Smashing Pumpkins is on a roll

The Boston Globe

November 26, 1993

There are many who believe Chicago's million-selling Smashing Pumpkins - who recently graced the covers of Spin and Alternative Press - will be the next act to sit in the Royal Alternative Court occupied by Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

"Oh, well, on the road it's hard to get a scope on that type of thing," says Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, during a tour stop. "It's easy when you stay home and just watch it happen, but when you're actually out there working it takes on an unreality in and of itself. Anything weird that happens is taken with a grain of salt, fame and success included. . . . I have noticed that people have become a lot weirder. There are a lot more people standing around our bus asking me dumb questions like, 'Why don't you talk to me?'

"It's like 'Well, because I don't know you.' They feel that because they were the first one that bought the first record we owe them. It's like, 'Look, I just played for two hours! Isn't that payment enough? I mean I'll shine your shoes if you want, but . . .' "

Still, Smashing Pumpkins, which has sold out Avalon tomorrow and Sunday, can hardly complain. "Things are fun," admits Chamberlin. "We seem to have overcome the biggest monkeys on our backs, emotionally and physically, so things seem to be clicking - very blissfully even-keeled. Which is a scary thing for us. We're starting to wonder what's wrong: 'Why aren't I throwing a chair at you right now?' "

The four-year-old band - Chamberlin, singer-songwriter-guitarist Billy Corgan, guitarist James Iha, bassist D'Arcy - has endured well-chronicled rocky times: Iha and D'Arcy's breakup, Corgan's dark moods, a Chamberlin rehab stint.

Smashing Pumpkins is on a club/theater tour because, Chamberlin says, "if the band was gonna be successful beyond our control we wanted to have one last chance to go out and play some intimate gatherings with reasonable conditions, as opposed to playing enormo-domes where if I don't wear my glasses I can't even see the front row."

Smashing Pumpkins climbed up from a Sub Pop single to a Caroline album ("Gish") to the current smash hit, "Siamese Dream" on Virgin. Corgan is their key cog - his dark dreams and furtive hopes course through songs that are, shall we say, generally more complex and varied than the competition's.

And that's where Smashing Pumpkins get into trouble with some purists. Or grungists. Whatever you want to call 'em. Smashing Pumpkins is fond of drama, unexpected key changes, multi-part structures and lush production techniques. Corgan has cited Queen and David Bowie (along with Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine) as influences. Chamberlin pushes that envelope even further.

"Me and Billy," he says, "were raised on mega-successful bands - Black Sabbath, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Scorpions, ELO. When I think rock 'n' roll I think Big Rock Show. As much as a lot of alternative rockers disclaim their attachment to the prog-rock of the '70s, anybody who's my age 28 cannot deny the fact that they listened to that stuff on AM radio, that it was shoved down their throat. Even if I didn't like it, I had to listen to it."

And now . . .

"It's payback time!"

More seriously, Chamberlin says "we look at everything in terms of using the best of what we have to do whatever it is we need to do. If we're able to use great production tools and achieve what we're hearing in our heads, we'll go ahead and do it. To be scared to do that is just stifling yourself."

Return to the Band's Page