There was good news and bad news for Smashing Pumpkins fans this weekend: Billy Corgan is back in the studio working on the band’s new album, but he’ll be doing so without drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who has left the group for an unspecified reason. Chamberlin’s departure was announced in a terse, two-sentence press release sent strategically late on Friday, March 20th, while most of the music industry was in Austin for the South By Southwest Festival or had already left work for the day. The statement said Corgan will continue to record under the Smashing Pumpkins moniker. And just like that, Billy Corgan has joined the Axl Rose club. “I Am One” indeed.
Chamberlin joined Smashing Pumpkins in 1988, was kicked out for substance abuse-related problems in 1996 but was brought back into the fold in 1998. After the Pumpkins’ first breakup, Chamberlin joined Corgan in Zwan. The drummer was also the centerpiece of his own Jimmy Chamberlin Complex, which released the album Life Begins Again in 2005. Chamberlin accompanied Corgan for the Pumpkins’ “reunion” disc Zeitgeist and the group’s subsequent 20th anniversary tour. In the end, Chamberlin drummed on every Pumpkins album except for 1998’s Adore. So the band’s next album will be the first not to feature James Iha, D’Arcy Wretzky or Chamberlin.
Chamberlin’s past problems with substance abuse are no secret: In 1996, before a Pumpkins concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the drummer and touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin both overdosed on heroin. Melvoin died, and Chamberlin was booted from the band. Chamberlin went to rehab following the incident, reconvened with Corgan in ’98 and ultimately spent the next decade making music with the singer — that is, up until this weekend.
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