Drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, whom the Smashing Pumpkins fired in 1996, will be back with the band for a two-week club tour that begins Saturday in Detroit, according to sources familiar with the group's plans.
Queens of the Stone Age singer/guitarist Josh Homme, whose band will open for the Pumpkins, said the group's leader, Billy Corgan, told him -- when Corgan invited the hard-rock band to open the tour two months ago -- "Dude, Jimmy's back in the band."
"To me that says they're gonna rock again," Homme said. "Because that's
when they kick ass, when they have Jimmy. He's not the only key to it,
but that team between Jimmy and Billy is a cool little thing" (RealAudio
excerpt of interview).
Chamberlin's return would be just one of the attractions when the Pumpkins and Queens of the Stone Age kick off their tour at the 1,000-capacity St. Andrews Hall in Detroit. During the rare set of club dates, the superstar headliners are expected to unveil new material they have been recording in Chicago.
The Pumpkins and their representatives repeatedly have refused to confirm reports of Chamberlin's return. However, in addition to Homme, a source close to the Pumpkins said the band's original drummer is back for the tour.
When Pumpkins guitarist James Iha was asked how the band was doing now that Chamberlin is back, he said, "It's going good, whatever we got going."
Spokespersons for the Pumpkins and the band's label, Virgin Records, did not return repeated calls for comment for this story.
But Corgan told Homme the news in February, according to the Queens of
the Stone Age frontman, who said Chamberlin's participation made him especially excited about the tour.
Queens of the Stone Age were on the road in support of their self-titled 1998 debut, which features such melodically crunching tunes as "Regular John" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Walkin' on The Sidewalks," when Corgan first suggested the joint tour, Homme said.
"I've known Billy here and there as an acquaintance for a couple of years since the Kyuss days," Homme said, referring to his previous band. "Just as we were about to go onstage in Chicago at the Double Door he just came back and was like, 'Do you want to go on tour?' "
He said Corgan told him the Pumpkins originally were going to go it alone. "He said something to me to the effect of, 'We weren't going to take anyone, but then I got your record and I know you'll make it easy,' " Homme said. He said he had no idea what Corgan meant by the cryptic compliment
"We were just sitting there for 10 minutes before the show, talking, before he really brought it up, and he was like, 'Dude, Jimmy's back in the band,' " Homme said. "And I was just like, 'F--- yeah, you're psyched,' because now the full spectrum is covered again.
"With [Chamberlin] gone it's always just someone filling his shoes. ... I'm a real big fan of [the Pumpkins' 1991 full-length debut] Gish and ... Siamese Dream, so for me their full spectrum is now represented"
Chamberlin, an original member of the group, was kicked out of the
Pumpkins while they were touring behind their third and most successful
album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995).
Chamberlin was arrested for heroin possession in connection with the
overdose death of touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin in July 1996. He
was fired shortly thereafter. He pleaded guilty and was ordered to
complete a drug-rehabilitation program.
The band has used a number of drummers for their post-Chamberlin recordings and touring, including ex-Filter drummer Matt Walker, ex-Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, Beck drummer Joey Waronker and, on last year's Adore tour, ex-John Mellencamp skinsman Kenny Aronoff.
Homme said he understood the Pumpkins' decision to keep Chamberlin's return under wraps.
"The mystery thing is one of my favorite parts of music," he said. "It was a big part of Kyuss, it's a big part of the Queens and why not have it be a big part of the Pumpkins?"
With the arena rockers returning to small clubs, Homme said the Pumpkins are giving their fans a rare opportunity to see them up close.
"People always like to be in a dark, sweaty club where they can drink ... and when it's intimate like that they can feel like they're getting something special. You don't forget that sh--," he said.
The Pumpkins took a baroque, electronic turn on such Adore (1998) tracks as
(RealAudio excerpt) and "To Sheila"
(RealAudio excerpt). But several sources close to the group, who did not
want to be named, said some of the new material is in keeping with the
more ominous hard-rock sound of such earlier work as the Pumpkins' 1993
breakthrough, Siamese Dream.
"We're actually just recording in our practice space right now," Iha
said last month. "It's going OK. It's actually going really well and I
don't really know what else to say other than it's good and we're
getting along and it rocks."
Iha would not comment on the sound of the new album.
The Pumpkins have kept a low profile since wrapping a 15-city tour last
summer, during which they raised nearly $2.7 million for several children's
Smashing Pumpkins/Queens of the Stone Age Tour Dates:
April 10; Detroit, Mich., St. Andrews Hall
April 12; Cincinnati, Ohio, Bogart's
April 14; New York, N.Y., Tramps
April 15; Washington, D.C., 9:30 Club
April 17; Pittsburgh, Pa., Metropol
April 19; Denver, Colo., Ogden Theater
April 21; Phoenix, Ariz., Celebrity Theater
April 23; San Diego, Calif., Soma
April 24; Los Angeles, Calif., Roxy
(Contributing editor Brian Hiatt contributed to this report.)