ADDICTED TO NOISE
Smashing Pumpkin D'Arcy Dares To Be Happy
By Michael Goldberg
The opinionated bassist for the Smashing Pumpkins doesn't care what you think, and further more, she's sick of fashionable misery. So get happy already!
We are at Pumpkinland, the Smashing Pumpkins' Chicago recording studio, and we are about to begin an interview. We are Smashing Pumpkins' bassist D'Arcy, who has a striking beauty that is as much a part of the Pumpkins as Billy Corgan's whine, or their aggressive sound, and myself.
A photo session is going on in the big studio where Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was recorded, so we've holed up in a small mixing studio. D'Arcy is sitting very still on a couch. She's wearing a brown suede jacket. Her dark brown hair is dyed blonde. She's wearing brown corduroys and brown lace shoes. She speaks in a soft voice, and seems quite pleased that Addicted To Noise is interested in what she has to say. After the interview is over, she mentions that she and her former boyfriend, guitarist James Iha have their own indie label, Scratchie Records, and have released records by Chainsaw Killers and some "dancehall guys," Pancho and Hitman.
Addicted To Noise: Have you done a lot of interviews so far for this record?
ATN: How many, do you think?
D'Arcy: I have no idea. We started maybe a month ago. I'm not sure. I don't know. A lot. It's probably best not to think about it. Because I was doing really well. I was sort of going along like every day was a new day and I could deal with it. But now it's just beginning to wear on me, like I'm feeling the weight of those past 50 interviews or whatever it was. Is this going to end? It's never going to end.
ATN: What's the question you've had to answer the most, you think?
D'Arcy: Probably the question that they want us to answer the most that is really hard to answer....probably the worst one is, why did you choose Flood to produce this? That's an easy one to answer. The hard one to answer is, what was it like recording this record? It was okay. It's like you could never explain it to anyone and have them understand. They just could not understand.
ATN: Well, you spent almost a year making the record. So it's like trying to tell someone what your life was like for a year.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm speaking Martian to people."
D'Arcy: It's like, do you have 10 hours if you really want to understand? You can't understand, as much as I can't understand what your life is like and really understand and really feel that. You couldn't. Sometimes I feel like I'm speaking Martian to people because people misunderstand me constantly. And I think that I'm perfectly clear.
ATN: I guess it depends on if you read what people write and get into it or if you don't pay attention to it.
D'Arcy: I don't. I don't have the time. I don't have the energy. And when it comes down to it, even if they totally misunderstand everything or hate it, I just never really cared too much what other people think because I know what's right for me and I know what my own truths are. Things work themselves out and I just live my life. How can you possibly spend your life worrying about what everybody else is thinking? You would explode.
ATN: Has that always been the case or is that something you've sort of come around to over time, feeling like that?
D'Arcy: I've been that way for a long, long time now. Probably not forever. When people misunderstand me or whatever, I've always been like, well, gee, I know that I'm a good person and I know that I'm meaning well so there must be something that's wrong with them. If you don't like me, there's something wrong with you. I suppose I worried about it when I was younger. But that was like really younger, like 10 years old. It's very fortunate to have an attitude like that in this business. I know Billy has a much harder time dealing with the press stuff than I do. I don't know about James and Jimmy. I think James probably holds about the same attitude that I do. But who really knows what James is thinking?
ATN: There's obviously a lot of women in rock bands. There's a number of women that play bass in rock bands. But what first made you think that that was something that you would do? Was it this natural thing that happened?
D'Arcy: I always was like, I'm going to be in a band when I grow up. Always. Ever since I was probably six years old. No, that's not true. When I was six, I was going to be a doctor. Probably since I was 10 years old.
ATN: Was it based on wanting to be in a band like one you liked? You know, I want to do that kind of thing?
D'Arcy: I've always been so into music. All my whole life I've been surrounded by music. My mother always played music when I was growing up. We always listened to the radio. My mom played instruments and myself and my sisters were always encouraged to play instruments. I played classical violin for about 9 or 10 years. And oboe [Editor's note: Aha! Meltzer is right!] and I was in choir and everything. It was just always a part of my life. I've done so many different things. I have done a lot. I have a lot of different interests but the only thing that's ever been a constant in my life, that I've been able to stick to and not get bored with and sick of and burnt out on is music. Except for the last four years. I was pretty burnt out on it. The past four years before last year I was not very well then. But now I'm better. And I'm interested again. I still listen to classical music and Disney soundtracks and crazy bizarre stuff and classic rock but not popular...is it still alternative anymore? I think it's pretty much popular music now.
As a kid, D'Arcy always thought that she would be in a band when she grew up.
ATN: Well yeah, what I think is a very good thing that happened is a lot of the stuff that was out there is now accepted.
D'Arcy: I thought it was good too. And I was really glad that that was happening. But now I don't feel like that. It's just being bastardized. It's just getting completely ripped off and mutated and turned into Nirvana and Pearl Jam-lite. But I suppose with every style, genre of music, there's good and bad. At least it brought a lot of the good music into the forefront. People got so upset that Nirvana got huge. I'd rather see Nirvana making shitloads of money than Michael Jackson, you know.
