Matt Walker – The Man of1000faces

Interview by Arthur van Pelt
Questions compiled by The SPfreaks Team

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 We all know Matt Walker as the drummer for Smashing Pumpkins in 1996 and 1997. Recently, his name popped up several times again in Smashing Pumpkins-related news; for example, “considered as new Smashing Pumpkins drummer” here, and “‘joining Billy Corgan at Ravinia Festival August 30thhere. We also learned that Matt’s name appears on several tracks of the highly anticipated Adore reissue which is scheduled for release on September 23rd. To cut a long story short, SPfreaks thought it was a great time to sit down and talk with the man himself. We are honored that Matt Walker, who is always involved with several ongoing projects, took the effort to check some facts for us; meanwhile digging out some anecdotes from the vault and giving advice to young drummers on the fly.

Matt, thank you for having us. Firstly, we know that you were born on May 21st, 1969, in Wilmette, Illinois, and that your birth name is Matt Snyder. However, your performance name has long since been Matt Walker – any particular reason for taking an artist name that is different from your birth name?

I’m surprised I have not been asked this more often. I took my mother’s maiden name, Walker, as that name was in danger of dying out with the previous generation. And having two boys I can say there’s a good chance it will continue on a bit longer….

OK, so who inspired, or motivated you, to pursue being a drummer? Do you have any drummers you look up to?

From what my parents tell me, I wanted to play drums from age two on. They seem to remember me seeing Louis Bellson on TV and going nuts. Soon after that, it was Animal from the Muppets. From there, early drumming idols were Stewart Copeland, John Bonham, Steve Jordan, Neil Peart and, believe it or not, Stevie Wonder. He played drums on many of his most popular recordings.

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So who taught you to play drums? Or are you self-taught?

I had many teachers, not all of them drummers. My father, Carl Snyder, is a blues musician, so I probably learned the most about playing with other musicians from him.  I had one drum teacher for many years in Chicago named Phil Stanger. He was very old school and also taught me as much about the business of being a professional musician as he did about playing meringues.

Do you have any tips or advice for those who want to become a career drummer?

Diversify. Drummers, or all musicians for that matter, need to be comfortable in every realm of music; from understanding and appreciating different genres to being comfortable with and even embracing technology. It all feeds off each other more than ever before. Musicians who are quick to learn songs and retain arrangements and changes, who play like they mean it every time, are the musicians who will find success. And perhaps more important than anything else is being able to get along with people. No one has the time or patience to put up with a prima donna, unless they happen to be the songwriter or singer. Prima donna drummer? Forget it. More specific advice to drummers – offer your services to as many bands as you can, and befriend engineers and producers; they may be the doorway to your next opportunity.

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Filter, with Matt (far left) and Brian Liesegang (center)

In the beginning of your career, you drummed for a band called Filter amongst some other bands before that; namely, Scott Bennett & The Obvious, The Clinic, and Tribal Opera. Filter’s 1995 debut album, Short Bus, is remembered by SPfreaks as nothing less than, and I quote, “a fucking great album”. What was your involvement with this album? We noticed you are not credited for studio drumming on Short Bus.

In my early years playing professionally, I played in dozens of bands (all at the same time) and also played countless pick up gigs. I was in rock bands, punk bands, soul bands, blues bands. It was relentless but exciting. Filter recorded Short Bus without a drummer; all the drums were sampled and programmed. When the record was finished, they relocated to Chicago and set about putting a band together for the tour. I auditioned alongside a handful of other drummers and luckily got the job. We toured non-stop for the next 13 months, including two months in Europe, as the support act for Smashing Pumpkins. That was an incredibly exciting time in my life. I was just married and our daughter was barely a year old, and I had them join me for much of my travels. That is also when Brian Liesegang and I first met and became friends. He and I are still very close and continue to work on music together.

You have obviously worked with a lot of artists and bands. Does anything make Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins stand out from the rest? Can you describe how the creative process worked, and still works, with them? 

This question might require me to write a book to answer thoroughly. Suffice to say, what stands out most in my mind is the intensity. Intensity is in every aspect of the Smashing Pumpkins’ process. Writing, recording, performing – even the artwork is diligently pored over. There is no part of the Smashing Pumpkins world that is not authentic or done without purpose or intent. I love that about them. Billy never takes the easy road. It can be challenging and frustrating to be a part of the process, as he will not settle for anything less than what he envisions, but I also find that incredibly inspiring.

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What was the first public show you did with the Smashing Pumpkins? Where was it exactly (as far as we know it was August 23, 1996, in the Metro, Chicago) and how did it go? Were you nervous, excited, or pumped?

My first public appearance with the Pumpkins was indeed at Metro in Chicago. I remember being quite nervous actually, but also tremendously excited. Remember, I was a big fan of Smashing Pumpkins as well, and of course an admirer of Jimmy’s drumming. I still think he is one of the best rock drummers of all time; so I had the bar set pretty high for myself. I actually heard a recording of the Metro show not too long ago and was surprised at how good it was given I only had a week or so to prepare. It definitely helped having seen them so many times live when Filter was the opening act.

You went on an exhausting US tour with the Smashing Pumpkins in 1996 and 1997 – what was the most remarkable gig you performed back then in the US and why?

That tour was on the heels of a 13 month tour cycle with Filter! One show that stands out as one my favorites was when we did a surprise opening set for Jane’s Addiction in Chicago. We set up on the floor like a real opening band would have and played for only 30 minutes.  Until then the whole Smashing Pumpkins experience had been somewhat surreal, jumping in at that stage in their career, playing massive shows with all the production, etc. But in that context I felt more connected to the history, and it felt like a real band.

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Billy never takes the easy road.” – Matt Walker

After that, 1997 brought you to Europe for several shows and festivals like Torhout/Werchter in Belgium and Roskilde in Denmark. Any anecdotes on the European tour you would like to share?

To be honest, that tour is a bit of a blur. Kind of peripherally, I remember the sets being very stripped down and muscular. We changed many of the arrangements, usually simplifying the rhythms and riffs. I don’t think it worked for everything but so goes the artistic process. When it worked it felt great; especially in a festival environment. I also remember a spectacular show on the seaside in Portugal, where as we played, residents living up the mountain next to us could watch from their windows and porches. I believe there is footage of that show floating around YouTube.

What Smashing Pumpkins song is the most challenging for you to play live? Were you able to follow the never-ending jams like “Silverfuck”?

The challenge to “Silverfuck” was not so much technical, not that it wasn’t technically demanding, but more being able to ride the improvisational wave night after night. There was a loose blue print, but it was never the same arrangement two nights in a row. So getting into a head space where I’d be able to ebb and flow in tandem with the other band members was the challenge. Reaching the peaks at the same time, knowing when to break it down, etc. These are the mechanics of a language that a band learns over years, and I had to learn their language in a matter of weeks. I think all my experience playing with different bands in the club scene helped immensely, as it gave me the confidence to take risks at such a high level of performance. Truth be told, it takes guts to go out and wing a 25-plus minute epic improvisational jam in front of 20,000 people. From a technical point of view, “Jellybelly” was definitely the hardest song to play live. I think I only had to attempt it twice, and it did make me feel better when Jimmy told me later he only nailed it one time, and that is the take that is on the record!

[SPfreaks: more YouTube footage of Matt on stage with Smashing Pumpkins is to be found here.]

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At some point you stopped drumming with the Smashing Pumpkins and passed the sticks to Kenny Aronoff. We know that it had to do with recording the first album of your band, Cupcakes. The last known gig you played with the Smashing Pumpkins during this period was December 5th, 1997, in the Orange Bowl, Miami (FL). Then, Kenny played the whole of 1998 with the Smashing Pumpkins and was replaced by Jimmy Chamberlin in early 1999. How did the transition between you and Kenny go? Did you leave the Smashing Pumpkins with a satisfied feeling, a broken heart, or were you just exhausted from the intense touring and recording during 1996 – 1997?

It was a bit of everything. It was such a whirlwind and much of it was great, but about half way through the Adore session all the darkness seemed to catch up to us. Billy and I were at odds and it just seemed to make sense for me to turn my focus to Cupcakes who were already signed to Dreamworks. I was just waiting for my schedule to free up so we could record our debut. I fell out of touch for a short time with Billy, but I remember running into him in NYC not too long after the split, and he was excitedly telling me that Kenny was coming into the fold. Kenny is an iconic drummer, and although some fans questioned the choice stylistically, it was a perfect example of Billy not being afraid to change things up, take some chances, and see what might come of it.

