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.

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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)

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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).

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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

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– Designed shirts and runway modeled for designer Anna Sui.

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(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/

Disclaimer: All pictures/images used in this article are courtesy of Google Images (unless otherwise specified). The writer does not claim ownership for any photos and no infringement is intended. We respect all photographers and try to credit sources to the best of our knowledge; if necessary, we will credit or remove any pictures at the photographer’s or representative’s request. Please e-mail us:TheSPfreaksTeam@gmail.com to be credited for your work or to have your content removed.

Pumpkins of the Past – Lisa Harriton

Article by Shaharaine P. Abdullah

Next former Smashing Pumpkins band member in this series is Lisa Harriton
(birthdate: November 18, 1980)

Lisa Rae Harriton is an English musician who is best known for her brief stint as the touring keyboardist and back-up vocalist for The Smashing Pumpkins in 2007.

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Pre-Pumpkins

Lisa was born and raised in a musical family – her mother Terry Harriton is a Los Angeles studio singer, while her father Michael Harriton is a composer and musician; her older brother Steven is a guitarist. At the age of 8, Lisa was already working as a studio singer at Disney, Integrity Media and Word Records. She was schooled at the Royal Schools of Music in London, where she received a distinction after graduating with a degree in classical piano.

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In May 2004, Lisa completed her degree in Jazz Piano at the University of Southern California, where she was trained privately under the tutelage of Alan Pasqua, one of the premier jazz pianists in the world today. Her education influenced her music, which is described as soulful pop infused with jazz and world influences. Over the years, Lisa has performed in Japan, China, Peru and Los Angeles jazz clubs and worked with other musicians like Ingrid Jensen, Joe LaBarbara, Darek Oles, Larry Koonse and Ernie Watts. On June 24 2005, Lisa married fellow jazz pianist Alex Navarro, but the couple divorced in 2007.

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Pumpkins Period

After the new line-up for The Smashing Pumpkins was announced in 2007, Lisa was debuted as the new touring keyboardist for the band (along with Ginger Reyes on bass and Jeff Schroeder on guitars) during their May 22, 2007 show at Le Grand Rex club in Paris. She also appeared in music videos for ‘Tarantula’ and ‘That’s the Way (My Love Is)’, as well as on The Smashing Pumpkins’ documentary concert film ‘If All Goes Wrong’.

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(Billy Corgan and Lisa Harriton)

 When I play with the Pumpkins, I think really texturally with splashes of color.  I think as a composer and an orchestrator, not just as a keyboard player. It’s a really cool mix with Billy, because he definitely thinks that way in the big picture. He’s really inspiring… I think Billy respected that I had a different background than anyone else in the band.  He is very supportive and never makes me feel stupid.” Once she began playing with the group, things gelled quickly and the band had a lot of fun together. “I love to play free,” she says. “We sometimes just jam. It is a great environment for taking chances. Billy is appreciative if you jump off the cliff and commit to your choice.” – Lisa Harriton on performing with The Smashing Pumpkins.

Post-Pumpkins

On March 9, 2010, Billy Corgan announced that he had started auditions for a new keyboardist and new bassist for The Smashing Pumpkins (after Ginger Reyes announced her departure to focus on her family), signaling Corgan’s intentions to take a different direction with the band’s sound. For her part, Lisa stated that, after touring with the Pumpkins from 2007 to 2008, she was eager to start working on her new solo album and residency at Tutuma Club de Jazz in New York.

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(Lisa Harriton with Adam Lambert)

Since working with the Pumpkins, Lisa has toured/performed with Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) Adam Lambert, Ke$ha and Natalia Kills, opening for the Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry and Bruno Mars.  She can also be seen in Adam Lambert’s music videos ‘Whataya Want from Me?’ and ‘For Your Entertainment’. Lisa has also been working with Matt Sorum (from Guns N’ Roses) as keyboardist/background vocalist in his new band, Diamond Baby and can be seen in their debut video ‘Last Rockstar’, which features a star-studded ensemble that includes Jane Lynch, Juliette Lewis, Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister and Verne Troyer. She was set to release her debut solo record in summer of 2012 under Broadstroke Records.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_Harriton
http://www.last.fm/music/Lisa+Harriton
http://hipstersunited.wordpress.com/category/band/lisa-harriton/
http://www.mi.edu/about-mi/faculty-profiles/lisa-harriton
http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Lisa-Harriton

