Elias Fulmer, based out of Orange County, CA, plays guitar for the alternative rock band Pappa Midnight. Favorite acts include the Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Morrissey, Nirvana, Placebo, Jane's Addiction and Nick Drake. You can reach him at eliasprofessionalmode(at)live.com.
In the wake of Scott Weiland’s death, which has been a huge ordeal and sorrow for many of our readers as well as contributors, some news developments have not been reported on the Eagles of Death Metal and their relationship with the tragic Paris Attacks last month, of which 89 people were killed by ISIL/Daesh operatives in the Bataclan where the play was playing a sold out show. For those who have missed these developments, they will be consolidated in one larger article.
After the attacks struck Paris, the Deftones and U2, the two largest acts that were currently scheduled for tour dates in Paris, cancelled them. Bono of U2, in the philanthropic way only Bono can provide, decided to begin the engagement of a triumphant return of rock music to Paris despite the scars of the recent tragedies in the City of Lights.
U2 returned to Paris for concert dates on December 6th and 7th at the AccorHotels Arena, replacing the older scheduled shows for November 14th and 15th. These dates are also regarded as the last tour dates for their 2015 “Innocence + Experience” Tour, their first tour in four years. It is also worth noting the two previous nights, Pathway to Peace hosted a two night concert in Paris starring the likes of Patti Smith, Flea, Thom Yorke (who debuted new material), Warren Ellis and others.
Triumphantly, on the second night of U2’s residency, they were joined on stage by Eagles of Death Metal, with Jesse Hughes in a stunning white disco-looking suit, rocking it as hard as the band did the stage and audience with their cover of “People Have the Power” by Patti Smith. After the cover, U2 left the stage as Eagles of Death Metal had a chance to perform their song from Zipper Down, “I Love You All the Time,” which is currently the subject of a campaign in which the band encourages other musicians and acts to cover the song, and royalty proceeds will go to charity. The song, ironically, also features French lyrics. Current cover versions so far include Savages, Matt Cameron & Alain Johannes, the Dean Ween Group and others.
The band also returned to the Bataclan, to physically pay their respects to the victims of the ISIS attack there, in which they narrowly escaped. They put flowers out and stood for a couple of minutes, reading tributes and, in one way to put it, mourning.
When my friend Justin and I got to meet Eagles of Death Metal just weeks before Paris, they put on a rambunctious, floor stomping show. Much like Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme’s other band, Eagles of Death Metal are part of a larger royal house, that of rock n’roll. From B.B. King down to Elvis to the Beatles to Led Zeppelin, they are contenders to the throne of rock n’roll, a prestigious princedom with groves of growls, rhythms and grooves protected by hordes of guitar-welding knights. For me, it is incredibly frustrating, on top of sad and tragic, that a band like this has been subject to such a tragedy which left 89 fans and crew members dead. I had talked to the whole band and no matter what kind of front some of them might have put up, I could see their bonds radiating off the stage and it is always nice to see bands with great chemistry and harmony that rules them. Never in a million years would I have guessed this would have happened them, but thankfully they are going about this the best they can. They are not giving up, which is what their fans that have passed on would have wanted.
Currently, there are many factions of American and international society who are spitting out hate against certain groups of people, like Muslims, over the incidents in Paris, Beirut and San Bernardino. There factions are too obvious to bring to name or too subtle to mention, but you know who are. I have seen none of that from the artists directly affected by these incidents and it is incredibly inspiring. I salute you, Eagles of Death Metal. Heal on, rock on.
Jimmy Chamberlin was recently interviewed by the Talk Music with Scott Cowie podcast just a few days ago in an interview spanning about 25 minutes. Chamberlin talked deeply and extensively on his drum kit and history, first time seeing the Pumpkins, his future with the band, the Chicago music scene, Cream drummer Ginger Baker and more! The interview was very long though definitely 100% worth the listen, but some parts became awkward to transcribe out of context. For the full interview, it begins around 8:43. Alternative Nation has transcribed some key quotes.
On his historical drum kit
That configuration was just an easier way to play “I Am One”, before that I was having to play paradiddle on my sixteen inch floor tom and then move my hand back to the snare drum. So the only way that configuration could work was as a paradiddle and then I thought, “Well shit, I’m just gonna put a fourteen over here and then my kit will be like a four piece kit and the toms will be more like supplemental toms. So I look at it like snare, fourteen, sixteen, eighteen, almost like a [John] Bonham type kit and then with two smaller toms in the middle. It just kinda stuck and I noticed there was new melodic opportunities with that configuration and people kept asking me about it, so I figured if people kept asking me about it, that I would just hang out to it.
First time seeing the Pumpkins
The first time I saw them… was not the time I heard them because I had gotten a demo tape from a friend of Billy and I’s before that. So, I had heard the songs and when I went to see them, they were playing: James, D’arcy and Billy with a drum machine. The idea was to bring me in, from my side of the fence and the Pumpkins’ side of the fence, to bring me in to play this iconic venue out in Chicago called the Cabaret Metro, which I wanted to play at and the band wanted to play at. So they brought me in because Joe Shanahan, one of my best friends, would not allow bands to play on that stage without a drummer [laughs] He was a bit of a purist when it came to that stuff. I mean obviously some bands did do that [play without a drummer] but the Pumpkins, I think Joe really liked the Pumpkins and was trying to guide them into a heavier sound.
First impressions of the Pumpkins
I thought they were okay, it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I wasn’t into the stuff they were playing, so I wasn’t an “REM” fan. The music they were playing before I joined was very jangly rock stuff…very 2/4…I was thinking, “Okay, I can do this stuff in my sleep, but it’s not something that I’m into..and the way I play isn’t really going to be additive. I was listening to Tony Williams and stuff like that and Weather Report. So I wasn’t just gonna come in and start blowing chops all over this guy’s songs but I was certainly more interested in that kinda stuff. So, the first impressions of the band was, “Okay, I can play this stuff and it’s cool and I can play the Metro and I’ll probably be on my way,” but then once Billy and I started talking and started to work on some of the music he wanted to write that was a little bit heavier, then it started to reveal itself as something bigger. Then we started talking about heavier drums…stuff that was built around the drums. Once he heard me play he was like, “Oh, well let’s try this beat and let’s try this,” and we just started rocking out from that point.
What He Thought On the Pumpkins’ Future Potential and Success Starting Out
[laughs jovially] I heard this question a lot. Once you commit to something and are so inside of it, it’s hard to be objective. I mean obviously, I’d say things were happening but were happening at such a slow pace, it’s hard to really quantify kinda what’s going on in your own life. Like now I can look back and say, “Ah holy fuck that was a crazy time” or “Geez, I should’ve seen this coming.” But when you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to be objective or to have any kind of perspective, you’re just kinda in it. Back then I was just thinking my problems were like, “I got a cracked crash cymbal and I gotta get some drumheads”, right? [laughs] I wasn’t thinking like, “Man, we’re going places.” I was thinking like, “My drums sounds like shit, I gotta get to the drum store,” it was compartmentalized in the moment, as opposed to, “We got some grand plan for world domination and these are the components that are gonna get us there! ‘I Am One’ is gonna launch a thousand ships and we’re gonna do a crazy video, and then people are throw money…”
I mean, you’re never thinking like that… If I were to tell my dad, “I’m gonna start playing drums because I wanna make a lot of money,” my dad would’ve been like, “You’re out of your mind! You’re not gonna make any money playing the drums. In fact, you should go to a hospital right now and have your head examined.” So you never really start off playing because you wanna make money. We were kinda weird looking dudes and some one weird looking girl…we wanted to [inaudible] the opposite sex, that was good enough…and get a little bit of scratch on the side, some pay…Music outside of music is always kind of a bullshit play, right?
So you’re in the studio and you’re making great music, but you never really believe in the peripheral business that’s going on outside of it, right? Because you’re taught as a musician to be very guarded, very insular, very “Hey, I’m not gonna let anyone in on my art because they’re gonna piss all over it,” right? Even after how many years Billy and I have been working together, the twenty seven years or so, we’re like, “We still don’t trust those people!” We were having lunch the other day and I say, “Hey, you should just come to my house and we’ll play some music!” What a novel concept…With Siamese Dream, once I didn’t have to borrow money to eat, or not live in my car, or pay rent, you still don’t believe it but still, you’re getting by. Even later when the checks are rolling in, you’re still thinking like, “How long can I ride this fantasy until, like my dad said, I can get a real job?” [laughs]
Partnership with Billy Corgan and future with the band
“So the other day did you and Billy get to jam at all?”
Not yet no, it takes a long time with us. We’re getting older, so even getting lunch on the books takes a couple weeks but we’ll get together and do some playing soon here, probably after the new year, but you know we did the tour over the summer, we had a lot of fun, it was super easy, low stress. I think the one thing we’ve always known, in spite of the business, the “he said, she said” any of that stuff, when we get together, we make great music, at least we think it’s great and that’s what’s important to us. We have a good time doing it, we are both interested in the same types of components that make music like , “How did we create things that sound simplistic that are really complex on the inside?”, “How do we write things that sound like nursery rhymes from 30,000 feet but once you start to pull the layers away, are extremely complicated, and extremely interconnected?” So I think those things are always gonna be interesting to me and him. I think the stuff he does without me certainly sounds like, you know, not so much of that stuff, and I think the stuff he does with me, we kind of challenge each other to get like: “C’mon man, are we gonna play that change again? I mean, what are you talking about, you know?”
The Snare Drum Used on Gish
So I only used one snare on that record and unfortunately it wasn’t mine. It was Butch’s [Vig] recording custom Yamaha 5 ½ by 14 Steel Shell, which was a great drum…I’ve received checks from lots of people sampling that drum sound…it’s really great, it really set the tone, it set the stage for the expectation around recorded drums at least and really flew Butch up the flagpole as “the guy”, but a lot of that sound came from: A. the way I play, B. the room was very small, very compressed…when we recorded Gish I think everything except for “Snail” was one take…we just rehearsed the heck of it and went in and just cut it…and I think everything was one take, maybe two. But it was just Billy and I in the same room, tracking together, like literally as close as you and I are right now, as close as I am to the monitor, just like right there “we gotta get this super tight, right?” and then we put the other stuff on later, and that’s really how we record all the time. Like him and I, we have to see each other, we gotta know its all live to take, we’ve never used ProTools or click tracks or any of that stuff, we just kind of went for it. Gish set the stage for that stuff.
On Working with Butch Vig
Well it was great, Butch is a drummer, y’know he’s got a great hear for drum sound, he’s got his own opinions about drums, which some of them are good and some of them I don’t agree with, but nevertheless he is a great producer. He’s like a family member, you’re like living in a cave with him for four months, you can’t really not get to know him and really don’t have a choice as far as whether you’re gonna like him or not, neither one of you is going anywhere, but yeah Butch is great. I think it was super, exactly what the band needed at that time.
On Cream Drummer Ginger Baker and His Biodocumentary “Beware of Mr. Baker”, Influences on Zeitgeist
“Ah it’s amazing right? I’ve always been a fan but now I’m a much bigger fan [laughs] When Billy and I did Zeitgeist, we really wanted to find some type of new music, we wanted to find a whole new trip to get into, something that wasn’t rock, something that was really trance-y, like in a Depeche Mode way but more primitive. So we got way into Fela and Femi Kuti, and Ginger and Tony Allen and that stuff, we listened to that stuff all day long when we were making Zeitgeist. Especially for “United States” and those types of songs I was looking for like, “How can I write something that is super fucking compelling and super repetitive that is not gonna get boring over a ten minute thing?”
So you would listen to these Fela [Kuti] songs…and the drums would be doing four different things at the same time and would go on for five minutes before the horns would come in and keyboard would come in, so I really threw myself at the music and tried to figure out, “What are those components?”, besides the fact Tony Allen is a fucking great drummer and those other guys are ridiculously talented. What is it about those choices that they are making that keeps things interesting? Through that I obviously got into the Ginger Baker – Fela stuff and subsequently one of my friends who works at Vice or somebody, he was certainly not a drummer, he was like, “Have you seen this Ginger Baker movie?” and I was like, “Nah, I haven’t seen it” and then I watched it…I mean, Ginger is so good.
I was listening to Cream stuff that the other day. I mean you talk about that Fela stuff, when you listen and you think, “What makes it so interesting?” It’s not what they play, it’s how they play it, how those parts are suggested and the framework they create for themselves. With Ginger, his use of dynamics as a jazz drummer in a rock context, no one was ever playing like that…Nobody but Baker keyed in on the dynamics of that stuff, where he was actually removing stuff to make stuff more powerful, like not having crash cymbals where other guys would just lay down the crash. When you listen to Bonham, you can template where all the crashes will be. But with Baker, you’re always fucking up trying to play his parts because they’re so unconventional. When I’m putting Pumpkins stuff together I’m always thinking, “What can I remove?” What is this process of removal and is what I’m playing still compelling?…
On Future Collaborations
Anybody, I don’t care. Brad Meldau, I love Brad Meldau a lot. Brian Ferry, David Bowie, I mean anybody, I don’t have a dream like, “Oh!” I mean if it was anybody it would probably be Duke Ellington, if I could bring anyone back, or Thelonious Monk. But really, I’ve gotten so much out of the weirdest combination of music that I don’t really try to construct my own future, I just kinda let it happen.
The following Pumpkins album supposedly will not feature Chamberlin during the recording of the next album. However, the details of the next album have constantly been re-worked over this last year. Presumably, Billy, Jeff and the crew is finishing up the album ready for release. A single was expected around this time of year. With Chamberlin’s statement, he looks like he is slated for some kind of collaboration with Corgan and the context suggests performance. We’ll keep you updated. If you haven’t read the longest article in AN history, check out my Mellon Collie and the Infinite Retrospective.
