Oceania is the new album by The Smashing Pumpkins, out June 19 via Martha’s Music/EMI Label Services/Caroline Distribution. The hauntingly beautiful album cover image (above) was photographed by Richard Shay, son of Chicago legend Art Shay.
Oceania was recorded at singer/guitarist Billy Corgan’s private studio in Chicago with his bandmates: guitarist Jeff Schroeder, drummer Mike Byrne and bassist/vocalist Nicole Fiorentino. The powerful 13-song collection (see track listing below) was produced by Corgan and Bjorn Thorsrud and mixed by David Bottrill. Marking The Smashing Pumpkins’ 7th studio record, it is “an album within an album,” part of their 44-song work-in-progress Teargarden By Kaleidyscope.
Oceania was created by the band as a true album experience for listeners to fully immerse themselves in the songs and musical performances. For its release, the band is making the best efforts for all the fans to hear it at the same time as press or radio. In 2012, The Pumpkins will perform Oceania in full at their solo shows worldwide, backed by visuals prepared by Sean Evans, whose most recent work was assisting Roger Waters on the newest staging of “The Wall.” The Pumpkins will be using new technology in video mapping to create something new and previously unseen. For the second half of the show, The Pumpkins will perform classics from their body of work.
Q&A with Billy Corgan About the Making of ‘Oceania’
Can you talk about how the recording of Oceania may have differed in any way from previous Smashing Pumpkins albums?
We worked for a time in an empty movie theatre in Sedona during the winter months of early 2011, sketching out some primary versions of the songs while trying to dial in the emotional terrain we were seeking. In that kind of process it wasn’t that unusual from past records where I’d worked with a band as a unit to help me define a set of templates to work towards. We’d just come off the road, and had a good sense of what was no longer working in our eyes from a dynamic point of view. We worked hard to create space in the music, but not lose any of the emotive power that I like to have behind my songs.
You finished Oceania before deciding to team up with EMI Label Services/Caroline Distribution, so that would mean you were completely artistically free to create the album you wanted to make. Want to tell us about your creative mind-set during the recording?
From a production standpoint I was dead set on making an album where every song was just as valuable as any other, ignoring the typical claptrap you hear about needing a single. The only way to make the case that every song on Oceania is worth hearing is to put your heart into the sequence as a cohesive whole. Once we felt we’d achieved that balance, only then did we let anyone outside our world hear the record we’d made. The chance to work within the EMI system again felt right to me. But unlike years in the past where I was under a set contract and beholden to a set of external forces which didn’t always fall in our favor, in this set-up they are now our partners in putting Oceania out to a wider marketplace than we could reach on our own.
What do you feel your bandmates have added to the album?
I’ve been adamant in stressing that as a group, first and foremost, we are here to make new music together. I’m proud to say that on Oceania I feel we’ve cut our own path forward. Jeff, Mike, and Nicole have all made significant contributions to the tone and texture of Oceania, which is an album that is unlike any I’ve ever made. Yet at the same time I believe it upholds the same musical values I’ve always pushed for with The Pumpkins, be they progressive, emotional, epic, or restless.
Do you feel the recording of the album benefitted by the band having played some of these songs on the road first?
If we’ve learned anything from playing as an intact unit now for over two years, it’s that unless we create our own sound and our own legacy, it’s a given that people will default to what they know; whether it’s my past or someone else’s. We know we have much more in us to share than being an alluring, virtual jukebox. Being in The Pumpkins will always be defined by what we can create from our hands and hearts right now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.