Obviously, December 5th, 1997, was not the last time you played live with Smashing Pumpkins. You joined them again at their then-final show on December 2nd, 2000, when you played percussion on an alternate version of the song “Muzzle”, and drums on “1979”. Meanwhile, Jimmy played acoustic guitar! You once again joined the Smashing Pumpkins on percussion during the Chicago dates of their 20th Anniversary Tour in November and December, 2008. And not to be forgotten, you also performed with the Smashing Pumpkins at a benefit concert at the Metro in Chicago, in July, 2010, for an encore of “1979”. It would  seem to follow, there is a firm connection between you and the band since 1996. What exactly makes you feel so comfortable with the Smashing Pumpkins, and how would you describe the bond?

The bond is really my friendship with Billy. After I left Smashing Pumpkins, we became closer and closer as friends. The musical collaborations since have been an extension of that bond. We have also worked on numerous projects together- both Smashing Pumpkins-related and others. We share many of the same tastes in music, and even have a similar family background (growing up near Chicago), and both of our fathers are musicians. We relate on many levels. I think he and I will be making music together for years to come.

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Billy Corgan’s tweet, June, 2010

There is indeed a long list of collaborations between you and Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins. In the previous article we dedicated to you, it was mentioned that you were involved with several tracks on the Adore album, “The End Is the Beginning Is the End” from the Batman and Robin movie, the Ransom soundtrack, James Iha’s solo album, Let It Come Down, and Billy Corgan’s solo album, TheFutureEmbrace. Is this list complete? Did we forget anything in relation to your contributions to members of the Smashing Pumpkins?

I think that is complete, although there very well could be something I am forgetting about! Perhaps it’s worth mentioning here that I have nearly finished an extensive documentary on Billy’s Chicago songs. And when I say documentary I do mean the film side. Those sessions were all filmed, and I spent a few months going through the footage and editing it all together. I was somewhat surprised at how well it came out; it really shows the intensity and relentlessness of Billy’s composing and recording process. It’s a cool project because with all the footage available to me, I was able to trace the journey of each song from beginning to end. I am not sure when the documentary will be finished and released, but probably within the next year or two.

Thanks for sharing this update on a much-rumored-about future Billy Corgan release. We also noticed you have been involved with the reissue series of the Smashing Pumpkins albums from the 1991 – 2000 era. On January 14th, 2014, you tweeted, “Working on Adore reissue – songs I don’t even remember tracking – dark and beautiful”. In what way were you involved with the Adore reissue, and what can you share about that process?

I remixed a handful of songs. But not remixing like turning them into extended electronic versions – more a reimagined arrangement of the song. For instance, I would look for elements that were either not used or buried in the album version and build a new picture from them. From there some of the basic arrangements changed as well. I also got to finish a version of Gary Numan’s ”Every Day I Die” which I had actually tracked drums on. There wasn’t too much there so I got to add most of the synths. Being a massive Numan fan, that track was a blast to work on.

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TheFutureEmbrace Tour 2005

Are there any specific takes you remember, which are not scheduled for release on the Adore reissue, that should definitely appear on a future Smashing Pumpkins’ release?

Billy wrote a great song called ”Signal to Noise” which was never released by Smashing Pumpkins. He let one of my previous bands, theMDR, record the song as part of a Spin tribute to Smashing Pumpkins. I’d like to work that up with Billy as a proper Smashing Pumpkins release – maybe one day!  Also, there were many other songs written for TheFutureEmbrace which were really cool.  I hope they see the light of day as well.

In November, 2013, you announced you would be, “drumming again for Morrissey, beginning with a performance at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway”.  How have things progressed since then?

I’m very happy to be playing with Morrissey once again. We recorded the new record, World Peace is None of Your Business, at studio La Fabrique in the south of France in early 2014. Joe Chiccarelli produced it. We then toured the States in May and June and will hopefully continue to tour later this year.

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What else are you currently up to, Matt? There is always so much going on around you!

I indeed have several projects in the works. My solo endeavor is called of1000faces, and I am working on two releases. This will be the first mention I make of this first one. I’m collaborating with my good friend and ex-Filter bandmate, Brian Liesegang, on this first project, which is heavily influenced by the krautrock movement of the 70s. I started writing the songs while in France recording with Morrissey, and once back in the States I asked Brian to lend his talents to the production.  From there it has blossomed into a full-blown collaboration. Although the material is largely instrumental, the record will feature numerous guests on vocals and various instruments. I also have a new band called Stuttgart with my longtime friend and musical collaborator, vocalist Preston Graves. We have released one EP and we are close to finishing the second.  Lastly, I am nearing completion of Chris Connelly’s next solo record, which I am producing – and of course drumming on!

Are there any other artists or bands you would like to work with in the future? Can you tell us why?

Well David Bowie would be one! But that’s not going to happen, so I started a Bowie tribute band called Sons of the Silent Age with Chris Connelly and occasional guest member, Shirley Manson, of Garbage. Speaking of which, I loved playing with Garbage! I have filled in for Butch [Vig] a few times and they are an incredible band. I hope I get to play with them again someday. I am also looking forward to doing more collaborations with of1000faces, so we will see where that leads. And who knows who might be involved…

Thanks again to Matt Walker for spending some precious time with us. It is truly appreciated! Matt will be in action again very soon.  Alongside others, Matt will be joining Billy Corgan on August 30th, 2014, for his special* performance at the Chicago-based Ravinia Festival.

 

 

*“Clue #1 is the show is being broken into 5 small acts, with hopefully a different emotional result in each; and in which the centerpiece is a 9-song ‘Mellon Collie Suite’ which celebrates the 20-year anniversary of that album’s writing.” – Billy Corgan.

Mark Ignoffo Talks Smashing Pumpkins

Interview by geo folkers

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In late 1988, early ’89, Mark Ignoffo had an opportunity to work with a young Smashing Pumpkins. Here are a few questions that Mark was kind enough to recently answer:

You had an opportunity to work with one of the greatest bands ever.  How did you come to meet the Smashing Pumpkins?

Well, as with most things it was merely by chance. My family was having a garage sale and I was selling an old Farfisa organ. A young guy stopped by and saw the organ and asked if I played keys and the conversation morphed into my recording studio which was located in the basement of the house at the time. He said, “man there is an incredible guitar player you have to hear. He works down the street at this used record store.” So somewhere in the next few weeks I stopped in at the “Record Hunt” and met Billy.

What was the Smashing Pumpkins like in the early years?

At first, it was just another band that I was going to record. Most everyone that does a demo has the grand dream of being discovered. It was immediately obvious that Billy was a phenomenal guitar player, but in the music industry, talent doesn’t mean success as you can tell by listening to the radio. I wasn’t familiar with some of the bands he liked, such as Dinosaur Jr. which I think was good because I approached the recording with the perspective of not trying to “match” a sound. I remember him telling me he really liked some of the Beatles production techniques and I believe he was reading a book about it at the time. James was always a pretty quiet guy in the studio. Nice but never said too much. Jimmy was mostly there just to do the drums and didn’t usually come in for the overdubbing. D’arcy was easygoing but one Saturday morning session she made it known she was not a “morning person”. Not in a mean way, but she would have preferred to start later. It got a little tense sometimes between them but never tension towards me.

How often did you work with the Smashing Pumpkins?

I worked with them for approximately a year but I don’t recall if we started late in 1988 or early in 1989. It was in February of 1990 that I moved my studio to Florida and I remember completing the last of the recordings right before I left.

Was there something special about working with Billy Corgan? His drive or work ethic?

I can say without a doubt that he was the driving force of the band. I’m sure even he would admit maybe being a bit of a tyrant at the time but he knew what he wanted and expected everyone to do their part. They had limited funds and didn’t want time wasted in the studio with someone doing a million takes. I will tell you that I feel we had a great relationship working in the studio together. It was always professional but relaxed, especially when we were mixing. I think to this day that his amp was one of the loudest I ever recorded in the studio.

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You played the organ on “Rhinoceros”. How did that come about?

This was a bit of a surprise thrown at me while working on the song. He said he wanted to do an alternate version of the song with a keyboard solo. Billy knew I played keys and my background was deeply rooted in the progressive rock bands. Rick Wakeman was my favorite keyboardist at the time and still is. The first thing he said was I don’t want you to play any of that Wakeman stuff like a typical solo you would play. He said I want it to be really weird… really odd. It was done on some small synth with a very limited range and I don’t think they were even full size keys. Even though I had a Hammond B3 he wanted the synthesized organ sound. Maybe he just wanted to see me struggle to play on that little keyboard [laughs]. I think that by doing it this way he didn’t want me to think out a more structured idea. So I tried not to think musically and just play weird. After a few takes he said something like “yeah like that”. I probably had a confused look on my face [laughs]. There is also another song with heavy organ in the background but you have to really listen closely.