Billy “WPC” Corgan seems again to venturing into the dialogue on spirituality. In the last few years, Corgan’s spirituality seems to take a bigger place in his life. Earlier in 2009, Corgan opened a website for some time entitled “Everything From Here to There” for the primary subject of “Mind-Body-Soul integration” and how “it can best manifest in our daily life.” Unfortunately, this website’s domain fell out of service sometime around 2012-2013. At the end of this article, I have included the opening letter from the website, found through an Internet archive and no longer available anywhere else.
Journalist Jennifer Weigel, a local Chicago celebrity and writer who has written on spirituality in several books and articles. December 15th, just in a number of days, she will host an event at the Wilmette Theater in Wilmette, Illinois as a part of her “Conversations with Weigel” series, in which she interviews a guest every month on the subject matters pertaining to spirituality. It will be the first kind of interview that Corgan has had in months, since the End Times tour came to an end during late summer. Tickets are $30 and available here.
As promised, here is the opening letter from “Everything From Here to There”, one of the website’s only surviving documents:
“Hello, many blessings to you for visiting Everything From Here to There.
The purpose of this website is to discuss openly and without fear concepts of Mind-Body-Soul integration. If you are drawn to the Hidden Truths, drawn to God as something beyond limitation, and drawn to Love as the greatest force in the Universe, then you have come to the right place at the right time. This is a place of Love.
In discussing Mind-Body-Soul integration within the context of holistic Truth, many topics will be explored here that may be new to you. Like any good tree that one would hope to grow, we must set our roots deep into the ground so that what is real will prosper in the Light of Love.
This site is non-denominational, we promote no religion, and if we speak of any belief or faith system it won’t be at the expense of another. That is not to avoid the obvious. Most of the citizens of this planet put their faith in someone or something. This website respects every belief and every faith as an expression of God’s greater Will.
This is not a place of judgment, nor a place of making proof. We begin with the idea that there is a God. We begin with the undying belief that there is a unifying intelligence that manifests itself in Every-thing. Even if you don’t believe in God, exploring fully the idea of a God or Gods should pose no threat to you. The idea of a higher collective intelligence or consistent organizing principle should be worth contemplating no matter what you believe in (or don’t believe in). For who is God if not Us?
Mind-Body-Soul integration is the primary focus of this site, and how it can best manifest in our daily life. We will strive to celebrate the brilliant Spirit in each individual and work collectively to glorify that which is Holy in each and every one of us. To honor and recognize that support for another is also support for ourselves. To kindle the flame in every heart humbly as gratitude for our opportunity here to make a subtle yet important difference. It is that simple.
The date of origination for Everything From Here to There is 9.9.09, a perfect date to mark this beginning of a wonderful opportunity. We swing the garden gate open, and ALL are welcome Here.
Soundgarden singer/songwriter and solo artist Chris Cornell spoke on the current state of rock music in a video interview with The Rock FM, as transcribed by Alternative Nation:
“I think really to understand the current state of rock music you sort of have to be able to shift the perception a little, or think about what rock music means…and to me I think kind of, and I think what it always meant from the very beginning that it was sort of the homespun music of the street…or anybody’s music, it was the voice of anybody who wanted to do it, who felt like doing it. You didn’t have to be musically educated, you didn’t have to be literally educated, you didn’t have to come from royalty…you could be anyone and anyone could participate in it, like country and western.
I think a lot of that has shifted to the hip hop world or even the electronic world, where now, you can make an album on a laptop inside a studio apartment and young kids that are listening to music, as opposed to guitar based rock music or even music that even be made on a laptop, and they’re learning how to do it, and that’s inspring them. They have the capability of doing that. I think having technology, plus having some really huge hip hop artists, has shifted that to where the first urge of some kids who write a song or make a recording, might not be guitar, bass, drums and vocals, it might not be “let’s try to sound like Nirvana”, it might something much more in the direction of hip hop or rap or electronica, it might be Skrillex instead.”
In a new interview with the Paraguayan publication “Ultima Hora”, Morrissey covered his life in music, the influence of the New York Dolls and Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, his platform of social networking and more frank and open answers to prying questions. The full interview (in English) can be seen here.
One of Morrissey’s earliest influence has been the New York Dolls. He actually incited them to reunite a couple of years back and enjoys some kind of relationship with the band. Of their legacy and influence he says:
“I was very young when I first saw them in 1973, and that is the time when one seeks to belong. Immediately I became another person. They made the perfect balance between shouting, anger, humor and violence, and suddenly everything made sense. If you love music, but haven’t got those two albums: New York Dolls (1973) and Too Much, Too Soon (1974), then you are losing out. David Bowie and Roxy Music were receiving all the praise, but never were as ingenious. However, the New York Dolls were funny and deadly.”
Of Irish author and playwright Oscar Wilde (of whose work and name he has made reference to in his music), Morrissey spoke on what first “drew him” to his work:
“I think he becomes more important over time. Everybody quotes Oscar Wilde … so far, in 2015. His words can be applied via any modern society, while Shakespeare’s and Charles Dickens’ words can’t. Wilde understood everything about the human condition, but remember that he was killed by the British Judical System, which wanted to destroy him because he was too smart for them. If he were alive today, they would have killed him anyway. Even now in England all who speak out are sacrificed by the newspapers. One can be a zombie or something and you just will be reduced. Oscar Wilde got scoffed by the establishment for being smart and right, so I got it.”
Morrissey’s attitude towards the music and industry, especially these days, may seem unconventional (integrity is a four-letter word these days) but it really works for him. He claims that “the stage is my social network” and it’s very true. Having seen Morrissey four times (soon to be five), he absolutely utilizes the stage for the issues he is passionate about, like animals rights and objection to issues like police brutality and the British monarchy, showcased through mirages of film set along seamlessly to music. Though he has an incredibly dedicated fanbase and large platform to speak his mind, he has considered leaving music as he described in the interview, “the music business is difficult. I have been cheated many, many times, and so it becomes difficult to live with that, because people who cheat you are protected by well-placed friends in high places. But I love singing, I can say that honestly. I dream of creating and working in an animal sanctuary, but around the world there are offers for me to continue singing and I’m happy to do so as long as people want me.”
It will be Morrissey’s first show in Paraguay after a number of complications prevented him from touring South America several months ago. He expressed concerns with Paraguay’s social issues, “I know that people [in Paraguay] struggle and that there is a big problem with potable water, but the media in the UK and US are obsessed about what is happening elsewhere.”
Most promising, however, is Morrissey’s will to not be anyone else than himself:
As a living music legend, I imagine that you’ve got a very chaotic life. On a normal day, where do you discover beauty?
“Nowhere. I feel much better when I avoid the news. It’s all so predictable, poisoned and prepared for horror. We all seek a system that helps us to find the meaning of life, but it’s getting hard to find, and it’s a great relief when we discover that nobody speaks to us. We all live our day to day trying to deal with it. Educated people have made a mess of the world, however, they have made uneducated people feel responsible. One will not find a corrupt banker in prison.”
You can catch Morrissey in a limited US tour in the next following weeks as we reported here. Tour date are also below:
December 29th – San Francisco – The Masonic
December 31th – Los Angeles – Galen Center at USC
January 2nd- Las Vegas – The Joint
AlternativeNation’s classic interview with Morrissey, of which I participated in, is available here. If you haven’t read it, it’s a worthwhile read.
Flea, the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist and songwriter, makes very sporadic and unexpected appearances in the world of film and television. His filmography is actually a little bigger than his discography – with appearances in the last two of the Back to the Future films, the voice of Donnie in the Wild Thornberrys, the Big Lebowski, Duckman and the Decline of Western Civilization Part III. Flea’s a real cool guy. When I met him a couple months ago, we had this brief exchange of glazed eyes I’ll never forget at Amoeba Records and it was one of the more memorable things that has happened to me all year. I might have embarrassed myself a little, but there was no way I was going to handle meeting Flea in a calm manner. Sadly, it’s not me.
Now, when my friend Justin said “Flea has a show”, I thought he was referring to a Flea solo concert. He confessed it was a television show and I was certain he was pulling my leg. Well, he was half-right. Flea recently starred in a pilot for Amazon Video entitled “Highston”, a show which may get picked up by Amazon Prime as film and television (post-television?) shows see a shift towards instant streaming release only. The premise revolves around a 19-year old named Highston Liggetts who is a little lost and perceived to be delusional and mentally ill by his family, save for the family member who might actually have real issues, Uncle Bob. The nature of his dissociative disorder is his strong and vivid perceptions of celebrity imaginary friends, from Oprah to Bill Gates. In this pilot however, his friends are Flea and basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal. Truly, an unforgeable trio. If the show is picked up though, it will have rotating cast. I can only hope Flea will write the score for the show afterwards.
The Highston pilot was a very, very clever piece. Since Calvin & Hobbes, it seems some of the best stories in any form of media involve the dichotomous worlds between imaginary friends and those who can’t see them. Australian (and later American) television series Wilfred is another good example of this format. Highston is different from Calvin & Hobbes and Wilfred in the fact that no one outside of Highston, the eponymous title character, can see his friends or their involvement at all. In both Calvin & Hobbes and Wilfred, characters outside of Calvin and Ryan see Hobbes and Wilfred respectively as a stuffed toy tiger and non-anthropomorphic dog.
I won’t spoil the ending, but Highston’s family wants him to either make something of himself within a week or get admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The pilot provides a lot of blunt but not still pushy nor distracting social commentary, especially on the way society handles mental illness. “No one is happy”, says Highston’s father, Mr. Liggetts. “But Flea and Shaq say they’re happy,” replies Highston. “WELL, that’s because Flea and Shaq are the only happy people! Everybody knows that,” as Flea and Shaq mock the parents to no avail other than what Highston can hear. The show also features some nasty, kooky and funky original basslines from Flea as Shaq teaches Highston dance moves. Highston is a very polite and empathetic person, but no one, especially his family cares to listen to him outside of an agenda they filter everything through.
Nothing I can say is really going to capture the show’s inherent wit and thought provoking social commentary undertones. Regardless if you have Amazon Video and/or Prime, it is available to watch for free here. If you’re a Chili Peppers fan, a basketball nut or just looking to kick back and relax with some new piece of television that isn’t 100% mind rotting, I would definitely recommend the pilot of Highston. Thanks again, Flea.
Author’s note: Was published without sections on “Zone” and “Renoise Tracks 2009-2011” originally. Now included below.
I can say confidently, as anyone would who knows Frusciante’s history well, that Frusciante does what he wants and it usually turns out very well for him. The sky is the (questionable) limit. Quit the one of the world’s biggest rock bands of the last 25 years – twice – and he lived to tell the tale.
Though when Frusciante goes to tell a story it may be non-linear, upside down, rightside up again, essentially anything non-conventional. This is not to say that his solo work is not enjoyable – it is very much, at least in my view. Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt is one of my favorite albums ever. I would also recommend To Record Only Water for Ten Days and The Empyrean. I have not finished Inside of Emptiness but I did like what I heard from it, I believe the track “Look On” to be one of his finest works. What people forget sometimes is that Klinghoffer was one of Frusciante’s most frequent collaborators before he joined John’s old band. Klinghoffer was featured on the albums Shadows Collide With People, the Will to Death, Inside of Emptiness, A Sphere in the Heart of Silence and both Ataxia albums.
A few months ago, we reported that John Frusciante was “no longer releasing music for the public”. In fact, I wrote that article. I became a little disheartened because I really enjoy his art and him as a person, but I respected his choice allegedly to not release music. Thankfully, Frusciante goes through a lot of phases. Which is great, I love that about him but you can expect him to say “I’m going to be an elephant from now on” and he’ll come to your next party as a rhinoceros . 2:10 am, I got the most exciting email in awhile. It was a long letter from John Frusciante from his email listing, announcing a triumphant return. In an excerpt from the letter, we see this:
“Even when you make music purely for the sake of doing it, as I do, it sometimes helps to have friends who’s ears and taste you have in the back of your head when you’re making it. But this can also put you in a straightjacket, just as aiming your music at the masses can. Therefore, in Jan 2014, I decided to stop having an “audience” in this sense, and so I stopped finishing songs or sending what I was doing to friends, and started making a lot of songs at once rather than one song at a time. This freed up my mind so that I could make music purely to hear it and live with it, in order to grow in a different direction for a while. This was not a permanent decision. In fact, I’m already past that phase.“
Excellent news, right? He also enclosed links to his Bandcamp and Soundcloud with new releases, about 20 songs spanning different genres. Here, we will discuss them and see how they hold up.
For fans of Frusciante’s acoustic and low fidelity works, this is something you would be interestedin , though it is not exactly Niandra Lades. As much as I love Niandra Lades, I actually like watching artists grow. Of course, bands and artists will always harbor old material that is dear to me but if they truly inspire me I like to see where the course of their artistry takes them. Many critics of Frusciante’s latest electronic directions tell him to simply “pick up a guitar”, well, he’s got a guitar here! But the percussion is from a drum machine. As the album cover implies, it is music that may best be listened to at a beach sometime between dawn to dusk. It gives the tracks a beautifully tarnished and retro-electro feel to it, led by melodic but anti-rock guitar soloing. 5 out of the 6 tracks are untitled, except for “Venice”, where Frusciante spends a lot of his time. To me, this is still “classic” Frusciante and I’ve come to really enjoy it. If one tried to summarize Frusciante’s solo work in a couple of songs, well, not saying this is the best candidate only because it is missing his vocals but it incorporates his iconic guitar work with electronic undertones, some of the biggest elements of his solo work. It’s free, I would at least say give this a listen, regardless of where you stand on Frusciante’s solo work. Frusciante quit the Chili Peppers, it’s time to accept that. He has plenty more to offer. This is a beautiful gift.