Disclaimer: All pictures/images used in this article are courtesy of Google Images (unless otherwise specified). The writer does not claim ownership for any photos and no infringement is intended. We respect all photographers and try to credit sources to the best of our knowledge; if necessary, we will credit or remove any pictures at the photographer’s or representative’s request. Please e-mail us:TheSPfreaksTeam@gmail.com to be credited for your work or to have your content removed.

Pumpkins of the Past – D’arcy Wretzky

Article by Shaharaine P. Abdullah
(with additional input by Arthur van Pelt)

 

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Pumpkins of the Past continues with D’arcy Wretzky (birthdate: May 1, 1968)

D’arcy Elizabeth Wretzky is the original bassist for The Smashing Pumpkins. Known for her trademark platinumblonde hair and rather laconic persona, D’arcy’s tenure with the Pumpkins lasted through 6 albums, before abruptly leaving in the midst of recording for “Machina/The Machines of God” to reportedly pursue an acting career.

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Pre-Pumpkins

Born and raised in Michigan, D’arcy grew up in a brood of 3 girls (the older sister is Kelly, while the younger sister is Molly). Their mother was a lounge singer, while their father worked as a pipefitter.  She joined choirs and learned to play the violin and oboe at an early age. A self-described tomboy, the young D’arcy displayed a propensity for music and yearned to join a band from her childhood.

I never could have withstood being in a band without training from growing up with my sisters. It started when I was born – my older sister was very jealous. Once, in winter, she locked me outside in my diapers. I was thrown into large bodies of water countless times. I had to retaliate. Remember in ‘Apocalypse Now,’ when Brando said you have to horrify people into submission? Well, I was a tiny, scrappy kid that did outlandish things. I was known for throwing knives. Defending myself helped turn me into a tomboy. I played ‘Cowboys and Indians’ instead of with dolls; most of my friends were boys.” – D’arcy Wretzky on her childhood.

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(D’arcy Wretzky – photos from her high school yearbook, L.C. Mohr High School)

And retaliate she did. D’arcy learned how to defend herself from physical and mental abuse, shifting from her classical training to learn bass guitar. With the influence of males in her hometown, combined with her bass expertise, D’arcy was able to get into bands and express herself musically.

I was always like, I’m going to be in a band when I grow up. Always. Ever since I was probably six years old.” D’arcy Wretzky on her determination to play in a band.

After graduating from high school, D’arcy traveled to France. A French exchange student she knew had a friend who needed a bassist, so D’arcy flew to Paris with him to meet with this friend. But, by the time she got there, the band had already broken up. After the Paris incident, D’arcy decided to travel around Europe for a while. After finding herself in Europe, she traveled back to the United States. On the way back, she was stranded at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, carrying what she brought with her on the plane (her bass guitar and her prized teddy bear). She called her parents in Michigan to come pick her up, but they weren’t home at the time. D’arcy started wandering around Chicago, and ended up liking the city so much that she didn’t want to go back to Michigan. D’arcy lived with her sister (who lived in downtown Chicago) for a while before moving in with the lead singer of the band she was in. Besides dating this guy, he was also her boss at the diner she worked at. After months of living with this friend and going to gigs, she ran into Billy Corgan outside one of the local clubs she frequented at the time, leading to that fortuitous event in The Smashing Pumpkins’ history.

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 (D’arcy Wretzky and Billy Corgan)

 “[It was at a] local Chicago goth club called The Avalon. They played that Bryan Ferry song at Avalon every night at the close, when they were kicking everyone out. I was outside talking about a live band that plays there all the time and that I liked. Some asshole just butts into my conversation while we are standing on the sidewalk and says, ‘What the hell were you talking about? That band was crap and besides that, they were put together by a record company’. I said, ‘How would you know that. Can you tell just by looking at them?’ And he says, ‘I can tell by the way a guy jumps around on stage’. I said, ‘I jump around on stage and I wasn’t put together by a record company’. He says, ‘Yeah well, what do you do’. I say ‘I play bass’ and he says, ‘I have a band and I’m looking for a bass player. Here’s my number. Give me a call’. And that was it. My friends came and tore me away at that point because we were about to come to blows. It wasn’t as calm as it sounds.”

