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  • Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins Talks "Oceania", Tour, and So Much More

    Mon, 27 Aug 2012 10:53:08

    Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins Talks "Oceania", Tour, and So Much More - Exclusive by ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino...

    Smashing Pumpkins Photos

    • Smashing Pumpkins - US musician Billy Corgan of the band Smashing Pumpkins performs on the Other Stage on the fifth day of the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts near Glastonbury, southwest England on June 30, 2013. The festival attracts 170,000 party-goers to the dairy farm in Somerset, and this year's tickets sold out within two hours of going on sale.
    • Smashing Pumpkins - Musician Billy Corgan, of The Smashing Pumpkins, performs during the Cumbre Tajin culture festival -- this year devoted to the 'Rebirth of the Self' -- at El Tajin archaeological site, in the highlands of Papantla, Veracruz State, Mexico, early on March 24, 2013.
    • Smashing Pumpkins - NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 19: Nicole Fiorentino, Billy Corgan, Mike Byrne and Jeff Schroeder of Smashing Pumpkins perform onstage presented by P.C. Richard & Son at iHeartRadio Theater on June 19, 2012 in New York City.

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    There's only one way to experience Oceania, and that's in its entirety.

    The Smashing Pumpkins architect an album that doesn't simply encourage an immersive listening session, it demands it. Every detail and flourish of the record cascades in that magical elusive harmony that made records like Dark Side of the Moon and Tommy classics. That connectedness is one of many reasons why The Smashing Pumpkins chose to perform Oceania from beginning to end on their upcoming fall tour.

    First, the band will hit the stage for a performance of the record accompanied by stunning visuals courtesy of Sean Evans—the man behind Roger Waters' The Wall. Then, they'll return for a set of classics and deep cuts. This arena jaunt is bound to be nothing short of legendary. Get ready for one of the year's best tours.

    In this exclusive interview, Billy Corgan talks Oceania, the tour, and so much more with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino.

    Get tickets for the tour's presale here!

    Exclusive presale for Citi Pass members here!

    When did you first get the idea to play Oceania in its entirety live and add all of these visual elements?

    That's a good question. With everyone playing their old albums, I thought it'd be cool if there were people going out and playing their new records. Once Oceania was done, I thought, "We should go out and play this record". It became like a cause célèbre in our world. Then, it was like, "Do we actually think we could do this?" Me being me, I said we were going to do it before we ever even tried to do it, of course. I had committed to it. A lot of the songs were made up in the studio. It wasn't until we actually played it, we were like, "Okay, this could actually work." [Laughs] If it hadn't worked, we would've been in big trouble because I already said we were going to do it.

    When did the visual element entire into the equation?

    Well, I'd seen The Wall when it was in an earlier incarnation. I guess it was a year-and-a-half or two years ago at The Staples Center in Los Angeles. It was Roger Waters' version of The Wall, and I was really blown away. In true synchronicity, our sound man Jon Lemon knows Sean Evans who had been working with Roger on The Wall. It was already lingering there that we needed some other element to the show and some form of production. To say, "Yeah, we're going to play the album" in 2012 isn't really enough. You can get away with playing the album if people know it and have been fans of it for 20 years or whatever. However, to come out with a new album and try to make an artistic statement without something else behind it or to go with it would've been a big mistake. That pushed us there and the affiliation with Sean and meeting him made it a lot easier.

    Did you and Sean click on a creative level instantly?

    We put it out there that if Sean was interested, we were. I wasn't even sure he'd have the time. I just saw The Wall recently in a baseball stadium, and it's taken on this other life. He said he was interested though. He sent through a series of images and ideas. It was pretty fascinating as I'd been thinking about very similar things. Once I saw his proposal, I was like, "This is really crazy". I called him and asked, "Did you see this documentary on Ernst Haeckel [Proteus]?" He was this 19th century scientist who saw synchronicity in organic life forms. It was really small things in the sea that have their own little shells. There are all of these incredible designs on the shells. Haeckel had become obsessed with this as an example that God had existed in the universe because how could you have this level of biodiversity otherwise? When I saw Sean's proposal, I automatically assumed he saw this documentary. He hadn't seen it, but so much of what he had reminded me of that kind of thinking. So much of the album is based on similar thinking that I thought, "This is total synchronicity, and it makes sense".

    You mentioned there's a theme of isolation in Oceania. It's interesting that you take a record with this theme and bring it to life in a setting of thousands of people.

    Well, what have people said through the years? You never feel more alone than in a room full of strangers. There's something to be said about making art in amongst people you don't know. Something wonderful can happen or it can be very alienating. Personally, I don't draw those kinds of parallels to the themes of the album versus the audience. I'm long past thinking that far down the road. Generally speaking, people come to see something happen whether it's internally or externally. If you give it to them at a level of satisfaction and, if they're not, they tend to throw things [Laughs].

    Do the songs have a different vigor live?

    Quite honestly, the recording process for Oceaniawas so complex and layered as far as the guitars go, there's actually very little variation from the album to the gig. That surprised me because, generally speaking, all Pumpkins songs tend to go through a morphing process. We found, once we played the songs live, we were actually pretty satisfied with how they'd been worked out in the studio. Most of the songs are fairly and accurately recreated. That being said, how you lean into certain parts creates different emotional templates night to night. There is that. We've been able to focus it almost like a theatrical production where you can deliver a consistent performance. In doing that, the portrayal of the album is actually fairly consistent. Considering what we're trying to do, it's really helpful.

    How do the elements on the stage reflect what you're doing musically?

    I don't think it's any direct. I can talk a little bit about the process. Somewhere about a year ago, our lighting ago showed me some stuff deadmau5 was doing with 3D mapping, but it was on a flat surface. It looked like it was three-dimensional though. I wanted something with actual depth. In my mind, this goes back to an idea I had five years ago where it looked like our drummer was playing on top of the sun. We talked about that in staging, and it proved to be quite difficult. For this, we talked about actually playing on the sun or in front of the sun. I thought it'd be LED technology. Ultimately, it came up that'd work better if we used projection. The projectors are stronger now. After about 400 conversations, we developed new technology to do what I'd envisioned. We're proud of that because it's rare that you can offer something that's never been seen before.

    Rick Florino

    Watch more with Billy Corgan below!

    Get tickets for the tour's presale here!

    Exclusive presale for Citi Pass members here!

    Will you be attending the tour? What was your favorite show?

    See our review of the Pisces Iscariot reissue here!

    The Smashing Pumpkins featured in our "Bands Who Survived the '90s" piece!

    See our review of Oceania here!

    See our interview with Billy Corgan here!

    See Billy Corgan list some favorite authors here!

    See Billy Corgan list some favorite metal records here!

    See our retrospective on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness here!

    "Like" ARTISTdirect on facebook to get more news and info on Smashing Pumpkins

    Tags: Smashing Pumpkins, Roger Waters, Deadmau5

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