Throwback Thursday: My Audition With Billy Corgan's Zwan

Another Throwback Thursday, another look back at a memorable audition! As I've mentioned before, I haven’t had to audition much over the course of my career.  The few times I did audition usually ended in a gig, but in this particular instance, that just wasn’t the case. Let’s just say playing the music wasn’t the only difficult aspect of the audition.

In the late 90’s I was in two bands, Big Sir and Distortion Felix, but I wasn’t really making money in either one. I decided to look for something that was a little more stable, so I took the advice of the auditioning guru, Barry Squire, to try out for Billy Corgan’s new band. Barry thought I would be a good fit, so I drove myself to Santa Monica and met up with Billy and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin.  When I met them, I felt so honored when told me, “I loved your Big Sir record (which Barry had given him) and we definitely want to jam with you.”  After that comment, I started to feel pretty confident about my chances of actually getting the gig, but was a bit apprehensive  given Billy’s reputation as being, well, difficult. I didn’t really let that bother me because I was stoked that they had even asked me to come to a rehearsal studio to play with them.  I knew Jimmy was a damn good drummer and I figured it could only open up some good opportunities to showcase my skills.

When I arrived at the audition spot, I could hear a bassist (who was slotted in before me) jamming.  As he exited, I told him that he sounded great and wished him luck. Once I got into the rehearsal space I saw that Billy wasn’t even playing guitar.  He was on a sofa in the middle of the room, getting a massage by a girl who worked at the record label, while Jimmy and the great Matt Sweeney from the band Chavez did all the jamming. I got up onto the stage and Jimmy shook my hand,  saying he was excited to jam.  Matt Sweeney took one look at at my pedalboard and expressed his relief that I was going to try something different. I started dialing in different tones off my board and Matt was both impressed and curious by some of the sounds I was creating. I was in the middle of explaining some of what I was doing to him when Billy walked up unenthusiastic-ally and interrupted, asking, “Can we just play?”

We started jamming on couple riffs and within a minute, Billy tells everyone he doesn’t want to play anymore and sits down to continue his massage.  At this point, Matt tells me he really dug where I was coming from and we exchanged numbers. Jimmy thanked me for coming through and I split. As you know (because Paz Lenchantin ended up as the the bassist) I didn’t get the gig.

I didn’t see Matt until much later, when on tour in NYC around 2004-2005. He was hanging out with El-P, backstage.  Matt and I talked about the audition and had a good laugh about it.

If you ever go on an audition, there’s always going to be times where you might not make the cut, or may have to deal with musicians who aren’t the easiest people to get along with (or make you dance around with your bass on). But that doesn’t necessarily mean you wasted your time, because chances are you’ll still get a chance to network and learn from the process. In this particular case, I got to meet Matt Sweeney and jam with the very talented Jimmy Chamberlin, so that was an experience worth having.