|Rolling Stone Interview|
|January 31, 1998, 11:00 pm|
Source: Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone. Iss. 780 February 1998 [No Day]
James Iha plays guitar in one of the world's most operatically rockin' bands, and all he really wanted to do was hole up in his basement in Chicago and record an album of sweet pop and spare country tunes. Go figure. The job of smashing pumpkins guitarist might be all about rage and rats in cages, but Iha's first moonlighting gig, "Let it Come Down," confines itself strictly to the wonders of the L word, as in "Lover, Lover" and "The Sound of Love"
At the time of this writing, Iha is in a Los Angeles studio recording a new pumpkins album with bandmates Billy Corgan and D'arcy-"Billy was talking about doing a full-on electronic record, but this is more of a hybrid of acoustic and some electronic elements, "Iha says, but he's happy to take a break to talk about his solo outing. After all it provides a little peace and quiet.
Rolling Stone: You play in a group famous for it's melodrama. Why didn't you comment on that in any of your songs?
James Iha: I didn't consciously write the record the way it is. I've had some of these songs for a little while. I guess I didn't really feel like commenting on anything else but love.
Rolling Stone: Are any of the songs about your relationship with D'arcy?
James Iha: (laughs) Um. I don't know.
Rolling Stone: Of course you do.
James Iha: Songs are seldom about one person. About half the record might be about one person, and the other half is just about other people and situations.
Rolling Stone: Will the person know these songs are about her?
James Iha: Well, the person was there when I wrote a lot of these songs.
Rolling Stone: Not playing bass by any chance?
James Iha: No (Laughs) Me and D'arcy are just really good friends. Back then I was writing instrumental songs. It took a long time before I could really write and sing.
Rolling Stone: What's your usual impression when guitarists make their own solo albums?
James Iha: it always seems pretty dubious. That's one thing I really wanted to avoid. I didn't want to make a watered-down pumpkins record.
Rolling Stone: So how does a Japanese-American kid growing up in a big city end up loving country music so much?
James Iha: The older I get, I'm drawn more toward (the music of) Gram Parsons, the Byrds, Neil Young. When the band's on tour, especially last year, it's just rock. Twentyfour hours a day. When I went back to my hotel room, the last thing I wanted was a Marshall stack.
Rolling Stone: You're also a big eagles fan. Did you see any of the reunion shows?
James Iha: No, I do have an eagles tour t-shirt though, but I was shunned by the other members of the band for wearing such an atrocity, so I don't wear it much.
Rolling Stone: Are things fairly stable in the Pumpkins now?
James Iha: We don't really have a drummer that's a member of the group. But other than that, we're fine. We were joking about it because it actually goes back to the original group. We played our first show ever with a drum machine.
Rolling Stone: All the band troubles make for good headlines, but is the reality harder than people realize?
James Iha: I don't want to over-romanticize anything that happens ina rock band, but, yeah, it's really insane to keep the Pumpkins juggernaut going sometimes. We just thought we were done for if we didn't carry on and finish out tour.
Rolling Stone: Did you record a solo album partly to have a fallback for whenever the Pumpkins break up?
James Iha: I talked to the band about doing this record, and I knew that last summer was probably the only break I'd have. It was either that now or a couple of years from now.
Rolling Stone: You're also part owner of a record label, Scratchie records, which you and D'arcy help run. What was the last crisis you had to deal with as VP of A&R?
James Iha: There's always [a] crises. The alternative rock world is a hard road. There are so few slots on the radio and MTV, and in magazines.
Rolling Stone: Because they're being taken by bands like the Smashing Pumpkins.
James Iha: Right. There has to be some new thing to tear us down.
Rolling Stone: Most of the time, Billy does the interviews. Is there something you've wanted the chance to talk about?
James Iha: I guess you write songs so that you don't have to tell people what you're about.
Rolling Stone: If you end up in a stable, happy relationship, will your songs change?
James Iha: Probably...I don't want to talk about my personal life.
Rolling Stone: But you wrote a very personal album.
James Iha: Right, I guess that's why. But I'm in a good relationship. It's just weird. I've never had to talk this much just about me.
Rolling Stone: Well you're a hopeless romantic.
James Iha: Sue me. I'm sensitive.