Last week, the Smashing Pumpkins announced that they’ll be releasing remastered versions of their albums over the course of the next three years, starting this fall with 1991’s Gish, 1993’s Siamese Dream and the 1994 compilation Pisces Iscariot. They’ve also started work on a separate new album, Oceania, to be released this fall. The band is simultaneously working on another album, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, that they started in late 2009.
Singer/guitarist Billy Corgan opened up to Rolling Stone about the upcoming reissues, Oceania and whether the Pumpkins’ original line-up will ever reunite.
What kind of bonus material will be on the upcoming reissues?
EMI would like a bonus disc of material. I think what it’s going to have to be is a balance between some of the better B-sides that somebody who bought Gish back in the day wouldn’t be familiar with. I want it to be a document about the materials that surrounded the records, so if you’re a fan of that record, you kind of get more of that record. But I want to be really selective and not just put out anything. I want it to be almost like a nice mix tape – if you’re a fan of Gish, then the Gish bonus disc would have some really cool stuff to listen to that’s in that period.
Do any periods have more unreleased material to choose from than others?
For the first album, there are something like 30 demos from even before the album was made. So a lot of that stuff needs to be remixed, and there’s a lot of good versions of things and unheard stuff. The second album, not as much, so I’m probably going to have to dig more in my home demos.
Will there be previously unheard songs?
I’ve gone on some message boards to see what fans are saying, and they think they’ve heard everything and they haven’t. There’s a lot of stuff we have that no one’s ever heard.
I’ve always thought you were an underrated guitarist, specifically on the Pumpkins’ early albums and songs like “Starla.”
My father was a guitar player, and I was raised with a super high standard of what good guitar playing was. I’d be in the living room practicing, and he’d walk by and shake his head, like, “That ain’t gonna fly.” So when I came into indie music, I had already been playing serious heavy metal/Yngwie Malmsteen solos. When I first started playing in front of alternative crowds, they were like, “What’s with the solos?” It was probably because I came from a metal background of practicing and my father’s very jaundiced eye about my ability, and wasn’t really influenced by the alternative mindset about guitar, which was “Don’t try too hard.”
I always thought Kurt Cobain was the perfect embodiment of the great alternative guitar player. He was a really great guitar player, but when he got to the solo, he played the “I can’t really play” solo – even though he could totally play. I was the guy who wanted to play the ripping Queen lead; I didn’t want to do the “I can’t play” solo.
What can fans expect from Oceania?
My friends said that it reminds them of what they always liked about the Pumpkins, but it sounds fresh. It has a familiarity to it, which is kind of hard to put your finger on it, but at the same time, it doesn’t sound like, “Oh, it’s the same.”
Are there any musicians you have not played with yet that you would like to?
Ritchie Blackmore would be a dream. I’d be afraid to approach him, but I keep waiting for that right moment where I think, “Can I call Ritchie Blackmore up and ask him to play on this?” As I’ve grown older, Ritchie Blackmore keeps going up in my eyes as a guitar player. I put him up there in Hendrix territory at this point in my life. Really love Robin Trower as well. I’ve always talked to Tony Iommi about maybe it would be the right thing as well. Tony is just my “ultimate” – I’ve ripped no one off more than Tony.
Would you ever consider working with Gish/Siamese Dream producer Butch Vig again?
Oh yeah. I love Butch and we have a very good relationship. I’d love to. He’s probably one of the only people I’d get in the studio with again. [Laughs] Butch is really lovely to work with – he’s a drummer, which always gave him a real advantage as a producer, because he always thought drums out. Most great records really start with the drums.
Could the original Pumpkins line-up ever reunite?
No. That’s just one of those things that are never going to happen. If you don’t see somebody for a while, there’s the old thing, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Well, we haven’t had absence. The things that have happened between us in the interim haven’t been good. There’s been lawsuits and lots of stupid stuff. It’s only made it worse. If it was bad before, it’s really bad now. Jimmy [Chamberlin] and I aren’t enemies – he’s just off doing what he wants to do, as he should. There’s not super bad blood between me and Jimmy that we’d never get on stage again. But I cannot in any way, shape, or form ever envision standing on a stage, playing music again with James [Iha] and D’arcy [Wretzky]. I just don’t see any situation where that would be possible.
Care to clear this up once and for all – was current Pumpkins bassist Nicole Fiorentino one of the children on the cover of Siamese Dream?
[Laughs] I can’t divulge that information…