Billy Corgan (billycorgan) wrote,
Billy Corgan

Way Out in Outpost Canyon.

We rent a house in the Hollywood hills in Outpost Canyon, a beautiful Spanish-style hacienda spread with a big pool, that overlooks all of the city in breathless fashion…the idea is we will all live under one roof, and thereby be together, have ‘good times’ (grow closer, perhaps), and make a great album…but already there is a problem…James refuses to live in the house…the house as it stands is me and my girlfriend, D’arcy, Gooch (our trusted tour manager), Matt, and Bjorn…I beg James to stay with us, feeling really offended that he won’t…to me this is a sign of his continuing disloyalty (and distancing)…not to mention- why are we finding out that this is an issue once we get to L.A?…he wants to stay in a hotel, and makes a bunch of lame excuses why he “can’t” or “won’t” stay with us…D’arcy, as usual, takes his side in the matter, saying she doesn’t care what the additional expense will be, and, if it makes James more comfortable, than that is what she cares about…D’arcy, to this point in the music sessions of the album, has been virtually non-existent beyond the original demos…it is not a matter of anyone’s fault, so much as it is my distrust of her in the studio coupled with her apparent slow descent into insanity and/or drugs (take your pick)…James takes a “call me if you need me” approach for recording, and his breaking away as usual (from the group) to stay somewhere else from us furthers the feeling that I already have that I really don’t need him…Kerry, D’arcy’s husband, comes and goes to the house, but there is definitely something going on between them that doesn’t look (from the outside) like happiness...

We are recording at Sunset Sound, a famed studio on Sunset Boulevard where the Doors recorded their first album (a huge influence on me, so I take this to be a good sign)…the room we are in every day is where Van Halen did their first 3 records (another good sign)…I am now the de-facto producer, so it’s me, Bjorn on pro-tools, and an engineer from L.A., Howard, who will man the board, etc…Howard, though a bit conservative (he doesn’t like Led Zeppelin!!!) turns out to be a good guy, and a friend in the end, so he and Bjorn form a sort of support team…(they believe in what I am doing, and encourage me a lot in the months to come)…the band sets up work on a song that will ultimately be called “once upon a time”…the band is in a circle (which is how we usually work), with me facing the drums…right away, I zero in on Matt…I want him to be “Jimmy”, and lift this song higher…he is capable of doing this on his own (in his own way), but unfortunately I want him to be Jimmy, to play just how Jimmy would play…this creates an impossible dynamic…without realizing it before, or admitting it openly (even to myself), I want Jimmy to come back…but I have stubbornly backed myself into a corner…when we (the band) fired Jimmy, just days after the fateful overdose that left him facing prosecution (and Jonathon dead), we had talked amongst ourselves that it would only be a temporary thing…I said “let him sit and clean himself up for 6 months, and then he can come back”…James and D’arcy both agreed this was the best idea…the plan was never, ever to fire him FOREVER…the honest reason we had taken such a hard stand publicly is we wanted and needed Jimmy to believe that there was no coming back…this way (we figured) he wouldn’t just stall for time, or tell us what we wanted to hear like all the times before (hence the dramatic interviews and quotes of “never, never, ever”-essentially we lied to the whole world!)…we figured that he would clean himself up (rehab, therapy), call us up to apologize, ask to come back, and then the door would swing open and we would be there with open arms… but sadly that didn’t happen…as we toured without Jimmy to finish the remaining Mellon Collie dates, our own bitterness set in (as did his for being abandoned), and of course, he never called (looking now, why would he?)…he did, unknown to me for the most part, stay in touch with Gooch the whole time…if I had once found the courage to tell him the “truth/lie” of his firing, (which was more like a suspension) this all could have been averted, and he would have been sitting in front of me listening to me blab on about the arrangement of this song, etc…I missed him badly now, and needed his guidance to make this record, but couldn’t bring my pride around to admit that the situation could have been handled a lot better by us (not to mention letting him know that from my heart, he was forgiven)…Matt had done a very admirable job filling in, and now, out of nowhere, I was turning on him for a situation he had no part of (we had even gone so far as to ask him to be a part of the band, figuring at this point Jimmy really wasn’t coming back)…everything that Matt did was suddenly “wrong” in my eyes, and like someone who wants to break up with somebody but doesn’t have the courage to just say ‘I’m done’, I made the situation so miserable for him and me that it became a certain inevitability that he would go…he truly did his best, but I had already made up my heart…and so, within just a few days, maybe a week of starting in L.A., Matt was on a plane back to Chicago…