Are there any Smashing Pumpkins songs recorded no one has ever heard that you were involved with?

Not that I’m aware of. I think everything is out there.

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I’d like to give a big thank you to Mr. Ignoffo for the time to answer a few questions. He continues to be active with music and is the Owner/President of Reel Time Duplication in Daytona Beach, Flordia.

The Cold and Lovely : On Ellis Bell and More

Interview and Article by SPfreaks

SPfreaks recently had a chance to catch up with Nicole Fiorentino and Meghan Toohey after their Record Release Party for their newest release, Ellis Bell.

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Ellis Bell (front cover)

The Cold and Lovely recently had a Record Release Party for your new EP, Ellis Bell. How did it feel to showcase those songs for the first time?

Meghan – It felt great. Because of some scheduling conflicts with Patty and Mel, we have a new drummer (Erin Tidwell) and keyboard player (Jennifer Goodridge) playing with us now and they are really adding new energy and excitement to the band. We never really got a chance to even feel like a band before with Nicole touring all the time and Mel living in NYC; but now we actually rent a rehearsal space together and enjoy the process of practicing. For a first show I thought it was solid and the songs went over well live. I can’t wait until we’ve had a few months of rehearsals under our belts.

Does The Cold and Lovely have any particular history at the Bootleg Theater? Any particular reason you wanted to have the record release at this location?

Meghan – I’ve played there a few times with other artists and always liked the vibe and thought the room sounded good. They also have a projector set up and we knew we were going to have our video set up be a big part of the show.

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Poster from Record Release Party

The new release is an EP – was this intended from the beginning? Did you ever want Ellis Bell to be a full album?

Meghan – We had a strong group of songs and thought it would be great to just get something out quickly. The first record wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be sonically, so this time around I wrote songs specific to a style of production, as opposed to try and fit a song to that style.

How would you describe the vibe of the new release? Where was your band at the time?

Meghan – I definitely think I was ready to work. When Nicole came home from the last tour and listened to the mastered album, we basically both agreed we had something special with these recordings and we should make a run of it with the band.

Ellis Bell was the pen name used by author Emily Brontë in the 19th century. What is the significance of Emily’s work on the band?

Meghan – I’m a huge nerd and love all things from the Romantic literature period. I had read Wuthering Heights and loved it. I ended up binge watching Masterpiece Theater and A&E classics and it came on one night. I got obsessed with the story; which lead to writing the song based around the plot line. I ended up researching Emily Brontë and discovering the name “Ellis Bell”.

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Emily Brontë (portrait by brother, Branwell Brontë)

The Cold and Lovely is a powerhouse of women in a rock band. Is it important to remain an all female band? How does that play into the music?

Nicole – I think it’s an exciting time for women in rock. There are a lot of all female bands right now (HAIM, Savages, Warpaint, etc.) and it feels like a resurgence to me, because when I was a teenager I was really into Riot Grrrl and that played a huge role in why I became a musician. If I can inspire one young girl to play music then I feel like I’ve done my job. Nothing is more heartwarming to me than someone telling me I am one of the reasons they picked up the bass – especially girls. Rock and roll is still a male dominated world and I feel really good that I have been able to claim my stake in it. I want other girls and women to feel empowered in that way. That’s why we want to keep The Cold and Lovely all women and why we are so involved in Rock Camp for Girls.

Speaking of women in music, how do you feel about Miley Cyrus’ recent controversy to include Sinead O’Connor’s open letter rejecting “prostitution” in music? Is it okay to be a woman in rock and be sexually provocative?

Meghan – I think it’s ok to be sexually expressive as a woman. Where I get lost is the fact that we are dealing with a young woman who has grown up as a role model to young girls. Miley’s choices are her own, but they kind of bum me out because I think she should have a sense of responsibility to a bigger community than just girls that are comfortable being overtly sexual. Madonna also had amazing songs and style. To me, Miley is trying to shock people and I just think she’s boring – but that’s my own opinion. Give me a great song and then take your clothes off or leave them on…

The Cold and Lovely is still fairly underground, but you have a very strong and committed fan base. Can you attribute that to any one thing in particular – perhaps everyone’s history in some very iconic bands?

Nicole – I think it doesn’t hurt that we are all seasoned veterans; it piques people’s interest for sure. And I think there are a lot of Smashing Pumpkins fans out there who wouldn’t have necessarily heard of us otherwise. I am so grateful for all of [their] continued support in my projects outside of Smashing Pumpkins. But I think ultimately the music speaks for itself. Maybe people are drawn to it because of the names attached, but they keep listening because it’s solid music. I am confident in saying that. ; )

How did you meet all the members of The Cold and Lovely? How did your band come to fruition? Meghan mentioned “Not with Me”, at the show, as something that you wrote together which convinced her to start a band. Is it that simple?

Nicole – Meg and I met through mutual musician friends about six years ago. I listened to some of the demos she had on her computer and was astounded that she hadn’t released any of them yet. Around the time I joined Smashing Pumpkins, she decided to start working on those demos and wanted to do a proper recording of them. I said I wanted to be involved as much as I could because I loved the songs so much. We met Patty at Rock Camp for Girls; where we all volunteer. Soon after, we got into the studio and recorded our first self titled LP.

Who do you consider, as a group, to be some major influences on your musical style? Reversely, who do you consider to be very relevant in today’s competitive, evolving, and oft watered-down climate?

Meghan and Nicole – The Cure, Led Zeppelin, Heart, PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine. Listing relevant artists is tough to approach. We love a lot of “newer” bands like Radiohead, Silversun Pickups, Arcade Fire, St. Vincent, Tegan & Sara, etc. There’s also tons of amazing new music out there, but there’s also lots of crap. It almost takes more effort now to find your new favorite band in a sea of home recordings and/or people being able to post their music everywhere independently. I miss being able to go into record stores and browse and listen or check out “Staff pick”.

You personally played a Fender for a very long time and switched over to a Reverend. At the show, Meghan mentioned having some guitars custom made. Do you also have custom basses? Which do you prefer? Live vs. studio make any difference?

Nicole – Yes, I’ve been playing Fender since I was 14 years old. My first bass was a white Fender Jazz and it got stolen out of my car within the first week of moving to LA (note to self: never leave an instrument in your car in downtown). I am also playing both the Justice and the Decision basses by Reverend now; both of which I adore. And I recently got a beautiful bass from my friend, Lindz McKay, who builds replicas of vintage guitars. He built one for me that mimics an early 70’s jazz bass and I fell in love with it. His company is Bonneville Guitars. I really love [playing] Reverend with Smashing Pumpkins because they’re super punchy and cut through the wall of guitars. The Bonneville is great with The Cold and Lovely because it’s got a warmer tone. I mostly used a ’62 Fender Jazz on Oceania because you can’t beat the sound of a vintage guitar on a recording; but I don’t like to travel with expensive gear. On Ellis Bell I used a Fender Mustang with totally dead strings for that smooth, yet dirty, tone.

You responded once on a Twitter Q&A to having liked cassettes; especially because of the mix tape aspect. Did you ever make one or were you ever the recipient of one? Do you remember the songs?

Nicole – Someone made a mix tape for me right before I moved out to LA from Massachusetts, and I loved it so much that I listened to it all the way across the country in my U-Haul. The songs became my anthems for one of the biggest steps I ever made in my life. My favorite was “The Bluest Eyes in Texas”, the Nina Persson version. I still think a mix tape is one of the best gifts you can give someone you care about, because it gives them a peek at what songs have personally inspired you, and, if you choose the right songs, gives them an idea of what they mean to you. ; )

Feedbands.com is a website that is subscription based and releases one vinyl EP/LP per month. Do you enjoy the medium and are you a subscriber? Is The Cold and Lovely pursing a release through Feedbands?

Nicole – I think it’s an incredible way for new bands to get people interested in their music. Basically, you submit your songs to Feedbands, and if they dig them, they let their subscribers vote for whether or not they will print your vinyl. Once a month they print vinyl for whoever got the most votes and ship them out to their subscribers. So as a subscriber, you get a new vinyl in the mail each month from a band that you voted on! We are in the running to have our vinyl printed right now (we only have CDs/digital available at the moment). You can sign up for a free trial period and vote for us. After that I believe it is $14.95 a month. Not bad for vinyl lovers!

