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- April 25, 1981
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Topics I've Started
27 October 2012 - 07:56 AMHi gang,
Just to clarify something- MCIS was recorded communally wasn't it? I'd imagine Billy played a LOT of it, but D'arcy and James actually tracked a lot of their own parts, is that correct? I definitely remember interviews where they talked about their being several rooms and they'd all be working at once on different things... and not just on the tracks that were recorded live. James once claimed the solos were 50/50, although I'm not sure how reliable that is...
Or was that just a whitewash and it was all Billy? (as we know it was for SD, and I assume it largely was for Adore). I'd imagine the sheer amount of material put down for MCIS/Aeroplane must have made it difficult for Billy to do everything...
26 October 2012 - 04:28 AMHia. My editor still hasn't given me a date for when the article for this will run, so I thought- what the hell. Here's the full transcript direct to the audience who'll care about it the most. It's not the most riveting interview, it was over the phone from London, James wasn't feeling well and his tone was pretty standoffish- there are places where I'd like to have pushed more but I felt I'd lose him totally if I did. I was also specifically asked NOT to ask him too much about the Pumpkins or Billy.
He's a very closed subject. Maybe in person it would have been easier. Who knows. Anyway, read and enjoy. I'm off to listen to the MCIS box set promo again (I LOVE MY JOB).
How’s New York today?
It’s great but I got a cold so I might be blowing my nose throughout this interview
Don’t worry, I’ll try to block out the snuffles. So... first question. Did you always intend to leave it so long between leaving the Pumpkins and doing a record?
No. It just sort of happened. It happened over a very long period of time, obviously, when the Pumpkins broke up I worked in a recording studio, I started a label with my friend Adam Schlesinger, I started producing bands and doing remixes and I kind of got on the other side of music, doing stuff behind the scenes, and it kinda took a while for me to find inspiration, to find a newer sound for my solo stuff. Without a manager or a label kind of hounding me I just took my damn time making this record. Yer... I don’t know why it took so long.
It has a much dreamier sound than what you’ve done before, did you go in with that sound in mind?
Not really, it just sort of happened. Owning a studio I was able to try a lot of different kinds of sounds and layers, like keyboards and different guitar tones. It just happened that it’s more a layered record than a raw record, that’s probably why it sounds dreamy I guess.
Was it always important that it sounded different from your last solo record?
Yes. I definitely wanted it to be more reflective of some of my influences and some of the things that I’ve done in bands and producing wise.
Any influences specifically?
With some stuff, like the song ‘Gemini’ or the song ‘To Who Knows Where’ the process of recording those sort of guitar parts is more Pumpkins-like in some ways, and some songs like ‘Speed of Love’ it’s much more pop and there’s this four-on-the-floor drum beat, it’s sort of New Wave and pop, and with ‘Waves’ there’s this sort of synthy New Wave thing, there’s the quiet acoustic stuff and there’s stuff that’s a little more rock, more of a nod to the Pumpkins, then there’s New Wave stuff.
All the other projects you’re associated with, even Tinted Windows are very much ‘rock’ bands...was it always your intention to stay clear of the heavier stuff with this record?
I don’t know- whenever I start making music for my own singing I just don’t really like heavy duty riffs, I feel like it doesn’t sound right. It just doesn’t feel right for my voice, singing over super-heavy music.
You’ve been a full time musician for 25 years, but it’s rarely been by yourself. Do you prefer to be in a band? Do you enjoy collaborating?
It’s definitely hard doing a solo thing, putting it all together, finishing all the songs and the lyrics and getting it out there. At the same time, in a band you’re very much in a gang, it’s a family -somethings a dysfunctional family- it’s a totally different thing. I appreciate both sides of it, I still play with a A Perfect Circle and it’s great going back to that, and doing my own stuff.
Do you find doing interviews and stuff different on your own? Especially given how D’arcy and Billy could dominate Pumpkins interviews?
No, not especially. I’ve done enough interviews in my life to know how it works. It’s all part of the process if you want to make a record and you want people to hear it you have to get out and talk about the record. Like you say, I‘ve been doing this for so long it feels normal. Doing it with a band is a totally different kind of thing, but every band is.
How did you go about recruiting people for collaborations?
Mike Garson played with David Bowie in the 70’s and still plays with him today and he toured with the Pumpkins, I felt that song was a good fit for him and he was happy just to do his Mike Garson thing. Which was great. Some of the other collaborations, Tom Verlaine of Television was in the area to make a video, my engineer in the studio is friends with him and asked him to come and play on it, on the song ‘Appetitie’ Tom Verlaine and Mike Garson kind of have a duel. I live in New York so I know the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and they’re super nice people and I wanted super-nice people to come and play on my record. Most of the collaborations just sort of happened organically, I just emailed a couple of my friends, and my friend Nathan who helped produced the record asked some people he know if they could come and be on the record, it just kind of happened. I’m really happy with what everyone did on it, it sounds great.
