The Mars Volta: ‘The most revolutionary thing we could do was to make a pop record’ | The Guardian

John Doran, 12 August 2022 (The Guardian)

After their 2013 split left fans in shock, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López reveal how the Church of Scientology drove them apart – and inspired their surprise new albumFri 12 Aug 2022 08.00 BST

When Cedric Bixler-Zavala joined the Church of Scientology in 2009, he thought of it as lightly as “signing up for a yoga class or a self-help group”. Having been introduced by his new wife (TV star Chrissie Carnell) and friends, the frontman of the revered US rock band the Mars Volta underwent an induction process designed to tackle his $1,000-a-week weed habit (essentially a month of rigorous daylong sauna sessions). He found it helpful until he realised it came at a price. “Scientology becomes habitual, [a] crutch,” he says. “What becoming involved actually did was to alienate me from a lot of close friends.”

Top of this list was Omar Rodríguez-López, his pal since childhood days in El Paso, Texas, and the only other constant member of the Mars Volta. As Rodríguez-López says bluntly: “Cedric joining the Church of Scientology contributed to the Mars Volta breaking up [because of] the types of absolutist ideas he started to believe.”

Bixler-Zavala admits that the religion put him “up on a cloud” from which he looked down on everyone around him, whom he considered to be “stuck” without the religion. He decided to try to turn them on to Scientology despite knowing that the response would probably be negative.

Fans were stunned when the band split in 2013. Since forming the Mars Volta in 2001 from the ashes of punk band At the Drive-In, the pair had recorded six fiendishly complex concept albums, drawing together jazz, metal, Latin music and prog. It wasn’t a total rupture – during the hiatus, the pair toured extensively with the reunited At the Drive-In and formed a supergroup, Antemasque. It took until this summer for the group to announce their reunion. A new, self-titled album, which the pair have been working on in secret since 2019, is released next month.

Nevertheless, we speak on separate calls: Rodríguez-López is affable and insightful, despite struggling with Covid; Bixler-Zavala is friendly and generous. But my repeated requests to interview them together, to get a feel for their rejuvenated relationship, come to nothing… [+]

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