AFTER A THREE-MONTH SEARCH THAT netted widespread media attention and hundreds of audition videos on YouTube, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan announced that he’d finally found the next bassist for his band. But Nicole Fiorentino’s elation at landing the gig last May quickly turned serious when Corgan informed her that Smashing Pumpkins would immediately begin work on a 44-song album. Right after they finished a world tour, they began birthing Teargarden by Kaleidyscope with the lofty goal of launching a triumphant new sound.
Digitally releasing each song for free through the band’s website isn’t the only thing that makes Teargarden unique: This record marks the first time in Pumpkins history that bass parts will be written and recorded by someone other than Corgan. Up for the challenge, Fiorentino—who also holds down the bass chair in indie/ambient band The Cold And Lovely—is bringing her upfront, melodic style to what will undoubtedly be the most ambitious Pumpkins project since 1995’s Mellon Collieand the Infinite Sadness.
How did Corgan first hear about you?
I was in a band called Light FM, in Los Angeles, and we just happened to open for Billy’s side project, Backwards Clock Society. We spoke briefly at the show, but it turns out that he loved my playing. I contacted his management to let them know that if the Pumpkins needed a bassist, I was available. Half a year later, I got a call from Billy’s management saying that Ginger Pooley had quit and that Billy wanted to audition me. My audition was more of a month-long collaboration to test how we clicked. It was intense, but we just connected on so many levels.
How did you find out you had the gig, and how did it feel?
Billy took me out to lunch to tell me that I was officially in. I thought it was very classy and professional of him. He told me that I surpassed his expectations, and that if I were still interested, he would like to offer me the job. Honestly, it felt like I had won the alternative American Idol.
You played and sang in Veruca Salt for three years. How did that gig affect your playing?
It was a groundbreaking experience and necessary for my growth as a bass player. Louise [Post, guitarist] is a dear friend of mine, and she really helped me come out of my shell as a performer. Honestly, I would not be where I am now had I not been in that band.
How are you approaching the new material?
It’s bringing out the harmonic side of my playing. I’m using a variety of basses that allow me to play high, busy lines without losing the heavy undertone. Billy describes a lot of my lines as “lead bass.” Maybe I was a lead guitarist in a past life. Who knows?
How does it feel to be the first bass contributor aside from Corgan on a Pumpkins record?
It’s quite an honor that Billy trusts my instincts as much as he does. He has said that although he could imitate other bassists, he can’t seem to imitate my style. He compares my playing to Chris Squire of Yes and Simon Gallup of the Cure.
How much are you influenced by your Pumpkins predecessors, such as D’Arcy Wretzky, Melissa Auf Der Maur, and Ginger Pooley?
I work hard to maintain the integrity of what people identify as the Pumpkins bass sound, but I also think it’s important for me to add my own flair. Billy has given me the go-ahead when it comes to putting my stamp on this album, so I am taking full advantage of it. My goal is to write parts that are simultaneously heavy, melodic, and moving. That seems to be the direction this album is taking, so I have to keep up with it.
HEAR HER ON
Smashing Pumpkins, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope [Martha’s Music/Rocket Science, 2011]
Basses 1963 Fender Jazz Bass, ’58 and ’76 Fender Precision Basses, ’62 Gibson Thunderbird, ’78 Rickenbacker 4001
Rig Reeves Custom 225 head, Ampeg 8x10 cabinet
Effects Electro-Harmonix Small Clone chorus