Welcome to
JamesIha.org! An informative site about musician James Iha.

The Smashing Pumpkins
James Iha Bulletin Board


Site WWW Gallery Media James Home
Pumpkins carve out faithful following
March 17, 1994, 11:00 pm

Source: Pantagraph

Pumpkins carve out faithful following; [FINAL Edition]
DAN CRAFT. Pantagraph. Bloomington, Ill.: Mar 18, 1994. pg. B.1

A year ago, Smashing Pumpkins and their edgy guitar-driven sound were still lodged at the cult Chicago alternative rock band level.

Today, the Pumpkins are big enough that they can indulge the luxury of declining all interview requests on a hotly anticipated national tour that kicks off Wednesday in Illinois State University's Redbird Arena (7:30 p.m.; a few tickets remain).

And not only interview requests. Along with Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins were the most notable no-shows at the recent Grammy Awards, where their acclaimed "Siamese Dreams" was nominated for Best Alternative Music album.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Records said the Pumpkins' imposed silence has come after a year of heavy press coverage, including several interviews in which band members felt they "got burned."

The reticent group is scheduled to arrive in Bloomington-Normal at 8 a.m. Monday, fast on the heels of a European tour, for two days of rehearsals at Redbird Arena.

"That's about all we know now," said Jane Compagna of ISU's Student Life & Programs Office earlier this week. "We don't even know when they'll be eating yet."

The Virgin Records spokeswoman said the rehearsals likely would be off-limits to local media, too.

With "Siamese Dreams" still a big seller and its first single, the chime-punctuated "Disarm," crossing over into the Top 40 mainstream, Smashing Pumpkins have come a long way since they first convened in 1987 and adopted as their label what lead singer and guitarist Billy Corgan has called "a stupid name - a minor joke."

Buttressed by Corgan's impassioned songwriting prowess, the band - bass player D'Arcy, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and guitarist James Iha - began making waves on the Chicago club circuit during the late '80s and early '90s, snaring a pivotal high-profile opening act gig for Jane's Addiction at the city's alternative mecca, Cabaret Metro.

(For the record, drummer Chamberlin has an area connection: his older sister, Pat Sfondilias Kunkel, lives in Heyworth and is employed at GTE North in Bloomington.)

In 1991, the band collaborated with Nirvana producer Butch Vig on the independently released album, "Gish," which inspired critical raptures and sold 350,000 copies - almost unheard of for an indie release. National exposure came when the song "Drown" was included on the soundtrack for the movie "Singles" and a cover version of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils' "Jackie Blue" was part of the "20 Explosive Hits of the '70s" compilation album.

But in the insular Chicago rock community, the band's breakout success was anything but embraced.

In an interview with Spin, Iha said "at the time, Chicago was such an oppressive musical community. We didn't represent anything from any of those scenes."

"We were just viewed as outsiders," Corgan told Alternatice & Press.

And yet, along with other nationally praised offshoots from "those scenes," including Liz Phair and Urge Overkill, Smashing Pumpkins has helped Chicago wrest away the title of Cutting Edge Rock Capital from Seattle.

The 26-year-old Corgan, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, is averse to the hype over the band's billing as "four Chicago non-hipsters" who have "mustered every possible combination of tone and dynamic in order to crush `heavy rock' into the dust and swallow `pop' whole."

In the official Virgin Records press release for "Siamese Dreams," Corgan says, "I came to terms with the fact that I could never be completely happy with the actual music. So that's not what I was focusing on. I made the emotional commitment that I wanted to on this record, which is all I cared about."

He told The Associated Press the band was nearly crushed by the burden of expectations that accompanied the making of "Siamese Dreams" during a period of writer's block and painful intra-band turmoil (the album's liner notes refer to it as having been assembled in a "rare display of unity").

Said Corgan: "Smashing Pumpkins has never been a band about hit songs, but suddenly in the wake of all these alternative acts selling millions of records, all of a sudden it was expected we would become that. And so it was a really strange position to be in."

Strange, but true: "Siamese Dreams" debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard album chart last summer and has hovered thereabouts for well over half a year, followed by critical raves, sold-out concerts and a Grammy nomination.

In the AP interview, Corgan's press-shy nature came to the fore when he was asked about his musical influences.

"I used to gladly talk about it, but all that's been used against me," he said. "Rather than cite the Sex Pistols or obscure punk rock bands, I was citing arena rock bands of the early '70s, bands you're not supposed to like. Suddenly we were tagged as like a '70s retro band, which to me just demeans anything I stand for."
PHOTO; Caption: Smashing Pumpkins kicking off their national tour next week at ISU with two days of rehearsals and a Redbird Arena concert, are, fromleft: lead singer Billy Corgan, bass player D'Arcy, drummer Jimmy Chamberline and guitarist James Iha.

Credit: Dan Craft