A single track, it is easy to see the connection this track has to his last and self-titled album under Trickfinger. Both album artworks are derived from similar materials and both lie between acid house and electro. Some may be happy to hear this actually includes a very worthy guitar part over an electronic beats, but very drastically different than what was offered in 4-Track Guitar Music. The guitar here is more characteristic of, well, Stadium Arcadium in my book. I wish there was more offered in this collection because I am sure Frusciante has more from this time period. This is one of my favorite tracks from this collection. I am very interested personally in the intersection of electronic and guitars and this is a perfect example of how the two may compliment each other.
Rodriguez and Frusciante’s friendship is well documented and they have been involved in several different projects together. Naturally, they come together to cover a song for Casa di Mi Padre, the satirical Spanish language film starring Will Ferrell. Close to the original, it is purely instrumental and has electronic percussion. A good showcase of guitar work, it is something to listen to whilst in the middle of a desert, contemplating life.
A poignant rendition of a track from his 2014 electronic album Enclosure, “Zone” with just guitar and vocals. This track may be the most “accessible” if it was commercially released. I did not listen to all of Enclosure, but it was a solid effort by Frusciante and it is always interesting to see how artists re-interpret their own work and give alternative versions. I would hope to see a few more of these – either acoustically re-interpreting electronic music or vice versa.
The biggest collection of songs from either of the Souncloud or Bandcamp releases and the most comprehensive in a sense. Some complained of 2015’s Trickfinger as underdeveloped and bare bones. Those tracks were made in 2007-2008 and it in the following years, 2009-2011 worked on these tracks and there is a supreme difference. With clips of audio from different media, it almost feels like a movie. It is awesome to see Frusciante progress like this and I can only imagine what his work sounds like today, the work he has been working on this year. He evolved a lot from Trickfinger to Renoise, what will the coming work sound like? Frusciante easily could become a hit in the underground electronic scene, he seems to take a lot of good element from those scenes and makes it exclusively his own.
John Frusciante is again on the rise. Is this Red Hot Chili Peppers? No, but it shouldn’t be. He wanted to evolve as an artist and he is achieving it. He will continue down this path and I’m very happy to see him go down it, as great as it would be for him to be in the Peppers (his “old band” as he referred in the letter). I’m sure the band feels the same about him. He gave them so much and he will continue an abundance of music. God bless John Frusciante, what a great Thanksgiving present to the world and us fans.
Little over a year ago, weird funk metal legends Primus released their fourteenth studio album, Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble, which drastically re-works the soundtrack for the 1971 film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book original Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. It also became the first album in about a decade to feature all three original members of Primus: Tim “Herb” Alexander (drums), Larry LaLonde (guitar) and of course, Les Claypool (bass/vocals). In addition to the original line-up, there were string and percussion contributions from the “Fungi Ensemble”: Sam Bass on cello and Matt Dillon on various percussion features.
Today on Bass Player, Primus premiered the music video for the single “Candyman”, in a claymation styling typical of Primus, but nonetheless incredible. It is featured below:
Claypool says of the album, “When we finished up the last album cycle, I had this idea of taking on some sort of sacred cow, either with my band or with Primus. And then when Herb came back, we were all excited about Primus. I always had the creepy “Candyman” idea in my head, so it kind of stemmed from there. Every year, we do a New Year’s show with a theme, so last year we decided to do the Wonka theme and play some of the songs from the Wonka soundtrack in our own way. Next thing I knew, we were doing the entire record. It just fell together so nicely. It’s one of the smoothest undertakings I’ve done in a long time.”
“While the band is now home safe, we are horrified and still trying to come to terms with what happened in France. Our thoughts and hearts are first and foremost with our brother Nick Alexander, our record company comrades Thomas Ayad, Marie Mosser, and Manu Perez, and all the friends and fans whose lives were taken in Paris, as well as their friends, families, and loved ones.
Although bonded in grief with the victims, the fans, the families, the citizens of Paris, and all those affected by terrorism, we are proud to stand together, with our new family, now united by a common goal of love and compassion.
We would like to thank the French police, the FBI, the U.S. and French State Departments, and especially all those at ground zero with us who helped each other as best they could during this unimaginable ordeal, proving once again that love overshadows evil.
All EODM shows are on hold until further notice.
Vive la musique, vive la liberté, vive la France, and vive EODM.”
Eagles of Death Metal lost four people who worked with the band: their merchandise manager Nick Alexander (who has worked for Cat Stevens, Sum 41, Alice in Chains and more) and Thomas Ayad, Marie Mosser and Manu Perez, who all worked for record companies. While the tour is on hiatus, the band says they will play a show in Alexander’s memory in Austria on Dec 17th.
Just announced, KROQ has revealed its lineup for Almost Acoustic Christmas. Ticket go on sale this Friday at 12pm. Proceeds will benefit local Los Angeles charities, including Para Los Niños and the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Foundation. The lineup is below:
Night 1: AWOLNATION, Bastille, Cage The Elephant, Disclosure, Foals, Halsey, Silversun Pickups,The Struts, Twenty One Pilots, Weezer, and X Ambassadors.
Night 2: Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, Chris Cornell, Cold War Kids, Elle King, Fall Out Boy,George Ezra, James Bay, Of Monsters And Men, Panic! At The Disco, The 1975, and The Neighbourhood.
Tickets, available here at Ticketmaster, are subject to the prices listed below. Tickets limited to 4 a household:
Last year, several prominent bands we cover here at AlternativeNation played at Almost Acoustic Christmas 2014, like Queens of the Stone Age, the Smashing Pumpkins and System of a Down. Let’s see if this lineup can top last year’s performance!
Featured here in our article on the new Temple of the Dog performance footage that surfaced, Chris Cornell recently talked to AV Club about their song “Hunger Strike”:
Chris Cornell discussed Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” in a new AV Club article.
“I don’t really remember it. [Laughs.] I kind of remember the basics but singing on that album happened so quickly. The song itself, it really wasn’t much of a song. It was a verse with just a kind of repeating chorus. It was just where we needed one more song for the album, and I had that down, but I hadn’t played it for anybody yet because I didn’t feel it was a complete song. But I knew we had nine songs, and I thought 10 would be a nice, even round number. I just figured that this would be the 10th song that would wrap up the album, and it would just be what it was, verse for verse and then repeating chorus sort of like a coda for the album listening experience. In rehearsing it, and I think we only rehearsed for two days for that album, but I was singing both parts of the song. I sang the high verse part and then the low chorus part and then the high chorus part and so on.
Eddie and the rest of them were waiting for us to finish because they were about to have one of their first rehearsals as Pearl Jam, and he saw me sort of struggling with it, so he just walked up to the mic and started singing the low part, and I started singing the high part. I immediately got this idea that his voice sounded so rich in that low register that it would become more of a song if I sang the first verse, then the whole band kicks in, and then he sings that verse again, but in effect it becomes a different verse. It’s a different person. It’s a different voice and a different everything. And I think I had that idea right there on the spot; we did it that way, and suddenly it was a real song. I hate to use that term “real song” but to me it was like: Okay, in just a moment this has become an arrangement that changes everything.
I never thought about it as being singular or anything because there were a lot of really well written songs that lent themselves to the notion of a single, but once we played it for other people, that was the choice that was made. But my memory of us singing it together is I just went in and sang my part, he went in and sang his part, and it took probably 40 minutes, and that was it. That was back in the day where you had no record budget, and that album in particular was recorded and mixed in a total of 14 days, not in a row.”
John Frusciante, who has taken an exit from the public spotlight, has kept a relatively low profile after his second departure from the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2009. He has released a few solo albums since that time (some tracks featuring ex-bandmate Flea) and produced the album Medieval Chamber for the rap duo Black Knights. Earlier this year, Frusciante stated he longer writes music for public release and distribution, presumably other than the music he may produce.
John Frusicante, however, by all accounts is a very amicable person and his friendships with people like Johnny Depp, Perry Farrell, River Phoenix, Gibby Haynes and Stephen Perkins are well noted. Surface has footage reportedly from November 10th, 2015 of him and Argentine filmmaker Gaspar Noé at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California. Noé is known for his films Enter the Void and I Stand Alone. In the brief clip featured below, Frusciante casually smokes a cigarette with Gaspar Noé and looks to be in good spirits. Through the background noise, he appears to be saying, “I was listening to the song and I realized it was me.” We at AlternativeNation hope he is doing well and creating music that furthers his development as an artist as he sees it and we respect the choice to keep it to himself. The video is below:
For those interested in Frusciante’s limited (?) artistic endeavors, he did release a collection of electronic music under the name Trickfinger earlier this year plus a new album from Black Knights entitled The Almighty produced by him. Some of that work is featured below, as well as a 2014 interview with Frusciante and Black Knights:
Austin, Texas: the world capitol of live music? Potentially, it’s pretty good contender if nothing else. Texas is general has a great live music scene and there are a lot of great bands coming out of Texas, like Ringo Deathstarr. AlternativeNation was given press access to the Fun Fun Fun Fest music festival and I had the pleasure of representing our dear website. Headliners included Cheap Trick, Jane’s Addiction and Coheed and Cambria. Due to traffic constraints and trip itineraries, we were only in able to attend on Saturday. Jane’s Addiction headlined the Orange Stage, playing their classic 1990 album Ritual de lo Habitual in full. Other highlights our visitors may enjoy from that night were from the sets of Ride, American Football, Fucked Up, Gogol Bordello but also tons of other electronic, rap and hardcore punk groups.
One amusing thing was the dream like growth of the crowd throughout the day. My friend and I got there around 2pm when only about a few hundreds roamed the grounds and with every turn and re-circling around the festival grounds, people were multiplying greatly. By the night’s end, there was probably around 12,000 people in a relatively small park. It became very cramped.
Joanna Gruesome we caught first, straight out of Cardiff, Wales. They are part of the emerging scene in popular yet underground who hold shoegaze roots but just push the music a little harder. The guitar player bore a striking resemblance to Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott. The band, upon meeting them, acted very smart ass in response to my question, “Are you Joanna Gruesome,” with a distinct “no, are you?” After wandering around for awhile, we stumbled upon the aptly named Fucked Up’s set at the Black Stage. With 3 guitarists and one big happy barrel-chested frontman, they packed a friendly punch straight to your ears and hearts. An excellent blend of hardcore punk with indie ideals, you could feel the unity between the fans and band as frontman Father Damien went into the crowd, hugging people every couple of minutes. One of the more memorable moments during the festival.
Gesaffelstein, French electronic artist performed with a full band and displayed their rich mix of house music with rock element, a great pairing with Neon Indian which performed shortly after. My friend Nick and I spent some time waiting for Grimes’ set and met some friendly dudes who bummed us cigarettes but Grimes’ set triggered some weird anxiety for me and we decided to leave. It almost didn’t help I had drank much water that entire day. We got some water and pretty soon it would be time for the big bands: Jane’s Addiction and NOFX, respectively some of our favorite bands ever.
Because they played at the same time, we split up: I went to see Jane’s Addiction and Nick would join me after NOFX’s set ended. I had seen Jane’s Addiction once before at the Sunset Strip Music Festival, where they played Nothing’s Shocking in its entirety.
Ritual de lo Habitual, 25 years old this year, is arguably the most incredible album made by Jane’s Addiction. In fact, after the album was made the band felt that they could not create anything better; they had pushed their music to their limit. My favorite album by them, it was privilege to see it done live. These songs have stuck with me through very hard and very weird times. Hard and weird: a perfect description of Jane’s Addiction’s music indeed. Frontman Perry Farrell came out wearing a small cowboy hat and fine western clothes which he eventually stripped. The guitars were tuned a half step down, so the songs sounded a little different but still a good representation of the songs are they were recorded. Around 8:45pm, the band exploded into “Stop” to wild applause. The Spanish spoken word intro blew through the speakers and the crowd went nuts. “No One’s Leaving”, which the band has not played since 1991 during the album’s initial touring was a sight to hear, a truly rarity which lived up true to its name: no one was leaving Jane’s Addiction set. I saw only a handful of people leave towards th end. When it came to “Ain’t No Right”, a most incredible thing happened: the band brought up a very rare medley of “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan and “Burning from the Inside” by Bauhaus known as “Bobhaus.” “Bobhaus”, more awe-worth thing, mixed the lyrics from the intro of “Ain’t No Right” (which is a tease of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock n Roll by Ian Dury) and created a unique composite tribute to Jane’s Addiction’s influences. “Obvious” was a true rendition but would have been a shame without the unnamed touring keyboardist in the back who rounded the album’s auxiliary sounds. The crowd nearly burned into flames as “Been Caught Stealing” was brought in by Farrell saying, “Stephens Perkins and I go way back…we were caught stealing together.” But the album’s true magnum opus was next.
“Three Days” with its dark and melodic bassline drug me back to the hollowed place every time I listen to the song. The live dancers added to the song’s erotic and macabre influence and nothing existed for 11 minutes but that stage. Navarro’s guitar work brought one single salty tear to my eye, it was so glorious. It was the most awe inspiring moment of that day, of nearly that whole week I spent in Texas. “Then She Did” was just as heavy, a song about the deaths of Farrell’s mother and his ex-girlfriend Xiola Blue. The whole crowd by this point was either completely engaged or dead silent. They finished the album with performing “Of Course” and “Classic Girl” and emerged into other hits from their past.