ATN: It was a really cool thing that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was heard around the world. I think it's a totally great song. To have something like that be heard...I would much rather have that happening. You could go back to the early '80s and you could probably find a lot of indie albums that were shitty and you could probably find a lot of major releases that were shitty and then a lot of stuff that was good then and....
D'Arcy: Yeah, that's true. But the thing is now Billy probably talked to you about all the imitators and things. It's really hard to stomach when you get the imitators taking up this space that the real original bands should be in. It's like you've got Bush who's huge and Sonic Youth who never for some reason, quite got there. Why? And they should be. Sonic Youth should be massive. And I don't know if they would want to be or not. Maybe that's part of the problem. But I would way rather see the Sonic Youth getting all that attention and success than these other bands who are ripping them off. It's kind of depressing.
ATN: Someone could say, why did Green Day sell 10 million albums and how come the Ramones have never been able to? On the other hand, obviously Green Day speak to, because of their age, because of their attitude right now, are speaking to millions of kids, you know what I mean? Ultimately, it gets down to do people want to buy the records and listen to them.
D'Arcy: A lot of the time I think a lot of imitator bands, they can take what is catchy, the catchiest thing about a certain style of music and then write a good pop song around that, a basic pop song around a certain style whereas the original music is most of the time much more complicated and I don't think that your general public, just the masses, I don't think they understand it. I really don't think...they just don't want to take the time to try to understand it. They want something that's easy, accessible, that you instantly nod your head along to.
ATN: It's a funny thing. I look at music as art.
D'Arcy: Me too.
"Sonic Youth should be massive."
ATN: That's how I've always been since I was a little kid. My mom would take me to a museum, she'd show me Picasso and then I'd turn on the radio and there's "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles.
D'Arcy: It's the same to me. They're the same.
ATN: But it seems like to most people, it's entertainment.
D'Arcy: Escapism. It's that for me too but...
ATN: It's like taking it in a different way. It's like looking at it in a different way or reacting to it. So what you were saying about someone takes a catchy element and turns it into this thing, it's easy for people to relate to it whereas Sonic Youth isn't easy to relate to. It's really rewarding when you spend time with it.
D'Arcy: You get out of it what you put into it, listening to their music. It's sort of like that and most people just aren't willing to do that. You gotta have those hooks! "AM I BEING A WIMP IF I STAY OR AM I BEING A WIMP IF I LEAVE?"
ATN: What do you think are some of the themes of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness?
D'Arcy: The themes?
ATN: Yeah. Have you thought about it like that?
D'Arcy: I really try not to figure out Billy's lyrics and things because I don't want to know. I shouldn't know. I know too much about his life already. You don't even want to get into that.
ATN: Obviously, in the past, he's been a real control freak.
D'Arcy: He's let up a lot. But we contributed in the past. It just wasn't acknowledged that's all. We've been there the whole time. He was like, "I want to do all the interviews." We're like, fine, be our guest. We don't want to do interviews. For me, I know how he feels and he can fucking go tell the whole world about it. But I know what the reality of the situation is. So whatever. Most of the time, I don't go out of my way to do interviews anyway. Whatever.
ATN: How do you feel about the band at this point? At this point in a band's career, there can be a lot of reasons to keep doing it. Is it still creative? Is it still the musical reasons that dominate at this point?
D'Arcy: Yeah. I think so. I don't know. You have to ask yourself that a lot. Sometimes you just have to sit there and balance the pros and the cons. It's been really good lately. So it's no question at all. As long as we're seeing the same kind of musical vision, yeah, sure. But sometimes when things get hard, you balance out the pros and cons and say, am I being a wimp if I stay or am I being a wimp if I leave?
ATN: In the wake of the success of the album Siamese Dream, what happened?
D'Arcy: In the wake of the success? In the success, things were fine. It was like before and during the recording of the album and during the writing process that things were kind of fucked up. But by the time everybody was making this whole big deal out of it, it was done and over.
During the recording of Siamese Dream, "things were kind of fucked up."
ATN: So you're saying, once the album hit the top of the charts and stuff, things were okay.
D'Arcy: No, that's not exactly what I'm saying. The stuff had just blown over already and was done by probably around the time we were mixing the album. Before it was even released. It didn't have anything to do with the success of the album, things getting better. Billy was having a lot of problems. Everyone was having their own, individual, personal problems and I think we weren't mature enough not to take it out on each other.
ATN: What about the title of the album?
D'Arcy: You want to know my take on the title of the album? Billy and Jimmy always have this bad pun game, is what I call it. It's the bad pun game getting out of control. Embarrassing. Not the name. The name's not really embarrassing. Just the game.
ATN: By having a title that has some humor in it...using that title for this album conveys a message, which is we don't take everything so seriously.
D'Arcy: Look at the name of the band. How can people think that we take everything so seriously when we're called the Smashing Pumpkins. ATN: But you know what happens over time is a name loses, it stops signifying what it originally meant.
