Reply To: Zeitgeist a let down?

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(part 2)

Despite overtures to the other longstanding members of the Smashing Pumpkins–D’Arcy Wretzky and James Iha–it soon became clear that Corgan and Chamberlin would have to go it alone together. In an attempt to get away and focus on this considerable challenge, the pair took up residence in Scottsdale to get down to work in November of 2005.

According to Chamberlin, “We immediately realized that Pumpkins wasn’t something you just pick up and start recording again. We came to a lot of conclusions in the first three weeks of playing together including the fact that the sum total of Pumpkins is the result of lots and lots of work. We set about re-identifying what was great about the band, re-languaging some of the music of the past, inventing new ways to play new Pumpkins that still sounded like the Pumpkins, but didn’t sound like old Pumpkins. It was very difficult at first. There was a lot of time when we were scratching our head, looking at each other, going ‘Can we even do this?’”

The answer, ultimately, was that indeed they could. “At some point about a month and a half in, we started turning a corner and the songs really started reflecting how we were feeling as opposed to trying to go back and recapture some kind of fire, we were rekindling a new fire, “ Chamberlin explains. “When that started happening it became a very joyous experience. We had a vision and we had a way to achieve the vision–and then we were off to the races.”

Chamberlin and Corgan were joined for some days at the races by the two men who helped them produce the album. “We worked with Roy Thomas Baker of Queen, Cars and Foreigner fame and Terry Date of Pantera and Rob Zombie and other sundry metal,” says Corgan. “Roy is somebody whose name we had bandied about before but we thought he might be out of touch, so it never came to fruition. We’d always heard these crazy rumors that he’s out of his mind. Roy came to Scottsdale and he was great so we ended up working with him. It was the right time. Then we were working with another famed rock producer who ended up being a total flame-out. He didn’t even last 48 hours in our little intense world. So we called Terry and he ended up helping. But ironically, even though Roy and Terry were involved, we ended up producing ourselves mostly because of our twin mentality.”

“We took the long road and not everybody understands the long road nowadays,” Corgan continues. “And with only the two of us, tracking took a lot longer. Roy was really the only person who really auteured the record in a way, almost just by his mere presence and that’s because he’s not intimidated by anything–he’s seen it all, done it all. You say something about throwing a piano off a building to Roy, and he says ‘Oh, I’ve tried that. Once. And the sad part is that it didn’t sound that good’. That’s Roy. It’s mind-boggling what it takes to get him off.”

Another significant contributor to Zeitgeist was artist Shepard Fairey–best known for his Andre The Giant street art–whose striking album cover suggests some of the simultaneously uplifting and sinking feelings of the modern world. “Like a great artist can do, Shepard had summed up very simply a lot of complex themes. He also used the type font from our very first single, and I asked him about it and he had no idea. He was just on point.”

Corgan and Chamberlin are now on point to bring the band to life on the road. Their May 22 Paris show will be the first Smashing Pumpkins show since December 2, 2000. “We put a band together that’s really amazing,” Chamberlin says. “We went through a lot of growing pains finding musicians and people who had the same kind of musicianship. I did a lot of the auditions myself while Billy was doing the overdubs on the album, and what I gravitated to was even more spirit than talent. When I found the right two people, it was very obvious.”

Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanlinessAnd cleanliness is godliness, and god is empty just like meIntoxicated with the madness, I'm in love with my sadness