Was there anyone who suprised you with what they did?
Definitely that song ‘Appetitie’ with Tom Verlaine and Mike Garson, it used to be this kind of acoustic bluesy song, and they kind of made it into this Cabaret Iggy Pop king of thing.
There’s a great video of you on the ‘Pisces Iscariot’ box set in 1988 and you look so young- who was that guy? What was he like?
I was just out of college and pretty naive. Very suburban, kind of a ncie guy. Really into music, but also really freaked out to be playing music.
Go forward ten years to the James that made your first album, had you changed a lot? And how about compared to the James of today?
This interviews pretty metaphysical. I guess around 1998 I was probably a little burned out from touring, we were doing massive touring at that time. It’s hard to say, I was excited to do something on my own. I felt like I had all these songs that didn’t necessarily fit the band, and I also just wanted to get away from high volume rock of the Pumpkins. It was just doing something different and on my own.
The way I am now I feel lucky, to have been in great bands and had times, I feel lucky to be able to play music still. I feel lucky to be able to do this record, and I still play with A Pefect Circle, we’ll probably get together and do stuff at the end of the year or early next year, it’s a great mix of things, I have a studio, I do stuff in New York and play with APC. It’s a good time.
I was always a big fan of your Smashing Pumpkins songs, over the summer you didn’t play any of the songs you wrote and sang, but you did play ‘Mayonaise’, I was wondering why that song?
I wanted to do an old song, and I had a very short list of Pumpkins-era songs I wanted to do. I didn’t really put much thought into it other than wanting to do an old Pumpkins song, I just tuned my guitar to the freaky tuning I used to write the song and I just thought it’d be nice. Nothing more than that.
Can we expect to see some of your Pumpkins stuff?
Yer, I’m working on that now. It’s definitely hard as a solo artist to fill out a whole a set, so I’m kind of working on that.
So are we going to have to wait another 15 years for another record?
I hope not. I feel like I could do another one much sooner, maybe in a two year time period as opposed to a 12 or 13 year time period.
Are you looking forward to going out and playing shows? I guess you’ve not had that much stage time making contact with an audience as a solo artist?
No, I guess not- I’ve only played like a handful of shows as a solo artist, it’s definitely scary but it should be fun, it should be exciting. But the guys I’m working with in New York are really pro and really good, so it should be fun.
Will we be seeing you in Europe?
We’re working on that right now. I hope so. I think so. I’d say, 85%
Do you have any favourite moments you’ve written?
On the new record I really like the song ‘To Who Knows Where’ which is kind of written in this open tuning, there’s a lot of cool guitar stuff sound wise. And also ‘Mayonaise’ is a good Pumpkins song I co-wrote. I don’t know what you call that tuning but I made up that tuning and it just has this sound, I don’t know, it’s something I’ll always be proud of- the music for that.
Anything else you’d like to talk about?
With putting out this record I don’t really have any expectations except that I hope enough people get to hear it and judge it on it’s own terms.
17 September 2012 - 11:51 PMSo i'm doing a phone interview James tomorrow for Drowned In Sound. Anything anyone wants to ask? I'm going to ask him about the obvious stuff (solo vs being in bands, why the long wait, a bit about the experience of Be Strong Now), and a bit more interesting stuff- why he chose to play Mayonaise, how he feels about his SP songs, maybe something on the reissue.
Anything else anyone would like to know? I'm curious as to how far I can push the "so Billy has been saying you're shit" line...
19 July 2012 - 03:26 AMRHETORICAL QUESTION ALERT.
Article in The Guardian based on the Daily Beast interview:
(For clarification: er... I wrote this. It's a fun rhetorical thing asking broader questions about music and identity, not a serious issue (I doubt Billy was being properly serious) or a dig at what I can confidently say is my favourite band (check my posting history, I've been an on/off O-board contributor since 1999), so try not to flame me for flippancy. Ta.)
09 July 2012 - 01:14 AMJust received this email...
QuoteYour back/special order has not yet arrived. Please know that we are working on getting it for you as soon as possible. As soon as it arrives, your order will be shipped! In the event the product becomes unavailable, we will notify you. Thank you for your patience.
Edit (added by Simon):
I looked into this and here's the official word from SPRC:
"Today our new fulfillment partner sent an automated e-mail notice via Topspin to all purchasers of Pisces Iscariot. It seems some of the wording was unclear and misleading. Please note: everything is on schedule for Pisces Iscariot to ship prior to release date as stated on our website and we are not back-ordered on anything related to Pisces Iscariot. We are however, out of Mens size XXL Cassette T's. Get those while you can- limited edition.
Thanks ~ SPRC."
So all in on track for Pisces.
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