Billy Corgan Posts Manifesto On Pumpkins Future
In a long essay on the Smashing Pumpkins’ official site, Corgan explains why he’s chosen to continue under the band’s banner considering he’s the only remaining member. “When I decided to write and record again under the name The Smashing Pumpkins in 2005, I committed myself 100 pct,” he writes. “There is a difference in how I think and approach a body of work for the Pumpkins then say I would as a solo artist or under any other name.” He also promises a large SP multimedia project consisting of 44 songs (“one song at a time, over a period of 2-3 years, with it all adding up to a box set/album of sorts that would also include an art movie of the album”) in addition to starting two other bands and solo work (“I would love to get into more details on those projects but I would like to secure the domain names first because I don’t want to have to fight to get them back later”). He goes on to discuss how the music will be distributed starting in September (probably not a subscription model) and the lawsuits with EMI relating to unreleased material. It covers a lot of ground, maybe you should just read the whole thing…
Message from Billy
April 9, 2009
Hello from sunny California, where I’m currently working with some of my friends on new SP songs. The mood here is relaxed, serene, and studious as my pals are helping me with some TLC to zero-in on the new direction that I’m trying to take the music. I’ve made many, many mistakes through the years, and one of them is that I often rush headlong into my next album without really taking the time to reflect on what I’ve just done, and test my resolve a little on where I’m going. One small detail that I think was beneficial to the band in the early years was we practiced a lot. It wasn’t uncommon to have weeks where we practiced 30+ hours, which may not sound like a lot but at high volume this was very fatiguing, and of course exciting too. Through all that playing you would easily come into contact with the emotional value of whether or not a song ‘worked’, so to speak. Add to that another 20-30 hours per week at home writing music and lyrics, and you can see I was very immersed in that process of checking my ideas between head, home, heart, and practice.
Right now we are just focused on about 5 or 6 songs, using them to try out some new feels to try to find a consistent foundation upon which to build this large multimedia project I have in mind. 44 seems to be the magic #, so let’s say I’m shooting for 44 songs on this one. I’ll get to how I plan to release them later. Because the work will be conceptual in nature planning it all out also I think will help keep me from losing my way in the evil forest.
I’m going to step right into the heat of the matter now and address the infamous ‘why?’ question. The why being ‘why’ I have chosen to continue on under the Smashing Pumpkins banner considering I am the only remaining original member? The simple answer is that when I decided to write and record again under the name The Smashing Pumpkins in 2005, I committed myself 100 pct. 100pct of my mind-body-soul to come back and make the band really be great again, and I feel in tune to SP in a way I haven’t felt in tune probably since 1995 or 1996. As they say in No Limit Poker, I’m ‘all in’. I’m not going to back out of the challenge in front of me now. I’m absolutely exhilarated by what I see and feel the future to be for SP. There is a difference in how I think and approach a body of work for the Pumpkins then say I would as a solo artist or under any other name. Being the near lone songwriter for the Pumpkins has always made me want to put all the diverse harmonic fragments in my mind together, and it has been an incredible musical journey so far to keep trying to match up to the size of that idea. I truly am not focused on where I’ve been now as much as where I am going, and I haven’t felt that way for a very long time.
I appreciate that for many fans, the public part of my musical journey has often been quite confusing. I’ve tried to explain many times in both public and private venues that it’s really not so different than a character on tv who embodies the role they are in. I don’t think there is anything inauthentic about my play-acting within those created personas (zero, the whyte spider, the sad guy, the vampyre, etc) and acting them out on the grand stage in front of the glare of whoever cares. That to me IS what rock and roll is about. But many lack the sophistication to appreciate that just because I play a baby-faced killa upon the darkened stage that it doesn’t come close to who I really am. I would point very gently to the diversity and complexity of my artistic work to give you some sense of who Billy Corgan really is (that is a joking 3rd person by the way). Part-alien, part-human, part-robot, part-star-crossed lover and part-mercury filled apparently if one was to read the songs in that way. I am a sensitive soul and I make no apologies for that. As Popeye said, “I yam who I yam”. Or in my case maybe it’s “I am who I ain’t.”
I am at peace now with the idea that SP is worth bringing to life again and again, because the challenge of the band’s shadow has inspired some great work. It’s also just a name, THE Smashing Pumpkins (it just rolls off the tongue, don’t it??). It’s a dumb name, but I choose it cause I thought it was funny (yes, funny in 1987 ha ha). All that aside, what the band represents to me and obviously to so many fans SYMBOLICALLY is what is really important in my opinion moving forward. I think the energy in the Pumpkins community is fantastic right now. I love the diversity of opinion and perspective. There is nothing to argue about there. But at least there is something to argue over! Meaning SP is substantive once again; there are new songs, questionable decisions, abject failures, and unique triumphs to dissect over and over. Enjoy!
I do plan on doing other things coming up though. I have notions to start 2 other bands and also release some more solo work. I would love to get into more details on those projects but I would like to secure the domain names first because I don’t want to have to fight to get them back later. It’s bad enough that I have someone posing as me on Twitter LOL…the general idea is the work of the other groups and solo may intertwine with the SP album as far as a release schedule would go. But I’m all ready ahead of myself there.
