Jimmy Chamberlin Complex
Silent Uproar: I guess my first question is why now? Why do you feel that now is the proper time for a solo album?
Jimmy: Well basically there wasn’t a lot else to do. (laughs) I mean part of it was inspiration, but certainly some of it was from boredom as well. This is something I have been kicking around a long time and it is one of those things where you know you are going to do it and you are just waiting for the time to be right, and I think this was the right time. I haven’t done anything with the Pumpkins in a while and Zwan was over, so it seemed like the right time to start a new cycle.
SU: What happened with Zwan, it seemed to prematurely meet its end but we never really heard why?
Jimmy: Yeah, it just ended up being a kinda uninspired deal and it got away from the original concept which was everybody would be contributing and everybody would be writing. As time went on it seemed like Billy and I were doing a lot of the work as well, and we certainly weren’t wanting to go back into that roll, without selling millions of records anyway, you know. (laughs)
SU: Since you have been making music with Billy Corgan for so long, did it feel strange to be working on these songs and not have his direction, opinions, or just presence there?
Jimmy: Well yeah, I mean it was certainly kind of weird not having him around and the whole time he was working on his solo record as well so we kinda kept in touch throughout the recording process for both of our projects because I think for both of us it was a little weird.
His record is real electronic and doesn’t really benefit from a lot of drumming, but certainly in my job as a lyricist I was kinda reaching out to him for help. We were on the phone a lot talking about lyrics and drum beats. So it was a bit weird and certainly it kinda put the record in the right spot when he did contribute his vocals. Then actually two weeks ago I was in Chicago working on some drums for his new record, so I think our musical relationship is still somewhat reciprocal.
SU: Are there any plans for a full-on musical collaboration in the form of a new band with Billy somewhere down the road?
Jimmy: Oh yeah, I wouldn’t count that out. We are still best friends and still enjoy making music together. I think this cycle is important for us to do. For one, just to kind of show people that with or without a name brand, we are still music lovers and this is still something we are going to pursue no matter where the decimal point falls. But yeah, we certainly talk a lot about working together in the future and when you have a relationship like that with someone you want to exploit it as much as you can.
SU: How did you go about choosing a record label for this release? I imagine you had a good bit of interest.
Jimmy: Well Sanctuary is kinda the new artist friendly game in town and I have known Merck, the President, for a long time. Merck is kinda the last of a dieing breed of record company executives. He is someone who I have actually been to his house and listened to records and talked about music. So Merck and I have a really good understanding of music and what it is about and we are both big fans of early prog rock stuff. So Sanctuary seems like the right place to do something like this.
They are only label I was really interested in working with because I know a lot of people there and I know they have the capacity to work with something like this. If you take a record like this to someone like Warner Brothers, they are just going to look at you and say “OK, where is the hit song? What do we do with this, and where is the video?” It turns into a product instead of a piece of art. I think with Sanctuary you can really branch out and do stuff like this and have people within the corporation who are excited about working something that is a little more challenging then whatever super start pop stuff.
SU: In reading around about you, a lot of people mention your Jazz background and say that is sort of where you are coming from musically. Is that an accurate statement?
Jimmy: I think that is kind of what people say, but certainly I went through a lot of rock when I was a kid. Some of my earliest influences were people like Duke Ellington, so those were there. I think if you wanted to call be a Jazz player it is more about the way I listen to music then how I play or write.
SU: Do you feel that has an impact on your style as a drummer?
Jimmy: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think if you were to ask me who my favorites were, I would have to say Buddy Rich, Gene Crooper, Alvin Jones and people like that. Certainly my influences come from John Bonham and Keith Moon as well, but I think the way I hear music is more inductive of something like Crooper or Tony Williams.
SU: Define success for the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex?
Jimmy: I think it already is a success. I think the response to the record has been overwhelmingly good, I think just the vibe around the record has been really positive, and I think the love within the band has been really good.
We didn’t go out and spend a lot of money on the record, we didn’t go in trying to write hit singles, we just went in trying to make some honest music. I think that really came through and I think that is part of the charm of the record. As far as I am concerned, it is already a success and anything that happens after this is just icing on the cake.
SU: I agree with you about the feel of the record, and my initial reaction was just that it didn’t feel contrived at all. It felt very honest and real.
Jimmy: Thank you. And that was kind of the thing you know, we didn’t have the money to sit in the studio for a year and try and write hit songs. We did the whole record in 45 days and that is writing, arranging, recording, and mixing from start to finish. I think because we did it in that short a time frame, a lot of it is really really intuitive and honest. We didn’t have a lot of time to brainstorm so basically it all just came from the heart and if it sounded good we put it on the record. I think that is what people are attracted to initially. In a world of over thought Pro-Tool three minute operettas something like this is really refreshing.
SU: Do you think that will always be your approach? If you go on to do another record, will you try and stick with the tight recording schedule again to preserve that vibe?
Jimmy: I don’t know. I think the whole kind of model for the band is to be really free and do whatever we want. I talked possibly about doing a kind of dance record with three drummers. I can see maybe getting myself and Steve Perkins and someone else to do a 128 bmp album of music, which I think would be really cool. So I don’t know, the next record may be completely left or it may be more of the same. It just depends on where we end up and what we start writing.
SU: I know that Billy Mohler was a big part of writing some of the songs for this record. So do you consider it your solo record or see it as more of a collaboration with Billy?
Jimmy: No, I don’t see it as a solo project. I actually went to Mohler about halfway through the record when I was feeling sketchy about putting my name on it just because I knew it was a collaboration. It was him who said he thought it is important that people see my name and attach it to the integrity of it all. If the band totally takes off and we remain a band, then I think we will call the next record “The Complex” and we will take my egotistical moniker off of it.
SU: Other than Billy, who will be featured in the touring band when you go on tour next year? Is it all the people who helped while recording?
Jimmy: Yeah, it is the same four guys on the record and the other three guys are actually taking on the vocal duties as well. It has been amazing to find out those guys are actually really good singers because I was really dreading having to go out and kinda troll LA for a singer. We have been rehearsing with those guys taking on the vocal duties and I think it is going to be really good. Then of course we will have your occasional guest singer as well.
SU: Does it feel weird to have someone else singing songs that you wrote most of the lyrics for?
Jimmy: Not really because I have never sang my own songs to begin with. If anything it felt a little weird handing Corgan some lyrics and telling him how to sing it even though what he sang was nothing like I intended it to be, it was actually about 20 times better. So the weirdness came about when I was sending Billy Corgan the lyrics and asking what he thinks about this. It would be the same as him sending me kinda lame drum beats and going, “Oh, how’s this”. But he was great and he was a great sounding board. When you first start writing lyrics it is a very terrifying thing, and to have someone like that who you can bounce ideas off of and to have someone you can trust who tells you not to be afraid to say this or that. He was a really valuable part of the lyric writing.
SU: Will this be your first time playing live shows since the last Zwan shows?
Jimmy: Yeah, aside from some instructional drumming things I have done, this will be the first band thing since Zwan.
SU: Do you enjoy touring, or do you prefer being at home recording and writing music.
Jimmy: You know I enjoy it all in moderation. Certainly I like to get out and play for people, but it is nice to be calling the shots so I don’t have to go out for two months at a time and can instead go out in little spurts.
SU: What person or band would you say has had the biggest influence on your music?
Jimmy: I would probably say the biggest influence on my music would be Duke Ellington. As a humanitarian and an artist, I think he is someone who really did it right and he is someone who never compromised his art despite all of the stuff going on around him. With people being hung and all that kind of stuff in the 30s all the way through the race riots of the 60s, he never toned it down.
As far as a mentor, I don’t know…Jesus? (laughs) I don’t know. I try to be a good person and anyone who kinda follows that path is a good role model.
SU: What is the most ridiculous thing that you have asked for on your tour rider over the years?
Jimmy: Oh god. Jeez…a jet? (laughs).
SU: Did you get it?
Jimmy: Probably, that is how insane it was, you know.
SU: If you could, would you want to be back in the Pumpkins glory days? Or now that you have grown older and wiser, do you prefer the lower key environment this new project allows you.
Jimmy: Yeah, I think it was good and it was a great experience, but I think it had its time. Certainly that had a lot to do with the age that everyone was back then and to put myself back at that point, I don’t think it would be the same. It’s like the idea or the obsession looks great, but in reality it is always a let down. (laughs) So I would rather just think about it being way cooler than it actually was and just leave it at that. However, if we were going to do something now and we could do it on our own terms, I would be into trying it.
SU: In reading through your website, you don’t seem to hide your feelings about the current administration here in the US. What do you think it will take to turn things around?
Jimmy: I really don’t know and I think the dividedness in the country is the first time it has really been like this since the Civil War. I certainly don’t think people are going to take up arms and fight over it, but I think it is going to take education. I think the un-education of America has been the triumph of the politicians and I think the dumber they can keep people, the more they can slide under the table. I think, America needs to put their marbles in the education system and make their children as smart as they possibly can be so this type of stuff isn’t allowed to happen just because everyone is too smart.
SU: Is Bush the problem or would there just have been someone else if it wasn’t him?
Jimmy: No, I don’t think you can put it on any one person’s shoulders, and I don’t think George Bush is a bad person. Certainly he’s got an idea and I think what he’s doing is what he thinks is right. You can’t fault someone for doing what they think is right no matter where your opinion falls. I think it is up to parents in America to educate their children and I think it is up to individual people that pay taxes in America to educate themselves.
SU: Any final works on that topic or things you think people should hear?
Jimmy: I don’t think anyone should listen to my opinion on politics at all. I don’t pretend to be some wise old sage, I just know what works for me and the more I can educate myself, the more I can form an educated opinion about what is going on. If I sit around drinking beer and complaining about stuff without educating myself to the where’s and why’s, that really doesn’t make a lot of sense.
SU: If you had to place your musical career on a musical life timeline with one end being just getting started and the other end being ready to throw in the towel, where would you fit?
Jimmy: I am just getting restarted. (laughs)I have a towel in my pocket and I won’t be afraid to use it. (laughs) I think every time you do something new it is exciting and I haven’t been this excited about playing music in a long time. It feels really fresh and it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like a lot of fun to do. It is a ton of work steering this ship, but it is totally paying off.