D'Arcy: I think people never really understood what it meant in the first place. Just the name itself is so stupid and... When you can make fun of yourself. Self-deprecating. In a humorous way.
ATN: Why initially did you guys want to have that name? D'Arcy: I didn't. I never shared their sense of humor and they don't understand mine. James was there at the beginning and he couldn't stop it either.
[At this point, guitarist James Iha, who had entered the room and was sitting quietly, enters the conversation.]
James: Bob English, I think, coined it.
D'Arcy: In fact, we should pay Bob English for that name, shouldn't we? About $7,000?
James: About $7,500.
D'Arcy: I think I should suggest that to Bob. James: For the name alone. He never claimed his copyright on it.
D'Arcy: So he got screwed over. He's a crazy friend of ours. With a name like Smashing Pumpkins, how can they take everything so seriously?
ATN: So what you're saying is right from the beginning there was this sense o f "we can laugh at ourselves."
D'Arcy: Yes, but not very often. Only in specific areas. But yeah, it exists, it's always been there.
ATN: Now, at this point in time, to have some humor in the title of an album is making a statement because a lot of people are waiting for the next release from Smashing Pumpkins. It's like whatever you call this album people are going to say, what does that mean? It was like a conscious attempt, it seems to me, to put some humor in.
D'Arcy: You'd have to ask Billy, but probably yes, probably. I don't think it was conscious in the fact of thinking like we want to show the world that we can laugh at ourselves. I think he just pretty much puts on there what he wants to put on there. And he felt that that was appropriate. So not a conscious effort in that regard.
NOT INTO WALLOWING IN DESPAIR
ATN: Why do you think that heroin has become this drug that some '90s bands have gotten into? I'm just curious. In a lot of bands out there people have died. D'Arcy: Why do people use drugs at all though?
ATN: In the '60s it was marijuana and acid. Then there was a point in the '70s where it was cocaine. The disco coke thing. Then as we moved into the late '80s and '90s suddenly this heroin trip happened. I'm just wondering if you have any sense why that would have happened?
D'Arcy: I understand it but I don't know if I could explain it. I don't know. It's just like what's hip, what's accessible. It's a lot of different factors.
ATN: For a lot of kids, this is a hopeless kind of a time. People don't see the kind of bright future that by contrast theyimagined in the '60s. It's just not there.
D'Arcy: Well, I think also right now, there have been lately a lot of unhappy people who have been prevalent in the media. And like it or not, that sort of glamorizes it. I remember like in 1989, before it had really saturated as much of society as it has nowit was mostly just on the west coastmy sister's boyfriend who was about 17 years old at the time was like, do youknow Perry Farrell, what's he really like? Does he really do heroin? Wow. Wow. He's cool. Maybe I'd like to try that. That's cool. I'm like, you're stupid. I mean, I can't judge people who do drugs. I can't say it's wrong or it's right but I think it's stupid to do it just because somebody you deem as cool does it. That's for the wrong reasons. It's just like fashion lately, I think. Plus the fact that not just the drug but the fact of being unhappy lately and wallowing in that despair and hopelessness of the world and your situation in general has really been glamorized lately and it's very unhealthy.
ATN: At one point, writing songs about being unhappy, the dark side of things...it went from that being an honest expression of things to almost becoming a trend.
D'Arcy: Exactly. It's like Kurt Cobain saying this is how I feel and I feel this way for these reasons, whatever and the kids going, oh yeah, it's really hip to be just miserable or whatever. I recently tried to read this book. I really wished that I could remember the name of it and the girl who wrote it. I think she's a music reviewer.
ATN: Is it Prozac Nation?
D'Arcy: Maybe. But the whole book, she made me so sick. I wanted to slap her. It was just a perfect example of what I'm talking about. It really disgusted me. And the whole time she's writing about how she really disgusts herself because she's wallowing for no reason, whatever and everyone should be disgusted by her. And I was disgusted by her. I just picked it up, opened it up and started reading. Part of it was where she went to England, some guy talked her into coming into England... talking about how she felt so miserable. That everyone should think that she's disgusting so that she was really abusive to other people so that they would dislike her. It was really pathetic. I think I kind of started to fall into that for awhile, for a few years, just because I was surrounded by it. But I just got to the point where, this is stupid. This is stupid. People say, how can you be happy with the world in the situation that it's in? Well, look at your life. How dare you not be happy when there are so many other people whose lives are totally fucked and they can do nothing about it. You're so lucky that you're not in the middle of Bosnia now, trapped. You've got a lot of nerve just sitting there, wallowing for no reason. You should really try as hard as you can to appreciate the things that you've got. Stop thinking about yourself for awhile. Maybe if you stopped dwelling on yourself and being so self-centered, you wouldn't be so miserable. Try and look at some people around you and try and help them. Try and change things instead of wallowing, because it's useless.
ATN: People get so caught up in these little things going on in their lives.
D'Arcy: It just makes me sick because those people who are so depressed like that for no reason, they would not be that way if they were not so self-absorbed, if they were not so self-centered, if they cared about anyone else besides themselves. I just know too many people like that and they make me sick. It's like I'm so much miserable than you are. That mentality.
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