Smashing Pumpkins Prep New Album, 20th-Anniversary Tour
Reunited band breaks out classic tunes for tour; concept disc to follow
Billy Corgan is the first to admit that the Smashing Pumpkins’ return hasn’t always gone the way he’d hoped. In 2006, he and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin re-formed the band after a six-year layoff, recorded a new album, Zeitgeist, and hit the road. The Pumpkins’ upcoming DVD, If All Goes Wrong (out November 11), chronicles what followed: fans puzzled by the absence of founding members James Iha and D’arcy Wretzky, and tense moments onstage and off.
“You’re standing onstage and hearing people going, ”˜I don’t know how I feel about this,’Â ” recalls Corgan. “We found that America had turned every older band into the ”˜reunion band.’ It was ”˜I just want to hear those eight songs and drink my beer.’ You think, ”˜I’m 41 years old, and I’ve earned some level of trust.’ And you find out you’re just like everybody else. You’re no better than Bon Jovi.”
Then came mixed reviews and modest sales for Zeitgeist. (“A gold record in this economy is quite an accomplishment,” Corgan counters.) Finally, he and the band’s label, Warner Bros, parted ways after what Corgan calls “zero support” from the company.
Still, Corgan is upbeat about the state of the Pumpkins. “There’s something about being in the band that brings things out in me motivationally,” he says. “I don’t know if it brings the best out of me musically, but it brings the best out in me energetically.” He’s particularly fired up about the Pumpkins’ 20th-anniversary tour, which kicks off in Cleveland on November 1. As with last year’s shows, Corgan and Chamberlin will be joined by guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Ginger Reyes and keyboardist Lisa Harriton, plus to-be-determined additional musicians.
Currently the band is rehearsing 40 to 45 songs from all stages of its career. “It’s a really interesting journey,” Corgan says of playing songs the group hasn’t performed in more than a dozen years. “It’s like putting on a spacesuit again.” Corgan has never been one to make things easy for himself or his audience. He admits that disbanding the Pumpkins in 2000 was “a total mistake.” And when the band plays multiple shows in New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, Boston and Los Angeles, each night will feature a completely different set ”“ which may or may not include some of the band’s best-known songs. “There are songs that are no-brainers live,” Corgan says. “But if we’re not into them, we don’t play them. It would make our life easier, but we don’t end our set with the lighter-in-the-air version of [the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness hit] ”˜Bullet With Butterfly Wings.’Â ”
Early next year, the Pumpkins will begin recording what Corgan calls a “long-ranging concept album.” Without a label, Corgan says he’s entertaining all options for the -album’s release, including putting out the songs in batches online. In the meantime, a new single, ”˜G.L.O.W.,’ is featured on Guitar Hero World Tour. So does Corgan play the game? “You don’t play Guitar Hero if you are a guitar hero.”