Smashing Pumpkins Rockumentary
Thanks to Eve Staglberger for typing this out for us.
The Following is a transcription of MTV's Rockumentary on the Smashing Pumpkins. It originally aired on October 17th, 1995. The report features interviews with all four band members, footage from Vieuphoria and other footage. Notation on different dates are throughout.
Billy- The four of us come from nothing and we hatched this little dream, fought all odds and succeeded. I kind of formed this mythological idea of this band called Smashing Pumpkins. It seemed very obvious to me that id somehow you could combine everything you liked about music into almost like a hodge-podge band that seemed obvious to me where I wanted to go. So I just picked like my seven favorite bands.
MTV- Drawing on the likes of Black Sabbath, Bauhaus and Bowie, Corgan found his musical ideal, what he couldn't find were bandmates.
Billy-(June 91) I tried to find people and it didn't happen that way it was more like accidental meeting kind of thing. I didn't know anybody really before the band was formed.
James- It was just me and Billy and a drum machine and we demo'd songs for I don't know how long like six months. We did a show in this local polish bar with him on bass, me on guitar and a drum machine.
Billy (June 91) Hi we're The Smashing Pumpkins and your watching the week in (Billy is holding a plastic pitchfork and almost hits D'arcy in the head she kind of says hey watch it) Well don't interfuckinrupt!
MTV- It was Billy who interrupted D'arcy when they met outside a Chicago nightclub.
Billy (Oct 93) I met D'arcy in an argument on the street we started arguing about the Dan Reed Network.
D'arcy- He was saying you can tell that this band is put together by a record company because look at the way that guy jumps around on stage, regular people in bands don't jump around on stage like that and I said Well I dunno I play guitar and I kind of move around on stage a little bit and he's kind of like ooh yeah well I'm looking for a bass player here's my number.
Jimmy- Went to see the Pumpkins a couple times when they played with the drum machine and they were just horrendous they were horrible but the songs were really good I thought Billy was a really good song writer and I wanted to work with him. So we just kind of clicked we just went for it and never looked back.
MTV- With the band all that remained was a name.
Billy-(June 91) THe name was a joke I was telling a joke to somebody and I thought that'd be a funny band name and it just stuck I couldn't shake it.
D'arcy- the name was always there...there was nothing I could do about it (laughs) I never made friends with the name.
James-Its a name that sort od sounds like Echo and the Bunnymen. Echo and the Bunnymen it's like the dumbest name on earth you get a couple of their albums and your like Echo and the Bunnymen yeah their rockin...
MTV- The Pumpkins were anything but welcome in their hometown of Chicago where their style of music never quite meshed with the city's popular house, industrial and indie punk scene.
Billy- (Nov 91) For anyone who knows anything about Chicago you have the kind of Wax Trax, Ministyr kind of thing and then on the other side you have Touch and Go kind of scene (Urge Overkill).
James- We weren't with any of those scenes we weren't like the Touch and Go bands.
Billy- It was very much this flannel driven no guitar solos three minute pop songs and we were playing like these six minute guitar solos and we were doing all the wrong things. I think if we had been accepted into the local Chicago music scene we would have become a very different band. Being outcasts or being somewhat outside of the inner core of Chicago music pushed us farther away.
Billy-The album's about pain and spiritual ascension people ask if it's a political album its not a political album it's a personal album. In a weird kind of way Gish is almost like an instrumental album it just happens to have singing on it but the music overpowers the band in a lot of places. I was trying to say a lot of things I couldn't really say in kind of intangible unspeakable ways so I was capable of doing that with the music I don't think I was capable of doing it with words.
James- First record was done really quickly. We weren't and Billy wasn't as experienced in the studio.
Billy- (Oct 93) I had never been in the situation but it was like I knew what I was doing I knew what I needed to do. I think on a personal level I probably lost my mind and had a nervous breakdown.
D'arcy- I could never do it over again and I don't know how we survived it but I really love that album so much.
MTV- GISH was releasee in the spring of 1991 but the record was eclipsed by the music of another band sending the Pumpkins on a musical skid.
Billy (Oct 93) We released our album roughly 2-3 months before Nevermind came out. Nevermind that's obvious that changed the way music will be for a long time.
The residue of that was really strong it really affected the way everyone was thinking from media, record companies to our own management. Here we were this band that was very versed in playing five minute elaborate rock songs and everyone starts going well why don't you play three minute pop songs and your going because we don't????? That's what really started me on this crazy spin. I had spent years formulating this idea of a band and Gish and it came to a head and suddenly it's like where do you start over??
MTV- With Billy in a deep musical quandary, James and D'arcy ending a rocky relationship, and Jimmy struggling with drugs the Pumpkins were completely disjointed going into their follow up records.
Jimmy- During Siamese Dream was probably the most volatile period we ever went through there was a lot of tension in the band and to be quite honest I didn't think we'd make another record after that.
