The Nerve Mixtape With James Iha

The guitarist, singer, and one-time Smashing Pumpkin on his favorite musical tools of seduction.

By James Iha

James Iha got famous as the quiet, drily funny guitarist for The Smashing Pumpkins, generally acting as a low-key foil to Billy Corgan's tornadoes of narcissism. He's since collaborated with Cheap Trick, Fountains of Wayne, Hanson, and Michael Stipe, among others, as well as becoming a member of A Perfect Circle. His second solo album, Look to the Sky, is out this month.

1. John Cale, "Hanky Panky Nohow"

The music is understated, the mood is melancholy, the vocals are forlorn, and then comes the chorus... "Hanky Panky Nohow." I don't know what it means, but somehow that lyric really ties everything together.

 

2. David Bowie, "Let's Spend The Night Together"

Here's a suitably gleeful romp through the Stones classic, sent from a distant world — a playful, spastic cover from Pin Ups. Check out the awesome piano by the legendary Mike Garson.

 

3. Matthew Sweet, "We're The Same"

It's a well-crafted song in the arrangement and melodies, and the recording rocks. A classic power-pop song about a girl.

 

4. Beachwood Sparks, "By Your Side"

This is another great cover, a Sade song re-imagined as a reverb-drenched country soul song, romantic and existential.

 

5. Phil Collins, "Against All Odds"

I saw this movie recently — Against All Odds, with James Woods, Jeff Bridges, and Rachel Ward — and it's great! Gangsters, romance, football. When this song comes on and Phil sings, "Take a look at me now," you know he's not kidding.

 

6. Belle and Sebastian, "Marx and Engels"

Not the typical romance — more like an imagined fantasy romance between a shy boy and riot girl reading the Communist Manifesto at a laundromat in some dreary part of England.

 

7. Rolling Stones, "Play With Fire"

"Play With Fire" is such a badass song: you've got your diamonds and rich family (which I secretly want to be a part of), but don't play with me, 'cause you're playing with fire!

 

8. Prince, "I Wanna Be Your Lover"

Incredible song, incredible Prince falsetto. Great lyrics too, although I don't buy Prince singing "I'm so shy."

 

9. Katy Perry, "The One That Got Away"

I'm a fan — she makes huge pop songs that always have some incredible hook, while always retaining her personality. She's Madonna for this decade.

 

10. Rihanna feat. Drake, "What's My Name?"

This is one of those big summer songs I heard a lot when I was living in the East Village. Great song and so many great hooks.

 

Want to meet a mysterious guitarist? Meet them on Nerve.

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