Over the years, Billy Corgan has gotten used to taking his lumps. Coming off the critical and commercial high of 1995's Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, he released a string of albums, Pumpkins and otherwise, that were met with varying degrees of hostile scrutiny.
Corgan lists them all in order: "Adore, Machina, [Zwan’s] Mary Star Of The Sea, The Future Embrace and Zeitgeist. That’s five albums since Mellon Collie, and each time I had to hear, ‘It’s not what I want. It’s too this, it’s not enough that, blah blah blah…’
“Also, for the past 15 years, I’ve sat back and seen a lot of people I don’t respect get incredible reviews for making the same album every fucking time. It’s a bit daunting when you’re trying to be a progressive musical artist and you don’t even get points for trying. So I guess if I keep making Today and Bullet With Butterfly Wings then I’d be good, right? That’s the message I’ve gotten.”
Refusing to give in and deliver an image - and product - that a lesser artist might want his public to believe in or accept, Corgan has chosen the harder route: he's surrendered to his heart's most urgent commands and crafted Oceania, an album concerning his feelings about life. And in doing so, he's created a record of matchless beauty that stands among his best work.
Recording during the midst of the adventurous, expansive Teargarden By Kaleidyscope project, Oceania is the first full album - an album-within-an-album, as it's sill part of the Teargarden narrative - to feature Pumpkins members Jeff Schroeder (guitar), Nicole Fiorentino (bass) and Mike Byrne (drums), all of whom establish themselves as vital players.
Regarding the process of working with his new lineup, Corgan says, "At the risk of sounding ironic, it’s a more sober atmosphere, and probably a bit more studious. Because I don’t have to deal with some of the sub-politics that I had to in the past, I can be very clear: ‘This is what I need. This is what I’m looking for.’ We work very effectively like that because everything is right up front. You’re not dealing with some sort of weird, bruised egos.”
Corgan has heard the early, enthusiastic buzz about Oceania, and after being slammed for so long, he admits that the glowing notices are “a bit weird. It’s like being told over and over again that you’re ugly. The first person who says, ‘You’re beautiful,’ it makes you think, Uhhh, are you sure your glasses are all right? So it’s strange. I’m just not geared to thinking that way anymore."
But he's in a good place, especially as far as the new group (if you can still call them that) is concerned. Oceania isn't even out yet (it streets 19 June), and already, Corgan says, he and the band are talking about making another. "A double," he says with a laugh. "See, there's the insanity, right?"
On the following pages, Billy Corgan walks us through the grand and glorious Oceania track-by-track.