine, Bixler-Zavala admits, "I don't think I've ever consistently played so many shitty shows in my life, and that's because of my drug use. I don't even remember half of the shows."
In January, At the Drive-In leave their the stage at the Big Day Out festival in Australia after three songs when the crowd refuses to stop moshing. In February they cut their European tour short after playing in Groningen, the Netherlands. With a major U.S. tour looming in April, ATDI announce an "indefinite hiatus" citing "a non-stop six-year cycle of record/tour/record/tour." A band statement notes that "We need time to rest up and re-evaluate, just to be human beings again and to decide when we feel like playing music again."
In subsequent interviews, it becomes clear that creative differences, once key to their eclectic sound, finally drove an immovable wedge between band members. Rodriquez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala wanted to break out of the punk-hardcore continuum, while the rest of the band wanted to pursue a more alternative rock sound. "We broke up at least three or four other times before we finally broke up. There were three or four times where I, or Cedric, or Cedric and I both talked about leaving the group because our desires were so different [from the rest of the band]," Rodríguez-López tells Alternative Press. "We were in tons of bands before At the Drive-In and we continue to be in bands after At the Drive-In. It was always sort of us against particularly Jim and his candy-coated way of doing things." Speculating on what a followup record to Relationship of Command might have sounded like, the guitarist quips: "It would have been a heartless piece of garbage."
With At the Drive-In finished, Rodríguez-López and Bixler shift their focus to De Facto. Foreshadowing what would follow, the group unleash a torrent of new music throughout the year. In March, they release the European-only EP 456132015 on Grand Royal. It is recorded with Beastie Boys collaborator Mario Caldato, Jr. (aka Money Mark). A full-length is also finished, but Grand Royal folds after Virgin pulls out of their distribution deal, and it's shelved indefinitely. In July they release their debut album Megaton Shotblast and in October re-release their self-titled EP, renaming it How Do You Dub? You Fight for Dub. You Plug Dub In. They release a second album, Legende du Scorpion a Quatre Queues, in November. The quartet add bass player Eva Gardner and drummer Blake Fleming. Bixler Zavala moves to vocals and Rodriquez-Lopez moves back to guitar to accommodate the new members and the band are rechristened the Mars Volta.
Early live performances are hindered by the escalating drug habits of Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala, who are regularly shooting dope and smoking crack. Rodríguez-López records four albums' worth of material that are slowly given low-profile releases in the intervening years. He also begins writing, directing and producing his own films, the first of which is A Manual Dexterity, starring Jeremy Michael Ward. Hajjar and Hinojos reach out to Jim Ward about forming a new band. They recruit Erik Sanger for bass, but he's quickly swapped out for Matt Miller (Hinojos switches to guitar). The new group, dubbed Sparta, sign with Dreamworks.
Sparta's Austere EP arrives early in the year and the band head out on tour. "I'm totally proud of At the Drive-In and the band I'm in now," Ward tells PopMatters. "I think it's cool that people know about At the Drive-In and that they can check this out. If they like it, great, and if not, that's fine too."
It's followed by a debut full-length, Wiretap Scars, in August, which peaks at #71 on Billboard. Though their sound is noticeably similar to ATDI, they lack the controlled chaos of their former group, taking a leaner, more straight-forward approach with their sound.
A cover of "I've Had It" appears on Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three compilation credited to Bixler-Zavala.
The Mars Volta make their studio debut in April with the Tremulant EP, released through Gold Standard Labs label, of which Rodríguez-López became a co-owner the previous year. "Concertina" is rumoured to be about former At the Drive-In member Ben Rodriguez, who is said to have tormented Bixler-Zavala's friend, El Paso artist Julio Venegas, to the point of killing himself.
The Mars Volta release their debut, De-Loused in the Comatorium, in June, which is co-produced by Rick Rubin. The album's lyrics are based on the death of Venegas. Famed album sleeve designer Storm Thorgerson, known for designing Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, creates the album cover.
