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Omar Alfredo Rodríguez-López (born September 1, 1975 in Bayamónmarker, Puerto Rico) is a multi-instrumentalist, writer, performer, film director, songwriter, lead guitarist and producer for the group The Mars Volta, and the former guitarist for the post-hardcore outfit At The Drive-In. He has also embarked upon a prolific and genre-defying solo career, frequently described as experimental, avant-garde and/or progressive and has collaborated with numerous artists spanning from John Frusciante to El-P.


Rodríguez-López grew up in El Paso, Texasmarker, but spent some of his childhood in South Carolinamarker. He began playing the bass at age 12, but then switched to guitar at 15 because he "needed more strings". 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 Pasomarker, which included people like Paul Hinojos, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Julio Venegas and the now late Jeremy Michael Ward. He went to Coronado High School in El Pasomarker.

At the Drive-In

At 17, Rodríguez-López left El Paso to hitchhike around the country for a year in the early 90's, during which 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, Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala left At the Drive-In and the band went on "indefinite hiatus". The remaining members, Paul Hinojos, Tony 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 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 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 2 and the film at some point in the future.

On February 8, 2009, he and his fellow The Mars Volta bandmates won the Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez with The Mars Volta live at LC Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio

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 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 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 Aldana simultaneously to his work with the quintet.

On May 29, 2007 Se Dice Bisonte, No Búfalo was released. It was the third full-length solo album by Rodriguez-Lopez. It featured performances by Mars Volta members Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Marcel Rodríguez-López, Juan Alderete, Adrián Terrazas-González as well as cameos by Money Mark, John Frusciante, and John Theodore. 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 Japanmarker on July 28. Performing with the group for the first time were singer, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and drummer, Thomas Pridgen.

On October 8, 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 a recording titled "Omar Rodriguez-Lopez & Jeremy Michael Ward" was released. It was a collaboration between the two and was recorded in 2001 before the formation of The Mars Volta. The LP consists of various ambient tracks based on field recordings in the musique concrète tradition.

The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group toured Europe in March 2009, supported by Zechs Marquise.

Recent events

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.

The vinyl version of Old Money became available on the Stones Throw Record Label on February 6, 2009.

Also, two more Omar Rodriguez-Lopez solo albums were released in the Europe on January 26, 2009 from Holland based record label Willie Anderson Recordings. The albums are Megaritual and Despair. Sonny Kay, co-owner of the former "Gold Standard Labs" label with Omar, created the cover artwork for these albums.

In addition, a new entity has been created called "El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez" to release the first in a series of 3 recordings completed in 2006. For the past 2 years these recordings have only been known as the "Omar and Zach Hill collaborations." The first recording titled Cryptomnesia was released on May 5, 2009. Vocals written and performed by Bixler-Zavala were recorded in 2008. The lineup for this entity is: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez on guitar, Cedric Bixler-Zavala on Vocals, Zach Hill on drums, Jonathan Hischke on synth bass, and Juan Alderete on bass.

Recently, Rodriguez-Lopez produced a recording titled "Terra Incognita" from actress/singer Juliette Lewis' band The New Romantiques according to info posted on Lewis' Myspace blog.

Furthermore, Rodriguez-Lopez and Hans Zimmer worked together to compose the score for the 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 Alderete and Paul Hinojos. A second project also mentioned was a film entitled "El Divino Influjo de los Secretos". There is very little info available on these projects at this time.

As of September 2009 it is known by recent interviews with Rodriguez-Lopez that he will be releasing 3 more studio solo albums and 1 live album recorded in Europe in March 2009 while on tour with his group, these will all be released under his label, Rodriguez-Lopez Productions. Those albums are "Xenophanes", "Solar Gambling", "La Ciencia de Los Inutiles" under a new group called El Trio de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez featuring Rodriguez-Lopez himself, Ximena Sariñana and Aaron Cruz and of course the live album titled "Los Sueños de Un Higado" which is only going to be released digitally and on vinyl.


Omar directing the Mars Volta.


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 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. He has cited salsa pianist and bandleader Larry Harlow as his primary influence. BothRodriguez-Lopez and bandmate Cedric have often stated their admiration for early 1970s krautrock group Can, and have even recorded with former Can 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 among his favorite directors.

As Producer

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. Yet Rodriguez has stated that he believes Octahedron will be the final album he records in this "gun-in-your-face mentality" as "gonna have to come up with something new, because everybody's getting used to it." . 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 claims to write 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 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

Guest appearances

As Producer


  1. [1]
  2. HARP Magazine
  4. News for July 12, 2007
  5. Infrasonic Sound
  7. The Burning Plain
  8. Da oportunidad a talento de EP - Edición Cd. Juárez
  9. The Mars Volta - Artistopia Music
  11. Speakers of the house | The San Diego Union-Tribune
  12. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Chats Projects, Mars Volta
Infrasonic Sound Recording Co.

External links

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