The Smashing Pumpkins are reportedly days away from announcing a reunion tour – minus the band’s reclusive founding bassist, D’arcy Wretzky. The band said in a recent statement that Wretzky declined numerous invitations to join the tour.
“James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin and William Corgan haven’t played a show with D’arcy Wretzky for over 18 years,” the band said. “But it’s not for a lack of trying … Ms. Wretzky has repeatedly been invited out to play with the group, participate in demo sessions, or at the very least, meet face-to-face, and in each and every instance she always deferred.”
The statement comes as a surprise namely because Wretzky had just told Alternative Nation and Blast Echo that the Pumpkins excluded her from recent recording sessions. After the group released their statement, Wretzky took the rather bold step of releasing screen shots of her purported texts with Billy Corgan to Alternative Nation. The images reveal that Wretzky has shoulder injuries that could impact her playing, but Corgan wanted her on the tour in some capacity.
“If you play 2 songs a night or 7 it’s only gonna be great,” Corgan wrote to Wretzky, per the images. “As long as the vibe is right and people are smiling. When you need surgery etc and the tour starts soon and you haven’t done a full show much less an arena tour in almost decades now that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself.” Corgan appeared to be reasonable and accommodating according to the text messages.
Wretzky’s decision to go nuclear and release the texts seems to dramatically decrease the odds she will be on the Pumpkins tour in any capacity, but many questions still linger. Here are some of them:
What exactly is the band recording right now?
Billy Corgan has not made it any sort of secret that he’s been recording new material with Jimmy Chamberlin, Jeff Schroeder, James Iha and producer Rick Rubin. In his texts with Wretzky, Corgan stated that he had 13 demos. “Work has gone really well,” he wrote in a text. “Sounds fresh and just us being us with big guitars and, but also the music sounds fun in a way it hasn’t sounded for a long time.” That sure makes it seem like they’re cutting an entire album, but later he writes that “the necessity of the song came up.” Just one song? “As far as Rubin,” he writes, “he’s gonna be involved a little, but not the whole thing.” Do they plan on releasing this music before the tour? We have no idea.
Is D’arcy physically capable of playing these concerts?
Very little is known about the current state of Wretzky’s health. Billy Corgan famously said she was a “mean-spirited drug addict” around the time she left the group in 1999. She basically hasn’t been seen in public for 18 years. In her text exchanges with Billy, she refers to a shoulder injury. “I went to [two doctors and] they both agree that I do not need surgery,” she wrote to Corgan. “I’m also going to see one more on Saturday.” What exactly is wrong with her shoulder? Has she continued to play bass during her long absence from the band? As with many things in the world of D’arcy, there are more questions than answers.
Who will play bass on the tour?
Much like the Pixies, the Smashing Pumpkins seem to feel that the group simply doesn’t look right without a female bass player. After Wretzky left, they brought in Melissa Auf der Maur, Ginger Pooley and Nicole Fiorentino for brief runs in the group. They also worked with Mark Tulin of the the Electric Prunes and Mark Stoermer from the Killers touring band. They began working with Jack Bates (son of Joy Division/New Order’s Peter Hook) in 2015 and Corgan mentioned him in his text exchange with Wretzky. Is he signed on for the upcoming reunion tour? Was the plan for him to somehow trade off bass duties with Wretzky before this whole situation went public?
How will the guitar situation work?
The one constant member of the Smashing Pumpkins since the 2007 reformation besides Corgan himself has been guitarist Jeff Schroeder. His job seemed to be in jeopardy when Iha returned, but Corgan is loyal to his friend and keeping him in the lineup. That throws an extra guitarist into the mix. How will that work? Will it be like an E Street Band situation with Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt? Will they both be onstage the entire show? Again, we don’t know.
Will they just play the old songs?
There have been four Smashing Pumpkins albums since the 2007 reunion. Will they touch upon them during the reunion tour? “Show will be timed to the minute and will run the same set list every night,” Corgan said in a text to Wretzky. Clearly, this will be an oldies revue and Iha probably won’t be expected to learn the recent material. But will they really pretend the last decade didn’t happen? If so, why exactly do they need Schroeder? Iha and Corgan handled the guitar parts on their own with ease back in the 1990s.
Will the fans accept this as a legit reunion?
Billy Corgan played with original Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin at two points during the post-breakup period. He’s been back in the live lineup since 2015. James Iha guested at a couple of shows in 2016, marking the first time he appeared in public with Billy Corgan since 2000. The only person the fans haven’t seen since the breakup is Wretzky. “G n R tour was one of the biggest tours ever,” Corgan wrote in a text, “and Stephen Adler (original drummer) would get up and play some songs. Fans loved it and no one complained.” Let’s break this down a little. First off, Adler only came out at five concerts and never for more than two songs. And plenty of people complained, not least of all Adler himself. Also, D’arcy isn’t the Adler in this analogy. At the very least, she’s the Duff. She’s a key component of the original band, whatever her contributions were musically, and many fans won’t consider it a true reunion if she isn’t there.
Couldn’t this have been handled better?
In short, yes. If the news of the past couple of weeks is to be believed, Wretzky seems to be getting a lot of information about the Smashing Pumpkins reunion via the Internet. The upcoming tour is a multimillion-dollar enterprise. A lot is riding on its success. “We have to prove to world we can compete at the highest level,” Corgan texted, “or tour [will] never get out of America.” He’s right. The Pumpkins have been flogging their hits for a decade now. Bringing that show from theaters back into arenas requires a meticulous plan, so why did they put Wretzky into the position where she could severely damage it like she has? When they finally announce the thing, much of attention will be on the simple fact that she isn’t a part of it. It’s essentially an “Iha’s Back!” tour. And as much as we love James Iha, he isn’t Slash. It won’t be enough to bring in the masses that were skeptical of previous lineups. With all that in mind, why didn’t they sit down with D’arcy much earlier and work through all this? They could have avoided this whole mess instead of raising everyone’s expectations. Also, if D’arcy truly hoped to be a part of the tour, releasing screenshots of texts probably wasn’t wise.
Update: In an extensive interview with Alternative Nation, D’arcy shed some light on the situation, claiming that Corgan never invited her to the recording sessions, went back on his pledge to split the tour profits evenly and hired Jack Bates to play bass on the reunion tour. “I made Billy spell it out, because he was doing his nonsense double talk crap bullshit,” she said. “Everyone was telling me: ‘Well that doesn’t sound like he doesn’t want you on the tour.’ Nobody could see it, so I finally made him spell it out for me.”
Further lessening the odds the band will ever make peace, she ripped him to shreds on a personal level. “I just was so out of that world for the longest time, I wasn’t aware of a lot of the crazy stuff, like he supports Trump,” she said. “What? The shapeshifting thing, I honestly think he may have a brain tumor. He’s always been insufferable.”
Meanwhile, the Smashing Pumpkins official website continues to count down to a big announcement. It’s hard to imagine this is the sort of press they wanted to see in the days leading up to it.