Mile High Music Festival Q&A: Incubus

Incubus was three-fifths of the way formed back in high school in California twenty years ago. Safe to say the band had no idea how popular its music would be - the group has three platinum albums in the US, and two of those went platinum twice. Born in the alternative boom of the early '90s, Incubus set themselves apart with a slower tempo and world-music instruments -- and by being sad while their counterparts insisted on being angry. Drummer Jose Pasillas was neither sad nor angry when we spoke with him yesterday. Incubus will be in Denver this weekend playing the Mile High Music Festival, and Pasillas had much to say about art, "Spongebob Squarepants," and donkey dung. Read the full interview after the jump.

Westword (Kiernan Maletsky): How do you like playing Denver?

Jose Pasillas: It's always been really fun. We've always played really cool venues there, and all of our shows there have been awesome. I mean, we're a little breath easily on the stage because of the altitude, but we always have great shows there.

WW:Tell me a little bit about the fans in Denver. Do you have a good following here?

JP:Yeah, that's why we have good shows, because the crowd's always very receptive and very enthusiastic. So in turn we're sort of feeding back that energy to them, and it's kind of like this reciprocating event.

WW:Do you like playing festivals?

JP: Yeah it's cool. I mean you get to check out other bands that you like, you kind of play a smaller set, which is cool, and it's just kind of like this barbeque-y type of vibe, everyone's hanging out, chillin', watching each other, supporting each other, so it's cool. It's a cool way of playing a show.

WW: What's the best request you've ever heard someone shout out during a show?

JP: Probably "Spongebob Squarepants." I think we've done that for somebody before.

WW: If you hear a request you like enough, there's a chance you'll play it?

JP:We don't even have to necessarily like it. We'll just try it. And not always. It depends on how frisky we're feeling.

WW: Do you have any pre-show traditions or rituals?

JP: We usually lather each other up in oil and run down a slippy slide naked.

WW: Of course, yeah.

JP: But that's usually way before the show, at least 45 minutes before the show.

WW: So you have time to towel off.

JP: Yeah, exactly. We don't want the instruments to flee from our arms.

WW: You were originally, way back in the early nineties, interested in art and have been doing some designs since then. Have you been doing any work on that lately?

JP: Yeah. I've done a bunch of really big pieces while I've been home. That's just kind of out boredom. It's a hobby I've been doing.

WW: You just do them for your own enjoyment?

JP: Yeah. I've never had a gallery; I've never sold any paintings. It's definitely purely for my own satisfaction, I guess.

WW: Do you think that someday down the road you might pursue that more in earnest?

JP: For sure. I definitely will. I think I'll do a gallery at some point. I'll definitely put a more concerted effort into it. Right now I've just been building my collection up that I've been making. I'm sure at a certain time I'll be able to collect all of that together and make a big something.

WW: What sort of medium would you work in?

JP: It's kind of a mixed medium. I've been doing a lot of canvas work, but I also do a lot of Photoshop stuff, too. And also I do a combination. I do a lot of drawings and put them into my computer, scan them in and manipulate them.

WW: Do you think that playing music is a cathartic experience for you?

JP: Yeah, I mean, when we're playing, it's like this experience we're all having together. When it's good. There's times when it's not good and it's just kind of, you wait for it to be over. But usually it's a positive experience and everyone's just reminded how fortunate we are. We have a gift. We're able to do something that we love for a living. And to be able to share that on a daily basis is pretty amazing. We're very lucky. We definitely know that.

WW: Would you ever think about doing something else?

JP: It's possible. I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I know Incubus will always take the forefront of what we're doing, because that's our livelihood. We'll all pursue other projects whether it's music or art or whatever it may be, but as far as in the future recent outlook, not too sure. Right now it's just Incubus and that's kind of what we're focused on.

WW: What do you think the arts give people that other things cannot?

JP: I think it's a medium that's very overlooked. I think it's not pursued as much because art does not seem like a viable living to many. And it's not really encouraged. Obviously in schools, art is the first thing to be diminished as far as cutting back money. That's the first thing, music and art. And it's overlooked. People think that because you're in a desk job and a suit that that's the way you're supposed to make your living. That's the appropriate way. For me, art is just an expression of myself for other people. I think everyone has it in them. Most people just aren't able to express it. Probably because they weren't able to when they were young. You know, I was drawing and listening to music when I was very young, so it was always in my life, it was very natural to me. A lot of people don't get that. So it's just a different form of a release. I think it's important whether you're doing it for a living or not. Whether it's drawing or music or it could be anything creative. It could be doing yoga, anything that's in the creative aspect in your head. I think it's very important.

WW: You released a compilation album this year. Did you just decide it was time to look back on the collection?

JP: We thought it was time. We had a bunch of music that was unreleased. When we talked about our best-of record we always knew we'd kind of do a b-side to it. And it was just time. We were home this year, we didn't have any big plans of writing a record, so we just thought we'd put it out. It's also a contractual obligation that we didn't have to do right away, but we just thought, might as well do it now, it's a perfect time, so we did it. It just made sense.

WW: Has the reception been what you've expected or has it exceeded your expectations or what?

JP: It's been great. Our ticket sales have been so amazing, and it's just far surpassed all that I could have hoped for. Sales are very fickle these days, and you don't know what's going to sell well and what's not. So we've been blessed. And we're just going to keep going.

WW: Are you finding it harder to sell albums and starting to rely more on shows?

JP: We don't really make a living off of record sales. No one does anymore.

WW: Right, sure.

JP: So it's always been a live thing for us. We've always made our money live. We've been working at it diligently for so long.

WW: What it is it about your live show that makes it exceptional or exciting?

JP: I'm not really sure. I think we all really enjoy what we do. And when we're onstage, our music really comes to life. I mean, we do what we do on the record and then some. We really let loose and sort of add to that. And I think people can connect to that, whether musically or lyrically, whatever it is, they seem to be drawn to it and connect to it. I'm not sure exactly why, or what makes people connect to it, but it's just this symbiotic thing that really works and happens and it's pretty awesome. It's a pretty amazing feeling.

WW: Have you started talking about when you might start on a new album or are you just hitting the road now?

JP: We're just on the road right now. We'll probably do something in like, 2010 probably put something out. We have no rush. We have the luxury of time right now.

WW: If there's anything you'd like people to know about the show or the festival this weekend, I'd love to hear it.

JP: If you don't like the smell of donkey dung, don't come.

WW: Why is that?

JP: Donkey dung? The poo of a donkey.

WW: No, no, why? Is there a lot of donkey dung?

JP: I can't... you'll have to come to the show to see.

Incubus performs at 5:30 p.m. this Saturday, July 18 at the Mile High Music Festival on Main Stage West.

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Kiernan Maletsky is a former Westword intern.
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky