Smashing Pumpkins' Band Drama: Complete History - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music News

Smashing Pumpkins’ Band Drama: The Complete History

As Billy Corgan & Co. get ready to hit the road without D’arcy Wretzky, we look back at the band’s many falling-outs, reboots and reconciliations

Smashing Pumpkins' Band Feud: The Complete HistorySmashing Pumpkins' Band Feud: The Complete History

As Smashing Pumpkins drama flares up again ahead of their reunion tour, we look back on the band's troubled history.

Tim Roney/Getty Images

After nearly two decades of drama, Smashing Pumpkins have reunited their classic lineup – sort of – for a summer tour. Billy Corgan, guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin will be playing together without the aid of D’arcy Wretzky, the band’s bassist from 1988 through 1999.

“Some 30 years ago, as ‘The Smashing Pumpkins,’ James Iha and I began a musical journey in the cramped rear bedroom of my father’s house,” Corgan said of the reunion in a statement. “And so it’s magic to me that we’re able to coalesce once more around the incredible Jimmy Chamberlin, to celebrate those songs we’ve made together.” The reunion announcement made no mention of Wretzky, or the long painful journey the band members have been on since it disintegrated for the first time in the late Nineties.

So ahead of the tour, Rolling Stone has compiled an exhaustive history of all the ups and downs that have defined Smashing Pumpkins’ infinite sadness.

July 17th, 1996
Drummer Jimmy Chamberlin is fired days after the overdose death of Pumpkins keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin. The keyboardist had supposedly shot heroin with the drummer in New York, leading to a possession charge. “We have battled with Jimmy’s struggles with the insidious disease of drug and alcohol addiction,” the other band members said in a joint statement. “It has nearly destroyed everything we are and stand for. We have decided to carry on without him, and we wish him the best that we have to offer.” Substitute drummers over the next three years include Filter’s Matt Walker, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron, Beck’s Joey Waronker and John Mellencamp stickman Kenny Aronoff.

April 15th, 1999
Chamberlin returns to the band, a feat Corgan once said would take “a lot of tea in China” to happen.

August 5th, 1999
Rolling Stone reports that the Pumpkins are recording a new album in Chicago with Chamberlin back in the lineup.

Circa September 1999
Reports that D’arcy Wretzky has quit the band during the sessions for Machina, reportedly over Billy Corgan’s controlling nature, begin circulating. At the time it’s reported that her contribution to the album had been “minimal at best.” The news is confirmed in the October 28th issue of Rolling Stone, which said they’d continue with Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur.

February 29th, 2000
Smashing Pumpkins release sixth LP Machina/Machines of God.

May 24th, 2000
Billy Corgan announces plan to break up the Pumpkins after one last tour. “We felt that before we even started this album, we had come to the end of our, sort of, road – emotionally, spiritually, musically,” Corgan said.

September 5th, 2000
Smashing Pumpkins release seventh LP Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music, the last album before their initial breakup.

December 2nd, 2000
Smashing Pumpkins play what was billed as their last-ever show: a four-hour gig at Chicago’s Cabaret Metro, where they had made their debut in October 1988.

November 2nd, 2001

Billy Corgan forms Zwan with Chamberlin, Chavez frontman Matt Sweeney, A Perfect Circle’s Paz Lenchantin and Slint’s David Pajo. The group issues its debut, Mary Star of the Sea, in January 2003.

September 15th, 2003
Zwan disband. “I think my heart was in Smashing Pumpkins,” Corgan says. “I’m 36, I’m ready for a solo career.”

August 3rd, 2003
James Iha joins A Perfect Circle. “I was recently saying to someone that it would have to be a pretty good band to bring me back – this is the band,” he said. In the years prior to this and after, he makes appearances on recordings by Fountains of Wayne, Ivy, Melissa Auf Der Maur, Whiskey Town, and Vanessa and the O’s.

February 19th, 2004
Corgan places blame for the breakup on James Iha. “[It was] not me, not drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, but James,” he told Billboard. “Did it help that bassist D’arcy Wretzky was fired for being a mean-spirited drug addict, who refused to get help? No, that didn’t help keep the band together, not at all.”

January 25th, 2005
The Jimmy Chamberlin Complex issues its debut album, Life Begins Again.

May 3rd, 2005
Billy Corgan bristles at the notion of reuniting the band. “You won’t see the four Smashing Pumpkins onstage again,” he said. “That’s not going to happen. Secondarily, even if you saw the Smashing Pumpkins, it would continue to pick up where we left off, which is an extremely progressive, aggressive and not easy to understand unit.”

