James Iha’s second solo album, Look to the Sky, comes 14 years after his solo debut, Let It Come Down, hit stores in 1998. Quite a lot has happened in his career since then – he left the Smashing Pumpkins after the original version of the group disbanded in 2000, he’s been a mainstay member of A Perfect Circle, and he formed a power pop supergroup called Tinted Windows with Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos and Hanson frontman Taylor Hanson.
According to Iha, he never intended to wait so long between solo discs. “After the Pumpkins broke up, I kind of wanted to do other things other than be in a band full time, so I worked on a label, Scratchie, and I started a recording studio in New York with Adam Schlesinger,” Iha tells Rolling Stone. “I started producing bands. I guess I just viewed a solo record as something that, when I thought it was good, then I would look around and see what’s out there and find a label. It just took a lot longer than I thought it would.”
As with Let it Come Down, the new tunes showcase the mellow side of Iha, who is best known for his heavy shredding with both the Smashing Pumpkins and A Perfect Circle. “When I’m the singer, I guess those are the kind of melodies and chords that I go to,” he says. “My first record was definitely more on the quieter acoustic side, more singer-songwriter. With this record, I tried to make it more of a variety. There’s a little bit of rock stuff, there’s quieter acoustic stuff, there’s more new wave-y pop stuff.”
“To Who Knows Where,” the first single from the record, is one of Iha’s darkest cuts. “It has a lot of atmosphere; it’s more of a moody rock track,” he says of the song. “Lyrically, it’s sort of about a happy feeling, something incredible that happens to you. It’s there for a moment, and then it’s gone. Something kind of ephemeral.”
Look to the Sky will be released on September 18th, but you can stream “To Who Knows Where” exclusively at RollingStone.com today.