Q&A: BILLY CORGAN ON RECORDING THE SMASHING PUMPKINS' *ADORE*
Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins holds forth on the crooked path he, James Iha and D'Arcy took to making *Adore,* the Chicago trio's quirkiest, quietest and most intimate album.
SO WHERE'D YOU HIDE ALL THE ROCK SONGS?
We took two rock singles off the album because we felt they were anti-album. I did one track with Rick Rubin called "Let Me Give the World to You," but it was too much straight-on rock 'n' roll to fit the feel of the album. We also had this song, "Cash Car Star" that our management felt is a total alternative-rock-radio hit. It was just too heavy. This from the beginning was a creative artistic thing, and I feel really good that we stuck to that. It's as close was we've ever come to complete, we-don't-care-what-anyone-thinks artistic integrity.
THIS IS YOUR FIRST RECORD WITHOUT DRUMMER JIMMY CHAMBERLIN. HOW DID THAT
INFLUENCE THE SOUND?
We made the decision to change the approach on this record before we put out *Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.* We saw "1979" as a real jumping-off point for what the next record might sound like. But would the shift had been so radical if Jimmy had stayed in the band? I don't think so.
YOU STARTED OUT WORKING WITH PRODUCER BRAD WOOD [LIZ PHAIR, RED RED
MEAT], THEN ENDED UP PRODUCING *ADORE* YOURSELF. WHAT HAPPENED?
I don't think [Wood had] ever worked with someone as intense or prolific, and for the first time in his life he was running at a slower speed than the people he was working with. He's much more comfortable working with someone like Liz Phair, whom he can mold, and I'm not the kind of person you can mold. After about four weeks I felt he was quickly becoming an engineer instead of a producer, and that made me uncomfortable because he's getting credit as a producer and getting paid like a producer but he wasn't in my mind a producer.
DID YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS THEN ABOUT WHETHER YOU WERE GOING TO BE ABLE TO
FINISH THE ALBUM?
Halfway through the prcess, when the album wasn't as defined, we were still trying to deal with the Brad Wood situation and the album was in this gray area. I felt a lot of doubt for the first time from the label; management; I definitely felt this kind of hovering "uh-oh." Even if you went on the Internet and read what fans were saying, I could feel everyone bracing, like, "Now they're going to f--- it up." I can't explain that, but it was an atmosphere, and I can tell you it seriously pissed me off.
I felt I was still walking down this road as a writer and a producer defining this album, and our world didn't show is 100 percent confidence. It interjected a certain negativity into it that really made me very angry, because I was expecting not necessarily praise, but support. Put it this way: The wind starts blowing real cold, real fast. It was a good wake-up call because it redefines in my mind how brutal the world is.
WHAT TURNED IT AROUND?
"Shame" was the turning point. It was the three of us and a drum machine, just like we were when we started 10 years ago, before Jimmy joined the band. I wrote this song at 10 in the morning, and we started playing it and the chemistry of the Pumpkins just reappeared. By three that afternoon, we had recorded it. What you hear is that performance.
THE LYRIC IS UNUSUALLY STRAIGHTFORWARD FOR YOU.
A friend asked if the directness of those lyrics worried me. But there is a different power in that. A simplicity. I think that's why that song is so defining. In that one song you get everything thats good and bad about the Pumpkins: a spontaneous, dreamy quality, a certain kind of emotion. I'm singing out of tune. The lyrics border on inane. I thought as I was writing it that I would have to change the lyrics later. But it somehow congealed. We try to be the super-fuzz rock stars, but that's not who we really are. That song is who we really are.
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