Dead Child – David Pajo proves he’s “metal”

DOWNLOAD: “Sweet Chariot” from Dead Child’s Attack

Though he’s played in indie rock bands far removed from the metal scene (Slint, Tortoise, Stereolab, Royal Trux) and served time in Billy Corgan’s short-lived post-Smashing Pumpkins band Zwan, guitarist David Pajo is really just a shredder at heart.

During the Slint reunion tour in 2005, Pajo, Michael McMahan, and Todd Cook started talking about putting together a metal band that paid homage to the bands they grew up listening to (Maiden, Priest, Motorhead) and shortly thereafter they hooked up with other Louisville, Kentucky musicians Tony Bailey and Dahm to form Dead Child.

Dead Child’s debut full-length, Attack, was just released on Quarterstick Records and the band is currently in the midst of a short run of tour dates.

I sent Pajo some questions last week and here’s what he had to say:

Message boards are lame, anonymous users with the freedom to say what they want without being held accountable. That being said, you’ve been taken to task by a few posters on the Donewaiting message board essentially as being a “fake” metal musician. And Dead Child has been mentioned in the same breath as bands who supposedly previously wouldn’t claim their “metalness”, if you will, but now are perceived as jumping on the bandwagon. So I ask you, Mr. Pajo, would you care to silence your anonymous, hiding behind a name, “critics”?

This is a bummer but I anticipated this kind of backlash. It’s a risk for us to call ourselves a metal band and it would be just as easy for us to drop it. But we set out to form a metal band so why refer to it as anything else? I’m trying to get away from this elitist bullshit! Besides, aren’t there more fruitful efforts to pursue while we orbit on this tiny pebble than sorting out what’s metal and what’s not? Metal is a broad fucking term – ultimately, it’s just music and attitude.

I understand the sentiment though – poser metal (hair metal) was a real problem in the 80s and I used to hate those guys/bands. But these days it’s not so much of an issue, except for that nu metal shit. Hot Topic metal. I think you’ll see more and more people like me coming in (or back) from other genres that have finally ‘seen the light.’ I think this should be welcomed because it will help expand and fortify the genre. It’ll be interesting to see what develops from these new influences. What I’m trying to say is, I understand that metal is precious to you and you have every right to be suspicious but please judge us on our music. Not our recorded history (which only tells a fraction of the story). If it’s not your cup of tea, we are easily ignored.

I don’t know why people would think we’re jumping on some sort of bandwagon, it’s not like I’m milking the market dry. I’ve had prominent people in the indie rock world, people who I thought were friends, turn their back on me for “committing career suicide.” Quarterstick is pushing the record as hard as they can but we’re all still broke, sleeping on floors, averaging $100 a show, playing to tiny crowds. I’m 40 years old, We got $0 the last two times we played out and they were legitimate shows! I’ve been doing this shit for a long time. Yes, I gave up a successful career in the indie rock world and my old friends don’t talk to me any more. But I can’t deny where my heart is, and I can’t help that it’s 100% in metal.

To those anonymous critics that never experienced life before cell phones, internet, MTV, and compact discs:

  • My front four teeth are fake because the Louisville Outlaw bikers knocked them out at the Iron Maiden concert in Louisville, KY in 1983. It was their ‘Piece of Mind’ tour and Fastway and Saxon opened. It must have been their first tour with their new drummer, Nicko McBrain. Fuck you.
  • My first band was a metal/hardcore crossover band called ‘Maurice’. We did a tour opening for Samhain in 85? 86? I think ‘Unholy Passion’ had just come out. Glenn called my parents house months after the tour because he was forming a solo band called Danzig and he liked my guitar playing (I could shred way better then). I never called him back because we had just started Slint and I didn’t want to play show-off guitar anymore. FUCK you.
  • I was playing Malmsteen licks when he was in Alcatraz – Rising Force hadn’t started yet. I saw Metallica with Cliff and they slayed. Fuck you and YOU.

To prove your “metalness”, what was your first experience with metal (first album or the first time you heard Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath or something at a friend’s house)?

I feel really old. I have a family. Do I have to burn down a church now, or murder Alexi Laiho or something? I really don’t want to prove my ‘metalness’!

I heard Sabbath’s ‘Master of Reality’ at a friend’s house in 1979. I was into Led Zeppelin and AC/DC and all that but I’d never heard anything like Sabbath before. We used to make cardboard guitars out of tennis rackets with crazy shapes and Van Halen stripes, and air guitar around the room. I know it’s queer but I was 11 years old for fuck’s sake!!!

