BILLY CORGAN ON THE MAKING OF “OCEANIA”
ALBUM OUT JUNE 19 VIA
MARTHA’S MUSIC/EMI LABEL SERVICES/CAROLINE DISTRIBUTION
Can you talk about how the recording of ‘Oceania’ may have differed in any way from previous Smashing Pumpkins albums?
“We worked for a time in an empty movie theatre in Sedona during the winter months of early 2011, sketching out some primary versions of the songs while trying to dial in the emotional terrain we were seeking. In that kind of process it wasn’t that unusual from past records where I’d worked with a band as a unit to help me define a set of templates to work towards. We’d just come off the road, and had a good sense of what was no longer working in our eyes from a dynamic point of view. We worked hard to create space in the music, but not lose any of the emotive power that I like to have behind my songs.”
You finished ‘Oceania’ before deciding to team up with EMI Label Services/Caroline Distribution, so that would mean you were completely artistically free to create the album you wanted to make. Want to tell us about your creative mind-set during the recording?
“From a production standpoint I was dead set on making an album where every song was just as valuable as any other, ignoring the typical claptrap you hear about needing a single. The only way to make the case that every song on Oceania is worth hearing is to put your heart into the sequence as a cohesive whole. Once we felt we’d achieved that balance, only then did we let anyone outside our world hear the record we’d made. The chance to work within the EMI system again felt right to me. But unlike years in the past where I was under a set contract and beholden to a set of external forces which didn’t always fall in our favor, in this set-up they are now our partners in putting Oceania out to a wider marketplace than we could reach on our own.”
What do you feel your bandmates have added to the album?
“I’ve been adamant in stressing that as a group, first and foremost, we are here to make new music together. I’m proud to say that on Oceania I feel we’ve cut our own path forward. Jeff, Mike, and Nicole have all made significant contributions to the tone and texture of Oceania, which is an album that is unlike any I’ve ever made. Yet at the same time I believe it upholds the same musical values I’ve always pushed for with The Pumpkins, be they progressive, emotional, epic, or restless.
Do you feel the recording of the album benefitted by the band having played some of these songs on the road first?
If we’ve learned anything from playing as an intact unit now for over two years, it’s that unless we create our own sound and our own legacy, it’s a given that people will default to what they know; whether it’s my past or someone else’s. We know we have much more in us to share than being an alluring, virtual jukebox. Being in The Pumpkins will always be defined by what we can create from our hands and hearts right now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
BILLY CORGAN ON “A SONG FOR A SON,”
THE FIRST RELEASE FROM ‘TEARGARDEN BY KALEIDYSCOPE’
Q: Any particular reason you chose to launch the album with “A Song For A Son”?
The first sessions in September involved 4 songs: “A Song For A Son,” “Astral Planes,” “Widow Wake My Mind,” and “A Stitch in Time.” What song would come out first really didn’t cross my mind until they were all done being recorded. “A Song For A Son” just seemed like it had the right epic quality to it that says, “OK, here we go on this massive journey!” It sounds like the beginning of something more.
Q: How has “A Song For A Son” evolved from the version that the Pumpkins were performing on the last tour?
The version of the song from the 20th Anniversary tour was pretty basic, and I felt at the time that we didn’t really find the heart of the song. However, the song was connecting to the audience emotionally so I knew something exciting was in there to be discovered. The recorded version is produced more like a movie, where it takes you to different places, from intimate to psychedelic to whimsical.
Q: Can you describe what the song sounds like?
The song sounds to me like The Smashing Pumpkins that I grew up with. Each song we’ve recorded is like its own movie, and hopefully when you put all 44 songs together they’ll create a bigger journey that can only be seen when you have all the pieces to the map.
Q: Since you made the statement in September that the album will be available for free to everyone, what is your mind set now that the fans have voiced their approval?
My thought process is that I am happy to try unique approaches to get my music into the hands of fans without engaging in a system that is swallowing its own tail. I figure if people like what I’m doing musically and they can appreciate the risks I’m taking that maybe they’ll invest in the future of SP.
BILLY CORGAN ON THE RELEASE OF ”A STITCH IN TIME,”
THE THIRD OFFERING FROM ‘TEARGARDEN BY KALEIDYSCOPE’
Q: “A Stitch In Time” has the lines, “You’re everywhere at once/And you can’t break free/You’re everywhere at once/And you can’t catch me/Watch out.” What inspired this song and what was your mindset when you wrote it?
I have a hard time saying in most cases what inspires a song–some of them just pour out of me like salt and I feel like a custodian of a spirit I don’t fully understand but certainly can feel. The closest answer I have is that it’s a protest song–what I am protesting I’m not sure but it has something to do with real inner freedom and the consequence of what it means to be free.
The song came in during a stream of consciousness moment while sitting backstage at a Pumpkins concert in those wee, still hours between soundcheck and the show. The lyrics came just as surprisingly fast as the music, and the whole process took about 20 minutes. I recorded it on my phone, and so for a year it was the only document I had of the song. But the song stuck with me and I put it in my back pocket as something worth coming back to later. When I drew up the list of the first 4 songs to record this one easily made the cut because I think it has a signifying effect of what the album stands for, not so much musically but energetically and thematically.
Q: This is now the third offering from TEARGARDEN BY KALEIDYSCOPE. Can you talk about the process of releasing one song at a time? How artistically liberating is it to write and record this way, free from the usual method of recording and releasing a traditional album?
I am only now just starting to understand how liberating it is to put the music out this way, one song at a time. It has changed the dynamics in the studio, as the main point now is just to try to create the best snapshot of a particular song and not get too caught up in how it relates to the others. It puts a positive charge into recording knowing the song will be coming out in the near future, and that success or failure will not be measured on a quick opinion. This process at least asks for 44 answers and in that way gives the music room and time to breathe.
Q: You are continuing to offer your music for free—no strings attached, as you have said. What is it about this paradigm that excites and compels you?
I think the word free contains many meanings, and really at the end of the day nothing is for free. This album and the way I’ve chosen to release it has put the responsibility of making the best music possible squarely on my shoulders, and in doing so asks me to consider on a regular basis what really matters to me. I’m just now recording what will be the 7th and 8th release, and I’m starting to see an evolution in my thinking that has me wanting to make truly exciting music that feels very alive and electric and timely. I haven’t felt that way for a very long time, and it feels good to take what I now see are the right kinds of chances. There is a slow unfolding that goes on from the first song (“A Song For A Son”) through to the eight, and only now peering over the edge into those other 36 songs can I see where I am really going.