James Iha is America's Johnny Marr.
Both are talented rock guitarists with something of a signature style, and since the dissolution of their iconic bands -- Iha's Smashing Pumpkins in the '90s, Marr's Smiths in the '80s -- both have drifted in and out of projects, side and otherwise. Iha still records and performs with the band A Perfect Circle, he played with Taylor Hanson and Bun E. Carlos in the New Wave revival side project Tinted Windows, and he's recorded and produced numerous artists from his Manhattan studio.
Marr just announced he's finally got a solo album on the docket for February. Iha just released his second, "Look to the Sky"; his first was 14 years ago.
Ahead of an intimate Schubas show on Tuesday in his native Chicago, Iha talked about taking his sweet time, his old buddy Billy and old home Chicago.
with Scott Lucas & the Married Men
♦ 8 p.m. Tuesday
♦ Schubas, 3159 N. Southport
♦ Tickets, $15; (773) 525-2508; schubas.com
Q. The obvious first question: What took so long to record the follow-up?
A. After the Pumpkins broke up, I got into the other side of this, producing and writing and starting my studio, and the record label [the now-defunct but once great Scratchie Records]. I did a lot of other things for a while, and it wasn't until three or four years ago that I started getting inspired to do my own thing again. When you're not signed and don't have a manager constantly asking for a record, I took my time.
Q. What drives your choices when selecting a new project?
A. I try to be pretty open-minded when good stuff starts coming my way. I mean, when Adam [Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne] asked, "Do you want to be in a band with Taylor Hanson?" the answer is, "Yeah, that's great!" As long as I feel like I can contribute something, I'll do it.
Q. Will there be a second Tinted Windows album?
A. We keep talking about "Tinted Windows 2," but none of us has written any songs for it. I think it will happen, but I don't know when.
Q. You recently wrote and recorded with Courtney Love on a single titled "This Is War"?
A. It's a work in progress. I've known Courtney for a while.
Q. Do you and Billy Corgan talk at all anymore?
A. It's probably been eight or nine years.
Q. Is there any condition that could be met to reunite the two of you, on stage or off?
A. Never say never, but as I said we haven't talked in a really long time. I haven't heard the new [Pumpkins] record.
Q. As a musician, do you feel any connection to or inspiration from Chicago at all?
A. I grew up in a suburb (Elk Grove), it's where I'm from. I couldn't point to anything in my music that's specific to Chicago, or if Chicago even has a sound. When the Pumpkins were coming out, we weren't like many Chicago bands at all, and when grunge hit, we got lumped in with that. When people ask me to describe Chicago, I don't think music. I think sports, pizza and architecture.