Funk, thrash-rock, and hip-hop band Incubus com bine elements of various music styles to forge their own unique musical identity. Incubus mixes speed rock with funk and hip-hop, metal music with rap, jazz with thrash-rock, and 1970s-sounding riffs with chanting and funk music. The band is comprised of vocalist Brandon Boyd, guitarist Michael Einziger, bassist Alex Katunich (DJ Killmore), and drummer Jose Pasillas. Band Members purposely avoid musical categorization, preferring instead to play a combination of whichever musical styles inspire them. Mike Savoia of the Rocket described Incubus as, “a ’90s melting pot of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sugar Ray, War, Faith No More, Devo, Average White Band and the kitchen sink.” Pete Prown of Guitar Shop wrote, “Picture a funkier, more street-savvy Alice in Chains, and you’ll be on the right Incubus track. This ain’t your father’s heavy metal.”
Vocalist/percussionist Brandon Boyd and drummer Jose Pasillas went to elementary school together in Calabasas, California, a semi-rural bedroom community north of Los Angeles. In middle school, they met guitarist Mike Einziger and in high school the three became friends with bassist Alex Katunich, who was playing in a jazz band at the time. They formed Incubus in 1991 when they were all fifteen.
As teens, the four members of Incubus loved a variety of music. They listened to and were influenced by Iron Maiden, Ella Fitzgerald, Slayer, Santana, Steve Vai, Primus, and Rage Against the Machine. The band played for parties for a year and, by 1992, they began playing at all-ages clubs in the San Fernando Valley and at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip. One day Einziger found a hundred-dollar bill on the ground. “That’s when you had to buy tickets and sell them in order to play the Strip,” Einziger is quoted in and Epic press release. The day he found the money, he went to the Roxy, bought tickets, booked a show, and the result was an expanded audience for Incubus.
DJ Lyfe joined the band in 1995 and was later replaced by DJ Killmore. Band members prefer to use the turntable as an instrument with its own distinct sound as opposed to the sound of someone scratching a snare drum. In 1995, the band released the EP Fungus Among Us on Red Eye Records with Jim Wirt as producer. Only 1, 000 copies were released and the EP has been unavailable since. The band’s high-energy live performances, growing fan base, and flexible amalgamation of musical styles sparked a bidding war between labels. Immortal/Epic Records signed the band, and Incubus released the EP Enjoy Incubus in early 1997. The EP contained six remixed songs that were previously recorded as demos, and the band toured with Korn, the
Members include Brandon Boyd, vocals; Michael Einziger, guitar; Alex Katunich, (DJ Kill-more), bass, turntable; DJ Lyfe, bass, turntable, (joined band in 1995); and Jose Pasillas, drums; all born c. 1976 and raised in Calabasas, CA
Band was formed in 1991 when they were all fifteen; began playing at all-ages clubs in the San Fernando Valley and at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip; released the EP Fungus Among Us on Red Eye Records, 1995; released the EP Enjoy Incubus, on Immortal/Epic Records, 1997; toured with Korn, the Urge, 311, and Sugar Ray; featured on the soundtrack for the film Spawn, 1997; released S.C.I.E.N.C.E., on Immortal/Epic Records, 1997.
Addresses: Record company —Immortal/Epic Records, 2100 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404; (310) 449-2870, fax (310) 449-2559.
Urge, 311, and Sugar Ray to support the release of their EP and their debut album S.C.I.E.N.C.E., as well. Incubus was also featured on the soundtrack for the film Spawn in 1997.
S.C.I.E.N.C.E., the band’s 1997 debut release, featured an underlying positive theme through stories of space, relationships, and socio-political issues. The lyrics were penned by Boyd and his views were most strident in “My Favorite Things” a song about the constricting influence of organized religion, “New Skin” addresses the benefit of creation through chaos, and “Redefine” is about the importance of taking control of your life. Sliver Magazine’s Z.A. wrote of S.C.I.E.N.C.E., “In my opinion, this is up for album of the year. Just flat out amazing.
Combining brutal, funkesque slap bass, slick drums with a slight jazz influence and thick, hard-hitting guitars, Incubus is playing a sound pioneered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but are beating the innovators at their own game…. Overall, this album is one of the best of 1997.”