From Nothing’s Shocking, they played hits “Mountain Song” and “Ocean Size”. Of course, no Jane’s set would be complete without a dreamy Caribbean rendition of “Jane Says”, their biggest hit. To my astonishment, they closed the set with the tribal “Chip Away” which featured bassist Chris Chaney, guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins on single drums while Perry Farrell chanted and dancers male and female stormed the stage.
Fun Fun Fun Fest was indeed a lot of fun, fun and fun. I would give a lot to see Jane’s Addiction to perform Ritual de lo Habitual and I got it all. Sadly, this was the last stop of their album in support for the album’s anniversary. Farrell is hard at work for his extravagant musical project called Kind Heaven which may see the light of day next year.
Ringo Deathstarr, the shoegaze champions of Austin, Texas, are planning the release of a new album, Pure Mood, later this month. Recently, the band shared a track entitled “Guilt” on their Soundcloud, featuring none other than Smashing Pumpkins guitarist Jeff Schroeder for a solo. The track can be heard below:
During tour dates in the winter of 2011, Ringo Deathstarr toured with the Smashing Pumpkins during the Otherside of the Kaleidoscope tour, featuring Mike Byrne on drums and Nicole Fiorentino on bass guitar. The band seemed to maintain a steady relationship with the Pumpkins and Schroeder has posted pictures of the band and some of their shows on Instagram.
Ringo Deathstarr played recently at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, which I had the pleasure to attend. Unfortunately, because of a schedule conflict I could not attend their Sunday performance (or the entire Sunday festival at all) but do expect an interview with the band within the next couple of days. Though I would have much rather done it in person, the interview will be done over email and available soon, hopefully around the release of Pure Mood. A review of Fun Fun Fun Fest is also due soon.
In Pumpkinland, nothing much is going on currently. Presumably, the next album is done and we are waiting for the first single to be released sometime next month. The album is due out for next year and is expected to a severely darker air to it. During the writing of the album, Schroeder said “Billy and I are making a doom metal album.” So, two things to look forward to: Pure Mood and the next Pumpkins album. Let’s hope these two get a chance to tour again!
According to Barrett Martin’s Facebook page, Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains, Kim Thayil from Soundgarden, Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses and himself will be performing at Seattle’s Experience Music Project to pay tribute to Led Zeppelin guitarist and rock n roll innovator Jimmy Page. Martin’s post reads:
The Seattle contingent is ready for the Jimmy Page Tribute on November 19th at EMP in Seattle. From left to right, Duff McKagan (Guns & Roses) on bass, Barrett Martin (Mad Season) on drums, Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains) on guitar, and Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) on guitar. I just gotta say, that was a whole lotta heavy in one room. 8 Led Zeppelin tunes from this particular group, and Barrett and Duff are the house rhythm section for the whole show. Zeppelin is the great church of rock & roll and Mr. Page is our high priest. We are honored to serve.
In our exclusive interview with Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, he discussed the existence of certain unreleased Mad Season material:
I’m not sure what’s going to happen with the songs, they’re out there right now. We listen to them sometimes, but they may morph into something different that isn’t Mad Season, but we’re not sure yet. It depends on when we have the time, and the interest. We’ve been trying to do stuff with them, but hit a roadblock here and there, except for the Mark Lanegan stuff.
Jane’s Addiction guitarist/songwriter Dave Navarro has announced the release of a documentary concerning the murder of his mother Constance Navarro and everything else that came to his life as a result. It is due out December 1st on certain outlets. His mother Constance Navarro and his aunt were murdered by Constance’s boyfriend John Ricardi along with on March 3rd, 1983. He escaped justice for 8 years until he was caught thanks to a tip provided by a caller after America’s Most Wanted aired an episode on the case. Ricardi was caught January 4th, 1991 in Houston, Texas, as Jane’s Addiction was between legs for the Ritual de lo Habitual tour. In the years that followed his mother’s murder, he struggled with different addictions to cope with his feelings, including heroin. After Jane’s Addiction broke up in late 1991, Navarro went clean, cut his dreads and started a one-off project with ex-bandmate Eric Avery named Deconstruction, who released one (excellent) self titled album in 1994. His tenure with the Red Hot Chili Peppers lastled from late 1993 to 1998. Ricardi faced court in 1993 and was sentenced to death and without a doubt guilty. He currently resides at San Quentin Prison, though his death sentenced has been annulled and instead he now is just to serve a life sentence for as long as he lives.
The death of Navarro’s mother became a defining moment in his life, but it would not be the last. Despite his battles with addiction (of which is he now four years sober) and subsequent trauma, he has become one of the most varied, accomplished and weird musicians of the last 30 years. His work with Jane’s Addiction, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alanis Morissette and Nine Inch Nails, not to mention his solo work, always carries with itself an incredibly distinctive tone between heavenly choirs and hellish screams. He is also known for his roles in Sons of Anarchy and Ink Master. I’m sure his mother is very proud of him. Watch the trailer below:
Billy Corgan (aka William Corgan, William Patrick Corgan, WPC, The Ivory Tower, and BC) is taking holiday festivities to the forefront. On Halloween night, he will be hosting a “Halloween Bash” as “Count William Corgan” at Madame Zuzu’s, his esteemed tea house in his hometown of Chicago. With a band name like “The Smashing Pumpkins”, it is hard to see how a love of Halloween wouldn’t cross someone’s mind. The original Madame Zuzu listing details:
Join Zuzu’s on Halloween Night, Oct. 31 for a special Halloween bash. Your reservation includes: one reserved seat, special servings of ghoulish tea and v-gf dessert, a chance to participate in our (now) annual costume contest, and a vintage-style, peel-apart picture of you taken by your creaky yet congenial host, Count William Corgan. Only the dead could want more!
At $15.00 a pop, it is far beyond sold out. Corgan has been making more appearances at Madame Zuzu’s lately after the End Times tour, including the three year anniversary event last week. The shop’s culture has grown the last few years and has poetry readings and comedy nights about once every month. The tea house has also recently hosted auctions of art and photography sanctioned by Corgan. Corgan’s interest and activity with photography has been showing especially lately, with the advent of his new blog and outlet People and Their Cars. People and Their Cars however, is not limited to people nor cars. Up today are some peculiar, quaint and mildly disturbing pictures of vintage Halloween costumes.
Around the holidays, we should be expecting a single from the new Pumpkins album whose title is unclear. While Corgan still had his Twitter, he revealed an acronym, “SFTMITHOTS,” which was allegedly an acronym of the album’s full title. The album was originally planned as “Day for Night” but the title was apparently scraped.
Co-written & photography by Elias Fulmer and Justin Zabilski
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a show that good. The Eagles of Death Metal recently kicked off their tour of Zipper Down with two shows in Los Angeles (not counting an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live) and appearances at Santa Ana’s Beach Goth and Aftershock in Sacramento. AlternativeNation was lucky enough to receive passes to the second show at the Teragram Ballroom, a relatively new venue in Los Angeles that hosted a secret show for Queens of the Stone Age last month as well as an additional Eagles of Death Metal show on the 19th. Alternative Nation also had a chance to briefly talk to Josh Homme, Reggie Watts, and Alex Turner, and to also be in the midst of Josh Homme hilariously kicking someone out of the backstage area!
Opening the night was another Palm Desert band Gram Rabbit, whose music combines of electronica, rock, country, and psychedelia. Their set was accompanied by a mirage of visuals from Alice in Wonderland and other aesthetic driven films with an array of colorful lights thrown into the mix. They played much heavier than their studio recordings, likely to appeal to the audience, and were well received by the crowd. If interested, they are hosting a Halloween event in Pioneertown, California. Information available here.
Gram Rabbit, performing live
When the Eagles Of Death Metal came on, the crowd instantly lit up with receptive cheers. Jesse Hughes entered wearing a golden hooded cape, with Josh Homme sitting on the drums, David Catching on guitar, and Matt McJunkins (of A Perfect Circle) on bass. Auxiliary guitarist Eden Galindo also performed on certain songs. They started the show off with “Bad Dream Mama” off of Peace Love and Death Metal and it only went up from there. Curiously enough, the setlist consisted of songs from their older material, with only a handful of Zipper Down songs being featured. However, the crowd didn’t seem to mind getting to hear their old favorites along with the new material. AlternativeNation’s Swedish reporter, Hanna Graf, reviewed the album a few weeks ago.
Certainly it can be said that Jesse Hughes knows how to work a crowd. He was all over the place, changing outfits, interacting with his other band mates and the crowd, and even giving a shout-out to a certain birthday girl in the audience. His stage banter was top notch, telling the stories behind some of the songs adjacent to playing them and joking about guitarist Dave Catching wanting to marry him. The current lineup had an incredible energy and chemistry on stage and all stage members all shared vocals at different points of the show. Josh Homme, because of commitments to other bands, does not always perform with the band and his appearance was quite a treat.
Eagles of Death Metal, performing live
The music was the real treat of the night, EODM played quite a long set, but nobody even thought about calling it a night early. Calling it a solid performance is an understatement. Sometimes when you are in the crowd you can just tell that this is one of the shows they have their whole heart in, and this was definitely one of them. The set also hosted two covers, “Save a Prayer” by Duran Duran and “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones. After the main set, Hughes did a solo encore before being rejoined by the whole for even more encores and then finally ending the set with “Speaking in Tongues”. At the end of the last song when you thought it was over, they restarted the main riff and continued even more with a solo-off between Catching and Hughes, playing off crowd interaction. They left the crowd lusting for more, they left us wanting more, and then they took a bow.
Of course, after the show all who were able packed in tightly backstage to give their compliments to the musicians. The family and friends of the band were there giving their support. Upon being asked what it’s like to have a dad for a rockstar, Hughes’ son, Micah, said “It’s fucking awesome!” There were others backstage of course, such as the likes of comedian Reggie Watts and Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner. Reggie Watts was extremely personable and brought along his kind friend Erick Lodwik, an East Coast musician who had recently moved out to Los Angeles. Getting to spend some time with Watts, we found out that him and Josh Homme had become friends ever since Homme’s appearance on Comedy Bang Bang, which Watts used to host from 2012 until recently. Watts didn’t just sit backstage either, he was in the crowd enjoying the show. Nobody could just sit backstage for such a show, it had to be experienced. Alex Turner showed up late in the set and he was very reserved but polite. We exchanged few words with him but we had an about 15 second staring contest with all of our mouths’, including Turner’s, opened almost to say in unison, “Do I know you?”
Josh Homme was a character, a smart ass but in the best way and highest compliment possible. He is a short recap of a conversation between us:
Fulmer: “Hey, how are you?” Homme: [pauses] “…I guess I’m doing PRETTY well!” Fulmer: “Sorry we didn’t introduce ourselves earlier.” Homme: “Oh yeah, I’m so disappointed you didn’t introduce yourselves earlier.”
Josh “Baby Duck” Homme on drums
Homme, past the sarcasm in good jest, was pretty nice and took several pictures, shook hands and chatted a bit after the show. In the parking lot was his famous Camaro, the same car he has had since he was 14 years old. One of the more memorable moments backstage was when Homme, in his regular fashion, threw out who I can only assume was a local party crasher. In our interactions with the crasher, it was obvious this guy was full of crap, prancing around like he owned the place. He was pretending to be somebody and spouting off like he was the owner. Josh finally getting annoyed stepped out into the hallway where the crasher was loitering and bothering the other attendee’s, and told him “You’re done, get out”. When the crasher looked upon him confused Josh reaffirmed his position and began walking towards him elevating his voice saying “get out” until the crasher quickly got out of his sight, with his tail between his legs. Would it be an Eagles of Death Metal show if Homme didn’t have any of his usual antics which constitute him to be a well-rounded person? Jesse Hughes seemed as he always is, an old-timey cowboy with a quick wit but quicker with a 6-string. He is the perfect method actor and is perfect for the role he will play in Gutterdämmerung. The other live members, David Catching and Matt McJunkins, were very humble in person and possessed a great stage presence.
I would be doing a disservice not to mention the sound quality of the night. Being active in the music scene, both of us suffer from near constant tinnitus which tends to flare up after a show. But with the excellent acoustics of the Teragram and great sound engineering, neither of us had that incessant ringing afterwards or at least not any worse than usual. Still, it was more than loud enough to get lost in the performance. Definitely check out the Teragram if you get the chance or see an act you like is playing there, Los Angeles is incredibly lucky to have such a venue new on the scene. To follow the rest of the Eagles of Death Metal’s tour, click here. Setlist is below:
Bad Dream Mama
Don’t Speak (I Came to Make a Bang!)
Complexity (Boots Electric cover)
Kiss the Devil
Whorehoppin’ (Shit, Goddamn)
Got a Woman (Slight Return)
Wannabe in L.A.
Save a Prayer (Duran Duran cover)
Anything ‘Cept the Truth
I Got a Feelin (Just Nineteen)
I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News)
Brown Sugar (The Rolling Stones cover)
Already Died (Jesse Hughes solo)
Stuck in the Metal (Jesse Hughes solo)
I Only Want You
Speaking in Tongues
European alternative rock band Placebo on August 19th performed an Unplugged set for MTV at London Studios in London, England. Presently, it is aimed for release on Nov 27th, 2015, just in time for the holidays. The band included several tracks from their recent album Loud Like Love, but included fan favorites from older albums like “Without You I’m Nothing”, “Every You Every Me” and “Slave to the Wage”. The album is available for pre-order here and includes several combos and denominations, including a Super Deluxe Edition Bundle (includes) 32 page booklet + t-shirt), Super Deluxe Edition (includes 32 page booklet), DVD and BluRay editions of the concert, CD and double vinyl editions and digital download formats.
