Photo © Sebastian Mlynarski
Interview by Domenic MaltempiDavid Pajo as 'Pajo' recorded Scream with Me back in 2004. It was released in 2009 as a limited vinyl only release on Black Tent Press. I hold the vinyl in my left hand sucking down gypsy cold relief tea in my right, strengthened with bootleg bourbon-honey. I play record at 45 rpm as suggested. The platter rotates on my shitty little unit with internal speakers in the kitchen of my apartment. These songs settle into the rhythm of your blood.
Welcome Gypsy Hemoglobin, crawl to the head, crawl to the torch!
"Teenagers from Mars" hums its powerfully skeletal skin forward with a weightless dexterity. This song, like many on Pajo's latest, is slightly burred and blurred into cold gooey droplets, ready for a needle to land on its ghost-zones with starched aplomb. This remade Misfits classic (this is a whole album of them) may never regain its first listening life for a given ear. Clean and earnest musical incisions allow one to enter through a new sub-architecture where you might never remember that ancestral thundery bravado, and macabre yet jokey slashing, wielded in a Danzig line such as: "We need no introduction/for mass annihilation."
David Pajo is a very talented musician who had been playing out before being part of what has been considered one of the most important 'post-rock' bands coming out of 90's, namely Slint. Mr. P, Papa M, or Doc Jo, whatever one may playfully call him, played with King Kong, The Palace Brothers (Will Oldham in general), Stereolab, Royal Trux, The For Carnation, Matmos, Tortoise, Molten Slut Garage, as well as the mysterious Black Bra Painter.
As Aerial M, he put out several instrumental releases. As Papa M, he produced Live From a Shark Cage, Papa M Sings and the sweetly impaled bucolic and dark blue fingered moat folk of Whatever, Mortal. A few Papa M singles followed, as David lined up with Billy Corgan's project Zwan in 2002. Pajo hasn't done much since then, not playing much over the last year or so. His self-titled first release came in the summer of 2005, with solo stuff recorded here and there.
Swinging back to Scream with me, one listens to its eyeless strains suffused with a fiery sadness spun within its iridescent trunk. Often dart stitched in Pajo's versions is a new ribald playfulness that gives them more dimension and gravity than they possessed as done by Glenn Danzig. The teenagers really do seem to be refugees from Mars, and care even less. They now wander around an alien farm land. Some of them wondering:
(Relief, relief, Jackie relief! You...! ...passed out, oh passed, oh dead states on the move… won't brandish any proof… split in two)
One certainly doesn't need familiarity with the songs found on Pajo's new album to gain a further appreciation of them. My Portuguese neighbors spit into their hands as they stare up at me flying around the house, inhaling that Gypsy vapor. I think of Pajo playing drums for King Kong in the nineties, following King Kong from Seattle to Oregon with Big girl Kelly supplying the wheels. She was our only ride. We were broke. She despised my jump rope club friends, but liked me too much. What could one do? It was 1997, camping out near Portland Oregon, we needed to get our Kong on. One still hears big girl Kelly sounds when they can't sleep.
It was around that time that I picked up The For Carnation's EP Fight Songs (still one of my favorite EPs) in a little store in downtown Seattle. David's superb guitar work is paired with members of Tortoise, and Slint, for a music that casts a wide net of dynamics, and is not without moments as found on Scream with Me. There is a shared light/darkness fluid in both works that gnarls as it crystallizes you into bluer drams of moody embalming mind stuff to be taken late at night--- under-tongue-dissolved.
"The Devils Whore House" begins side two of Scream with Me. It sounds worn, warm, slugging its imprint into alien farm land, furrowing a new fucking language. Lucifer's fun house is built with weathered beams, almost eviscerated where the face of it might be. But it stands, will stand, and the passersby never inhales the rot of its strength. The face of these songs find themselves looking for A) a caul: a motherless/fatherless sack to dwell in, B) a rotating back-stage where itinerant dwellers roam around delicately, C) lovely walled runnels in the form of scars. These songs might die on you, and return, waving their exoskeletons as you go hunting for your headphones.
They might die on you, but that is not saying you will only find them to be a novelty born from some excited skin of nostalgia or otherwise. That is a possibility of course, for many listeners open to the idea of these songs being performed by another artist in such a radically different way. There are moments when one might find themselves fatigued by Scream with Me's beaten shimmering, but then again, that might be enjoyable too.
Pajo allows these songs to hover over themselves; it's accomplished by a certain magical stripping that goes on. I'm not talking about magical strippers. I have long forgotten about the music they redressed to, pointlessly lunging into the future arms of bouncers that are now babies.
David P was nice enough to submit to some questions via e-mail this past February.
PSF: When did you start incorporating some of the songs from Scream with Me into a live set?
DP: I started playing the Misfits songs live when I was asked to play shows-- but I had no interest in performing my own material. I had written so many songs about specific people that my favorite songs to sing were also the most difficult to revisit. Especially when one is feeling well, it's tough to travel by yourself and be demanded to repeatedly go back to a depressing time in one's life.
In short, I was sick of singing bummer songs.
The enjoyment I had in singing Glenn Danzig's songs about genocide, martians, and blasphemy was probably evident to the audience. And hopefully it was more engaging or funny as a result.
