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Summer 1997 - Bugg Studios, Chicago

Produced by James Iha and Jim Scott

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Sessions for James Iha's first solo album, Let It Come Down.

"After the Pumpkins did a European tour," Iha explains, "I had half an album's worth of older songs that didn't make it to the final cut of the Pumpkins records. So I decided to write some more stuff and do my own record, with my singing and production the way I heard it in my head. It was a very enjoyable experience."

Composed entirely of summery melodic pop songs that sound like a cross between Big Star and the Byrds, the record received mixed reviews, but it offered Iha a creative outlet he sorely lacked. "Sometimes it's frustrating not having more creative control, and I wish I had more songs on Pumpkins records," he admits. "But I'm given a good amount of freedom to come up with guitar parts and stuff, and Billy writes great songs."[1]

James Iha: There's a little bit of that jingle-jangle in there. In some ways the record is sort of a throwback record. Everything I used --12-strings, acoustics, clean electric guitars and strings, cellos and violin and organ -- are all kind of '60s or '70s instruments. I didn't set out consciously to make a retro record or anything like that. I just wanted the songs to really stand out and the vocals to be the main driving force instead of heavy-duty, alternative-rock drums and fuzz-box guitar. People will either like the songs or hate them. There's nothing to hide them. There's no alternative-rock stomp-box thing, there's no trip-hop beats or anything like that.

For one thing, it's a really small basement. There's like a control room. Jim [Scott] brought in a bunch of old gear for those gearhead-inclined; we had, like, a little Neve board, a mini Neve board and a Studer 24-track. In the live room I had one old weird drum kit, a '60s kit that Jim had and I had, a Yamaha kit. I don't know, just a bunch of Fender amps, Vox amps. [2]

I have about five or six acoustics lying around my house, each tuned differently. A little more than half the album is recorded in open tunings. I especially like Gibsons; the Hummingbird,the J-100,the J 160 they're all traditional country and western guitars. And I have a really good Martin guitar. I have a lot of electrics, but I mainly use just three or four: a Fender Telecaster, a '68 Strat and this weird Danelectro guitar that sounds acoustic but looks electric-actually, it looks like a coffee table made out of wood paneling or something, like somebody made it in their home ec class. I did a lot of overdubs with that. I played slide on it, a few bits on the song "lover,Lover" and I used it as a rhythm guitar, and, just here and there, drop in melodies or chords to fill out the arrangement, as well as ghost rhythm guitar parts to broaden out the sound. But there wasn't too much layering.[3]

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  1. Pulse Magazine, June 1998.
  2. Gil Kaufman, "Smashing Pumpkin James Iha's Solo Trip", Addicted To Noise, February 1998
  3. James Iha, "Free Byrd", Guitar World, March 1998