Savoia wrote, “S.C.I.E.N.C.E., is high-energy… with phat beats and grooves… psycho pop rock… smooth low-rider sounds… and jazzing soulful rock overtones… they boldy go where many rock bands have feared to tread in rock music. Don’t let a friend borrow this CD, I guarantee you won’t see it again for a long time!” Prown mused, “Bands like Run D.M.C. and San Francisco’s Mordred pioneered the coming together of hip-hop and metal, and today that legacy can be heard in Incubus…. Clearly, there’s no shortage of fine musicianship in this quintet.”
Incubus is part of a new generation of bands that are creating alloys with a diverse spectrum of influences; bands such as Limp Bizkit, Deftones, Sevendust, Coal Chamber, and System of A Down also reflect far-reaching influences and a trend toward “melting pot” music that fuses rap, rock, jazz, hip-hop, funk, metal, and ska. Boyd told Alternative Press’J.P., “I think that the vast majority of youth today are into a lot of different things—and not just metal, or just rap. There are certain scenes, but think that this generation is more eclectic.” Most musicians usually have one style in mind when they start a band, but Boyd told Alternative Press that he and his bandmates got together to play “any” music.
The band’s live performances have warranted media attention, primarily because of their high energy levels, teeming mosh pits, and exuberant, head-banging fans. Boyd’s vocal style is a combination of singing, screaming, and even screeching—which seems appropriate for a band with such diverse influences as Ella Fitzgerald and Iron Maiden. Sliver Magazine’s Z.A. wrote, “If you get a chance, catch their live show, as you will not regret it.” Jennifer Clay of Guitar For The Practicing Musician summed up the Incubus performing style when writing, “What separates this SoCal-based group apart from the others is the charismatic stage presence of vocalist Boyd and the quirky guitar bites Einziger creates. In fact, some of the freaky noises the guitarist makes—like the bird chirps in ’My Favorite Things’—ring like they’re coming from a disc… While not traditional guitar rock with traditional guitar solos, Einziger still gets his metal ’solo’ in on ’Shaft, ’ his rock moves on in ’Hiliku, ’ and his jazz noodle on in ’Deep Inside.’”
Boyd told J.P. of Alternative Press, “Incubus will always be a work in progress because we are constantly evolving, and we’re not really conscious of direction.” He then added, “I think because we’ve never had just one sound, our audience respects us. We’re out to take them on a little adventure that’s just ours.”
Fungus Among Us, Red Eye Records, 1995.
Enjoy Incubus, Immortal/Epic, 1997.
S.C.I.E.N.C.E., Immortal/Epic, 1997.
Alternative Press Magazine, July 1998.
Billboard, December 6, 1997.
Guitar For The Practicing Musician, June 1998.
Guitar Shop, May 1998.
The Rocket, November 5, 1997.
Sliver Magazine, Winter 1998.
Additional source material was provided by the public relations department at Epic/Immortal Records.
—B. Kimberly Taylor
Formed: 1991, Calabasas, California
Members: Brandon Boyd, vocals (born Van Nuys, California, 15 February 1976); Michael Einziger; guitar (born Los Angeles, California, 21 June 1976); Alex Katunich, bass (a.k.a. "Dirk Lance," born 18 August 1976); Chris "DJ" Kilmore, turntable (born Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 21 January 1973); Jose Pasillas, drums (born 26 April 1976). Former member: DJ Lyfe (Gavin Koppel).
Best-selling album since 1990: Morning View (2001)
Hit songs since 1990: "Drive," "Pardon Me"
With songs such as "Nice to Know You" and "Wish You Were Here" from Morning View (2001) Incubus was a ten-year overnight success story. Buoyed by a photogenic lead singer, tireless touring, and jubilant anthems, the group's mixture of turntable culture and peaceful, easy feeling California rock provided a mellow antidote to such hard-charging brethren as Korn and Limp Bizkit. They were a rare 1990s example of a rock group given time to find their audience and mature over the course of several albums.
Incubus started life as a funk-metal band formed in 1991 by three fifteen-year-old elementary school buddies: Brandon Boyd (vocals), Jose Pasillas (drums), and Mike Einziger (guitar). They had to wait until the tenth grade, however, to meet their future bassist, Alex Katunich. The boys were primed to launch their rock star dreams, playing an endless succession of house parties, all-ages clubs and, despite their age, a 1992 gig at the Roxy on Hollywood's famed Sunset Strip. As legend has it, the pay-to-play show was booked after Einziger found a hundred-dollar bill on the ground and bought the necessary number of tickets to secure the group a show at the venue.
