Tag Archives: jimmy chamberlin

Billy Corgan Wants To ‘Find Peace’ With Original Smashing Pumpkins Members

We have been busy transcribing a lengthy interview of Billy Corgan with Jennifer Weigel. We have released transcriptions regarding Donald Trump and Corgan’s views on social media and humanity’s future. These transcriptions so far have been based off of video recordings from a 9 part series released by Big Media Productions on YouTube, but we also found access to the entire two hour interview, with audience participation. Unfortunately, the audio quality of the full interview is poor and some sentences are just invariably lost to audible gargle. Here, we found a bit of Corgan speaking about the possibility of a full band reunion with James Iha and D’arcy Wretzky, Chamberlin included.

JW: “Do you think it’s time for a reunion, with the originals?”

BC: “Are you really asking me this question?”

JW: “I think it makes personally…but everyone wants to know that for some reason. I know that’s so not who we are now. I guess the question would be, would it make sense to sit down and have tea with either of them [Iha or Wretzky]? Because you spent so much time together, would you like to know who they are now?”

BC: “I know who they are…and they know who I am. When you spend that amount of time with somebody, of course they matured…I think the only way to answer every one of these questions is…I have no interest in doing anything that’s inorganic. I have people in my band now that I talk to…and they don’t want to talk to me and I don’t want to talk to them. If they try were lying on the side of the road, I would stop my car and bring them to the hospital, but we don’t send Christmas cards to each other. There’s no relationship. And so when you’re talking about the natural human instinct to find forgiveness and heal a relationship, I think that never ends. That’s a human thing, it has nothing to do with the band or people creating memories. The business of it all, I find quite gross…I think people rarely get out of those things [original reunions] what they think they’re gonna get. Because when a relationship breaks, and I would take it back more to something you’ve experienced in your family life or your romantic life, whatever, when a relationship breaks there are times it’s not gonna get any better. It’s what it was for what it was, underneath a particular set of circumstances…[inaudible]…There’s no temptation there for me. Strickly on my part I think it’s like, “Would I like to find peace?” Absolutely, of course. But beyond all the other stuff…I can’t even imagine that being able to watch.

Corgan also spoke on various aspects of the band’s past and his relationships to the music industry and audiences:

BC: “I didn’t get into this business I got into…to scream in an empty alleyway. I didn’t design this world [music industry], someone else designed it for me. They gave me a number and said, ‘Okay, now go stand over there.’ Now my natural, Eastern European gypsy spirit wants to kick everyone in the head in response, but it’s not an effective strategy anymore.”

BC: “Like when people would see us back in the day, they wouldn’t understand the combatant nature of the band or my verbal tirades and stuff like that. They didn’t understand it was performance art. We were purposefully pressing buttons being in a generation where they had it all figured out. When you try to engage someone with a different point of view, someone who assumes you align with them socially…and the minute they realize you’re not on their team or determine you’re not in their tribe, how quickly they turn. Generation X in particular led an incredible betrayal of values. The sellout, which was the word at the time, really is…the word of the generation. There has been far more selling out than buying in.”

Corgan has come a long way with this. Since the dissolution of the original lineup, there has been little talk between ex-bandmates outside of Chamberlin. But here, he shows a desire to make peace with them, which doesn’t equal a reunion. It means closure with people who were once part of his life and band, which is something a lot more important than a “reunion.” People will inevitably continue to criticize Corgan for anything he says. But the fact of the matter is, Corgan, Iha and Wretzky are human, not machines who play music for drooling middle aged people. Healing takes time. Respect that.

Jimmy Chamberlin Talks Smashing Pumpkins’ 2016 Plans

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.

Smashing Pumpkins ‘Machina/The Machines of God’ 15th Anniversary Retrospective

Edited by Brett Buchanan

While some today are promoting February 28th as the 15th anniversary of Machina I as today, that is actually not the case. In a typical weird Pumpkins move, Machina I was actually released on February 29th, 2000.

This is as close as we’ll get.

The Machina albums (both I & II), according to Corgan, are both in the works for a remastered and complete release, with the original intended track listing to be restored. The two track listings contain about 40 songs, and several commercially unreleased demos exist from this era, and a few, I’m sure, Corgan has kept to himself for an occasion like this. It may end up being the largest reissue of Smashing Pumpkins music.

Traveling from the giddy dream pop-psychedelica of Gish all the way down to the deep, dark and tragic folk-electronica of Adore, you can hear the band really mature and ripen their sound as their discography progressed. During this evolution, they accepted the somber lessons they accumulated through a turbulent and crazy decade of internal drama, mental health crises, drug abuse and even the death of touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin, brother of Wendy Melvoin of Prince and the Revolution and Wendy & Lisa fame, which resulted in the firing of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin from 1996 to 1999.

The Smashing Pumpkins cycled through several guest drummers like Matt Cameron (Soundgarden) and Joey Waronker (Beck) from the latter part of 1996 to 1999, but worked most extensively with Filter’s Matt Walker, who helped them finish the rest of the Mellon Collie tourdates, with Dennis Flemion (The Frogs) on keyboard. All 3 drummers contributed to 1998’s Adore, but the album relied more on drum machines and loops than anything. Corgan had a vision for the album to create a sound combining influences of electronica and folk rock, to create a sound both “ancient” and “futuristic.” At the end of 1996, guitarist James Iha claimed in an interview regarding the future of the band’s music that “the future is in electronic music. It really seems boring just to play rock music.”

