Saturday, 23 February 2013


So, yeah -

I've not directly addressed this topic before here, as I would imagine most of you who stick your head in or know me from elsewhere on the SP online community, pretty much get where I'm coming from when it comes to Mike Byrne. So no long winded explanation has ever been necessary - as posts by post and board by board we've done all of the talking. However, having recently been a part of the launch of a new SP fan page Absolutely Ground Breaking - a lot of attention has been drawn to my particular expression of feelings for the band.  It seems many are still unable to reconcile the fact I'm still a fan of the band despite not liking Mike Byrne's drumming

Perhaps only the tip of my iceberg is visible eh...  Or, perhaps people haven't actually really cared what I think. Which is COMPLETELY understandable. In the end I'm just some dude who likes JC enough to run an incredibly amateur blog.

I guess what has happened is that; amongst fans, whom I consider my friends here, my views and arguments have been refined over the years to the point where I don't feel the need to rehash the old arguments again and again. I'm not trying convert anyone, I gave that up long ago.  So here, for posterity are the last four years of 'debate' -in a nut shell-.

The Basics

So, for those of you who don’t know me or don't get it [and are willing], I’d like to clear up a thing or two once and for all.  Let’s start with the basics; Yes, I think Jimmy Chamberlin is one of the greatest drummers to ever grace the skins. He’s certainly the greatest modern rock drummer as far as I’m concerned.  He helped elevate the Smashing Pumpkins to legendary status and for me the Pumpkins rate as one of the greatest bands of all time.  Secondly, my appreciation of Jimmy’s playing in SP doesn’t automatically preclude me from liking the Smashing Pumpkins without him in them.  Thirdly, I don’t currently like Mike Byrne’s drumming in the Smashing Pumpkins. Not because “no one could ever be good enough to replace Jimmy Chamberlin in the Smashing Pumpkins” or any other bullshit reason thrown around. No, I don’t like Mike Byrne’s drumming in SP because; it grates against everything I admire about any drummer or musician who I respect or love.

What I rile against in Mike is the apparent lack of understanding of the key reasons why the Smashing Pumpkins are special to me; he apes the style of Chamberlin, secondly he removes all subtlety and nuance from parts which he arguably should be trying to emulate and he continues (four years into his tenure) to make basic mistakes in a live setting.  His playing appears to me be the antithesis of what I admire in Chamberlin’s; Dedication, Musicianship, Facility and Originality.  

Being a Fan of the Smashing Pumpkins (Still)

Now I understand (and what some others seemingly fail to understand) that my love of the band is based on a different set of parameters to other people’s.  You’re probably not bringing playing drums for longer than Mike has been alive to your appreciation of the band for a start.  The best way I can think of explaining this to a non-drummer is to give a non-drumming example. So, why would I want to look at a paint-by-numbers version of the Mona Lisa with a great big purple smudge across her forehead, when for the past 20 years I’ve been studying and appreciating each individual brushstroke on the original canvas so intensely that they’d been etched across my synapses? That’s right, I wouldn’t.  Now should you get, say, Picasso coming along and reimagining the Mona Lisa – now that I could at least respect and appreciate, even if I didn’t like it.  Think Adore eh – but we can come back to that.  Whilst we’re on the old Art History trip, it’s why I am so vested in the archive project – to me hearing JC’s rough cuts would be like poring over Michelangelo’s sketch books… Who wouldn't want to stay active in the community and want to try and help with this amazing project that means so much to them? I stick around because I care enough to sit through the bad times in anticipation of the good.   Anyway, next:

The Rudiments

Mike isn’t as good as Jimmy.  Fact.  No one is going to be able to argue successfully, as far as my knowledge of drumming stretches,  that Mike Bryne in any shape or form plays Jimmy Chamberlin’s parts better than Jimmy.  Most people get this, I think - now.  But there are still people who think that because it sounds right to them, that it should sound good to everybody.  I don’t expect a non-drummer to pick up on all of the nuances of Chamberlin’s drumming – as I wouldn’t with a saxophonist.  But what I do struggle with is the really obvious stuff where Bryne is stream-rollering parts or making even more basic timing errors willy-nilly over a track and people think it sounds great.  It’s incredibly frustrating.