“Looking back, if that happened today, I would probably just write him off as an idiot.”

“I went to his house because he said he was looking for people to write with. But he said, ‘Before we can write together you have to learn these songs.’ And he handed me a tape of 40 or 50 songs. Of his. We’ll start writing when you learn these.’ But every week there’d be 10 more new songs. I’m thinking, this is completely insane, but I really loved the music!” D’arcy Wretzky on meeting Billy Corgan for the first time.

The first time she went over to his house to audition she was so nervous she couldn’t even hold the instrument, but Billy decided to have her join The Smashing Pumpkins because he thought she was nice and interesting and he needed to get the band off the ground. Billy Corgan and James Iha had already met, and soon, the trio started playing as a three-piece unit backed by a drum machine. During those sessions, D’arcy had to sneak out of her house just to attend band practice. They eventually met Jimmy Chamberlin through a guy Billy knew. They had a lot of help from Joe Shanahan, the manager of the Cabaret Metro, who booked them with many gigs. With local Chicago label, Limited Potential, the first and very limited vinyl-only single, ‘I Am One’, was released in May, 1990. Sub Pop Records eventually heard the band, which allowed The Smashing Pumpkins to put out their second official single (again vinyl-only) in November, 1990, titled ‘Tristessa’. The quartet eventually moved on and found a more permanent place at Caroline Records where they recorded their first full album: Gish. After releasing the Lull EP in October, 1991, on Caroline Records, the band formally signed with Virgin Records, which was affiliated with Caroline. With Virgin Records, the Gish album was re-released, and thus began an illustrious career for The Smashing Pumpkins that currently spans numerous studio and live albums, EPs and singles, and still counting after 25 years.

I’ve never been friends with the name. It’s a stupid name, a bad joke.” – D’arcy Wretzky on the name of the band that made her famous.

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Pumpkins Period

D’arcy is the credited bassist for the 6 Smashing Pumpkins studio albums following the band’s inception, from Gish to Machina/The Machines of God. She provided lead vocals to ‘Daydream,’  and Smashing Pumpkins‘ cover of Blondie’s ‘Dreaming’ as well as backing vocals on some Smashing Pumpkins songs, such as ‘Beautiful,’ ‘Cupid De Locke’, ‘Farewell and Goodnight’, ‘1979’, ‘Where Boys Fear To Tread’ and ‘The Bells’. D’arcy also co-wrote ‘Daughter’ and dabbled in other musical projects. She provided vocals for Catherine’s ‘Hot Saki and Bedtime Stories’ and even appeared in their video for the single ‘Four Leaf Clover.’ At the time, D’arcy was married to Catherine’s drummer, Kerry Brown, who has also produced several Smashing Pumpkins songs and collaborated with The Smashing Pumpkins countless times. Along with D’arcy, James Iha, Adam Schlesinger (bassist from Fountains of Wayne, Ivy and Tinted Windows) and Jeremy Freeman, Kerry Brown is a co-founder of the independent record label Scratchie RecordsD’arcy has also contributed vocals for Filter’s ‘Take A Picture’ and ‘Cancer’.’

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D’arcy Wretzky and Kerry Brown

“In high school, I was buddies with guys. It got really weird when they got crushes on me. But I was always interested in some man I didn’t know at all. I completely broke that pattern with my husband. Kerry and I knew each other from the studio [he’s a drummer]; then he came on tour with us [for the group’s first album, Gish] as a producer. We were a poor rock band, and he had to share rooms with me and Billy [Corgan]. So I had known Kerry for several months, and I knew all his good points. Like, he talks in his sleep – basically, that’s how I found out he liked me. And you know what? He doesn’t even remember.” – D’arcy Wretzky on how she met her ex-husband Kerry Brown.