In a 2004 profile, MOJO calls the record "a concept album encompassing complex time-figures, tempo-changes, pockets of space-rock abstraction and flights of near-impenetrable lyrical fantasy," going on to pointedly explain that it "is not a prog-rock album, anymore than it is a punk rock album, or a dub album, or a jazz fusion album, or a salsa album, even though it draws potent influence from all these." It is followed by a live EP in July.
Rodríguez-López makes the film Letters From Dystopia which is never released.
Sparta tour with Pearl Jam. In May, Ward's cousin, Jeremy, who plays with the Mars Volta as the band's "sound manipulator" dies of a heroin overdose. Shortly before he died Ward reaches out to Bixler-Zavala, who was now freebasing. The singer promises to get sober if his friend does as well. "One of the main reasons I stopped was I didn't wanna be that person anymore," he tells Mojo. "Not everyone is geared up to be the superman Burroughs, you know?"
Sparta release their second album, Porcelain, and tour with Incubus. The record peaks at number 60 on Billboard. They release the live album Live at La Zona Rosa, 3.19.04, which shares its name with a Coheed and Cambria live album from the same date — the bands were touring together at the time.
The Mars Volta contribute to the song "A Day in the Life/Good Hygiene" from Handsome Boy Modeling School's guest-heavy second album White People.
Rodríguez-López appears on two John Frusciante solo albums and releases his first solo album, A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack Volume One. The record was originally recorded after the break up of At the Drive-In back in 2001. As its title implies, it is intended as the first of a two-part soundtrack to Rodríguez-López's film, but both the movie and the second part of the soundtrack are put on hold due to legal problems. They remain unreleased.
A solo Jim Ward track called "These Years" appears on the Five One, Inc compilation My Favorite Song Writers.
Fearless release This Station is Non-Operational, a best-of/rarities compilation, collecting tracks from their various singles as well as an unreleased cover of the Smiths' "The Night Has Opened My Eyes," in May. No material prior to 1997 is included. It is the band's highest charting release, hitting number 95 on Billboard and number 3 on the Independent albums chart.
The Mars Volta drop Frances the Mute in spring, which peaks at number 4 on Billboard 200. It features a new rhythm section: bass player Juan Alderete and percussionist Marcel Rodríguez-López, Omar's younger brother. Thorgerson once again provides the album's sleeve design. Lead single "The Widow" cracks the Billboard Hot 100 at number 95, though its hardly a more commercial endeavour; with only five tracks, the final song clocks in at over 30 minutes. Produced by Rodríguez-López, he teaches each member their part, then records them individually, layering the parts together after. Both Flea and John Frusciante from Red Hot Chili Peppers appear on the record. It is followed by the live album Scabdates in November.
Bixler-Zavala contributes the song "Live Private Booths" to GSL's monthly singles series, The Special 12 Singles Series under the name Alavaz Relxib Cirdec (his name backwards). He also sings on the track "Siberian Divide" from Mastodon's Blood Mountain.
Rodríguez-López moves to Amsterdam, forming the Omar Rodríguez-López quintet, featuring members of the Mars Volta and Money Mark. Damo Suzuki, former lead singer of Can, occasionally joins the band live. He releases a self-titled solo record.
He contributes guitar to two songs on Frusciante's album Curtains.
Jim Ward debuts his alternative country project Sleepercar at a live gig in El Paso. The project dates back to the final days of ATDI, the song "Fences Down" having been written at one of that band's last soundchecks.
Hinojos leaves Sparta, joining Mars Volta days later, playing guitar and assuming Jeremy Ward's "sound manipulator" role.
Hajjar drums on the Jimmy Eat World track "Disintegration," from the band's Stay On My Side Tonight EP.
Spin ranks Relationship of Command at 83 on its list of the best albums from 1985 to 2005.
Sparta release Threes, which peaks at number 83 on Billboard. A special edition includes a 16-miunte short film made by Hajjar called "Eme Nakia," about his family's early struggles.
