Papa Don’t Preach: A Conversation with David Pajo

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David Pajo is a busy man. In March, he finished the highly successful and cult-approved Slint reunion tour, released his sixth solo album in June and is currently working on a Slint reunion tour DVD and writing new material for yet another record. Pajo, who travels back and forth from his home in Louisville to his apartment in Manhattan, granted SLUG a candid look into the indie-rock legend's life.


(David Pajo)Pajo has released two albums under the name Ariel M, two singles under M, three LPs under Papa M and now, his latest, PAJO. He explains that his name changes were intended to delineate time periods in his life; time periods which produced different styles of music.

The new PAJO record, like the Papa M record preceding it, is delicate folk music centered around acoustic guitar. The new album, which is also available on vinyl, has more of a pop feel, which can perhaps be attributed to the drum machine accompaniments on some of the songs and the vocal melodies that can best be compared to Elliot Smith's.

Pajo has been a part of a number of influential groups such as King Kong, The Palace Brothers, Stereolab, The For Carnation, Matmos, Palace, Tortoise, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Zwan.

According to Pajo, in previous releases, he was trying to maintain a feeling of anonymity, whereas his newest self-titled release "just felt more like a solo record. ... With these new songs, I couldn't deny that they were about me."

Pajo explains how he recorded the entire record on his laptop, using the $40 mixing program that his computer came with.

"It wasn't a conscience decision," explains Pajo. "I was using the laptop as a sketchpad; I'd get a song idea and record on there really fast because most of the songs were written in New York. It just got to the point where I started to like the demo versions ... when I would come back to Louisville to record them in my more proper home studio, they sounded ... almost sanitized or something."

When David Pajo first starting releasing solo material, it was strictly instrumental. Over the years, Pajo began to sing more and more on each record, and has now, for the first time, put out an album in which he sings on every song. Pajo explains that he has gained more confidence as a singer, but still has trouble singing live. The vocals on his new record are very soft spoken, but as I learned, Pajo is quite soft spoken in conversation as well.

"I had a roommate who would often sleep during the day," says Pajo. "When I would put down my song ideas, I had to sing really quietly ... there's almost a completely different vocal style [on the album], which just came out of my roommate situation."

Pajo, who only recently began living in New York, admits that the city was very influential when it came to songwriting.

"The over-stimulus of living in New York made me want to make something that was just like a brain massage," says Pajo. " A lot of the songs were written after I played shows with a metal band [Early Man]. I'd come home with listening fatigue, so I'd write these super-quiet songs that were like the only thing I could bear to listen to at that point."

As happens with so many new releases these days, Pajo's album was leaked onto the Internet in May, which caused quite the stir on the singer's message board.

"I'm so into downloading," admits Pajo. "I think that if you're really into something, you want it right away, but you also want to have it in your collection. Usually if I download something and like it, I end up buying it."

Pajo does not plan on doing any touring for the new album. "I thought about it a lot, but I still have trouble playing these songs live," says Pajo. "I like the songs, but I'm more excited about this new thing I'm working on. I want to get that off the ground.

"I've already started working on the next record," Pajo eagerly explains. " It sounds totally different; it's like the exact opposite. I think I'm going to get somebody else to sing."

Pajo explains how his new record involves a "real band," which has adopted the name Dead Child, and describes the songwriting process as democratic. Pajo's new band includes Todd Cook (Crain, For Carnation June of 44, Retsin), who played bass on the Slint reunion tour, Michael McMan, fellow Slint guitarist, and Tony Bailey, a drummer and Louisville native who has toured with Aerial M.

Pajo reluctantly admits that Slint has no plans of making their recent reunion permanent, saying, "I love the way we get along musically, In a way, I feel like just by doing the reunion tour, we're already affecting whatever reputation we had in peoples' minds and I'd like to preserve that as much as possible, not put out 'Slint 2006' and have people say, 'Well, I prefer the old Slint.' It was something that we were all really psyched to do, but it was like, we did have lives we had to go back to."

Before going on about his day in Louisville, David Pajo suggested that I check out Pearls and Brass, a new band that he's excited about, and left me with one final thought.

"I love Salt Lake City. Everyone I've met has been super cool. It's beautiful around that area."