Papa M - Biography

As a man of many hats, Papa M is one of well-traveled guitarist David Pajo’s recording names, which he rolled out in 1999 (others include Aerial M, M is the Thirteenth Letter, the letter “M” and finally, Pajo). Having first made his name in late-1980s with the pioneering slowcore band Slint in Louisville, Kentucky—and later as a contributing member with such luminary bands as Tortoise, Stereolab, King Kong, Royal Trux, Zwan and other indie outfits—Pajo has carved out a niche as an itinerant yet in-demand multi-instrumentalist, known mostly for his abrasive, fuzz-tone guitar work. Under the folk pseudonym of Papa M, Pajo has released three full-length albums and a series of singles. His more bucolic solo work under the moniker has been compared to Songs: Ohia, Bright Eyes, Will Oldham and Leonard Cohen.


The Texas-born Pajo first recorded under Papa M in 1999 with the post-rock offering, Live From a Shark Cage (Drag City), after having already put out instrumental material as Aerial M and “M.” It was released as a CD as well as 180-gram vinyl, featuring studio and bedroom recordings gathered over the previous year. Though it was full of to-be-expected guitar excursions— Pajo was not yet singing, save for a Misfits cover of “Last Caress” released a couple of years prior—there was a wide-stretching collaborative hand behind the scenes. Having recorded with producer Steve Albini going back to Slint’s first album, Tweez (1989 Touch & Go), the two were reunited on the track “Drunken Spree,” and “I Am Not Lonely With Cricket” was recorded in London by Stereolab’s, Tim Gane. The bulk of the album was recorded in Louisville, Kentucky, at Velvetone Music Studio.


In 2001, Pajo finally added vocals to his ever-shifting instrumental forays with the aptly titled Papa M Sings (2001 Sea Note), and he was compared pointedly to his longtime collaborative partner, Oldham, also a Kentuckian. The six-song EP was bedrocked by the porch sounds of Pajo’s acoustic guitar work and some slide guitar and banjo, and further characterized by curmudgeonly tracks like his ode to his record label, “Pissing in the Wind.”


Papa M’s second full-length album—the 13-song Whatever, Mortal—came out on Drag City that same year. The at turns folk and alt-Americana album featured contributions from Will Oldham and fellow Louisville-based artist, Tara Jane O’Neil, who strums an acoustic and plays banjo. Pajo’s own sitar-accented “Purple Eyelid” is one of the highlights on the album, as is the kindling-warm “Roses in the Snow.”  


After joining the Billy Corgan-led super-rock band Zwan and recording the one-off Mary Star of the Sea (2003 Reprise), he toured the country before recording with Peggy Honeywell on Honey For Dinner (2003). After Zwan disbanded, Pajo released a series of EPs and singles under Papa M fresh from the Zwan experience—including Songs of Mac, Three Songs and a series of numbered singles, One through Six. These paved the way for a collection of previously shelved b-sides and instrumental numbers on the album, Hole of Burning Alms (2004 Drag City). The songs run the gamut of Pajo’s tendencies from rock to country to meandering guitar pieces reminiscent of his days with Slint, and include a 16-minute cover of The Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn.”


In 2005, the godfathers of indie rock, Slint, reunited for a string of dates. Since that time, Pajo has begun recording and performing under his god-given name—Pajo—and he’s released a self-titled album. He also put out an album of soft Misfits covers, called Scream With Me (2009 Black Tent Press), which toned down versions of “I Turned Into a Martian” and “Angelfuck.” He also joined the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on tour a 2009 tour of It’s Blitz and also replaced bassist Carlos Dengler in the popular rock band, Interpol, in 2010. In September of 2010, he performed as Papa M at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Monticello, New York.

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