Ward covers "Lay Lady Lay" for the Bob Dylan tribute album Paupers, Peasants, Princes & Kings.
The Mars Volta release Amputechture and includes "Viscera Eyes," which dates back to the At the Drive-In days. It hits number 9 on Billboard and receives generally good reviews. They're the opening act on the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Stadium Arcadium tour. Blake Fleming quits part way through the tour, leaving the band in financial straits. He's replaced by Thomas Pridgen. Rodríguez-López purchases an old Ouija board in Jerusalem and band members begin playing with it after shows.
A two-track twelve-inch single featuring Rodríguez-López and Suzuki is released in December. He also contributes a guitar solo to the Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Especially in Michigan" from the band's sprawling double album, Stadium Arcadium.
Ward releases How Will We Know When We're Dead with poet and spoken word artist Bobby Byrd.
Guitar World magazine puts Relationship of Command at 94 on its list of the greatest guitar albums of all time.
Rodríguez-López releases two solo records: Se Dice Bisonte, No Bufalo and Calibrations (Is Pushing Luck and Key Too Far). The former features contributions from Bixler-Zavala, Money Mark and Frusciante. The Apocalypse Inside of an Orange, a double LP released as the Omar Rodríguez-López Quintet also sees release, as well as an EP of work with Lydia Lunch, whom he met after inviting her to perform at the Mars Volta-curated the All Tomorrows Parties fest in 2005.
Rodríguez-López scores the Mexican film El Bufalo de la Noche. Members of the Mars Volta contribute. Rodríguez-López, Bixler-Zavala and Owens all appear on El-P's I'll Sleep When You're Dead.
Rodríguez-López shoots the coming of age film The Sentimental Engine Slayer in and around El Paso, a film he writes, produces, directs, stars in and scores. The film is co-produced by Hinojos and Alderete. Frusciante and various members of the Mars Volta, including Hinojos, appear in it.
Ward releases his solo debut EP, Quiet, on his own Civil Defense League label. It features an acoustic, alt-country sound. The record is distributed by Doghouse Records.
The Mars Volta release their fifth album, The Bedlam in Goliath. It's inspired by experiences band members have with their Ouija board. They blame the board and the people they've connected with through it for a number of issues: a flooded studio, Bixler-Zavala's foot surgery, Fleming quitting and financial issues.
Rodríguez-López's production techniques — recording band members separately — begin to grate on members who often don't know which of his projects they're contributing to. Owens leaves the group after its recording. Bedlam becomes the band's highest charting record, peaking at number 3 on Billboard.
Rodríguez-López releases three solo albums; Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fungus was one of the albums recorded in the aftermath of At the Drive-In's implosion, while the songs on Old Money, released by Stones Throw Records, are rumoured to have originally been pegged for the Mars Volta. Rodríguez-López collaborates with film composer Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack to the Burning Plain, which stars Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger. Also made available is a record the guitarist made with Jeremy Michael Ward shortly after At the Drive-In's break up. Rodríguez-López contributes to Erykah Badu's New Amerykah Part One (4th World War). He also makes the film El Divino Influjo de los Secretos which has yet to be released.
Sleepercar release their debut album, West Texas, in April. They tour with City & Colour in the summer, Coldplay in the fall.
Hinojos and Frusciante form Hour of the Monarchy, though a promised EP never surfaces.
In February, the Mars Volta win a Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy for the song "Wax Simulacra." Hinojos forms another side-project, Dios Kilos. Again, recordings fail to materialize.
Rodríguez-López gets the members of At the Drive-In together and the group hash out their issues, leaving on good terms. Nevertheless, Hinojos doesn't appear on the Mars Volta's next release, Octahedron. He's asked to leave the group by Rodríguez-López in an effort to strip back the band's sound. Pridgen also leaves the group this year, replaced by Dave Elitch. "All along we've threatened people that we'd make a pop record, and now we have," Bixler-Zavala tells Drowned In Sound.
