February 9, 1998, 12:00 am [Unedited] RockLine Interview
February 9, 1998
RockLine: First song, 'Be Strong Now', Set that up for us and tell us what prompted the writing of that song.
James Iha: It's a crazy song...
RockLine: No, It's not.
James Iha: It's a song I wrote about this really depressed girl I know who's got really bad self-esteem and I just sort of imagined what it would be like if she had someone she could talk to because she doesn't really talk to many people. If she had like a family member, or a boyfriend, or a best friend. It's kind of like an imaginary sort of love song.
RockLine: And it came out musically just like this:
*Be Strong Now*
RockLine We're going to take our first call tonight from New York. It's Rick on the line:
Rick: Hello James. What's your favorite song off 'Let it Come Down' and was it a difficult transition from being a guitarist for a group to a solo artist?
James Iha: The first question, I don't know, I like all the songs, 'Cause I wrote 'em. But, the key tracks that I like on the album are 'Be Strong Now', 'Sound of Love', 'Beauty'. It's weird because no one has heard the album yet so I'm just naming titles. And the second question, Yeah, it was difficult because just basically I didn't have a band on this record and I had to in act a band, do everything, so it was great just to write songs and do them the way I heard them, sing them, but at the same time it was a lot of pressure just to always... everyday I wake up I gotta make something happen or nothings gonna happen.
RockLine: You're the boss
James Iha: Yeah, I was the boss. It was a brutal job but I think it was really good though to do.
RockLine: From Mazoola -?- , Montana , Mike you're on Rockline:
Mike: Hi. I was wondering what were your influences growing up? Musical influences?
James Iha: I like a lot of different kinds of music. Rock, pop, country, folk, R&B, slow jams. I don't know if there was any one defining influence on my record but I've always just liked good bands. Like when I was in junior high I used be into new wave, like The Pretenders, or The Clash. In high school I used to be kind of in the second new wave, like The Smiths, and R.E.M., things like that. You know, like hard rock things, Zeppelin, Janes Addiction.
RockLine: Do you have a favorite 1980's band? Anybody that really stands out?
James Iha: Hmm...
RockLine: You tend to like things that are well recorded. That you can listen to and hear more -?- as you listen to them.
James Iha: I think like anything else, Songs are going to be a real test of time for any band or any singer and to have good sounding records helps it. It doesn't necessarily mean a slick record, just something that's listenable that gives you something every time.
RockLine: We have James to talk to James in Middletown, New York:
James: Hey, I'd like to know if you are going to be having a solo tour happening, and if you do when and where?
James Iha: I'm going to go to London about a week with one of the people who played on my record, this guy Neal Casal, who's this really excellent singer/songwriter and he sings a lot of the harmony and plays really good guitar, So we're probably going to be this acoustic duo. We'll do some promotional stuff over there, kinda see how it goes and I'm hoping I can do some small bars or clubs in America in some major cities.
RockLine: Brian's turn as we head to Norrilands, Louisiana:
Brian: Hi James. I was wondering what you would have been if you hadn't become a musician?
James Iha: Oh God. I don't know. Before the rock began, I was a college student going to Loyola University in Chicago. I was an art student. I could have been something. I don't know what I would have done. I probably would have just been a loser, which I haven't strayed far from.
RockLine: I don't know about that.
James Iha: This is 'Sound of Love' by James Iha:
*Sound of Love*
RockLine: We have a call from Flin Flon, Manitoba. This is Lisa:
Lisa: Hey James. I'd like to know, if you could see any band live who would they be and how has this band influenced your career?
James Iha: Hmmm...
RockLine: Whether they're performing now or not, just anybody.
James Iha: Well, I don't know if I have, like I was saying earlier, like a defining influence but I don't know... Jimi Hendrix and Cole Porter. I don't know who.
RockLine: How long have you been singing? Out of curiosity, because you sound very melodic and nice on this album.
James Iha: Oh, Thanks. I've been singing for like 3 or 4, 5 years I've just been starting to write songs with lyrics and vocals because I used to do just instrumentals before and just slowly I've been getting into it more and more. Just being a regular singer/ songwriter.
RockLine: Let's see what Gina has to say in San Antonio, Texas:
Gina: Hi James. My question, What is the craziest thing a fan has ever done to you?
James Iha: I was just telling somebody the other day that people always ask me about my dog Bugg because he was in the first Pumpkins CD, there was a picture of my dog Bugg. I can't say it's the craziest thing, I don't know what the craziest is, but in concerts people will have banners, raise them up 'How's Bugg?'. It's great, I mean it's really nice.
RockLine: How did you arrive at that name? I gotta ask you about that.
James Iha: Bugg? He's just very bugg. If you could see him, he's got big eyes, he's like a Weimreiner-Husky, and he just makes this face and sticks out his tongue.
RockLine: We head to Stevensville, Michigan. Here's Travis:
Travis: Hi. How old were you when you were in your first band?
