Jeff Schroeder’s 10 Favorite Smashing Pumpkins Tracks to Play Live
Interview by Andrew Daly
Since joining a resurgent Smashing Pumpkins outfit in 2007, Jeff Schroeder has capably flanked iconic yet laconic powerhouse Billy Corgan.
From the start, Schroeder proved a capable foil to Corgan’s heavy yet grandiose leanings, injecting a heaping dose of seething rigor into the overarching structure of the Pumpkins’ music. But as we all know, the Pumpkins are never stagnant and ever-evolving. And in 2018, original Pumpkins guitarist James Iha returned to the fold, creating a three-headed monster of unrelenting guitar-related fury.
When asked about the most significant challenge presenting while taming said beast in the live setting, Schroeder quipped, “The biggest challenge is space, making sure that you’re fitting in, and not stepping on the toes of others. I think that when me, Billy, and James first started playing together in 2018, we were a little more conscious of it, but throughout what now it’s been five or six years, we don’t really talk about it as much because we’ve kind of fallen into a rhythm with it.
He continues, “When we play live, the biggest thing you have to watch out for as far as ego is thinking, ‘I have to play all the time.’ Sometimes the best thing to do is not to play and wait for a better opportunity in whatever given song to come in and play at the appropriate time. You have to be okay with that, and all three of us are.”
Of course, beyond the practicalities of finding space within each track’s confines, there’s also the matter of differing styles. And to that end, when it comes to Schroeder, Corgan, and Iha, their styles couldn’t be more different, which, as it turns out, works perfectly.
“It’s important to remember that Billy and James’s styles are the band’s original style,” Schroeder tells us. “That mixture of post-punk, hard rock, psychedelic, and heavy metal created that swirly sound that has become iconic. So, I see Billy as a kind of modern-day Jimi Hendrix meets Robert Smith. His soling is within that tradition.
Musing on both his and James Iha’s style, Schroeder continues, “James is more of a sonic person who comes at things from a very different angle. He’s very good at creating atmosphere and vibe and comes up with great complimentary hooks to whatever the main thing is.”
“As for myself,” he says. “I came from more of a traditional shoegaze background. But I’m probably the most heavy metal guy in the band. I love technical ’80s stuff because that was my era. I bring that George Lynch, Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen thing to the band. So, I’m probably the most like schooled to where I actually took lessons and got into theory.”
And while the Pumpkins’ guitar triad is unrelenting in the studio, to be sure, it’s the live setting where things are truly unleashed in what can only be deemed an utterly explosive ball of gain-drenched six-string fury.
“We play so many cool songs live,” Schroeder says. “But one song I wish we’d do that we aren’t right now is ‘Jellybelly.’ It’s such an incredible song from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I’m hoping that we do play this one soon. I think we might have played it when I auditioned for the band, but we’ve never played it live since. That would be a fun one!”
With that in mind, Classic Rock History recently dialed in with Jeff Schroeder to run through his favorite Smashing Pumpkins tracks to play live.
“Siva” from Gish (1991)
I love playing “Shiva.” I remember when I first brought Gish when I was around 16 or 17, and it was one of the first songs I really loved. I loved the riff, solo, and singing; I had never heard anything like it. I think the last time we played it was in 2018, so it’s been a while. But when we do play it, we always stretch it out a bit so that Billy and I can both take a solo during it. It’s a fun, psychedelic, yet hard-rocking song to play. As a guitar player, for me, it’s a blast.
“Rocket/Cherub Rock” from Siamese Dream (1993)
Picking a song from Siamese Dream is hard because it’s got a lot of songs that I love. It’s easy for me to choose “Cherub Rock” because it’s a great song to play live. But I also love “Rocket.” Both of those songs are a blast to play live because there’s just something about the construction of the guitar riffs that makes them great. And when you play those riffs with three guitars and add that wall of distorted sound to it, it’s extraordinary to get those kinds of sounds from a guitar when you think about it. I know many people attribute many of the sounds on Siamese Dream to the Big Muff [fuzz/distortion pedal], but it really has a lot to do with how the riff is played with open strings ringing against the octave. And when you get it right, there’s this pulsing distortion that’s just really fun and rocks so hard.
“X.Y.U.” from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
I really enjoy “X.Y.U.” from Mellon Collie because it’s a fun one to play, but it’s also very dark, heavy, and kind of sinister. It’s all these dissonant notes against this nasty drone rather than all pretty notes. It’s kind of like a foil to “Cherub Rock,” where it’s all the octave notes, but the dissonant one’s against the E drone. Songs like that are always fun and a cool change of pace.
“Behold! The Night Mare” from Adore (1998)
This is another cool song because it exemplifies the massive departure we heard when Adore came out. I loved that. They were coming off this grungier sound, and then with Adore, you heard all these expansive compositions from Billy. And that’s what’s cool about playing songs from Adore live because we do them very differently. That album was very produced, and because Jimmy [Chamberlin] was out of the band then, there was a lot of drum programming and loops. And that foreshadowed a lot of contemporary alternative music, too. It was a shocking record, and I loved that about it, which is why I love coming up with basically new versions when we play them live now.
“The Everlasting Gaze” from Machina/The Machines of God (2000)
Machina, as an album, has a lot of great songs that I love playing, but it’s hard not to like playing “The Everlasting Gaze” because it’s such a perfect meld between dark and sinister with its dissonant half-step riff and these really pretty shoegaze chorus. It’s always a song that goes over well, which is fun.
“Tarantula” from Zeitgeist (2007)
We played so many songs from Zeitgeist after I joined the band because it was recorded around that same time. All those songs are amazing to play, but the first single, “Tarantula,” is especially fun. The riff is an homage to “Dark Lady” by the Scorpions. You can hear it’s the same opening if you listen to both. We’re all huge Scorpions fans—especially the Uli Jon Roth era—so that always sticks out.
“Oceania” from Oceania (2012)
This was really the first record I was a big part of as a guitar player. I recorded some singles and things before that, but this was my first proper album. And by this time, Jimmy had left again, so we basically had a whole new lineup. But Oceania is a great album, and the title track is a beautiful song I love playing live. And I remember when this album came out, we played the whole thing live from beginning to end, which was challenging for us and the audience. But from a musical standpoint, it was tough because there’s a lot of movements and guitar parts. I look back on clips from that era and can’t even remember how to do most of it [laughs].
“Cyr” from Cyr (2020)
I really liked “Cyr,” the title track of the album of the same name. We’ve played that song a lot; it has some really cool new-wave guitar parts that give a different look as a guitar player. And that’s one of the most incredible things about playing in the Smashing Pumpkins: we get to play everything from super heavy to electronic and acoustic music. The material has a lot of breadth and width, which is just one of the great joys of playing in this band.
“Beguiled” from Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts, Act One (2022)
Of the new songs, my favorite to play is definitely “Beguiled.” We’ve released a couple more singles since this song, but this was the first from the newest album. It’s just this simple riff, but it’s one of those songs where it’s kinda like Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” where it’s a couple of notes that are in the right place. When we get into that groove live, this is such a fun song to play.
Feature Photo: Jordan Cameron from Perth, Ontario, Canada, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Jeff Schroeder’s 10 Favorite Smashing Pumpkins Tracks to Play Live article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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