Recently, reporting on Frances Bean Cobain’s thoughts on Adele’s new singles, AlternativeNation noted that on her Twitter she also lately had posted pictures of Placebo’s first two albums, Placebo and With out You I’m Nothing, signed by the band:
Placebo just this year acquired new drummer Matt Lunn after their drummer from Steve Forrest quit the band amicably. Matt Lunn is known for his work in New York band Colour of Fire and has accompanied Placebo for the MTV Unplugged performance. Other live members include Billy Lloyd on keyboards, Fiona Brice on cello and Nick Gavrilovic on additional guitar. Below, you can watch the closing song to their MTV Unplugged performance, a song from the album Sleeping With Ghosts, “The Bitter End” and the show’s setlist:
JACKIE (Sinead O’Connor cover)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
BECAUSE I WANT YOU
EVERY YOU EVERY ME (Feat. Majke Voss Romme AKA Broken Twin)
SONG TO SAY GOODBYE
PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT (Feat. Joan as police woman)
LOUD LIKE LOVE
TOO MANY FRIENDS
SLAVE TO THE WAGE
WITHOUT YOU I’M NOTHING
HOLD ON TO ME
WHERE IS MY MIND? (Pixies cover)
THE BITTER END
This article is dedicated to the memory of Jonathan Melvoin
“Music can be the most wonderful thing in the world, it personally has inspired me to make great changes in my life and my way of thinking, but it is only music. Remember that those who ‘make it’ are not above you in any way. Don’t give credence to anyone person’s opinion than your very own, including my own and certainly don’t give more credenceto one person’s opinion because he or she has sold more records than another. Many people have asked me how far I want the band to go, and I always say as far and to as many people as it can because that means people are doing the thing that means the most to us, and that is listening to the music.”
– William “Billy” Corgan, “A Newsletter From The Smashing Pumpkins to Their Fans”, 1993
This is a very, very long article. It brings up certain events that aren’t pleasant to remember and at the same time, incredible art. As a disclaimer, people grow up. People make mistakes growing up.
If you like what you read, view a much shorter retrospective on Machinahere.
Prelude to Sadness
Well into their tour in promotion for their sophomore album Siamese Dream, the Smashing Pumpkins were traveling across the Gulf of Mexico’s edge early April 1994, commuting between tour dates from Alabama to Mississippi. After sleeping in a motel room that reeked of “of mildew” and only “just big enough for that same sought after bed”, Corgan begins to recalls an important date. This day would arguably become the most pivotal date in alternative rock’s history. That April 8th, 1994, the news was broke to the world that Kurt Cobain was dead and an entry from the Confessions of Billy Corgan gives insight into Corgan’s initial reaction:
“The phone rings way too early, jarring me out of a sweet, humid sleep…the window is open and the sun pours in as the ocean air sweeps through the room…it looks like a beautiful day…”Did you hear the news? He’s gone and killed himself”…my first twilight thought is that it can’t be true, because even I have been reported dead two separate times in the last year (driving down the road, my father had recently heard a report that I was dead, so it must be a rumor or a bad joke)…the TV. in the room is one of those standard pieces of shit where you need a remote to turn it on, cause they hardwire the front controls off so you can’t jack the channels around to get the movies for free…I flip on CNN with the sound off, figuring if there’s any truth to it that they would have it…there is nothing on at this moment except a general news report, so it must just be a mistake…then I start to think that maybe they won’t care at all and that this might not be the source for information…about 20 seconds in they flash his picture…the talking head is talking away, and my stomach drops about 1,000 feet…I mumble to whoever is on the line for a minute or so, but I don’t remember what I said…they remind me that they are very glad I am still here…I put down the phone, and all is really quiet now…his picture is still up on the screen, frozen…it is one of those rare moments in life where the entire world seems to be stopped, waiting for the next breath…my mind races around to “where is she? I hope she is alright”…I sit on the edge of the bed and just stare at the screen…I cannot believe my eyes, it is just all so sad…I don’t pray, but I do now…I pull myself down to the floor, my back pressed up against the bed, the TV. screen just a foot away from my eyes…I say a prayer for his soul, thanking him for all the good he has done…I pray a lot for his child, who is now without a father…and I start to cry and I don’t stop until there are no more tears to cry…”
The death of Kurt Cobain signaled a significant loss – for his family, for his friends, and for the world. But the end of Cobain’s life and career brought on what might be known as “the death of guitar.” Since Nirvana’s demise, guitar derivative music has never been held as high as it had been during its glory days through the late ’50s up until Cobain’s death in 1994. The death of guitar was neither a good or bad thing – but it set the course of music in a different direction. Guitar driven bands were not exactly forced to change per se but with a reasonable artistic consideration in mind, many bands looked to different means to convey music or at least re-invent and re-structure how they would play guitar. This process had already begun with the electronic movements from the late 70’s through the 80’s, though these movements stayed closely aligned with rock or R&B movements until the ’90s began to approach. The Smashing Pumpkins became one of the first “rock bands” to acknowledge guitar’s death and the course of where music might go. Instead of doing away with it entirely though, Corgan and his former band mates took the initiative to re-invent the role of guitar and influence of rock in their band. As James Iha towards the end of 1996 in Guitar World, “Seeing the way rock music has changed over the last couple of years, it seems kind of dull to be playing guitars…The future is in electronic music. It really seems boring just to play rock music.”
The band, circa 1994. Left to right: Jimmy Chamberlin, D’arcy Wretzky, William “Billy” Corgan and James Iha
A grueling 13 month tour for Siamese Dream was followed by hitting the studio soon afterwards for pre-production and writing. A big element of the album’s direction came out of a shift of producers – long time producer Butch Vig was replaced by electronic producer Flood, who engineered and/or produced several albums by U2, New Order and Nick Cave. In a 1995 interview with Guitar World, Corgan stated that, “I think we’d become so close with Butch that it started to work to our disadvantage. You get to the point where you don’t even say anything, ’cause you know all the body language. So the communication starts to diminish. We’d worked with Butch from the time we did our Sub Pop single [Tristessa, December 1990]. So it wasn’t really a decision about him as a producer. I just felt we had to force the situation, sonically, and take ourselves out of normal Pumpkin recording mode. I didn’t want to repeat past Pumpkin work.” Flood’s collaborator, engineer/producer Alan Moulder was also brought into the mix. The grass is always greener on the other side as they say, and the band was looking to see how far they could push their horizon.
The 666 Tapes – an obscure documentary produced by MTV during the initial recording sessions for the album.
Writing for most of the album’s material formally began in March of 1995, though it has been noted by Corgan that the single “Thirty-Three” was the first song written for the album, shortly after the tour for Siamese Dream was finished around late 1994. Ironically, it became the last single released for the album’s promotion. Thirty-Three is one of the more poignant songs on the album, very soft spoken vocals playing off of deep yet light guitar tones and ethereal keys in the background. Towards the end of the original Smashing Pumpkins’ tenure in 2000, the band played the song during a VH1 Storytellers performance and Corgan spoke about its background and context:
“This song embodies the spirit of that time – I’d just gotten married, I’d just moved into a new house, the band was achieving the kind of success that people only dream of, and I was really hopeful with the idea that I was eventually, that someday and it looked like it was going to happen actually have a happy life. Didn’t quite work out that way. But I don’t think that’s what I want to emphasize about this particular song. Hope is the key component in life, because one must have hope to do anything in this world… I had a friend read my tarot cards, and the person said that, ‘when you’re 33 years old (this is when I was 27), your life is going to completely change.’ So as I sit here today at 33 years old, my life is going to completely change at 33 [In 2000, The Pumpkins announced their last tour when Corgan was 33].”
Thirty-Three performed at VH1 Storytellers, 2000
No sooner than he had covered Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, the line “Even children get older/And I’m getting older too” rang true for Corgan. He was finally growing up, “I know I can’t be late, supper’s waiting on the table”. But with the price of growing up comes leaving behind many things, like the identities of your past and the friends who helped form it:
“And for a moment I lose myself Wrapped up in the pleasures of the world I’ve journeyed here and there and back again But in the same old haunts I still find my friends Mysteries not ready to reveal
Sympathies I’m ready to return”
It is the sweetest lament. “The graceful swans of never”, the lovely people you leave behind as you grow up. “Thirty-Three” encompasses many of the album’s themes, including all the victories, remorse, and aspirations in the summation of one’s life. These issues have by no means been solved with simple step-by-step solutions for Corgan and the result of a lifetime of frustrations became a beautiful double album. When asked about the double album’s ambitiousness by Addicted to Noise in 1995, Corgan stated, “The first reaction that people have is it’s such a preposterous ’70s kind of thing to do, why would you do that in 1995? That’s exactly the point. It kind of knocks people upside the head to at least reexamine their perception of what an album is. Things like that.” In the same interview he also conceded “a lot” was riding on the album’s success, which would determine if the band would fade out of the public spotlight or reach success unparalleled in their career before. Virgin Records had felt at first that the whole double record concept was a career suicide and a project too large and early for the Pumpkins.
Corgan on stage during the Mellon Collie tour, pre-tonsure
Initial rehearsal through much of the early recording and production process happened at the aptly named Pumpkinland, their rehearsal studio, beginning around November of 1994. Earlier sessions took place at “Sadlands” (Corgan’s home) during the fall of 1994. Demos for the November 1994 sessions were kept at D’arcy’s house for some time and were stolen by her sister’s boyfriend and sold online during the album’s recording and production. Music for the video release Vieuphoria was likely produced and/or written at James Iha’s house, Bugg Studios (named after his dog); around the same time where it is speculated the band may have jammed on new material there as well. Much of lighter instrumental music featured in the video acts as a slight foreshadow and nod to the softer parts of the forthcoming album.
Although Corgan wrote the vast bulk of material on the album, it was a far collaborative process according to most sources. James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin and D’arcy Wretzky’s separate contributions to the music Corgan wrote out had the album sound wholly different than their previous records. The introduction of keyboards, piano and strings also had the record stand out from the rest of the discography beforehand. Gish and Siamese Dream, were generally very guitar driven. With Mellon Collie, the “death of guitar” brought out another side of music for the Pumpkins to write with, though the album has incredible guitar feature. What Rolling Stone had to say gave me a very “a-ha” moment – “Accused of not being punk enough, Corgan showed on ‘Mellon Collie’ what punk might be if Steven Spielberg got hold of it.” And it’s true in a sense – the album is well orchestrated in the same vein of which Spielberg has made so many countless great and iconic films. Strings are involved on the album of course, but the album’s orchestration is in the sense of being well-crafted and delicately put together in an intense period of artistic creativity and is in debatable contest as the peak of the Pumpkins. In the closing from the earlier mentioned Addicted to Noise interview, the difference between intuitive and “well-crafted” song writing was explained by Corgan:
“Neil Young, for example, writes so intuitively that it almost comes through him. It’s there. He doesn’t even know while he’s writing what it’s about and later, he may see something. But it sounds to me like you work a little differently.
Corgan: No, I work both ways. I’m a very multi-brain person. I don’t know if it’s my Piscean nature but I sit in a lot of different chairs. For example, a song like “Disarm” was completely intuitive. There’s nothing conscious about that song. It, like, wrote itself. “Today” was an intuitive song. There’s other songs where I really have to spend time to make it all glue together.
Where it’s more crafting.
Corgan: Oh, “Tonight, Tonight” was probably a more crafted song. You’re looking for something specific. You know what you’re trying to say but you’ve got to find the right words to say it with the right sentiments. It’s obviously a well-crafted song. That took time to put all the pieces together. Stuff like that. I move back and forth.”
The formal recording process took place from March to August of 1995 at the Chicago Recording Company. It was overdubbed and mixed at the Village Recorder in Los Angeles. At this point, the band was working harder than a full time 9 to 5 job. Oftentimes, production was divided between teams of people, like Flood and Corgan, Moulder, D’arcy and James, etc. in an effort to get the tracks done. They had to reach the deadline as the year’s end drew nearer, and this could mean spending 10 to 20 hours in the studio in a single day. Another factor to keep in mind was that determining the track listing was a large trial and error process. Approximately 50 songs were recorded during these sessions and 28 were used for most editions of the album. The original vinyl pressing, however, included 30 tracks in 6 sides featuring two additional tracks, “Tonite Reprise” and “Infinite Sadness.” There was much material written or at least jammed on before the formal recording process from both Iha and Corgan. They wanted a double album, a concept they had thrown around for awhile, but 50+ tracks constitutes a triple, if not quadruple, album. By that point there had been plenty of Pumpkins’ material shelved, as documented by first numerous bootlegs and now the official album re-issues. Instead of shelving the material entirely, many of these songs became b-sides to Mellon Collie‘s singles: “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, “1979”, “Tonight, Tonight”, “Zero” and “Thirty-Three”. Each of these singles were released throughout 1995-1996 with 4 to 5 b-sides from the album outtakes and including tracks recorded after the album at Bugg Studios, “The Bells” for example. These singles/EPs were given a life of their own and compiled into a box set released in 1996 known as The Aeroplane Flies High, named after a b-side from the “Thirty-Three” single: “The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right).” But that is another story for another time. The guitars they played on the album were also tuned a half step down to D# to achieve the lower and perhaps emotional tone they were looking for.
