Undercover Magazine Interview - 1998-06-??
(lookup on archive.org)
The fateful meeting in Chicago of the sarcastic D'arcy and the arrogant Billy Corgan happened exactly ten years ago. The flaming personalities made for a volatile concoction leading to the creation of Smashing Pumpkins. Their music is as volatile as their personalities, peaks and valleys that take you from pure calm to absolute angst. The Smashing Pumpkins recording career began in the early 90's with producer Butch Vig at the helm. Their original sound grew out of the grunge movement, but by the mid 90's they had evolved completely away as they developed the plush sounds that became "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness". "Mellon Collie" was their commercial peak, going on to sell more than six million copies. Never a band to rest on their laurels, the Pumpkins took on the brave decision for a complete re-invention and "Adore" was born. The band has also taken the unprecedented decision to tour the world to launch the new sound, taking in 14 shows across the world in just over a month.
Towards the end of the tour, they touched down in Melbourne Australia and bass player D'arcy spoke with Undercover Executive Producer, Paul Cashmere.
You are out touring the world with "Adore" – some 14 shows across the planet in a month. What inspired you to play to the planet in such a short amount of time?
Well we went to Disney World and they have this ride. It's called "It's A Small Small World". That song gets stuck in your head (singing) Its a small small world na na na na na, it's a small world. It is a small world.
So it was Disney Propaganda?
Yeah and I have stock in Disney too.
Prior to the albums release, Billy did a solo show at the Viper Room and performed a song called "Let Me Give My World To You" which was meant to be on "Adore". What happened to that song?
Maybe eventually it will come out as a B side but we'll have to change the title to something like "Let Me Give The Universe To You". That goes back to the same thing. When we went on the ride at Disney, we thought the world was so small. It was a small, small world and that if it's that small it's just not enough.
Is there a long version of 17?
So will any of the unreleased Pumpkins songs ever come out?
I have no idea. I think when we are 80 years old and we have to be put in a nursing home and we need money. All those songs that we put in a box will come out then when we need the money for the nursing home.
What has led to the re-invention of the sound of Smashing Pumpkins on "Adore"?
We talked about it about three years ago. We were never really part of the grunge thing but the heavy music we could see people moving away from all of that. Fans just don't get as excited about shows anymore and who can blame them. What have you seen that hasn't been done. We are just trying to find something different really and we've been talking about it, and talking about it and talking about it since when we did "Mellon Collie" and it was just vital for our own sanity because we just couldn't keep regurgitating the same things.
You haven't performed anything from "Gish" or "Siamese Dream" in over two years. Are those songs ever going to make a comeback in a live set?
Maybe when we are 80. When we need money before we go into the rest home, we'll go on tour and play them.
There's talk the next album is going to be another double album.
No, we'd never do that to ourselves or anyone else again.
When are you going back to record?
Has the album been written already?
No and if anyone has any ideas, send them in. We have no idea, that's why we are looking for ideas from external sources.
What rumors go around about the band that get back to you?
Well, I've been pregnant five times. The band has broken up I don't know how many times. James died – twice.
How do you keep a level head when you hear the rumors?
I think it's kind of funny. Call me twisted. You know what's really funny is that my father who is not so press savvy or very worldly either, every time he hears these things, he believes it. He wants another grandchild. He'll say something like "no really, really, when are you due. Tell me, I'm your father. Come on, you can be honest with me".
You have a track on the new "Depeche Mode" tribute album. What was your part?
It's about five years old. We recorded it at the BBC. It turned out really well. We did it in one take or something. It was surprising how well it turned out. Dave Gahan said some really nice things about it. I was very intensely into "Depeche Mode" when I was around 17.
Take us back to the D'arcy / Billy meeting. The very day the Pumpkins happened.
O.K. Local Chicago Goth Club called The Avalon. They played that Bryan Ferry song "Avalon" every night at the close when they were kicking everyone out. I was outside talking about a live band that plays there all the time that I liked. Some asshole just butts into my conversion while we are standing on the sidewalk and says "what the hell were you talking about. That band was crap and besides that they were put together by a record company". I said "How would you know that. Can you tell just by looking at them?" And he says "I can tell by the way a guy jumps around on stage". I said "I jump around on stage and I wasn't put together by a record company". He says "Yeah well what do you do". I say "I play bass" and he says "I have a band and I'm looking for a bass player. Here's my number. Give me a call". And that was it. My friends came and tore me away at that point because we were about to come to blows. I wasn't as calm as it sounds.
How much of the early success of the band do you attribute to Butch Vig?
