James Yoshinobu Iha.
March 26, 1968.
Born in Chicago.
And 54 years old today.
So let’s take a minute to appreciate this iconic guitarist, known as much for his low-key personality and humor as he is for his ethereal and atmospheric guitar playing.
Fun Facts: Though most notably known as the founding guitarist for The Smashing Pumpkins, for those who don’t know, James has also been a member of A Perfect Circle and even formed a band called Tinted Windows with Taylor Hanson of Hanson, Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, and Bun E. Carlos of the classic rock band Cheap Trick. Talk about good company.
He also has done two solo albums, 1998’s Let It Come Down, full of folksy, acoustic style rock and 2012’s more electric Look To The Sky. Both are strong, solid creative pieces.
Another Fun Fact: Did you know he is brother-in-law to the ever controversial and infamous Marilyn Manson? It’s true. James is married to an identical twin whose sister is also married to Marilyn Manson. Fascinating family dynamics there, to say the least.
But trivia aside, what I love about James, besides his jokes and sarcastic humor (Smashing Pumpkins band mate Billy Corgan once called him the funniest guy he knows), is his distinct artistic personality that exists side-by-side with his ongoing role as band guitarist. Many bands have had members that just sort of blend into the background, but not James. Because although James may often be quiet and subdued in his stage presence, his legacy as a member of the Smashing Pumpkins is as a part of a cult of personality, a band where each member gave a presence that was as unique and individualistic as the colors of the rainbow.
James isn’t just a great guitarist, he is a creative element.
Some of my favorite parts of many Smashing Pumpkins albums are the ones that diverge from the Corgan-centric angle and explore Iha’s with his own songs, (and sung by him, too). These are moments that give creative diversity to those Pumpkins albums, and a part of what made the Smashing Pumpkins such a great band.
Smashing Pumpkins songs like “Blew Away,” “…Said Sadly,” “Believe,” “The Boy,” and “The Bells.” Then there’s the lesser known “Summer,” and one of my personal favorites, “Go,” from the internet-only release Machina II.
During James’s long hiatus from the Smashing Pumpkins, the band carried on and continued to accomplish itself as one of the best rock and roll bands of all time and included incredible musicians with unique personas. But when James finally returned in 2016, it was the return of a long-lost piece of the band’s soul.
With the healing of relationships between band members, a feeling of good will and renewed optimism for the future returned, as well as new excitement for what they would accomplish together. His return came at a time when the future of the Smashing Pumpkins was uncertain, but now, as of 2022, they’ve done massive tours, released two new albums and have more on the way, and all relevant to the grand rock-opera of the character Zero/Glass, his band, the Machines of God, and us, the Ghost Children.
And so, with appreciation for the past and excitement for the future, here’s to a happy birthday to Mr. James Iha.