Radio Plays My Favorite Song
The singles for Mellon Collie have an interesting history behind them and it all could have gone a very different direction in terms of artistic focus. The dates used in this section refer to US release dates. Originally, “Jellybelly” was going to be released as the first single. Corgan reasoned that, “‘Bullet’ was the absolute obvious choice…which is kind of why I didn’t want it to be the first single. You know, in Pumpkinland, we don’t really like to do the obvious thing. I felt really close to Jellybelly, because it sounds to me like a classic Pumpkins song from a third album. It sounds to me like the manifestation of everything we’ve ever done on a third album, whereas Cherub Rock sounded to me like a second album single.”
Bullet with Butterfly Wings
In the end, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was chosen as the first single. Depending on whom you ask, it is the most well known Pumpkins song to date. “The world is a vampire” became a battle cry heard throughout every lonely teenage bedroom of the world since October 24th, 1995 and even still in 2015. Towards of the album’s release, Corgan when asked about the song’s title reveals its origins in a radio interview with Rock 103.5 Chicago, “Freud had this concept that each of us has a psychic bullet, that if it can be removed we can be psychically healed.” Religion, angst, betrayal or whatever else. It is easier to simply listen to the raw emotional performance than trying to decipher what it means. If you can’t understand it, it’s not worth asking about. Corgan also covered the song’s subject matter after being asked what it meant in the 1995 Addicted to Noise interview, “I don’t really explain the specific things because I think if it’s not apparent, I’m not doing my job. To explain it further is to demystify it and to take away from the power of what it is. It’s taken me awhile to come to this conclusion, but the music is its own interpretive force and everyone’s going to apply their own experiences to the interpretation of it. Me explaining it demystifies it, narrows the ability for people to enjoy it and then becomes the click phrase by which everyone says, ‘Well, okay, with that song ‘Bullet,’ you were trying to say such and such.'” James Iha, in an interview with Paul Berstein, commented on the guitar work and more minimal production (in Pumpkins terms) of the album when the instrumentation of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was addressed:
“I think Flood helped the band…to not repeat the way we recorded before. In comparison, the last record was a lot more produced, there’s less of a live feel – I mean, it’s really good, just more produced I suppose. The thing about the new record is that on a lot of songs we went for more of a live feel. Like on “Bullet”…it’s a lot more stripped down than how we would’ve approached it before. I mean, there’s a lot of guitars on there, but, they weren’t done just for the sake of it, like we can overdub twenty-four guitars or whatever. It’s just two rhythm guitars.
At some point there are one or two other guitars that come in…there’s a lot of drop in sort of stuff. In the second verse there’s this wah-wah sort of thing. It was just this mistake I made on the guitar and we ended up sampling it. We degraded the sound with distortion and I ended up playing it on the keyboard in time with the music. So there’s neat things like that on the record. There’s more space to do stuff like that because there isn’t 24 rhythm guitars.
A lot of that is because we used a lot of Marshall amplifier distortion. It’s a cleaner sound, but more powerful. It has a lot more “throw” to the sound. The fuzz pedals sound so washy, you can’t tell what you’re playing. You could just be fucking off and it would sound good. I think that’s what a lot of bands do now. The Big Muff distortion pedals are like the DX-7 keyboard of the 90’s – everybody uses it. It’s like Nirvana, clean during the verse, step on it for the chorus. I mean, Nirvana were awesome, totally amazing rock band, but everyone’s just stealing their formula. It’s kinda lame.”
“Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was released as a single the same day as the album’s release, October 24th, 1995. It peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Top 100 and captured number 1 on the Canadian RPM Alternative charts, staying at number 1 from November 6th through the 27th of 1995. The single was released with a James Iha composition, “…Said Sadly” and 5 cover songs from the discographies of Blondie, The Cure, Alice Cooper, Missing Persons and the Cars. The music video was directly by Samuel Bayer, who also directed Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” iconic music video.
MTV News on the set of the music video for “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”
The next single, released the following year on January 23rd, 1996, was the song that crossed the Pumpkins’ exposure beyond the world of alternative rock. Utilizing the advent of this “death of guitar”, “1979” became the first song of the direction the Pumpkins were to follow for the albums Adore and both Machina albums, using drum machines and samples against the swirly guitar tracks for an electronic atmosphere. “1979” reached number twelve on the Billboards, and became the highest charting single from the band ever since and has become a staple of rock, and sometimes pop, radio. An excellent example of storytelling, it is not directly a personal song. As Corgan addressed during the commentary for the ‘1979’ music video on the Greatest Hits Video Collection, “Teenage angst, the idealized version. Almost the sort of ‘teenagehood’ I never had, that I wished I had,” was supposed to be the driving theme behind the music video, the so-called “emptiness of youth” that everyone comes to idealize with age. Corgan’s youth was not exactly as carefree as the song’s lyrics are, as he had to take care of his two younger brothers as they moved from home to home. He, however, like many others found his solace in music. The music video, centered on hooligan antics of suburban teenagers, featured cameos from Iha and Wretzky. The original tapes for the music video were left on the roof of a car and lost, so the video had to be re-shot. The b-sides were a mixed bunch, the ones written by Corgan like “Ugly” and “Set the Ray to Jerry” were harder, darker rock, but the two Iha compositions, “The Boy” and “Believe”, were much lighter in nature.
To understand the true nature of the next single, it’s best to watch this:
Clips featuring the Smashing Pumpkins from the Simpsons’ episode “Homerpalooza”
“Zero” was released as a single on April 23rd, 1996. This song was very influential in the iconography of the band, with the advent of the “Zero” t-shirt which became a pop culture staple associated with this part of the ’90s. The shirt, in different forms, is still often found at Smashing Pumpkins’ merchandise booths on tours today. Short and more direct, its lyrics are approachable and yet unattainable. The Zero EP is the longest in length of any of the single EPs from the album, ending with the 23 minute track “Pistachio Medley”, a collection of about 50+ riffs collected over the years from the Pumpkins’ history. The music video for “Zero” was directed by Billy Corgan’s girlfriend at the time, Yelena Yemchuk (he had separated from his wife). The video featured the band and touring keyboardist, Jonathan Melvoin. In studying the song, I found a similarity in the refrain and lines from the Heart Sutra, a classic text from Mahayana and Zen Buddhism in which the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, or Kuan Yin, expounds on the nature of emptiness, rebirth and attachment. Let us compare:
“Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness, And cleanliness is godliness, and God is empty just like me”
“Listen Sariputra, this Body itself is Emptiness and Emptiness itself is this Body This Body is not other than Emptiness and Emptiness is not other than this Body The same is true of Feelings,Perceptions, Mental Formations, and Consciousness”
– “The Heart Sutra, aka the Insight That Brings Us to the Other Shore” (Translation by Thich Nhat Hanh, found here)
Both songs reflect on ’emptiness’, but both might have at least slightly different definitions of the word. Śūnyatā is the Sanskrit word which is normally translated into emptiness, but alternative translations that can help understand the Buddhist view of emptiness would be openness or voidness. It is related to the concept of impermanence, that nothing is permanent. Emptiness is the true and impermanent nature of things, as in a state without any kind of established personal views, prejudices or attachments which might treat a mood, like anger or depression as a permanent state of mind which we won’t come out of, like our minds might convince us at times. In English, emptiness is perceived negatively, often a synonym for sad or depressed. But in Buddhism, there is a certain richness in emptiness, when outside of the suffering innate in holding particular views or attachments which would get in the way in any kind of insight. Indeed, “There’s no connection to myself.” Corgan confesses, and Buddhism could point to that the concept of “me” is entirely a construct of the impermanent ego. It doesn’t help that Corgan shares a haircut with nearly every Buddhist monk and nun on the planet. Corgan, like Flea and Kurt Cobain, would study Buddhism later in life. We are one and all, but I digress.
There are certain music videos which go to live a life of their own. The music video for “Tonight, Tonight” would be considered one of those. Already a song alive and kicking with a full string section from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the video topped it off with a tribute to turn-of-the-century film and particularly the French silent film A Trip to the Moon. It stars SpongeBob SquarePants stars Tom Kenny and Jill Talley, who play the voices of SpongeBob and Karen respectively. It took three days to film and extensive preparation beforehand, as director James Cameron had rented out the vast majority of turn-of-the-century props to use for his blockbuster film Titanic. As a result, much of the props and costumes were made and not rented. The video’s eccentric cinematography would end up serving the band well, after it won six awards at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1996. These awards included Video of the Year, Best Direction, Best Special Effects, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and the Breakthrough Video award. Additionally, it won a Grammy in 1997 for Best Short Form Music Video. It is continuously held as one of the great music videos of all time and “Tonight, Tonight” becomes of the most uplifting and inspiring songs on the album, instilling the conviction to believe in yourself.
Originally, the band had an entirely different idea. So for the wonderful music video for “Tonight, Tonight”, we have the Red Hot Chili Peppers to thank. The music video for their 1995 single, “Aeroplane”, had showcased the idea the Pumpkins wanted to portray: a Bubsy Berkeley inspired music video, with “people diving into champagne glasses” according to Corgan. Berkeley was a noted choreographer and director in the 20th century, known for incorporating complex geometry into his choreographer. See below to understand any of that last sentence:
A scene from Berkeley’s Footlight Parade
Muzzle and Thirty-Three
There were two contenders for the fifth single, which would become the last one from the album. “Muzzle” and “Thirty-Three” were debated between the band and Virgin Records. “Muzzle” was released as a promotional single in August of 1996 in the wake of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin’s departure and fared much better in the charts than did “Thirty-Three” when it was released as the official fifth single on November 11th, 1996. Regarding the single dispute and the chart performance of “Thirty-Three”, Corgan states that, “Virgin Records tried, and failed, to get me to use an edited version of ‘Thirty-Three’. Which is why they said it failed in marketplace: ‘too long.'” The music video for “Thirty-Three” was co-directed by Corgan and Yemchuk and was unlike the rest of the batch of music videos from the album. The video was slow and whimsical, influenced by vintage and amateur photography of the earlier 20th century, as well as Alice in Wonderland and Americana aesthetics. The cinematography for the music video is not unlike much of the subject matter of Corgan’s new blog, People and Their Cars, which focuses on vintage Americana photography. Both the video and the photographs posted of the website reflect a similar appearance in age, though the photographs are vintage and the music video was filmed in 1996. Sometimes, it is easy to see where Corgan draws his influence from and other times he throws you a curveball. One of the songs from the single’s EP, “The Last Song”, features a guitar solo by Corgan’s father William Corgan Sr., who is also a musician.
I’ve journeyed here and there and back again But in the same old haunts I still find my friends Mysteries not ready to reveal Sympathies I’m ready to return I’ll make the effort, love can last forever Graceful swans of never topple to the earth Tomorrow’s just an excuse
James Iha looking very sad
Such a cinematic double album only deserves great artwork to stand by with it. Corgan drove the idea for the album’s aesthetic and the themes and ideas the art should encompass, but it was designed, drawn and painted by John Craig, a Pittsburgh collage artist influenced by the Dada and Surrealist movements in art. The famous album cover after going through several different ideas, like photographing the band in Victorian clothes, was decided to be a collage of elements from Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s The Souvenir and Renaissance master Raphael’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria. In 2012, Craig was interviewed by NPR about his art he made for the project, and he spoke to lengths about the album cover’s evolution and outcome:
“With the Greuze, there was something very dreamy or ecstatic about her expression that certainly wasn’t in the Raphael painting. And then the flow and color of the Raphael dress, just the way it’s rippling and almost traveling. I guess it’s those primary colors too. That’s what happens — you don’t know if it’s going to work, but you put the body on the star and the head on the body and you just know it’s right somehow. Though I look at it now and see some tweaks I would do.”
The Souvenir (Fidelity) by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1787-1789
Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Raphael, 1507
The semblance of artwork hundreds of years apart grew to be representative of the album as a whole. The intersection of classical music, all kinds of rock and electronica proved in time to be as timeless as the art the album begot. Craig had illustrated several children’s books in the past and gave the art the quaint and nostalgic feeling that could only be translated through the music of Mellon Collie. He received many faxes from Corgan of some very rough sketches and he transformed them into the lovely and intricate art the album is known for.
Additional artwork done for the album by John Craig
After the album’s release, the band decided to hold off from touring for a little bit to let fans “digest” the material. To be fair, a double album is a lot to digest. Aside from television appearances, such as Saturday Night Live, there was no touring for the album in 1995. The world tour began with two nights January 2nd and 3rd, 1996 in Toronto, Canada at the Phoenix. This massive tour lasted a long and stressful fourteen months. They took on the world like never before. In retrospect, it became the band’s most successful tour – at a price, a horrible price.
According to tour manager Tim Lougee, Corgan was insistent that if anyone caught doing drugs was “going to be sent home, no questions asked.” Jimmy Chamberlin since the Siamese Dream era had struggled very hard with drug and alcohol abuse, notably with heroin. For a period of time between the Siamese Dream sessions and the Mellon Collie tour, he experienced a period of abstinence from heroin. His sponsor during the Siamese Dream sessions was Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro and Navarro helped Chamberlin get clean. During The Mellon Collie tour, Jimmy Chamberlin’s father passed away and was a factor in his continued use of drugs as a method of coping with the grief. The passing of Chamberlin’s father postponed the Australian and New Zealand tour dates. For the first seven months of the tour, James Iha recounted that, “there were obvious signs [of using] and generally we would try to give him second chances.”
