One of the most singular and best travelled guitarists of this generation begins a European tour in Ireland next weekend. David Pajo talks to Conor about black metal, ATP and last minute tour hitches
Hi David, thanks for taking the time. You’re just about to start the tour, how are preparations going?
Disastrous! Our bassist / tour manager / driver had to quit the tour due to health reasons. So our second guitarist is now playing the bass lines and we have to find a new tour manager and driver. We are now performing as a duo but the rehearsals have been sounding quite nice. It’s just one of those unforeseen changes that have to occur in the final hour!
What can people expect for this tour?
Mostly instrumental material from Live From A Shark Cage, plus some vocal songs performed on a shitty guitar.
You’ve performed that regularly at different times over the years. What is it about that album that brings you back to it?
It’s a record that gives me hope. When I listen to it, I feel stoned.
The last time you played in Cork as Papa M (with band, The Lobby, April 2000) was in support of that album actually. I remember you played a killer instrumental version of ‘Turn Turn Turn’. I don’t suppose that’s on the setlist for this tour?!
This will be more low key, a very very quiet performance. There are a few cover songs that I’ll play, but it’s very different from the full band performance we did 12 years ago.
You grew up in Louisville Kentucky – for people not familiar can you tell us a little bit about the place? It’s been the birthplace of some remarkable music over the last couple of decades…
It’s a town that is unique from the rest of Kentucky. It has an active underground art and music scene, which has existed since the 70s.
Can you tell me what kind of music you were into before ever being in bands?
I was 14 when I joined my first band so I was very young. I liked metal, rock, soundtracks, ragtime, etc.
In particular, who would you cite as influences on your guitar style?
Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Delta blues, Eddie Van Halen, the guitar on the Mishima soundtrack, Steve Reich, etc.
I think most people, certainly on this side of the world, came across your name first as part of Slint, when Spiderland came out in 1991. How do you look back on that time now?
I believed at 19 that I understood the world and my place in it. Now, at 43, I see that I was right.
Can you talk me through how a love of metal came out in the Slint sound? It seems like a slightly sideways connection, so to speak…
The dissonance and weight of heavy music is present in Slint, but we wanted to achieve that in a unique way. The quiet parts only make the loud parts seem louder.
I saw Slint at the Primavera Festival in Barcelona in 2007. It sounded great and I remember thinking that you all looked very comfortable onstage together. Did you have any doubts or misgivings about working together again at the time after such a long gap?
I sure didn’t. It was a dream to play with old friends again. We’re all on the same level, there is so much we don’t have to discuss because we just know.
From what I’ve read, the ATP people were instrumental in persuading Slint to reform. I guess you’re a fan of the ATP format, having played at it a number of times?
I really am. I don’t care to play festivals very often but ATP is one of a kind – it honors the fans.
You released quite a lot of solo material (Aerial M, Papa M, M) before you sang on record. Why is that?
I guess I’ve just been interested in making music that doesn’t rely on words and a voice at various times in my life.
Over the years, you’ve played as a touring member of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol and Zwan with Billy Corgan, among many others. From your point of view, is that work purely a diversion or does it feed into your own material?
If it doesn’t improve me as a musician, I won’t do it. It has to feel right and natural, yet challenging on some level.
I know some people who raised eyebrows in particular about the Billy Corgan hook up. I get the impression you’re someone who follows his gut in making choices like that?
Exactly. It became wrong and unnatural but it really didn’t begin like that.
How do you take to being on tour in general? Are you ok with the travelling life? How do you get through the day on tour?
I love touring and I miss it if I’m at home too long. But I understand it’s not a lifestyle for everyone. When I’m at home I’m an absolute loner and never go out.
For guitar nerds out there, what’s your favourite guitar tuning?
My favorite is a 7 string tuned down to A, but I also like the Shark Cage tuning: low to high, CGCFCE.
What music is turning you on these days?
Black metal. I like what I’ve heard by Daughn Gibson. The new Leonard Cohen album is very good. Mostly black metal!
Thanks David and good luck with the tour.
Papa M plays Crane Lane Theatre, Cork May 26th and Workman’s Club, Dublin May 27th