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Smashing Pumpkins guitarist finds his place within the band

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Jeff Schroeder came to Smashing Pumpkins in 2007 as a fan, a guitarist in Los Angeles tapped by group leader Billy Corgan to replace founding member James Iha.

Nearly a decade later, and after two albums and a slew of other songs released online, Schroeder is a Pumpkins veteran who's settled into his role and into the difficult shoes he had to fill.

"I was maybe 17 when I first read about the band, and when 'Gish' came out (in 1991) I was able to experience the band from the beginning," Schroeder, 42, says during a conversation at Corgan's Madame ZuZu's tea shop in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park. "So I think when I joined the band it was a little bit of, 'Well, this is my experience with it from the outside, and now I have to learn it from the inside.'

"But there was a deep love for the music and a respect for the music, and I was just really happy to be in a situation where I got to play with musicians of the caliber of Billy and Jimmy (Chamberlin), which I'd never had before. It was really difficult, but now I feel a lot more comfortable and a real part of everything."

Corgan would certainly concur with that. He freely calls Schroeder his "partner" as well as "the current PUmpkins guitar player -- and hopefully the last." And he's effusive in his praise of Schroeder's development since joining the band.

"He probably had the toughest job because he came in to a set style, this idea of 'This is how you play Pumpkins guitar,'" Corgan, 49, explains. "So he had to sublimate his own style, which is very, very interesting, and figure out how to play the Pumpkins style.

"And then over time he really started to show his own melodic voice in a way that was contributory and added to the equation. And Jeff's a natural producer, so he's really stepped forward into that role and asserted himself more, and I've been open enough to let him do that more than I've been to others who have been in the band before."

Schroeder's role has grown throughout the Pumpkins' ambitious "Teargarden by Kaleidyscope" endeavor, which began as an Internet-based project but has also spawned the album's "Oceania" in 2012 and "Monuments to an Elegy" in 2014. Another set, tentatively titled "Day For Night," is expected out in the near future, though Corgan, Schroeder and Chamberlin -- the Pumpkins' founding drummer who's in his third stint with the group -- are currently bonding on In Plainsong, an "acoustic-electro" tour featuring stripped-down versions of the group's material, deep trolls into the group's catalog and cover songs.

"It all comes back to, I think, my love of the music, which is obviously a big part of Billy's personality, but I think that's where my curiosity truly emanates from," Schroeder says. "I think I've come a long way since I joined the group, and I think there's a lot more we're going to do under this Smashing Pumpkins umbrella."

Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair

Friday, April 1. Doors open at 8 p.m.

The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.

Tickets are $75 and $45.

Call 313-961-5451 or visit thefillmoredetroit.com.

Web Site: www.thefillmoredetroit.com

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