 D'arcy 07 (D’arcy and Billy on her wedding day)

With all the stress of the non-stop touring, Billy Corgan was starting to become depressed. His childhood problems started to resurface, and he was losing focus. When they finished touring, and went into the studio to record their second album, Siamese Dream, they had about seventy-five percent of their songs written. It was a stressful time for all of the members of the band, and Billy ended up recording all the string parts for the album by himself. Unfortunately, Billy, being a guitarist, didn’t add many prominent basslines to Siamese Dream, leaving D’arcy bass parts either drowned out by the guitars or taking the back seat in most tracks.

You have to have a lot of faith to make all the compromises and give up a lot.” – D’arcy Wretzky on recording Siamese Dream

It’s like being married to four people you never even wanted to date.” – D’arcy Wretzky on being a member of The Smashing Pumpkins.

Siamese Dream was the album that really placed The Smashing Pumpkins into the spotlight, but problems began to arise in the band. Jimmy Chamberlin began to have problems with drugs, which never seemed to go away completely. The band went on, but there were always disagreements from then on. After Siamese Dream came the third and fourth albums, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Adore. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a double album, included a lot of writing from all of the four members of the band. In Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, D’arcy found an outlet for her classical training. She was able to branch out musically, going from grand orchestral basslines blending with the strings of ‘Tonight, Tonight’, to the straight rock of ‘Jellybelly’ and ‘Tales of a Scorched Earth’. You can ever hear the influence of these myriad basslines in the music of Paz Lenchantin, another female bassist that Billy Corgan would meet in Zwan in later years. After Siamese Dream, this musical freedom was definitely a welcome change. The whole band was on a high.

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After Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Jimmy Chamberlin was kicked out of the band for his recurring drug habit, and The Smashing Pumpkins went on as a three-piece band to record the album Adore. Adore was a darker, more electronic album that didn’t sell as well as Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, despite the efforts of D’arcy and her provocative posing. Once again, D’arcy‘s distinctive classical style was slightly squashed on this album. The one song that really stands out, bass-wise, is ‘Shame’, a track reminiscent of the Gish era. D’arcy leads the song, her thick bassline entwined with a simple guitar lead. But aside from her contribution to ‘Shame’, D’arcy was not a very noticeable part of the album.

During Adore‘s release, the Pumpkins immediately went back to touring. They toured internationally, but it wasn’t the same without Jimmy. Billy re-hired Jimmy as a drummer late into the Adore tour, but the band still wasn’t the same. After the international Adore tour, The Smashing Pumpkins went back to their roots, and went on an eight-show club tour. During this tour, the band showcased some fan favorites from older albums, as well as material for a new album, Machina/The Machines Of God.

Unfortunately, D’arcy never got to play on the Machina tour. After the small club tour was finished and the new album was recorded, D’arcy decided to quit The Smashing Pumpkins to pursue an acting career. It wasn’t a made out to be a major thing; D’arcy just wasn’t there one day. It was announced in a press release a couple days after she left, and she was replaced by Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur.

I’m like James [Iha], I need a creative outlet outside the Pumpkins… I need to do things my way, with my ideas. I come from a classical music background and sometimes no one understands my way of reasoning and of doing things.” – D’arcy Wretzky reflecting on herself. 

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Post-Pumpkins

Despite leaving The Smashing Pumpkins to pursue an acting career, D’arcy hasn’t been seen much since late 1999. There were rumors that she was slated to play a comedic mafia hitwoman in the indie film “Pieces of Ronnie” alongside Mickey Rourke, but the film never went through.

She was arrested January 25, 2000 on the west side of Chicago after she allegedly purchased three bags of crack cocaine. She could have faced a felony charge, but was not formally charged with a crime. She succesfully completed a court-ordered drug education program and charges were dropped. This incident only fueled speculation about the real reason behind D’arcy’s sudden departure from the Pumpkins, as reportedly revealed by Billy Corgan in one of his blog posts. D’arcy was fired for being a mean spirited drug addict, who refused to get help,” Corgan disclosed. Whatever the reason, the seemingly troubled ex-bassist of The Smashing Pumpkins has never publicly confirmed nor refuted these claims and has, in fact, retreated from the public eye to become something of a recluse.

