Category Archives: Smashing Pumpkins

Foo Fighters & Smashing Pumpkins Unite To Honor David Bowie: A Birthday Celebration

The passing of David Bowie, in the succession of the deaths of Scott Weiland and Lemmy, continue to devastate the hearts of millions if not billions of fans. These three figures, who in total have contributed thousands of songs to the human discography, are sorely missed not only on their creative output but they were massive figures bursting with integrity.

David Bowie, who stepped into the world of alternative rock to prop up and support acts who became some of alternative rock’s most popular acts, like Placebo, had an unprecedented influence on the genre’s development. His work in general, with albums like Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs inspired figures like Cobain, Corgan and Farrell, but this all goes without saying. Bowie’s influence bleeds through culture in a blatant and now tragic way.

One thing not always brought up, however, is one of the greatest gatherings of popular musicians, I dare say, of all time. On January 9th, 1997 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, David Bowie hosted a concert for his fiftieth birthday with a surreal lineup. What’s very admirable about Bowie is that he often reached out to people directly influenced by him first, instead of the other way around.

As seen in our featured photo, you can make Bowie surrounded by figures such as Robert Smith of the Cure, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters (as well as Pat Smear), Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal of Placebo and more. To celebrate his birthday, Bowie invited many of his friends and admirers.

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The European alternative rock band Placebo opened for the show. They were touring for their self titled album and were discovered by Bowie and in the late ’90s and became his opening act for several months. He would sing on their sophomore album Without You I’m Nothing on the eponymous track. After opening with some songs from his then recently released album, Earthlings, like “Little Wonder,” he brought out his first guest: Frank Black of the Pixies. Together they performed “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) from the selfsame titled album. They also performed “Fashion” together, from the same album.

In 1997, the Foo Fighters were flying high on the scene after Nirvana’s demise. No doubt, Bowie was aware of Nirvana’s cover of his song “The Man Who Sold the World.” He even performed at this show with his backing band. One would wonder though, if Cobain had lived if he would have been invited to perform with him. However, the Foo Fighters were invited to play “Hallo Spaceboy,” a song from the 1995 Outside album, with Bowie. They offered a thunderous rendition of the song. Bowie (vocals as well as guitar) and Grohl afterwards would perform the electronic tinged “Seven Years in Tibet” together. “Under Pressure” in later years, would become a staple of the Foo Fighters’ live set.

Sonic Youth, the noise rock band which also had a tremendous air within alternative rock circles, were present to perform and celebrate with Bowie, playing his newest single “I’m Afraid of Americans,” which featured production stylings from Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Bowie, never afraid to move forward. Below is also included Nine Inch Nails with David Bowie re-orchestrating “Hurt” in 1995, later covered famously by Johnny Cash.

After these performances, David Bowie delivered his hits “Heroes” and “The Man Who Sold the World” with his backing band. Robert Smith from the Cure, emerged from the darkness of backstage to share two songs with Bowie: “The Last Thing You Should Do” and “Quicksand,” though he wanted to do “Young Americans.”

One of the most prominent figures from Bowie’s past, another one of rock’s figures who favored collaboration with admirers, his friend and creative partner Lou Reed joined him on stage for four songs. The two worked on Reed’s album “Transformer” together, which swept the world in storm. The songs they did together that night were “Queen Bitch”, a Lou Reed song “Dirty Blvd” and two songs from Lou Reed’s first major band, the Velvet Underground: “White Light/White Heat” and “Waiting for the Man.” Those latter two songs were frequently covered by Bowie in his past. “Waiting for the Man” was particularly marvelous, with alternating lead vocals from the two. This performance has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It’s nice to revisit and sad to see these figures leave this world.

In 1997, the following song would already have a sentimental and memorial connotation associated with it, Freddie Mercury having passed away a few years before. The duet is shared with his bassist at the time, American bassist Gail Ann Dorsey.

He closed his set with the Ziggy Stardust track, “Moonage Daydream” and seemingly ended the concert with band introductions. The backing band consisted of Reeves Gabrels on guitar, Mike Garson on keyboards (who also worked with the Pumpkins in later years), Zach Alford on drums and Gail Ann Dorsey on bass.

However, as with most great things there is an encore. After an aptly deserved “Happy Birthday!” from Dorsey, some more music emerged. For the encore, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, a huge Bowie fan, joined Bowie on stage for “The Jean Genie” and Mott the Hopple’s “All the Young Dudes,” written by Bowie in the early ’70s. In introducing Corgan, Bowie uttered his famous quote, “I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.” The encore was ended with “Space Oddity” which would be covered by the Smashing Pumpkins during their Oceania tour.

Bowie’s death is as sudden as it is grave. I found out coming out of the Primus and Tool concert in San Diego on their latest tour. It hit me the next day and it hit me very hard and at once. While listening to “Teenage Wildlife,” I became incredibly upset and my eyes followed suit. I felt an embrace and goodbye. What I wrote on my band’s page is the only thing that I can really manage to say about his passing:

David Bowie has died and reborn for the last time, as he did hundreds of times during his lifetime. From the Thin White Duke to Ziggy Stardust to Blackstar – Bowie has always been reborn and died, we tend to forget. This time, it just hits us a bit harder because his consistently ever-changing body and essence has gone to its biggest rebirth, a union with the universe. As he ever was, Bowie exists in all of us. He exists in our courage and our engendered ability to face ourselves, to be ourselves no matter what people tell us. And people do change. His music encompasses a lot, but one thing that has always stood out to me is the spirit of bravery – encouraging people to experience the most of life to better themselves and to grow. To dance, to wander in space, to live as teenage wildlife, to be heroes and in the indefinite final acts and climaxes: to be reborn as Lazarus when Jesus gave life back to him in Lazarus’ miraculous resurrection, the utmost compassionate act we can accept to give ourselves as life continues to shape and challenge us. In embracing his deep lessons, Bowie will be continue to be reborn thousands and thousands of times more.

Rest in peace, Blackstar

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Billy Corgan Compares Political Correctness To Julius Caesar & The Roman Empire

Late last year we reported Chicago television personality and spiritual author Jennifer Weigel would have a conversation with Billy Corgan as a part of her series on conversation with significant cultural figures and spirituality. The interview took place December 15th and as Weigel personally responded to me with, the interview would be up this week and finally has surfaced. A two hour event, the first hour mainly consisting of Corgan and Weigel covering a number of different but inter-related topics, including but not limited to Donald Trump, social media, Corgan’s creative process, American and international politics, Corgan’s spiritual influences and much more. The second hour consisted of a dialogue with audience members. Below, we include selected portions of the conversation divided into multiple parts by topic, transcribed exclusively here at Alternative Nation. (All citations are my own)

What Guru Do You Relate With?

JW: “Speaking of gurus and spiritual masters, is there a particular person you’ve read recently that you really resonated with? Whether it be someone decades or thousands of years ago or current?”

BC: “Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Hare Krishna related literature and in the magicaly things that happen when you cast [the question], ‘Is there something here for me to read or understand?’ I wrote my ex-girlfriend a letter, a man who actually grew up in Highland Park just up the road where I live, Radhanath Swami  I think is his spiritual name, unbeknown to me he was actually giving a lecture in Highland Park and I had no idea. Anyway I bought a book by him [The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami] about  how he became a wandering sadhu in India at the age of 19. Which as you can imagine at the time is pretty unusual. 19 year old kid runs around through the forest with loincloth and a beggar’s bowl. Anyway, so he became a Hare Krishna devotee and I wrote her this letter of things I wanted to address that reading this book made me think we needed to clear the air, more for mine than hers. She wrote back saying, ‘It’s so funny I’m reading the exact same book.’ [audience laughs] It’s pretty good, and she lives in Australia so, it’s pretty good…Again, truth [according to] the Hare Krishna doctrine, or the Vedic idea, is pantheistic to the sense they believe there is only one god and all the other deities, whether it’s Ganesh or Rama, whoever are expressions of God. So there is nothing that I read as someone who was raised Catholic…in the Vedic religion that is at odds with whether or not I believe in Jesus Christ. Because under that thinking there’s many masters and they’re all leading you to the same Valhalla [word unclear].

Who in the World Has it Right?

JW: “As you were raised Cathoic, you’re a fan of Jesus Christ but also Buddha and a lot of leaders…”

BC: “And the Beatles!” [audience laughs]

JW: “And the Beatles and David Bowie! With that in mind and seeing how so many people mess up and kill over religion, does it make you scared or do you just want to move to Canada? I mean right now, who do you think is doing it right? Where, if anywhere, on the globe, if you could choose anywhere? Because I mean I remember we had a conversation and you were like, ‘I’m moving to France!’ and that was before the Paris Attacks. Where do you think they got it right?”

BC: “Nowhere. I think we’ve entered an age where this is a global issue. If you believe in the conspiracy end of it which is there is a conscious move of the ‘robber barons’ of the world, the gross capitalists, to turn our world into one big shopping mall…so if you believe in the conspiracy we are being moved some would say quite deliberately into a global system, especially with recent treaties like the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnersihp or [The Paris Agreement] …if you believe in these ideas than this is the manifestation of the global conversation. Which is obviously at odds with the American hegemony that we sort of dictate how it all rolls. So going back to a spiritual tangent, this is not about trigger words and safe spaces. This is about who calls the shots and whether the tribal nature of humanity [sic].

For example: ‘I’m a proto-lesbian feminist dadada…’ or ‘I’m a French nationalist’ or ‘I am from Chicago’…if you believe in tribalism which is very much beyond race and is more a culture of choice, though some would argue with that. Then what you’re saying is that people are willingly going to set aside their tribal loyalty to get out of the way for someone they don’t know, who has a different belief system or system of justice or whatever. Now it’s easier to put if you’re a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles and you can undestand why someone fronts up on somebody for wearing their jersey and their team is ‘better than yours,’ well is it going to be any different when the guy from Kurdistan thinks his way of life is better than yours? So from the spiritual quotient it’s going to be: ‘how do we align in a way that is progressive and not destructive?’ Because generally when humanity comes across these criss-cross points of ‘my way or your way’, it gets violent. One only needs Gibbons’ ‘History of the Roman Empire’ to see what I’m talking about, which maps out a thousand years of ‘Hey, Visigoths, get off my land.’ In fact, there was a thing on the BBC website the other day about they recently found a Roman battlefield. They knew of the battle because it had been written about in Julius Caesar’s time…

JW: “Where did they find the battlefield?”

BC: “I think in the Netherlands. So now because of satellite mapping they can see things they have never found before. So they know where this is where the battle took place…essentially what happened was, the Romans tended to operate on temperate climates. So basically their empire was spread through the Mediterrean up through England, because the weather was dealable and they let all the ‘crazy’ people live up north where it was cold. Occassionally when they would get out of control or they [the Roman Empire] didn’t like what they were doing, they said ‘Get in line!’ and it would go back and forth. Well there was a situation when somebody up there got a little too out of hand and they went up, the Romans sent a bunch of stuff up there and they [the Tencteri and Usipetes tribestribes] said, ‘Okay, we’re going to surrender, we give up. You’re right.’ Julius Caesar ordered them all killed. They wiped out between 150,000 and 200,000 people. Imagine what that was like 2,000 years ago. My point is that history dictates he or she who has the leverage is going to use it. A PC (politically correct) argument is not going to get someone to stop when its in their self interest, their tribal self interest, to wipe you out. It’s a human condition, which you could argue is hardwired in the human animal brain. I’m not here to argue for or against but if you take as a precept and history seems to dictate that, well, we have never not done that.

Billy Corgan’s Book ‘God is Everywhere, From Here To There’ Is Over 1,000 Pages Long

Late last year we reported Chicago television personality and spiritual author Jennifer Weigel would have a conversation with Billy Corgan as a part of her series on conversation with significant cultural figures and spirituality. The interview took place December 15th and as Weigel personally responded to me with, the interview would be up this week and finally has surfaced. A two hour event, the first hour mainly consisting of Corgan and Weigel covering a number of different but inter-related topics, including but not limited to Donald Trump, social media, Corgan’s creative process, American and international politics, Corgan’s spiritual influences and much more. The second hour consisted of a dialogue with audience members. Below, we include selected portions of the conversation divided into multiple parts by topic, transcribed exclusively here at Alternative Nation. (All citations are my own)

Billy’s Books

JW: “How’s your book coming?”

BC: “Slow.”

JW: “What, you got like five books worth of stuff? [Corgan nods yes] Why don’t you do volumes? I mean, does it have to be all in one?…”

BC: “I can’t talk about in that way right now, but yeah right now it turns out to be about a thousand pages.”

JW: “What’s it called now, has it changed?”

BC: “The current title is God is Everywhere, From Here To There.”

JW: “Now it’s a memoir but you’re changing the names to protect the not-so-innocent?”

BC: “Yeah, no real names, I’ve talked about that in interviews. I mean yes, the average person will be able to go, ‘Oh yeah that’s so-and-so.’ But it’s not meant to be a legal device, it’s meant to get you out of what you think you know and take you hopefully in the very interpersonal experience which I experienced. Which, I would argue, is mythology. Most of what I have experienced in my life isn’t real.”

Corgan once a website with a very similar to the same tentative title as his book, Everything from Here to There. Below is the welcome letter, as the domain is long extinct and inactive:

Hello, many blessings to you for visiting Everything From Here to There.

The purpose of this website is to discuss openly and without fear concepts of Mind-Body-Soul integration. If you are drawn to the Hidden Truths, drawn to God as something beyond limitation, and drawn to Love as the greatest force in the Universe, then you have come to the right place at the right time. This is a place of Love.

In discussing Mind-Body-Soul integration within the context of holistic Truth, many topics will be explored here that may be new to you. Like any good tree that one would hope to grow, we must set our roots deep into the ground so that what is real will prosper in the Light of Love.

This site is non-denominational, we promote no religion, and if we speak of any belief or faith system it won’t be at the expense of another. That is not to avoid the obvious. Most of the citizens of this planet put their faith in someone or something. This website respects every belief and every faith as an expression of God’s greater Will.

This is not a place of judgment, nor a place of making proof. We begin with the idea that there is a God. We begin with the undying belief that there is a unifying intelligence that manifests itself in Every-thing. Even if you don’t believe in God, exploring fully the idea of a God or Gods should pose no threat to you. The idea of a higher collective intelligence or consistent organizing principle should be worth contemplating no matter what you believe in (or don’t believe in). For who is God if not Us?

Mind-Body-Soul integration is the primary focus of this site, and how it can best manifest in our daily life. We will strive to celebrate the brilliant Spirit in each individual and work collectively to glorify that which is Holy in each and every one of us. To honor and recognize that support for another is also support for ourselves. To kindle the flame in every heart humbly as gratitude for our opportunity here to make a subtle yet important difference. It is that simple.

The date of origination for Everything From Here to There is 9.9.09, a perfect date to mark this beginning of a wonderful opportunity. We swing the garden gate open, and ALL are welcome Here.