In 1999, the band brought Chamberlin back as their full time drummer and embarked on a short American ‘Arising’ tour, playing older hits, deep cuts and new material. After The Arising Tour, long-time bassist D’arcy Wretzky left the band, though by that time most of the Machina album had been recorded. Remaining bass parts were filled in by Corgan and Iha, and Melissa auf Der Maur of Hole joined the Pumpkins on bass for their (at the time) final tour.

Machina/The Machines of God upholds a mesh of influences, but is connected through a concept of a band falling apart. Although almost at any point of the Pumpkins’ career their latest album could have been the last, there is a distinct feeling of “The End” when one listens to these recordings.

This feeling is not completely melancholy either, the Pumpkins knew that things were falling apart fast and were doing their best to keep things together and give their fans one last great effort. The break up’s inevitably became especially apparent after Wretzky left. In later years, Corgan would lament on her departure from the band, “To this day I miss D’arcy’s sense of integrity, but it’s not like the integrity of the indie world, she had a certain kind of musical taste, I think is the best way to put it, that I still respect. A real good keen sense of bullshit, and was very principled in that regard.” Wretzky was arrested for crack cocaine possession later in 1999.

The Machina albums, instead of departing from Adore’s styling all together, combine its sonic landscape with a cybermetal sound to create a greater soft-loud dynamic. The Machina albums may have some of the greatest examples of the soft-loud switch-off dynamic in the realm of alternative rock music. The album opens with the insatiable catchy deep metal riffs of “The Everlasting Gaze” (complete with mid-song rant) which abruptly ends to the beginning of the mysterious and ominous “Raindrops + Sunshowers”, a Corgan eulogy to the lack of communication between him and everyone around him. As the lyrics are penned: “Rain falls on everyone  /The same old rain/ And I’m just trying to /Walk with you /Between the raindrops /I send my echo out /To get your love without /Obscured reflections of /My love”.

This pattern is repeated virtually in uniform throughout the album’s tracklisting. Additionally, the Machina albums, especially the second, has a distinct influence of shoegaze and 80’s post-punk that had been downplayed in the band’s sound the last few years before the Machina albums. The earliest Smashing Pumpkins demos are riddled with direct influence from the Cure, My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division. The Machina albums brought all of their influences, past and present (and future), into a full circle concept.

3 singles were released from the album, “The Everlasting Gaze,” “Stand Inside Your Love,” and “Try, Try, Try”, along with the promo single “I of the Mourning”.  The first two singles fared pretty well, with “Stand Inside Your Love” even making it to #2 on  Billboard’s Modern Rock tracks. The album’s promotional campaign was heavily laced with mythos. The album artwork by Russian artist Vasily Kafanov was covered in drawings and etchings in the style of Renaissance alchemy, decorated with esoteric and astrological symbols. An online gallery of them is displayed here, on Kafanov’s website. Oftentimes many forget that the Machina albums were meant to be a concept double album. The album was full of concepts, many of which still go unraveled and ignored today.


“Plates VII & IX – So empowered, the Lovers negate the blinding brilliance of Love” [Diptych]

One of the main concepts, exemplified in the track “Glass and the Ghost Children,” is a fictionalized version of the band. A rock star, Zero (Corgan), is spoken to by the voice of God and renames himself Glass, and his band, the Machines of God. So this, in a way, is the first self-titled album by Glass and the Machines of God, and the last album by the Smashing Pumpkins, until Corgan and Chamberlin’s reunion.  A small collection of animated episodes was created in the series’ promotion featuring the story behind Glass and the Machines of God, in the vein of the cyberpunk shows that existed during the late ’90s like Batman Beyond. The 3 known episodes can be seen here:

Smashing Pumpkins fans are one part blessed, and one part cursed to love a band with such a diverse sound and strange sense of artistry that makes them a band set apart from virtually all of their contemporaries. The Pumpkins were the first band to venture into a realm that crossed the borders between electronica and rock, treating each influence as an equal. Meanwhile, the budding contemporary electronic and EDM movements were beginning to overrun rock on all fronts, from Britpop to the very few remaining acts from the late ’80s and early ’90s alternative scene, both by and large who refused to conform to any standard of electronica. In the history books they are usually regarded as a “grunge” or “alternative” rock band, but in truth the Pumpkins really emerged in their first incarnation as a new wave/shoegaze band, and closed as a new wave/shoegaze band in their last original incarnation.

Contract disputes, the rehabilitation and exudation of band members, the media’s perception of Corgan, an array of diverse musical influence, the magic of alchemy, and the first honest plea of ceasefire between electronica and rock create this wholesomely weird album. Today, there are those who yearn for the Smashing Pumpkins of the past, and this album, taking in the diversity of influences, is the most comprehensive image of the old Smashing Pumpkins. I anxiously await the reissue of this neglected album (along with MACHINA II), so the world can finally see the album for what it is: the last stand of the classic Smashing Pumpkins that fans knew and loved in the 90’s.

Happy birthday, Machina!