Ex-Smashing Pumpkins Bassist Details Possible Reunion & New Album


Alternative Nation has interviewed every Smashing Pumpkins bassist since our 2009 launch as Grunge Report, including Melissa auf der Maur, Nicole Fiorentino, and most famously D’arcy Wretzky, and now we are finally speaking to Ginger Pooley. Ginger joined the band for their Zeitgeist tour in 2007 and 20th anniversary tour in 2008, after having performed as Ginger Sling.

Since leaving The Smashing Pumpkins in 2010, Pooley has played with Gwen Stefani and many other big names, and she is now launching Burning Pools with her husband Kris Pooley and Max Bernstein, with the single “Bang Bang” being released today. “Bang Bang” will appear on Burning Pools’ debut EP album.

In our interview, Ginger remembers auditioning for Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, Jimmy’s falling out with Billy Corgan, why she left the band, other Pumpkins bassists, and her memories of playing the summer 2007 residencies. We will also have a bonus article in a few days where she discusses meeting Chris Cornell and playing with Tom Morello.

You are putting out the debut single with Burning Pools, what’s it been like starting a band at a time when you can’t play live, which drives the industry these days?

Yeah, it’s exciting to finally be putting out our first single after working on our music for a while now. We started this before the pandemic but this time at home has given us the focus we needed to push past the finish line and finally release our music. It’s been very strange though not having live music during this time. It’s been really hard for so many of our friends who work in all aspects of live music. Of course we would love to play live. Hopefully next year things open up and we can play some shows.

Are there any bands you’d like to open for with Burning Pools once touring eventually returns?

Definitely. Of course it would be awesome to be on the same bill as my former bandmates in the Pumpkins. Rage Against the Machine would be epic! Our music is pretty protest driven and loud so that would be amazing. Pearl Jam, Gojira. Anything Jack White is doing. Kris Pooley (our drummer) is from Detroit so that makes sense. KISS! Really, anybody!

What’s it like recording in a band with your husband? We’ve seen it in some bands like The White Stripes and Arcade Fire.

It’s been really fun playing in a band with my husband (Kris). He’s so over the top talented. We’ve worked together playing with other people, but never in our own band writing our own material. We get along really well but because we’re married we know each other’s sensitivities and triggers. So we’re careful to try and say things the right way when working on ideas. It’s been great creating alongside him and Max (our guitarist). It’s really like nothing I’ve done before.

How did you come to audition for The Smashing Pumpkins for the Zeitgeist tour, and how was it first meeting and playing with Billy, Jimmy, and Jeff?

I was referred by my friend Tatiana, the same friend who referred Jeff. I first played with just Jimmy. There was no one else in the room. He was such a big deal to me already at that time, I could have left that room feeling satisfied that I even played with him once. But we played a handful of songs and man.. there is nothing like playing with that guy. It was surreal. He’s ridiculous.

Anyway, I was asked to come back, week after week at least 3-4 days a week. Each time playing more and more songs from the catalogue. Just Jimmy and I for a few months! At this point I wasn’t told that I had gotten the gig but I was basically rehearsing with just Jimmy. It was pretty great. By this time I had become friends with Billy.

Toward the end Jeff, Jimmy and I would be playing all together until finally Billy joined and I was told I got the gig. Ha. I don’t know. It might sound strange to be playing that long and that much without a straight answer but if you know, you know. That’s just the way it was. I had decided from the first day that I was going all in and treated it like a full time job regardless. I think my dedication paid off in the end.

How much of an influence did D’arcy have on your playing and onstage demeanor?

I wouldn’t say she had an influence on me with my live playing. But, she was definitely an idol. I had a picture of her on my wall as a teenager. I always loved how cool she was. She dressed cool, she played in a cool way. I don’t know her but I have nothing but good vibes to give.

How much work did it take for the Asheville and San Francisco Pumpkins residencies in 2007? The documentary If All Goes Wrong shows how some fans resisted the changing setlists with songs Billy had just written, with jams like Gossamer and Superchrist.

The residencies were a lot of work! Haha. I mean, it was so amazing to be that tight as a band at the time. We were like a machine. But Billy kept us on our toes by also writing during the day and having us learn those new songs during soundcheck. We’d then play those new songs at the show. I know a lot of people go to shows to hear their favorite songs and I am often one of those fans. But Billy was creating. That’s what he does. He wanted to play those songs and we did. I don’t know. I think it’s pretty punk rock to say screw it, I’m going to be true to my art and play my new song that I just wrote. Even if it is 30 minutes long. Lol.

The 20th anniversary tour ended your incarnation of the lineup, with Jimmy and Billy having a falling out after it ended, and Mike Byrne later joining. What are your memories of this time period, and your decision to leave the band?

This was such a monumental time in my life personally. I had committed myself to the Pumpkins, fell in love, got married, then got pregnant all within a span of 2 years! The band was ready to take a break. Early on in that break there was a falling out between Jimmy and Billy, yes. That was a bummer. I remember thinking that I don’t think I could play with a different drummer in that band. Even though I don’t think Jimmy had the same thought about me lol, honestly, that’s just how I felt about him. After a while, Billy had hired Mike.

I had given birth and rehearsals were set to start with the new line up. The birth of my daughter was pretty traumatic. So, I had to really decide if I could commit myself to the band the way I had in the past. It’s really an all-in or nothing kind of thing. I just didn’t have it in me to be away from my daughter that much so quickly, even if I did take her with me. The dedication to the band is something you can’t half ass. Anyway, so I made a difficult decision to leave. That was a bummer phone call to make. It was hard for a long time and like a breakup, it just takes time to get over.

What have been your thoughts on some of the bassists who have played in the Pumpkins after you like Nicole Fiorentino, Mark Stoermer, and Jack Bates? Have you met any of them?

Yes. I’ve met them. They’re great. I met Mark when we played festivals together with the Killers in the UK and Spain. He’s always been super cool. Nicole I met the last time I ever played with Billy at Record Store Day, after I had my baby. She has always been super sweet and we’re social media friends. I let her borrow some gear when she first started rehearsing with the band.

Would you be open to returning to the Pumpkins, even just for a guest performance? With James Iha and Jimmy returning, and even Courtney Love making a guest performance, we’ve seen anything is possible!

I would always want to play with Billy in any capacity. I love the band and would love to play again if they ever need or want me to fill in or whatever. I met James at Billy’s solo show last year. He’s super nice. Yeah, whatever the Universe wants I’m open.