SPfreaks is very dedicated to collecting and preserving the legacy of musical output. Is there anything The Cold and Lovely find yourselves collecting?

Nicole – Shoes and VHS tapes.
Meghan – Rocks and music gear.

Check out five songs played live at the Record Release Party!

For more information on tours and releases available by The Cold and Lovely, please visit their website. SPfreaks would like to thank Nicole and Meghan for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer a few fan questions and wish them good luck with the new EP!

If you are going to be in the Los Angeles area on October 30th, why not stop by the Viper Room to see The Cold and Lovely play live?  Tickets available here.

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The Smashing Pumpkins 25th Anniversary Party at Madame ZuZu’s

Article and images by Geo Folkers

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When Billy Corgan announced a few weeks ago that no official celebration was planned for the 25th Anniversary of Smashing Pumpkins playing live gigs, there was one fan of the band called Matt Sams that felt like ‘this ain’t gonna happen!’.

And when Saturday, October 5th, 2013, marked the spot as being the exact date 25 years after the Smashing Pumpkins took the stage as the first four-piece line up at the Metro, Chicago (IL) in 1988, a plan was born in Matt’s head. And when it all came together last weekend, Madame ZuZu’s Teashop in Highland Park (IL), was the ultimate place to be for a Smashing Pumpkins Fan Event never seen before in the bands’ fandom history.

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Sales awards corner

It all started when Matt posted his ideas on the Forum of the Smashing Pumpkins website, and soon other fans applauded at the idea of organizing a Fan Event in Chicago (IL). Madama ZuZu’s, the Corgan-owned teahouse, was hired, artists were approached for playing live music, poetry reading and trivia games were planned, Smashing Pumpkins inspired art was supposed to be created, SPfreaks members were contributing parts of their memorabilia collections for a rare-Smashing-Pumpkins-items-exhibition, an anniversary cake was organized, and more. Online flyers for the fan event were made and spread around, and when even the Smashing Pumpkins used their highly anticipated social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to highlight this fan-organized event, there was nothing standing in the way anymore of a remarkable and joyful day for the fans of our favorite band.

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‘bat strat’ guitar replica and Machina / The Machines Of God era items

And it all happened as planned. Live music was played in several sessions during the day by Matt Sams himself, who performed “El Sol”, “Eye”, “Lily (My One And Only)”, “Soma” and “To Sheila”, and by Greg Bates(*), who performed “1979”. Together Greg and Matt performed “Today” and “Cherub Rock”, and both artists had the audience singing along to those longtime Smashing Pumpkins fan favorites.

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Greg Bates (left) and Matt Sams (right)

Between the acoustic gigs by Greg and Matt, another Smashing Pumpkins fan, Joy Goscinski, versed multiple Blinking with Fists poems. Then, the trivia games were a lot of fun with many laughs. Crayons, colored pencils, and paper were left out on the tables in Madame ZuZu’s Teahouse for coloring Smashing Pumpkins inspired art. And at some point, ZuZu’s even contributed an anniversary cake by surprise! Meanwhile, Matt Sams, being the organizer and host of the event, did a great job on keeping things moving.

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“The Everlasting Gaze” video guitar

As said, SPfreaks had a grand opportunity to set up and show some really rare Smashing Pumpkins memorabilia that showcased the musical history of the band. These memorabilia included one of the original props from the Grammy awarded “Tonight, Tonight” music video (a moon), and several fans took the one-of-kind opportunity to have themselves being photographed with the life-size video prop. Also on exhibit was Billy Corgan’s “Everlasting Gaze” music video guitar, a fan-made replica “bat strat” guitar, rare vinyl and demo tapes from the early days of Smashing Pumpkins, tour posters, a huge collection of career-defining CDs of the band, and several Gold and Platinum sales awards that the band had earned while building their musical legacy.

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Billy Corgan on Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

Then, at around 8:30 PM, a ‘surprise’ visit from Mr. Billy Corgan himself came next! He brought with him an original “Zero” shirt, one of the Gish album guitars, a set of antique photos that had inspired him during the creation of the monumental Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness album, and the original artwork of the Machina / The Machines Of God album. He shared these artifacts with the gathered fans with joy, and surrounded the items with many personal stories and great musical visions. Next to this, he brought ten prizes that he personally gave away to some lucky fans during another trivia round with-a-twist. Who had thought that we were allowed to ask Billy Corgan questions about his musical career, and then, when he didn’t know the exact answer, he would give a prize to the person who brought in the question. One of the questions to Billy, for example, was how many live performances the Smashing Pumpkins had done since 1988 to date. Since Billy didn’t know the answer precisely (being a little over 1,250), he gave away a copy of the Adore vinyl!

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Billy Corgan on Machina / The Machines Of God

Matt Sams, who performed some Smashing Pumpkins songs while Billy Corgan was watching, would later declare: “It was kinda nerve-wracking to perform SP covers in front of Billy… I was afraid he was gonna come up to me and say: Wrong chord… nope… wrong again… YOU’RE RUINING MY SONG!!! lol”. However, that didn’t happen, and at the end of the night, fans left in great spirits, joining for photographs with Billy and his guitar, meanwhile holding the original “Zero” shirt that he had brought, and sharing many stories of how the art and music of Smashing Pumpkins had affected so many lives.

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We would like to close this article with a big thank you to Matt Sams for bringing this fan event to life. Another thank you goes to Madame ZuZu’s Teahouse for hosting this event, and welcoming all visitors during the day. And thank you to the performers, being Greg Bates, Matt Sams, and Joy Goscinski. Also thanks to Linda Dodge, for all her help, and several fan outlets “out there” for contributing prizes to the trivia games.

And last but certainly not least, a big thank you also goes to Mr. Billy Corgan for taking the time to attend this fan event, meanwhile sharing so many personal anecdotes that were unknown to the fans so far. It was the icing on the cake of a really great day, a day that was highly anticipated on social media worldwide, and a day that many must have felt sorry to have missed in person!

(*) Greg Bates played with Billy Corgan in a band called Coat Of Eyes around 1984, and when Coat Of Eyes called it quits, Billy would play in a band called The Marked. After The Marked ended, Smashing Pumpkins was raised in 1987 by Billy Corgan and James Iha. Greg and Billy are still friends.

Please enjoy some more pics of the event:

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The Media Corner at ZuZu’s

 

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“Tonight, Tonight” video prop (moon)

 

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Billy Corgan drawing

 

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The Madame ZuZu’s Teahouse anniversary cake

 

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Billy Corgan signing a sales award

 

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The guys having a good time!

Talk Asia – CNN Interview with William Corgan

Interview by Monita Rajpal, CNN

SPfreaks is happy to present the full transcript of this interview to you, as provided by CNN Transcripts. Images are screenshots from the interview.

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TALK ASIA – Interview with Billy Corgan (Aired August 23, 2013 – 05:30:00 ET)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Monita Rajpal, Anchor, CNN International (voiceover): It was one of the biggest bands of the ’90s. Known for their angst-ridden and dreamy songs, The Smashing Pumpkins are still drawing in crowds by the thousands, some 25 years after their debut.

Founded by lead singer-songwriter, Billy Corgan and Guitarist, James Iha, their first album reached gold status. But the follow-up, “Siamese Dream”, fared even better. Thanks, by and large to the song, “Today”, which peaked at number four on the alternative rock charts, solidified their status as rock stars.

It was their third album, though, that would see the band truly skyrocket. “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” sold more than nine million copies with four singles hitting the pop charts, including “1979” and “Tonight, Tonight”.

After a drug overdose killed the band’s touring keyboardist and led to the arrest of drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin, in 1996, the remaining band battled on to make two more albums.

Both failed to produce a single that would chart higher than “Ava Adore” at number 42 on the U.S. Billboard charts. And in 2000, Billy Corgan announced the end of The Smashing Pumpkins.

Seven years later, Corgan resurrected the band with new members. Today, they’re back on the road with a new album and throngs of loyal fans.

This week, on “Talk Asia”, Billy Corgan shares the drama and dysfunction of one of alternative rock’s most influential bands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJPAL: Billy Corgan, welcome to “Talk Asia”.

WILLIAM CORGAN, SINGER-SONGWRITER AND FRONTMAN, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS: William now.

RAJPAL: William Corgan.

CORGAN: William Corgan.

RAJPAL: When did that change?