So far, I had blamed the co-producer, the drummer, my hometown, of course James and D’arcy, and even Jimmy to a certain extent for putting me in this fucked position… I was losing the ability to just keep chewing up ground without paying any kind of toll… I refuse to really see what I am really doing to myself, the band, and everyone around me…the studio becomes a fortress, where I just shut the door for 12 hours and close the world out…all of this stress, and a rising conflict about where we were now headed, starts to bleed heavily into my relationship with my partner…we start fighting all the time, usually when I come home at night… I am trapped, but I refuse to give up…the very act of making this record (and writing these sad songs) is really one of the most painful experiences of my life…on the other side of me (and the album) was all of the “thems theys”, which turned out to be whoever didn’t understand or agree with what I am trying to do…what I really need is help, not on the album, but for me…I drew the circle around me, and pushed everyone out…

So we find ourselves back to where it had essentially begun in 1988, which was the 3 of us and a drum machine… before Jimmy had ever joined the band, we had played about 12-15 shows as a 3 piece (with drums I programmed to sound like a “real” drummer)…so I try to put a positive spin and say “great, let’s just go back to the way we used to work in the old days”…it doesn’t feel that unnatural, as everyone sorta falls into their old roles… I think that maybe this truly is a return to our roots, not just sonically, but emotionally as well…James and D’arcy seem fine with the idea, and no talk of Jimmy coming back is ever raised during the remainder of the sessions…

The first song we tackle (post-Matt) is one I had just written, first thing in the morning…by the time we finish recording it, the song will not yet be 3 hours old…I get to the studio, and program a very basic beat into my drum machine (the same lucky beatbox we used on ‘1979’)… the 3 of us play live out in the room as I sing the frosty, ghost vocals into a mike that is usually used for recording guitars…the song is called “shame”, and I repeat this word over and over again, stuttering (ala “Changes” by Bowie or “My Generation” by The Who)…we only play the song 2 times for practice (not even all the way thru), and I yell “roll it”, wait for the signal (a thumbs up from Howard, we’re rolling) and press ‘start’ on the drum machine…*ba-ba boom, ba-ba boom*…D’arcy’s bass starts out first, and is immediately out of tune…I wait, and then my guitar slowly chimes in, loaded with delays as James uses a device that makes his guitar sustain forever (like a violin)…I am playing a rare maple-necked Jaguar, and the sound is thin and achy…I am singing for my life, so raw is my being now that goose bumps cover my whole body…it is fear and ecstasy all rolled together, and it engulfs me…the band of 3 feel unified, molten, rides the vision slow…this is the sound you can only get when you have played for so many years together that you play a sort of “in time, out of time” feel…if you were to isolate each instrument on it’s own, you would probably say that no one is playing particularly well at all…but somehow together, we create a flying alchemical sound of transformation, and we think little of it as this magic trick has happened so many times… the lyrics are a sketch, scrawled on a piece of loose paper, and I am not even sure what I am singing about as I voice them, but I reach for each word like a prayer… it is like a watching a movie that you have created but you do not know how it will all end…the music, the song seems to go on forever, and you hope silently that you do not make a mistake that will break the spell…and then, fade, it’s over…there is uncomfortable silence between us as the ghost leaves the room…everyone unknowingly returns to the role they are supposed to play in this story…but in that moment gone, we are one…
Tags: 1997, confessions
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