Known alternately as Papa M, Aerial M, M Is the Thirteenth Letter, and simply M, David Pajo has woven in and out of some of the most creative bands in the Midwest while working on his own innovative solo and side projects. Born in Texas in 1968 to Fernando "Nanding" Pajo and Darlene Feldbusch, he was raised in Louisville, Kentucky, which is still his base of operations. He was a founding member of Slint, the Louisville-based slowcore band that wowed critics from 1987 to 1991. After they broke up, he played with a variety of bands, including the Palace Brothers, Stereolab, the For Carnation, King Kong, and Royal Trux. He was also a full-time member of Tortoise until 1998, cutting back his involvement with them to work on the M projects.
The common thread between all of the M projects was Pajo's expressive, nearly eerie guitar playing. Backed at times by gentle, wave-like rhythms and the hum of synths and keyboards, the music had a mesmerizing quality to it, while conveying images of great expanses of space. Notable projects include a split single with Monade (Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab) under the name M Is the Thirteenth Letter (on Palace Records in 1995) and three full-length albums on the Drag City label: the self-titled Aerial M, released in 1997, Post Global Music, released in 1999 as Aerial M, and Live from a Shark's Cage, the first album released under the Papa M name, in 1999. Country/folk EP Sings followed two years later.
Papa M released a string of singles in the 2000s as well as the full-lengths Whatever, Mortal (2001) and Hole of Burning Alms (2004), a collection of non-album material spanning several monikers. He switched to the Pajo moniker for 2005's self-titled album and the following year's 1968. Around this time, he played in Dead Child, a hard rock/metal band featuring members of the For Carnation, Parlour, and Shipping News. He also participated in Slint's occasional reunion tours and festival appearances. In 2009, he released Scream with Me, an album of acoustic covers of Misfits songs, as Pajo. He also played with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on their It's Blitz tour. He performed as Papa M at the ATP New York 2010 festival. He also briefly joined Interpol as a touring member.
Pajo continued to participate in Slint's sporadic reunions, but around 2014 he lost interest in playing music. In February of 2015, Pajo survived a suicide attempt after posting a suicide note on his blog. The outpouring of support from his family, friends, and fans urged him to persevere and eventually resume making music. Pajo's first album as Papa M in over a decade, Highway Songs, was released by Drag City in September of 2016. ~ Stacia Proefrock & Paul Simpson