CORGAN: I’ve been morphing for a while, so –

RAJPAL: Really?

CORGAN: Yes. I’m going to go William now.

RAJPAL: Do you feel more serious?

CORGAN: No, no. It’s just – that’s actually my birth name.

RAJPAL: Do you feel more grown up, though?

CORGAN: No. Just “Billy” gets uncomfortable at some point.

RAJPAL: Really?

CORGAN: Like, wrinkles and Billy – it just doesn’t work.

RAJPAL: Well, William –

CORGAN: Thank you.

RAJPAL: — The Smashing Pumpkins have finally made it to Hong Kong. What took you so long?

CORGAN: I don’t know, you know, it’s a weird world. Because, you know, I’ve been to Thailand and, you know, other places in Asia. And why we never came here, I don’t understand.

RAJPAL: Yes. What do you believe has been the means to the success or the longevity of The Smashing Pumpkins? I mean, we look back from the formation in 1988 to, you know, “Gish” in ’91 and now, “Oceania” today. What do you think has been the means for its longevity?

CORGAN: Well I have a saying, which is, “Crazy is good for business”. I think rock and roll really is about being a bit crazy. And that sounds like a line from a Scorpions song, but – like, “Crazy”.

(LAUGHTER)

CORGAN: It’s not a corporate thing. It’s been turned into a corporate thing, but really, people like me – you can’t invent people like me. We kind of come out of weird places and strange backgrounds and we can’t be sort of prototyped or copied. Although we can be imitated, we can’t be copied.

So I think that’s really what it is. I mean people – in essence, they have to go to a live band event to see this one-of-a-kind thing. And it’s no different than King Kong, you know, in chains. Like, “Rrrr”. You know, that’s how I feel sometimes. I mean, there I am. I’m a flawed thing, but there’s only one of me. And if you want to see that one of the thing, there it is.

RAJPAL: Did you always embrace that uniqueness?

CORGAN: No. Nor do I now. But, you know, like, when I was young, I hated my voice because it was so strange. And my father has a very strange voice, too. So it would be like, “Wow, why do we have these weird voices? Like, shouldn’t we have more normal voices and stuff?” But then you realize that that’s at the heart of identity.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: Which, in a world of, kind of a lot of imitation – and you see imitation in fashion – all levels of culture. So to have any level of distinction in a world that’s really intent on copying is actually a blessing. But for years, it felt like some sort of weird curse.

RAJPAL: When we look at your album, “Oceania”, do you think it’s an album that you could have made, say, 20 years ago?

CORGAN: No, nor would I have wanted to. Because different circumstances at the beginning of what’s called the grunge era. It was really about sort of stimulating an audience and the mosh pit was probably the most important factor on whether or not a crowd was considered a good thing or a bad thing. So you’re making music to kind of create this propulsive, kinetic environment. You’re not writing songs for people to get married to. That sort of happens later.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: If you would have asked me, you know, the 20-year-old me, about the kind of album I’ve made on “Oceania”, the 20-year-old me says some of it’s boring. But sometimes it takes those spaces and those kind of quietude to find something else. And I think we all go through that as we get a little bit older – we look for sort of different simplicities. And there’s a simplicity in “Oceania” that my earlier work doesn’t have. Where I was so intent on constantly proving something.

RAJPAL: I’ve read that you came to writing the album –

CORGAN: Yes.

RAJPAL: The album, itself – I understand it’s supposed to be this – taken in its entirety, as a journey – not just as singles. But there are –

CORGAN: That’s kind of a press line. But I – I’m glad you read that, but –

RAJPAL: But in –

CORGAN: It’s kind of a – honestly, it’s kind of a bull-[EXPLETIVE DELETED] press line.

RAJPAL: Really?

CORGAN: Yes, because, in this day and age, you’re sort of forced to make a comparative reason – like why even bother making an album?

RAJPAL: Sure.

CORGAN: And so we were like, “Well, we’ve made something – you’re kind of forced to listen to the whole thing or you’re not going to get it”. And people actually, then, listened to it.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: Because if you follow in the other culture, it’s really about just trying to come up with 12 singles.

RAJPAL: When you look at – I guess I read that you came – you approached it from actually a place of being happier than you have been in a while.

(LAUGHTER)

RAJPAL: Is that –

CORGAN: Did I say that?

RAJPAL: Was that not true?

CORGAN: No, no, that’s true.

RAJPAL: Does that, in itself, pose challenges, when it comes to songwriting?

CORGAN: There’s a long established concept that gets bandied about, which is “Misery makes for great art”. And I actually think this is – if we were asking a Shinto Monk, I think they would laugh at this idea.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: Because you’re basically saying, “Suffering’s good for business”. And I don’t think suffering’s good for business. Crazy’s good for business, suffering isn’t. I think suffering or the gestalt of, “Here I am, ripping my heart open” – I think that lasts for about two or three albums.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: At some point, you have to mature into the deeper work. Most people are living lives of sort of survival. And constantly posing an existential crisis, either through fantasy or oblivion, really has been pretty much explored in rock and roll. At least in the western version of rock and roll. Maybe not over here in Asia, but we’ve sort of, kind of, been through all that.

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RAJPAL: So what are you exploring now?

CORGAN: God. I once did – a big American magazine was doing a thing called, “The Future of Rock”.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: And, you know, they asked 50 artists, “What’s the future of rock?” And my answer was, “God”. And they said, “What do you mean?” And I said, “Well, God’s the third rail of -” What is it? “Social security is the third rail of politics in America”. Well, God is the third rail in rock and roll. You’re not supposed to talk about God. Even though most of the world believes in God. It’s sort of like, “Don’t go there”.

I think God’s the great, unexplored territory in rock and roll music. And I actually said that. I thought it was perfectly poised. And, of course, they didn’t put it in the interview.

RAJPAL: What would you say to Christian rockers, then?

CORGAN: Make better music.

(LAUGHTER)

CORGAN: Personally, my opinion – I think Jesus would like better bands, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

CORGAN: Now I’m going to get a bunch of Christian rock hate mail.

RAJPAL: But that’s interesting –

CORGAN: Just wait, here’s a better quote –

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: Hey, Christian rock, if you want to be good, stop copying U2. U2 already did it. You know what I mean? There’s a lot of U2-esque Christian rock.

RAJPAL: Sure.

CORGAN: Bono and company created the template for modern Christian rock. And I like to think Jesus would want us all to evolve.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJPAL (voiceover): Coming up, Billy Corgan reveals the sad inspiration behind one of his newest singles.

CORGAN: Well, I had two losses. Losing her as a mother and losing her as a friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORGAN (singing): When they locked you up they shut me out/But gave me the key so I could show you round. /Yet we were not allowed. /Omens of the daydream. /But caught as you’re bound in Thorazine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJPAL: I’m curious about the single, “Pale Horse”.

CORGAN: Yes.

RAJPAL: And I was wondering what the origin of the title of “Pale Horse”. Was it – did it come from, and this is just my interpretation – but did it come from the –

CORGAN: It’s like “Trainspotting”.

RAJPAL: The New Testament –

CORGAN: Yes.

RAJPAL: The Bible – the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – the last horse is Pale Horse.

CORGAN: I had no idea.

RAJPAL: — Which symbolizes death.

CORGAN: Had no idea. But, in your sentient intuition, what you did pick up on is that it’s a song about my mother.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: And it’s really about the point where my mother left my life around four years old (ph). So it is really reflective of death. Symbolic –

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: — not literal. And, of course, she later died when I was 29, from cancer. So I had two losses. Losing her has a mother and losing her as a friend. So, yes, the song sort of deals with that. But I had no idea. But that’s interesting how the unconscious works, so –

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: I’ve never been a big bible reader, so –

RAJPAL: Well, neither have I, but I just was curious about “Pale Horse” and the origins of that. Another single that I really liked in “Oceania” was “One Diamond, One Heart”.

CORGAN: Yes.

RAJPAL: It’s beautiful.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORGAN (singing): However you must fight/Within your darkest night/ I’m always on your side. /Lovers as lonely as lanterns lost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJPAL: There’s a line in it that says, “However you must fight, within your darkest night, I’m always on your side”. How hard do you think you’ve had to fight to actually get to this point where you are now? Actually, perhaps, in a different place – in a potentially better place?

CORGAN: Oh, yes. Yes. The great thing about rock and roll is, if you want to fight – like, fight the system, fight the man, fight the government, fight the people in front of you – it’s Don Quixote all over again. You’re really chasing windmills. And then the business sort of is predicated on creating a competitive atmosphere, where you want to obliterate your competition, because it sort of engenders more sales.