Bixler-Zavala marries actress and model Chrissie Carnell, a scientologist. Bixler-Zavala reportedly joins and credits the religion with helping him kick drug addiction.
Despite patching things up with their former bandmates, Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-López continue to deflect the idea of a reunion. "The reunion rumours surfaced when we took time to bury the hatchet with the other members," Bixler-Zavala tells Gigwise.com. "There had been a lot of shit talk, at least on my behalf, and I had stuff that I wanted to say. I wanted to be friends with the guys again. (A reunion) couldn't happen any time soon because we have so much Mars Volta material."
Rodríguez-López drops half-a-dozen solo records throughout the year, including Cryptomnesia, credited to El Groupo Nuevo de Omar Rodríguez-López, which features Hella's Zac Hill on drums, and the live album Los Suenos de un Higado. Pridgen, who drums on Xenophanes, believed he was playing on Mars Volta album during the recording sessions.
Rodríguez-López produces Juliette Lewis's album Terra Incognita. "The process is the point," he'll tell Blurtonline.com in 2016, explaining the pushing forward with his creative muse is more important than the results. Fittingly, he becomes known as "Little Hitler" among his bandmates, teaching them their parts individually.
Ward releases solo EP, In the Valley on the Shores; Tegan and Sara sing harmonies on "Broken Songs."
Bixler-Zavala DJs a Sonny Kay art opening where he meets former Triclops! member Christian Eric Beaulieu, who by this time is performing acoustic music as Liquid Indian. Several months later they record a number of songs with Mike Watt on bass at the Melvins practice space in Los Angeles under the name Anywhere. He and former Sleepy Sun member Rachel Fannan split vocal duties.
Rodríguez-López unleashes a further seven records, including the acoustic Ciencia de los Inutiles as El Trio de Omar Rodríguez-López and Sepulcros de Miel as the Omar Rodríguez-López Quartet. Tychozorente is a collaboration with DJ Nobody and is a guitar-less release. The same year, Rodríguez-López releases a collaborative album with Frusciante. He contributes music to Mark Ruffalo's directoral debut, Sympathy for Delicious. The Sentimental Engine Slayer premieres at International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Sleepercar's trailer is stolen, along with a large amount of equipment.
Anywhere release their debut seven-inch.
On the solo front, Rodríguez-López has a quiet year, releasing only the compilation Telestrion, which collects selections from across his vast solo discography.
He produces and plays bass on Sin Sin Sin the debut album from Mexican band Le Bucherettes. Rodríguez-López releases the album on his label, Rodríguez-López Productions.
Rodriquez-Lopez directs the music video for "Shine Down" by Mexican singer Ximena Sarinana.
Ward releases the End Begins EP. In August, all three of his EPs are compiled as a double CD that includes six newly released electric versions.
In March, the Mars Volta release Noctourniquet, inspired by Greek myth and a children's nursery rhyme. It marks the studio debut of drummer Deantoni Parks with the group, but the album is quickly overshadowed.
In April, At the Drive-In reform after an offer from Coachella. At first, Rodríguez-López is hesitant, but is won over by Bixler-Zavala's cajoling. "Now would be the moment to do it," he tells Blurtonline.com, "because I can't see myself doing it at 40." They play a number of other festival dates, including Lollapalooza, Fuji Rock in Japan, and Reading and Leeds in the UK.
Ward and Bixler-Zavala do their first interview together in 11 years to advocate for the charity Invisible Children. Vaya is re-released on limited edition vinyl to mark the reunion.
The band begin working on new material. "We all have other projects and families," Rodríguez-López will tell Fuse TV in 2016. While Hajjar now lives in Los Angeles and Hinojos in Portland, Bixler-Zavala, Rodríguez-López and Ward all remain in El Paso. "We're constantly sending riffs back and forth, but never putting pressure on ourselves, never feeling like this is something we have to do."