Anyway, let’s go through a couple of old issues to get to the heart of this... Here perhaps is the most common reoccurring theme;

The Matt Walker conundrum

Matt Walker did a better job of playing JC’s parts than Byrne does - granted.  However, this fact in itself does not make him a better drummer than Mike (many other things do mind you). But here’s the important bit, so listen carefully > this doesn’t make me like Matt Walker more than Byrne.  I do admire Matt’s technical proficiency more, but this doesn’t mean I would choose him as a replacement for Chamberlin either.  I COMPLETELY get why 100’s of others would have preferred him over Byrne, but I don’t cream over 1997’s Live at The GM Palace bootleg. I just don't.  It's a bit uncanny valley to me.


“Who wants to listen to somebody trying to be Buddy Rich, when you can listen to Buddy Rich”?

For those comic book fans remember when this shit started to happen in the early 90's;

Roger Cruz ripping of modern master Joe Madureira yeah. You see - I love Mad, but I don’t like Cruz. Why? Because Madureira’s style, whilst an amalgam of Manga-esque tropes, it is uniquely his own.  Now others would follow in Madureira’s style [and you could argue he influenced a generation (as did JC)] but those who went on to be successful after Madureira weren’t doing so by making bad tracings of his work…

This is really the heart of the matter for me, so what I suspect I am going to say right here, for the hundredth time(but I hope the last) is: all I want to hear from the Smashing Pumpkin’s now, in the future, with or without Jimmy is originality.  

Look, most of you know I hated Adore when it came out, I MEAN HATED – but at that time I was alongside 5 or 6 million other people who needed the Smashing Pumpkins to be band that put out SD and MCIS and not a pure electro-acoustic outfit.  But I look back now on that record and have nothing but respect for Corgan making that move.  I really love some of it now; Behold! The Night Mare, To Sheila, For Martha – they are up there on my list of Corgans greatest.  [It’s sad that the Pumpkin’s change in style opened the door for a bunch of imitators who sprung up to fill the gap that the disappearance of the [Rock band] SP left in its wake … but so it goes and I digress, as per.] My point, with Teargarden / Oceania is that now I know that it’s EXTREMELY unlikely (not impossible) that I will ever look back on these recordings with the respect I have for Adore. 

Back to Matt Walker.  So the [problem] with Matt, or should I say Corgan’s problem with Matt was, seemingly, that he couldn’t or was reluctant to rip Jimmy’s style when it came to creating original parts; Matt and Bill say it’s more or less why he left when recording Adore, he was being pushed to replicate Jimmy’s approach on new compositions.   In Mike, Billy has seemingly found someone who has yet to develop his own unique voice, but had the facility to (in Corgan’s mind) to play like Chamberlin [well enough] without feeling uneasy about it compromising his own style.   If you don’t have a name, reputation, style a voice of your own  - you may well have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

But here’s the rub I guess – Mike, on Teargarden has well and truly fallen down the rabbit hole and gone on someone else’s trip.  He’s crossed an artistic line for me.  When he started in SP he didn’t have the 8th notes going on every track, [he] wasn’t panning his toms to mimic Jimmy’s unique configuration, he wasn’t using Jimmy’s signature snare, he hadn’t started to pretty much copy some of Chamberlin’s other parts in new compositions (the most obvious offender that springs to mind is That’s the Way my Love Is |My Love is Winter, and The Fellowship has DIA all over it).   Adore didn’t work (for me) initially because it was too much of a departure from the ‘classic’ SP sound– Oceania didn’t work for the opposite reason.  It’s a safe, considered rehash of the tropes which were rife in the Pumpkins’ heyday. It is a regression not progression or evolution – and that goes against everything I loved about the band.  

Jimmy couldn’t commit to going back on himself – hence the “you can’t fire me, I quit” type deal - or whatever it was.  Chamberlin didn’t want to be become an imitation of himself, but Billy for his artistic journey felt that he needed to find someone who is (in a sense).  Chamberlin was quite open in saying that he had struggled to pick up the some of his old styling’s… he’d matured way beyond BWBW, evolving as any great jazz drummer would.

The Guitarist and The Singer; A Parable

Still haven’t got it?  I don’t blame you. I’m tyring to explain myself in a blog. Not face to face. This internet business is complicated and cruel.

