Omar Alfredo Rodríguez-López 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 Rodríguez-López met Cedric Bixler-Zavala while practicing with friend Paul Hinojos. Since then Rodríguez-López 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, Rodríguez-López 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, for a variety of reasons, Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala left At the Drive-In and the band went on “indefinite hiatus”. The remaining members, Paul Hinojos, Hajjar, and 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 Isaiah “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 Rodríguez-López’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 One was released in 2004. The release of the second volume, 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 Rodríguez-López’s reluctance to revisit the project which featured his late friend Jeremy Michael Ward were both cited as reasons for the delay. However, Rodríguez-López stated that he does intend to release both Volume Two and the film at some point in the future.
The Omar Rodríguez-López Quintet
In 2005 Rodríguez-López relocated to Amsterdam, where he eventually wrote and recorded four separate albums. His first solo project was the “Omar Rodríguez-López Quintet”. Rodríguez-López played several live shows in Europe with his quintet, which in 2005 also included three members of The Mars Volta Group (Juan Alderete, Marcel Rodríguez-López and Adrián Terrazas-González) and Money Mark.
The songs featured on this tour later appeared on the album Omar Rodríguez. 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 Rodríguez-López 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 Aldaña 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 Rodríguez-López. It featured performances by Mars Volta members Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Marcel Rodríguez-López, Juan Alderete, Adrián Terrazas-Gonzáles 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 Rodríguez-López 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 Rodríguez-López & 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 Rodríguez-López 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 Rodríguez-López & Jeremy Michael Ward was released. It was a collaboration between Rodríguez-López 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.
Rodríguez-López 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. Rodríguez-López has stated that the album will be “heavier” and “mostly guitars”.
He will release the vinyl version of a new recording titled Old Money on the Stones Throw Record Label on January 27, 2009, however, the label’s website has a digital release and CD version available now.
Also, two new Omar Rodríguez-López solo albums are set to be released on January 26, 2009 from Holland based record label Willie Anderson Recordings. There is little info on these projects at this point. The album titles are “Megaritual” and “Despair”. Sonny Kay, co-owner of the former “Gold Standard Labs” label with Omar will be doing the cover artwork for these albums. At this point these recordings will only be available as Imports.
Furthermore Rodríguez-López and Hans Zimmer will be composing the score for the upcoming film The Burning Plain.
Alongside his musical career, Rodríguez-López is directing and acting in a film tentatively titled “The Sentimental Engine Slayer”, which also features his younger brother Marcel Rodríguez-López. Rodríguez-López is co-producing the film with fellow Mars Volta band mates Juan Alderete and Paul Hinojos. A second project also mentioned was a film entitled “El Divino Influjo de los Secretos”.
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