William Patrick Corgan”

Billy Corgan Wants To ‘Find Peace’ With Original Smashing Pumpkins Members

We have been busy transcribing a lengthy interview of Billy Corgan with Jennifer Weigel. We have released transcriptions regarding Donald Trump and Corgan’s views on social media and humanity’s future. These transcriptions so far have been based off of video recordings from a 9 part series released by Big Media Productions on YouTube, but we also found access to the entire two hour interview, with audience participation. Unfortunately, the audio quality of the full interview is poor and some sentences are just invariably lost to audible gargle. Here, we found a bit of Corgan speaking about the possibility of a full band reunion with James Iha and D’arcy Wretzky, Chamberlin included.

JW: “Do you think it’s time for a reunion, with the originals?”

BC: “Are you really asking me this question?”

JW: “I think it makes personally…but everyone wants to know that for some reason. I know that’s so not who we are now. I guess the question would be, would it make sense to sit down and have tea with either of them [Iha or Wretzky]? Because you spent so much time together, would you like to know who they are now?”

BC: “I know who they are…and they know who I am. When you spend that amount of time with somebody, of course they matured…I think the only way to answer every one of these questions is…I have no interest in doing anything that’s inorganic. I have people in my band now that I talk to…and they don’t want to talk to me and I don’t want to talk to them. If they try were lying on the side of the road, I would stop my car and bring them to the hospital, but we don’t send Christmas cards to each other. There’s no relationship. And so when you’re talking about the natural human instinct to find forgiveness and heal a relationship, I think that never ends. That’s a human thing, it has nothing to do with the band or people creating memories. The business of it all, I find quite gross…I think people rarely get out of those things [original reunions] what they think they’re gonna get. Because when a relationship breaks, and I would take it back more to something you’ve experienced in your family life or your romantic life, whatever, when a relationship breaks there are times it’s not gonna get any better. It’s what it was for what it was, underneath a particular set of circumstances…[inaudible]…There’s no temptation there for me. Strickly on my part I think it’s like, “Would I like to find peace?” Absolutely, of course. But beyond all the other stuff…I can’t even imagine that being able to watch.

Corgan also spoke on various aspects of the band’s past and his relationships to the music industry and audiences:

BC: “I didn’t get into this business I got into…to scream in an empty alleyway. I didn’t design this world [music industry], someone else designed it for me. They gave me a number and said, ‘Okay, now go stand over there.’ Now my natural, Eastern European gypsy spirit wants to kick everyone in the head in response, but it’s not an effective strategy anymore.”

BC: “Like when people would see us back in the day, they wouldn’t understand the combatant nature of the band or my verbal tirades and stuff like that. They didn’t understand it was performance art. We were purposefully pressing buttons being in a generation where they had it all figured out. When you try to engage someone with a different point of view, someone who assumes you align with them socially…and the minute they realize you’re not on their team or determine you’re not in their tribe, how quickly they turn. Generation X in particular led an incredible betrayal of values. The sellout, which was the word at the time, really is…the word of the generation. There has been far more selling out than buying in.”

Corgan has come a long way with this. Since the dissolution of the original lineup, there has been little talk between ex-bandmates outside of Chamberlin. But here, he shows a desire to make peace with them, which doesn’t equal a reunion. It means closure with people who were once part of his life and band, which is something a lot more important than a “reunion.” People will inevitably continue to criticize Corgan for anything he says. But the fact of the matter is, Corgan, Iha and Wretzky are human, not machines who play music for drooling middle aged people. Healing takes time. Respect that.

Billy Corgan Says Facebook Is Creating A Generation Of Narcissists & Twitter ‘Didn’t Do Sh*t For Me’

Late last year we reported Chicago television personality and spiritual author Jennifer Weigel would have a conversation with Billy Corgan as a part of her series on conversation with significant cultural figures and spirituality. The interview took place December 15th and as Weigel personally responded to me with, the interview would be up this week and finally has surfaced. A two hour event, the first hour mainly consisting of Corgan and Weigel covering a number of different but inter-related topics, including but not limited to Donald Trump, social media, Corgan’s creative process, American and international politics, Corgan’s spiritual influences and much more. The second hour consisted of a dialogue with audience members. Below, we include selected portions of the conversation divided into multiple parts by topic, transcribed exclusively here at Alternative Nation. (All citations are my own)

Social Media and Twitter

JW: “Why did you quit Twitter?”

BC: “Can I put this in Chicago language? Twitter wasn’t doing shit for me. Actually, somebody from Twitter called me and they wanted to know what happened, and I told them basically that in more kind language. It’s pretty obvious to me, and if anyone is interested there’s plenty of information coming out with what the social media oligarchs are now doing. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it won’t matter. The names will change, the faces will change, but the same construct. Look no further than what Facebook is doing to magazines and newspapers. Their click rates are down 60 to 80 percent. I think I read TIME’s sales went down 60% in the last year…”

JW: “You’ve talked about how we’re creating a generation of narcissists because of Facebook…”

BC: “We’ve already created a generation of narcissists, that ship has sailed. Look no further than trying to have a conversation with a millenial to know what I’m talking about…”

JW: “Between the selfie stick and the texting, I was at dinner with four of them [Millenials] and nobody was looking at me. I was like, ‘So when we go to Mars later, can I park in front?’ Nobody cared. Nobody noticed. It’s the world, so how do you adapt to it? You quit Twitter and then what?”

BC: “Let me go back to what I was saying, because I think if we understand these things from a bigger meta point of view, it’s easier to relate to our own experience rather than ‘That’s what I did.’ Very fascinating, and I’ll use an example because I think it’s an easier way to illustrate it all, it’s a slightly different model. MTV starts right? They have nothing. So they have to go to all the labels and say, ‘Look, we wanna play all your videos. We can’t afford to pay for the content, we can’t afford to pay you per minute what we would for real content, like a show. So give us this free content and we’ll promote your things.’ Eventually, as everyone knows, MTV got so out of hand, they crushed the labels. [MTV] ran their business model into the ground and basically turned MTV into a normal network, off the backs of the musical artists, Janet Jackson or whoever. They made gazillions off of all these people and still pretend to be a music network of which of course, they’re nothing like it. They’re more like a social…socialist [sic] construct. ‘Fourteen and Pregnant’, you know?

But the point is, they cried ‘poor!’ in the beginning, they clung onto somebody else’s heat, in a wrestling term and eventually shot the people in the head who made them. It’s what Facebook and Twitter are all going to do now. Facebook is a little bit different because of the way it is set up, they have a better thing in the marketplace. I think people like me are waking up to where Twitter is weak against what, let’s call ‘celebrities,’ bring to Twitter, I think we’re going to start seeing a mass exodus. What a Kim Kardashian brings to a Twitter is worth more than four hundred people with the same amount of followers. So they take what a Kim Kardashian brings to a Twitter. Now in Kim Kardashian’s case, she can turn that and sell cosmetics or a clothing branding or whatever. But for people in the middle, I would put people like us [Weigel and Corgan] in the middle, we don’t get that same exchange. We can’t turn around and get a shoe deal because we are tweeting something. So in essence, Twitter and other social media platfroms take and take from something that I build. My name, my music, my whatever and they say, ‘Thanks a lot!’ Jimmy Chamberlin and I when we brought the Pumpkins back in 2007, we sat down one day and did the calculus and we realized for every hundred people we had on Facebook, we sold one record. So we were catering to 99 people to sell one thing. That is a weakly poor business exchange.”

JW: “Don’t you think the business model has changed since 2007 though?”

BC: “No, no and this is the last thing I’ll say about it because it can get real boring real fast…”

Audience member: “No we like it! This is wonderful.”

BC: [Corgan smiles] “Alright, I’ll carry on. Smashing Pumpkins currently have four million likes on Facebook. So, if you’re checking my site everyday and I post something like, ‘Hey, I took my dog for a walk’ and a little picture, you’ll see it but the other 3.99 million people [sic] won’t because they’re not visiting it everyday. So what Facebook wants you to do is ‘boost your posts’ or, this is where we get into Dumbland, do really dumb stuff. So that you click on it and you click on it and you click on it, so then it goes viral. So you create a culture where idiocy reigns and rules, not quality. [audience applauds] I’m not saying anything radical! So you’re creating a social ecosystem that rewards being inane.”

JW: “So, the counter of that is knowing a lot of comedians that use Twitter and Facebook to their advantage, if they are funny, which is their world, it goes viral and that’s their business, so maybe for them it’s not so bad.”

BC: “I would jump on you right there and argue that because of the social knob construct on Facebook, how many comedians on Facebook are saying what they would really say, in the world Richard Pryor grew up in? I learned as a white kid growing up in suburbs, I had a lot of exposure because of my father being a musician to other cultures and other points of view, but I learned from Richard Pryor that made me look at my world and say, ‘Huh, he’s got a point.’ These people I am growing up with are either outward racists or closet racists. His comedy, his social thinking, his brilliance made me look at my own race, white people, differently. But if people can’t have open conversations…if you have people like Jerry Seinfeld come out and saying, ‘It’s not worth playing at colleges anymore because social justice warriors will be all over you the moment you step out of line. So you’re right about a comedian using Facebook or a musician using Facebook, but I guarantee you the minute they put something up that doesn’t align with the social justice mob mentality, the risk is too high. So you have a watering down of diversity and homogenizing of general messaging. That, as an artist, is death.”

Government and Social Media

BC: “They [Facebook] are too tied into big government. The government is literally in league with these big social media companies becasuse they are mining the data! Why do you think Mark Zuckerberg learned Chinese? Whatever happened to this talk about ‘the government this’ and ‘the press that,’ that’s all gone out the window. Again, money rules, power rules. It’s not going to change, which is why I go back to my earlier point. When Tribe One meets Tribe Two meets Tribe Three, is everyone gonna go, ‘Hey, high five! I saw your documentary’, you know? I doubt it. I’m cynical in that regard. Don’t be fooled by things that are cuddly and fuzzy. The social media construct is cuddly and fuzzy for a reason. You want the most amount of people for the most amount of time. If you’re engaged in a debate [sic], inflaming rheotric about the candidate they don’t like, that only serves a bigger master. It has nothing to do with democracy. True democracy is uncomfortable. This is not uncomfortable. Look no further than some post from the New York Times and read the comments. Go on Breitbart and read the comments. It’s all right there, it’s all you need.”

Media and the Truth

JW: “So speaking of the New York Times, we talked about creating our own news website because the news that you get, having been in the news business for a long time, it’s filtered, it’s watered down, it’s the opinion of the writer, the editor, you’re not getting real news…”

BC: “May I ask you a question? [Weigel responds yes] If you look at the mainstream news, a very general question, you like I do open the paper or watch a major network, how much of that do you view as propaganda?”

JW: “Ninety percent.”

BC: “Same number for me: ninety percent. We come in media from diametrically opposed points of view. You grew up in a media family with your father? You have two people here who have been in public life for a very long time. Ninety percent [of news] is propaganda. Now the great thing is, and I assume most people here, already know that. So they are reading the news with a different level of discernment. But isn’t it interesting that those who are already propagandized, not only are not stopping the propaganda but are actually turning up the volume. Hence, so and so blasts so and so. So and so rips so and so. Because you have to double down on that rheotric.”

JW: “So now my question to you is since we didn’t start our own news network, though we’re still willing to do it if anyone out there is willing to fund it, we’re totally game for a conversation…a real network that gives real information and not ninety percent propaganda. What is your daily routine in the morning when you get up? What are the websites you go to, what do you do?”

BC: “I find that I read the mainstream websites because I want to see, basically what are the marching orders. It is pretty interesting to see the White House press a button and how the mainstream media verbatim with very little questioning factor that propaganda out. Maybe less in the past year but still pretty hot [sic], in the way the White House can dictate the conversation. Drudge is good but obviously he is right leaning and/or libertarian. I tried for awhile to read more leftist stuff…but I don’t know… I’m at a point now, I don’t know if if it’s the Salons of the world, I just can’t read it. Because I feel my intelligence is being insulted. Maybe that’s just where I am politically in my life, I just can’t have my intelligence insulted.”

Avengers of Truth or Brainwashed Robots

BC: “Being an ‘avenger for the truth’ is kind of a waste of time.”

JW: “Because they’re gonna put their head in the sand anyway?”

BC: “Yes, and you have to try to respect they want to be that way.”

JW: “No! If that was the case, people would still be segregated in cafeterias. If Rosa Parks hadn’t sat on the bus…I can’t live with that way, no way Jose. If you put your head in the sand, that pisses me off. It really pisses me off.”

BC: “I’m just playing contrarian.I don’t necessarily disagree with you. Going back into the social justice thing…I mean Melissa Harris Perry, you know, who is the gift that keeps on giving on MSNBC, literally got into a discussion yesterday about Darth Vader being black, but how he’s a good guy, when the mask is off, he’s white. Now I’m just paraphrasing, I just watched the clip. I try not to just read, not read what’s written. I tried to watch the clip – when you’re down into ‘Why is Darth Vader black?’…you know what I mean? I just can’t roll with that. I can’t roll with that…”

JW: “If we keeping playing the lowest common denominator, we’re gonna raise morons and no one is gonna get anywhere.”

BC: “But we seem to do a plenty good job about raising morons [audience laughs] social justice warriors or not. My point is, if something is ineffective, if the world doesn’t reflect the world that you think it should, in the way you think it should, you’re probably doing something wrong. It’s very easy to attack the human condition, but life is very hard, life is very difficult. I have a lot more empathy than when I did as a young man from what my family went through.”

JW: “Now is that from maturity or age or…?”

BC: “No, it’s realizing their lives were fucking hard. Whether it was disease or insanity or cataracts or whatever, their lives were fucking hard and I’m willing to guess many people here know what I’m talking about. Families struggle, people struggle, it’s like one of those John Steinbeck novels where the mountain seems too high for most people…they have the courage but they don’t have the strength or stamina…and now more than ever you have incredible detours to take you off the march up the hill. There’s no end to things you can click on. And now come the sex robots, that’s the new thing that’s starting to trend…there’s a growing discussion about robotics, one is the sexual application because there’s obviously a lot of money there and and morality of all that…and the other side is the militarization of robots. The third discussion is how robots are gonna replace, you know the people standing in front of McDonalds saying they want higher wages, McDonalds is just gonna put in robot hamburger makers, they already have them. That’s the end of that discussion. So, back to the sex robots… [audience laughs] Sorry that sounded like such a good line to say, I didn’t know where I was going with that…No what I’m saying is you’re quickly giving into this dystopic type of Charlton Heston in [The] Omega Man, where it’s you and all you got is this little cubicle, it’s green and shitty, so why not have a sex robot when a real human is only gonna disappoint you and all that stuff. These are…tectonic shifts in not only the way we live but the way we face our fear because anyone who has watched Lord of The Rings or any spiritual books or any of Jen’s [Weigel] books, that at some point of the crisis of the hero’s journey, the hero, he or she must face the thing they don’t want to face.”

