Prog/psych/alt rock band Skysaw is drummer Jimmy Chamberlin's first endeavor since leaving the Smashing Pumpkins (for the second time, in 2009) and the Pumpkins-affiliated Zwan. Its other two members, singer Mike Reina and lead guitarist Anthony Pirog, do double duty in psych-pop outfit the Jackfields , based in Fairfax, Va.
So, making albums is complicated, touring even more so. Even for someone from a legendary band (maybe especially for someone from a legendary band), both the business of making music and the attendant lifestyle aren’t what they used to be.
Ahead of the band's show at the Black Cat Friday night, Chamberlin phoned in (coincidentally, on the day of his album’s release) to talk about his new band, his old one, and Skysaw's fine new disc, "Great Civilizations."
So, it's record release day! What goes through your mind on a day like today?
I'm just thinking, Buy, buy, buy. No, seriously. It's not like the old days when a record release date was really a record release date. ..I'm excited for the guys in my band. For them it's their first real record on their first real label. It's good for them to go through the process.
You've been a band [for almost two years] but you recently played live for first time.
Yeah, we haven't played out a lot, and part of the reason for that is the recording band is a trio, and in order to facilitate playing the record live we had to bring in new members…It’s a logistical nightmare but what's cool about it is the music really brings us together. It's not just, "Hey, I'm in a band." I've been in those situations before, where you end up playing out because there's nothing else to do. I think the fact that everybody else has lives outside the band, it really forces the music to be a powerful draw to get us together.
You're just going out on short tour. Are you thinking about a full tour later?
I think for me it's about what moves the needle. There's lots of ways to put a band over these days. Doing it 200 people at a time doesn't make a lot of sense to me economically, spiritually and energetically. It doesn't add up to what it used to. You used to go out and play to a thousand people and look at [sales figures] the next day and see that 800 of those people went out and bought the record ….For me the idea of going out for two, three years to build a band in sweaty nightclubs, having done that for most of my life and being in my 40s now [is untenable]. It's not that I don't enjoy playing, but I think three good ideas are better than 50 shows ….Part of the reason I left my old band is because it was all encompassing, and I didn't have time for my family. It's just a different set of values.
When you say your old band, do you mean the Pumpkins or Zwan?
No — I was talking about the Pumpkins. Part of the reason that I left the Pumpkins is because it was becoming all-consuming. Being the only member of that band who had two kids and a wife, it was a hard decision, but ultimately it was a decision I'm comfortable with.
Was it hard to decompress from being a Pumpkin? There must have been a level of post-traumatic stress involved.
There was no post-traumatic stress, but there was a level of decompression. It took a while to be like, okay, I do have a family, I do have two kids and a wife. From the start of [Pumpkins album] “Zeitgeist” to the time I left, we had been full tilt for three years. When you have a four year-old son, that's 75% of his life.