Summer 1989 - Reel Time Studios, Chicago

Produced by Billy Corgan; Engineered & mixed by Mark Ignoffo

  • C'mon
  • Daughter (extended)
  • Daydream
  • East
  • Egg
  • Love (old demo version)
  • Psychodelic
  • Rhinoceros
  • Snap (If I Could)
  • Stars Fall In
  • With You
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More recording sessions with Mark Ignoffo, intended to constitute the first Smashing Pumpkins album.  Fortunately for the future of the band, these sessions did not produce an album as anticipated but the second demo tape Moon.  Billy Corgan also compiled a tape from these sessions called Gish, used for bookings and label solicitation in 1989 and 1990.  Corgan also made a number of homemade mix tapes for friends and fans that featured different configurations of material from these sessions.  While about half of the sessions have  appeared on various releases, the remaining half can be found on bootlegs, the highest quality as unmastered final mixes compiled on a DAT tape that had belonged to Mike Potential.
According to Corgan, the album originally came from Smashing Pumpkins' early vow of poverty. "The roots of Gish are the fact that the band had a policy then that nobody made any money from the shows, so we could save up to record," he explains. "It was amazing that everyone agreed to it because none of us had any money back then. So by 1989 we had collected a couple grand from playing club gigs. A guy named Mark Ignoffo, who lived in the neighborhood near where I worked at the used record store, had just graduated studio-engineering school. It turned out he had set up a studio in his parents' basement, so in 1989 we took that saved money and made an album — even though we had no one to make an album for. There was absolutely nobody interested in our band. So we just made an album-plus worth of material hoping somebody would become interested. And if you listen to that material, it sounds very much like Gish turned out."[1]

James Iha: “Tracks were recorded on a 16-track in a guy's basement,” says James. “There's I Am One, Rhinoceros, Bury Me, Daydream, and those tapes are still out there somewhere!” “You'd only be disappointed,” replies Billy. “But, you know, it was a very important time for us when everything started to converge.”[2]

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Mark Ignoffo: Well, as with most things it was merely by chance. My family was having a garage sale and I was selling an old Farfisa organ. A young guy stopped by and saw the organ and asked if I played keys and the conversation morphed into my recording studio which was located in the basement of the house at the time. He said, “man there is an incredible guitar player you have to hear. He works down the street at this used record store.” So somewhere in the next few weeks I stopped in at the “Record Hunt” and met Billy.


At first, it was just another band that I was going to record. Most everyone that does a demo has the grand dream of being discovered. It was immediately obvious that Billy was a phenomenal guitar player, but in the music industry, talent doesn’t mean success as you can tell by listening to the radio. I wasn’t familiar with some of the bands he liked, such as Dinosaur

Jr. which I think was good because I approached the recording with the perspective of not trying to “match” a sound. I remember him telling me he really liked some of the Beatles production techniques and I believe he was reading a book about it at the time. James was always a pretty quiet guy in the studio. Nice but never said too much. Jimmy was mostly there just to do the drums and didn’t usually come in for the overdubbing. D’arcy was easygoing but one Saturday morning session she made it known she was not a “morning person”. Not in a mean way, but she would have preferred to start later. It got a little tense sometimes between them but never tension towards me. I worked with them for approximately a year but I don’t recall if we started late in 1988 or early in 1989. It was in February of 1990 that I moved my studio to Florida and I remember completing the last of the recordings right before I left.
I can say without a doubt that he was the driving force of the band. I’m sure even he would admit maybe being a bit of a tyrant at the time but he knew what he wanted and expected everyone to do their part. They had limited funds and didn’t want time wasted in the studio with someone doing a million takes. I will tell you that I feel we had a great relationship working in the studio together. It was always professional but relaxed, especially when we were mixing. I think to this day that his amp was one of the loudest I ever recorded in the studio. This was a bit of a surprise thrown at me while working on the song. He said he wanted to do an alternate version of the song with a keyboard solo. Billy knew I played keys and my background was deeply rooted in the progressive rock bands. Rick Wakeman was my favorite keyboardist at the time and still is. The first thing he said was I don’t want you to play any of that Wakeman stuff like a typical solo you would play. He said I want it to be really weird… really odd. It was done on some small synth with a very limited range and I don’t think they were even full size keys. Even though I had a Hammond B3 he wanted the synthesized organ sound. Maybe he just wanted to see me struggle to play on that little keyboard [laughs]. I think that by doing it this way he didn’t want me to think out a more structured idea. So I tried not to think musically and just play weird. After a few takes he said something like “yeah like that”. I probably had a confused look on my face [laughs]. There is also another song with heavy organ in the background but you have to really listen closely. [3]

Return to Pre-Gish                       

  1. Billy Corgan, Gish Remaster liner notes, November 2011
  2. Nick Jones, "Fuck Off... We're From Chicago!", Spiral Scratch Magazine, January 23, 1992
  3. Geo Folkers, "Interview with Mark Ignoffo", SP Freaks, June 24, 2014
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