Billy Corgan tells Lars Ulrich he hasn’t been in a room with original Smashing Pumpkins bassist D’Arcy Wretzky in 19 years during an interview on the Metallica drummer’s Beats 1 radio show, “It’s Electric.”
Wretzky will not join Corgan, guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin in what’s being billed as a reunion of the Smashing Pumpkins’ classic lineup for a summer tour and a new album. Instead, the band has enlisted Jack Bates, the son of New Order’s Peter Hook, to play bass during their live dates.
“I spent two years before all that repairing my relationship and every time I tried to get into a room with her — so, I still haven’t been in a room with her in 19 years,” Corgan said of his tumultuous relationship with Wretzky. “It was a telephone thing and you’re trying to say, ‘This can happen, this can happen, what do you think?’ Always very pleasant, great, awesome, and only when it became obvious that it wasn’t the way she wanted it to be, it turned into this other thing that was reminiscent of the past.”
The Smashing Pumpkins announced their Shiny and Oh So Bright tour in February, but the months before had been marked by open secrets and in-fighting. Not long after Corgan first teased the reunion on social media, Wretzky gave an interview with music site Blast Echo in which she blamed Corgan for excluding her. The band countered, saying Wretzky had declined their invitations to join, but the bassist then claimed the band had never intended to hire her full time.
On “It’s Electric,” Corgan refrained from delving too deep into the feud, saying, “It’s been cast so into a tabloid thing that you’re basically feeding back into the machine.” He added, “The thing that keeps you on the rudder is the music and the fact that somehow, when the three of us come together, this magical thing happens that’s bigger than me, and I have no problem admitting to that. And if that’s not your guiding principle, then it is a shit reality show. And we don’t want the shit reality show.”
Corgan offered an update on the Smashing Pumpkins’ new album as well, saying the group recently finished tracking eight new songs with Rick Rubin. As Corgan noted, the upcoming LP will mark the first from the Smashing Pumpkins’ classic lineup since 2000’s Machina, but the frontman said the group’s writing and recording process hadn’t changed after nearly two decades.
“In this case, it came really quickly,” he said. “We did 16 demos in three weeks and then I played Rick what I thought were the eight best songs, hoping he would pick one, and he picked all eight… We were standing there like, our eyes are blinking. We thought we were just going to do a single.”
Corgan also reflected on the Smashing Pumpkins’ early days, their Chicago roots and how the city’s working-class mentality influenced the band and made them outsiders. “We would go to a place like New York and it’s like, ‘You guys are too into this,'” he recalled. “Like we would get castigated for working too hard. Courtney Love called me once saying, ‘Your first album is unfair because it sounds like a second album.'”
Still, Corgan noted that the Pumpkins weren’t the only obsessive workers in a rock era defined by apathy and slack. “They wanted to believe that Kurt Cobain would roll out of bed, take some drugs and write a fucking classic,” Corgan said of the late Nirvana frontman. “Kurt Cobain as a lyricist, as a songwriter, as a visionary, was a fucking assassin. He was great at what he did and it’s a shame he didn’t do more of it. Because he was fucking great at what he did… How many nights do you think, long before Nirvana, that he sat in a fucking basement trying to figure out why does this chord go with this chord?”