June 21st, 2005
Billy Corgan releases his solo debut, TheFutureEmbrace. The same day, he takes out a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune, announcing his intention to “renew and revive” Smashing Pumpkins. “For a year now I have walked around with a secret, a secret I chose to keep. … I want my band back, and my songs, and my dreams,” he wrote.

April 6th, 2007
James Iha disavows Smashing Pumpkins reunion. “I haven’t spoken to Billy in years,” he told Rolling Stone. “I’m writing for a solo record, which I’m going to record this year, and working on my indie label Scratchie Records.”

May 22nd, 2007
The partially reunited Smashing Pumpkins plays its first gig in Paris. In addition to Corgan and Chamberlin, the lineup includes guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Ginger Reyes and keyboardist Lisa Harriton.

July 10th, 2007
Smashing Pumpkins release seventh full-length Zeitgeist.

July 9th, 2008
Smashing Pumpkins announce their intention to embark on a 20th-anniversary tour.

March 23rd, 2009
Jimmy Chamberlin leaves Smashing Pumpkins. A two-sentence press release informs the media that the drummer is out and that Corgan will continue to use the Smashing Pumpkins name. “I can no longer commit all of my energy into something that I don’t fully possess,” the drummer said in a statement the next day. “I won’t pretend I’m into something I’m not. I won’t do it to myself, you the fan, or my former partner. I can’t just, ‘Cash the check’ so to speak. … My best goes out to Billy and I’m glad he has chosen to continue under the name. It is his right.” Morever, he underscored, “There is no drama, bad blood, or anything else but a full commitment to music.”

April 21st, 2009
The supergroup Tinted Windows, which features James Iha, issues its self-titled first album.

March 3rd, 2010
Billy Corgan expresses regret for the way the original lineup of Smashing Pumpkins disbanded. “Rather than break up the band, what I should have done is chuck James [Iha] out,” he said in 2010. “I should have just said to Jimmy [Chamberlin], ‘You go to rehab, and we’ll continue, and James, get the fuck out of here.’ Instead, I fell on my sword for James, for what I thought was a friend.”

July 15th, 2010
Corgan again rejects the notion of re-forming Smashing Pumpkins. “In [the original] lineup you had two people who could play with a high level of musicianship, and two people who couldn’t,” he said. “Jimmy [is a] world class drummer. James, very creative when he wanted to be. D’arcy had a really incredible intuitive sense. But that band was not built to last. Believe me, if that band had anything left in it, not only would I do it, because it would be creatively interesting, but it would be incredibly financially lucrative. People say, ‘Well, come on, just shake hands backstage and ride in separate buses.’ Part of my being and spiritual person is, I’m not gonna be in a band with people who don’t like me.”

February 10th, 2011
Reclusive D’arcy Wretzky is arrested for allowing horses on her farm in Michigan to run loose in a nearby town two years prior. She was arrested and charged with “animals running at large,” acording to TMZ. She was held on four counts of failure to appear in court.

June 21st, 2011
Skysaw, a band that features Jimmy Chamberlin, issues its debut album, Great Civilizations.

March 14th, 2012
James Iha issues his second solo album, Look to the Sky.

June 19th, 2012
The Smashing Pumpkins release eighth studio album Oceania.

December 5th, 2014
The Smashing Pumpkins release ninth studio album Monuments to an Elegy, featuring Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee on drums.

June 24th, 2015
Jimmy Chamberlin rejoins Smashing Pumpkins ahead of a tour. “We suddenly found ourselves in the situation of not having anybody lined up,” Corgan told USA Today. “You can’t just grab somebody and say, ‘Play drums on this Smashing Pumpkins song.’ Jimmy’s drum parts are so incredibly technical and nuanced that it’s a very rare class of people that can step in and play.”

March 17th, 2016
Billy Corgan won’t commit to who’s in and who’s out of Smashing Pumpkins. “I run sort of an open-door policy now,” he said. “There really are no band members. And if anybody’s in the band, it’s Jeff [Schroeder]. With this, I asked Jimmy to be involved and he was very enthusiastic about it, and so I said, ‘Great, let’s do it.’ I think we’re long past the point of trying to define what the band is. It’s gone through so many iterations and been delved into over and over again. There’s no straight answer and nobody seems satisfied with whatever answer I give, so I just don’t care anymore. It’s an open door.”

March 27th, 2016
James Iha joins Smashing Pumpkins at a Los Angeles concert for a number of songs off Siamese Dream and Pisces Iscariot. “Yes, it’s James Iha,” Corgan told the crowd.

