Legendary Guitarist James Iha on Suburbia and His Upcoming Denver DJ Set

James Iha
James Iha
Photo courtesy JamesIha.com

James Iha will DJ Lipgloss this Friday, January 23, at Beauty Bar. Iha is best known for his time as a guitarist for alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins. He left that band in 2000 and went on to join A Perfect Circle, and he has contributed to numerous recordings by other artists. He has also done production work in and out of his own studio. In 2009, Iha formed Tinted Windows with some friends including Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick. We recently had a chance to have a brief conversation with Iha to ask what sorts of things we might expect to hear at Beauty Bar, his memory of playing Denver on the tour for Gish in 1991, and growing up Japanese in suburban Chicago.

See also: Cold Cave's Wesley Eisold On UFOs, the Cure and his Upcoming Lipgloss DJ Set

Westword: What kind of music do you play at DJ appearances?

James Iha: I like to play dance music and what makes a club or a party excited. I have never really done much dance music before, so [doing DJ gigs has been] a good introduction to what is happening on an indie level. Not top ten dance music but, for lack of a better term, indie club dance stuff and rock.

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Are your sets are a mixed affair rather than something specialized like an alternative rock set?

I'm working on it now but I think it'll be more eclectic. It'll be fun, cool songs. Some rock, some kind of off-the-beaten tracks from the '80s. I'm not sure what you'd call this, but a kind of indie rock vibe.

What kind of '80s stuff do you like to play?

Romeo Void, Throbbing Gristle, Tte Cramps, Arthur Russell. But also newer things, not just all retro music. Obvious things like Daft Punk but also bands like Chromatics, M83, Ariel Pink. I don't want to just play obvious things. I want there to be a flow and interesting [selections] but it should all be fun, whatever it is. I shouldn't be too meta about what I play.

With your background of having Japanese parents did you experience social or cultural issues growing up in the Chicago area?

I grew up in a very middle class, suburbia kind of like those John Hughes movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Sixteen Candles. That's what my high school experience, but it wasn't as fun as those movies were. I think things are a lot cooler now as far as race and ethnicity in America. I experienced some of that but I know other kids got it worse for whatever reasons.

Smashing Pumpkins played at 23 Parish with a band called The 40th Day in the early '90s. Do you remember that?

I honestly don't remember the band or the club name, unfortunately. I remember when we played Denver, though, that one of the guys that worked at the club was holding up the loud speakers on the side of the stage because they almost fell off. That's the only thing I remember from an early Denver show.

James Iha, Hollow and DJ Tower, 9 p.m., Friday, January 23, Beauty Bar, 720-542-8024, $9 adv. / $10 door, 21+

You can purchase advance tickets to the event here.

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If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.


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