Q&A: David Pajo On Metal, The Slint Reunion, Band Name Changes, And Not Regretting Being In Zwan
David Pajo is one hell of a jack-of-all-trades guitarist. In the early '90s, Pajo revolutionized minimalist post-punk sonics with the crucial Kentucky outfit Slint, helped birth the post-rock aesthetic in Tortoise, collabbed with ex-Slinters in loopy dance new wavers King Kong and palled around in projects with Will Oldham.
Since then Pajo as experimented under a myriad of pseudonyms including, M, Aerial M and Papa M, weaving intrepid and singular six-string guitarplay into a folksy Americana and electronic noodlage deconstruction. Pajo has dove into old school metal with Dead Child, black metal with Evila, played in Zwan with Billy Corgan, cameoed with Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and revisited Slint. He's now back in Papa M mode.
Sound of the City caught Pajo via email to talk about his nonstop projects.
It's been a while since the last new Papa M album. Is there a new album in the works? Are you testing out new material live?
I don't have plans for a new album. Although, I'll probably add some little doodads that no one's heard before. Hopefully it will all tie together as some kind of experience.
On Sunday at (le) Poisson Rouge, will you play solo or do you have a band?
Matt Jencik [Don Cabellero; Slint 2007; Implodes] is playing bass and other textural things. It sounds surprisingly big and full with just the two of us; in the right venue, with the right audience, and the right P.A. system. If any of that is lacking in some wayKAPUT.
What can we expect?
Me and my music are pathologically quiet.
You've collaborated with Will Oldham over the years and he's gone under several different names, as you have been prone to do. as well. Was there ever a conversation between the two of you where you conspired to fuck with people's heads and your label Drag City just for shits 'n' giggles?
You know, I can't recall ever talking about the different name changes. I would usually run a new name by him to get his take, that's about it. I don't think either of us did it to intentionally fuck with anyone.
Which one of you thought of recording under the numerous names first? Did Will rip your idea off?
Neither of us did it first, not really. A lot of those old blues guys put out records under slightly different names. John Cougar did that too. I can't speak for Will but I always assumed he was "fine-tuning" his outward presence. Before Palace Brothers there was Palace Flophaus. For me, I just felt that a change in musical direction or philosophy constituted a new name. It was also a way to delineate time periods. I think Will probably felt that way too, to some extent.
When you write a song, do you think to yourself "This is going to be under 'PAJO'" or "This is going to be under 'Papa M'"? What's your rationale behind it?
I usually write the songs first and then I'm stuck with trying to figure out how it should be presented. I wanted Papa M to become Papa M Singssometimes I wish I had done that. The band name is one of the last things I think about. If I recorded a bunch of tunes tomorrow, I'd have no idea what name it would be released as. I know the band name should probably matter to me but it really doesn't at all.
When Slint played those reunion shows a few years back, were you immediately into taking part in it or were you skeptical in any way about it just being a nostalgia act, given the fact that reunions have become so commonplace in recent years?
I was skeptical of a lot of things. I wasn't sure we could pull it off. There were so many potential scenarios where it could utterly fail and be pathetic. Looking back I think we did a respectable job, with the help of some great people. We were fairly detailed when it came to recreating that sound. For example, I used the same copper picks and the same brand strings that I used back when we recorded Spiderland. Same amps, pedals, pickups, etc. We were old friends getting back together, which was the most awesome part about the reunion. I don't think any of us were nostalgic. I felt like I was just doing my duty.
What were your thoughts on playing those songs again after all those years? Did you enjoy it?
I really enjoyed it. It was so cool to look back on those songs with that much perspective. I would be happy not to play them again, but it was a definite joy to me.
What did you originally bond over with your friends in Squirrel Bait and Slint?
In addition to getting excited about the same music, I definitely bonded over our mischievous, delinquent humor.