Will the Smashing Pumpkins reunite?
July 06, 2005 - Billy Corgan sure chose an odd way to start a solo career.
On June 21, the day he released his first solo CD, "The Future Embrace," Corgan placed full-page ads in the Chicago Tri-bune and the Chicago Sun-Times declaring his desire and intention to re-form his band, the Smashing Pumpkins.
It was, to say the least, a startling move on a day that symbolized the official start of Corgan's solo career — and a move made that much more peculiar considering that just two days earlier he had given no indication of his plans about the Smashing Pumpkins in a telephone interview with this writer.
In fact, most of the phone interview, conducted while Corgan was in New York do-ing promotional work on "The Further Em-brace," was spent talking about the direction his music was taking after a career spent fronting the Smashing Pumpkins and later his short-lived group Zwan.
But here was Corgan, in his ad, telling the world: "For a year now I have walked around with a secret, a secret I chose to keep. But now I want you to be among the first to know that I have made plans to renew and revive the Smashing Pumpkins. I want my band back and my songs and my dreams."
Unfortunately, Corgan since has been un-available for further comment or to answer such questions as:
• When does he want to re-form the Smashing Pumpkins?
• Who will be in the band?
• Why on the day he released his solo debut, did he want to shift the public's focus to re-forming the Smashing Pump-kins?
• Is his announcement a reflection of any lack of enthusiasm for "The Future Em-brace" on his part or on the part of his rec-ord company, Warner Bros. Records?
Looking back at the interview now, it's possible that Corgan might have offered a thickly veiled hint or two about the Smash-ing Pumpkins, but even so, he spoke of the group in the past tense. And he certainly seemed focused on "The Future Embrace" and what that album says about his musical interests.
That's not to say that he hid his affection for the Smashing Pumpkins. Asked directly what broke up the Chicago-based band in 2000, Corgan discussed his relationship with guitarist James Iha.
"I think the key thing that split the Pump-kins was the deterioration of the relationship between me and James," he said. "And in my thinking at the time, I'm such a loyal creature that I couldn't conceive of continuing the band without him. I question that thinking now, but that's really what it came down to. He would not heal the breech, whatever had gone on, and to be honest, he would never tell me what it was.
"People have tried to kind of create this (image) that I was so domineering and this and that," Corgan said. "People don't un-derstand, that band would have broken up a long time before that if I hadn't held it together ... The band came close to breaking up many times between '92 and '95, and I kept patching it back together by working harder or taking on more responsibilities and letting people have more space. People don't realize what I did behind the scenes to hold the thing together with Band-Aids and glue, and yet somehow I got the blame for the thing ... The last thing I wanted in the world was for that band to break up. I loved that band into my bones, and I'm very honored that everywhere I go people want to talk about the band and love the band. That means that my work was for something."
The fact is, "The Future Embrace" represents a fairly clean break from the kind of music Corgan wrote for the Smashing Pumpkins.
In that band, Corgan, by and large, favored an edgy and potent modern-rock sound that featured plenty of serrated and thick guitars, heavy drums and dramatic melodies. On "The Future Embrace," the songs are far more atmospheric and lush as synthesizers move assertively into the mix and drum machines replace the hard-driving drumming that typified the Smash-ing Pumpkins.
The closest Corgan has come before to creating music similar to that heard on "The Future Embrace" came on the 1998 Smashing Pumpkins' CD, "Adore," al-though that album's sound was more spare and at least on its ballads, more delicate than the new solo CD.
Corgan agreed that "Adore" might have hinted at the music he has now made on "The Future Embrace."
"I would put it like this," Corgan said. "With the Pumpkins, particularly with the rock end of the Pumpkins, I developed a methodology that I thought was effective for the sound of the band overall. But my personal tastes are more akin to the sound of 'Adore' or the sound of 'The Future Embrace' ... So in a way, this ("The Future Embrace") kind of picks up where I left off in terms of the sonic production thing. The differentiation, I would say, is that 'Adore,' really at its bones, is a folk record. I think this is a rock record."
Billy Corgan plays today — July 7 — at the Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show, which also features Doris Henson and the Crimea, cost $30.