What was your involvement with Early Man? The first time I heard about Early Man was from somebody in Columbus who tried to see the band at CMJ and it was described to me as “David Pajo’s metal band”. But it really wasn’t your band, was it? Were you and Matt Sweeney (Chavez, Zwan) just filling in and helping to fill out the lineup when you could or were the two of you full-time members?

I’d been bugging Matt for years about hooking me up with a metal band. It just so happened that I was couch surfing in New York and Early Man were looking for a new bassist. Mike and I hit it off and he and Adam quickly became my favorite people in NYC.

It took a while for me to figure out that Early Man isn’t a democracy and I wanted to be a real member of the band, contribute to the songs, etc. Once I realized that Early Man is Mike’s solo thing it was cool – I started thinking about old friends that might be interested in forming a heavy band.

How did you and Matt hook up with a couple of former Columbus residents? Does that have anything to do with your current residence in Columbus?

I think Matt saw Early Man at a party or something and liked them, that was the connection. Yeah, that definitely had something to do with my living in the Columbus area. But the main reason is that my lady got a good job here.

How long have you lived here? Do you go out and check out the local scene? Anything that’s caught your ear, any clubs that you like to frequent?

I’m pretty domestic and a hermit so I don’t go out too often. But I’ll go to every deadsea and Teeth of the Hydra show. I also like Sword Heaven and Brainbow (especially their Tolkien set!).

I’ve been here a few years but because of my loner-ness I still don’t know much about the city. Some kind soul needs to take me under their wing and show me the town!

I grew up on “metal” – more into the hair metal variety at the time though I did listen to Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer while in high school. I feel like every year there is a metal band or two that I really get into but there wasn’t much in 2007 that got me excited. This year, however, there seems to be a lot of really great albums (Warbringer, Kingdom of Sorrow, Children of Bodom, Oh Sleeper, In Flames, Testament). Anything you’ve heard this year that you can recommend?

It’s easy for me to forget that I used to really like some hair metal back then too – it was all metal to me, I couldn’t differentiate early Motley Crue and Def Leppard from Metallica or Venom. I thought Y&T was metal. Priest were metal. Even Night Ranger had some metal because Brad Gillis played with Ozzy!

I like Warbringer, I just saw them open for Exodus in Cleveland. Hate Eternal are cool too. My favorite stuff so far this year has been Meshuggah’s ‘Obzen’ Bloodbath ‘Unblessing the Purity’ Origin ‘Antithesis’. I really like Swallow The Sun but I don’t know if they have anything new coming out this year.

Can you remember when the idea for Dead Child was originally tossed out there? I read that it was during the Slint reunion tour. Was it meant as sort of a joke or were you really ready and excited to put together a metal band?

The band wasn’t meant as a joke at all. Todd, Michael and I wanted to do keep playing together and we all had the desire to do something heavy. When Todd said that Dead Child was a good name for a metal band, I laughed initially and agreed with him. But the more I thought about it, the more perfect it seemed.

How much of a commitment is Dead Child? Is this your full-time gig or are you taking the band day-by-day, putting out a record, doing some touring, then moving on to the next thing?

This is my only musical output. I’m usually in two or three bands at once but I’m not interested in anything else right now. The problem is that I live 4 hours away and everyone else has other bands that are pretty active. So although it’s a full-time thing for me, it’s not that way for the others. I’ll probably have to get something else going because there’s so much down-time with DC – I’ve already been cooking up some plans…

But yes, Dead Child are for real and, unless one of us quits, we won’t be going away anytime soon.

What is the common ground shared, musically, by the members of Dead Child? Do you all have the same influences? When you were recording, was anything ever said like “Let’s make this guitar solo sound like Maiden”?

I think Todd and I have the most similar musical tastes. We all have common ground in hard rock and 70s/80s metal. Our sound is our common ground.

Some stuff like that was said during recording but I think every band says stuff like that during recording!

For people who have heard the CD and either aren’t buying it or don’t think you’re heavy enough, do you think the live show will change their opinions or are you pretty honest to the recorded material?

The record is very honest. I don’t know if the live show will change things or not. Those are our songs, that’s what we sound like. There aren’t many overdubs at all.

Check it out and decide for yourself. We’re loud and we play hard. Our drummer is a fucking monster.

Finally, outside of Dead Child, what should fans of yours be looking for from you through the rest of 2008 and beyond?

In addition to more Dead Child recordings and shows, I’m going to do a studio-only thing. I can’t say too much about it except that it’ll be in the metal section.

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