The Pumpkins began work on the double album, Mellon Collie, in a practice space in Chicago. Much of the rehearsal tapes were used in the recording sessions. The band announced that they planned to have the 2CD set out by October. The rehearsal space was originally planned as a "rough draft" for the record but became the foundation for the album. "It was the sound of four people together," drummer Jimmy Chamberlain commented.
An advertisement for the upcoming performances at the Double Door club read, "The Smashing Pumpkins are proud to present four shows of the intimate kind at the Double Door on February 20, 21, 27, and 28. These shows will feature new songs only, so if you come please expect the unexpected -- i.e. acoustic songs, long-winded jams, teary overtures, blown lyrics, and out-of-tune setimentality. Many would argue these are features at the core of our normal concerts. That being said, we hope you'll join us in putting some nails in the coffins of the past and welcoming in a terrifying future."
Thus, the Pumpkins began the first of four famous sold-out shows at the Double Door on the 20th as advertised. The shows were open to the 21+ crowd only. They were not a complete surprise. The band was upholding the tradition of the past two albums of playing the new songs live prior to recording. This is for the band to get a feel for the new material.
The shows were intimate appearances limited to fewer than three hundred people due to the size of the Double Door club. The press was banned from the show, and tickets were extremely difficult to obtain.
Nevertheless, the show was audible outside the club. Jim DeRogatis, a Chicago Sun Times critic, was barred from the shows due to his low rating of Siamese Dream. However, he brought his own lawn chair and reviewed the show from outside the venue.
The band continued by doing three more shows with the second one on the next day (21st), the 27th, and finally the 28th. The band performed a total of twenty-seven new songs. "You can scream all you want for your old favorites, but we're not going to play any," Billy told the audience. Many of the songs turned up on their Mellon Collie album. Rare b-sides and covers rounded out the two-hour shows. Tickets were $5 and all proceeds went toward charity.
March - July
The band began a grueling schedule of 12-16 hour workdays in the recording studio for their third album [fourth if Pisces Iscariot, the '94 b-sides compilation, is considered], Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, at Pumpkinland and Chicago Recording Company. Billy called it "almost continuous work." Billy wrote about fifty songs for the new album, with James adding 12 to 15 of his own.
In addition, Billy later had regrets about the recording of the album. "Mellon Collie had compromises, but not musically just because it was too much. Some songs didn't get the energy that they deserved because we had too much to do." Interestingly enough, many of the MCIS songs were done in just one day.
Billy began writing for the album almost immediately after the end of the Lollapalooza tour in '94. He began writing for about four hours a day, and then five hours of rehearsing. By the end of the album, he worked 16-hour days, and only slept for about four hours, for almost two months.
Producers Flood and Alan Moulder accompanied Billy in the technical work on the 2CD set. They applied the embellishments, finishing touches, synthesizers, sequencers, rhythm loops, and other studio mischief to the Pumpkin sound.
Flood was chosen as the producer for several reasons. Billy and James both own many of the records he produced (Crime, City Solution, Erasure, Depeche Mode, My Bloody Valentine, U2). Apparently, Billy had met him at a party and they had discussed working together. The band had submitted him demos as well. The decision was quite simple: the band felt they could "do better on this crazy album" with Flood.
Butch Vig, the producer of the past two studio efforts, was dropped for the project. The band felt that they had an attachment to Vig that would be a disadvantage to them. They felt their relationship was too predictable and the Pumpkins were looking for a refreshing change. More importantly, a repeat or similarity of past Pumpkin records was to be avoided. Butch focused on a technically perfect sound, influenced by his drumming background. Flood was more interested in capturing a sound or a mood.
The recording studio was divided into two different rooms for the recording of the album. Alan Moulder and James Iha would occupy one room, while Billy Corgan and Flood would be in the other. Many guitars and pedals were brought in. Songs such as "Thru the Eyes of Ruby" used over twenty-five separate guitar tracks. The track "X.Y.U." was recorded with all live guitars, vocals, and bass in the studio. The band would record for five to six hours and end the day with a jam or the work of a new song for a few hours as well.
Billy often said that Mellon Collie was not a "concept album" and that there were no one theme surrounding the set. He felt that it described life in general, youth, hate, and frustration. However, Billy felt that there were twenty to thirty themes on the new album. Guitarist James Iha explained that the new album had his best guitar talent yet.
The band had a completely different approach to complete the work for the album. They first had decided to record in their rehearsal space and then head to the studio. In the past albums of Siamese Dream and Gish, each of the parts of drums, bass, guitars, vocals, and solos were done separately and individually.
Computer technology was used in the making of the new album. The band employed a Studio Vision Pro with ProTools Software running on a Macintosh 8100 to do loop samples and manipulate bass tracks. The Pro Tools application could handle up to one hundred and twenty eight tracks. The band used a 24-track analog machine and additional sixteen tracks on ProTools. Many of the tracks were completely built from samples and sequenced using this technology.
During the recording of the album, Billy was reading various religious books, mostly spiritual. He read the Vedas and Upanishads (two Hindu texts) and Christian martyrs. Billy was also reading an ancient Sanskrit Yoga book that afriend gave to him.
Once recording was complete, the trio mixed the album at the Village Recorder in Los Angeles, CA.
