Interview with Incubus drummer Jose Pasillas

By Caroline Fontein

Some people have to practice their whole life before they get their big break. Others grow into it. The latter was the case for Jose Pasillas. For the past 20 years, Pasillas has been the drummer for the rock band Incubus. He’s been playing the drums for that same amount of time.

“Drums always stuck out to me whenever I listened to music. I was always able to distinguish each drum like the snare drum from the hi-hat from the cymbals. I was always able to figure out what was what and conceptualize it in my head, so that when I sat down at a drum kit, I was able to play simple beats,” said Pasillas.

Incubus formed back in 1991 while Pasillas along with Brandon Boyd (lead singer) and Mike Eizinger (lead guitarist) were attending high school in San Fernando Valley, Calif. They later added Alex “Dirk Lance” Katunich (bassist) and Gavin “DJ Lyfe” Koppell to the group.

Since then, Incubus has released seven albums and reached multi-platinum sales. Some of their singles include, “Pardon Me,” “Wish You Were Here” and most recently “Adolescents” from their 2011 album “If Not Now, When?” The group has had both mainstream and critical success, and they continue to be a popular touring act around the world. Audiences in Vegas can see Incubus over Memorial Day Weekend on May 25 – 26 at 9 p.m. at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel.

“It’s been a really gradual growth from inception to now,” said Pasillas, who has never had any formal drum training.



Instead, he learned by watching drummers on television and in videos and by air drumming. One of the first drummers to inspire him to play was his neighbor, Steven Adler from Guns N’ Roses.

“I would wake up in the middle of the night and hear him play drums. Everyone in the neighborhood couldn’t stand it, but it was really exciting and inspiring to me. That was definitely one of the drummers who got me wanting to play drums,” said Pasillas.

His style of drumming was influenced by the music he was listening to when Incubus was in its early stages, including performances by drummers from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine and Primus.

Pasillas wasn’t the only amateur when Incubus formed. He explained that everyone was still learning and figuring things out along the way. One thing they knew from the beginning was that they wanted to write music they enjoyed hearing, not what would get them on the radio. The end result is what Pasillas described as a “perfect combination of interesting music with beautiful melodies on top of it.”

“We’ve really written all of our music for ourselves, and we’ve been lucky to have a following that has taken the trip with us for the past 20 years. It’s been pretty amazing,” said Pasillas.