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Backup Musician Found Dead At Hotel; Smashing Pumpkins Drummer Charged

July 12, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ A backup musician with the alternative rock group Smashing Pumpkins was found dead in a hotel room of an apparent heroin overdose today, and the group’s drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin, was charged with heroin possession.

Chamberlin was with keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin when he overdosed, a police source who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Associated Press. Police confirmed the arrest but did not immediately confirm the source’s account.

No other arrests were expected, the source said. The other band members _ frontman Billy Corgan, guitarist James Iha and the bassist, who goes by the single name D’Arcy _ had no comment as they left a police stationhouse this afternoon.

Earlier, police Deputy Inspector Wayne Bax said the 34-year-old Melvoin, who was not a regular member of Smashing Pumpkins, and another band member shot heroin late Thursday, then passed out in their room at the Regency Hotel.

The other band member, whom Bax would not identify, woke up at about 3:30 a.m., could not wake Melvoin and called 911 for help.

The police source said when Chamberlin awoke and realized Melvoin had not regained consciousness, he took Melvoin into the shower and called 911 and the tour manager. He also tried unsuccessfully to revive Melvoin with instructions from 911.

Melvoin was pronounced dead at the hotel at about 4 a.m.

Bax wouldn’t say what was found in the room. Laboratory tests will determine if the drug involved was definitely heroin, he said. The source said a small amount of heroin was recovered.

Several years ago, the Smashing Pumpkins came near to kicking out Chamberlin because of his recurring drug abuse, Rolling Stone and other publications reported.

The Chicago-based band, which first came to national prominence about five years ago, combines various rock music styles in a multilayered sound, with lyrics expressing Generation X discontent. Their albums are ``Gish,″ ``Siamese Dream,″ ``Pisces Iscariot″ and ``Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.″

After Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, the Smashing Pumpkins became arguably the top alternative rock act in the country.

The group was in town for two sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden. Tonight’s concert was postponed.

The Pumpkins co-headlined the Lollapalooza tour in 1994 and are currently on tour in support of ``Mellon Collie.″ The double CD contains two hours of new music in various styles of punk, psychedelic, heavy-metal and even country.

The music industry has recently been discussing whether to take steps in response to a wave of drug-related casualties, including the death of Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon and the addiction of Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland. The Stone Temple Pilots had to cancel their summer tour after a judge ordered Weiland into a treatment program.

Music executives have pushed for wider use of the industry’s MusiCares program, a 7-year-old network that offers money for musicians to seek physical and mental health care and help for substance abuse.

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