RAJPAL: Yes.

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CORGAN: And people start doing stupid stuff – stunts and –

RAJPAL: Did you buy into that?

CORGAN: You do on some level. I grew up in sports, so it sort of always made sense to be competitive. Like, if you’re going to try to dunk on me, I’m going to dunk on you.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: And there’s something beautiful like, you know, you read about how the Beatles and Stones would sort of take turns trying to get the number one song. I don’t think there’s anything bad with that. But realistically, artists are really in a race with their own ability. And if you too much focus on the culture – the culture’s always going to give you the wrong information. It’s been proven time and time again that cultures really don’t know what they want. Hence, you know, great artist like Johnny Cash dies, and everyone’s like, “Oh my God, Johnny Cash was great”.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: Well, I bet if you look to Johnny Cash’s career, there are about 30 years, there, where people weren’t paying a lot of attention to Johnny Cash. Why didn’t they pay attention to him all along? Well, they were busy doing something else or they were fascinated with this trend, or something. And then we realize, “Wow, what a great treasure Johnny Cash was, not to American culture, but to the entire world”. Ultimately, the public’s going to abandon you, the record company’s going to turn on you at some point when you don’t sell enough – so it’s really an integrity game.

RAJPAL: How do you keep your integrity?

CORGAN: You have to have a root of some sort of belief system. And, for me, you know, I sort of work on the love concept, which is, you know – is what you’re doing engendered of love or is it engendered of some sort of material construct? And I think there’s plenty of evidence to prove that material constructs fail.

RAJPAL: Did it start out that way, when you created the band? Did it start out?

CORGAN: No, no. I wanted to get the [EXPLETIVE DELETED] out of my city. And it wasn’t even – it was like the Wizard of Oz – sorry for the swear.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: I wanted to get the heck out of my city. It was like “The Wizard of Oz”. I just wanted to get on the Yellow Brick Road and get somewhere.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: Because where I was, was just so, like, I mean, you know.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: So leaving is a conceptual thing. Fighting the thing out there – the dragon out there- – it’s all conceptual. But if you don’t have the spiritual background, the cultural background, somebody doesn’t find you at an age and say, “You’re talented, you’re special” and get you in a system that’s going to support you.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: Rock and roll is basically, you know – it’s a system of exploitation.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: And I hate to use the word because it’s honestly disrespectful, but it’s a slave system. It’s an indentured sort of slave system where they kind of lock you in and then they play tricks with your mind and try to get as much out of you, predicated on the idea that you’re only going to last four or five years.

RAJPAL: But that system –

CORGAN: Yes?

RAJPAL: — did get you recognized. Did get you –

CORGAN: Did it?

RAJPAL: Didn’t it?

CORGAN: Where are all my fans? There’s no one waiting in the lobby over there.

RAJPAL: Security.

CORGAN: I don’t see anyone waiting over there.

RAJPAL: But they have been. They’re coming to see you.

CORGAN: No.

RAJPAL: They’re going to – you sell tickets.

CORGAN: Yes, that’s just.

RAJPAL: People still buy your albums. People still know who you are. Your music was heard.

CORGAN: It’s meaningless.

RAJPAL: Really?

CORGAN: It’s meaningless. The only thing that means anything is what you create. That’s where the great Beatle line, you know, “The love you make is equal to the love you take”. Or I always get it wrong. But I mean, that’s really what it is.

So my experiences in music really have to do with the people I’ve met, the things I’ve seen, the ability to absorb different cultures, different ideological frames. Come in contact with people who have no relationship to “Gilligan’s Island” and the silly, weird ’70s world that I grew up in.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: It’s fantastic. It’s a spiritual education. And what I’ve created out of that journey is the value. Whether anybody gets it or doesn’t – that’s really, honest, inconsequential.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJPAL: So we have this side of William Corgan.

(LAUGHTER)

RAJPAL: Then we have the other side as well –

CORGAN: She’s a very good interviewer. I like her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORGAN (singing): Believe in me, believe, believe/ That life can change that you’re not stuck in vain./ We’re not the same, we’re different./ Tonight, tonight, tonight/ So bright/ Tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJPAL: So, when you look back at the albums that you have created.

CORGAN: Yes?

RAJPAL: Such as multi-platinum albums like “Siamese Dream” –

CORGAN: Right.

RAJPAL: “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” – what are your interpretations of that time, now?

CORGAN: I see them as faithful postcards to where I was. And they are inherently beautiful for what they express in their limitations.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: But I see them as limited within their moment.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: But it’s also the culture’s moment, too. So, for example, you listen to music from the early ’90s, there’s idealism. You listen to music by the end of the ’90s, that idealism is gone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORGAN: Today is the greatest/ Day I’ve ever known. / Can’t live for tomorrow/ Tomorrow’s much too long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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RAJPAL: Songs like, “Today” –

CORGAN: Yes.

RAJPAL: From “Siamese Dream”.

CORGAN: Right.

RAJPAL: “1979” from “Mellon Collie”.

CORGAN: Right. I did write those.

RAJPAL: “Zero”.

CORGAN: Yes.

RAJPAL: Those kind of songs –

CORGAN: Yes.

RAJPAL: — those are important indicators of the certain emotion that was – at least that you felt, at that time.

CORGAN: Yes.

RAJPAL: What are your memories of your life at that time?

CORGAN: I was miserable. I was totally miserable. So I was operating off of more of an idealism. Like, who I wanted to be or who I wished I was.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: Because who I really was or how I felt I was, was miserable. Because I had no frame by which to deal with the situation I was in.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: I was in an unhappy band. I’d sort of found whatever I needed to find and – but it wasn’t this magical thing I thought it was going to be.

RAJPAL: What about, then, the success of those albums? Like, I love “Siamese Dream” –

CORGAN: Well, they were good.

RAJPAL: Well, you were happy with that, though, right?

CORGAN: Yes, but you could argue that the success of those albums is very much a communication between two limited perspectives. So if you make dumb music for dumb people and dumb people buy it, it doesn’t mean it’s good.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: Well, if you make repressed, middle class, white, suburban, existential crisis music and a bunch of people just like you buy it, is that success?

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: I mean, yes, it’s success in the form of communication. But is it success in being true? No, it’s not true. It’s true to its corner, but it’s not true.

RAJPAL: Where does this need to –

CORGAN: Ruin my career?

RAJPAL: –search – no. No, no. To search and seek these kind of answers – come from?

CORGAN: I don’t know. I think you’re just born with it. What do they say in America? You have a high BS meter. You know what I mean?

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: Yes, I stopped going to the – you know, I was raised Catholic and I stopped going to church when I was eight. Because I was like, “What is this?”

RAJPAL: So, you know, there are some shrinks out there who would say –

(LAUGHTER)

RAJPAL: — and bear with me for this one –

CORGAN: Have you been to a shrink?

RAJPAL: Well, haven’t we all? There’s some shrinks out there who would say that the people that we are connected to, or we find ourselves connected to, are there to help us reconcile certain issues or –

CORGAN: Karmic wounds.

RAJPAL: Yes. And the people that we are most intimate with, whether our partners, band mates – they are there to help you recognize and work though those issues.

CORGAN: Right.

RAJPAL: Is that what The Pumpkins were for you? The original band?

CORGAN: No.

RAJPAL: No?

CORGAN: No, we were four strangers who agreed on a musical vision. And we did more harm than good.

RAJPAL: In what way?

CORGAN: It was destructive.

RAJPAL: But then, some could say, well, if you look back at your – say, when you were growing up – same kind of dysfunction, right?

CORGAN: True, true.

RAJPAL: What did you learn about yourself in that experience?

CORGAN: Which one?

RAJPAL: The first band experience.

CORGAN: I would say the key experience for me, from the original version Smashing Pumpkins was, “What is loyalty?” What is loyalty? Because I had a false concept of loyalty and I rode that ship all the way to the bottom. When most people wiser than I, would have jumped off the ship when it was to their benefit.

So people always say, “What’s your greatest career regret?” It’s when the band blew up in ’96, that I didn’t jump off and make a new ship. I rode that ship all the way to the bottom. Like, literally, until it was like the bubbles were coming up and I was sitting there like –

RAJPAL: Is it kind of like, you know, when you’re staying in a bad relationship, that you’re always hoping that something will change. That things will work out in some way, shape, or form.