James Iha: I was 3 years old. I started young. No, I was like 15 or 14.
RockLine: What was the name of the band and I assume you were playing the guitar?
James Iha: Right. The first band I was ever in was called The Feds. We were kind of punky, kind of, I don't know, It's like your first band. I don't know how to describe it. We were punky, mid-western, garage rock.
RockLine: Did you get real gigs and everything where you got money?
James Iha: We played in my basement in my parent's house and we played at someone else's junior high or something like that.
RockLine: Do you have a favorite solo record by an artist best known for work with a band?
James Iha: I really like that record by Chris Bell. He used to be in a band called Big Star. It was kind of like a seminal, 70's, pop, rock group that never really had much acclaim until like, now. He's got really great songs, great voice. Kind of poppy, melancholy, sad, acoustic, rock. It's good.
RockLine: We're going to play 'Beauty' right now. Why don't you tell us a little bit about this and what led to the writing of this song?
James Iha: To me this song is kind of like a euphoric, kind of pop song, and it kind of has a few nods to the 60's. Just kind of the 12 string open birdsy guitar. Just some lyrical nods. It's just all about love.
RockLine: Here's 'Beauty' now on Rockline:
RockLine: Nice work there, Beautiful.
James Iha: Oh, Thanks.
RockLine: You're friends with the women of Veruca Salt, right?
James Iha: uh, yeah.
RockLine: You Chicago bands kind of stick together and have that thing going on.
James Iha: Right.
RockLine: One of them sang on the album?
James Iha: Yeah, Nina. Nina Gordon. She's a friend of mine. She's a great singer, and they were just sort of in between tours and I just asked her to come down and bust out some vocal things. And she did.
RockLine: We have a call now from Sudbury, Ontario, Jason you're on:
Jason: Hey James. I'd just like to know, what were your best and worst moments performing at a concert or live?
James Iha: There were some really bad shows. There was this one festival, we were terrible. There was this one show we played in Texas where someone threw this hiking boot. Like a size 12 D hiking boot. Hit me square in the face. I never saw it coming, I just got hit with it. It was just like blank, there was nothing I could do about it. High points? I don't know, We played a lot of good shows.
RockLine: We're going to take a call from Manhattan, Kansas. Kevin you're on Rockline:
Kevin: I was wondering, did you ever take guitar lessons?
James Iha: I did for a little bit. I can't even remember how long I took for but I think most of it I learned in the band, and in the first band I was in. Just kind of forcing myself to play.
RockLine: Do you read or play by ear?
James Iha: I don't read or I don't really write anything down. The band generally doesn't write anything down on paper.
RockLine: Do you collect guitars?
James Iha: Yeah, I got a few guitars, down in the basement.
RockLine: Back to San Antonio, Krissy you're on Rockline:
Krissy: The hiking boot thing, I think was in Housten.
James Iha: Oh, really?
RockLine: I gotta ask, Krissy how did you know that?
Krissy: I know a lot of people that went and it was kind of a joke over the radio when they came down here on the Mellon Collie tour.
James Iha: That's not a funny joke.
RockLine: Do you know who the boot thrower is?
Krissy: I do not know, I was the boot thrower. I'm sorry.
Krissy: I wanted to know, What was the scariest dream you ever had?
James Iha When I have like stress related dreams I have this re-occuring nightmare that I'm taking a math test. I don't know why. It's probably just being in college, I'm really bad at math so thats my stress dream. I'm forced to take a math test and I look at the test and I'm like 'I don't know an answer to a single question on this test and it just feels like the worst thing.
RockLine: We're going to play 'Jealousy' now. Was it inspired by reality or just imagination?
James Iha: The thing I like most about the track it feels like a good, jammy, band feel kind of song and it's really poppy. It's got some pretty melodies in it. That's what I like about it best.
RockLine: Here's 'Jealousy' by James Iha:
RockLine: We have another call for James. Here's Casey in Youngstown:
Casey: Hi. Some musicians have a favorite place or space that their creative juices flow naturally. Do you have one of these places?
James Iha: Yeah, actually I do. I write a lot of songs in the bathroom. Because I really like the sound of the tiles in the bathroom from my voice and I like the sound of running water. I've always been into that. It's like a really neurotic thing of mine. I used to do homework when I was younger in the bathroom.
RockLine: I've heard of bands recording at least one instrument in the bathroom to get that kind of echo to it.
James Iha: Right. It's kind of like why people sing in the shower. Their voice just sort of resinates and then you get out of the bathroom and you realize 'Oh God, that's a terrible song!' It sounded great in the bathroom. But it helps me.
RockLine: James, I would be remiss in not asking you about Smashing Pumpkins Where do they stand with the new album and what's going on with the band that you're a part of?
James Iha We're almost done recording the record and Flood is coming in to mix the record and it's going to be groovy.
RockLine: Thanks for coming by on Rockline. Good luck with this and we hope to see you tour.
James Iha: Oh, ok. Thanks a lot.