For the tour, the Pumpkins had picked up a touring keyboardist, Jonathan Melvoin. He was the brother of Wendy Melvoin, one half of the duo heavily associated with Prince, Wendy & Lisa. Before joining the Pumpkins on tour, he became the drummer for the Dickies and recorded drums for their 1995 Idjit Savant. Both Wendy and Jonathan all came from a family of musicians, the children of jazz pianist Michael Melvoin whose work is noted with John Lennon, the Jackson 5, Tom Waits, Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys and the music direction of the television series Patridge Family. He also had served as the president of NARAS, whose MusiCares program has made strides in treating substance abuse amongst musicians.
Melvoin as he appeared in the music video for “Zero”
Melvoin came into the band after the Pumpkins put out an ad for a keyboardist Chamberlin remembers, “We basically put an ad in the paper for a keyboard player about eight months ago. We got about a thousand tapes. We didn’t listen to any of them. He showed up, he could play, and we hired him.” Like Chamberlain, Melvoin shared a past of substance abuse. February 29th in Bangkok, Thailand, both Chamberlin and Melvoin were using and according to Corgan, “Jonathan was fine, but Jimmy was definitely out of it.” Given a second chance, the band plus Melvoin continued touring. Later into the year, another incident occurred on May 2nd in Lisbon, Portugal when both Chamberlin and Melvoin were found outside of a hotel, passed out and unconscious. They were rushed into the emergency room and successfully revived. At this point, Melvoin was fired but was kept to finish the European leg, but still went on to the next American leg of the tour.
A couple days later at the Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, a 17-year old fan, Bernadette O’Brien, was crushed in a mosh pit during “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and died a day later from internal injuries. The following date in Belfast was canceled in respect of O’Brien’s memory. Four other people were injured at the Dublin show. Things were getting progressively grim and grimmer.
Melvoin on stage with the Pumpkins circa 1996, at Top of the Tops
Chamberlin and Melvoin stayed in the same hotel room at the Manhattan Regency on the evening of July 11th, 1996 while the rest of the band stayed in another hotel. This of course spells bad news, but the other problem is that Chamberlin was also trying to avoid a stalker that had a history of harassment towards him. Chamberlin wanted to be in an environment away from the rest of the band to remain hidden. Kill two birds with one stone? Either way, the events of this night would change the course of the band’s history, interworkings and music forever. Around 4am, Tim Lougee gets a call from Chamberlin “crying and freaking out” saying that Jonathan was dead. He tried to revive Melvoin to no avail. A separate 9/11 call instructed Chamberlin to place Melvoin’s head under the shower until paramedics could arrive. By the time they arrived, Melvoin was pronounced dead at the scene. Toxicology reports concluded that he had died from an overdose of heroin and alcohol. The specific type of street heroin, called Red Rum, was native to the drug trade of south east Manhattan. The news spiked the demand for Red Rum in the area, tragically. In reflection, Wendy Melvoin said about her brother in Rolling Stone:
“The only thing I can speculate is that somehow, someway, Jonathan developed this incredible jones with Jimmy on this tour. We’ve all been around people who do drugs. We’ve all been around people who have problems with it. We’ve all seen people go through programs. And my brother just didn’t have, in our minds, in any sense, any of those classic symptoms. Jonathan dabbled, as almost everybody else in our life did. This wasn’t an anomaly whatsoever. At the same time, we never heard of any of these episodes that had happened to Jonathan on the road. No one knew any of this.”
Cupid De Locke featuring Melvoin at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C., 1/6/1996
Naturally, Chamberlin was fired and a slew of tour dates had to be canceled or re-scheduled. He faced a court date on August 13th for misdemeanor charges of heroin possession. He was sentenced to a rehab facility program and stayed in the program until December of 1996. Chamberlin had no previous criminal record. Years later in an interview with Modern Drummer, Chamberlin discussed the question on why he felt his relapse happened:
“I don’t know…stress? Whatever happens. We’re a lot older now, and I kinda look at it like that. When your unreality becomes your reality, it’s hard to put a gauge on it, and that’s what happened. At the time, we were arguably the biggest band in the world. You achieve this rock star status and start believing your own bullshit. You start thinking you’re indestructible. But there’s a lot of stress and responsibility that goes along with that, and you may not want it. At some point you begin having this love-hate relationship with your career, and then it all becomes about escapism. Some people deal with it one way and some deal with it another way. A lot of times people deal with it the wrong way. That’s what happened.”
Sarah’s Maclachian’s hit “Angel” was written about Jonathan Melvoin and his death. Additionally, Wendy & Lisa wrote the song “Jonathan” for their self-released album in 1999. Lastly, even Prince contributed a song to Melvoin’s legacy, “The Love We Make”, from his album after his departure from Warner Brothers, Emancipation. I think the saddest part of the whole story is that his story has so seemingly slipped from history. He is the only person to have worked with both Prince and the Smashing Pumpkins, two artists/bands with some of the largest discographies, released or otherwise, in the whole history of music. He was described as a musician who could “play any instrument”, and contributed to the Prince albums Around the World In a Day and Parade. None of the Smashing Pumpkins were invited to Melvoin’s funeral.
Sarah Maclachlin’s hit single “Angel”, written in the wake of Jonathan’s death
A song equally as beautiful as “Angel”, written by Wendy Melvoin. It is clear she loved her brother very much.
July 17th, 1996, the Smashing Pumpkins sans Chamberlin issued a press statement:
“Today we are very sorry to tell our friends and fans that we have decided to sever our relationship with our friend and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. This may come as a shock to some and to others perhaps not, but to us it’s devastating. For nine years we’ve battled with Jimmy’s struggles with the insidious disease of drug and alcohol addiction and it’s nearly destroyed everything we are and stand for. So we have decided to carry on without him and wish him the best we have to offer.”
For certain legs of the tour, Filter opened up for the Pumpkins. Their partnership led to their drummer, Matt Walker, being chosen as their drummer to finish the tour with them during the subsequent auditions after Chamberlin’s termination. He would also play certain tracks on the next album, Adore. On keyboards the natural choice was Dennis Flemion from the Frogs, a band that was very close friends with the Pumpkins. The line up of Corgan, Iha, Wretzky, Walker and Flemion took on what was left of the tour from August 1996 until February 1997. For the most part, the rest of the tour went smoothly. The first show with the new line up was at the Pumpkins’ home venue the Cabaret Metro on August 23rd. The proceeds went to the “Christmas for Kids” charity. The tour ended in New Orleans on February 5th, 1997. During the 14 month tour, the band played shows in nearly every state in America, Canada, Great Britain, France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Soon after the tour ended, the trio of Corgan, Iha and Wretzky would begin to lay down demos for Adore and release a song for the Batman Forever soundtrack, “The End is the Beginning is the End.” At least two attempts by MTV to stage an Unplugged Smashing Pumpkins show never came to fruit during the tour, but it is worth noting.
Best Stage Banter From the Tour
January 12th, 1996 at the Academy of Music, NYC (2nd Night):
Wretzky: Thank you for the flowers. Iha: We like flowers. Corgan: Flowers are good. Iha: Flowers grow. Corgan: Trees are bad. Flowers are good. Iha: Trees are bad. Flowers are good. Corgan: People are good? Iha: People are sometimes good. Corgan: People are good, yes, people are good, yes. Iha: People are dualistic, good and evil. Corgan: People are good. Iha: People are good. Corgan: Gods are great. Iha: Gods are crazy. Corgan: Like to play another song from the 20s. Iha: This goes all the way back, about three years ago. Corgan: It seems so fucking old, doesn’t it?
April 28th, 1996 at the Trocadiere in Nantes, France
Corgan: Thank you. Bonsoir, bonsoir mis amis. Uh, uh, uh…je world is je vampire?
Corgan: We’d like to thank our opening band Filter for rocking your asses off. Like to play another song from our album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite fad.
July 3rd, 1996 at the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio
*In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (tease)* Iha: Billy C on the guitar’s got that blues. Corgan: We’ve got that wack-ass Chicago blues! Iha: You know what I’m saying. Ow! Ow! Damn! Damn that shit’s hot, come on. Hot! If I can’t see you tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe next week we can get it on. Alright, alright, I’m sorry, I’ll just stop talking.
July 10th, 1996 at the USAir Arena in Landover, Maryland (Melvoin’s last show)
Corgan: So, how is everybody? Iha: Are you spaced out? Are you spaced out? Are you still with us? Well, let’s get on board the space rocket.
November 27th, 1996 at the Gulfcoast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi
Corgan: Thank you very much. Is everyone havin’ a good time? Was anyone here when we played in uh, 1994? [On the date Cobain was announced dead 4/8/94] Hello again. As you can see, we are now the happy pumpkins, not the sad ones.
[picks five dancers from the audience to dance during “1979”]
Corgan: Ok, dancers…Mister Iha has some instructions, please pay attention to the rules. Iha: Ok, we have two rules for our dancers, two rules. Corgan: I think we should have three rules. Iha: Three rules, I’ll make up one. Um…don’t eat red meat, go to college, and become me. Um, two rules for our dancers, do not touch us, and do not touch our shit. Corgan: Now there’s a third rule, I got a third rule. Iha: Yes, what is the third rule? Corgan: If you’re gonna dance on stage, you have to pretend you’re having a good time. Iha: Yes, yes…alright, and for those of you who cannot dance with us onstage, I encourage you to dance on stage with us, but do it in your mind, yes. Any people who’ve got this disease will know what I’m talking about.
January 6th, 1997 at the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington
Corgan: How is everyone? As you know we’ve gotten progressively wimpier as we’ve gotten older. And this is our wimpy anthem, it’s called Thirty-three.
February 5th, 1997 at the Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana
Corgan: So that was from our fourth album called Siamese Squid, came out in 1984.
Contrary to what the radio may have you believe, there is more to life than singles. While earlier the memorable singles of the album and some b-sides were addressed, there is a far bigger wealth in the album tracks. The primary inspiration for the organization and structure for the double album was Pink Floyd’s The Wall and the Beatles’ self-titled White Album. However, capping out at 121 minutes, it beats both The Wall and the White Album in length, where were 83 and 93 minutes respectively. All in all, it took almost one entire year to write, record, produce and overdub the entire record from the fall of 1994 until August of 1995. A band can change a lot in a year and with a deep variety of music from the sessions, it sometimes hard to believe it only took one year to make, instead of a lifetime.
The Smashing Pumpkins, circa 1996
The opening piano track, one of the earliest songs written for Mellon Collie, acts as an instrumental prologue or chorus. Chorus not as in a “verse, chorus, verse” kind of chorus, but a chorus. In ancient Greece, the chorus was a consistent staple of Greek plays, acted out by one anonymous and collective group of actors who would candidly perform outside of the play’s main stage and world. This could mean dancing, narrating, singing or commenting on the play’s progress or plot. The more obvious comparison comes straight from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (which played as a stark influence on album track “Cupid de Locke”) from the play’s genesis with the prologue:
PROLOGUE Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life; Whole misadventured piteous overthrows Do with their death bury their parents’ strife. The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love, And the continuance of their parents’ rage, Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove, Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage; The which if you with patient ears attend, What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
If you listen closely to the title track, you can hear the whispers of the album. All the stories and myths, poetry and prose, and bittersweet melody it contains. The first and second discs have about the same dynamic between loud and soft songs. This dynamic is most exemplary between the songs “Stumbleine” and “X.Y.U.” Half-innocent and half-conscious, “Stumbleine” flows a children’s lullaby across an acoustic guitar that almost sounds too shy to speak up. “Nobody nowhere understands anything/about me and all my dreams/lost at sea”, the “misspent youth” of everyone invested in their journeys like losing their virginity the way they always wanted to, the dragon’s chase for the next high and how these dreams intersect like a five car pileup. The pledge to the listener is the refrain, “I’ll be your stumbeline/I’ll be your super queen” the ideal other half all people, but especially teenagers before the young adult disillusionment sets in, seek their heart out for. In the most poignant way, this song captures that moment alone in your room, walking down the street at night, in the corner of a party, as a teenager. But it is a moment stuck in time, a time that cannot last. The proceeding death rock ballad, “X.Y.U.” is not as sentimental. It is both confessional and unapologetic, a devotion and a curse. The speaker brings up his insecurities and troubles growing up to the forefront and how it affects how he loves and what he might expect with love. Of course with anything, expectations from habit energies rarely or truly satisfy a person’s needs:
“I hurt where I can’t feel, I feel where I can’t hurt I know where I can’t know, I bleed for me and mine ka-boom, a rat-tat-tat, and some good ole bliss cause I’m a sister, and I’m a motherfuck I am made of shamrocks, I am made of stern stuff I am never enough, I am the forgotten child and I said I wanna fill you up, I wanna break you, I wanna give you up from one another, no one should ever come in between us, between us and our love”
“I am made of shamrocks” can be seen as less figurative and more literal, as Corgan is not only half Irish but born on Saint Patrick’s Day, commonly associated with Ireland and its history. The interpersonal dichotomy of love and hate, passion and rage, but isn’t it all the same? But nothing is more haunting than hearing all of instrumentation slow down and quiet, and into the silence Corgan proclaims:
“AND IN THE EYES OF THE JACKAL I SAY KAAAAAAAAH-BOOM!”
Anubis, the weigher of hearts, the embalmer, the balance and the jackal. Corgan blows up straight to the face of all notions of the perceived order of how life of how is meant to be, and clearly not everything works with the hope you intend. There is no balance here, as the song rocks back and forth like the “hell on earth” as it is shouted in the very last verse before an incredible sensory overload breakdown at the outro.