CORGAN: Yes. I’m sure you’ve only had successful relationships, but I mean, if you’ve ever been there where you’re breaking up with somebody for the ninth time –

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: And you’re like, “Ok, this is real”, right? You know.

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: We did a lot of that. We didn’t really break up so much as we were like, “OK, now it’s going to be like this, or it’s going to be like this”. And then, of course, nothing would change.

RAJPAL: What about when it comes to what you learned about yourself from your family?

CORGAN: False loyalty.

RAJPAL: Again?

CORGAN: I think a lot of people really struggle with false loyalty.

RAJPAL: I read that your dad said that you’d saved his life? On many occasions?

CORGAN: He’s being generous.

RAJPAL: That there was an article where he was quoted as saying that, “I grew up in a house of no love or emotion and it kind of sticks with, you end up passing it on to your kids”. Is that -?

CORGAN: That’s fairly accurate.

RAJPAL: Really?

CORGAN: Yes. Accurate.

RAJPAL: Your dad was a musician.

CORGAN: Yes.

RAJPAL: Still?

CORGAN: No, he doesn’t play anymore.

RAJPAL: did you ever want to be like him?

CORGAN: Oh yes. My father was my idol.

RAJPAL: Really?

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CORGAN: Yes, I wanted to – I mean, this bad posture I took from him, too. He’s very charming. He, you know, was very handsome and I mean, he looked and moved like a rock star, so –

RAJPAL: When did you finally feel – or have you – a sense of stability in your life?

CORGAN: Never.

RAJPAL: Never?

CORGAN: Never. No. I’ve invested in one particular concept and it’s – I would say as we – it’s a wash. I’m happy to have done what I’ve done and I feel privileged to have communicated. Blessed to have been recognized, where many people don’t –

RAJPAL: Yes.

CORGAN: But yes, personally devastating.

RAJPAL: What do you think will be your legacy?

CORGAN: I think I’m a radical. I think I’m an artistic radical and I think I’ll be recognized as one. I’m a really good musician and a songwriter, but I think my real legacy will be as a radical. I am a radical in an era when there are very few radicals. In my business – I know there’s plenty in other places. But in my world, which is supposed to be full of radicals, there’s actually very few.

RAJPAL: So we have this side of William Corgan –

(LAUGHTER)

RAJPAL: Then we have the other side as well –

CORGAN: She’s a very good interviewer. I like her.

RAJPAL: — where we have the tea-drinking, tea shop-owning, and pro- wrestling-loving man.

CORGAN: Boy-child.

RAJPAL: Very different elements. Or are they the same?

CORGAN: Same.

RAJPAL: Pro-wrestling — what’s that about?

CORGAN: It’s fun.

RAJPAL: See? You do have fun.

CORGAN: Yes.

RAJPAL: Really?

CORGAN: In quiet moments. When no one’s watching.

RAJPAL: William “Billy” Corgan –

CORGAN: This is where you say, “Goodbye”.

RAJPAL: Thank you for your time.

CORGAN: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

END

Smashing Pumpkins in The Netherlands: Tight and Balanced

Article by Jeroen Bakker
Pictures by Jeroen Savelkouls and Arthur van Pelt

01. Tilburg 013 poster

(Poster Tilburg 013)

Date: July 26th, 2013
Venue: Paradiso
Capacity: 1,200-1,500 (sold out)
City & Country: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Tour: Shamrocks and Shenanigans 2013 Tour
Personnel: Billy Corgan, Jeff Schroeder, Nicole Fiorentino and Mike Byrne
Duration: 2h30m

Date: July 27th, 2013
Venue: 013
Capacity: 2,000-2,200 (sold out)
City & Country: Tilburg, the Netherlands
Tour: Shamrocks and Shenanigans 2013 Tour
Personnel: Billy Corgan, Jeff Schroeder, Nicole Fiorentino and Mike Byrne
Duration: 2h15m


‘She likes surprises,’ Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell sings on their hit album Superunknown. Well, I do not know who ‘she’ is, but I do know that I like surprises too. That’s why I was so happy to read that Billy promised us some unexpected things on their Shamrocks and Shenanigans tour. What would the band have in store for The Netherlands?

02. Billy Amsterdam Paradiso


It was almost two years ago that the Smashing Pumpkins hit The Netherlands during one of their tours. They then almost sold out the huge Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, where they treated the die-hard fans to a lot of obscure tracks and b-sides. Very enjoyable for the fans that own every single version of Zeitgeist, but in a big venue like the HMH, there are a lot of casual fans just looking for some 90’s super hits.

Those fans would have been very happy with the songs Billy, Nicole, Mike and Jeff threw into the audience at the beautiful Paradiso, Amsterdam (in the old days it was used as a church!) and the recently restored and modernized 013, Tilburg venues. Where Corgan refused to play a ‘greatest hits show’ in 2011, the nights at these places were packed with alternative rock classics; “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, “Today”, “Zero”, “Ava Adore”, “Rocket”, “X.Y.U.” and “Tonight, Tonight”, just to name a few. But Smashing Pumpkins never aimed to be a nostalgia act. There was a lot of room for more recent material too. A hard rocking version of “Starz” was definitely a highlight, but also the Oceania album tracks were greeted with much enthusiasm from the crowd. An acoustic rendition of “The Celestials” even had people singing along to this tune. A great and well deserved compliment for the ‘new’ band.

Billy the Gardener
About halfway into the set at Paradiso, Amsterdam, Billy started to chat with the audience, exclaiming that he was getting ‘as they say in America, long in the tooth. That’s called old.’ He laughed about stopping to tour and focus on gardening. People laughed, but after Billy said that he wasn’t joking, some crowd members clearly felt a bit uncomfortable. Is he really planning on quitting rock ‘n’ roll style touring?

The banter was quickly forgotten when Billy was invited to eat Dutch pancakes with a girl in the audience, so Corgan could only reach for his Mellotron to roll into one of the highlights of the night. ‘If there is a God, I know he likes to rock…’. The die-hard fans in the audience couldn’t believe their ears. “If There Is A God” hadn’t been played live for over 12 years! Yet here we are, listening to Billy and Nicole singing without a doubt one of the best songs off the (so far) internet-only album Machina II / Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music. The cheering from the crowd spoke for itself: this really was a surprise, just as Billy had promised. And a very pleasant surprise indeed.

Stadium settings in Amsterdam
At Paradiso, Amsterdam, the band continued to rock through some monumental hits before treating the audience to another track not played in a long time: “The Imploding Voice” from 2000 record Machina / The Machines of God. At this point, the bad thing about the concert really started to show; the sound was way too loud and mixed in an unbalanced way. It was almost like the sound engineer used the settings for a stadium! Because I was in the front row, I had a lot of direct sound coming from the band’s amps and monitors. The voice amplifiers were behind me, so the vocals got drowned in the mix more than once. After the show I heard (as far as I was still able to hear) that the sound wasn’t that good on the balcony either, so it wasn’t just because I stood completely in front of the stage. The people at the mixing desk obviously had an off night, as it would appear.

03. Amsterdam Paradiso

The Pumpkins can’t be blamed for this though, because they gave all they could. Jeff showed once again that he knows his guitar’s neck even better than the back of his hand.  Nicole stole the hearts of many with her sweet backing vocals and rocking bass skills.  Mike hit his toms and cymbals like they had to be destroyed at the end of the show, and Billy did justice to the print on his t-shirt: ‘Je suis un rockstar’. The band was really tight and professional, never missing a beat.

After spoiling us with two encores at Paradiso, Amsterdam, which included pumping versions of “Immigrant Song” and “Cherub Rock”, the band left the stage for the last time, leaving behind an extremely satisfied crowd. The sound problems were the only thing that kept this awesome show in Amsterdam from being really, really awesome. And we are not alone with our very positive review: Dutch music magazine Oor (Ear) created a raving review too on this Amsterdam show, to be found here (warning: Dutch language, but beautiful pics!).

Another show and a second SPfreaks meet-up in Tilburg
Luckily, for the band and the fans alike, the band got another chance one day later. With buzzing ears, sore throats and tired legs from the night before, we headed down south in The Netherlands to the city of Tilburg for another night of fuzzy rock and oceanic tones. This night was not only a Smashing Pumpkins show, but also another SPfreaks members meeting. Quite a few SPfreakies showed up again, one even driving all the way from Germany to see the band play! It was cool to get together to see our favorite band for another time.