Let me try and give you another of my favourite analogies I've used over the years that I hope may explain my pain to you non-drummers and/or non-musicians.

So, imagine if Jeff stepped into James’ shoes back in 2007, with a guitar that had 2 strings. Not only did the guitar only have two stings, but Jeff decided he was going to play power chords IN EVERY SONG.  Further, even though he was only playing power chords on a two string guitar, he played the wrong chords and not in time with Billy.  It would sound pretty bad right.  So why is it different for drums? Well, I get it a bit – it’s a bit more niche / the differences may not be as obvious as say; Billy staring to miss out random words, garble the lyrics, started singing really fast or coming in the wrong place - but they are still there.  Worse still if Belly tried to sing like, I don’t know, Fred Durst.  This might somewhat hinder your enjoyment of the music right??? Think about if someone were to be replace Billy, like say thingy-ma-bob did in Queen (Ed: Paul Rogers) – if he tried to sound exactly like Freddie Mercury it would be absolute kife. Right? Right! So imagine someone imitating Corgan in the band, it would be fucking ridiculous – Jimmy’s voice on the drums to me is as equally distinctive as Billy’s voice is to, well, everybody. Hearing someone else trying to sing in that voice would be PAINFUL. 


Wait. I am not a complete dickend (believe it or not).  I’m sure Mike is lovely as a person.  Well, actually I have no idea. Maybe he's a twat like Corgan supposedly is? I have no real idea of what Jimmy Chamberlin is like either, aside from meeting him once or twice and listening to/watching/reading interviews with him.  So obviously I’m talking, again [if it wasn’t obvious by now], about musical personality.   I’ve seen many folks across the SP boards fawn over Nicole’s bass playing – “ooh - ahh you can really hear the difference she makes on Oceania”. Well, yes. Yes you can. She doesn’t have the attack of Melissa or the root-note mastery of D’arcy but Nicole definitely has her own groove – that whilst doesn’t make her an absolutely outstanding bass player, but it is a noticeable voice within the line-up.  Which is cool one way or another.

I would argue that Jeff’s contribution is more difficult to pin-point. Whereas James absence I would suggest, is definitely noticeable on Zeitgeist .  Billy and Jimmy may by the 97%, but man that 3% makes a HELL of a difference right.   Now I’m not saying here that Jeff is bad, I prefer James’s personality in his playing, whilst Jeff is undoubtedly much better technically… [Eek does that mean you’re going to rage at me for not liking an aspect of Jeff’s playing as well?]

If you hadn't guessed, I think Mike adds very little of his own to the band. Modern Drummer's, to my mind, inconsistent critique of Byrne's playing on Oceania echo's my sentiments; "Hopefully as time goes on Byrne will find more and more ways to establish as unique a style as Chamberlin did, and help take the band itself into fresher territory."... blah


