For the second incarnation of the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex, as heard on its new album, The Parable, the mighty drummer, who came to prominence in the ’90s with the Smashing Pumpkins, gathered players from East and West Coasts to create a swinging free-for-all. Eschewing the fusion décor of his first Complex release, The Parable is a dark maneuver of jazz improvisations shaped by Chamberlin’s elastic grooves. Bassist Billy Mohler, keyboardist Randy Ingram, guitarist Sean Woolstenhulme, and saxophonist Chris Speed bring quick reflexes and seasoned skills to bear.
“As I get older,” Chamberlin says from Chicago, “it’s more interesting for me to play the type of music where I create in real time, as opposed to a representation of something I’ve calculated and determined to be the best possible series of notes. I came from the jazz world originally.”
Chamberlin plays a jazz setup featuring Sakae drums and Istanbul Agop cymbals on The Parable, bringing a refined, flowing familiarity to the album’s six collectively written compositions. “At live venues,” he says, “I like being forced to deal with the drums, but I do bring my own cymbals to jazz gigs—a couple different Agop 20″ 30th Anniversary rides that I really like, a 19″ crash, and my hi-hats. For the most part I like trying to create with tonal configurations that are different from what I have at home.”
In between gigs, how does Chamberlin stay in shape, whether rocking with Smashing Pumpkins or swinging with the Complex? “I’m a big believer in minerals and hydration,” he says. “On tour I make sure to bring lots of calcium/magnesium. Calcium enables your muscles to contract; magnesium allows them to relax. Often if I’m feeling stiff it’s because I don’t have enough magnesium in my system. I learned that from a nutritionist, and I’ve put it into practice over the past twenty years. I believe in mineral balancing, especially when playing Pumpkins shows, where it’s more physical. I try to stay away from sugar or anything that will dehydrate me before I play. I take calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and a multivitamin.”
Chamberlin adjusts his diet on the road accordingly. “When playing three-hour Pumpkins shows,” he explains, “I try to eat more on the alkaline side, to keep my body from getting acidic and nervous. That means limiting my coffee intake and staying more with fruits and vegetables. I drink lots of water. No alcohol. When I was young I used to drink at shows, and I was always dehydrated. At fifty-three I’m more cognizant of what’s going on in my body. Through that I can tell if I need to drink more water or if I’m low on magnesium or potassium, which means eating a banana.”
Food and minerals nourish his body, while meditation calms Chamberlin’s mind. “I like to meditate thirty minutes at night and thirty minutes in the morning,” Jimmy says. “I use Dr. Joe Dispenza’s Space Free Guided Meditation. Drumming is a physical thing, which is predicated somewhat on your bio-health. Dispenza’s mediation is rooted in the idea that quantum physics can be replicated on the physical level. Like the contemplation of an experiment determines the outcome; Dispenza brings that forward and allows you to creatively visualize your circumstances and how you want to change your environment. I’m a believer that if you put that information out in the universe, [meditation] will give you a better chance of having it materialize.
“I’ve learned that for better or worse,” Chamberlin adds, “as you get older the gear becomes less of a component. You bring your identity with you. It’s not so much a byproduct of what you’re playing, it’s more why you’re doing what you’re doing.”
Chamberlin plays Sakae drums and Istanbul Agop cymbals, and he uses Vic Firth sticks, Remo heads, and DW pedals.