 

 

 

Billy Corgan On If He Believes Donald Trump Is Racist

Edited by Brett Buchanan

Late last year we reported Chicago television personality and spiritual author Jennifer Weigel would have a conversation with Billy Corgan as a part of her series on conversation with significant cultural figures and spirituality. The interview took place December 15th and as Weigel personally responded to me with, the interview would be up this week and finally has surfaced. A two hour event, the first hour mainly consisting of Corgan and Weigel covering a number of different but inter-related topics, including but not limited to Donald Trump, social media, Corgan’s creative process, American and international politics, Corgan’s spiritual influences and much more. The second hour consisted of a dialogue with audience members. Below, we include selected portions of the conversation divided into multiple parts by topic, transcribed exclusively here at Alternative Nation. (All citations are my own)

What Puts You in a Creative Mindset?

BC: “I’ve said many times I’m a whore when it comes to creativity.”

JW: “You’re whore? So, you’ll take it when you can get it?”

BC: “No I have some ethics, but… [all laugh] probably not the best way to start. I think creativity…”

JW: “There’s the tweet: Billy’s a whore.”

BC: “There’s nothing new there…[all laugh] I think creativity is really about oppurtunity and whatever you attach to it is ultimately going to be an impediment. So you’re standing in line at the 7/11 and you have a really great idea and you don’t think it’s important enough to write down or stop what you’re doing, you’re kind of sending a signal up to the universe where your priorities are. For example, the opening riff to “Cherub Rock” on Siamese Dream came to me driving down Irving Park Road [Chicago, Ill.] heading east…and to where we were at the time, I was passenger, and where I had to get was about 25 minutes…and this is an era before cell phones. So I had to tell my friend, ‘Don’t say anything,’ because I felt something significant was happening and I didn’t know what it was, and I literally sat in the car for 25 minutes and went [hums the opening riff to Siamese Dream] …because I was so scared I was going to lose this little lightning bolt. So I think if you start with the premise that God is perfect without any asterisk or exception, and inspiration or at least the sense of inspiration is our way of reflecting the creator, if you believe in that kind of organization, then anything that comes between you and something that is pure or feels pure, is your own BS. So when you say something like, “I like to be near water to be creative”, that might be a preference, but if at some point you think, ‘Here I am standing in the desert, how am I going to write this chapter?’, that’s you, that’s not divinity.”

Donald Trump

JW: “So how do you explain Donald Trump?”

BC: “Well, without getting into the politik of it because it is a time unlike any that I remember. Of course, I can read about the late ’60s and early ’70s, I was very small, but the ’30s in Germany or any kind of tumultuous time in history, and certainly there’s hundreds of examples going back…I tend to look at those things through the prism of ‘people rise to the fore to express an unconscious desire.’ So when people say for example, ‘Well Donald Trump is the face of the angry white man who is frustrated by the process,’ [sic] I think, ‘Okay, so what?’ As is any version of…. [e.g.] Gloria Steinem represented something about women’s liberation…people rise to the fore as symbols. Having at times, and in particular one particular time being a symbol myself, you start to understand there’s an unconscious process at work with the public far larger than the personality. So the question isn’t so much who Donald Trump is but the world that made Donald Trump and then by what particular prism you see a Donald Trump. Let me take someone who is a little less of a political flashpoint at the moment, who is generally considered the second person behind Trump, which is [Ted] Cruz. I remember watching Cruz on the floor of the Senate filibustering what would later become Obamacare. I think he filibustered for 26 hours. If you look at the microcosm of press that went around the event, he was reviled, was an ‘idiot,’ ‘how could he do such a stupid thing,’ ‘this is gonna haunt the Republicans.’

Yet here’s the guy only a few years later in contention to be the President. So maybe something he represented maybe is more important to people that what he actually did. So when you get into the public mind, it’s more about symbolic representation. Which is why oftentimes when you see Trump supporters questioned by mainstream media they say, ‘I don’t give a shit about whether he’s right or wrong, it’s what he represents,’ and so he’s giving voice to that. So you could spend all day looking at the personality but you’re actually looking at the wrong direction. Look who would’ve been considered politically appropriate another time, would be considered a total racist today. As the great producer Flood once said, ‘One man’s meat is another man’s snare drum.’ What sounds like a snare drum to one person sounds like a thudding piece of meat to another. So it’s all in the eye of the beholder. So I tend to look at those things through the prism of the imaginations of public discourse and the unexpressed desires because no person, no human that I know, unless they are a guru or spiritual master who has dedicated themselves to spiritual practice, nobody I know can actually embody the projection.

Stay tuned for more installments of this interview!

 

Billy Corgan Announces The Birth Of His Son, Augustus Juppiter

After much speculation and rumors: the Pumpkin King welcomes his heir into the world. On November 16th, 2015, Corgan’s girlfriend Chloe Mendel, closely associated with the Madame Zuzu’s teahouse in Chicago gave birth to their first son, Augustus Juppiter. These last couple months, fans who met the couple at Madame Zuzu’s had noticed Mendel to look pregnant. Corgan has been quiet these last couple of weeks outside of his eulogy to Scott Weiland and now it all makes sense. So far, not much detail has been given about the new family but they seem very happy with one another and Corgan and Mendel have been dating for around 2 years.

We at Alternative Nation are extremely elated to see Corgan enter a new chapter of his life as a father and for the start of Mendel’s journey as a mother. There is no true parallel in life than having a child and Corgan has expressed interest in having children for sometime. This year has seen a certain transformation for Corgan, his reunion with Chamberlin, the launch of People and Their Cars, a successful summer tour, but the welcoming of this child into the world takes the cake over everything else.

Corgan has often played the father figure in life, both personal and professional. In his youth, he frequently acted as the caretaker for his two younger brothers, as they were shot around Chicago between relatives in the midst of divorce. When the Pumpkins went through like James and D’arcy’s breakup, to Chamberlin’s initial firing and the revival of the band, Corgan was there taking care of business where no one else could. Not to mention, his dedication to his lovable cats over the years. There could not be better news surrounding Corgan. Augustus Juppiter, welcome to the world.

UPDATE: Forgot this one:

Interview: Ringo Deathstarr Discuss New Album, Smashing Pumpkins and World Tour

Special thanks to Daniel Coborn

I can’t lie, I’m a bit stubborn and it’s hard for me to get into new music. I’m a bit fixed in my taste but when I discover new music I like, I like to enjoy a close relationship with it and try to get as close to the music as I can. A band I’ve been coming back to again and again lately has been Ringo Deathstarr,a spacey genre bending power trio of G.G. Alex, Daniel Coborn and Elliott Frazier. They’re kooky – it’s hard to believe they’re from Austin, Texas when it sounds like they’re from planet Cerubon 41-2 from the Bunoti galaxy. Slow and explosive but quick with dreamy harmonies, they continue with the legacy of bands like My Bloody Valentine but at the same time do not blatantly rip them off, which I see as being more commonplace nowadays from many “shoegaze revival” movements. With a new name like Ringo Deathstarr, expect the Good Vibes Express headed to a station near you. I had the pleasure of interviewing the guys and talking to them the last couple weeks. Originally it was to be in person at Fun Fun Fun Fest, but it didn’t work out because of transit issues. Below, enjoy our brief interview with Ringo Deathstarr as they just are recovering from touring:

How was your Fun Fun Fun Fest experience?
Seems like a long time ago now, but it was a great festival, as usual–we had to play first in the early morning sun but there was a good turnout and i think we went over well.

Your newest album, Pure Mood, is really neat. I’ve been listening it and really struck me as different from much of the “shoegaze revival” stuff I’ve been hearing this last year or so (excuse the labeling). Is there a particular influence, set of gear or happenstance that distinguishes your album for your past works, instrumentally?
It’s just a bit harder, maybe a bit grungier. We spent a lot more time on the recording and most of the songs were written beforehand so that helped in creating a flow, or something.

I’m bad with discerning lyrics – any particular themes or messages you were exploring on this album?We all wrote lyrics–no particular themes other than the usual–life, love, existential anxiety.

Could you expand on the term “existential anxiety?”
Death, the after life, the infinitely large universe and my relation to it.

We’ve noticed your relationship with the Smashing Pumpkins, especially with guitarist Jeff Schroeder. Was the band an influence growing up?
Of course, and touring with them in 2011 helped out in lots of ways.

Schroeder featured on a track from Pure Mood, “Guilt“. What is the Schroeder collaboration process like?
Send Jeff the tracks, let him do his thing, edit it in… Easy!

How did your initial tour dates with the Pumpkins go?
It was a dream come true, but I wish we could do it again, cause we are a lot better as players now.

How is your European tour going?
The euro tour was insane. We drove all over the continent in a rented station wagon playing in venues of all sizes. We drank lots of free beer, and kicked several asses.

In light of recent political and world events, namely the attacks in Paris, did this stop you from touring around Europe at all?
No way.  We played in Paris the week after the attacks with Protomartyr. It was a really beautiful thing to be a part of.

Any nice sights or sounds you’ve experienced out in Europe?
We saw a really cool cruise ship performance on an overnight ferry from Stavanger, Norway to Copenhagen, Denmark that redefined our belief systems about what it means to be cool.

What’s on the horizon?
US tour in February and back to Europe in March. Then new tunes.

I’d love to hear a holiday release from you guys. The shoegaze and alt-rock influences plus Christmas music, sounds like a tasty mix. What do you all do for the holidays?
Sounds like it could be fun. We all do normal family stuff, though.  You know, church, egg nog, watching scrooged.

Are any of you all involved in other musical and/or artistic projects? I know me personally and maybe some of our readers would like to check that stuff out.
None of us actively play in other bands but Elliott does some studio work, producing bands and the like. Check out the band from Austin, blxpltn! He produced their last record [Black Cop Down] and their upcoming one it kicks ass.

You guys will be headed to Japan very soon – excited? Do you guys have a following out there? [Note, this question was asked before the Japanese leg was completed]
Japan is our best place to play. The people there treat us like Nirvana.  We are friends with super famous Japanese rock star Sugizo.  Our record label rules.  It’s hard to explain how much it rules over there.  I pretty much live my life waiting for the next time we can go over.

How much rock and roll do your souls collectively contain?

666%.

Good answer.

Ringo Deathstarr is slated to come back to the United States in February before returning to Europe in March. The new tour dates will be announced soon. For more updates, follow their Facebook or Twitter and expect more news of them in the following months. Look for their new album Pure Mood on iTunes and other online streaming services and marketplaces, as well as record stores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmy Chamberlin Talks Smashing Pumpkins’ 2016 Plans

Jimmy Chamberlin was recently interviewed by the Talk Music with Scott Cowie podcast just a few days ago in an interview spanning about 25 minutes. Chamberlin talked deeply and extensively on his drum kit and history, first time seeing the Pumpkins, his future with the band, the Chicago music scene, Cream drummer Ginger Baker and more! The interview was very long though definitely 100% worth the listen, but some parts became awkward to transcribe out of context. For the full interview, it begins around 8:43. Alternative Nation has transcribed some key quotes.

On his historical drum kit

That configuration was just an easier way to play “I Am One”, before that I was having to play paradiddle on my sixteen inch floor tom and then move my hand back to the snare drum. So the only way that configuration could work was as a paradiddle and then I thought, “Well shit, I’m just gonna put a fourteen over here and then my kit will be like a four piece kit and the toms will be more like supplemental toms. So I look at it like snare, fourteen, sixteen, eighteen, almost like a [John] Bonham type kit and then with two smaller toms in the middle. It just kinda stuck and I noticed there was new melodic opportunities with that configuration and people kept asking me about it, so I figured if people kept asking me about it, that I would just hang out to it.

First time seeing the Pumpkins

The first time I saw them… was not the time I heard them because I had gotten a demo tape from a friend of Billy and I’s before that. So, I had heard the songs and when I went to see them, they were playing: James, D’arcy and Billy with a drum machine. The idea was to bring me in, from my side of the fence and the Pumpkins’ side of the fence, to bring me in to play this iconic venue out in Chicago called the Cabaret Metro, which I wanted to play at and the band wanted to play at. So they brought me in because Joe Shanahan, one of my best friends, would not allow bands to play on that stage without a drummer [laughs] He was a bit of a purist when it came to that stuff. I mean obviously some bands did do that [play without a drummer] but the Pumpkins, I think Joe really liked the Pumpkins and was trying to guide them into a heavier sound.

First impressions of the Pumpkins

I thought they were okay, it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I wasn’t into the stuff they were playing, so I wasn’t an “REM” fan. The music they were playing before I joined was very jangly rock stuff…very 2/4…I was thinking, “Okay, I can do this stuff in my sleep, but it’s not something that I’m into..and the way I play isn’t really going to be additive. I was listening to Tony Williams and stuff like that and Weather Report. So I wasn’t just gonna come in and start blowing chops all over this guy’s songs but I was certainly more interested in that kinda stuff. So, the first impressions of the band was, “Okay, I can play this stuff and it’s cool and I can play the Metro and I’ll probably be on my way,” but then once Billy and I started talking and started to work on some of the music he wanted to write that was a little bit heavier, then it started to reveal itself as something bigger. Then we started talking about heavier drums…stuff that was built around the drums. Once he heard me play he was like, “Oh, well let’s try this beat and let’s try this,” and we just started rocking out from that point.

What He Thought On the Pumpkins’ Future Potential and Success Starting Out

[laughs jovially] I heard this question a lot. Once you commit to something and are so inside of it, it’s hard to be objective. I mean obviously, I’d say things were happening but were happening at such a slow pace, it’s hard to really quantify kinda what’s going on in your own life. Like now I can look back and say, “Ah holy fuck that was a crazy time” or “Geez, I should’ve seen this coming.” But when you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to be objective or to have any kind of perspective, you’re just kinda in it. Back then I was just thinking my problems were like, “I got a cracked crash cymbal and I gotta get some drumheads”, right? [laughs] I wasn’t thinking like, “Man, we’re going places.” I was thinking like, “My drums sounds like shit, I gotta get to the drum store,” it was compartmentalized in the moment, as opposed to, “We got some grand plan for world domination and these are the components that are gonna get us there! ‘I Am One’ is gonna launch a thousand ships and we’re gonna do a crazy video, and then people are throw money…”

I mean, you’re never thinking like that… If I were to tell my dad, “I’m gonna start playing drums because I wanna make a lot of money,” my dad would’ve been like, “You’re out of your mind! You’re not gonna make any money playing the drums. In fact, you should go to a hospital right now and have your head examined.” So you never really start off playing because you wanna make money. We were kinda weird looking dudes and some one weird looking girl…we wanted to [inaudible] the opposite sex, that was good enough…and get a little bit of scratch on the side, some pay…Music outside of music is always kind of a bullshit play, right?

So you’re in the studio and you’re making great music, but you never really believe in the peripheral business that’s going on outside of it, right? Because you’re taught as a musician to be very guarded, very insular, very “Hey, I’m not gonna let anyone in on my art because they’re gonna piss all over it,” right? Even after how many years Billy and I have been working together, the twenty seven years or so, we’re like, “We still don’t trust those people!” We were having lunch the other day and I say, “Hey, you should just come to my house and we’ll play some music!” What a novel concept…With Siamese Dream, once I didn’t have to borrow money to eat, or not live in my car, or pay rent, you still don’t believe it but still, you’re getting by. Even later when the checks are rolling in, you’re still thinking like, “How long can I ride this fantasy until, like my dad said, I can get a real job?” [laughs]

Partnership with Billy Corgan and future with the band

“So the other day did you and Billy get to jam at all?”

Not yet no, it takes a long time with us. We’re getting older, so even getting lunch on the books takes a couple weeks but we’ll get together and do some playing soon here, probably after the new year, but you know we did the tour over the summer, we had a lot of fun, it was super easy, low stress. I think the one thing we’ve always known, in spite of the business, the “he said, she said” any of that stuff, when we get together, we make great music, at least we think it’s great and that’s what’s important to us. We have a good time doing it, we are both interested in the same types of components that make music like , “How did we create things that sound simplistic that are really complex on the inside?”, “How do we write things that sound like nursery rhymes from 30,000 feet but once you start to pull the layers away, are extremely complicated, and extremely interconnected?” So I think those things are always gonna be interesting to me and him. I think the stuff he does without me certainly sounds like, you know, not so much of that stuff, and I think the stuff he does with me, we kind of challenge each other to get like: “C’mon man, are we gonna play that change again? I mean, what are you talking about, you know?”

The Snare Drum Used on Gish

So I only used one snare on that record and unfortunately it wasn’t mine. It was Butch’s [Vig] recording custom Yamaha 5 ½ by 14 Steel Shell, which was a great drum…I’ve received checks from lots of people sampling that drum sound…it’s really great, it really set the tone, it set the stage for the expectation around recorded drums at least and really flew Butch up the flagpole as “the guy”, but a lot of that sound came from: A. the way I play, B. the room was very small, very compressed…when we recorded Gish I think everything except for “Snail” was one take…we just rehearsed the heck of it and went in and just cut it…and I think everything was one take, maybe two. But it was just Billy and I in the same room, tracking together, like literally as close as you and I are right now, as close as I am to the monitor, just like right there “we gotta get this super tight, right?” and then we put the other stuff on later, and that’s really how we record all the time. Like him and I, we have to see each other, we gotta know its all live to take, we’ve never used ProTools or click tracks or any of that stuff, we just kind of went for it. Gish set the stage for that stuff.

On Working with Butch Vig

Well it was great, Butch is a drummer, y’know he’s got a great hear for drum sound, he’s got his own opinions about drums, which some of them are good and some of them I don’t agree with, but nevertheless he is a great producer. He’s like a family member, you’re like living in a cave with him for four months, you can’t really not get to know him and really don’t have a choice as far as whether you’re gonna like him or not, neither one of you is going anywhere, but yeah Butch is great. I think it was super, exactly what the band needed at that time.

On Cream Drummer Ginger Baker and His Biodocumentary “Beware of Mr. Baker”, Influences on Zeitgeist

“Ah it’s amazing right? I’ve always been a fan but now I’m a much bigger fan [laughs] When Billy and I did Zeitgeist, we really wanted to find some type of new music, we wanted to find a whole new trip to get into, something that wasn’t rock, something that was really trance-y, like in a Depeche Mode way but more primitive. So we got way into Fela and Femi Kuti, and Ginger and Tony Allen and that stuff, we listened to that stuff all day long when we were making Zeitgeist. Especially for “United States” and those types of songs I was looking for like, “How can I write something that is super fucking compelling and super repetitive that is not gonna get boring over a ten minute thing?”

So you would listen to these Fela [Kuti] songs…and the drums would be doing four different things at the same time and would go on for five minutes before the horns would come in and keyboard would come in, so I really threw myself at the music and tried to figure out, “What are those components?”, besides the fact Tony Allen is a fucking great drummer and those other guys are ridiculously talented. What is it about those choices that they are making that keeps things interesting? Through that I obviously got into the Ginger Baker – Fela stuff and subsequently one of my friends who works at Vice or somebody, he was certainly not a drummer, he was like, “Have you seen this Ginger Baker movie?” and I was like, “Nah, I haven’t seen it” and then I watched it…I mean, Ginger is so good.

I was listening to Cream stuff that the other day. I mean you talk about that Fela stuff, when you listen and you think, “What makes it so interesting?” It’s not what they play, it’s how they play it, how those parts are suggested and the framework they create for themselves. With Ginger, his use of dynamics as a jazz drummer in a rock context, no one was ever playing like that…Nobody but Baker keyed in on the dynamics of that stuff, where he was actually removing stuff to make stuff more powerful, like not having crash cymbals where other guys would just lay down the crash. When you listen to Bonham, you can template where all the crashes will be. But with Baker, you’re always fucking up trying to play his parts because they’re so unconventional. When I’m putting Pumpkins stuff together I’m always thinking, “What can I remove?” What is this process of removal and is what I’m playing still compelling?…

On Future Collaborations

Anybody, I don’t care. Brad Meldau, I love Brad Meldau a lot. Brian Ferry, David Bowie, I mean anybody, I don’t have a dream like, “Oh!” I mean if it was anybody it would probably be Duke Ellington, if I could bring anyone back, or Thelonious Monk. But really, I’ve gotten so much out of the weirdest combination of music that I don’t really try to construct my own future, I just kinda let it happen.

The following Pumpkins album supposedly will not feature Chamberlin during the recording of the next album. However, the details of the next album have constantly been re-worked over this last year. Presumably, Billy, Jeff and the crew is finishing up the album ready for release. A single was expected around this time of year. With Chamberlin’s statement, he looks like he is slated for some kind of collaboration with Corgan and the context suggests performance. We’ll keep you updated. If you haven’t read the longest article in AN history, check out my Mellon Collie and the Infinite Retrospective.

smashing pumpkins corgan

Billy Corgan To Give Spiritual Talk In Illinois

Billy “WPC” Corgan seems again to venturing into the dialogue on spirituality. In the last few years, Corgan’s spirituality seems to take a bigger place in his life. Earlier in 2009, Corgan opened a website for some time entitled “Everything From Here to There” for the primary subject of “Mind-Body-Soul integration” and how “it can best manifest in our daily life.” Unfortunately, this website’s domain fell out of service sometime around 2012-2013. At the end of this article, I have included the opening letter from the website, found through an Internet archive and no longer available anywhere else.

Journalist Jennifer Weigel, a local Chicago celebrity and writer who has written on spirituality in several books and articles. December 15th, just in a number of days, she will host an event at the Wilmette Theater in Wilmette, Illinois as a part of her “Conversations with Weigel” series, in which she interviews a guest every month on the subject matters pertaining to spirituality. It will be the first kind of interview that Corgan has had in months, since the End Times tour came to an end during late summer. Tickets are $30 and available here.

As promised, here is the opening letter from “Everything From Here to There”, one of the website’s only surviving documents:

Hello, many blessings to you for visiting Everything From Here to There.

The purpose of this website is to discuss openly and without fear concepts of Mind-Body-Soul integration. If you are drawn to the Hidden Truths, drawn to God as something beyond limitation, and drawn to Love as the greatest force in the Universe, then you have come to the right place at the right time. This is a place of Love.

In discussing Mind-Body-Soul integration within the context of holistic Truth, many topics will be explored here that may be new to you. Like any good tree that one would hope to grow, we must set our roots deep into the ground so that what is real will prosper in the Light of Love.

This site is non-denominational, we promote no religion, and if we speak of any belief or faith system it won’t be at the expense of another. That is not to avoid the obvious. Most of the citizens of this planet put their faith in someone or something. This website respects every belief and every faith as an expression of God’s greater Will.

This is not a place of judgment, nor a place of making proof. We begin with the idea that there is a God. We begin with the undying belief that there is a unifying intelligence that manifests itself in Every-thing. Even if you don’t believe in God, exploring fully the idea of a God or Gods should pose no threat to you. The idea of a higher collective intelligence or consistent organizing principle should be worth contemplating no matter what you believe in (or don’t believe in). For who is God if not Us?

Mind-Body-Soul integration is the primary focus of this site, and how it can best manifest in our daily life. We will strive to celebrate the brilliant Spirit in each individual and work collectively to glorify that which is Holy in each and every one of us. To honor and recognize that support for another is also support for ourselves. To kindle the flame in every heart humbly as gratitude for our opportunity here to make a subtle yet important difference. It is that simple.

The date of origination for Everything From Here to There is 9.9.09, a perfect date to mark this beginning of a wonderful opportunity. We swing the garden gate open, and ALL are welcome Here.

William Patrick Corgan”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ringo Deathstarr & Smashing Pumpkins Guitarist Collaborate On New Track “Guilt”

Ringo Deathstarr, the shoegaze champions of Austin, Texas, are planning the release of a new album, Pure Mood, later this month. Recently, the band shared a track entitled “Guilt” on their Soundcloud, featuring none other than Smashing Pumpkins guitarist Jeff Schroeder for a solo. The track can be heard below:

During tour dates in the winter of 2011, Ringo Deathstarr toured with the Smashing Pumpkins during the Otherside of the Kaleidoscope tour, featuring Mike Byrne on drums and Nicole Fiorentino on bass guitar. The band seemed to maintain a steady relationship with the Pumpkins and Schroeder has posted pictures of the band and some of their shows on Instagram.

Ringo Deathstarr played recently at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, which I had the pleasure to attend. Unfortunately, because of a schedule conflict I could not attend their Sunday performance (or the entire Sunday festival at all) but do expect an interview with the band within the next couple of days. Though I would have much rather done it in person, the interview will be done over email and available soon, hopefully around the release of Pure Mood. A review of Fun Fun Fun Fest is also due soon.

In Pumpkinland, nothing much is going on currently. Presumably, the next album is done and we are waiting for the first single to be released sometime next month. The album is due out for next year and is expected to a severely darker air to it.  During the writing of the album, Schroeder said “Billy and I are making a doom metal album.” So, two things to look forward to: Pure Mood and the next Pumpkins album. Let’s hope these two get a chance to tour again!

 

smashing pumpkins corgan

Count William Corgan To Host Halloween Bash

Billy Corgan (aka William Corgan, William Patrick Corgan, WPC, The Ivory Tower, and BC) is taking holiday festivities to the forefront. On Halloween night, he will be hosting a “Halloween Bash” as “Count William Corgan” at Madame Zuzu’s, his esteemed tea house in his hometown of Chicago. With a band name like “The Smashing Pumpkins”, it is hard to see how a love of Halloween wouldn’t cross someone’s mind. The original Madame Zuzu listing details:

Join Zuzu’s on Halloween Night, Oct. 31 for a special Halloween bash. Your reservation includes: one reserved seat, special servings of ghoulish tea and v-gf dessert, a chance to participate in our (now) annual costume contest, and a vintage-style, peel-apart picture of you taken by your creaky yet congenial host, Count William Corgan. Only the dead could want more!  

At $15.00 a pop, it is far beyond sold out. Corgan has been making more appearances at Madame Zuzu’s lately after the End Times tour, including the three year anniversary event last week. The shop’s culture has grown the last few years and has poetry readings and comedy nights about once every month. The tea house has also recently hosted auctions of art and photography sanctioned by Corgan. Corgan’s interest and activity with photography has been showing especially lately, with the advent of his new blog and outlet People and Their Cars. People and Their Cars however, is not limited to people nor cars. Up today are some peculiar, quaint and mildly disturbing pictures of vintage Halloween costumes.

Around the holidays, we should be expecting a single from the new Pumpkins album whose title is unclear. While Corgan still had his Twitter, he revealed an acronym, “SFTMITHOTS,” which was allegedly an acronym of the album’s full title. The album was originally planned as “Day for Night” but the title was apparently scraped.

Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Retrospective

This article is dedicated to the memory of Jonathan Melvoin

“Music can be the most wonderful thing in the world, it personally has inspired me to make great changes in my life and my way of thinking, but it is only music. Remember that those who ‘make it’ are not above you in any way. Don’t give credence to anyone person’s opinion than your very own, including my own and certainly don’t give more credence to one person’s opinion because he or she has sold more records than another. Many people have asked me how far I want the band to go, and I always say as far and to as many people as it can because that means people are doing the thing that means the most to us, and that is listening to the music.”

– William “Billy” Corgan, “A Newsletter From The Smashing Pumpkins to Their Fans”, 1993

This is a very,  very long article. It brings up certain events that aren’t pleasant to remember and at the same time, incredible art. As a disclaimer, people grow up. People make mistakes growing up.

If you like what you read, view a much shorter retrospective on Machina here.

Prelude to Sadness

Well into their tour in promotion for their sophomore album Siamese Dream, the Smashing Pumpkins were traveling across the Gulf of Mexico’s edge early April 1994, commuting between tour dates from Alabama to Mississippi. After sleeping in a motel room that reeked of “of mildew” and only “just big enough for that same sought after bed”, Corgan begins to recalls an important date. This day would arguably become the most pivotal date in alternative rock’s history. That April 8th, 1994, the news was broke to the world that Kurt Cobain was dead and an entry from the Confessions of Billy Corgan gives insight into Corgan’s initial reaction:

“The phone rings way too early, jarring me out of a sweet, humid sleep…the window is open and the sun pours in as the ocean air sweeps through the room…it looks like a beautiful day…”Did you hear the news? He’s gone and killed himself”…my first twilight thought is that it can’t be true, because even I have been reported dead two separate times in the last year (driving down the road, my father had recently heard a report that I was dead, so it must be a rumor or a bad joke)…the TV. in the room is one of those standard pieces of shit where you need a remote to turn it on, cause they hardwire the front controls off so you can’t jack the channels around to get the movies for free…I flip on CNN with the sound off, figuring if there’s any truth to it that they would have it…there is nothing on at this moment except a general news report, so it must just be a mistake…then I start to think that maybe they won’t care at all and that this might not be the source for information…about 20 seconds in they flash his picture…the talking head is talking away, and my stomach drops about 1,000 feet…I mumble to whoever is on the line for a minute or so, but I don’t remember what I said…they remind me that they are very glad I am still here…I put down the phone, and all is really quiet now…his picture is still up on the screen, frozen…it is one of those rare moments in life where the entire world seems to be stopped, waiting for the next breath…my mind races around to “where is she? I hope she is alright”…I sit on the edge of the bed and just stare at the screen…I cannot believe my eyes, it is just all so sad…I don’t pray, but I do now…I pull myself down to the floor, my back pressed up against the bed, the TV. screen just a foot away from my eyes…I say a prayer for his soul, thanking him for all the good he has done…I pray a lot for his child, who is now without a father…and I start to cry and I don’t stop until there are no more tears to cry…”

The death of Kurt Cobain signaled a significant loss – for his family, for his friends, and for the world. But the end of Cobain’s life and career brought on what might be known as “the death of guitar.” Since Nirvana’s demise, guitar derivative music has never been held as high as it had been during its glory days through the late ’50s up until Cobain’s death in 1994. The death of guitar was neither a good or bad thing – but it set the course of music in a different direction. Guitar driven bands were not exactly forced to change per se but with a reasonable artistic consideration in mind, many bands looked to different means to convey music or at least re-invent and re-structure how they would play guitar. This process had already begun with the electronic movements from the late 70’s through the 80’s, though these movements stayed closely aligned with rock or R&B movements until the ’90s began to approach. The Smashing Pumpkins became one of the first “rock bands” to acknowledge guitar’s death and the course of where music might go. Instead of doing away with it entirely though, Corgan and his former band mates took the initiative to re-invent the role of guitar and influence of rock in their band. As James Iha towards the end of 1996 in Guitar World, “Seeing the way rock music has changed over the last couple of years, it seems kind of dull to be playing guitars…The future is in electronic music. It really seems boring just to play rock music.”

