It must have seemed like a good idea at the time: Do what any struggling band does when it needs an extra player put an ad in the paper. But for the multiplatinum Smashing Pumpkins, mid-June notices in Chicago's weekly Reader and New City are turning out to be declarations band members would rather forget. ''The Smashing Pumpkins are looking for a keyboard player to accompany them for live performances,'' the three-inch ad stated. ''Please send a five-minute cassette tape of yourself playing whatever you wish (please, no Pumpkins songs).'' The band's explicit encouragement of low-quality ''boombox tapes'' was meant, says guitarist James Iha, to seek out amateurs and avoid the ''bad attitude that goes along with professional studio musicians.''
But aspiring Pumpkins needn't wait by the phone. Two months later, a refrigerator box of cassettes graces Chicago's Soundworks studios, and there's not a listening session in sight. ''We've been too busy to deal with them,'' says Iha. ''I don't want to listen to a bunch of wack keyboard players. It sounds like a nightmare to me.''