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D’arcy
is said to own 3 antique stores in Michigan and since leaving The Smashing Pumpkins, she has become a trained and registered masseuse. In December 2004 she was known to study acupuncture, having been inspired by her sister Molly‘s successful acupuncture treatment to quit smoking.

In July 2009, D’arcy resurfaced in a phone-in to Chicago’s rock radio station Q101 and chatted briefly with host Ryan Manno. The 13-minute conversation revealed that D’arcy had been holed-up at a horse farm in Michigan since disappearing from the spotlight and had been keeping busy running the farm. She also spoke about missing Chicago, Marilyn Manson’s family, the sad passing of her boyfriend just days prior to the call, a piqued interest in Davy Jones of The Monkees being a horse jockey and the Silversun Pickups (the latter of which she denied sounding anything like Billy Corgan at all).  D’arcy went on to describe Corgan’s voice as “unusual” and compared it to that of a Tibetan monk’s, further commenting that she wished he would “pay more attention to his pitch.”

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Trivia

– D’arcy is a Trekkie and fan of The X-Files: “I’m a big STAR TREK fan, but I’m not into the conventions or the ears or anything like that. I’m surprised they put THE X-FILES on the air, because the theories on there are so close.”  

– During her senior year of High School, D’arcy got into a bad car wreck and hurt her leg. She had to have surgery on it. After the surgery they overdosed her on morphine which gave her the nick name “Sister Morphine“.

– Filter’s song ‘Miss Blue’ is said to be about D’arcy, who collaborated with the band on 2 of their songs.

– A journalist once wrote that D’arcy didn’t care about music, only make up, so she attacked him with her lipstick. On another occasion, a reporter asked: “D’arcy, is your hair really that white?”

D’arcy‘s answer: “No, do not let your eyes deceive you. It’s actually a big black afro. The white that you see is really a trick we do with mirrors.”

D’arcy once dated and was engaged to former Smashing Pumpkins band mate, James Iha. They split in the middle of the Gish tour. As mentioned above, Kerry Brown was talking in his sleep, which was how D’arcy found out that Kerry really liked her. D’arcy then broke up with James Iha, and started dating Kerry, putting a large strain on the band. It is rumored that D’arcy also dated actor Mickey Rourke.

D'arcy 11

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D’arcy_Wretzky
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0942155/
http://www.starla.org/articles/darcy.htm
http://www.angelfire.com/mo/mymomdarcy/dbiolng.html
http://billypumpkins33.tripod.com/allaccordingtozwanalina2/id3.html
http://everything2.com/title/D%2527Arcy+Wretzky
http://billycorgan.livejournal.com/2004/02/17/
http://www.spinner.com/2009/07/16/radio-host-reveals-dark-details-behind-darcy-call/
http://www.spinner.com/2009/07/15/former-smashing-pumpkins-bassist-darcy-wretzky-resurfaces-on-ra/
http://www.tmz.com/2011/02/10/smashing-pumpkins-bassist-darcy-wretzky-jailed-arrested-horses-farm-michigan-ticket-failure-to-appear-bench-warrant/

Disclaimer: All pictures/images used in this article are courtesy of Google Images (unless otherwise specified). The writer does not claim ownership for any photos and no infringement is intended. We respect all photographers and try to credit sources to the best of our knowledge; if necessary, we will credit or remove any pictures at the photographer’s or representative’s request. Please e-mail us: TheSPfreaksTeam@gmail.com to be credited for your work or to have your content removed.

Pumpkins of the Past – Ginger Pooley

Article by Shaharaine P. Abdullah

Ginger Pooley 01

Let’s move this series forward with Ginger Pooley (birthdate: April 22, 1977)

Ginger A. Pooley (formerly known as Ginger Reyes or by her stage name Ginger Sling) is the bassist for California pop punk band Halo Friendlies and more widely-known for her brief stint as the touring bassist who replaced Melissa Auf der Maur in The Smashing Pumpkins.

Ginger Pooley 02

Pre-Pumpkins

Ginger was born in Chicago, Illinois and hails from Peruvian ancestry. She has been writing and playing songs since freshman high school and was in a Christian ska band in La Crescenta, California called the Israelites. She also attended classes at UCLA from 1998 to 2000, where she obtained a degree in History.

Ginger Pooley 03

In 2004, Ginger released a five-track EP entitled ‘Room EP’ under the moniker ‘Ginger Sling’ and label Pineapple Heart Records with the music video for her song ‘Faith’ directed by Djay Brawner. The following year, she released a follow-up EP entitled ‘Laguna Beach Demos’ under the same label. In 1999, Ginger became the bassist for the all-girl pop punk band Halo Friendlies, replacing Cheryl Hecht.

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 (Ginger Pooley and members of Halo Friendlies)

Pumpkins Period

In 2007, the new line-up for The Smashing Pumpkins was announced, with Ginger Reyes taking over bass duties from Melissa Auf der Maur, Jeff Shroeder replacing James Iha on guitars and new touring keyboardist Lisa Harriton. The new line-up was debuted in Paris on May 22, 2007, the Pumpkins’ first gig since their farewell show at The Metro on December 2, 2000. On July 10, 2000, Zeitgeist was released and yielded 2 singles with music videos, both of which Ginger appeared on: ‘Tarantula’ and ‘That’s the Way (My Love Is)’.

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 (Ginger Pooley, Jeff Schroeder and Lisa Harriton)

Post-Pumpkins

While touring in support of Zeitgeist, Ginger became engaged to Kristopher Michael Pooley, the Pumpkins’ touring keyboardist for their 2008 20th Anniversary Tour. The couple married in Los Angeles on June 22, 2008 and on October 17, 2009, they had a daughter named Talula Victoria Pooley. In March 2010, Ginger left the Pumpkins amicably, stating:

Ginger Pooley 06

(Kristopher Michael Pooley and Ginger Pooley)

With sorrow and yet with much thankfulness for the opportunity to have played in the Pumpkins, I am sad to say that I can no longer tour with the Pumpkins. Although I’ve been blessed beyond belief over the past few years through playing with the Pumpkins, my priority now is to keep our little family unit together, which includes my husband and my baby.”

Ginger Pooley 07(Ginger Pooley and Talulah Victoria Pooley)

Ginger played bass for the Glee Live! concert tour from 2010 to 2011 and has released a self-titled EP in July 13, 2011 on iTunes. Ginger worked on the EP with the help of her husband Kris (keyboards, backing vocals, guitars), producer Ben West, Aaron Sterling (drums), Greg Suran and Pete Thorn (rhythm and lead guitars).

Ginger Pooley 08

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginger_Pooley
http://www.undertheradar.co.nz/utr/more/NID/438/The_Smashing_Pumpkins_Reveal_New_Lineup.utr
http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/1051978/smashing-pumpkins-return-to-the-stage-in-paris
http://www.avclub.com/articles/help-wanted-pumpkins,39018/
http://hipstersunited.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/ginger-pooley-gleeful-about-baby/

Disclaimer: All pictures/images used in this article are courtesy of Google Images (unless otherwise specified). The writer does not claim ownership for any photos and no infringement is intended. We respect all photographers and try to credit sources to the best of our knowledge; if necessary, we will credit or remove any pictures at the photographer’s or representative’s request. Please e-mail us: TheSPfreaksTeam@gmail.com to be credited for your work or to have your content removed.

Pumpkins of the Past – Matt Walker

Article by Shaharaine P. Abdullah

Matt Walker 01

We continue the former Smashing Pumpkins band members series with Matt Walker (birthdate: May 21*, birth name Matt Snyder*)

 Matt Walker is an American musician, composer and producer, best known for his stints as a drummer for The Smashing Pumpkins, Filter and Morrissey.

* The year of birth of Matt Walker, and the reason for changing his last name from Snyder to Walker, is unknown at the moment. As far as we know this information has not been made public until now.

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Pre-Pumpkins

In the mid-1980s, Matt began his career by playing drums for a range of Chicago bands like Scott Bennett & The Obvious, The Clinic, and Peat Moss and Tribal Opera until joining the band Filter in 1994. Matt toured with Filter in support of the album “Short Bus” until 1996.

