Re: Jimmy Chamberlin
Here is an interview with Jimmy a couple months ago, from a French magazine called "Batterie" -- this is a translation. Lots of great info about himself and his bands. He also talks about his sound and there's a picture of his current drumkit.
The rumor has been going around for quite some time: The Smashing Pumpkins could be coming back on stage with a brand new record. Jimmy Chamberlin confirms this, and much more.
Jimmy Chamberlin is probably one of best and most inspiring drummers of his time. As being comfortable in not only the universe of both Smashing Pumpkins and Zwan, but also the jazz/fusion and prog rock world of his very own band, Jimmy Chamberlin Complex, he may be the only drummer capabile of joining the strength of John Bonham and grace of Gene Krupa. Coming to California, our team decided to contact Jimmy. He agreed to meet us, under the condition that he does not reveal anything promotional pertaining to the band. Although, he did reveal the essential: The spirit is great in the band of Billy Corgan, and the record is in the works. Let's rock!
Q: We know that you don't want to talk about The Smashing Pumpkins. But can you at least tell us how far you are into everything?
A: We began last year in a discreet manor. We got back on track very well, and have had a lot of fun writing new songs and simply playing together. It's cool.
Q: Have you written a lot of songs?
A: We already have something like fifty songs written. We're very creative and will give some official news soon.
Q: Just one last thing (about the Pumpkins): Are D'Arcy and James Iha in the band?
A: To be honest, I don't want to talk about this subject. We have the songs, and we're preparing a new record. Please, let's leave it as this and talk about something else. (Note: Jimmy is a bit annoyed).
Q: Okay. Sorry to bug you about that. (Next question): Besides your bands, do you do a lot of sessions?
A: No, I only do a few, and only for my friends. Going into the studio is a lot of pressure for me, so I'm not like that. Also, I'm a sensitive guy, and the idea of selling my drumming to everyone is unbearable to me. I have friends, like Josh Freese, who do that job perfectly. That's their thing. But on the other hand, I do like to participate in learning events. I find them enjoyable.
Q: ...for what reasons?
A: To me, the clinics represent a rare opportunity for me to explain to people who I am, where I'm from artistically, and why I play the way I do. For my fans, it's the only way they can approach me personally and learn from what I have to share for inspiration. It's impossible to do something like that during a big rock concert.
Q: You know a lot about technique. That must be interesting.
A: I don't talk about technique. I must be the only one in clinics to talk about songwriting, and the role of the drums in songwriting. I also demonstrate my interpretation of funky rhythms. But I insist on writing music, even lyrics.
Q: You mean the lyrics of a song make you play in a different way?
A: Of course. I understood this while playing with The Smashing Pumpkins. The lyrics play a very important part in the mood of the band. I've realized while listening to the radio that a lot of drummers are completely off track. The singer tells a sweet and touching story, and the drummer is making noise over it. Here, I tell myself "this guy has a problem. He must be either deaf or disturbed." (Laughter). I believe that too many drummers play for themselves, and that's bad. I often use "Disarm" from the Pumpkins as an example. When I listened to Billy Corgan sing that song, I was touched by its simplicity. I told him, "you know, I don't hear drums on this song. I will put a bit of a mood with the timbales and cymbals on some parts, and nothing more." To me, that much was obvious. The part that I played on "Tonight, Tonight" is also very special for a rock tune. It's once again the lyrics that inspired me. I write lyrics for my own band as well.
Q: Are you satisfied with the success that you received for your first record with Jimmy Chamberlin Complex, "Life Begins Again"?
A: I'm very satisfied. For a record with a progressive mood, it has received some success. A few big radio stations have played some songs. I didn't expect that. The sales were good, and the record label is asking me to record another one, so they liked the music and they also must have made some money.
Q: "Loki Cat" (with Billy Corgan on vocals) is beautiful.
A: That makes me happy, because this song means a lot to me. I'm proud that Billy came to participate, after all we've been through together. There was no money to make, no commerical moves -- he just naturally decided to contribute. A great musician and friend.
Q: So, this next Complex record... when do you plan on recording it?
A: I need to wait to have the inspiration to do it. I think, if everything goes as planned, it might be released at the beginning of next year. It's not easy to write for this band. There's a balance between the feeling of Jazz Rock, Progressive, and Rock, and it's very easy to break that and be off track. When we were recording for the first time, the songs were written and recorded very fast. I think that may have helped us.
Q: Do you have a lot of drummers among your friends?
A: You know, we all know each other. In the USA, the drummers' community is so small. Terry Bozzio, Peter Erskine, Gregg Bisonette, Thomas Lang, Steve Smith, Mike Portnoy, Dave Grohl, Josh Freese, Taylor Hawkins. They're all my friends, and we like to see each other and spend good times together.
Q: By the way, Steve Hewitt asked me to salute you.
A: If you catch him, tell him I can't wait to see him again, and that I love Placebo's music. I'm proud that he likes what I do, and that he says good things about me, because he's a good drummer.
Q: In your opinion, why is there so much love among drummers?
A: You have to believe that ego is not proportional to the size of the instrument, if you know what I mean. (Laughter). It's hard to tell. Being a drummer is a hard job. Often it can be ungrateful, when you think about the cost of the gear when you start. And, mainly because of the responsibilities you're facing. We must help each other to survive, I think that's why.
Q: When will you come back to France?
A: With The Smashing Pumpkins, I'll be back during the year, that's for sure. But I'd like to do some clinics in France and spend some time there, just like I did in Britian. I like France a lot.
Q: Really? Aren't you trying to be demagogic on this one?
A: Absolutely not. I was on vacation in France in 1997 I think, and I liked everything. The food, the people, and the culture. I can't wait to come back.
The secret of his sound (by Jimmy Chamberlin):
I'm a big fan of ambient mics and rooms. They are, to me, very important, because they are responsible for providing the natural sound of the drums. They are a little bit like the ears of the audience that would be 10 meters away from me when I'm playing. The proximity mics in front of each element and the panoramics don't tell the truth. They mislead the sound and how we feel the drums. I know that when Led Zeppelin would record, there would be no proximity mics, except for just on the snare and kick. The room did all the work. In general, during the mix, I ask the engineer to under-mix the direct takes, and to push the ambience. That's how I head rock.