Feature Interview

Jose Pasillas: From MTV to YouTube generation

Apart from being one of the most ingenuitive self-taught drummers on the scene, Jose Pasillas has a keen entrepreneurial flair that keeps him busy when he’s not on the road with Incubus.

With two successful exhibitions, a clothing line and Remo Artbeat collection under his belt, Pasillas has managed to successfully capitalise on his celebrity, displaying his artistic flare and skill on multiple platforms.

His laid-back Cali-accented voice greets me on the other end of the phone and I spend a few minutes fangirling before I’m fully able to get my shit together.

Tecla Ciolfi: I read in an interview you did last year where you said Africa and South Africa were on your bucket list. When did the discussion first start about potentially performing in Africa for the first time?

Jose Pasillas: Its been brought up numerous times over the last decade or so but it’s such a difficult place to get to because we need to line-up other shows around it to make sense for us financially so it’s never worked out.

But this time we planned on spending a bit more time out internationally so South Africa came up again, and it worked out really well so we were super enthusiastic that finally we were able to make it happen. We know we have a lot of fans there and we’ve been wanting to come for many years.

TC: I know you guys toured with Deftones in 2015 and two years before that they came to South Africa to play one of our biggest festivals, did they ever give you feedback about the country or have any other bands chatted to you about what it was like to perform here?

JP: I remember mentioning South Africa to Abe [Cunningham] and he said they had an incredible time, they got to go explore and do a safari… I think we’re going to try to do the same thing.

TC: Hopefully you get some time off when you’re in Cape Town  too.

JP: Yeah my wife spent some time there while working and she raves about it.

TC: So like, how do you even begin to put together a setlist for a country you’ve never been to? I mean, I know that I’d love to hear tracks from ‘S.C.I.E.N.C.E’ and ‘Morning View’ but there might be pressure to include more singles… do you ever have disagreements about what does and doesn’t make the cut?

JP: That’s really the most difficult part of getting ready to go on tour, for us. What we normally do is play 60, 70, 80 songs in rehearsals [Chuckles] and then we try to whittle that down to 22, 23 songs and it’s really hard.

We try to touch base with every record, it’s just a balancing act. And some songs don’t go over so well live so there’s a bit of a learning curve too. So we’ll try some songs, some setlists and we kind of change it as we go, so normally by the end of the tour we have a really banging setlist [Chuckles again] but it takes a few good shows to see what works.

TC: Do you find yourself putting different spins on songs that you’ve been playing since the ‘90s? I can imagine you also want to keep things fresh for yourself on stage.

JP: There’s definitely a bit of that going on. First thing we do when we get into rehearsal is see how we can make certain songs a bit more interesting for us and for the fans. We’ve been playing some songs for 20+ years, we gotta keep it fresh for us but still make it exciting for the fans. We don’t wanna change it so much that it goes over everybody’s heads.

TC: Is there a specific song that you really enjoy playing for any a particular reason?

JP: Hmmm, that’s a hard question. Right now I’ve been having a lot of fun playing songs from the latest record “8” – the whole record is really fun to play. But then there are the mainstays of every set, other songs from records that are challenging for me are fun to play because they never get old, so ‘Sick Sad Little World’ would be one. I love playing ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Circles’, ‘If Not Now, When?’ is a really slow, mellow song and it’s really fun to play – we try make a really colourful setlist with different records and different songs.

TC: You’ve been widely quoted as saying that you had zero formal training on the drums which has its positives and negatives, but nowadays people can just hit up Youtube for a tutorial or a breakdown of the drums of their favourite song – do you think that builds a different kind of musician, maybe a different way of approaching and thinking and learning about drumming? 

JP: Oh 100%. The level of playing now compared to when I started is a totally different game. Everything is so readily available on Youtube and kids that are 12 years old are doing things that I’ll never be able to do [Laughs]. And all they do is watch their favourite drummers on YouTube and it’s truly upped the game for anyone playing any instrument really.

TC: The industry has changed so much since you formed and I don’t want to get into a question about streaming because we’ll be here all day – but I’d love to know how you consume music. How do you listen to music when you’re at home?

JP: I have no attention span so I love listening to an array of music, I’m a just-push-random kinda guy. When I’m in the car with my daughter I stream music, she loves pop music. It’s a combination of the two but I use Pandora a lot and I listen to my saved catalogue because I haven’t bought anything new in a while, but yeah, that’s how music moves me to this day.

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Meet and greet packages for Incubus available here.

Check out what Incubus’ setlist for South Africa might look like here.