These themes of growing up and the short-comings of “happily ever after” are very prevalent, and the album both seems to celebrate them and tear them down. One of my favorite tracks, “Galapagos”, presents one of the more direct messages on the album:
“Carve out your heart for keeps in an old oak tree and hold me for goodbyes-and whispered lullabies and tell me I am still the man I’m supposed to be I won’t deny the pain I won’t deny the change and should I fall from grace here with you will you leave me too?”
The iconic sweet image of two kids carving a heart with their names inside on a tree. Whispering sweet nothings in a lover’s ear. We want it all, but can we still have it and be the “man I’m supposed to be”? Do the idealizations of romance have real bearings in life, at least once we grow up? “Should I fall from grace here with you?” This is the opportunity to grow and mature, but what is the cost? “Galapagos” indeed, the archipelago where Darwin started his research which would debunk creationism, humanity’s idealistic sense of genealogical innocence. If “Muzzle” could have been a single, “Here is No Why” definitely could have been as well. The song also speaks to lengths on the dichotomy of growing up through jaded teenagehood:
“Lost inside the dreams, of teen machines the useless drags, the empty days the lonely towers of long mistakes to forgotten faces and faded loves sitting still was never enough and if you’re giving in, then you’re giving up cause in your sad machines you’ll forever stay burning up in speed lost inside the dreams, of teen machines”
No matter how much someone will try to grow up, to throw out their yearbooks, to get a new haircut, to “re-define them,” the vast bulk of people are not even trying to move past the traumas and mistakes of their youth, lost inside the dreams of teen machines. In “Tales of a Scorched Earth,” the couplet “Why do the same old things keep on happening?/Because beyond my hopes there are no feelings” when applied to the subjectiveness of certain people’s experiences highlight how people cling to what they want for themselves, what they’ve always wanted, but put the “feelings” acquired in the pursuit in their back of conscious, neglecting themselves in order to keep on pushing. It won’t matter how they continue to treat people or themselves, they’ll keep asking: “Why do the same old things keep on happening?” Machines are devoid of feelings, and what are teenagers raised to be like? While there are universal values instilled into people like “you sow what you reap” or the concept of karma, no matter how people are raised there is few practical examples given to live these values out and the values end up being taken for granted. In this way, without a real human application, these concepts are drilled into people like transferring data to data. Most people have to experience to live these things, but there is no guarantee that anyone is going to be considerate, nice or even decent to the people surround them all the time. There is a plethora of abuse from all facets of human relationships, friend to friend, parent to child, child to parent, lover to lover, that leaves scars in hearts and a burden on the shoulders. It is written off, excused, “justified,” or otherwise the vicious cycle goes on and so does the suffering from generation to generation.
Having to study their album and its history intensely the last two weeks, I’ve began to develop a new appreciation for certain songs I had not paid much attention to, especially on the second disc. “Lily (My One and Only)” has turned into one of my very favorites by the Pumpkins in general. With a bit of a honky-tonk piano and a teaspoon of glittering fairy synths over a folksy-country rhythm, it stands out from even the other softer songs on the album like “Stumbeline” or Iha’s “Take Me Down”. Without listening to the lyrics, it would be just perceived as another sentimental love song. Yet the lyrics appear to be written from a perspective of a voyeur playing peeping tom outside of a girl’s window, obsessed with his thoughts of what he believes to be consummate and requited love. He is still head over heels even after the “officer is knocking at my door,” the police are “dragging’ me away,” and he swears he saw “her wave and say goodbye.” Or good riddance. Indeed, one point or another I’m sure all of the Pumpkins experienced some kind of bizarre stalker, especially Corgan. For us dedicated fans, we might be sometimes too “voyeuristic” ourselves. But it’s all in the name of love, right? Right. It’s not like I frequent Madame Zuzu’s or anything… (I live in California, so the answer is no)
“Thru the Eyes of Ruby”, which was featured on the recent End Times tour with Jimmy Chamberlin back on drums, becomes the most produced track of the album in terms of separate backing guitar tracks. It is estimated that 70 tracks comprise the song, an ode to the guitar production of Siamese Dream, which featured several, several guitar overdubs over the various tracks released on the album. The song begins with a short piano intro reminiscent of the title track, but from there it becomes a song very much of its own. “I believe in never/I believe in all the way/but belief is not to notice, believe is just some faith/and faith can’t help you to escape,” furthers the acknowledgement of this attachment to ideals of love. It is the most beautiful set of things to surround yourself with, but “faith can’t help you to escape.” There is more to life than Valentine’s Day’s cards. This kind of love can’t save you, but it can enhance your life. This love also seemed to be very circumstantial and easily can fall to the winds of change in a very radical way. The refrain “love is suicide” from “Bodies” comes to mind. When not dealt with appropriately, to get caught up in passion becomes the risk of losing yourself and who are. When these subdued traits come to head, “Bodies” paints us the portrait of alienation in love:
“You can’t help deny forever the tragedies reside in you the secret sights hide in you the lonely nights divide you in two all my blisters now revealed in the darkness of my dreams in the spaces in between us”
It is just that: that love alone can’t save us completely. Because there are so many unintentional shortcomings and unforeseen events that could just pull the rug from underneath our feet, so to speak. One wrong word or foolish mistake is all it can take for even the strongest of love to dissipate. It is most logical to refer to only one song here, “Love”, to help us out so more. The appropriately named track expounds on these concepts drawn out of here from “Bodies”, “I can’t help what you see/I can’t help but to be/For what I needed to need/she’ll make it/Love, it’s who you know.” Our problems are our own. They can’t be our girlfriend’s problems, no matter how badly we want for either someone else to deal with them or to go away. Unfortunately, a lot of people will live their entire lives with this delusion. Because everyone has their own problems to deal with, as the speaker concedes of “my mistakes of cowardice.” Love, it’s who you know. How a person defines love is largely reflective of who they know, the people have been engaged themselves enough in a person’s life to make an impact, positive or negative. People internalize it, “teen machines” become re-wired, and then reactions are given according to a personal code of almost DNA strength that takes strong effort and mindfulness to break. Ah, melancholy and how infinite it is.
“My life has been empty, my life has been untrue and does she really know, who I really am? does she really know me at last dead eyes, are you just like me?”
– “By Starlight”
Farewell and Goodnight
“Goodnight, to every little hour that you sleep tight may it hold you through the winter of a long night and keep you from the loneliness of yourself heart strung is your heart frayed and empty cause it’s hard luck, when no one understands your love it’s unsung, and i say goodnight, my love, to every hour in every day goodnight, always, to all that’s in your heart goodnight, may your dreams be so happy and your head lite with the wishes of a sandman and a night light be careful not to let the bedbugs sleep tight nestled in your covers the sun shines but i don’t a silver rain will wash away and you can tell, it’s just as well goodnight, my love, to every hour in every day goodnight, always to all that’s pure that’s in your heart”
The dark night of the soul, where the soul is tried and crucified by trial through spiritual crisis. This album takes the soul out on a dark night through itself, challenging everything frank and for granted about ourselves and the people in our lives. The lyrics of “Tonight, Tonight” brings us what he need for our journey. “The impossible is possible tonight” and from there we are plunged into the melancholy which is unveiled through the infinite sadness: the things about the human experience that seemingly always have been, like: deceit, betrayal, emptiness, hate, despair but these things are juxtaposed with ecstasy, union, fulfillment, love, absolute beauty and God. The crisis here is how to deal with the fact that love can’t always manifest exactly to the image we have about it in our heads. Sometimes, there are no castles or touching sunsets. Sometimes, love is simply revealed unto you in a way that is most unexpected , outside of your fantasy and what is a better surprise? To find out these things are beyond anything you’ve come to imagine. As “Jellybelly” entails:
“You’re nowhere to see there’s nothing left to do there’s nothing left to feel doesn’t matter what you want, so to make yourself feel better you make it so you’ll never give in to your forevers and live for always and forever, forever, you’re forever to be forever, forever, you’re forever to me”
It doesn’t matter what you want. Once this dark night purges you of everything silly love songs and your insecurities tell you to believe, “we’ll crucify the insincere tonight.” The Pumpkins at one point rested their entire career on Mellon Collie‘s potential and what a great horse to bet on. Through strenuous and music-defying work, spending whole days at a time in a studio, the world became blessed with an album that on many levels spoke in more detail on attachment, love, unfairness, self-pity and the anxiety of human consciousness than some holy books. Talk about a “concept album”, this is a life album. The blend of personal experience and universal expression makes it incredibly accessible to anyone who might question themselves or anything else. What a blessing this was to go through the album so carefully, because in reading all these lyrics I discovered an untold story that foreshadows the existence and experience of so many people. It is fairy tale, it is a silent movie, it is the obscure book left next to the Canterbury Tales in a dusty library and an album that really changed the course of rock forever by no longer confining itself to what rock is “supposed” to be like, in the same way the album established new perspectives on love. The consideration that love may not be static or not “unto death do we part”, because we live and die in every moment that we free ourselves from attachment. I once had the chance to ask Corgan on the subject of depression and how to deal with it and he told me: “Realizing that whatever you are experiencing is not real, and only in your mind.” It’s something I’ve found myself turning to a lot. Once we de-attach ourselves from things we cannot attain or no longer can, we are free to do anything. The album neither glorifies or disdains sadness, but accounts as the one thing it is: infinite. Anyone could tell you anything about how to deal with depression, sadness or any kind of feeling, but your feelings are not your own. “The more you change, the less you feel.” The experience of growing up, like no longer expecting gifts at Christmas or other things is the dark night of the soul which brings fruition to the line “believe in me as I believe in you.” Believing in fairy tales like the “love” we idealize does not allow us to believe in ourselves. What do we really need?
I realize I spoke at large lengths about this album and ultimately these are my own interpretations no matter how much I researched. Like the opening quote says, “Don’t give credence to anyone person’s opinion than your very own.” I don’t want anyone to just read this article and take my word. Listen to the album, buy the album, worship the album, burn the album (try not to) or whatever. See how it applies to your life. But for me personally, the Smashing Pumpkins have given me such a great richness that driven me to the most immaculate moments and have been with me at my absolute lowest, spiritually, mentally, physically or otherwise. For me, Mellon Collie started my love affair with this band and supported me during a part of my life I didn’t think I could make it through. It gave me the opportunity to bond with the most beautiful people I’ve come to know in my life, and even myself! This double album has consolidated so many of those “indescribable moments of your life tonight” experiences. Nothing more I could say can compare to living through this album and the insight it can give you, though be warned it may not always be pleasant.
Richard Shannon Hoon, born September 26th, 1967, was the vocalist/lyricist of American alternative/neo-psychedelic band Blind Melon. The band achieved fame and success during the early 1990’s with their single “No Rain”, whose music video was subject to heavy rotation on MTV. Though widely respected and associated with the alternative rock community, their music’s strongest elements are rooted in neo-psychedelic. Every member of the band was also from a different part of the country: Hoon was from Lafayette, Indiana (same hometown as Axl Rose), Brad Smith (bassist), Glen Graham (drummer) and Roger Stevens (lead guitarist) from West Point, Mississippi, with Christopher Thorn (rhythm guitar, mandolin) and Glen Graham from Pennsylvania. They all separately had transplanted themselves to Los Angeles in order to pursue music. At a party, Smith and Stevens saw and heard Hoon play a song he wrote that would become Blind Melon’s first song, “Change”. The bassist and guitarist duo invited Hoon to come and jam with them. Seeking out a full band, they found Thorn and Graham and subsequently founded Blind Melon in March of 1990. We rehearsed together for several months and recorded a four track-demo, which caught the attention of Capitol Records who gave them a big record deal.
Hoon was known by friends as a gentle kind of party animal and accomplished artist. He was influenced largely by the American psychedelic bands of the ’60’s, as well blues, tinges of country and television shows of the ’70s. He and the band were known to cover songs from the Velvet Underground, Steppenwolf and John Lennon. As previously mentioned, he came from the same hometown as Guns n’ Roses frontman Axl Rose but didn’t grow to know him until he moved to Los Angeles where Rose had found success. Hoon was featured on the Use Your Illusions albums and the “Don’t Cry” music video. Blind Melon would become the opener for Guns N’ Roses during their co-headlining tour with Soundgarden in 1992. Hoon’s onstage antics including reckless dancing, light cross dressing, going on stage naked or even at Woodstock ’94, he performed on acid in a dress. During the last five years of his life, he always kept a video camera with him and documented himself and the band extensively. Some of these footage was incorporated into a VH1 documentary in 2001, featured below:
During his youth, he had engaged in a lot of substance abuse which would continue into his adulthood, with some stints in rehab or short periods of sobriety. Moving to Los Angeles seemed to subdue this a little bit, but the success of their self-titled album and especially the sophomore album Soup, his drug use and variety increased. Hoon and his long time girlfriend Lisa Crouse had a child in July of 1995, named Nico Blue Hoon. Her birth led to three months of sobriety. Unfortunately,later on tour for Soup Hoon would tragically overdose on cocaine from a co-morbid heart attack, 20 years ago today.
After Hoon’s death, Blind Melon stayed in a semi-hiatus state until 1999. During this time they released Nico, an album comprised of rarities and cover songs. Named after his daughter, the album’s proceeds would be put in a college fund for Nico Blue, as well as programs who help musicians with drug abuse. A video release from the band in 1996, Letters From a Porcupine, was nominated for “Best Long Form Music Video” at the 1998 Grammy Awards.
Blind Melon did end up reuniting with a new singer, Travis Warren, and recorded one album with him, For My Friends and tour sporadically. However, there was nothing about Hoon’s personality that could be replaced or superseded by anyone.