Matt Walker 03

Pumpkins Period

After the fatal overdose of touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin in July 1996 that resulted in Jimmy Chamberlin being fired from the Pumpkins, Matt auditioned for the drummer position and was hired as replacement for Chamberlin.  This, coincidentally, happened the day after the Filter tour ended. He finished the rest of the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness tour and stayed on until the beginning of the Adore tour. With the band, Matt also recorded several tracks on Adore, as well as the track “The End Is The Beginning Is The End” for the official soundtrack of “Batman & Robin”.  Along with Billy Corgan, James Iha and D’arcy Wretzky, he appeared in the music video for the track.

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Upon arrival in L.A., we were brought straight from the airport for a fitting of the tight black suits, as well as the harnesses for the flying sequences. It is very humbling to be a skinny, pale, white, mid-western kid suddenly on display in front of a panel of seamstresses, costume designers, and random rigging professionals in nothing but your underwear and a multi-belted harness wrapped tightly around your midsection. I felt very…pale. I’m sure Jimmy is glad he missed that bit.” Matt Walker on the set of “The End Is The Beginning Is The End” music video.

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In addition to touring and recording, Matt also collaborated with Corgan on the soundtrack for Ransom and with Iha on the latter’s first solo album “Let It Come Down”. He played with the Pumpkins again during their final show at The Metro on December 2, 2000, before their disbandment  and again during the band’s 20th Anniversary Tour in November and December 2008, as well as a benefit concert at The Metro in July 2010.  

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Post – Pumpkins

In 1998, Matt left The Smashing Pumpkins to record the first album for his own band, Cupcakes, which was signed to DreamWorks Records. John Mellencamp’s drummer, Kenny Aronoff, replaced Matt for the Adore tour. Matt went on to pursue other collaborative efforts with the band Ashtar Command, made up of former Filter member Brian Liesegang and Chris Holmes, and Jim Dinou, with whom Matt co-created the band Impossible Recording Machine. In 2002, he filled in for an ailing Butch Vig on Garbage’s European tour and played on their album “Bleed Like Me”, which was released in April 2005.  Matt also recorded and toured with Billy Corgan in support of the latter’s solo album, “TheFutureEmbrace” and joined Morrissey in 2006, playing drums on his albums “Years of Refusal” and “Swords.”

Matt Walker 07

While on hiatus from Morrissey, Matt wrote and performed with other artists under the moniker “of1000faces” and also became a member of the band theMDR, which contributed to the 2007 MySpace/SPIN Smashing Pumpkins tribute album with the Corgan-penned track “Signal To Noise.” In June 2012, Matt ended his stint with Morrissey following their tour in North America, after their stop in Stockton. The news comes after Matt Walker had previously taken to Twitter to declare that ‘things are weird and getting weirder’ ahead of a show in the Philippines during Morrissey’s recent tour. Morrissey added the following words to his leave.

Matt Walker 08

“Our little covered wagon has lost drummer Matt Walker, who was eager to bring his term to an end. No bargainings could persuade him to stay, and his interest drew its last breath at Stockton.”

“Behind the kit, Matt was a greyhound unleashed, and his great work on Years of Refusal will always and forever speak up in his favor. His exit is sad, but he had no wish to continue, and a branch falls away.”

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Matt Walker visiting Nijmegen, NL, in 2010

Matt has also collaborated with Adam Ant of the band Adam and the Ants by co-writing and playing drums on the track “Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter” from the Adam Ant album “Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter”, which was released in January 2013.

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References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Walker_(drummer)
http://hipstersunited.wordpress.com/category/band/matt-walker/
http://www.moderndrummer.com/site/2002/05/matt-walker/#.UVfwCKW9ZlI
http://www.live4ever.uk.com/2012/06/morrisseys-drummer-quits-after-weird-tour/

Disclaimer: All pictures/images used in this article are courtesy of Google Images (unless otherwise specified). The writer does not claim ownership for any photos and no infringement is intended. We respect all photographers and try to credit sources to the best of our knowledge; if necessary, we will credit or remove any pictures at the photographer’s or representative’s request. Please e-mail us: TheSPfreaksTeam@gmail.com to be credited for your work or to have your content removed.