04. Tilburg 013
The summer heat outside had found its way into the venue. The audience was hot before a single note was played, so warm-up act Beware of Darkness didn’t have to do much. During their opening act, we did notice the sound was a lot better than in Paradiso, even in the front row. Nice! Now we could finally hear the band sing properly!

The Pumpkins cranked out almost all the songs they played the night before, but they changed the order up a bit. Due to time constraints, a few songs like “Immigrant Song” were skipped. And starting with “Tonite Reprise” leading into “Tonight, Tonight” was a smart move. What a way to open a show!

The improvement in sound was clearly noticeable, which made the show even more enjoyable. However, it was noticeable the audience was a little more stiff than in Amsterdam. It was plain to see that a somewhat bigger venue brings a wider and more critical crowd. However, all time classics such as “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Zero” got even the most difficult visitor to jump.

Billy didn’t say anything about last night’s banter anymore, so I think we can conclude that he was joking when he said they wouldn’t be touring anymore. And walking back to the train station with rain falling down and lightning illuminating the sky, I realized we should hope they were joking. The Smashing Pumpkins showed once again that they are so much more than a revived 90’s band. This band is still moving forward. Sometimes stumbling, sometimes incomprehensible, but always fascinating. I don’t know where the band is headed to next, but I do know I’ll be glad to follow them wherever they go.

05. Tilburg 013

Setlist Paradiso Amsterdam

Quasar
Panopticon
Starz
Rocket
Space Oddity [David Bowie]
X.Y.U.
Disarm
Tonite Reprise
Tonight, Tonight
Pinwheels
Oceania
If There Is A God
Thirty-Three
Ava Adore
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
The Imploding Voice
One Diamond, One Heart
Pale Horse
Zero
Today
Stand Inside Your Love
United States

Encore 1:
The Celestials (acoustic)
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans

Encore 2:
Immigrant Song [Led Zeppelin]
Cherub Rock
(1979 was on the setlist for this encore, but was not played)

Setlist 013 Tilburg

Tonite Reprise
Tonight, Tonight
Cherub Rock
Starz
Space Oddity [David Bowie]
X.Y.U.
Disarm
Quasar
Pale Horse
Ava Adore
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
The Imploding Voice
Pinwheels
Oceania
If There Is A God
Thirty-Three
One Diamond, One Heart
Today
Zero
Stand Inside Your Love
United States

Encore:
The Celestials (acoustic)
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans

Pumpkins of the Past – James Iha

Article by Shaharaine P. Abdullah

The last former band member of Smashing Pumpkins in this series: James Iha
(birthdate: March 26, 1968)

JI01

James Yoshinobu Iha is an American musician best known as the original guitarist and co-founder of The Smashing Pumpkins.

Pre-Pumpkins

James was born in Chicago, Illinois in a second-generation Japanese-American family. He and his brothers were raised in a middle-class suburb in Elk Grove Village; James attended Elk Grove High School.

JI02

I was born in a suburb of Chicago. You know those John Hughes movies like ‘Sixteen Candles’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and stuff like that? My high school was sort of like one of those high schools. It wasn’t as much fun as those movies were though [laughs]. I grew up there and it was a very nice middle class suburb, really boring but nice. I was a fan of music cause my brother was a big fan of music and I used to look at his records and he had all the classic rock records. I sort of went through every different phase of music. He was into like Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, The Who and I got into all those. Then I got into my own things, like heavy metal. Then I got into New Wave, which became a lifelong journey into music [laughs]” – James Iha on his formative years.

Growing up, James describes his childhood and home life:

“I was cool [laughs], I guess. I think I was a quiet kid and music was definitely an exciting thing to me. Music and film…my mom used to play like a nylon string guitar and she would play sort of like children’s lullabies. That was really nice but it was definitely rock music that got me excited and wanting to do something similar.”

JI03

After high school, James took classes at a local junior college for 2 years and majored in Graphic Design at Loyola University Chicago before eventually dropping out in order to fully commit himself to The Smashing Pumpkins in 1987.

Pumpkins Period

In 1987, James was a guitarist for the Chicago band Snake Train when he met Billy Corgan through a mutual friend. At the time, Billy Corgan was already spreading the word around that he was in a band called The Smashing Pumpkins and decided to make it official with himself at the helm as the vocalist, James as the guitarist and support from a drum machine. The duo met D’arcy Wretzky later on and made her the bassist, while Jimmy Chamberlin was made drummer.

JI04

D’arcy and James became romantically involved from 1988 until 1991, when they eventually split before a scheduled performance at the Reading Festival in 1992 during the band’s Gish tour. After a brief strain between them, the two remained friends and continued to be involved professionally, with The Smashing Pumpkins and other musical projects, including the now-defunct independent label Scratchie Records.

JI05

James is the credited guitarist for all Smashing Pumpkins albums, until the Zeitgeist period. He wrote and provided vocals on a number of Smashing Pumpkins songs, such as ‘Blew Away’, ‘Bugg Superstar’, ‘Take Me Down’, ‘…Said Sadly’, ‘Believe’, ‘The Boy’, ‘The Bells’, ‘Summer and ‘Go’, and co-wrote ‘I Am One’, ‘Soma’, ‘Mayonaise’, ‘Plume’ and ‘Farewell and Goodnight’. He also sang the band’s covers of The Cure’s ‘A Night Like This’ and Syd Barrett’s ‘Terrapin’. During this time, James also collaborated with other bands, appearing on recordings of bands like Ivy and The Sounds, as well as released his first solo album ‘Let It Come Down’ with a music video for ‘Be Strong Now’.

In 2000, Corgan announced that The Smashing Pumpkins would be disbanding and playing their final show at The Metro in Chicago, where the band played their first ever gig as a four-piece in 1988. On December 2, 2000, the band played a 4-hour-long set comprised of 36 songs to an audience of 1,100 or so. Made up of family, friends and fans, some of whom travelled hundreds of miles just to be in attendance. At one point during the emotionally charged show, it was reported that James (in memory of the relationship that he and D’arcy had shared and maintained over the years), lamented her absence and expressed his gratitude and love for her. After the show, according to Corgan, James left the venue without saying goodbye to me or Jimmy, a real final fuck you in my eyes… outside of a phone conversation about business in 2001, I haven’t seen him since.

JI06

When Corgan decided to revive The Smashing Pumpkins in 2005, only he and Chamberlin were retained from the original line-up, despite Corgan’s insistence at the time that the door was always open for the others to return. Reasons why James and D’arcy didn’t re-join are unclear, but James has commented about the matter in later interviews, saying I was never approached by the band or Billy about returning to the band. That never happened.”

JI07

Post-Pumpkins

James has pursued a myriad of projects since departing the Pumpkins in 2000. He has collaborated with, remixed and produced a number of records for other bands and artists, including Ivy, Fountains of Wayne, Team Sleep, Cat Power, Karen Elson, Michael Stipe, Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino, Chris Martin, Annie, Chara, Isobel Campbell, Whiskeytown, The Blank Theory, The Sounds and Ladytron. James has also joined a number of bands as guitarist, such as A Perfect Circle, Tinted Windows and Vanessa and the O’s while doing stints as a DJ during A Perfect Circle’s hiatus in 2004. He has also scored the Japanese movie ‘Linda, Linda, Linda’ and produced a cover of Bobby Darin’s ‘Splish Splash’ for the soundtrack of ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’ and collaborated with longtime friend and manager Isao Izutsu by starting a clothing label called Vaporized (formerly known as Vapor).

JI08

James is currently promoting his second solo album Look To The Sky, which was released in March 2013.

Trivia

– is near-sighted and sometimes wears glasses

JI09

– Designed shirts and runway modeled for designer Anna Sui.

JI10

(James Iha, photographer Steven Meisel & fashion designer Anna Sui)

– Under the flagship Beams, James owns a Japan-only men’s clothesline named ‘Vaporized’ (formerly called ‘Vapor’).

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(James Iha walking on the runway)

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Iha
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0407286/
http://www.glidemagazine.com/articles/58867/james-iha.html
http://www.gettyimages.co.jp/detail/ニュース写真/james-iha-of-smashing-pumpkins-models-anna-sui-fashions-during-ニュース写真/113898989
http://jamesiha.chu.jp/jamesiha/vapor1/vapor18.html
http://www.virtualjapan.com/wiki/Vaporize
http://consequenceofsound.net/2012/09/interview-james-iha/
http://www.antiquiet.com/news/2010/12/billy-corgan-final-smashing-pumpkins-show-metro/
http://hipstersunited.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/corgan-calls-iha-one-of-the-worst-human-beings-ive-ever-met/

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