  • Billy picked Mike [so you should like/respect/admire him.]  Now, think very carefully about this statement for just a minute…  No. If you haven’t got it yet - think for a bit longer.  Billy picking Mike doesn’t excuse the mistakes Mike makes playing live.  Next you’ll be telling me I should be buying in to Chemtrail theory and that Astral Planes is good, because Billy said it is good right. Uwe Boll decided to destroy my favourite arcade shooter, House of the Dead , by turning it into a film– he said that it was good. Now your argument follows that I should like it. Do I? No of course not. It’s shit. He’s wrong and so are you. 
  • Mike can play other instruments/sing.  I’m sorry, but this is absolutely irrelevant to his drumming ability.  Billy can play the guitar really well, doesn’t excuse his harmonica playing does it eh?
  • He's not skipping town going on drug binges. You have got to be shitting me.  This is Lame, irrelevant and most importantly unverified.  
  • He’s just a kid, go easy.  Why? Have you looked on youtube recently, have a look at the young drummer of the year competitions – they are amazing. Age is not a valid excuse.
  • His headband is cool.  No, no it’s not.
  •  He looks energetic.  He needs to work on his ergonomics… but he’s a show off yeah – a bit gimmicky to me - but I get why some people find that appealing in a show/drummer.  Jimmy’s zen like mastery is more appealing to me.  As for his raw youthful energy, sure one day he’ll be adept enough to master it / it’s not that I don’t think he might grow into it – it’s just painful to listen to him trying.  
  • Mike has to play like Jimmy. To a degree yes he is forced to through Billy’s choice.  But the way in which he interprets the parts is ugly to me.  He seems to try and just copy them as best he can.  I’ve covered this above, but listen to when Jimmy plays versions of songs acoustically, or with a reduced kit – he doesn’t try and play the lines exactly – he adapts to the version - he shifts in tune with how Corgan is emoting.  Byrne doesn’t seem to be capable to adapt in this manner – more his parts sounds noticeably forced or squeezed in purely as a consequence of his ability, or lack thereof. Take Muzzle for example, it’s not that Mike reinvents the part in his own voice; it’s that he tries to directly copy many of Jimmy’s parts verbatim. But they sounding hollow, empty and contrived primarily because he duplicating the parts but without the right equipment – but he lacks the feel and facility which birthed the parts and were a natural extension of Jimmy’s personality and relationship with Billy.   What I’m trying to say is Mike doesn’t sound like he is consciously trying to bring his own style to the fills and lines, it just sounds as if he is playing it the way he is because he can’t achieve either A) pure replication or B) adapt enough to bring something truly his own to the table. 
  •  Who would be good enough to replace Jimmy?  It’s REALLY not about naming names – for me it would have been about finding someone who could have come to the band and put their stamp on it – but I’m not Corgan – he OBVIOUSLY wanted someone to come in and play like Chamberlin.  I get it – it doesn’t mean I have to like it. That argument (Billy says it's good, so it is) is some MEGA retarded Monte-eqse shit right there.  It doesn’t mean I don’t understand Belly’s [predicament between the past and future]… 
  •  If you so good at drums, why you no audition for SP?  Jimmy can’t be equalled or bettered. I’d love to jam with Corgballs – but not to the old stuff unless he was willing to ‘reimagine’ it … 
  •  But Mike is a good/great/amazing/awesome drummer.  I just can’t counter this amazing argument you have put forward fellow fan.  All I can say back, is no, no he is not. The circle continues…
  •  Check out this youtube video, Mike is epic. It is especially difficult to open a dialogue when you have argued your point so succinctly by linking some youtube vid in which Mike butchers (see above) old classics... be it Hummer, Cherub Rock, Adore, Geek… The nail in the coffin, and what tips me over the edge and is when you use a video in which Byrne demonstrates obvious mistakes to try and prove your argument. As loud as he’s playing, as much as he bashes the cymbals - this doesn’t make it or Mike good.  Being able to play a  bit like Jimmy doesn’t make him good.  Using old tracks as an example of why he’s good - will NEVER demonstrate his worth to me.
  • I like Mike because I do.  I totally respect that. That’s A OK. Seriously. I don't like him becuase you do. Just as you won't like him because I don't. Good. OK. We're clear.
  • Why do you hate everything Mike has done?  Please.  This talk in absolutes is like, you’ve not listened to a word I’ve said for the past 4 years or something. Ha. I don't hate everything Mike has done. His stuff in Bearcubbin' & Moses' was, at least in parts, technically proficient - if not largely formulaic.   I would hazard that I'm one of the very few SP fans who has actually bothered to listen to them.   Isn't it strange how someone who "hates everything about Mike Byrne" has taken the time to sit and listen to his back catalogue?  It's sort of like, I want to try find something to like about his drumming and how it marries with his stuff in SP or something?   Byrne is a reasonable drummer.  He demonstrates, at times, some high levels of technical proficiency [I do like moments of some of his wanky stuff in his [side-projects] but unfortunately it is totally incongruent with anything he has done in SP … and still if you stood this next to 5 other bands of the same ilk, it is frankly unremarkable.]  But going back to SP, his moments of half decent drumming are crowded and literally drowned out by his overall heavy handed approach, immaturity, repetition and unoriginality in that setting.   
  • Give him a chance – I’ve heard this for four years now.  I want the best music from the best band in the world.  I do not want to listen to someone figuring out what their style is by butchering songs which I love.  In SP - I want to hear fully realised expressions of artistic intent – I want to be awed by masters of their art and craft.  I don’t want to hear someone playing covers badly.  On the other hand, I will accept there has been some improvement – yet he has demonstrated far less growth than I hoped.  Certainly I haven’t seen anything like the leap from Gish to Siamese Dream in drumming terms...
  • Why do you keep going on about it? The reason I keep expressing it is that I have a  vain hope that by holding it, it will at least make people think about the fact that Smashing Pumpkins are important to people  for different reasons, and that whilst these reasons may not be compatible with their own, they are valid.  It took Corgan a while to come to some sort of peace with this [problem of the old and new], I hope that in time it doesn’t have to be as black and white for some of his fans.
  • Lol it’s like liking Jimmy will get him back in the band.  1. I don’t believe Jimmy will ever want to return. 2.  I’m not foolish enough to think that my opinion is going to change another fans opinion on anything - let alone Corgan’s.  Listen carefully, I don’t want you to change your mind – I just want to make you think that other opinions are ok. Even for second.  I want to hear SP3 make a great record I can enjoy, I want them to be successful, I want Mike to be a great drummer / I want a great drummer in SP who can take the band on a more interesting musical journey [to me] than what they are on now and help secure their legacy, not ruin it…   Strangely I would like to hear more bands making more music that I enjoy. Odd that.
  • If you saw the band live, you would think different. No I wouldn't. I've heard/seen enough bootlegs to not want to listen to one again.  If the band only played new material I'd absolutely consider going. Not just at the moment on Teargarden-era stuff, it's not strong enough. Maybe in a couple of years if they do a tour or play a show in which they guarantee they won't play old stuff - I'll go for sure. 
  • But Jimmy said "I think Mike is perfect for what Billy is doing now" (1) Jimmy has chosen not to do what Billy is doing so, yeah... read between the lines huh (2) As with Billy saying something is good; therefore I must like it - is ridiculous.  The same applies to Jimmy.
  •  Mike is a solid drummer - No, he isn't. I can point to a whole host of videos in which Mike makes mistakes.  A solid drummer isn't Mike. If you said he is extravagant or over exuberant - fine. I ain't arguing. But having a simplistic approach doesn't necessarily equate to being solid. 
  •  I like Byrne's style. Look, I'm sorry -I'm not trying to be difficult, but until you expand on this we're not going to come to any resolution.  If you like that he sounds a bit like Jimmy Chamberlin. Fine, just say it.  But this statement in itself does not an argument make.  All I ask is that you explain what Mike's own unique and special style is - drummer to drummer - as I just don't hear what he's doing in the band that makes him so special. 