We attribute all of our successes to Butch – everything. He told us how to dress and what to say. He worked with Killdozer, so he knew the right grunge sounds. We worked with Butch before anybody knew who Butch was. He taught us a lot of technical things. He helped us in the aspects of our anal retentiveness. A lot of people confuse the fact that we recorded "Gish" with Butch before Nirvana recorded with Butch. Like several months before, probably almost a year. It's always been the bands vision. It was great working with Butch and we loved his ideas and the way that he worked, but we have always been the kind of band that works with people who help us realize our vision. We have never had someone molding us.
The Pumpkins has become a family to you.
It started off me, James and Billy. It's always been understood that, somehow, we just knew that the music of this band, when Billy bought me to his house to listen to the tapes of his old band in his bedroom, I knew then that this is what I wanted to be doing. I was in a different band at the time. I was living with the singer and his girlfriend. The singer was also my boss, so I had to sneak out of the house to go to band practice with Billy. It was ridiculous. But just hearing the songs for the first time and for James, what he wanted to do was exactly what I wanted to be. I wasn't happy with the band I was in. Everyone was in this kind of unspoken agreement that the band was the most important thing. It was bigger than all of us. We always put the band ahead. Unfortunately some of the people didn't feel that way so they are no longer in the band.
Has drummer Kenny Aronoff been made a full member of the band?
Kenny is not in the band. He is playing in the band. I don't know if we will ever get another member again. I like Kenny and he is great to play with. It's nice to play with someone who can play steady tempos but I don't know. It's just really hard to find someone to be in a band that's been around for 10 years. He is great. I would like to work with him more, but I don't know what's going to happen, I just don't know.
There's talk of the "Pistachio Medley" idea from the "Zero" EP being redeveloped for the next album.
That was something like snippets of songs that had been done already, just edited together. That doesn't take a whole band to go into the studio to edit snippets of songs together. It was done just for the fun of it, but for the band it would be like too many cooks in the kitchen. If Billy wants to spend his vacation doing that, then more power to him. I'm going home.
Do the songs come quickly to the band?
There are a thousand different ways you can write a song. Some take years. Literally some can take like three years. "Shame", for example, that was like Billy bringing in a riff, the three of us jamming on it with a drum machine and what you get on the album is what we did then. You just never know. The combinations are infernal.
Your upcoming US tour is for children's charity. What's prompted that?
We've done a little bit of that in the past. Little bits and pieces like whenever we've done a secret show. Sometimes people would ask us to do charity shows and we would do them. We want to do more things that are social causes. It was just time for it. Doing the Bridge School Foundation Show I think that really planted the seed within us. It was just so incredibly moving with Neil Young and bringing all the kids up on stage. It's important. It gets to a point in your career when you've been successful for a long time. It's just time to do something to give back. It's really important to me and I think it's really good that we're doing it.
I must mention to you are the first Simpson's character I have ever met.
I was portrayed as a Simpson's character as myself. We didn't actually get to talk to Homer in the studio. I'm not complaining, that was great. It was one of the highlights of our career.
What else have you done that's cool like that?
We got to go to the set of the X-Files. That was really cool. We were just hanging out and David Duchovny would come over and we would talk about Star Trek. It was good.
Do you get excited meeting famous people these days?
Occasionally. Not so much anymore. I'm just too jaded and cynical these days. There are certain things that I just become obsessed with. Those would be a couple of those things. David Duchovny would be one, definitely. I can't think of anyone else, maybe Homer if he was there, but I am really pissed off that he wasn't. Maybe Jerry Seinfeld. We went to see him play in Sydney, but he made us pay for our tickets. He wouldn't even put us on the guest list. Typical. I don't think he really cares. I think he is a sports guy. I don't think he knows you can do both. I don't think he knows you can be fans of both music and sports and comedy. He was great, he was hysterical but I just couldn't believe it, we would never make him pay for tickets to our show. And on top of it, not only did we have to pay for our tickets, we are driving up to the venue and the guy who is with us, the promoter, who arranged for the tickets, his cell phone rings. It's a call from Jerry's entourage saying "Well some other VIP's have showed up. Do you mind showing up to the later show." I thought "What are you crazy. We are just about to get out of the car and go in and of all the nerve. It's like someone more important than you has shown up, so you mind skipping do you – New Yorkers.
Smashing Pumpkins new album "Adore" is out now through Virgin Records.
Undercover would like to thank for their contributions to the questions Adam Newman from Buffalo Grove, Colin Smith of Montana, Ashley Epperly of Witchita, Chris Taylor of Napan, New Brunswick, Francisco Bajaris or LA, Nic George, Auburn, Washington and also James Hamilton.