April 26th, 2016

D’arcy Wretzky breaks her silence, saying she lives on a non-working horse farm in Michigan. She tells Blast Echo that he’s working on music but none of it is recorded. She calls Iha’s reunion with Corgan “really healthy” and that she’d consider a reunion with the band. On her birthday, May 2nd, Corgan says that he’s happy to hear she’s workign on music again. “As I’ve often said, no one had better musical discernment in our band than she,” he said.

July 29th, 2016
Billy Corgan posted a video to Smashing Pumpkins’ Facebook page that included a hint at a reunion. “There’s some big stuff happening, so we’re making plans,” he said. “So I can’t give that away, but it’s going to be interesting.”

August 16th, 2016
Billy Corgan tells an interviewer that he’s reconnected with D’arcy Wretzky but won’t commit to a musical reunion. “I don’t want people speculating about something that’s got nothing to do with what’s going on,” he said. “First off, we’re back in contact again, the band. I’ve been in communication with D’arcy for the first time in 16 or 17 years, it’s awesome to have my friend back. So we’re all in communication, which as I said not too long ago, my primary interest in the old band was us having good relationships again.”

September 22nd, 2017
Billy Corgan explains how it came to be that Iha played organ on “The Processional,” a track from his Ogilala solo album, released in October 2017. “I sent him some [songs] and said to him, ‘I feel like this is right up your alley’ as far as the kind of music he likes to work on,” the singer said. “He picked out two songs, though one will likely be a B side.” He also said he’d gotten back in touch with Wretzky. “I talk to D’arcy all the time,” he said. “We reconnected, I guess, about a year and half ago. We talk really regularly. I’m really happy to have her back in my life.”

January 16th, 2018
Billy Corgan teases the band’s reunion on Instagram. In addition to him, the photo features Iha, Chamberlin and Schroeder. Wretzky is not present.

January 21st, 2018
D’arcy Wretzky tells fans a reunion would take place without her. “I know this is a huge disappointment for me, as well, but it’s not going to happen [with me],” she says in an interview with Blast Echo.

January 27th, 2018
Corgan posts to Instagram hinting that the band was in the studio with Rick Rubin.

February 6th, 2018
Corgan checks in from the studio on Instagram to say he was playing bass and adding a jab at D’arcy Wretzky. Talking about the Machina album, he said Iha played a lot of bass on it, “despite reports claiming a certain ‘flaxen Saxxon’ did.”

February 11th, 2018
D’Arcy Wretzky tells Blast Echo that she was offered a contract but that it was rescinded.

February 12th, 2018
Before even announcing their reunion, Smashing Pumpkins explain that they’re not working with D’Arcy Wretzky. “In reuniting The Smashing Pumpkins, the band’s dedication remains to its fans and its music,” a statement said. “To that, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin, and William Corgan haven’t played a show with D’arcy Wretzky for over 18 years. But it’s not for a lack of trying. For despite reports, Ms. Wretzky has repeatedly been invited out to play with the group, participate in demo sessions, or at the very least, meet face-to-face, and in each and every instance she always deferred. We wish her all the best, and look forward to reconnecting with you all very soon.”

February 13th, 2018
D’arcy Wretzky posts text messages that she says were proof that Billy Corgan had been lying to her about including her in a reunion. She subsequently sets her Facebook page to private. “If one takes the time to read it carefully, one will notice that as the conversation continues, the roll [sic] i’m offered becomes ever smaller,” she wrote, according to Spin. “Finally Billy says that what I deserve is a T-shirt w/my face on it. I spoke with him and asked him if there was any possible way that I’d be able to play bass on the tour and he said no.”

February 14th, 2018
D’arcy Wretzky refutes the band’s claim that it had been in touch with her. “He had [bassist] Jack Bates already, it was just unbelievable, really just disgusting,” Wretzky said. “The fucking nerve, and then for him to come back and say, ‘Well, we haven’t seen you in this long, and you haven’t done this, and you couldn’t even make it to this. Everyone has shown up, and you didn’t?’ How could I, I didn’t even know you were there?”

February 15th, 2018
Smashing Pumpkins announce their reunion run, dubbed the Shiny and Oh So Bright tour. The lineup features Billy Corgan, James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin, along with Bates and Schroeder. The set lists will contain songs from the band’s first five albums. “This show and staging will be unlike any we’ve ever done, and will feature a set unlike any we’ve ever played,” Corgan said. “For if this is a chance at a new beginning, we plan on ushering it in with a real bang.”


Powered by
Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.