Anywhere release a second seven-inch titled "Infrared Moses," in March. It's followed a month later by the band's debut, which is released by ATP Recordings for Record Store Day. The ATP site describes the project as "the voyeurism of Sandy Bull, Sir Richard Bishop, or Jack Rose-style raga's reinterpreted at times with Drive Like Jehu, Minutemen punk velocity."
Bixler-Zavala contributes drums and vocals to the third album by Big Sir (a side project of Mars Volta member Juan Alderete), Before Gardens After Gardens.
Rodríguez-López moves back to El Paso and forms Bosnian Rainbows with Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes, Mars Volta drummer Deantoni Parks and Nicci Kasper. Some early live recordings appear as part of the Live at Clouds Hill box set. Also included in the set is Rodríguez-López's collaboration with Faust.
His film Los Chidos premieres at SXSW.
Rodriguez releases three electronic-influenced records in the span of three months, the third of which, Octopus Kool Aid, features Le Butcherettes singer Teri Gender Bender on vocals.
In January, Bixler-Zavala announces on Twitter that the Mars Volta are finished. "We had a huge disagreement and I didn't help it by making the disagreement live on social media," Bixler-Zavala tells Exclaim! in retrospect.
Bosnian Rainbows release their self-titled debut in June.
Bixler-Zavala forms Zavalaz with Them Hills guitarist Dan Elkan, Racer-X bass player Juan Alderete and Megapuss drummer Gregory Rogove. He quits smoking pot, revealing to Vulture in June that he and his former bandmates had been spending $1000 a week on weed. "Smoking weed was part of my identity. My personality loved the way getting high felt," he says. "I always had that cliché: I needed it for creativity. I've come to realize that at the end of the day, it's only you yourself that creativity comes from."
Bixler-Zavala becomes a father when Carnell gives birth to twin boys, Ulysses and Xanthus.
Anywhere, featuring a new lineup that includes Dale Crover, Krist Novoselic, and members of Comets on Fire and Sleepy Sun, release the EP Olompali.
Bixler-Zavala appears on L.A. DJ Nobody's record Vivid.
Rodríguez-López releases four solo records. He also contributes to Puerto Rican band Calle 13's album Entren Los Que Quieran. A collection of his photography covering the years 2000-2006 is slated for release but is then postponed.
Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-López patch up their relationship. "[It was an] eight-month disagreement out of knowing each other since we were 16," Bixler-Zavala tells Exclaim! Rather than regroup the Mars Volta, they form Antemasque with drummer David Elitch and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea. The songs are apparently material originally pegged for new At the Drive-In material, but scheduled sessions for a reunion release never get off the ground when Ward, who saw strains of the band's 2001 implosion in Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-López's recent disagreement, refuses to partake. "He doesn't understand the ins and outs of having that kind of chemistry with someone as a writing partner," Bixler-Zavala tells Exclaim! A self-titled album arrives the same year. "They could have been At the Drive-In songs. They both play differently and approach it differently. Dave Elich doesn't play like Tony Hajjar. It's different brushes or different types of paint." Flea and Elitch are later replaced by Rodríguez-López's brother Manfred and Blink-182's Travis Barker.
Le Bucherettes release Cry is for the Flies. Rodríguez-López once again plays bass, produces, and releases the record on his label.
Swahili Blonde's Nicole Turley recruits the Rodríguez-López, Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes (who sings entirely in Spanish) and Frusciante to form Kimono Kult. The sextet release an EP called Hiding in the Light.
The demo Bixler-Zavala recorded with Thee Gambede Meatleak surfaces on Bandcamp.
While on tour in Mexico with Jack White, Owens is found dead in his hotel room from a heart attack.
Band members meet up to "see what everyone was excited about," Hajjar tells Fuse TV. "Having kids," Bixler-Zavala tells Exclaim! "They put everything in perspective and make you go, 'What the fuck was I mad at? I can't show my four-year-old that daddy can't get alone with his friends through thick and thin, then what kind of parent am I being?""
Le Butcherettes release their third album, A Raw Youth, with Rodríguez-López producing and releasing it on his label.
