Interview by geo folkers
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.
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.
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.