THE SMASHING PUMPKINS (18/10/14)
Par Kelly Le Guen le 19 décembre 2014
Rédaction : Kelly Le Guen
Earlier this month, the world discovered "Monuments To An Elegy", the newest Smashing Pumpkins album. From his hotel room in Berlin, singer and guitarist Billy Corgan accepted to talk with us by the phone for this interview, in which he tells us a bit more about the record, his work with Tommy Lee and music business future.
The new Smashing Pumpkins album, "Monuments To An Elegy", is part of the "Teargarden By Kaleidyscope" project. Do you still know where you’re going with this, or if it’s going to end the way you intended at first?
Billy Corgan (vocal/guitar): Yeah, it actually turned out the way I imagined in my mind, maybe not musically, but emotionally. When I started the project in 2009 I was very confused, I was like "OK now I’m going to continue the band, just me", and of course I knew people were going to have a problem with that, because before it was me and Jimmy (ed. Chamberlain, drums) continuing the band, and now it’s just me. So I wondered "how do I feel about this, how do I feel about music, do I even have a reason to make music anymore?" Maybe this sound more depressing than it was, it was actually more like "I need to have a new plan". So by making this plan, and this approach, I thought "well I’m at least going to get myself moving forward". And so it’s worked out since it’s got me very motivated again, and I feel engaged by what I’m doing musically. It’s a good time to be in a band, because it’s a big commitment, with expectations and all that comes with it.
And if the album is part of such a long-time global work, are you going step by step, or were some of the songs already written, did you have some ideas two years ago or even earlier?
B: No, it’s kind of step by step. This may sound a bit grandiose but if you say "I don’t feel so excited about life so I’m going to go and take a journey somewhere on the planet where I can get excited again", so you go to, I don’t know, Egypt, and see the pyramids, and you think "wow, this is nice, but maybe this isn’t what I’m looking for", you got to kind of go to somewhere to figure out that maybe it’s not where you want to be. But it’s the doing that’s the learning, like they say it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. So that’s how I see it, that’s why it’s interesting, it’s the journey of the thing, not the result.
When "Oceania", the previous album, went out, you said in an interview with "NME" that it was your best album since 1995. Would you say this one is even better?
B: I don’t know if i said that, the "NME", I wouldn’t trust what they report from my mouth. (laughs) So… Do I think this sounds better than "Oceania"? Yeah, I do. "Oceania" I think was still looking for something, I think we started to find it, I don’t think we totally found it. But it’s not either like I thought something and now I think something different.
Is there something you like particularly in this album (a favourite song, a favourite part) or do you consider it only as a global work?
B: I don’t know. You always have favourite songs. I like "Drum + Fife" particularly. I think when I make an album, what excites me the most is if I feel that it’s something new. There are times when you just have to accept that what you’re saying, the message you’re writing is maybe a variation of an older message. You’re saying the same thing maybe from a different place. But then sometimes you’re saying something new and you think "oh that’s interesting I’ve never said something like that before, OK that’s exciting". So to me something like “Drum + Fife” is different. But then I also like “One And All”, some people say "oh it sounds like old Smashing Pumpkins" but to me sounds more like 80’s metal. I feel like I’ve written songs like this before but it’s okay because I like it.
You just said it, but we hear a little more keyboard and guitar than before and indeed, it reminded me of the way music sounded in the 80’s/90’s. Is there any particular reason or did it just happen that way?
B: When you make an album, especially today, you know that people have very short attention span. The fact that you’re using a guitar or a keyboard doesn’t really mean anything because if they don’t like it they’re gonna click very fast on the next song. So I think what you do is saying “what’s the most exciting thing for this song?” A song like "Dorian" we originally recorded very conventionally, and when we were recording it, we were actually listening to it and we were thinking "this is too boring". So we made the version that’s on the album which is… I don’t know how you would even call it, maybe more 80’s or something, and I thought "OK that sounds more exciting". It’s not that I think "do this, do that", it is like “what is more exciting”.
Tell us more about your work with Tommy Lee.
B: I’ve known him for a long time and I just thought he was the perfect drummer for the album so I asked him. You know I didn’t call him and say "you’re going to do this album" (laughs), I asked “would you like to play on this? I think you can really help". And I think he made such an incredible contribution. When I listen to the album it really makes me smile, the way he’s playing. He plays with so much enthusiasm. He really comes through.
What about the recording sessions? Is there any regular process or something?
B: Honestly, it’s kind of a boring story. You just come in every day and you just work, in our case 10 hours a day. There’s the time when you’re trying to figure out where it goes and there’s the technical part. Which amplifier? Is this the best sound? How does it sound with the voice? Now do we have to make another version of this? We don’t do a lot of "ProTools" cutting, so when you hear a guitar on the record you know that’s us really playing the part. There’s no chopping, so it takes a long time to get the exact play take. We just play until it gets good. It’s a very time-consuming, slow process. Some of the demos go back like two years. I would just come up with an idea and record it and then go on to the next one. But I wasn’t focused on the thing I was just trying to make a big pile of songs. And then maybe six months before, we started working from the demos. But it wasn’t like we were recording everyday it was more like we were testing things, trying different things. It was very relaxed for the first four months, and then the last two months were very intense.
You’ve already planned your next album and conclusion for the project. Do you have any idea what you’re going to do after "Teargarden By Kaleidyscope"?
B: I don’t know. I think that the way we make albums and the way we sell albums is kind of old-fashioned. So I would like to try to figure something out that’s more contemporary. I think when you look at electronic gaming, when you look at movies, and how television works, they’re really trying to get up to speed with the internet, and I feel like the music business is very very behind so I would like to get more into the idea of what music is today.
You probably heard what Thom Yorke did on BitTorrent for his new album, maybe you’re going for something like this too?
B: Well I think that’s a cool idea, but I’m not necessarily interested in that. Sometimes I think the music business needs to start over. We know people like music, that’s never going to change. People listen to music every day. That’s not the problem. The problem is how we spend money, and how we ask people to give us money. And in the last ten years that process has gotten very confused. No one has figured out a better way to do it. But you see that magazines are changing their thinking, newspapers are changing their thinking, and movies now are starting to change their thinking so I hope soon music business will start changing its thinking. Because there’s no problem with the artists and there’s no problem with the audience, it’s what happens in-between that gets confusing.
In music nowadays, is there any song or artist you particularly liked recently?
B: There’s really one song, it’s by a band called Phantogram and the song’s called “Fall In Love”. It’s the single they put out of the album and it’s a fantastic song.
Last question, this interview will be published on "RockUrLife", what rocks your life, Billy?
B: Hum… (laughs) I go in the garden. I rock in the garden. That’s my answer. I go in the garden.
Website : smashingpumpkinsnexus.com