Next LP 'A Smash' Says Pumpkin Leader
Says album of 'dark L.A.' tunes, some of which he helped write, is not heavy but rocks.
Staff Writer Chris Nelson reports:
It's hard to imagine rock visionary Billy Corgan as proud of anything as he is of his beloved Smashing Pumpkins.
But then again, that's because the world has yet to hear Celebrity Skin, the forthcoming and oft-delayed Hole record for which the Pumpkins leader co-wrote and arranged a handful of songs.
"I thought the album was a smash and I still think that," the 31-year-old Corgan said in an interview with SonicNet Music News in late April. "It's gonna be a fantastic album."
The Pumpkins' guitarist, singer and songwriter, who said his
contributions to the upcoming Hole record helped bring out the
music's strength, characterized the sound of Celebrity Skin
(Sept. 8) as a departure for the band. "It's dark
L.A.," he said during an interview at his band's rehearsal
space in Chicago. "That's what [Hole leader Courtney Love]
said she wanted and that's what I helped give her. It probably
rocks as much as [the Smashing Pumpkins' recently released] Adore
rocks, but it's definitely not heavy."
Despite his glowing admiration for the disc, however, Corgan's precise role in the album recently raised the ire of the irascible Love. After learning that Corgan offhandedly referred to himself as the "Svengali" behind the disc in the British magazine Select, Love fired off a statement this week to USA Today strictly delineating Corgan's role as the co-writer of five songs on the album.
"I feel it's silly and somewhat sexist to credit Billy Corgan with things Billy Corgan did not do based on the assumption that accomplished male musicians are somehow superior to accomplished female musicians," wrote Love, Hole's founder, singer and guitarist.
Far from seeming peacockish, however, Corgan appeared genuinely proud to have lent a hand on an album that he said he believes is a bona fide hit. "Originally, I was helping shape the album, shape the songs they had," Corgan said, his face close to beaming when the subject of Hole was raised. "Then I ended up writing some songs and I felt really, really strongly about the material that they'd come up with and I'd come up with."
As it turns out, Love actually had not read the full Select story when she issued her missive, said Jim Merlis, a spokesman for Geffen Records, for which Hole record. "Now that she's seen it, she realizes that's just the way Billy is," Merlis said, referring to Corgan's penchant for impassioned, if sometimes exaggerated, speech, often delivered with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.
"She's not mad at him anymore," Merlis said.
While Merlis said he's yet to see a complete track and credit listing for the album, Love has said that Corgan co-wrote five of Celebrity Skin's final dozen cuts with her and Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson. More material may surface as B-sides, however, as Corgan said he had a hand in penning seven of 15 songs that the group hashed out altogether. He worked on 13 of those as an arranger.
Corgan himself appears honored to have played his role, even if it wasn't quite Svengalian. "I'm very proud of the work that I did with Courtney and Eric on the Hole record, because I feel I really helped bring out the strength of their music and I think it'll really show," he said.
The recent songwriting flare-up came after years of unproven rumors that Love's husband, the late Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain, had taken a substantial role in crafting the songs for Hole's 1994 breakthrough album, Live Through This, which included the hit single "Doll Parts" (RealAudio excerpt). Love consistently has denied such allegations. The tracks for that smash album and Hole's less popular debut, Pretty on the Inside (1991), are credited to the group.
In her statement to USA Today, Love said publishing rights to the new, co-written songs are split, but "Obviously, 100 percent of the lyrics are mine, as always."
"I thought Hole's first record was brilliant in its brutality," said Corgan, whose Pumpkins currently are touring in support of their latest album, Adore. "And I thought that Live Through This has some amazing songs, but some of the grungy kind-of stuff was past its due date. But it was almost reactionary, like, 'We have to do grunge.'
"This album has nothing reactionary on it ... It's a musical album that defines itself," Corgan said. "The times don't define the album -- the album defines the times."