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The band, circa 1994. Left to right: Jimmy Chamberlin, D’arcy Wretzky, William “Billy” Corgan and James Iha

A grueling 13 month tour for Siamese Dream was followed by hitting the studio soon afterwards for pre-production and writing. A big element of the album’s direction came out of a shift of producers – long time producer Butch Vig was replaced by electronic producer Flood, who engineered and/or produced several albums by U2, New Order and Nick Cave. In a 1995 interview with Guitar World, Corgan stated that, “I think we’d become so close with Butch that it started to work to our disadvantage. You get to the point where you don’t even say anything, ’cause you know all the body language. So the communication starts to diminish. We’d worked with Butch from the time we did our Sub Pop single [Tristessa, December 1990]. So it wasn’t really a decision about him as a producer. I just felt we had to force the situation, sonically, and take ourselves out of normal Pumpkin recording mode. I didn’t want to repeat past Pumpkin work.” Flood’s collaborator, engineer/producer Alan Moulder was also brought into the mix. The grass is always greener on the other side as they say, and the band was looking to see how far they could push their horizon.

The 666 Tapes – an obscure documentary produced by MTV during the initial recording sessions for the album.

Dawn

Writing for most of the album’s material formally began in March of 1995, though it has been noted by Corgan that the single “Thirty-Three” was the first song written for the album, shortly after the tour for Siamese Dream was finished around late 1994. Ironically, it became the last single released for the album’s promotion. Thirty-Three is one of the more poignant songs on the album, very soft spoken vocals playing off of deep yet light guitar tones and ethereal keys in the background. Towards the end of the original Smashing Pumpkins’ tenure in 2000, the band played the song during a VH1 Storytellers performance and Corgan spoke about its background and context:

“This song embodies the spirit of that time – I’d just gotten married, I’d just moved into a new house, the band was achieving the kind of success that people only dream of, and I was really hopeful with the idea that I was eventually, that someday and it looked like it was going to happen actually have a happy life. Didn’t quite work out that way. But I don’t think that’s what I want to emphasize about this particular song. Hope is the key component in life, because one must have hope to do anything in this world… I had a friend read my tarot cards, and the person said that, ‘when you’re 33 years old (this is when I was 27), your life is going to completely change.’ So as I sit here today at 33 years old, my life is going to completely change at 33 [In 2000, The Pumpkins announced their last tour when Corgan was 33].”

Thirty-Three performed at VH1 Storytellers, 2000

No sooner than he had covered Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, the line “Even children get older/And I’m getting older too” rang true for Corgan. He was finally growing up, “I know I can’t be late, supper’s waiting on the table”. But with the price of growing up comes leaving behind many things, like the identities of your past and the friends who helped form it:

“And for a moment I lose myself
Wrapped up in the pleasures of the world
I’ve journeyed here and there and back again
But in the same old haunts I still find my friends
Mysteries not ready to reveal
Sympathies I’m ready to return”

It is the sweetest lament. “The graceful swans of never”, the lovely people you leave behind as you grow up. “Thirty-Three” encompasses many of the album’s themes, including all the victories, remorse, and aspirations in the summation of one’s life. These issues have by no means been solved with simple step-by-step solutions for Corgan and the result of a lifetime of frustrations became a beautiful double album. When asked about the double album’s ambitiousness by Addicted to Noise in 1995, Corgan stated, “The first reaction that people have is it’s such a preposterous ’70s kind of thing to do, why would you do that in 1995? That’s exactly the point. It kind of knocks people upside the head to at least reexamine their perception of what an album is. Things like that.” In the same interview he also conceded “a lot” was riding on the album’s success, which would determine if the band would fade out of the public spotlight or reach success unparalleled in their career before. Virgin Records had felt at first that the whole double record concept was a career suicide and a project too large and early for the Pumpkins.

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Corgan on stage during the Mellon Collie tour, pre-tonsure

Initial rehearsal through much of the early recording and production process happened at the aptly named Pumpkinland, their rehearsal studio, beginning around November of 1994. Earlier sessions took place at “Sadlands” (Corgan’s home) during the fall of 1994. Demos for the November 1994 sessions were kept at D’arcy’s house for some time and were stolen by her sister’s boyfriend and sold online during the album’s recording and production. Music for the video release Vieuphoria was likely produced and/or written at James Iha’s house, Bugg Studios (named after his dog); around the same time where it is speculated the band may have jammed on new material there as well. Much of lighter instrumental music featured in the video acts as a slight foreshadow and nod to the softer parts of the forthcoming album.

Although Corgan wrote the vast bulk of material on the album, it was a far collaborative process according to most sources. James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin and D’arcy Wretzky’s separate contributions to the music Corgan wrote out had the album sound wholly different than their previous records. The introduction of keyboards, piano and strings also had the record stand out from the rest of the discography beforehand. Gish and Siamese Dream, were generally very guitar driven. With Mellon Collie, the “death of guitar” brought out another side of music for the Pumpkins to write with, though the album has incredible guitar feature. What Rolling Stone had to say gave me a very “a-ha” moment – “Accused of not being punk enough, Corgan showed on ‘Mellon Collie’ what punk might be if Steven Spielberg got hold of it.” And it’s true in a sense – the album is well orchestrated in the same vein of which Spielberg has made so many countless great and iconic films. Strings are involved on the album of course, but the album’s orchestration is in the sense of being well-crafted and delicately put together in an intense period of artistic creativity and is in debatable contest as the peak of the Pumpkins. In the closing from the earlier mentioned Addicted to Noise interview, the difference between intuitive and “well-crafted” song writing was explained by Corgan:

“Neil Young, for example, writes so intuitively that it almost comes through him. It’s there. He doesn’t even know while he’s writing what it’s about and later, he may see something. But it sounds to me like you work a little differently.

Corgan: No, I work both ways. I’m a very multi-brain person. I don’t know if it’s my Piscean nature but I sit in a lot of different chairs. For example, a song like “Disarm” was completely intuitive. There’s nothing conscious about that song. It, like, wrote itself. “Today” was an intuitive song. There’s other songs where I really have to spend time to make it all glue together.

Where it’s more crafting.

Corgan: Oh, “Tonight, Tonight” was probably a more crafted song. You’re looking for something specific. You know what you’re trying to say but you’ve got to find the right words to say it with the right sentiments. It’s obviously a well-crafted song. That took time to put all the pieces together. Stuff like that. I move back and forth.”

To Dusk

The formal recording process took place from March to August of 1995 at the Chicago Recording Company. It was overdubbed and mixed at the Village Recorder in Los Angeles. At this point, the band was working harder than a full time 9 to 5 job. Oftentimes, production was divided between teams of people, like Flood and Corgan, Moulder, D’arcy and James, etc. in an effort to get the tracks done. They had to reach the deadline as the year’s end drew nearer, and this could mean spending 10 to 20 hours in the studio in a single day. Another factor to keep in mind was that determining the track listing was a large trial and error process. Approximately 50 songs were recorded during these sessions and 28 were used for most editions of the album. The original vinyl pressing, however, included 30 tracks in 6 sides featuring two additional tracks, “Tonite Reprise” and “Infinite Sadness.” There was much material written or at least jammed on before the formal recording process from both Iha and Corgan. They wanted a double album, a concept they had thrown around for awhile, but 50+ tracks constitutes a triple, if not quadruple, album. By that point there had been plenty of Pumpkins’ material shelved, as documented by first numerous bootlegs and now the official album re-issues. Instead of shelving the material entirely, many of these songs became b-sides to Mellon Collie‘s singles: “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, “1979”, “Tonight, Tonight”, “Zero” and “Thirty-Three”. Each of these singles were released throughout 1995-1996 with 4 to 5 b-sides from the album outtakes and including tracks recorded after the album at Bugg Studios, “The Bells” for example. These singles/EPs were given a life of their own and compiled into a box set released in 1996 known as The Aeroplane Flies High, named after a b-side from the “Thirty-Three” single: “The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right).” But that is another story for another time. The guitars they played on the album were also tuned a half step down to D# to achieve the lower and perhaps emotional tone they were looking for.

Radio Plays My Favorite Song

The singles for Mellon Collie have an interesting history behind them and it all could have gone a very different direction in terms of artistic focus. The dates used in this section refer to US release dates. Originally, “Jellybelly” was going to be released as the first single. Corgan reasoned that, “‘Bullet’ was the absolute obvious choice…which is kind of why I didn’t want it to be the first single. You know, in Pumpkinland, we don’t really like to do the obvious thing. I felt really close to Jellybelly, because it sounds to me like a classic Pumpkins song from a third album. It sounds to me like the manifestation of everything we’ve ever done on a third album, whereas Cherub Rock sounded to me like a second album single.”

Bullet with Butterfly Wings

In the end, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was chosen as the first single. Depending on whom you ask, it is the most well known Pumpkins song to date. “The world is a vampire” became a battle cry heard throughout every lonely teenage bedroom of the world since October 24th, 1995 and even still in 2015. Towards of the album’s release, Corgan when asked about the song’s title reveals its origins in a radio interview with Rock 103.5 Chicago, “Freud had this concept that each of us has a psychic bullet, that if it can be removed we can be psychically healed.” Religion, angst, betrayal or whatever else. It is easier to simply listen to the raw emotional performance than trying to decipher what it means. If you can’t understand it, it’s not worth asking about. Corgan also covered the song’s subject matter after being asked what it meant in the 1995 Addicted to Noise interview, “I don’t really explain the specific things because I think if it’s not apparent, I’m not doing my job. To explain it further is to demystify it and to take away from the power of what it is. It’s taken me awhile to come to this conclusion, but the music is its own interpretive force and everyone’s going to apply their own experiences to the interpretation of it. Me explaining it demystifies it, narrows the ability for people to enjoy it and then becomes the click phrase by which everyone says, ‘Well, okay, with that song ‘Bullet,’ you were trying to say such and such.'” James Iha, in an interview with Paul Berstein, commented on the guitar work and more minimal production (in Pumpkins terms) of the album when the instrumentation of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was addressed:

“I think Flood helped the band…to not repeat the way we recorded before. In comparison, the last record was a lot more produced, there’s less of a live feel – I mean, it’s really good, just more produced I suppose. The thing about the new record is that on a lot of songs we went for more of a live feel. Like on “Bullet”…it’s a lot more stripped down than how we would’ve approached it before. I mean, there’s a lot of guitars on there, but, they weren’t done just for the sake of it, like we can overdub twenty-four guitars or whatever. It’s just two rhythm guitars.

At some point there are one or two other guitars that come in…there’s a lot of drop in sort of stuff. In the second verse there’s this wah-wah sort of thing. It was just this mistake I made on the guitar and we ended up sampling it. We degraded the sound with distortion and I ended up playing it on the keyboard in time with the music. So there’s neat things like that on the record. There’s more space to do stuff like that because there isn’t 24 rhythm guitars.

A lot of that is because we used a lot of Marshall amplifier distortion. It’s a cleaner sound, but more powerful. It has a lot more “throw” to the sound. The fuzz pedals sound so washy, you can’t tell what you’re playing. You could just be fucking off and it would sound good. I think that’s what a lot of bands do now. The Big Muff distortion pedals are like the DX-7 keyboard of the 90’s – everybody uses it. It’s like Nirvana, clean during the verse, step on it for the chorus. I mean, Nirvana were awesome, totally amazing rock band, but everyone’s just stealing their formula. It’s kinda lame.”

“Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was released as a single the same day as the album’s release, October 24th, 1995. It peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Top 100 and captured number 1 on the Canadian RPM Alternative charts, staying at number 1 from November 6th through the 27th of 1995. The single was released with a James Iha composition, “…Said Sadly” and 5 cover songs from the discographies of Blondie, The Cure, Alice Cooper, Missing Persons and the Cars. The music video was directly by Samuel Bayer, who also directed Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” iconic music video.

MTV News on the set of the music video for “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”

1979

The next single, released the following year on January 23rd, 1996, was the song that crossed the Pumpkins’ exposure beyond the world of alternative rock. Utilizing the advent of this “death of guitar”, “1979” became the first song of the direction the Pumpkins were to follow for the albums Adore and both Machina albums, using drum machines and samples against the swirly guitar tracks for an electronic atmosphere. “1979” reached number twelve on the Billboards, and became the highest charting single from the band ever since and has become a staple of rock, and sometimes pop, radio. An excellent example of storytelling, it is not directly a personal song. As Corgan addressed during the commentary for the ‘1979’ music video on the Greatest Hits Video Collection, “Teenage angst, the idealized version. Almost the sort of ‘teenagehood’ I never had, that I wished I had,” was supposed to be the driving theme behind the music video, the so-called “emptiness of youth” that everyone comes to idealize with age. Corgan’s youth was not exactly as carefree as the song’s lyrics are, as he had to take care of his two younger brothers as they moved from home to home. He, however, like many others found his solace in music. The music video, centered on hooligan antics of suburban teenagers, featured cameos from Iha and Wretzky. The original tapes for the music video were left on the roof of a car and lost, so the video had to be re-shot. The b-sides were a mixed bunch, the ones written by Corgan like “Ugly” and “Set the Ray to Jerry” were harder, darker rock, but the two Iha compositions, “The Boy” and “Believe”, were much lighter in nature.

