James Iha Gets Personal
James Iha plays guitar in one of the world's most operatically rockin' bands, and all he really wanted to do was hole up in his basement in chicago and record an album of sweet pop and spare country tunes. Go figure. The job of smashing pumpkins guitarist might be all about rage and rats in cages, but Iha's first moonlighting gig, "Let it Come Down," confines itself strictly to the wonders of the L word, as in "Lover, Lover" and "The Sound of Love"
At the time of this writing, Iha is in a Los Angeles studio recording a new pumpkins album with bandmates Billy Corgan and D'arcy-"Billy was talking about doing a full-on electronic record, but this is more of a hybrid of acoustic and some electronic elements,"Iha says, but he's happy to take a break to talk about his solo outing. After all it provides a little peace and quiet.
Q: You play in a group famous for it's melodrama. Why didn't you comment
on that in any of your songs?
A: I didn't consciously write the record the way it is. I've had some of these songs for a little while. I guess I didn't really feel like commenting on anything else but love.
Q: Are any of the songs about your relationship with D'arcy?
A: (laughs) Um. I don't know.
Q:Of course you do.
A: Songs are seldom sbout one person. About half the record might be about one person, and the other half is just about other people and situations.
Q: Will the person know these songs are about her?
A: Well, the person was there when I wrote a lot of these songs.
Q: Not playing bass by any chance?
A: No (Laughs) Me and D'arcy are just really good friends. Back then I was writing instrumental songs. It took a long time before I could really write and sing.
Q: What's your usual impression when guitarists make their own solo
A: it always seems pretty dubious. That's one thing I really wanted to avoid. I didn't want to make a watered-down pumpkins record.
Q: So how does a japanese-american kid growing up in a big city end up
loving country music so much?
A: The older I get, I'm drawn more toward (the music of) Gram Parsons, the Byrds, Neil Young. When the band's on tour, especially last year, it's just rock. twentyfour hours a day. When I went back to my hotel room, the last thing I wanted was a Marshall stack.
Q: You're also a big eagles fan. Did you see any of the reunion shows?
A:No, I do have an eagles tour t-shirt though, but I was shunned by the other members of the band for wearing such an atrocity, so I don't wear it much.
Q:Are things fairly stable in the Pumpkins now?
A: We don't really have a drummer that's a member of the group. But other than that, we're fine. We were joking about it because it actually goes back to the original group. We played our first show ever with a drum machine.
Q: All the band troubles make for good headlines, but is the reality
harder than people realize?
A: I don't want to over-romanticize anything that happens ina rock band, but, yeah, it's really insane to keep the Pumpkins juggernaut going sometimes. We just thought we were done for if we didn't carry on and finish out tour.
Q: Did you record a solo album partly to have a fallback for whenever
the Pumpkins break up?
A: I talked to the band about doing this record, and I knew that last summer was probably the only break I'd have. It was either that now or a couple of years from now.
Q:You're also part owner of a record label, Scratchie records, which you
and D'arcy help run. What was the last crisis you had to deal with as VP
A: there's always crises. The alternative rock world is a hard road. There are so few slots on the radio and MTV, and in magazines.
Q: Because they're being taken by bands like the Smashing Pumpkins.
A: Right. There has to be some new thing to tear us down.
Q: Most of the time, Billy does the interviews. Is there something
you've wanted the chance to talk about?
A: I guess you write songs so that you don't have to tell people what you're about.
Q: If you end up in a stable, happy relationship, will your songs
A: Probably...I don't want to talk about my personal life.
Q: But you wrote a very personal album.
A: Right, I guess that's why. But I'm in a good relationship. It's just wierd. I've never had to talk this much just about me.
Q: Well you're a hopeless romantic.
A:Sue me. I'm sensitive.
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