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Then let’s talk about your decision to use another drummer. Were other names floated around before you set your sights on Tommy?
“No. No, I talked about it on my blog. We were sitting saying, ‘It would be great to get somebody who can play like this,’ and Jeff [Schroeder] said, ‘Why don’t we get the real deal?’ It was that simple.” [Laughs]
What if Tommy weren't available? He’s got the big tour coming up – did you have any other names?
“You know, we hadn’t even gone down that road. There’s been some beautiful synchronicity with this album; things have just tended to line up. One thing that I need to say… I think the main point to the band – and I put ‘band’ in quotations because obviously there’s been a lot of arguments over the last seven years about what that means – I think the main point to the band in 2014 is, I want to make a certain kind of music. If I want to make that kind of music, then it’s best made under the name ‘Smashing Pumpkins.’ Where Jeff and I are at is, ‘What do we need to do to do that?’
“[It’s about] making rock ‘n’ roll in 2014 in a world that tends to be going away from guitars. Turn on any alternative station – you’re not hearing a lot of riffs. And we’re not a metal band, nor do we try to be, although we love to play that – and we just played with one of the great rock-metal drummers. I reached a point of transparency within myself where I don’t feel the need to explain to anybody else why I’m doing what I’m doing. The real key is, ‘Do I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and am I having a good time doing it?’
“That seems to generate the kind of music that people want. All of the other stuff, all the other political stuff, doesn’t work out that way. So I just shrug my shoulders. If that makes me no different from some of my contemporaries who have a band name but it’s really just one or two dudes, then so be it.”
What was the process of getting Tommy’s drum parts recorded?
“I went out to LA and played him the demos we had – he loved them, got ‘em right away. Then I came back to Chicago and demoed more specifically with the idea of him tracking the drums to them. Then I went back to LA and worked out all the drum parts, which of course further refined some of the arrangements, came back to Chicago and redid the demos again, and then I went to LA to cut the final drums.
“The reason why I did that was because I wasn’t interested in just ‘Hey, isn’t it cool that Tommy Lee is on the album?’ I wanted to work with Tommy as intimately as I could so we could find common ground, so that when you hear the music it sounds like we’re playing together. It’ll sound like he’s in the band, not just the stunt drummer that I called in to dazzle and amaze. The results have been fantastic; the people who’ve heard it are like, ‘Holy shit, I can’t believe how cool this is!’
“It’s so immediate – the songs are so immediate, and the way Tommy plays is so immediate. Everybody seems to get it right away. There’s an immediacy to the music that is more like me circa 1995 than, say, me anything since then.”