Technical virtuoso boldly confronts the music world — despite the fact that his name is Pastorius and he plays the bass!
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
July 14, 2014
David Pastorius is a bassist and composer. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, David moved to Melbourne, Florida, at age 1, where he still lives today. Pastorius has made a name for himself, performing in various rock/funk acts, as well as several rap and metal bands. He has also conducted numerous bass clinics throughout the U.S. The nephew of bass legend Jaco Pastorius, David is a bona fide artist in his own right.
FBPO: Let’s talk about your musical upbringing. A lot of people probably assume that because your name is Pastorius and you play the bass that you were constantly mentored and guided by your Uncle Jaco, but that’s not really the case, is it?
DP: Not at all. I was 15 when I started playing bass. I was 10 in ’87, when he died. It was five years after that before I even started playing.
FBPO: How did you discover the bass?
DP: A school friend of mine played bass and I didn’t really know what it was. I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I knew I had an uncle who played music, who played bass, but I didn’t really know what a bass was or looked like. My buddy in school played bass and I thought it sounded cool. I asked him what instrument it was and he told me, “It’s a bass. Your uncle played that.” And I went, “Oh. Cool.” [Laughs]
FBPO: Who were your bass influences when you first discovered the instrument?
DP: First off the bat, it would be guys like Robert Trujillo, Flea. It was more bands, though, as opposed to just bass players. Les Claypool was a guy I got into, but originally it was like metal punk music.
FBPO: How did your career get rolling? What sort of things were you doing initially?
DP: Initially, I was just practicing, just sitting in a room, playing. For the first year or year and-a-half, I don’t even think I had an amp! I would just play the bass, you know what I mean? I did a lot of learning on my own. I remember I was always trying to make stuff up, which was good.
FBPO: What about gigs? There must have been a point where you were actually starting to go out and work.
DP: I was 17 when I played in my first band. It was a called FHM. Actually, it stood for Fleshy-Headed Mutants. [Laughs] It was like Pantera meets Cypress Hill. It was really cool. It was a really good band. It was like a metal rap band. I’m still into that music too, a lot of that stuff. After that, I started playing with local musicians, getting into playing some covers and blues tunes. There was a guy named Steve Thorpe, who was a blues artist that I played with. He taught me a lot, just in terms of the feel and meter. He was one of my music mentors, I would say.
FBPO: Your music cuts across so many styles and genres, it’s hard to pinpoint your playing. How would you describe your technique?
DP: If you were to listen to Local 518, you can hear stuff where I’m not doing anything special, I’m just playing bass. I do a lot of support playing, as well. It’s not just all stunt bass. I joke around with people because sometimes people can get the wrong idea. I tell people I play bass also. It’s not just flash. I guess I’m into not being “background music.” [Laughs]
FBPO: What’s it like aspiring to a career in music when, first of all, your name is Pastorius and second of all, your instrument is the bass? Do you ever think about that? Does that present some challenges?
DP: I’ve thought about it, but I don’t really let it bother me. I’m really not worried about it. Jaco did his thing, I’m trying to do my thing. I’m not trying to be a Jaco clone. There’s enough guys out there that already do that.
FBPO: There sure are!
DP: It’s funny. I get a lot of attitude because people have pre-conceived notions about how I’m supposed to play because of Jaco, but they’re missing the point. I have nothing but respect for Jaco, but Jaco was Jaco. I just don’t let it bother me. I don’t think about it too much. I just want to make a living, make a career for myself, you know?
FBPO: And how’s that going?
DP: I’m starting to do online Skype lessons. I’m just trying to get by right now. Eventually, I want to go on tour with a band. That would be great for me right now.
FBPO: Tell me about your solo projects. You’ve got a couple of albums with your band, Local 518.
DP: We’re finishing our third album right now.
FBPO: Who’s on it?
DP: It’s a three-piece this time, so far. It’s me on bass, Alex Petrosky on drums and Al Brodeur on guitar, which are the guys on the Sense of Urgency album.
FBPO: Who wrote the music? Did you do all the composing again this time?
DP: I wrote a lot of it. We’ve all got our parts on this one. It’s kind of a combination.
FBPO: You did some work with your cousin Mary too, in her band Queen Mary.
DP: Yeah. That was a while ago, but yeah.
FBPO: Tell me about that.
DP: It was kind of dark, ’80s-sounding, like Siouxsie & the Banshees on steroids. [Laughs] But it was cool. It’s cool stuff, definitely. I like it. Mary and I had a lot of similarities, stylistically, and with the stuff we were into. We have some differences, but we accentuate each other pretty well.
FBPO: Other than finishing up the new record, what else is keeping you busy?
DP: I did some videos for a rap artist, Tech N9ne. He might put me on a few tracks on his next album. Other than that, I’m just trying to get by locally. Right now, I’m available for session work or for touring with an established artist.
FBPO: Tell me about your equipment.
DP: I’m playing a Marleaux bass. I also play Artisan basses and I’ve been using Hartke amps.
FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
DP: It’s funny. The only thing I was really gung-ho about, literally, was joining the Marines. My uncle joined the marines and that’s really what I wanted to do before I got into music.
FBPO: I assume you’re not talking about Jaco!
DP: No, no! My Uncle Jim. He was only six years older than me and he was always like a big brother type. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. I was so gung-ho about Marines, Marines, Marines! Then I started playing music and my uncle heard me play one time and he said, “If you ever join the Marines, I’ll kick your ass!”