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 Pumpkins?
J: "Itís a reaction to a lot of the touring. We were touring from January í96 to February í97, which is a lot of shows, and every night weíd play really long sets with a lot of distortion and heavy drums. Itís 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 Corganís 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 donít really expect to have 11 of my songs on the next Pumpkins record, because itíd just be, like, ĎWhat?í The fans expect Billyís voice and his style of writing. Have we become a corporate entity? I wouldnít say that. I feel like the record Iíve made is very personal and, for want of a better word, James-like, and I think itís better that itís a solo record than that we change the bandís whole production and writing."
I: Are any of the songs on the album about your relationship with Díarcy?
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 thatís on ĎVieuphoriaí [Pumpkins video anthology] that goes [sings in eerie falsetto] "Buuuug". Itís really bad."
I: Whatís the best joke Billy Corganís ever told you?
J: "ER [interminable pause]. Heís actually very funny, but I donít really think we tell a lot of jokes. We do impersonations, and fictional re-creation of events, but nothing youíd really call jokes. I do impressions of Yoda, Worf off Star Trek, Nicolas Cageís character in Peggy Sue Got Married."
I: Did you get to meet the cast when in The Simpsons (the Homerpaloozaí episode)?
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 youíre saying stuff like ĎLetís all go out and buy fur coats!í, itís pretty funny anyway."
I: Are you convinced by Courtney Loveís transformation?
J: "[Uneasily] Itís 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. Sheís nice, we always tended to get along. I havenít seen her in a while."
I: You seem very positive about relationships. Are you one of those annoying people whoíve never been chucked?
J: "Not really. I never really had a girlfriend until I was 19, so Iíve had my share of weird relationships."
I: Is it difficult to maintain relationships when youíre in a band as successful as The Smashing Pumpkins?
J: "yeah, especially when youíre touring. When the other person has their own career itís really difficult to meet up. Iím not trying to romanticize it, you get used to it. [Wistfully] I do sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a 9 to five job, though. I was in art school, so Iíd maybe be a fine artist. When I was a kid I used to go round on my bike picking up films but I canít 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 Jumpsteady James. Did I get called James Yee-ha? Well sure but itís 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 ĎLongí or ĎShortí. I had the Mrs. Robinson streaks 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 Show.
J: "Itís 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 thereís a fair few mullets out there."
I: What was the last fancy-dress costume you wore?
J: "For the last video we rented these Ď20s-style outfits, and I had a suit for a man. I donít think Iíve ever been to a fancy-dress party, though. I would like to go to a costume ball. I think Iíd 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. Iím not a downhill skier myself, but I appreciate their skills. Iím sure if I so much as tried to put on a ski Iíd break my knee or something. Womenís curling? No, I didnít 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, yíknow, I wish all the teams well. Iím 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 Iíve 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 wifeís throat I just thought [sighs dramatically] ĎOh the humanity!í I saw it again and I cried again at the same part. Iíve gotta get out more."
I: What is the sound of one hand clapping?
J: "the sound? I canít 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, ĎTake the corner and then go straight ahead, straight as a banana.í They found it alright."
Page 122 Have you ever Walked out of an interview?
"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, ĎDid you see the body?í I just didnít think she was very tactful. I asked her not to go there and she went there."