By José Pasillas, as told to Andy Doerschuk

A completely self-taught drummer, José Pasillas learned to groove the old-fashioned way – by playing along to his favorite CDs. “That’s how I practice,” he explains. “I just play to all these different songs by all these different bands. I try to vary the music from jazz to rock and roll to funk to … pretty much anything.” Judging by his hard-hitting, multi-layered style with Incubus, the Pasillas strategy worked wonders, which made us imagine that he just might have some strong opinions about grooves that every drummer should check out. We weren’t disappointed.

‘Walking On The Moon’ from Regatta De Blanc by The Police

Stewart Copeland is one of my favorite drummers, and the thing that I like about his style the most is that he always has this free-flowing groove on the hi-hat. His groove on “Walking On The Moon” kind of swings on the hi-hat while he does quarter-notes on the kick, which keeps the music straight. He does really cool nuances on the hi-hat, which flow around the kick drum. It’s a really sweet groove to try to separate what your arms are doing from what your kick is doing.

‘P-Funk’ from Mothership Connection by Parliament

That’s just the epitome of a tasty simple groove that’s completely stripped down. You’re playing four-on-the-floor and the snare’s on the 2 and 4, and that’s it the whole time. If you can do that for more than seven minutes, as Gary Cooper does on this 1975 track, it’s really effective, and an awesome discipline, because everybody wants to throw in rolls and do a bunch of stuff. But if you can just hold that down it’s just all sweetness. I like playing that song.

‘Matter Of Fact’ from New Forms by Roni Size

He’s a British cat who programs drum ’n’ bass music. This particular song is programmed, but when he plays live, he has a live drummer playing all the beats. It’s really quick and very erratic, sort of like jazz music that’s been sped up. And on this song it’s not really a set beat – the snare drum is the focus for part of the song, but then he stops the snare and focuses on kick drum patterns. If you want something really cool, intricate, quick, and energetic, that’s a really cool groove to play to.

‘Vital Transformation’ from Inner Mounting Flame by Mahavishnu Orchestra

This just blows my mind. The time signatures are just totally off the wall. I think it’s in nine and changes, but I don’t know what the hell it changes to. Everyone is playing just crazy lines, and Billy Cobham completely follows them wherever they go. When I play along to this track I’m not trying to play what he’s doing note-for-note, because I don’t have that sort of ability. I just play to the rhythm of the music, and follow the bass and guitar – to me that’s a good time. It’s challenging, it keeps you focused, and you have to pay attention.

‘Tom Sawyer’ from Moving Pictures by Rush

As far as progressive rock, the complexity of the arrangement is challenging in itself. From the arrangement to the transitions to the drum break in the very middle, this is just a great song. The parts themselves are very complicated, and it’s this five-minute song of very calculated, complex music. I love playing to that song in particular, because Neil Peart plays really complex parts, then plays really open, and then he’ll start playing complicated again.

‘Live Wire’ from The Meters by The Meters

I like the snare stuff Zigaboo Modeliste does – it’s just full of ghost notes. It’s got a sweet groove that’s in between a swing and a shuffle, kind of like that New Orleans sort of feel. I haven’t seen him play this song, but I imagine when he’s doing those ghost notes, he’s probably moving his right hand between the hi-hat and the snare drum. That’s what I have to do when I try to play that groove. The way he places the beat with the rhythm totally makes sense, but I would have never thought of how he places stuff. It’s so unorthodox without being gratuitous.

This article was originally published in the August-September 2004 issue of Drum! magazine. Please note the above article includes affiliate links, meaning Drum! will earn a small commission (at no cost to you) when you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

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