To understand the true nature of the next single, it’s best to watch this:

Clips featuring the Smashing Pumpkins from the Simpsons’ episode “Homerpalooza”

Zero

“Zero” was released as a single on April 23rd, 1996. This song was very influential in the iconography of the band, with the advent of the “Zero” t-shirt which became a pop culture staple associated with this part of the ’90s. The shirt, in different forms, is still often found at Smashing Pumpkins’ merchandise booths on tours today. Short and more direct, its lyrics are approachable and yet unattainable. The Zero EP is the longest in length of any of the single EPs from the album, ending with the 23 minute track “Pistachio Medley”, a collection of about 50+ riffs collected over the years from the Pumpkins’ history. The music video for “Zero” was directed by Billy Corgan’s girlfriend at the time, Yelena Yemchuk (he had separated from his wife). The video featured the band and touring keyboardist, Jonathan Melvoin. In studying the song, I found a similarity in the refrain and lines from the Heart Sutra, a classic text from Mahayana and Zen Buddhism in which the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, or Kuan Yin, expounds on the nature of emptiness, rebirth and attachment. Let us compare:

“Emptiness is loneliness,
and loneliness is cleanliness,
And cleanliness is godliness,
and God is empty just like me”
– “Zero”

“Listen Sariputra,
this Body itself is Emptiness
and Emptiness itself is this Body 
This Body is not other than Emptiness
and Emptiness is not other than this Body
The same is true of Feelings,Perceptions,
Mental Formations, and Consciousness”
– “The Heart Sutra, aka the Insight That Brings Us to the Other Shore” (Translation by Thich Nhat Hanh, found here)

Both songs reflect on ’emptiness’, but both might have at least slightly different definitions of the word. Śūnyatā is the Sanskrit word which is normally translated into emptiness, but alternative translations that can help understand the Buddhist view of emptiness would be openness or voidness. It is related to the concept of impermanence, that nothing is permanent. Emptiness is the true and impermanent nature of things, as in a state without any kind of established personal views, prejudices or attachments which might treat a mood, like anger or depression as a permanent state of mind which we won’t come out of, like our minds might convince us at times. In English, emptiness is perceived negatively, often a synonym for sad or depressed. But in Buddhism, there is a certain richness in emptiness, when outside of the suffering innate in holding particular views or attachments which would get in the way in any kind of insight. Indeed, “There’s no connection to myself.” Corgan confesses, and Buddhism could point to that the concept of “me” is entirely a construct of the impermanent ego. It doesn’t help that Corgan shares a haircut with nearly every Buddhist monk and nun on the planet. Corgan, like Flea and Kurt Cobain, would study Buddhism later in life.  We are one and all, but I digress.

Tonight, Tonight

There are certain music videos which go to live a life of their own. The music video for “Tonight, Tonight” would be considered one of those. Already a song alive and kicking with a full string section from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the video topped it off with a tribute to turn-of-the-century film and particularly the French silent film A Trip to the Moon. It stars SpongeBob SquarePants stars Tom Kenny and Jill Talley, who play the voices of SpongeBob and Karen respectively. It took three days to film and extensive preparation beforehand, as director James Cameron had rented out the vast majority of turn-of-the-century props to use for his blockbuster film Titanic. As a result, much of the props and costumes were made and not rented. The video’s eccentric cinematography would end up serving the band well, after it won six awards at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1996. These awards included Video of the Year, Best Direction, Best Special Effects, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and the Breakthrough Video award. Additionally, it won a Grammy in 1997 for Best Short Form Music Video. It is continuously held as one of the great music videos of all time and “Tonight, Tonight” becomes of the most uplifting and inspiring songs on the album, instilling the conviction to believe in yourself.

Originally, the band had an entirely different idea. So for the wonderful music video for “Tonight, Tonight”, we have the Red Hot Chili Peppers to thank. The music video for their 1995 single, “Aeroplane”, had showcased the idea the Pumpkins wanted to portray: a Bubsy Berkeley inspired music video, with “people diving into champagne glasses” according to Corgan. Berkeley was a noted choreographer and director in the 20th century, known for incorporating complex geometry into his choreographer. See below to understand any of that last sentence:

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A scene from Berkeley’s Footlight Parade

Muzzle and Thirty-Three

There were two contenders for the fifth single, which would become the last one from the album. “Muzzle” and “Thirty-Three” were debated between the band and Virgin Records. “Muzzle” was released as a promotional single in August of 1996 in the wake of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin’s departure and fared much better in the charts than did “Thirty-Three” when it was released as the official fifth single on November 11th, 1996. Regarding the single dispute and the chart performance of “Thirty-Three”, Corgan states that, “Virgin Records tried, and failed, to get me to use an edited version of ‘Thirty-Three’. Which is why they said it failed in marketplace: ‘too long.'” The music video for “Thirty-Three” was co-directed by Corgan and Yemchuk and was unlike the rest of the batch of music videos from the album. The video was slow and whimsical, influenced by vintage and amateur photography of the earlier 20th century, as well as Alice in Wonderland and Americana aesthetics. The cinematography for the music video is not unlike much of the subject matter of Corgan’s new blog, People and Their Cars, which focuses on vintage Americana photography. Both the video and the photographs posted of the website reflect a similar appearance in age, though the photographs are vintage and the music video was filmed in 1996. Sometimes, it is easy to see where Corgan draws his influence from and other times he throws you a curveball. One of the songs from the single’s EP, “The Last Song”, features a guitar solo by Corgan’s father William Corgan Sr., who is also a musician.

I’ve journeyed here and there and back again
But in the same old haunts I still find my friends
Mysteries not ready to reveal
Sympathies I’m ready to return
I’ll make the effort, love can last forever
Graceful swans of never topple to the earth
Tomorrow’s just an excuse

– “Thirty-Three”

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James Iha looking very sad

Art Direction

Such a cinematic double album only deserves great artwork to stand by with it. Corgan drove the idea for the album’s aesthetic and the themes and ideas the art should encompass, but it was designed, drawn and painted by John Craig, a Pittsburgh collage artist influenced by the Dada and Surrealist movements in art. The famous album cover after going through several different ideas, like photographing the band in Victorian clothes, was decided to be a collage of elements from Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s The Souvenir and Renaissance master Raphael’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria. In 2012, Craig was interviewed by NPR about his art he made for the project, and he spoke to lengths about the album cover’s evolution and outcome:

“With the Greuze, there was something very dreamy or ecstatic about her expression that certainly wasn’t in the Raphael painting. And then the flow and color of the Raphael dress, just the way it’s rippling and almost traveling. I guess it’s those primary colors too. That’s what happens — you don’t know if it’s going to work, but you put the body on the star and the head on the body and you just know it’s right somehow. Though I look at it now and see some tweaks I would do.”

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The Souvenir (Fidelity) by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1787-1789 

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Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Raphael, 1507 

The semblance of artwork hundreds of years apart grew to be representative of the album as a whole. The intersection of classical music, all kinds of rock and electronica proved in time to be as timeless as the art the album begot. Craig had illustrated several children’s books in the past and gave the art the quaint and nostalgic feeling that could only be translated through the music of Mellon Collie. He received many faxes from Corgan of some very rough sketches and he transformed them into the lovely and intricate art the album is known for.

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Additional artwork done for the album by John Craig

The Tour

After the album’s release, the band decided to hold off from touring for a little bit to let fans “digest” the material. To be fair, a double album is a lot to digest. Aside from television appearances, such as Saturday Night Live, there was no touring for the album in 1995. The world tour began with two nights January 2nd and 3rd, 1996 in Toronto, Canada at the Phoenix. This massive tour lasted a long and stressful fourteen months. They took on the world like never before. In retrospect, it became the band’s most successful tour – at a price, a horrible price.

According to tour manager Tim Lougee, Corgan was insistent that if anyone caught doing drugs was “going to be sent home, no questions asked.” Jimmy Chamberlin since the Siamese Dream era had struggled very hard with drug and alcohol abuse, notably with heroin. For a period of time between the Siamese Dream sessions and the Mellon Collie tour, he experienced a period of abstinence from heroin. His sponsor during the Siamese Dream sessions was Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro and Navarro helped Chamberlin get clean. During The Mellon Collie tour, Jimmy Chamberlin’s father passed away and was a factor in his continued use of drugs as a method of coping with the grief. The passing of Chamberlin’s father postponed the Australian and New Zealand tour dates. For the first seven months of the tour, James Iha recounted that, “there were obvious signs [of using] and generally we would try to give him second chances.”

For the tour, the Pumpkins had picked up a touring keyboardist, Jonathan Melvoin. He was the brother of Wendy Melvoin, one half of the duo heavily associated with Prince, Wendy & Lisa. Before joining the Pumpkins on tour, he became the drummer for the Dickies and recorded drums for their 1995 Idjit Savant. Both Wendy and Jonathan all came from a family of musicians, the children of jazz pianist Michael Melvoin whose work is noted with John Lennon, the Jackson 5, Tom Waits, Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys and the music direction of the television series Patridge Family. He also had served as the president of NARAS, whose MusiCares program has made strides in treating substance abuse amongst musicians.

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Melvoin as he appeared in the music video for “Zero”

Melvoin came into the band after the Pumpkins put out an ad for a keyboardist Chamberlin remembers, “We basically put an ad in the paper for a keyboard player about eight months ago. We got about a thousand tapes. We didn’t listen to any of them. He showed up, he could play, and we hired him.” Like Chamberlain, Melvoin shared a past of substance abuse. February 29th in Bangkok, Thailand, both Chamberlin and Melvoin were using and according to Corgan, “Jonathan was fine, but Jimmy was definitely out of it.” Given a second chance, the band plus Melvoin continued touring. Later into the year, another incident occurred on May 2nd in Lisbon, Portugal when both Chamberlin and Melvoin were found outside of a hotel, passed out and unconscious. They were rushed into the emergency room and successfully revived. At this point, Melvoin was fired but was kept to finish the European leg, but still went on to the next American leg of the tour.

A couple days later at the Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, a 17-year old fan, Bernadette O’Brien, was crushed in a mosh pit during “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and died a day later from internal injuries. The following date in Belfast was canceled in respect of O’Brien’s memory. Four other people were injured at the Dublin show. Things were getting progressively grim and grimmer.

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Melvoin on stage with the Pumpkins circa 1996, at Top of the Tops

Chamberlin and Melvoin stayed in the same hotel room at the Manhattan Regency on the evening of July 11th, 1996 while the rest of the band stayed in another hotel. This of course spells bad news, but the other problem is that Chamberlin was also trying to avoid a stalker that had a history of harassment towards him. Chamberlin wanted to be in an environment away from the rest of the band to remain hidden. Kill two birds with one stone? Either way, the events of this night would change the course of the band’s history, interworkings and music forever. Around 4am, Tim Lougee gets a call from Chamberlin “crying and freaking out” saying that Jonathan was dead. He tried to revive Melvoin to no avail. A separate 9/11 call instructed Chamberlin to place Melvoin’s head under the shower until paramedics could arrive. By the time they arrived, Melvoin was pronounced dead at the scene. Toxicology reports concluded that he had died from an overdose of heroin and alcohol. The specific type of street heroin, called Red Rum, was native to the drug trade of south east Manhattan. The news spiked the demand for Red Rum in the area, tragically. In reflection, Wendy Melvoin said about her brother in Rolling Stone:

“The only thing I can speculate is that somehow, someway, Jonathan developed this incredible jones with Jimmy on this tour. We’ve all been around people who do drugs. We’ve all been around people who have problems with it. We’ve all seen people go through programs. And my brother just didn’t have, in our minds, in any sense, any of those classic symptoms. Jonathan dabbled, as almost everybody else in our life did. This wasn’t an anomaly whatsoever. At the same time, we never heard of any of these episodes that had happened to Jonathan on the road. No one knew any of this.”

Cupid De Locke featuring Melvoin at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C., 1/6/1996

Naturally, Chamberlin was fired and a slew of tour dates had to be canceled or re-scheduled. He faced a court date on August 13th for misdemeanor charges of heroin possession. He was sentenced to a rehab facility program and stayed in the program until December of 1996. Chamberlin had no previous criminal record. Years later in an interview with Modern Drummer, Chamberlin discussed the question on why he felt his relapse happened:

“I don’t know…stress? Whatever happens. We’re a lot older now, and I kinda look at it like that. When your unreality becomes your reality, it’s hard to put a gauge on it, and that’s what happened. At the time, we were arguably the biggest band in the world. You achieve this rock star status and start believing your own bullshit. You start thinking you’re indestructible. But there’s a lot of stress and responsibility that goes along with that, and you may not want it. At some point you begin having this love-hate relationship with your career, and then it all becomes about escapism. Some people deal with it one way and some deal with it another way. A lot of times people deal with it the wrong way. That’s what happened.”

Sarah’s Maclachian’s hit “Angel” was written about Jonathan Melvoin and his death. Additionally, Wendy & Lisa wrote the song “Jonathan” for their self-released album in 1999. Lastly, even Prince contributed a song to Melvoin’s legacy, “The Love We Make”, from his album after his departure from Warner Brothers, Emancipation. I think the saddest part of the whole story is that his story has so seemingly slipped from history. He is the only person to have worked with both Prince and the Smashing Pumpkins, two artists/bands with some of the largest discographies, released or otherwise, in the whole history of music. He was described as a musician who could “play any instrument”, and contributed to the Prince albums Around the World In a Day and Parade. None of the Smashing Pumpkins were invited to Melvoin’s funeral.

Sarah Maclachlin’s hit single “Angel”, written in the wake of Jonathan’s death

A song equally as beautiful as “Angel”, written by Wendy Melvoin. It is clear she loved her brother very much. 

July 17th, 1996, the Smashing Pumpkins sans Chamberlin issued a press statement:

“Today we are very sorry to tell our friends and fans that we have decided to sever our relationship with our friend and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. This may come as a shock to some and to others perhaps not, but to us it’s devastating. For nine years we’ve battled with Jimmy’s struggles with the insidious disease of drug and alcohol addiction and it’s nearly destroyed everything we are and stand for. So we have decided to carry on without him and wish him the best we have to offer.” 

For certain legs of the tour, Filter opened up for the Pumpkins. Their partnership led to their drummer, Matt Walker, being chosen as their drummer to finish the tour with them during the subsequent auditions after Chamberlin’s termination. He would also play certain tracks on the next album, Adore. On keyboards the natural choice was Dennis Flemion from the Frogs, a band that was very close friends with the Pumpkins. The line up of Corgan, Iha, Wretzky, Walker and Flemion took on what was left of the tour from August 1996 until February 1997. For the most part, the rest of the tour went smoothly. The first show with the new line up was at the Pumpkins’ home venue the Cabaret Metro on August 23rd. The proceeds went to the “Christmas for Kids” charity. The tour ended in New Orleans on February 5th, 1997. During the 14 month tour, the band played shows in nearly every state in America, Canada, Great Britain, France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Soon after the tour ended, the trio of Corgan, Iha and Wretzky would begin to lay down demos for Adore and release a song for the Batman Forever soundtrack, “The End is the Beginning is the End.” At least two attempts by MTV to stage an Unplugged Smashing Pumpkins show never came to fruit during the tour, but it is worth noting.

Best Stage Banter From the Tour

January 12th, 1996 at the Academy of Music, NYC (2nd Night):

Wretzky: Thank you for the flowers.
Iha: We like flowers.
Corgan: Flowers are good.
Iha: Flowers grow.
Corgan: Trees are bad. Flowers are good.
Iha: Trees are bad. Flowers are good.
Corgan: People are good?
Iha: People are sometimes good.
Corgan: People are good, yes, people are good, yes.
Iha: People are dualistic, good and evil.
Corgan: People are good.
Iha: People are good.
Corgan: Gods are great.
Iha: Gods are crazy.
Corgan: Like to play another song from the 20s.
Iha: This goes all the way back, about three years ago.
Corgan: It seems so fucking old, doesn’t it?

April 28th, 1996 at the Trocadiere in Nantes, France

Corgan: Thank you. Bonsoir, bonsoir mis amis. Uh, uh, uh…je world is je vampire?

Corgan: We’d like to thank our opening band Filter for rocking your asses off. Like to play another song from our album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite fad.