At the Drive-In officially announce their reunion in the fall, with a string of dates lined up for the following year in Europe and North America.
Anywhere release their second album, Light the Portals.
Rodríguez-López puts out 13 separate solo albums.
Days before At the Drive-In's much-hyped reunion tour is set to start the band announce that Ward will not be partaking. "As our ship prepares for voyage, we announce that Jim Ward will not be joining us on future journeys," explain the band in a Facebook post. "We wish him well and are excited to see you soon."
"We have, all together, a wealth of material — why is one person going to hold us up?" Bixler-Zavala tells Exclaim! "I think he's a fucking amazing artist and it's too bad that it didn't work out." Keely Davis, who played with Ward in Sparta, fills in. The band begin work in earnest on new material, naming demos after the cities in which they were recorded.
Part of the tour is later cancelled after Bixler-Zavala develops vocal nodules. "There's such an intense want for At the Drive-In, that people get really fucking pissed when you can't come through with it," Bixler-Zavala tells Exclaim!
Hajjar forms Gone is Gone with members of Mastodon and Queens of the Stone Age, and his own new project, New Language. Both make their live debuts on April 27 at the Dragonfly in Los Angeles. They release a self-titled EP in July.
In November, Chrissie tweets that she's left Scientology, citing Leah Remini as her inspiration. "I just wanted to thank you for everything you're doing. Gave me the strength to leave. You wouldn't believe what they did to me."
In December, At the Drive-In release "Governed by Contagions," their first new song in 16 years, via Rise Records.
In February At the Drive-In announce a full-length album, In*ter A*li*a, their first since Relationship of Command, due in May, and release a second track, "Incurably Innocent." Both songs appear in set lists throughout the band's spring tour.
Explaining the record's long gestation, Bixler-Zavala tells Exclaim! "People have families. It can make it look like you're not all together there. There was a lot going against us and people didn't understand that it's a rock band made up of human beings."
A video for "Hostage Stamps" drops in April.
In March, Carnell accuses former boyfriend, Danny Masterson of That 70s Show, of sexual assault dating back to a 2001 incident. She alleges that scientology church officials threatened her if she reported the actor.
Even with all the ATDI activity, band members remains busy with outside projects. Gone is Gone release their debut, Echolocation, in January. Rodríguez-López forms Crystal Fairy with Gender Bender, Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover of Melvins, who release their self-titled debut on Ipecac in February. By the end of April, he is already on track to release more material than the previous year, having dropped eight solo records.
In March, New Language release their debut, Come Alive. A second Antemasque album called Saddle on the Atom Bomb is tentatively scheduled to come out later in the year.
In*ter A*li*a is released May 5 to warm reviews. Punknews.org sums up opinions: "If I hadn't heard ROC, this album would have probably gotten a half-star more."
"It took years of baby steps," Bixler-Zavala tells Exclaim! "Just to have it come out and prove to people that we're serious about it was really nice."
At the Drive-In
In/Casino/Out (Fearless, 1998)
In/Casino/Out sees the band master post-hardcore while simultaneously pushing it into new territory. The level of songwriting is high and the live-off-the-floor recording style captures the frantic nature of their live show. In between the fury are strains of punk, emo and psychedelic rock.
At the Drive-In
Relationship of Command (Grand Royal, 2000)
Producer Ross Robinson harnesses the band's ferocious sound to help create this powder keg. Adventurous while still firmly grounded in rock tropes, it features frantic aggression and a surprisingly keen ear for pop hooks. The sheer number of bands it influenced is perhaps its greatest legacy.
The Mars Volta
De-loused in the Comatorium (GSL/Universal)
The Mars Volta's debut laid bare the dichotomy at work in At the Drive-In. Under the tutelage of co-producer Rick Rubin, Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-López break free of the post-hardcore box they'd painted themselves into and let loose their long-stifled genre-hopping musicality. A concept record, loosely based on the death of Bixler-Zavala's friend Julio Venegas, it balances its members' ample ambition without jumping off the prog-rock deep end.