After re-releasing their classic albums Gish and Siamese Dream, as well as completing a tour where they actually played old material, The Smashing Pumpkins find themselves enjoying some of their most positive public notoriety since the band reunited in 2006. With the upcoming release of their new LP Oceania next year, frontman Billy Corgan recently spoke with Stereogum, regarding the progress of the record. Some highlights of the interview can be found below.
Firstly, Corgan explains one of the main driving forces in writing Oceania, following the death of Mark Tulin, who performed bass on the Pumpkins’ previous (yet still ongoing) project, Teagarden By Kaleidoscope: “I mean he was a close friend, but it shook me up in a way I just couldn’t explain and something about it just led to this weird journey of like ‘OK I’m gonna go back and listen to all the work I did with Mark at the beginning of this process with Teargarden and then re-examine all this stuff that we’ve done recently.’ And it took me on this weird journey of ‘What am I doing?’ and ‘Why am I even bothering anymore?’ and I had this kind of weird epiphany where I realized that some part of me was disengaged. And in a weird kind of way to honor Mark I thought, ‘I’m not gonna run away from that part of myself anymore. I’m actually gonna go there.'”
Billy’s statement seems to echo the optimistic opinions (including our own) regarding the Oceania material already performed live. It’s as if the band resurrected some of the most well-known elements in the Pumpkins’ music, following the poorly-received new direction taken on Teagarden. The frontman goes deeper into this subject, stating that the reaction to the full album has been similarly positive: “So we started playing it for people to figure out what the hell we were gonna do with it because there’s no label, and we wanted to release it as an album. And over and over again we heard the exact same thing – I mean it was weird, it was like the same words would come out of people’s mouths, unrelated, which is a bizarre thing… over and over again we heard the same thing… ‘It reminds me of what I loved’ – ‘loved,’ past tense – ‘about the Pumpkins but it doesn’t sound like the old Pumpkins.’ So something in the emotional value is there that hasn’t been there for a very long time.” He adds, regarding their newly-found confidence: “we feel like, OK now there’s this whole new chapter of the Pumpkins that can be written in the… in today.”
According to Mr. Corgan, the opinions have been so positive, that it’s been suggested he abandon the Smashing Pumpkins name, as if Oceania is the record that could propel him with a new band: “Some people who’ve known me a long time, people like 20+ years, people in the music business, people who’ve been around during the making of other albums, they’ve basically patted me on the back and said ‘You’ve actually done it. You got off Planet Pumpkin, onto something else.’ What’s so funny about it… the reaction to the record is so strong that people have said ‘OK now’s the time to change the name, ‘cause now you can be the victor of the whole thing. You can stand away from the Pumpkin and you have the record to prove it and you have the band to prove it and you guys can create your own legacy.'” However, the group was not fond of that idea: “And everybody in the band says ‘no, fuck that. We’re the Smashing Pumpkins.’ It’s hard to explain that mentality but there’s a real pride. There’s a real pride. There’s a real pride there to say, ‘No. We’re willing to take this on. We’re not afraid of it. We’re not gonna run from it.'”
Still regarding the quality of Oceania, he compares it to the Pumpkins’ 1995 double-LP masterpiece, Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness: “I mean it’s been a long time since I made a record where you play it for fifty people and fifty people say ‘this is a great record.’ I haven’t had that since Mellon Collie where fifty people go ‘OK, that’s a great record.’ That’s a long time. That’s fifteen, sixteen years between that feeling of ‘OK, now you’ve got one here.'” The frontman seems so assured of this reaction that, in two sentences, he basically disowns the rest of the material created since the Pumpkins’ 2007 reunion album, Zeitgeist: “It is the first time where you actually hear me escape the old band. I’m not reacting against it or for it or in the shadow of it.”
Oceania is set to be released in March 2012, and we look forward to finding out if the entirety of it will measure up to the expectations hinted at by Billy Corgan. The Smashing Pumpkins are set to follow that release with a tour where the record is performed in its entirety.