Billy- For lack of a better term I went through this weird musical suicide where it was either continue to try and posture something that I wasn't or just be myself which is a sappy, corny, rock boy who likes to write love songs and likes to write rock songs and you know just don't it and don't worry about it. Suddenly I felt emotions come back that I hadn't felt for months and Today was one of the songs that I wrote.
MTV- With other successful singles like Disarm, Cherub Rock, and Rocket Siamese Dream sold over three million copies far exceeding Corgan's expectation or comprehension.
Billy- It's like really impossible to conceive that a million or two million or three million people went to a record store picked up your album, looked at it and thought and went okay I'll get this this looks like a good thing. That's pretty inconceivable.
MTV- Even more inconceivable was that the band managed to stay together through it all.
Billy- the fact that the album came out is one thing but the fact is that we learned to like each other again we reconnected our friendships and found why we were together in the first place and realized that it was all these external things that had driven us apart and suddenly realized there was a strength that maybe had been obscured but it felt real again.
Billy (June 91)... If it's a terrible dive and some bad people are hanging out I'm sure we'll be there.
MTV- With Siamese Dream already a hit and a collection of b-sides soon to be released the band hit the road on a lengthy tour.
Billy- I think that the basic opinion of the band is love playing live hate to tour. It's so exhilarating and demoralizing and ego building and ego tearing down all at the same time.
Jimmy- When your on tour and you are constantly having to provide a product for people to ingest it jades you. Sometimes the music can be the enemy your like uhhhh and that's not the way it should be.
James- Everybody sort of romanticizes touring you know like man...star go out there and give your heart out every night and you try really hard to play good shows, play somewhat in time with the music you hope your rockin but it's just like anything it's just music... (AT Lollapalooza 94 Las Vegas) We'd like to make an open challenge to the Siegfrued and Roy that we have a better show than you...
MTV- To top it all off the Pumpkins opted to spend the summer of 94 headlining the grandaddy of alterna rock festivals Lollapalooza but once again they were the outsiders.
Billy- I think when your on a bill with a lot of other bands it's almost like lowest common denominator it's almost like a review here we are the newest hit makers...here we are the newest hitmakers, it's like your forced into this position of responding in like kind and that was part of what was difficult on Lollapalooza we insisted on being The Smashing Pumpkins which is hardly bowing to that lowest common denominator element and that caused a lot of problems.
MTV-Conflicts and problems with other bands like The Breeders and their lead singer Kin Deal ("I want the pill he has. the pill that makes him think he's so fucking important") left the Pumpkins with mixed feelings about the tour.
Billy- With me it's always a love/hate thing. I loved it as much as I hated it. I can talk about how much I hated Lollapalooza until I'm blue in the face but you didn't see me drop off the tour either.
Sept 94 MTV Video Music Awards Allison Stewart- Billy we know what you did on your summer vacation headlined Lollapalooza just finished a couple of days ago?
Billy- Yes...no more.
AS- Any rest for the weary?
Billy- No I am going to start writing right away and we are going to do our double CD concept album so I am very busy.
Billy- I guess you could call it a concept album in the sense that it tries to encompass various aspects of life but it's not conceptual in the sense of like trying to tell a story like The Wall or Sargent Pepper, not conceptual in that there is an overriding theme and everything applies to that theme. There was no one theme that seemed to encompass that one theme except just life in general.
James- He's got some name for it like...the Phoenix meets the dwarf.
Billy- How about I just write it down for you because whenever I say it people get that puzzled look that they get when someone pinches them on the butt...
James- Basketball land, Baseball city is one of the titles that were kicking around..
Jimmy- Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is kind of the representative theme of the record.
Billy- Oh it's just another one of those pretentious Pumpkin album titles continuing the long line of pretension.
MTV- Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness finds Corgan mining new lyrical territory and penning a prolific 40 new songs. Billy- When I'm first writing a song I don't think about anything there's no thought like so see I want to write a song about me terribly twisted childhood you know like people think I do. I sit down and I just want to write a good piece of music and the music that I write seems to dictate in my mind the emotional scope.
Jimmy- I think lyrically it is probably the strongest record we've ever done. i mean some of the lyrics Billy has done on this record have just blown me away...made me want to weep.
Double Door Show singing Stumbeline
Billy- On the first album the subject matter was extremely personal I didn't care if anybody got it. On the second album I wanted to express what I wanted to express but it was with a keen eye to communicate and this one I think the subject matter is a little more worldly.
Double Door Show Bullet with Butterfly Wings
MTV- It's Corgan's subject matter often drawn from his own life that has often been scrutinized by rock critics.
