The Think Tank
Thanks to Scott for sending us this article.
Smashing Pumpkins guitarist and solo artist in his own right talks Simpsons, Courtney, and an alternative career as a bike courier in a frog costume at Blockbuster video. Possibly.
I: Does releasing a solo album mean you feel frustrated in Smashing
J: "It’s a reaction to a lot of the touring. We were touring from January ’ 96 to February ’97, which is a lot of shows, and every night we’d play really long sets with a lot of distortion and heavy drums. It’s hard for me to go back to my hotel room after that and break out the fuzzbox. So I tended to write with an acoustic a lot and these were the songs that came out of it."
I: Do you ever feel like Kim Deal to Billy Corgan’s Black Francis?
J: "Yeah, generally I write or co-write about three songs per record, and I do feel constrained, but at the same time I don’t really expect to have 11 of my songs on the next Pumpkins record, because it’d just be, like, ‘What?’ The fans expect Billy’s voice and his style of writing. Have we become a corporate entity? I wouldn’t say that. I feel like the record I’ve made is very personal and, for want of a better word, James-like, and I think it’s better that it’s a solo record than that we change the band’s whole production and writing."
I: Are any of the songs on the album about your relationship with D’arcy?
J: "Er… no comment."
I: Are any of the songs about your dog, Bugg?
J: "[Laughs incredulously] No! I made this kind of New Order-y songs that’s on ‘Veiwphoria’ [Pumpkins video anthology] that goes [sings in eerie falsetto] "Buuuug". It’s really bad."
I: What’s the best joke Billy Corgan’s ever told you?
J: "Er [interminable pause]. He’s actually very funny, but I don’t really think we tell a lot of jokes. We do impersonations, and fictional re-creation of events, but nothing you’d really call jokes. I do impressions of Yoda, Worf off Star Trek, Nicolas Cage’s character in Peggy Sue Got Married."
I: Did you get to meet the cast when in The Simpsons (the ‘Homerpalooza’
J: "No, they had this stand-in Homer. We just went into this studio where they had four mics set up, and we said each of our four lines three times and the stand-in Homer responded. But when you’re saying stuff like ‘Let’s all go out and buy fur coats!’, it’s pretty funny anyway."
I: Are you convinced by Courtney Love’s transformation?
J: "[Uneasily] It’s not really for me to say. I just saw The People Vs Larry Flynt for the first time the other day, she was very good in it. She’ s nice, we always tended to get along. I haven’t seen her in a while."
I: You seem very positive about relationships. Are you one of those
annoying people who’ve never been chucked?
J: "Not really. I never really had a girlfriend until I was 19, so I’ve had my share of weird relationships."
I: Is it difficult to maintain relationships when you’re in a band as
successful as The Smashing Pumpkins?
J: "yeah, especially when you’re touring. When the other person has their own career it’s really difficult to meet up. I’m not trying to romanticize it, you get used to it. [Wistfully] I do sometime wonder what it would be like to have a 9 to five job, though. I was in art school, so I’d maybe be a fine artist. When I was a kid I used to go round on my bike picking up films but I can’t see myself as a professional film canister express driver."
I: Did you have a nickname at school?
J: "I have this friend in LA who calls me Jumpstaedy James. Did I get called James Yee-ha? Well sure but it’s not something I remember fondly."
I: Do you think up your hairstyles yourself, and have you ever been tempted
to go for an ironic mullet?
J: "I go to this place in New York and I just say ‘Long’ or ‘Short’. I had the Mrs. Robinson streeks for a while. I had a version of the mullet. I had a David Bowie shag and that was kinda getting towards a mullet."
I: We think all people in America have mullets because of The Ricki Lake
J: "It’s not far from the truth. America is so big, and we play a lot of middle-America venues in small towns, only about 9000-seaters, and you go out and see the audience and there’s a fair few mullets out there."
I: What was the last fancy-dress costume you wore?
J: "For the last video we rented these ‘20s-style outfits, and I had a suit for a man. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a fancy-dress party, though. I would like to go to a costume ball. I think I’d go as a frog. A rather dapper frog."
I: Did you watch any of the Winter Olympics?
J: "I watched some of the downhill skiing, that was quite exciting. I’m not a downhill skier myself, but I appreciate their skills. I’m sure if I so much as tried to put on a ski I’d break my knee or something. Women’s curling? No, I didn’t see that, unfortunately."
I: Will you be rooting for the US in the World Cup?
J: "Me? Oh sure, in the good ship Iha. Well, y’know, I wish all the teams well. I’m not really a soccer fan. I see it on the TV but I tend to be playing my guitar at the same time. I only tend to watch TV properly if I’ ve rented a video."
I: What was the last film you cried at?
J: "I was on tour and I watched Braveheart, and when they cut his wife’s throat I just thought [sighs dramatically] ‘Oh the humanity!’ I saw it again and I cried again at the same part. I’ve gotta get out more."
I: What is the sound of one hand clapping?
J: "the sound? I can’t think of a joke… I guess it sounds like a banana. I was directing some friends to a Blockbuster video one time, and I was like, ‘Take the corner and then go straight ahead, straight as a banana.’ They found it alright."
Page 122 Have you ever…
Walked out of an interview?
James Iha"Oh yeah! I was being interviewed one time by Tabitha Star, a now ex American MTV VJ. It was around the time there was that thing with Jimmy and the keyboard player, and one of her questions was, ‘Did you see the body?’ I just didn’t think she was very tactful. I asked her not to go there and she went there."
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