July 3rd, 1996 at the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio

*In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (tease)*
Iha: Billy C on the guitar’s got that blues.
Corgan: We’ve got that wack-ass Chicago blues!
Iha: You know what I’m saying. Ow! Ow! Damn! Damn that shit’s hot, come on. Hot! If I can’t see you tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe next week we can get it on. Alright, alright, I’m sorry, I’ll just stop talking.

July 10th, 1996 at the USAir Arena in Landover, Maryland (Melvoin’s last show)

Corgan: So, how is everybody?
Iha: Are you spaced out? Are you spaced out? Are you still with us? Well, let’s get on board the space rocket.

November 27th, 1996 at the Gulfcoast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi

Corgan: Thank you very much. Is everyone havin’ a good time? Was anyone here when we played in uh, 1994? [On the date Cobain was announced dead 4/8/94] Hello again. As you can see, we are now the happy pumpkins, not the sad ones.


[picks five dancers from the audience to dance during “1979”]

Corgan: Ok, dancers…Mister Iha has some instructions, please pay attention to the rules.
Iha: Ok, we have two rules for our dancers, two rules.
Corgan: I think we should have three rules.
Iha: Three rules, I’ll make up one. Um…don’t eat red meat, go to college, and become me. Um, two rules for our dancers, do not touch us, and do not touch our shit.
Corgan: Now there’s a third rule, I got a third rule.
Iha: Yes, what is the third rule?
Corgan: If you’re gonna dance on stage, you have to pretend you’re having a good time.
Iha: Yes, yes…alright, and for those of you who cannot dance with us onstage, I encourage you to dance on stage with us, but do it in your mind, yes. Any people who’ve got this disease will know what I’m talking about.

January 6th, 1997 at the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington

Corgan: How is everyone? As you know we’ve gotten progressively wimpier as we’ve gotten older. And this is our wimpy anthem, it’s called Thirty-three.

February 5th, 1997 at the Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana

Corgan: So that was from our fourth album called Siamese Squid, came out in 1984.

Miscellaneous Melancholy

Contrary to what the radio may have you believe, there is more to life than singles. While earlier the memorable singles of the album and some b-sides were addressed, there is a far bigger wealth in the album tracks. The primary inspiration for the organization and structure for the double album was Pink Floyd’s The Wall and the Beatles’ self-titled White Album. However, capping out at 121 minutes, it beats both The Wall and the White Album in length, where were 83 and 93 minutes respectively. All in all, it took almost one entire year to write, record, produce and overdub the entire record from the fall of 1994 until August of 1995. A band can change a lot in a year and with a deep variety of music from the sessions, it sometimes hard to believe it only took one year to make, instead of a lifetime.

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The Smashing Pumpkins, circa 1996

The opening piano track, one of the earliest songs written for Mellon Collie, acts as an instrumental prologue or chorus. Chorus not as in a “verse, chorus, verse” kind of chorus, but a chorus. In ancient Greece, the chorus was a consistent staple of Greek plays, acted out by one anonymous and collective group of actors who would candidly perform outside of the play’s main stage and world. This could mean dancing, narrating, singing or commenting on the play’s progress or plot. The more obvious comparison comes straight from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (which played as a stark influence on album track “Cupid de Locke”) from the play’s genesis with the prologue:

PROLOGUE
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

If you listen closely to the title track, you can hear the whispers of the album. All the stories and myths, poetry and prose, and bittersweet melody it contains. The first and second discs have about the same dynamic between loud and soft songs. This dynamic is most exemplary between the songs “Stumbleine” and “X.Y.U.” Half-innocent and half-conscious, “Stumbleine” flows a children’s lullaby across an acoustic guitar that almost sounds too shy to speak up. “Nobody nowhere understands anything/about me and all my dreams/lost at sea”, the “misspent youth” of everyone invested in their journeys like losing their virginity the way they always wanted to, the dragon’s chase for the next high and how these dreams intersect like a five car pileup. The pledge to the listener is the refrain, “I’ll be your stumbeline/I’ll be your super queen” the ideal other half all people, but especially teenagers before the young adult disillusionment sets in, seek their heart out for. In the most poignant way, this song captures that moment alone in your room, walking down the street at night, in the corner of a party, as a teenager. But it is a moment stuck in time, a time that cannot last. The proceeding death rock ballad, “X.Y.U.” is not as sentimental. It is both confessional and unapologetic, a devotion and a curse. The speaker brings up his insecurities and troubles growing up to the forefront and how it affects how he loves and what he might expect with love. Of course with anything, expectations from habit energies rarely or truly satisfy a person’s needs:

“I hurt where I can’t feel, I feel where I can’t hurt
I know where I can’t know, I bleed for me and mine
ka-boom, a rat-tat-tat, and some good ole bliss
cause I’m a sister, and I’m a motherfuck
I am made of shamrocks, I am made of stern stuff
I am never enough, I am the forgotten child
and I said I wanna fill you up, I wanna break you,
I wanna give you up from one another, no one should
ever come in between us, between us and our love”

“I am made of shamrocks” can be seen as less figurative and more literal, as Corgan is not only half Irish but born on Saint Patrick’s Day, commonly associated with Ireland and its history. The interpersonal dichotomy of love and hate, passion and rage, but isn’t it all the same? But nothing is more haunting than hearing all of instrumentation slow down and quiet, and into the silence Corgan proclaims:

“AND IN THE EYES OF THE JACKAL I SAY KAAAAAAAAH-BOOM!”

Anubis, the weigher of hearts, the embalmer, the balance and the jackal. Corgan blows up straight to the face of all notions of the perceived order of how life of how is meant to be, and clearly not everything works with the hope you intend. There is no balance here, as the song rocks back and forth like the “hell on earth” as it is shouted in the very last verse before an incredible sensory overload breakdown at the outro.

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These themes of growing up and the short-comings of “happily ever after” are very prevalent, and the album both seems to celebrate them and tear them down. One of my favorite tracks, “Galapagos”, presents one of the more direct messages on the album:

“Carve out your heart for keeps in an old oak tree
and hold me for goodbyes-and whispered lullabies
and tell me I am still
the man I’m supposed to be
I won’t deny the pain
I won’t deny the change
and should I fall from grace here with you
will you leave me too?”

The iconic sweet image of two kids carving a heart with their names inside on a tree. Whispering sweet nothings in a lover’s ear. We want it all, but can we still have it and be the “man I’m supposed to be”? Do the idealizations of romance have real bearings in life, at least once we grow up? “Should I fall from grace here with you?” This is the opportunity to grow and mature, but what is the cost? “Galapagos” indeed, the archipelago where Darwin started his research which would debunk creationism, humanity’s idealistic sense of genealogical innocence. If “Muzzle” could have been a single, “Here is No Why” definitely could have been as well. The song also speaks to lengths on the dichotomy of growing up through jaded teenagehood:

“Lost inside the dreams, of teen machines
the useless drags, the empty days
the lonely towers of long mistakes
to forgotten faces and faded loves
sitting still was never enough
and if you’re giving in, then you’re giving up
cause in your sad machines
you’ll forever stay
burning up in speed
lost inside the dreams, of teen machines”

No matter how much someone will try to grow up, to throw out their yearbooks, to get a new haircut, to “re-define them,” the vast bulk of people are not even trying to move past the traumas and mistakes of their youth, lost inside the dreams of teen machines. In “Tales of a Scorched Earth,” the couplet “Why do the same old things keep on happening?/Because beyond my hopes there are no feelings” when applied to the subjectiveness of certain people’s experiences highlight how people cling to what they want for themselves, what they’ve always wanted, but put the “feelings” acquired in the pursuit in their back of conscious, neglecting themselves in order to keep on pushing. It won’t matter how they continue to treat people or themselves, they’ll keep asking: “Why do the same old things keep on happening?” Machines are devoid of feelings, and what are teenagers raised to be like? While there are universal values instilled into people like “you sow what you reap” or the concept of karma, no matter how people are raised there is few practical examples given to live these values out and the values end up being taken for granted. In this way, without a real human application, these concepts are drilled into people like transferring data to data. Most people have to experience to live these things, but there is no guarantee that anyone is going to be considerate, nice or even decent to the people surround them all the time. There is a plethora of abuse from all facets of human relationships, friend to friend, parent to child, child to parent, lover to lover, that leaves scars in hearts and a burden on the shoulders. It is written off, excused, “justified,” or otherwise the vicious cycle goes on and so does the suffering from generation to generation.

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Having to study their album and its history intensely the last two weeks, I’ve began to develop a new appreciation for certain songs I had not paid much attention to, especially on the second disc. “Lily (My One and Only)” has turned into one of my very favorites by the Pumpkins in general. With a bit of a honky-tonk piano and a teaspoon of glittering fairy synths over a folksy-country rhythm, it stands out from even the other softer songs on the album like “Stumbeline” or Iha’s “Take Me Down”. Without listening to the lyrics, it would be just perceived as another sentimental love song. Yet the lyrics appear to be written from a perspective of a voyeur playing peeping tom outside of a girl’s window, obsessed with his thoughts of what he believes to be consummate and requited love. He is still head over heels even after the “officer is knocking at my door,” the police are “dragging’ me away,” and he swears he saw “her wave and say goodbye.” Or good riddance. Indeed, one point or another I’m sure all of the Pumpkins experienced some kind of bizarre stalker, especially Corgan. For us dedicated fans, we might be sometimes too “voyeuristic” ourselves. But it’s all in the name of love, right? Right. It’s not like I frequent Madame Zuzu’s or anything… (I live in California, so the answer is no)

“Thru the Eyes of Ruby”, which was featured on the recent End Times tour with Jimmy Chamberlin back on drums, becomes the most produced track of the album in terms of separate backing guitar tracks. It is estimated that 70 tracks comprise the song, an ode to the guitar production of Siamese Dream, which featured several, several guitar overdubs over the various tracks released on the album. The song begins with a short piano intro reminiscent of the title track, but from there it becomes a song very much of its own. “I believe in never/I believe in all the way/but belief is not to notice, believe is just some faith/and faith can’t help you to escape,” furthers the acknowledgement of this attachment to ideals of love. It is the most beautiful set of things to surround yourself with, but “faith can’t help you to escape.” There is more to life than Valentine’s Day’s cards. This kind of love can’t save you, but it can enhance your life. This love also seemed to be very circumstantial and easily can fall to the winds of change in a very radical way. The refrain “love is suicide” from “Bodies” comes to mind. When not dealt with appropriately, to get caught up in passion becomes the risk of losing yourself and who are. When these subdued traits come to head, “Bodies” paints us the portrait of alienation in love:

“You can’t help deny forever
the tragedies reside in you
the secret sights hide in you
the lonely nights divide you in two
all my blisters now revealed
in the darkness of my dreams
in the spaces in between us”

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It is just that: that love alone can’t save us completely. Because there are so many unintentional shortcomings and unforeseen events that could just pull the rug from underneath our feet, so to speak. One wrong word or foolish mistake is all it can take for even the strongest of love to dissipate. It is most logical to refer to only one song here, “Love”, to help us out so more. The appropriately named track expounds on these concepts drawn out of here from “Bodies”, “I can’t help what you see/I can’t help but to be/For what I needed to need/she’ll make it/Love, it’s who you know.” Our problems are our own. They can’t be our girlfriend’s problems, no matter how badly we want for either someone else to deal with them or to go away. Unfortunately, a lot of people will live their entire lives with this delusion. Because everyone has their own problems to deal with, as the speaker concedes of “my mistakes of cowardice.” Love, it’s who you know. How a person defines love is largely reflective of who they know, the people have been engaged themselves enough in a person’s life to make an impact, positive or negative. People internalize it, “teen machines” become re-wired, and then reactions are given according to a personal code of almost DNA strength that takes strong effort and mindfulness to break. Ah, melancholy and how infinite it is.

“My life has been empty, my life has been untrue
and does she really know, who I really am?
does she really know me at last
dead eyes, are you just like me?”

– “By Starlight”

 Farewell and Goodnight

“Goodnight, to every little
hour that you sleep tight
may it hold you through the winter of a long night
and keep you from the loneliness of yourself
heart strung is your heart frayed and empty
cause it’s hard luck, when no one understands your love
it’s unsung, and i say
goodnight, my love, to every hour in every day
goodnight, always, to all that’s in your heart
goodnight, may your dreams be so happy and your
head lite with the wishes of a sandman and a night light
be careful not to let the bedbugs sleep tight nestled in your covers
the sun shines but i don’t
a silver rain will wash away
and you can tell, it’s just as well
goodnight, my love, to every hour in every day
goodnight, always to all that’s pure that’s in your heart”

The dark night of the soul, where the soul is tried and crucified by trial through spiritual crisis. This album takes the soul out on a dark night through itself, challenging everything frank and for granted about ourselves and the people in our lives. The lyrics of “Tonight, Tonight” brings us what he need for our journey. “The impossible is possible tonight” and from there we are plunged into the melancholy which is unveiled through the infinite sadness: the things about the human experience that seemingly always have been, like: deceit, betrayal, emptiness, hate, despair but these things are juxtaposed with ecstasy, union, fulfillment, love, absolute beauty and God. The crisis here is how to deal with the fact that love can’t always manifest exactly to the image we have about it in our heads. Sometimes, there are no castles or touching sunsets. Sometimes, love is simply revealed unto you in a way that is most unexpected , outside of your fantasy and what is a better surprise? To find out these things are beyond anything you’ve come to imagine. As “Jellybelly” entails:

“You’re nowhere to see
there’s nothing left to do
there’s nothing left to feel
doesn’t matter what you want, so
to make yourself feel better
you make it so you’ll never
give in to your forevers
and live for always
and forever, forever, you’re forever to be
forever, forever, you’re forever to me”

It doesn’t matter what you want. Once this dark night purges you of everything silly love songs and your insecurities tell you to believe, “we’ll crucify the insincere tonight.” The Pumpkins at one point rested their entire career on Mellon Collie‘s potential and what a great horse to bet on. Through strenuous and music-defying work, spending whole days at a time in a studio, the world became blessed with an album that on many levels spoke in more detail on attachment, love, unfairness, self-pity and the anxiety of human consciousness than some holy books. Talk about a “concept album”, this is a life album.  The blend of personal experience and universal expression makes it incredibly accessible to anyone who might question themselves or anything else. What a blessing this was to go through the album so carefully, because in reading all these lyrics I discovered an untold story that foreshadows the existence and experience of so many people. It is fairy tale, it is a silent movie, it is the obscure book left next to the Canterbury Tales in a dusty library and an album that really changed the course of rock forever by no longer confining itself to what rock is “supposed” to be like, in the same way the album established new perspectives on love. The consideration that love may not be static or not “unto death do we part”,  because we live and die in every moment that we free ourselves from attachment. I once had the chance to ask Corgan on the subject of depression and how to deal with it and he told me: “Realizing that whatever you are experiencing is not real, and only in your mind.” It’s something I’ve found myself turning to a lot. Once we de-attach ourselves from things we cannot attain or no longer can, we are free to do anything. The album neither glorifies or disdains sadness, but accounts as the one thing it is: infinite. Anyone could tell you anything about how to deal with depression, sadness or any kind of feeling, but your feelings are not your own. “The more you change, the less you feel.” The experience of growing up, like no longer expecting gifts at Christmas or other things is the dark night of the soul which brings fruition to the line “believe in me as I believe in you.” Believing in fairy tales like the “love” we idealize does not allow us to believe in ourselves. What do we really need?

