"You see. I have this thing, I know the meaning of my life."
D'arcy is best known for her work as the bassist for the Smashing Pumpkins from 1991 to 1999, when she left the band to pursue an acting career. She fit in very well with the other members of the Pumpkins, such that she is not a very normal individual. She enjoys children's books, and is a big Star Trek fan. She also wasn't normal as a musician. She used her classical training to lend an orchestral quality to her basslines. D'arcy's distinctive sound left an impression on the future of bassists, and the future of women in rock.
D'arcy was born in South Haven, Michigan, on May 1st, 1968. She and her two sisters were trained musically by their mother, a singer and musician, but D'arcy seemed to be the most talented of the three. Jealous, her sisters abused her throughout her early life.
"I could never have withstood being in a band without training from growing up with my sisters. It started when I was born -- My older sister was very jealous. Once, in winter, she locked me outside in my diapers. I was thrown into large bodies of water countless times. I had to retaliate."
And that she did. D'arcy learned how to defend herself from physical and mental abuse, and so, she turned into a tomboy. She started playing with boys instead of with girls, started throwing knives, even turned from her classical training to learn bass guitar. With the influence with most of the males around her hometown combined with her bass expertise, D'arcy was able to get into bands and express herself musically.
"I was always like, I'm going to be in a band when I grow up. Always. Ever since I was probably six years old."
After graduating from high school, D'arcy traveled to France. A French exchange student she knew had a friend who needed a bassist, so D'arcy flew to Paris to meet with this friend. But, by the time she got there, the band had already broken up. Guess it's true what they say about French bands.
After the Paris incident, D'arcy decided to travel around Europe for a while. After finding herself in Europe, she traveled back to the US. On the way back, she was stranded at O'Hara Airport in Chicago, carrying what she brought with her on the plane. She called her parents in Michigan to come pick her up, but they weren't home at the time. So, she started wandering around Chicago, and ended up liking the city so much that she didn't want to go back to Michigan. D'arcy lived with her sister, who lived in downtown Chicago, for a while before moving in with the lead singer of the band she was in.
One evening, D'arcy went with a friend to see a band play at the Avalon nightclub. After the set had ended, D'arcy and her friend were outside of the club talking about the band that had just played. As they were talking, a man behind her spoke up:
"That band was crap! Besides that, they were put together by a record company."
Understandably, D'arcy was a bit put off.
She responded. "How can you tell that? Can you tell just by looking at them?"
He said, "I can tell by the way they jump around on stage."
And D'arcy said, "I jump around on stage, and I wasn't put together by a record company."
The argument almost degenerated into a fight, until the man asked D'arcy what instrument she played. She told him, and he said he needed a bassist for his band, and gave her a number to call. D'arcy did call, and she auditioned for his band. The man was Billy Corgan, and the band was the beginning of the Smashing Pumpkins.
In The Band
"It's like being married to four people you never even wanted to date."
When D'arcy came to her first audition, she was incredibly nervous. She could barely hold her bass during the audition, but Billy decided to let her join. He thought D'arcy was an interesting person
, and he needed to get his band together.
"He said, 'Before we can write together you have to learn these songs.' And he handed me a tape of 40 or 50 songs. Of his. 'We'll start writing when you learn these.'"
At that time, the band consisted of Billy, D'arcy, and James Iha, the guitarist whom Billy had already met and played with. Soon after D'arcy joined the band, Billy met Jimmy Chamberlin through someone he knew. Billy took Jimmy on as the drummer for the Pumpkins, and before long, their first album, Gish, was recorded. On Gish, D'arcy's bass was a bit inconsistent. On some tracks, like Crush and Bury Me, her basslines are right at the forefront. But, on most of the other tracks, D'arcy stays near the back. The popularity of the album seems eerily modeled after D'arcy's performance on it. Gish was received well in alt-rock circles, but didn't do well commercially. So, the Pumpkins set on to tour every club they could get into.
With all the stress of the non-stop touring, Billy was starting to become depressed. His childhood problems started to resurface, and he was losing focus. When they finished touring, and went into the studio to record their second album, Siamese Dream, they had about seventy-five percent of their songs written. It was a stressful time for all of the members of the band, and Billy ended up recording all the string parts for the album by himself. Unfortunately, Billy, being a guitarist, didn't add many prominent basslines to Siamese Dream, and so D'arcy was not a big part of the album. What parts she did have were either drowned out by the guitars, or not impressive enough to be noticed.
"You have to have a lot of faith to make all the compromises and give up a lot."
Siamese Dream was the album that really placed the Pumpkins into the spotlight, but problems began to arise in the band. Jimmy Chamberlin began to have problems with drugs, which never seemed to go away completely. The band went on, but there were always disagreements from then on.
After Siamese Dream came the third and fourth albums, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Adore. Mellon Collie, a double album, included a lot of writing from all of the four members of the band. In Mellon Collie, D'arcy found an outlet for her classical training. She was able to branch out musically, going from grand orchestral basslines blending with the strings of Tonight, Tonight, to the straight rock of Jellybelly and Tales of a Scorched Earth. You can ever hear the influence of these myriad basslines in the music of Paz Lenchantin, another female bassist. After Siamese Dream, this musical freedom was definitely a welcome change. The whole band was high, and not just on acid.
After Mellon Collie, Jimmy was kicked out of the band for his recurring drug habit, and the Pumpkins went on as a three-piece band to record Adore. Adore was a darker, more electronic album that didn't sell as well as Mellon Collie, despite the efforts of D'arcy and her provocative posing. Once again, D'arcy's distinctive classical style was slightly squashed on this album. The one song that really stands out, bass-wise, is Shame. It's almost a throwback to the days of Gish. D'arcy leads the song, her thick bassline twined with a simple guitar lead. Aside from this song, D'arcy was not a very noticeable part of the album.
After Adore was released, the Pumpkins immediately went back to touring. Their crowds were diminished a bit, but that didn't stop the band. They toured internationally, but it wasn't the same without Jimmy. Billy re-hired Jimmy as a drummer late into the Adore tour, but the band still wasn't the same. After the international Adore tour, the Pumpkins went back to their roots, and went on an eight-show club tour. During this tour, the band showcased some favorites from older albums, as well as material for a new album, Machina/The Machines Of God.
Unfortunately, D'arcy never got to play on the Machina tour. After the small club tour was finished and the new album was recorded, D'arcy decided to quit the Pumpkins to pursue an acting career. It wasn't a made out to be a major thing, D'arcy just wasn't there one day. It was announced in a press release a couple days after she left, and she was replaced by Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur.
"I'm like James, I need a creative outlet outside the Pumpkins...I need to do things my way, with my ideas. I come from a classical music background and sometimes no one understands my way of reasoning and of doing things."
Despite leaving the Smashing Pumpkins to pursue an acting career, D'arcy hasn't been seen much. There were rumors that she was slated to play a mafia hitwoman in the indie film "Pieces of Ronnie", but the film never went through. She was arrested for cocaine possession in early 2000, and since then, nothing has been reported about her.
D'arcy wasn't renowned for being a celebrity. She was relatively unknown as a bassist before joining the Pumpkins, and even then, she was eclipsed by Billy Corgan along with the other members of the band. But she was a tangible influence on rock music, and an influence on aspiring female bassists.
"To us it makes sense. If we don't continue to grow and change, then we just won't continue."