The Smashing Pumpkins are far removed from their early ’90s to 2000 heyday, a spectacular run that began with the brilliant Gish, peaked with Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, and ended with the underrated Machina.
It’s a stretch of near-unparalleled creativity and acclaim that the band are unlikely to reach again, even as they’ve reformed with almost the entire original lineup and have got some grand musical plans that kicked off with the recently-released Cyr.
But for drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, that’s perfectly fine with him because that era, especially during the Machina days, was a dark time for himself and the Smashing Pumpkins, even though he looks back on the work they put out quite fondly.
“I’m proud of [Mellon Collie] for sure but when I look at it I’m feeling more of astonishment,” Chamberlin laughs during his chat with Rolling Stone Australia. “I know that the guy playing [drums] in that band didn’t have much of a life other than playing in that band at that time.”
That period from Mellon Collie to Machina is well known among the Smashing Pumpkins faithful as the beginning of the end for the first incarnation of the band. Following the release of Machina and Machina II in 2000, the band broke up.
“A lot of shit was going down when we did Machina, I had just come back to the band, D’arcy [Wretzky) left, it was a wild ride, a wild rollercoaster doing that record,” recalls Chamberlin. “That record more than any record we’ve done, I mean I listen to Gish and know that that’s a ‘young band’ and I know how I was feeling when we recorded those drums, it was very fun.
“Siamese Dream was a really well-polished, really hard-working record, Mellon Collie was not as polished but was more like opening up the war chest to our fans and saying ‘here it is, guts and all’. But Machina, was just this really dark and intense journey. When I listen to that record now, I’m like, ‘those people were dangerous!'”
While the recording process of Machina was fraught with turmoil, Chamberlin feels that having the opportunity to remix the album for its upcoming reissue is a blessing and a way to properly give it the attention it deserves.
“Having [Machina producer] Flood in the mix too, going back and remixing it now, there’s so many different versions of those songs,” says Chamberlin. “Take ‘Blue Skies Brings Tears’, there’s like six different versions of it.”
“It’s exciting to go listen to the stuff and knowing that ‘we’re still here!’ and we still have the ability to go do that kind of stuff in a more responsible way.”
So does Jimmy and the rest of the Smashing Pumpkins view the reissue of Machina, as well as the upcoming Mellon Collie sequel project, as a sort of second chance to try out ideas they didn’t get to do for the album the first time around? Not quite.
“You don’t want to go back in time but you do want to continue to improve and evolve and for us I think that’s the key,” muses Chamberlin. “We want to be in an evolutionary state of mind all the time because when you’re in an evolutionary state, it’s not that far in the future to be in a revolutionary state where you find yourself in a different driver’s seat.
“That’s where I’m really hoping the band gets to. With the release of Cyr and the new stuff we’re working on, to be able to come full circle with all the tools and lessons that we’ve learned and create this Mellon Collie follow up, I think it’s going to be one of our crowning achievements.”