On Friday, the Smashing Pumpkins set the internet ablaze by casually announcing they were seeking a new guitarist – and anyone can apply.
“The Smashing Pumpkins are in search of an additional guitarist,” the band’s social media post reads. “The application process is open to anyone who might be interested.
“Applicants may submit a resume and related materials to SPGuitar@redlightmanagement.com.”
The commencement of the search follows longtime guitarist Jeff Schroeder’s departure from the band back in October “to explore a slightly different path”.
Some commentators were surprised to find the band recruiting to fill the vacant spot – after all, with James Iha back in the band, the alt-rock icons already had two guitarists. Why would they need a third?
Yet the Pumpkins have been performing live with three guitarists for five years. Their recorded guitar parts have always been heavily orchestrated, and the freedom afforded by three players ensures the music sounds closer to the records than ever before.
The third guitarist role is important outside of simply performing, too. While it’s not clear whether the new hire would be an official band member alongside Corgan, Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, or a touring member like bassist Jack Bates, Schroeder’s influence on the group hints as to the responsibilities of any new recruit.
“Not only is he a great musician, but he’s also very responsible for a lot that goes on behind the scenes,” Corgan said of his bandmate in 2018. “I really didn’t see any way this could work without him.”
Reckon you have what it takes? Sure, anyone can fire off a resume and cobble together some playing footage, but landing that spot won’t be easy – especially with no job specifications to speak of.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of criteria you need to be the Smashing Pumpkins’ next guitarist. Just don’t make your application too good, or we won’t get the gig, OK?
1. You’ve got to be versatile
Much of the media coverage surrounding the vacant guitarist position has focused on the need to perform classic Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness cuts. And yes, you’ll need to be able to keep up with the ferocious pace of those records.
But given the breadth and depth of their catalog, an average Pumpkins set can span metal chaos, dreamy new wave, acoustic ballads, electronic beatdowns, obscure covers and everything in between. Heck, the band’s last show was a set of Christmas covers at Disney World.
Your tones will need to be on point, with particular focus on gain stages, modulation, delays and pitch-shifters. You’ll need an arsenal of single-coil and humbucker-equipped guitars in a variety of tunings. And you’ll need to be able to shift dynamics on a dime, too.
2. You need a keen ear – and excellent teamwork
Smashing Pumpkins songs have up to 100 guitar tracks on a single song, or so the mythology goes. So you’d better be damn good at picking out those layers and translating them to the live arena. But not only that, you’ll need to make them fit in with what two other guitarists are doing.
Again, tone will be pivotal in creating that wall of sound, but so will the register you occupy, the guitar you use, when you choose to play and when you don’t. More than that, you’ll often be combining guitar layers to create new hybrid parts. So there’s a certain amount of creativity involved in the role – and you better be damn good at multitasking.
“For what the band is trying to do, especially on the live side of things, it was necessary to have three guitar players,” Schroeder told Guitar World following his departure. “There are so many overdubs on the records, and it’s still hard; you still have to combine parts and basically amalgamate what’s there.”
3. You also need to be able to shred
Billy Corgan literally referred to Jeff Schroeder as The Shredder, and even hailed him as a “far superior” guitarist who helped him raise his game. Schooled on Vai, Satriani and Malmsteen, Schroeder was often called upon to deliver searing solos and duel with Corgan’s own leads, best evidenced on extended live runouts of Gish classic Siva.
So it’s fair to assume that if you’re applying for this gig, you need the kind of chops that will impress one of alt-rock’s greatest guitar players. No pressure. Pumpkins solos draw on aggression and passion, with plenty of modal passing notes alongside more typical pentatonic fare. But blistering. Always blistering.
4. The right feel is essential
Sure, you can play fast. But can you get the timing of that slow bend in the Today chorus just right? Hurl your palm up and down the neck for Jellybelly’s explosive intro with the optimum level of reckless abandon? Nail the vibrato on the deceptively tricky Beguiled riff? These are all questions you need to ask yourself.
Part of capturing that feel comes from pure muscle memory, but to truly nail it, those nuances need to be in your bones. You’ve got to tread that line between technical excellence and raw emotion, or you don’t have the Pumpkins guitar sound.
5. Confidence is key
Latter-day Smashing Pumpkins has a history of hiring relative unknowns. Schroeder had never auditioned for bands before and was finishing his UCLA doctorate in literature when he heard about the Pumpkins guitarist spot. Mike Byrne, the band’s drummer on 2012 album Oceania, was just 19 years old and found via an open audition process. Nicole Fiorentino, who played bass on the same record, was also hired after firing off an email.
So give it your best shot. If you’ve got the chops, the sound and the feel, you’ve got as much chance as any seasoned session professional, no matter your playing background. We wish you the very best of luck.