The Mystery Machine

So lastly, here they are. Here are the 100 Billion dollar questions.  Question’s which have remained unanswered for a very long time:    

Are you a drummer and do you like Mike Byrne?  
If you are and do; Why?   
Are you able to articulate what Mike Byrne's unique style is? 
What do you like really about Byrne and his interpretation of Jimmy's parts? What about his 'original' work on Teargarden & Oceania - how does this marry with his work on his side-projects? 
How does simplifying Jimmy's parts improve them? 

Seriously I want to hear from someone who really likes him as drummer - I would be absolutely fascinated. Write to me here on The Machine Somehow, AGB, the Oboard, the podcast comments of HU, lurking around Netphoria... I just want to find one person. 



If you didn’t bother to read / you still don’t get it -  I’m a fan of the Smashing Pumpkins.  Being a fan doesn’t mean I have to like everything they do, with or without Jimmy Chamberlin.  I value originality and the Artist.  I like Jimmy. I don’t like Mike emulating Jimmy. I want SP to make kick-ass music. I don’t care who is doing it that much,  as long as it’s not shit.   Because you like Mike doesn’t make me hate you. I’m sad that not liking Mike's drumming very much makes you not like me. So, when I say Mike sucks - I mean neither him, you or anyone any offence. I just don't like it. But I'm glad you do.

If you choose to take one thing away from this, let it be this; being a real negative, cock-sucking, ass-hole, untrue fan, mother fucking lame-o, douchebag troll comes straight from the heart. 

This is the last time I'm talking about this. I'm bored. So, undoubtedly, are you.

Good night. 

[p.s. Sorry for any monte spelling and grammar, I know it's a bit messy - but hey. It's four years worth of nonsense. Give a guy a break...]
Ed: 00:42 - be nice drevpile