So let’s get down to business and talk about what the plans are ahead. First up is/are the drum tryouts on the 14th/April. We’ve received a staggering amount of submissions so far (over 1,000!), so let me say to everyone who has submitted thank you and God Bless you for having the courage to throw your name out there. The auditions on the 14th are just the first round of trying people out. There is no ‘hurry’ at the moment, as I’m not quite ready to record yet, and it’s possible I may need more than one drummer for what my plans are. So for someone who may think they would never get a chance there is still time in the months ahead to keep trying. I view it as a process to find the right person(s) and it’s important that the right consideration is given. Jeff and I will be holding the first round of auditions, with me on bass (lookout!).
As I stated earlier in this post we’ve just been rocking amongst friends, so for the moment Kerry Brown, my best man and co-producer is manning the skins. The past few days we had Daxx Nielsen in to play on a few things, who is a great drummer himself. Lord forbid I would want 44 different drummers on 44 different tracks, but I suppose anything is possible.
Ok, album plans: first off, I still plan on making an album. I know this may contradict with what I’ve said publicly but I think I just didn’t state what I meant clearly. I meant I don’t think I’m going to make albums in the old-fashioned way, meaning 12-15 songs, etc in one small package. My desire at this point would be to release one song at a time, over a period of 2-3 years, with it all adding up to a box set/album of sorts that would also include an art movie of the album. (Sounds like a lot of work, don’t it??) My thinking is that if I focus on one song at a time I would approach them as beautiful, distinct paintings that would each require the attention they deserve. This would also mean I would choose what I am recording quite carefully as there would be tremendous internal pressure to get it just right, and that is the kind of pressure I like, which is to make the most beautiful thing possible. I’ve gotten lost many times during the long haul of making a record and have overlooked some great songs because of that. The new standard for an SP song would that it be excellent and fantastic and most importantly essential or it’s not coming out. I will do my best to meet that intention fully. So soon I will announce (hopefully) that I’ve begun the process, May being the most likely ‘start’ date. I will continue on from ‘there’ until whatever date it all seems finished. That would probably be marked by the release of the final artwork package and the movie. So lots of details to be worked out as you can see. I plan on the first actual song release coming in September. For the new SP I don’t think I would be interested in a subscription model unless it was something where enough people wanted a daily access to the work (in progress). I guess we as a community could throw out how many people would be interested in that as an idea. It would definitely have to be something that would be worth the effort on all sides.
Speaking of subscription models, I think Frank Quinto is doing a great job so far as Archive Czar keeping all of us in the loop on his progress. I can say from my end right now the biggest hurdle is sorting out the business side with our former label EMI (once Virgin). As some of you know, there are currently 3 lawsuits; the band is suing EMI, 2 of my former band mates are suing EMI, and EMI is suing me because of the ex-bandmember lawsuit. Thankfully EMI has shown a willingness to try to sort this out and God willing it will be resolved soon. My hope is to have access to all of the unreleased materials (with the contractual rights clearly worked out) so that I can set a plan in motion to get it all out over the next decade. That would be the best way, but sometimes that is not the way it works out. I do have all the Gish unreleased rights, but I don’t want to kick start that and by the time we get to Siamese have a whole legal mess on our hands and then have to stop our momentum. It’s all or nothing with the archives. Those with a positive attitude can see that as a blessing because it means if stuff starts to come out it’s all coming out.
It is really important for me to re-state first and foremost that the band will remain now and forever about making new music. This is where most of our energy over here belongs. That doesn’t say or mean to say anything negative about the past. In fact my posture on it is consistent with the original band vision, which was to always push forward. I’m not about to change that now. That doesn’t mean we can’t be smart and live in the world of 2009 and approach opportunities with a fresh mindset. Together we can find the right balance.
Many of the old indie-world values that people throw about without context were BS back in the day, and I said so back then too. I am no poster boy for alt-nation because alt-nation found its heroes elsewhere. You can have those heroes now. I am my own man from this day forward. The day SP gets proper credit for what it got right is the day that this can be a different conversation about what I may or may not be entitled to. The funny thing about being left out in the cold is you get used to the temperature.
I want to be quite candid here and say some things I don’t think I’ve ever shared. For many years I’ve been really unhappy with the stupidity of the music business (that’s no secret!). But now I am free from corporate meddling. No contracts, no deadlines to meet, nothing but rainbows ha ha… My wish is that from this day forward this group will represent nothing but love and light. If you see BC out there griping, it is only because I have failed to set the proper conditions to be in the love and light with you. The fan is NOT responsible in any way, shape, or form for my happiness or the my ability to do my job. (Nor have they ever been) If I have given that impression to any of you through the years I am sorry about that. That was an error on my part. When a fan comes to an SP show we owe it to you to put on the best show possible, rain or shine. I believe the days of standing on a stage somewhere in the world feeling torn about why I am up there are over. SP will be about peace from this day forward as well. The music WILL also reflect this shift in devotion and humble gratitude. You shall see!
I would like to end by saying thank you to those who pray for me, and send me well wishes and support. It means a lot to me that there are fans out there who see me as the humble human I truly am. Public life is a brutal, weird game that I have chosen to play for my own convoluted reasons my OWN way. I wish it was as simple as being about the trappings normally associated with fame! If only life were so simple. But it ain’t…but that too shall change. SP can and will represent a new kind of way of connecting my music with you in a way that leaves both parties feeling better for it. You have my personal promise on that.
Gotta respect the honest outreach to his fans. Let’s just hope Tila Tequila isn’t his new drummer. If you missed Billy and Jimmy’s curtain call on The Chris Isaak Hour, watch here.
For your Easter playlist:
Lobsterdust – “Jessie 79 (Rick Springfield Vs. Smashing Pumpkins)” (MP3)
And finally, some Billy & Tila vids: