Billy, how did you work with Sierra’s demos in deciding what instrumentation the songs needed?
Corgan: “She encouraged me to do whatever I thought was best. It’s not that she wasn’t interested; she was actually very, very engaged. Much like me, she grew up with a musical tradition, so we connect on that. Having fathers who are both professional musicians really brings a different air on how to approach music that’s different from maybe somebody who grew up wanting to be a musician. So Sierra deferred that to me, not out of weakness but more from ‘I’ve done my part. Now you do yours.’
“The demos showed me what to do. I wanted to retain the blunt power and get the most out of what was already there. In some cases, if I thought a song was going to be acoustic with no backing, she would put some drums on it – I’d come in, hear it, and I thought it worked. Other times, she put drums on songs and I thought something got lost.”
It’s interesting: You say that your version of production is very particular, but to my ears, what you did on Sierra’s album is quite invisible. It certainly doesn’t sound like “Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins.”
Corgan: “A lot of the guitar playing and bass playing is Sierra.
Swan: “Billy did play on the record too, but he didn’t play like people probably expect he would; he didn’t sound like The Smashing Pumpkins. Maybe on The Day, when that distortion comes into the chorus, that’s where you hear it and go, ‘Oh, yeah, that sounds like him.’ He kept his instrumental parts low-key.”
Corgan: “Again, I defer to Sierra’s wisdom. My job was to enhance what she was doing without putting myself overtop it or taking away anything. That’s why I thought I could produce it. See, most artists, whether they’re conscious of it or not – and I include myself in this category – operate from a place of weakness. Most great rock ‘n’ roll comes from a desperation – a need to communicate or a new breakthrough.
“Over the last 20 years, though, we’ve seen rock ‘n’ roll fall into these comfortable zones – comfortable chord changes, comfortable styles of production. There’s the snare sound, there’s the bass drum sound. It’s very hard for a lot of musicians to get out of those comfort zones, and being an artist myself, I know it’s not a matter of just saying, ‘Let’s be radical.’”