Billy- Most of the bad reviews that we have ever gotten always hark back to like my lack of so called integrity there's always a question of where I'm coming from those people don't understand my life. I just try to remember that for every journalist who says that the Smashing Pumpkins are a negligible, unimportant band there are 4 million plus kids out there who love our records and tell me at every opportunity that they do. I mean this in all sincerely I really wrote this record not giving two shit what anybody thought, was going to think about it. the constant thing was does it rock me does it rock the band? Because I just don't care I'm just gonna do what I'm gonna do.
Billy- (Double Door) Uhh tomorrow is the first day of our new album recording this is probably going to be the last rock show we play for 7-8 months so wish us luck thank you for coming.
March 1995 Mellon Collie Recording Sessions
Billy- It's just way too self conscious at first like okay were going to record an album now where do we start...it's like trying to climb a mountain and you have the weight of permanence hanging over your head. You know when your on stage and you think if you blow this note or that chord you know whoosh it's gone. On an album it's there to be repeated again digitally until the end of time.
MTV- It's that perfectionism that has fueled rumors that Billy played most of the guitar and bass parts on the first two albums.
Billy- It's very hard for me to talk about how the band works in specific because anytime I have talked about it it just gets misunderstood and I end up looking like a Svengali. The mechanics of the band is one thing but the heart and soul of the band is another and what it lacks in one sense it makes up for in others, you know what I mean there's a weird balance.
James- People generally think that he does it all but the other three personalities in the band definitely shape the music for the better or the worse.
MTV- On Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness the Pumpkins parted ways with long time producer Butch Vig and opted for a new direction and producer techno dance wiz Flood whose credits include U2's Achtung Baby and Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral.
Flood- Billy approached me because he liked certain things that I'd done in the past that had broken accepted opinions of those particular bands and he wanted to do this with this band.
James- Well he's english I don't even want to talk about it...no he's a great guy.
Jimmy- Flood is very different from Butch he tends to go for the emotional content of a song which is really what I try to go for where Butch was a little bit more of a perfectionist. Butch wanted perfect performance whereas Flood wants convincing emotion.
Flood-(in studio) ...well let's do that then because right now it doesn't have much guts to it at he moment
Billy- He's just coming at it from every other angle and he really embodies the sense of excitement about making records that I really feel he's got that childlike...you know how kids talk about baseball players that's how we talk about albums.
Billy-(in studio) Hey flood can you hear me? Can I just do this one thing really quick?
Billy- I'll just do this one thing see if it works so I know everyone knows how to play the riff so I'll just play it.
MTV- With Flood on board the Pump[kins decided to break old habits opting first to record in a rehearsal space and then in a studio.
Billy- The way we worked in the past was literally assembly line production do the drums, do the bass, do the guitars, do the vocals, do the solos...it's more time effective that way but it's very (pretends to nod off and fall asleep)
Flood- If you spend a little more time trying to get the sounds exactly right then everyone can play it as one and you might get a greater gain because everybody is playing at the same time.
Flood (in studio) How is it for everyone in the room playing like that?
Billy - Crazy...
Billy- Yeah actually I think that sounds pretty good...
Jimmy- Working at the rehearsal space was just like going to rehearsal but it ended up on tape you know?
Flood- At this stage one would hope that maybe half of what we do here will end up on the record there's no reason why we shouldn't utilize this for the final product.
D'arcy - I think it was really productive and I hope that everyone feels the same because I would like to do more of that in the future.
Jimmy- When you hear the new record it's like pressing the reset button on a love affair it's like you spend a lot of time with somebody you love you tend to short sighted and look past what attracted you to them in the first place. And then one day you will go oh that's why It's good I think that every record is like a rebirth for us.
MTV- Given their history recording a 28 track double album might have spelled disaster for the Pumpkins but the band pulled together once again further strengthening their ties.
D'arcy- Those ties are there whether you like it or not you know there's nothing you can do. You know you might hate them just as much and then turn around and feel completely different about it.
Billy- This is by far the strongest the band has ever been on an completely internal level it's more than just a get a long level because I think we have always gotten along pretty well there's a different strength familial is the only word I could use really.
Jimmy- These are the people I spend 90% of my time with so of course were like brothers and sisters.
James- You know all of their idiosyncrasies you have to work you have to eat with them and I suppose it is like a family without you know being too cheezy about it.
Billy (In studio laughing) Do the rubberman...do the rubberman take it rubberman
James-noodling on guitar (*typists note Rubberman is on Pastichio Medley)
MTV- While the 4 are bound by their friendship the future of the Smashing Pumpkins is always as unpredictable as it's members.
Billy- Me fear is like Jimmy Chamberlin plays the hits of the Smashing Pumpkins with like...the guy from Radiohead on lead vocals.
D'arcy- You know the other guys are talking about how they feel old and they can't rock anymore (rolls eyes)
Billy- I would hope that we mature gracefully but right now I don't really care. thinking about the future and thinking about the past is just a way to avoiding the present and all I know is that the present is really good I'm very lucky...were very lucky and I'm really enjoying what I'm doing.
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