Jimmy Chamberlin was born in Illinois in 1964 into a family of musicians: His father was a jazz clarinetist and Paul, his older brother, was also a drummer. Little Jimmy listens to jazz all day, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, but also Ian Paice and Dennis Chambers.
He began very early to take drum lessons from drummer Charlie Adams (Yanni) and already at the age of nine, he mastered the basics and knew the basics of drums. During his adolescent years, he changes several teachers learning Latin, Brazilian and big-band drumming techniques.
Jimmy Chamberlin with DW
After completing his studies he alternates his live activity with the work of carpenter in the city of Juliet (IL).
It was during one of these periods that he was introduced to Billy Corgan through a mutual friend. It was 1988, and the Pumpkins had just formed, but they played with a drum machine. When the owner of the famous Chicago Metro asked them to play as long as they had real drums, Corgan asked Chamberlin to join the band.
Corgan remembers the first day of rehearsals with Jimmy: “He showed up at the rehearsal with a pink shirt, faded jeans and a hideous haircut, short above and long behind. We immediately thought: It’s not for us. But then we learned all our songs on the fly and after just one test we were ready to play. It was great! ”
Chamberlin puts his signature indelibly in the first album “Gish” and in the “Siamese Dream” where, however, he begins to have serious problems with drugs. Jimmy, in fact, began to skip the recordings of the album making himself untraceable or presenting himself totally under the effect of drugs to the point of not being able to play. After many difficulties, the album was completed and Jimmy was forced by Corgan to follow a rehabilitation program.
Billy Corgan: “We immediately thought: It’s not for us!”
The popularity of his sound finally exploded. Many began to notice him, to the point that Modern Drummer magazine dedicated a cover to him. The same thing happened with the release of “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” the monumental double album where Chamberlin’s drumming was consecrated.
With success ( “Mellon Collie and the infinite sadness” became the double best selling album in history) his drug problems came to a critical point. During the tour of the album, before a performance at Madison Square Garden in New York, Chamberlin and keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin, hired for the tour, used heroin in their hotel room; Melvoin died of an overdose, Chamberlin was saved by a miracle. It was on 12 July 1996.
Because of this, Corgan and the others decided to expel Chamberlin from the group’s formation, ending the tour with Matt Walker, the former Filter drummer. During this time Chamberlin entered a rehabilitation center and managed to avoid prison.