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Ion got its start in 2000 as a side project for former Blister 66 bassist and programmer Joe Sego and ex-Dropsound vocalist Noe De'Leon. By 2002, with the addition of Todd Schlafer, Rocket Ajax's erstwhile axman, as well as guitarist Nik Lawhorn from Synthetic Delusion and Blister 66 drummer David Foonberg, it was a full-time concern and already something of a local supergroup with its heavy, electro sound. The following year, Ion released its debut full-length, Gross National Product -- produced by Paige Haley of Orgy and Mikey Cox from Coal Chamber -- to substantial acclaim.

Since then, Ion has taken home two consecutive Westword Music Showcase awards, made several modifications to membership -- Schlafter, Lawhorn and Foonberg are no longer with the band, and have been replaced by guitarists Lex Windle and Ross Ryan (on loan from 8om) and drummer Gef Gust -- and continued to add to its already sizable following. On the eve of the release of Ion's latest effort, Arma, we caught up with De'Leon to find out how roster changes have impacted the band and why, exactly, Sego clipped his trademark dreads.

Westword: You guys have had several lineup changes. How has that affected the band?

Noe De'Leon: It's definitely opened a lot of new ideas due to some of the members we've had in the band.

Was the split with past members amicable?

There's no harsh feelings or anything like that. Like with Todd, he'll always be a friend, a brother and a friend, and the same thing with Nik.

Your songs are noticeably more melodic on the new record. Has your approach to songwriting changed?

Honestly, I think Gross National Product was influenced by what I was listening to. A lot of the stuff I was listening to then was hip-hop, the majority of it was hip-hop. So, really, there wasn't any major melody line. But with Arma, I started listening more to like, Madonna, Johnny Cash, Devo, David Bowie and stuff like that. I tried to take a different approach.

HmmŠinteresting. I still hear a lot of Maynard.

Yeah, I've heard that before. I like Tool and everything, but I'm not necessarily that into them. I think it's just our range. When I was in high school, I took choir, and they gave me all the girl parts. And a lot of my major influences are female singers, like Bjrk, Madonna, Fiona Apple and stuff like that. They have a really big impact on me.

In what way?

If you take Bjrk, for example, she hits these notes that are just piercing, that give you the chills. Females tend to show emotion a little deeper.

So what's up with Joe's new haircut? He looks a lot like you now. Did he get tired of looking like Jonathan Davis?

[Laughs] I think everyone kept calling him Edsel from Dope. That's like the ongoing joke.

Do you guys go to the same hairdresser now?

Yeah. We go to headbanger SALON.

Really? Dude, I was totally kidding.

Yeah. We're actually sponsored by them.