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Jose Pasillas: Sinking Back Into The Beat

Recording Now, That’s When

Unlike past Incubus records where the band spent weeks in preproduction planning parts and arrangements, If Not Now, When? was all about capturing a moment in time, as quickly as possible. Songs were written in the studio, tracked, and put to bed in usually a couple of days, max.

“We literally went in, Mike would show us a guitar part, we’d work it out for an hour or so, then we’d put down bass and drums and guitar and move on,” Pasillas recalls. “We did that for the whole record. We usually leave a couple songs for that ‘in-the-studio’ vibe, but this time we cut the entire record like that. It was fun, a change of pace, and we welcomed it. I usually like to sit with my parts for a while, but I welcomed this challenge. It was about getting that first gut feeling of what the part should be and going for it.”

Typically, Mike Einziger recorded a scratch guitar part, then Pasillas and bassist Ben Kenney locked in their parts to the scratch (Incubus includes Chris Kilmore on turntables/keyboards). Vocals and percussion were added over that. Edited drum parts occurred between takes. Admitting that “getting a 100 percent comfortable take wasn’t going to be there,” Pasillas enjoyed drumming in the great unknown. With 16 years as a band and seven albums under its belt, Incubus felt a new approach was in order.

“We wanted to push the envelope and get out of our comfort zone,” Pasillas says. “We did that by going in almost feeling unprepared and just going with it. We got a really cool result.”

Sounding more relaxed and confident than ever, Pasillas tracked Incubus’ latest not like his life depended on it, but like it was just another element in the art that is his life. (Pasillas is also a successful designer and painter). Second track “Promises, Promises” sounds like a genre-splitting hit track from the 1970s, but it was anything but easy to record.

“That was sort of a pain,” he laughs. “I heard the 1 in a totally different place than where it was meant. When I started playing it, I was playing to the guitar and bass, but I couldn’t find the 1. It was so strange. I was just trying to get a really simple beat. What you hear is the beat that stuck. It had a really good groove. It only changed in the prechorus where I go to the floor tom. It was a simple, fat beat. I don’t move my body too much in these slower songs, but it’s coming from my gut. I feel it go literally through my body, through my legs and arms. It is from the body, even though it doesn’t look like it.”

“Friends And Lovers” slips and slides, Pasillas’ glistening open hi-hat and skipping snare part propelling the song like a gazelle. Kettle drums add an extra kick.

“When I first heard that guitar part I’d already been playing that particular beat for a long time,” he says. “I remember I just sat down and started playing that beat. Brandon said, ‘Remember that beat for ‘Friends And Lovers.’ It’s a really cool groove with a lot of notes and it worked perfectly. We did that in Nashville, and Brendan O’Brien wanted me to play the kettle drums there as well.”

Unlike the album’s other tracks, “Switch Blade” sounds old-school, like Incubus jammed it out in a hot sweaty room and hit record. But, again, not all is as it appears.

“Mike recorded the essence of that beat at home, just a drum loop,” Pasillas explains. “I recorded the drums and looped that idea. It’s a computer-driven song. There are three loops in the same beat layered in that song: one from Mike’s house, and we threw it on top of the one I did at the studio. That was very much cut and paste and everyone played on top of it. But it’s all me playing.”

Facing The Future

When not drumming, Pasillas, like singer Brandon Boyd, can be found painting on large, mixed-medium canvases. He’s created album covers, extended Photoshop works, T-shirt designs for Incubus, and more. But nothing’s for sale. Not yet. Incubus’ Hollywood merchandise store, which also doubles as a venue for private performances, will possibly sell his works, which are inspired by (but which in no way resemble) the rarefied art of Maxfield Parrish and Alphonse Mucha.

After 13 million albums sold, and a musical change of direction that could either strike a universal chord or simply lay an egg — given the band’s lengthy hiatus — Pasillas muses philosophical about the future.

“We toured behind Light Grenades, and we spent so much time on the road. Only since we got off the road from Light Grenades have we planted roots at home. We’ve had some successful records. We needed to go away for a while. Mike went to school. We did our greatest hits record. I had a daughter, so I was home. We wanted to enjoy our lives. We all have grown musically and personally in the last few years — me starting a family and painting. We’re all different people. We’re not the same band from Light Grenades. Now we’re going to push this record. We’re all different now.”

Jose Pasillas

Pasillas’ Setup

Drums DW (Gold Sparkle)
1 20" x 18" Bass Drum
2 14" x 7.5" Rocket Shell Snare Drum (or DW Edge Snare)
3 12" x 4" Metal Snare
4 8" x 5" Tom
5 10" x 5" Tom
6 12" x 6" Tom
7 16" x 13" Floor Tom
8 18" x 14" Floor Tom

Cymbals Sabian
A 13" Evolution Hi-Hat
B 10" HH China Kang
C 8" AAX Splash
D 10" AAX Splash
E 12" Evolution Splash
F 21" HH Vintage Ride
G 22" Crash Prototype
H 21" HH Raw Bell Dry Ride
I 18" HHX Chinese
J 21" AAX Studio Ride

Jose Pasillas also uses DW 9000 series hardware and pedals, Pro-Mark sticks, and Remo heads (Emperor Clear on all tom batters, Emperor Coated on snare batter, Powerstroke 3 on kick batter, and Ambassador Clear on all resonant-side heads).

Next page: A Jose Pasillas drum lesson

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