PSF: Why did it take a few years from the recording for the album to be released?
DP: It was never intended to be released.
I was couch surfing in Brooklyn when I found myself in an apartment by myself. I decided to take advantage of the solitude by working on some music. So I grabbed a Radio Shack mic that was lying around, duct-taped it to a cymbal stand, tuned a guitar, found an old cassette recorder, and recorded all the songs quickly. I copied the tape to my laptop and put everything back the way I found it. But I left the tape in the cassette player.
In retrospect, it was pretty selfish of me to tape over whatever was on the cassette at that time. Apologies, Allessandra!
At any rate, that recording started circulating. Hearing it back years later, it seemed so pure compared to the records that I had poured myself into. My friend Dirk was starting a label and asked if I wanted to release it on vinyl. The fact that every copy would be silkscreened by himself made it a no-brainer.
PSF: When did you first start to play these tunes David, where you thought, 'fuck, I think I should record this?'
DP: I had a couple songs under my belt and wanted to write more for a full album (what became the first "Pajo" release). Before I started, I wanted to examine someone else's songwriting technique. I had recorded a couple Everley Brothers songs but the songs felt pretty obviously from another time. The Boss? The King? The Kid? Who else did I admire as a songwriter?
I always loved the Misfits lyrics so I started singing from memory. When I got in closer, I realized how awesome these songs actually were. Once you strip away the aggression and shitty production of the Misfits, you are left with strong melodies, strong lyrics.
For example, in "Where Eagles Dare": This omelet of disease awaits your noontime meal.
PSF: Have you gotten any recent hate mail from music fans who claim you ruined his/her life, or something less dramatic?
DP: I don't read reviews or forums or blogs about myself. Thankfully, people that take the time to write are usually super cool. When I was in Dead Child, we would get some hate mail from metalheads who didn't like our old-fashioned approach, but they were all from dudes half my age.
PSF: Have you ever named any of your instruments? If so, please supply some names, and possible reasons for naming them as such.
DP: A good friend of mine names just about everything he owns-- his car, guitar, stereo, etc. They all have the same name: Lucille.
Names of cars I've owned over the years:
Comet ('62 Mercury Comet)
Piggy (VW Vanagon)
Pony (Ford Mustang)
My favorite guitar right now is named Arctopus. It's a 7-string Jackson and it makes me want to play like Mike from Behold... The Arctopus.
PSF: Do you prefer to perform alone?
DP: I'd much rather play with friends, have a band to interact with. But unless I'm doing a big tour or getting paid a bundle for one show, it's not too cool to ask musicians to play for free. Or rather, I think it's unfair.
PSF: Is there another album from your days as a kid, or more recently, that you would consider recording in its entirety, and if so why?
DP: l probably always do covers but I doubt that I'll ever cover an artist again-- at least I won't release it. To do it more than once makes it a novelty.
PSF: Out of all the albums you have played on, which one if any has a special kinship with Scream with Me?
DP: I don't think I've played on a record that was never intended to be a record. Except perhaps for that first Palace Brothers "Drinking Woman" single.
PSF: What are you currently working on?
PSF: Is there any truth to you putting together a folk opera using The Canterbury Tales as subject matter. If so, consider me for the part of the Squire.
DP: I wish whoever was starting these rumors would 1) come up with them more frequently, and 2) spread them to a wider audience.
PSF: You have only recently begun to sing, relative to your years as a recording artist in many well known and highly acclaimed bands. Did you use to sing more when not playing in so many bands, or did that just happen later on/more recently?
DP: I filled in for a singer for a local punk band (Dot 39-- Ethan Buckler's first band) once, 24 years ago! But I just shrieked the lyrics off a notebook page.
I was always singing to myself, and then I recorded an acoustic version of "Last Caress" in 1998. An interesting thing about that song is that Glenn Danzig himself taught me how to play it the right way. I was in a band that supported Samhain for a short tour back in 1985 and we used to cover "Last Caress" (well before Metallica!).
PSF: If there existed a film about a blues musician that started off not having any interest in music at all until he began working as a bathroom attendant in a fancy underworld mid-western night club, would you consider playing the part of the musician, or creating a soundtrack for this hypothetical film?
DP: I would be happy to act or do the soundtrack, whatever paid the most.
PSF: Do you despise or hold in awe any cartoon character(s) past, present or future?
DP: I've been loving on Astroboy for nigh on twenty years now. I recently read Black Jack, from the same creator, and I think I like that even more.
All those early Disney films are unbelievably good-- Snow White, Cinderella, Pinocchio. I like fairy tales, myths, magic, etc.
Rapeman, of course, was a pretty shocking anti-hero.
I don't care for Dora too much.
Future cartoon characters? I'm sure Alan Moore will have something awesome to unveil.
PSF: What is the darkest album you have ever listened to?
DP: Scott Walker's Night Flights is up there-- specifically, "The Electrician"-- but it's been a really long time since I've listened to it. Maybe it's tame compared to the stuff I listen to now.
Beherit has some scary moments. Wold is pretty fucked up.
But my favorites have to be Incantation's Mortal Throne of Nazarene and Onward To Golgotha. Holy fuck, that music was born in another world.
PSF: What is the most uplifting record you have ever listened to?
DP: For me it's Arvo Part's "Für Alina."
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