By Anthony Bozza
One Of Chicago's Four Sonic Angels Rattles & Tattles
James Iha speaks in halting monosyllables that, on this particular day, were slowed down by fatigue, concentration, and having to endure 7 hours of phone interviews while trying to complete work on the b-sides for the Smashing Pumpkins' rock saga, Mellon Collie and the Infinite sadness. Friendly yet chilled, James waxed poetic on Reading, samples and, and, uh, Tricky.
HEY WHAT'S UP JAMES?
Oh, ya know, cold chillin', maxin' and relaxin'.
WELL, UM, HOW WAS READING?
Reading? um, it was ah, a mischievous debacle. It was like it was like a bunch of...dirty tired English...60,000 English...60,000 dirty tired English people rocking in the mud.
SOUNDS PRIMAL. DID YOU GUYS BUST OUT A LOT OF THE NEW TUNES?
Half old, Half new. It was a pretty good reaction actually. Yeah. It's pretty trying to ask an audience to hear, like, you know, six new songs out of twelve that they've never heard before, but I mean no one left, and it seemed like it kept their attention.
THERE'S A LOT MORE ORCHESTRATION ON THIS ALBUM AND JUST A LOT OF DIFFERENT SOUNDS. DID YOU STRIVE FOR THAT OR DID YOU JUST STAY BARE BONES?
It was definitely bare bones. We didn't have any other players with us, and basically, before we did the album, I'd say like 85-90% of the album we had played as like a four piece, like, you know,
dumb rock band, so, (mutual chuckle) it was easily reproducible in that sense.
HOW MANY SONGS DID YOU WRITE THIS TIME OUT?
I wrote two of the songs- the ones that end both sides of the CD. One's called "Take Me Down", one's called "Goodnight." Basically, it was much more of a band effort. That was something that Flood really wanted to get across. From the song writing point of view there was a lot of input from the band members as far as parts, arrangement ideas, you know, actual arrangements. And the recording was, um... Oh, God, I'm starting to reel off answers. Whew, I've been doing this all day. I'm on auto pilot.
Riiight. So basically the recording process was pretty neat in the fact that we had a lot more time to experiment. We did about half the recording in our practice space so it wasn't like the clock was ticking on us all the time, which was a good, un-self-concious-concious thing to do. When we went to a real studio we had two rooms going at the same time so basically everyone could always be putting down ideas or be putting down ideas or be putting down real solid takes of stuff.
DID YOU USE ANY EQUIPMENT YOU HADN'T USED BEFORE?
Well, we bought a lot of guitars and of a lot of old pedals. Stuff like that. Um, Flood has a lot of seventies style keyboards. Like Moogs and also sequencers. That's something we've never had access to. And he's very good with sampling, so there were subtle things, and there were real overt things like a drum loop. Like on "Porcelina" ["Porcelina of the Vast Oceans"] there's like, drum loops.
WAS JIMMY COOL WITH THAT? HE WASN'T LIKE "I'M A ROCK AND ROLL DRUMMER, DAMN IT."
After a certain time, you know, you're like "I don't really care. Whatever it takes to get the song done" And I think everyone felt that way.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE SINGLES ARE GOING TO BE?
"Bullet" ["Bullet With Butterfly Wings"] is the first single.
WHAT SONGS DO YOU SING ON?
I sing on one song, "Take Me Down"
AND THE REST IS ALL BILLY?
Actually D'Arcy sings a lot of harmonies and there's a few songs where she doubles the lead vocal. Then the last song on the album, all of us sing a verse.
THAT ONE'S REALLY PRETTY. I THOUGHT THAT WAS AVERY FITTING END TO SUCH AN EPIC PIECE.
Yeah. I mean it's also slightly cheesy, you know, in theory it sounds cheesy, but when you listen to it it's kind of, um, charming, I suppose.
I LIKE THAT BRIDGE ON "TAKE ME DOWN". I HOPE YOU DON'T TAKE THIS THE WRONG WAY, BUT IT KIND OF REMINDED ME OF A SHOW TUNE. (mutual laughs a plenty)
Someone told me it has a Disneyesque sort of feel, in a way.
DEFINITELY, ITS HAMMY, LIKE BROADWAY STUFF. SO, WHEN'S THE BIG TOUR?
Yeah, I'm sure we're going to do the big rock tour. It'll probably be in January.
YOU SHOULD GO ALL THE WAY. GET BIG PROPS AND STUFF.
Possibly. Lobster suits.
Spaceships. What have you?
HERE'S A LEFT FIELD-Y QUESTION FOR YOU. I WAS WONDERING IF YOU GUYS LET, TRICKY, AH, SAMPLE ON THE SONG "PUMPKIN"? HE HAS A GUITAR LINE FROM "SUFFER" ON THERE.
Are you sure?
I'M PRETTY POSITIVE.
WHAT IS THE GUITAR LINE LIKE?
It's like um...just...do you want me to sing it to you? It's just like the Indian sitar sounding, uh? you know... (sings it)
YEAH. AND IT ACTUALLY SOUNDS LIKE JIMMY'S DRUMS TOO, JUST SLOWER.
IT'S JUST SCAT. IT'S LIKE DOOM-CHUK...DOOM.
Oh, I never heard about that
AND YEAH, AND CAUSE THE SONG'S CALLED "PUMPKIN" TOO. YOU KNOW, I THOUGHT...
I don't know...if Billy knows about that, or if anybody knows about that.
UH-OH, I'M CAUSING A LAWSUIT. SO, ARE YOU TIRED? READY TO TAKE A BREAK?
ARE YOU HAPPY THESE DAYS?
Yeah, I'm alright. I'm just sort of...even.
Just cruisin' on.