Presaging the soon-to-be-ubiquitous sight of rock bands with DJs, Incubus agreed to let the rapper DJ Lyfe (Gavin Koppel) join the group in 1995 after a single jam session. They independently released the ten-track album Fungus Amongus (1995), which features such early funk-metal tracks as "You Will Be a Hot Dancer" and "Shaft," which owe a heavy debt to the frantic, genre-blurring early works of Los Angeles' Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The combination of Boyd's exhilarating stage presence and energy and the group's unique rock/hip-hop sound caught the attention of several record labels. Immortal/Epic Records signed the band in 1996 and a year later released their debut EP, Enjoy Incubus, which contains six professionally remixed versions of demos the band had been peddling at their live shows.
A full-length album, S.C.I.E.N.C.E., was released in September 1997, again fusing the band's love of heavy metal and funk with a childlike sense of studio experimentation (among the instruments employed were children's walkie-talkies) with Boyd's positive, hippie-esque lyrics. Two years of touring with like-minded bands such as Korn, 311, Sugar Ray, Black Sabbath, Limp Bizkit, and the Urge followed the album's release. The band's song "Familiar," recorded with DJ Greyboy, is featured on the soundtrack to the 1997 film, Spawn. DJ Lyfe was replaced by another hip-hop fanatic, DJ Kilmore, in 1998. Following Lyfe's pattern, Kilmore was interested in integrating his scratching into the sonic palette of the band rather than interjecting jarring scratching and mixing into their songs.
Success, at Last
During their two-year stint on the road, Incubus not only amassed a larger audience, but their expanding sound—a fusion of jazz, funk, rock, rap, metal, and ska—was now primed to mine chart gold thanks to the success of friends such as Limp Bizkit, the Deftones, and Korn. After an eight-week writing stint, the band spent nine weeks during the summer of 1999 recording Make Yourself, an album that illustrates their growing maturity with a mix of heavy, melodic, thought-provoking songs such as "Consequence" and their career-making hits, "Pardon Me" and "Drive."
The album offers a bit of something for everyone, from the hip-hop/funk turntable scratchfest "Battlestar Scralatchtica," with guests DJ Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark, to "Nowhere Fast," which melds smooth jazz with drum-and-bass-style techno percussion.
A limited edition EP of rarities, acoustic, and live songs, When Incubus Attacks, Vol. 1 was released in the fall of 2000, followed by the reissue of Fungus Amongus. Again teaming with former R.E.M. producer Scott Litt, the band released Morning View in the fall of 2001. The album is their most refined to date, melding Japanese instruments with sunny California grooves and spinning out the expansive arena rock hits "Wish You Were Here" and "Nice to Know You." While the former retains a shadow of hard rock with a heavy backbeat, "Nice to Know You" is the apex of the band's radio-friendly experimentation, melding off-kilter techno rhythms with turntable noises and rock guitars. With his lean, muscular, tattooed, and pierced body, shoulder-length brown hair, and wide, expressive eyes, Boyd became a new kind of teen pin-up: sensitive with a dark side. By the middle of 2002, the group was burned out from nearly a decade of nonstop touring and announced an indefinite break before beginning their next studio effort.
Besieged by file sharing and illegal song swapping, by the late 1990s major record labels were desperate to find pop groups that, like Incubus, could spin instant gold with hit singles from their debut albums. Through a combination of hard work, savvy marketing, and a unique sound, Incubus was able to buck the trend by steadily building a worldwide audience in their own way, at their own pace.
Fungus Amongus (Uson Red Eye, 1995); Enjoy Incubus (Immortal/Epic, 1997); S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (Immortal/Epic, 1997); Make Yourself (Sony, 1999); Morning View (Sony, 2001).
in·cu·bus / ˈingkyəbəs; ˈin-/ • n. (pl. -bi / -ˌbī/ ) a male demon believed to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women. ∎ fig. a cause of distress or anxiety: debt is a big incubus in developing countries. ∎ archaic a nightmare.
incubus (Ĭng´kyŏŏbəs), lascivious male demon said to possess mortal women as they sleep and to be responsible for the birth of demons, witches, and deformed children. According to one legend the incubus and his female counterpart, the succubus, were fallen angels. The belief in these demons was especially prevalent in the Middle Ages, and stories of assaults by incubi were not uncommon. There are similar spirits in many cultures. In current usage, incubus means a person or thing that oppresses, such as a nightmare.