Guitarist James Iha records his songs at his own studio, Bugg Studios, in Chicago with Kerry Brown of Catherine (also the husband of bassist D'Arcy). James performs a duet with Veruca Salt's Nina Gordon on "Said Sadly" a song later released as a b-side.
In late June, the band announced that they were in search of a touring keyboard player. A press release was issued stating the following, "The Smashing Pumpkins are looking for a keyboard player to accompany them for upcoming live performances. Extensive knowledge of equipment is a must, but playing ability is. Sight-reading and your own gear is not necessary, but you must be 18 years of age or older. Please send a five minute cassette tape of yourself playing whatever you wish (please no Pumpkins songs) in whatever style you want. Tapes will not be judged on their audio qualities, so boombox tapes are fine." A mailing address to Soundworks in Chicago was included with a deadline of July 14th. The band was flooded with over three hundred tapes, but none were listened to at all. Jonathan Melvoin showed up, played, and was chosen as the new touring keyboardist, but met an unfortunate future.
The band announced that the their new album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, was due out on October 24th. According to Virgin Records, the Pumpkins had recorded five cover tracks, five acoustic songs, and five pop noise songs. An "excess" of twenty b-sides were also recorded and planned to be released in a b-side compilation later in the year.
The band made another appearance at the Reading Festival in Reading, UK on the 25th. They played a set that included half-new songs, half-old songs. Billy thought of the festival as, "60,000 dirty tired English people rocking in the mud." The intent was to judge the reaction to the new songs and the band was pleased with the positive feedback they received, similar to the idea behind the four Double Door shows back in February.
The Pumpkins played on the 26th at the Pukelpop Festival in Kiewwit-Hasselt, BE following the performance of Soundgarden. The band performed last on the Main Stage.
The band began a search for a new manager with auditions of five teams, three-hour meetings each.
MTV aired a Rockumentary on the band on the 17th. The report features all four band members and Vieuphoria (the live video from '94) footage. The Rockumentary is re-broadcasted three years later.
The Pumpkins did a record release party show at the Riviera Theater on the 23rd in Chicago. Cheap Trick opened the show, and joined the band later onstage for the final three songs. They were: "Baby Loves to Rock", "If You Want My Love", and "Auf Wiedersehen".
The entire show was broadcasted live on many radio stations (courtesy of The Album Network and Virtually Alternative) throughout the country and an Internet simulcast. The live broadcast included the portion where a generator caught fire and causes a power outage during the third song in the set, "Zero". After about ten minutes in the dark, the band resumed playing.
Following the debut at the Riviera, there was an after-party at the Double Door. Well wishers, Virgin employees, Cheap Trick, and the band were all present. A 12-piece Mariachi band played in the background.
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was released on the 24th under Virgin Records. The album featured 28 songs and entered the Top 200 Billboard Charts at #1. Guitarist James Iha had written the song "Take Me Down" and the final song "Farewell and Goodnight" featured all four members on vocals. The double album had two CDs separately titled "Dawn to Dusk" and "Twilight to Starlight". The album was a representation of the cycle of living and dying. The day is the "Dawn to Dusk" and the night is of course "Twilight to Starlight". The album was thought to end an era for the band, since Billy had repeatedly said that future plans were going to be very different.
The CD included two booklets (one with lyrics, one with pictures). The title of the album was identified by D'Arcy as originating from "a bad pun game getting out of control."
The first single from the new album, "Bullet With Butterfly Wings", was also released on the 23rd. It featured one b-side, "Said Sadly", the duet with Nina Gordon and James. The CD is now out of print and another version of it was later released in a box set.
Billy had felt that it was an "absolute obvious choice." However, he wanted the song "Jellybelly" because he felt it was a classic Pumpkin tune. However, "Bullet's one of those songs where it's easy to sing along to and ya gotta sell them records."
The song was influenced by the band's experience as the headliners for the '94 Lollapalooza tour. Initially, the Pumpkins were excited to lead the ensemble, but later found the tour not in their favor, and ended up having a very horrific experience.
In a Raygun interview, Billy mentions that he has plans for a "totally beautiful album" with no rock guitars. This was the general theme for the next album, titled Adore.
The band canceled a tour of playing in projected venues with 1,500 seats. The Pumpkins thought it was the ideal tour, however they were pressured to aim for higher ticket sales, and became so frustrated that everything was cancelled. "If I had my way, we'd play in places that just held a few hundred," adds D'Arcy.
Billy explained to several journalists that Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was the last Pumpkin album of their style.
The Pumpkins' second album, Siamese Dream, had current sales of 4,287,000 at this point.
The Pumpkins made their second appearance on "Saturday Night Live" on the 11th. Quentin Tarantino hosted the episode. Courtney Love was in attendance for the band's performance. Billy made his first appearance with a shaved head. His reason was, "I just got so sick of worrying about appearance that by shaving my hair completely, de-emphasizes the way I look. I kind of subscribe to the Einstein theory that the less you have to think about the more upwards you become." The band played "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and "Zero" from the new album.
D'Arcy's sister's boyfriend stole some demo tapes from her house and sold them prior to the completion of the double album. It was distributed on the Internet.
The band made an appearance for a French television show, as part of their European tour, in Paris on the 10th. David Bowie introduced the Pumpkins. Both Billy and David were interviewed following the appearance. After the show, the Pumpkins returned to Chicago and began shooting their new video, "1979".
Created and maintained by Sachin Bansal