I realize I spoke at large lengths about this album and ultimately these are my own interpretations no matter how much I researched. Like the opening quote says, “Don’t give credence to anyone person’s opinion than your very own.” I don’t want anyone to just read this article and take my word. Listen to the album, buy the album, worship the album, burn the album (try not to) or whatever. See how it applies to your life. But for me personally, the Smashing Pumpkins have given me such a great richness that driven me to the most immaculate moments and have been with me at my absolute lowest, spiritually, mentally, physically or otherwise. For me, Mellon Collie started my love affair with this band and supported me during a part of my life I didn’t think I could make it through. It gave me the opportunity to bond with the most beautiful people I’ve come to know in my life, and even myself! This double album has consolidated so many of those “indescribable moments of your life tonight” experiences. Nothing more I could say can compare to living through this album and the insight it can give you, though be warned it may not always be pleasant.

Farewell and Goodnight.

Best Performances from the Tour

 

Billy Corgan & Flea Are Quitting Twitter

They say all good things come to end. Just a few hour ago, William Patrick “Billy” Corgan and Flea announced the end of their tenures with Twitter and his intentions of closing his account. Billy says, “After mulling this for awhile, I’m deleting this account. So many thanks to those that have followed.” The actual tweets can be viewed below (while the accounts lasts?) :

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Corgan’s activity on Twitter was slowing down quite a bit, and it’s clear he wants to focus on his new project, People and Their Cars. Flea is at work building another music conservatory for children and finishing the new Chili Peppers album. There seems to be a trend starting against social media for several artists, for example Dave Navarro recently closed his page on Facebook. Social media makes it harder and harder to recede from the public view.

AlternativeNation recently published an article on his new project, and an excerpt is featured below:

“William Patrick Corgan (Billy Corgan) or as he often signs now, ‘WPC’, has always been ahead of the game with a little something extra. After a short hiatus from frequent tweeting, a couple of days ago Corgan returned to Twitter with his newest project: ‘People and Their Cars.’ While both people and cars are subjects in the blog, it is not what you think. The blog consists of vintage (or sometimes antique) photographs, a collection curated by Corgan himself. With Corgan’s ventures in music, poetry and teahouses, photography seems like a natural progression. A few days after the launch, Corgan announced the “Red Border Club”, an email listing for the blog. Benefits of joining the RBC include ‘the chance to receive additional images, but to be ‘first-in-line’ for updates on new merchandise and forthcoming People And Their Cars/Hexestential books.’ No emails outside of confirmation have been sent out. Joining the RBC is also free, “with no catch, fees, or obligation to buy.” Corgan has always had a keen sense of art direction and the Pumpkins’ work has been influenced by the aesthetics of vintage photography (and other forms of visual art) over the years.”

If interested, register for the RBC here for updates on Corgan’s artistic pursuits!

 

Billy Corgan’s Latest Project: People and Their Cars

William Patrick Corgan (Billy Corgan) or as he often signs now, “WPC”, has always been ahead of the game with a little something extra. After a short hiatus from frequent tweeting, a couple of days ago Corgan returned to Twitter with his newest project: “People and Their Cars.” While both people and cars are subjects in the blog, it is not what you think. The blog consists of vintage (or sometimes antique) photographs, a collection curated by Corgan himself. With Corgan’s ventures in music, poetry and teahouses, photography seems like a natural progression. A few days after the launch, Corgan announced the “Red Border Club”, an email listing for the blog. Benefits of joining the RBC include “the chance to receive additional images, but to be ‘first-in-line’ for updates on new merchandise and forthcoming People And Their Cars/Hexestential books.” No emails outside of confirmation have been sent out. Joining the RBC is also free, “with no catch, fees, or obligation to buy.” Corgan has always had a keen sense of art direction and the Pumpkins’ work has been influenced by the aesthetics of vintage photography (and other forms of visual art) over the years.

Two of the most prominent music videos from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, “Tonight, Tonight” and “Thirty-Three”, had their cinematography influenced by the early Edwardian days of film (a la A Trip to the Moon) and post-war photography/home video experiments respectively. You can really see Corgan’s interest in the vast spectrum of visual and cinematic art throughout the ages through the curating of this blog. No release date due for a book, but a book curated by Corgan is expected in the future.

Meanwhile, the Smashing Pumpkins put the final touches on their next seemingly unnamed album, set for release early next year with a single due out by the end of 2015. Stay tuned, ghost children.

smashing pumpkins corgan

Smashing Pumpkins To Release New Music Video Directed by Linda Strawberry

Edited by Brett Buchanan

Yesterday, frequent Billy Corgan collaborator Linda Strawberry announced on her Instagram account that she is directing the music video for the Smashing Pumpkins track “Run2Me”, which has been placed at every show during the current End Times tour, a tour which has gained significant praise from the press and fans alike, notably for featuring original drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. The featured picture in her post, is a still from the music video itself. The implication is that the music video is narrative based, in the vein of many Smashing Pumpkins music videos. Videos with strong narratives such as “Today”, “Tonight, Tonight”, “1979” and “Ava Adore” are remembered fondly in pop culture.

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Linda Strawberry, the nom de plume of Los Angeles based musician Linda Michelle Rowberry, has collaborated with Billy Corgan on numerous occasions. The first was in 2001 when Strawberry performed on keyboards, along with Jimmy Chamberlin, Urge Overkill bassist Eddie Roeser, prolific musician and DJ Christopher Holmes on guitar (who toured with the Pumpkins on additional keyboards during the Machina tours) and Corgan on vocals and guitar to cover Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” for the last episode of Bozo the Clown. Strawberry also became a member of the Djali Zwan, the acoustic alter ego of supergroup Zwan. The Djali Zwan and Billy Corgan contributed the soundtrack to the film “Spun”, released in 2002. She would also tour with Corgan during TheFutureEmbrace tour, as well as with Spirits in the Sky in 2010, a tribute to Sky Saxon of the Seeds which featured Corgan, Kerry Brown, Dave Navarro, Mike Byrne, Mark Tulin, Mark Weitz, Ysanne Spevack and Kevin Dippold. She also contributed to the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex’s first album, Life Begins Again.

The Smashing Pumpkins’ most recent album, Monuments to an Elegy, was been met with mostly positive reviews from critics, with Alternative Nation giving the album four stars. The next album fis expected to be released early 2016, with a single out by December.

Below is a recording of “Forever Young” by Corgan, Strawberry and company during the last episode of Bozo the Clown:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmC1bpz2i_0

Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Mark Hoppus & Others Celebrate Independence Day

Across the United States Saturday, Americans are celebrating the 239th anniversary of their country’s independence from Britain. Likewise, many of the rock and roll community took to social media to acknowledge this monumental day:

Smashing Pumpkins To Pay Tribute To Adore On Upcoming Tour

Yesterday, the Smashing Pumpkins announced the Smashing Pumpkins: In Plainsong acoustic tour, a series of 8 concert dates in the United States before starting their greater North American tour with Marilyn Manson, the Endtimes Tour. Earlier this morning, the headman himself Mr. Corgan gave more details into the happenings of the upcoming setlists being planned for the In Plainsong tour, on twitter. He tweeted saying the middle of the set would feature “Adore-era songs featured as written+surprises”. The full tweet can be viewed below:

https://twitter.com/Billy/status/590870932358569984

The Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore was released June 2nd, 1998 on Virgin Records, recorded through June 1997 through March 1998, with demos starting in February 1997. The first album to not feature drummer Jimmy Chamberlain after his termination, the album featured Filter’s/Morrissey’s drummer Matt Walker, Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron, Beck’s Joey Waronker and especially drum machines and loops filling in on drums. Corgan’s vision for the album was to synthesize folk and electronica, to make a sound both “ancient” and “futuristic”. As the tour’s subtitle is “An Acoustic-Electro Evening”, it would be hard to avoid including Adore-era songs into the set, as the album was the intersection of acoustic and electro music.

The Smashing Pumpkins tour dates for this year are as follows:

The Smashing Pumpkins: In Plainsong – An Acoustic-Electro Evening

6/15 – Buffalo, NY – Riviera Theatre
6/16 – Pittsburgh, PA – Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
6/17 – Indianapolis, IN – Egyptian Room at Old National Centre
6/19 – Tusla, OK – Brady Theater
6/20 – Des Moines, IA – Hoyt Sherman Place Theatre
6/22 – Kansas City, MO – Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland
6/23 – St. Louis, MO – The Pageant
6/25 – Minneapolis, MN – Pantages Theatre

The Smashing Pumpkins: The Endtimes Tour

7/7 – Concord, CA – Concord Pavilion (with Marilyn Manson)
7/9 – Irvine, CA – Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (with Marilyn Manson)
7/10 – Las Vegas, NV – The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (with Marilyn Manson)
7/11 – Phoenix, AZ – Comerica Theatre (with Marilyn Manson)
7/13 – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre (with Marilyn Manson)
7/15 – Dallas, TX – Gexa Energy Pavilion (with Marilyn Manson)
7/16 – Houston, TX – NRG Arena (with Marilyn Manson)
7/18 – San Antonio, TX – Freeman Coliseum (with Marilyn Manson)
7/19 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Live (with Marilyn Manson)
7/20 – New Orleans, LA – Bold Sphere Music at Champions Square (with Marilyn Manson)
7/22 – Miami, FL – Bayfront Park Amphitheatre (with Marilyn Manson)
7/24 – Tampa, FL – Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheatre (with Marilyn Manson)
7/25 – Atlanta, GA – Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood (with Marilyn Manson)
7/26 – Raleigh, NC – Red Hat Amphitheater (with Marilyn Manson)
7/28 – Boston, MA – Blue Hills Bank Pavilion (with Marilyn Manson)
7/29 – Holmdel, NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center (with Marilyn Manson)
7/31 – Wantagh, NY – Nikon at Jones Beach Theater (with Marilyn Manson)
8/1 – Mashantucket, CT – Foxwoods Resort Casino (with Marilyn Manson)
8/2 – Camden, NJ – Susquehanna Bank Center (with Marilyn Manson)
8/4 – Toronto, Ontario – Molson Canadian Amphitheatre (with Marilyn Manson)
8/5 – Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theatre (with Marilyn Manson)
8/7 – Chicago, IL – FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island (with Marilyn Manson)
8/8 – Cincinnati, OH – Riverbend Music Center (with Marilyn Manson)

 

smashing pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins Announce Acoustic Tour Dates

The Smashing Pumpkins have announced the ‘In Plainsong’ tour, a short acoustic US trek throughout the latter half of June. Material during the tour will not only feature Smashing Pumpkins material, but also Zwan and Billy Corgan solo tracks. The alternative group will be joining Marilyn Manson during ‘The End Times’ tour starting in July. You can view all upcoming tour dates below.

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Smashing Pumpkins tour dates:
6/15 – Buffalo, NY – Riviera Theatre
6/16 – Pittsburgh, PA – Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
6/17 – Indianapolis, IN – Egyptian Room at Old National Centre
6/19 – Tusla, OK – Brady Theater
6/20 – Des Moines, IA – Hoyt Sherman Place Theatre
6/22 – Kansas City, MO – Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland
6/23 – St. Louis, MO – The Pageant
6/25 – Minneapolis, MN – Pantages Theatre
7/7 – Concord, CA – Concord Pavilion (with Marilyn Manson)
7/9 – Irvine, CA – Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (with Marilyn Manson)
7/10 – Las Vegas, NV – The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (with Marilyn Manson)
7/11 – Phoenix, AZ – Comerica Theatre (with Marilyn Manson)
7/13 – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre (with Marilyn Manson)
7/15 – Dallas, TX – Gexa Energy Pavilion (with Marilyn Manson)
7/16 – Houston, TX – NRG Arena (with Marilyn Manson)
7/18 – San Antonio, TX – Freeman Coliseum (with Marilyn Manson)
7/19 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Live (with Marilyn Manson)
7/20 – New Orleans, LA – Bold Sphere Music at Champions Square (with Marilyn Manson)
7/22 – Miami, FL – Bayfront Park Amphitheatre (with Marilyn Manson)
7/24 – Tampa, FL – Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheatre (with Marilyn Manson)
7/25 – Atlanta, GA – Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood (with Marilyn Manson)
7/26 – Raleigh, NC – Red Hat Amphitheater (with Marilyn Manson)
7/28 – Boston, MA – Blue Hills Bank Pavilion (with Marilyn Manson)
7/29 – Holmdel, NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center (with Marilyn Manson)
7/31 – Wantagh, NY – Nikon at Jones Beach Theater (with Marilyn Manson)
8/1 – Mashantucket, CT – Foxwoods Resort Casino (with Marilyn Manson)
8/2 – Camden, NJ – Susquehanna Bank Center (with Marilyn Manson)
8/4 – Toronto, Ontario – Molson Canadian Amphitheatre (with Marilyn Manson)
8/5 – Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theatre (with Marilyn Manson)
8/7 – Chicago, IL – FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island (with Marilyn Manson)
8/8 – Cincinnati, OH – Riverbend Music Center (with Marilyn Manson)

Billy Corgan Meets Jack White

During a recent show in Buenos Aries, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan and touring member of the Smashing Pumpkins and member of the Killers, Mark Stoermer met Jack White for the first time. You can view the photograph of them together below:

WhiteCorgan

 

 

In other recent BilLCo news, in a recent interview with Australia’s The Morning Show, the Smashing Pumpkins frontman shed some light on how he felt Kanye West handled his feelings during the Grammys, when he interrupted Beck’s Grammy receiving and acceptance.

When asked about how he felt about the incident between Beck and Kanye West, Corgan commented, “I think it’s inappropriate for any artist to take somebody else’s moment and make it their own or try to channel that energy in somebody’s moment… you’re basically saying that everything Beck has done to be in that position is negated because in your mind, it’s not relevant to your own thing…I don’t think that’s the moment to do it. Maybe afterwards you can say that, you can write your own blog, but to jump on stage and sort of steal that moment and re-appropriate in your own way is…inappropriate…I don’t know Kanye but I think he is speaking from his heart, I think he really believes what he’s saying… I just think that’s the inappropriate venue to do it.”

Corgan also expressed his disappointment with how social media rewards negative behavior, which he feels will ultimately reflect badly on the Grammys and on West himself.

Corgan also addressed how he would have handled any similar situation: “I’ve stood at that podium too and I’ll tell you what, if somebody got up on my stage, I would knock them out. I don’t care who it is, I would have knocked him out.” Tongue-in-cheek, he further remarked that it would have been a “stand off” between him and Kanye, but that Kim Kardashian would “probably take me down!”

The Smashing Pumpkins, with Mark Stoermer of the Killers on bass and Brad Wilk from Rage Against the Machine on drums, just wrapped up their Australian tourdates and will continue to tour in South America.