Billy Cor­gan’s Smash­ing new al­bum ..........

Ocea­nia marks a re­turn to cre­ative form for an older and wiser Smash­ing Pump­kins front­man Billy Cor­gan, writes Greg Kot

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - CONTENTS - The Smash­ing Pump­kins head­line the fi­nal day of Splen­dour in the Grass, which plays Be­longil Fields, By­ron Bay, from to­mor­row un­til Sun­day. Billy Cor­gan joins Wil An­der­son for Wil Does Parky at Splen­dour Forum, the fes­ti­val’s live dis­cus­sion pro­gram, on S

BILLY Cor­gan calls Ocea­nia, The Smash­ing Pump­kins’ first stu­dio al­bum since 2007, ‘‘an anti-midlife cri­sis al­bum’’. What­ever it’s called, the new al­bum rep­re­sents Cor­gan’s best work since the 1990s, when the Pump­kins were among the most suc­cess­ful bands of their time.

The group split in 2000 and to hear Cor­gan tell it, he’s spent most of the past decade fig­ur­ing out how to cre­ate fresh mu­sic from un­der the shadow of that legacy with­out fully let­ting go of it.

He says that af­ter re­unit­ing with orig­i­nal Pump­kins drum­mer Jimmy Cham­ber­lin in 2005, he re­alised he was hold­ing on to an idea of the band caught be­tween un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions (re­peat­ing the suc­cess and sound of The Pump­kins’ 1993 break­through, Si­amese Dream) and his own nos­tal­gia-loathing in­ten­tions.

As he pre­pares to head­line the clos­ing night of this week­end’s Splen­dour in the Grass mu­sic fes­ti­val, Cor­gan is in the midst of writ­ing what he de­scribes as a ‘‘spir­i­tual mem­oir’’, and it’s caus­ing him to ‘‘dredge up stuff from the past I wish I had for­got­ten’’.

‘‘This al­bum is ba­si­cally my way of say­ing I don’t want to carry this stuff any more.

‘‘I don’t want to carry (orig­i­nal Pump­kins mem­bers Cham­ber­lin, James Iha and D’arcy Wret­zky) for­ward any­more. It’s done,’’ he says.

‘‘I couldn’t have made Ocea­nia if I didn’t let go of that band.’’

Cham­ber­lin and Cor­gan parted ways in 2009, soon af­ter a tu­mul­tuous tour that found the singer ver­bally tus­sling with his au­di­ence. For a 20th an­niver­sary Pump­kins tour, many fans were ex­pect­ing a great­est-hits ret­ro­spec­tive.

Cor­gan in­stead pre­sented a deep dive into his mu­sic, in which the beloved ’90s sin­gles were bal­anced by deep cuts and plenty of new tracks.

The of­ten-hos­tile re­ac­tion led him to ‘‘blow up the band’’ so that he could start fresh.

Cor­gan re­built the Pump­kins with young guns: gui­tarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Ni­cole Fiorentino and drum­mer Mike Byrne.

The im­per­a­tive was not only to reen­er­gise the au­di­ence, but ‘‘to re­con­nect with that part of me that made me want to make mu­sic in the first place’’.

Cor­gan and com­pany headed to a stu­dio in Se­dona, Ari­zona, with pro­ducer and en­gi­neer Bjorn Thorsrud.

‘‘It was small steps,’’ Cor­gan says. ‘‘I can write songs, I can al­ways write songs. That’s been part of the prob­lem. Maybe I write too many songs and put them out loosey goosey. So let’s get down to it and chal­lenge our­selves. It takes so much psy­chic en­ergy to do this.

‘‘I did this al­bum for a year, 12 hours a day. I un­der­stand how it gets tough for peo­ple when they reach a cer­tain age and you just don’t want to work that hard be­cause it’s eas­ier not to.

‘‘We could’ve made a lot of money play­ing the nos­tal­gia shows. I cut that road off. It was do it this way or die.’’

Cor­gan says he isn’t try­ing to get the feel­ing of 1995 back with new mu­sic.

‘‘I want the new feel­ing. Pi­casso did some of his best work in his 90s. Neil Young is mak­ing some of his best mu­sic now,’’ he says.

‘‘I don’t want to be 25 again. There are peo­ple out there who are older who are cool. I want that.

‘‘Mu­sic is your guide. At the heart of Jimmy Page is the 14-year-old play­ing skif­fle and try­ing to fig­ure out Scotty Moore licks in his bed­room.

‘‘The year 1995 for me was mis­er­able in some ways. I just dream of hav­ing a voice in the con­ver­sa­tion. Not be­ing writ­ten off by the blog­gers as some grandpa who keeps show­ing up at the buf­fet ta­ble.’’

Cor­gan says he re­dis­cov­ered that feel­ing af­ter find­ing a ‘‘peace­ful­ness’’ in him­self ‘‘where I found I didn’t have to be more than or less than’’.

‘‘Be your­self mo­ment to mo­ment. Go left, right, and in be­tween,’’ he says.

‘‘You like key­boards, gui­tars, loud stuff, quiet stuff. Just go with it. Stop over­think­ing it. It’s very sim­i­lar to the way I worked in the 1990s.’’

Cor­gan be­lieves Ocea­nia marks the first time he’s made a record where he hasn’t boxed him­self in: ‘‘If it sounds like Frank Zappa one minute and Van­ge­lis the next, OK.’’

Billy Cor­gan and his 2012 Smash­ing Pump­kins head­line the fi­nal night of this week­end’s three-day Splen­dour in the Grass mu­sic fes­ti­val.

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