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April 12th, 2005

Starcrossed, and subsequently, a door is opened (1997) [Apr. 12th, 2005|10:48 am]
Billy Corgan
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After the mind numbing blast that was the Mellon Collie tour (playing to well over a million people, death, destruction, controversy, infinite sorrows, tears, the ultimate success, the most simple failures), I am completely, utterly drained…all the things I had been putting off facing emotionally (as I “allowed” myself to get lost in the glare of success after unprecedented success) came around not so quietly and demanded I deal with them RIGHT NOW!!!!: so, of course, I ignore it…from Jimmy’s firing (and the loss of my best friend and musical soul mate in the band), to my separation from my wife, the untimely death of my mother, and musical burnout (writing and recording over 50+ songs in such a short time, not to mention all the shows around the world), I had built a highway over these traumas and planned to just keep on moving (it had been a effective strategy for the past 10 years, so why not now?)…I had stopped seeing the therapist that I had worked with since ’94 (somewhere in the midst of the tour), and instead of reaching out to anyone, I just go further and further inward…my “life” is now one series of “events” after another…basketball finals, art openings, vacations, parties, and more parties, and of course, the “famous” people dinner (you + 3 other famous people and all their peoples)…I am photographed anywhere I go, supporting my self-delusion that if I am important, I must know what I am doing (very sad logic indeed!)…

To escape, I start taking ecstasy in copious quantities, and because I have an allergy to alcohol, take lots and lots of pills, pills, and more pills (downers are like speed to my system, they calm me down and wake me up)…the very idea of standing in the practice space and playing rock riffs makes me sad and sick to my stomach…I don’t so much want to make music for what I am dealing with inside as much as what I am dealing with inside only leaves me wanting to make mournful music, or better yet, no music at all…old, dear friends plead with me to take some time off…but I do not know what to do with myself…music is my way of coping with my feelings, but making music forces me to deal with situations, people, and places I am not always prepared to face…I hole up in my Victorian house in Chicago, and get to work…it eases my mind to stay busy…I mostly just sit around, play acoustic guitar, watch t.v., and write what I call “little” songs…simple songs that don’t need the power of the band behind them…I have a spare bedroom upstairs in the back that I use to make demos…the songs have sort of a lazy charm, I like them, and they gently touch at what I am trying to say (which is to try to find some hope in all this buried pain)…I’m supposed to be happy, I am on top of the world (materially speaking), and yet I feel like a deposed king, as if I am no longer running my kingdom, but instead it is running me…I really have become a ‘rat in the cage’…fans sit outside my house and wait for me at all hours of the day…sometimes people sneak up on me from behind bushes…I have 3 stalkers, one who rights letters about how he dreams at night of me raping him (we have to call the police)…people fuck on my lawn (and brag about it to other fans), steal my garbage and post the contents on the internet, or, ha-ha-ha, smash pumpkins on my porch…I have the constant feeling people are watching me in my house… I try at all times to avoid the windows, or I pull my shades down on sunny days…it feels like a state of siege, and I try to just stay numb as best I know how…work is the one place I feel safe…

James, D’arcy, and I go in to Chicago Recording Company with Matt Walker on drums, and over about 3-4 days quickly lay down some of my new tunes…(the Adore album version of “Annie-dog” is recorded live in these sessions, as is the first run thru of “for Martha” without the lyrics)…James and D’arcy and Matt play really great (we record live), and seem to like and appreciate the new songs…the lack of any outside pressures, the laid back atmosphere, seem to suit everyone’s mood and we are optimistic that this is going to be a quicker, less painful album to make (my original estimate was it would take all of 6 weeks to record Adore-Mellon Collie had taken 8 months)…buoyed by the latest work, I make plans to start the album “for real”…I want everything to be recorded live, or if not totally live, be done really quickly…I am inspired by Bob Dylan’s approach from the 1960’s where you just when in and did your songs really fast (1 or 2 takes)…I tell myself this is what has been missing from the band, this sense of freedom and spontanaiety…

My girlfriend and I decide to take a vacation to the Bahamas…as we sit in the shade at the beach, all I can talk about is the kind of album I want to make, and how I feel unsure if it is such a good idea…the demo sessions (even though I was happy with them) hinted at a softer, more acoustic approach, which in and of itself is not that radical of an idea…my mind, working overtime, wonders if the new music is not progressive enough (one of the main charters for the band, to push ahead ceaselessly)…always having had an interest in electronic music, I can hear in my head a new melding of the two feelings (acoustic and electronic)…this excites me as a new direction, but at the same time, something in my gut tells me it isn’t such a good idea…I can’t make up my mind, so I keep talking about what I should do…my girlfriend grows tired of hearing me drone on about it, until finally she snaps, yelling at me that if it is what I want to do it that I should just do it or stop talking about it…without pausing for a second, I say “alright, I will do it”, and the matter is made up in my mind for good… in my messed thinking, I figure I will make this grand anti-statement against the grand statement I just finished making on the last record… this is totally dysfunctional logic, and without realizing it, I am preparing for yet another suicide…except this one will be career suicide…it will prove to be my way to shatter everything around me…(and in that way, it will prove to be a total success)…

I take a planned trip to Istanbul, Turkey…without doing any research, I have decided to come here just on a gut feeling that this is somewhere I should visit…I am not sure why I must come, I just trust that I must…my girlfriend comes with me, and we check into a 5 star hotel, which unknown to me before I arrive, is located in a former prison where they used to torture people (famously portrayed in the 70’s movie ‘Midnight Express’)…bad omen ..1 of 47…the city, formerly known as Constantinople, was once the crossroads of the world, and the capital of the Holy Roman Empire…the architecture is incredible, and the history breathtaking…there is only one problem…the people are generally horrible to us (this is pre 9/11)…everywhere we go we are met with racist anti-American sentiments…of course, some people are warm and friendly, and we even make friends with a restauranteur who shows us around (he recognized me, a bet my girlfriend lost when she bet no one would recognize me in Turkey the whole time…a bet she lost 4 hours after our arrival in the country)…but overall, the feeling is one of menace, that constant feeling that you are not welcome…food is shoved at us, men grab their dicks and make leering comments to my partner, and she is even physically attacked on the street by someone for no reason…it is a nightmare vacation…I withdraw, and don’t want to even leave the hotel room…for the life of me, I cannot figure out why have brought us here…

Each morning at 4:45 is the first call to prayer…the hotel is located just next to the Haga Sophia, which is one of the most famous mosques in the world…so it figures that the man doing the sing-song call to prayer in the morning would be one of the best in the land…it is so hard to describe, but this man singing is like Jimi Hendrix (playing the national anthem) with his voice…when he starts up, so do another 100 mosques as well…the whole city lights up with sound, and in my half-awake state, feel this man singing (to me right) thru my soul…he is distorting his voice with the colour of 2,000 years…and then it hits me, the sound I am seeking for the record…the ancient sound of life and love mixed with a overloaded distortion that is earthen…the sound of this man singing becomes my template for the sound of Adore…now I know why we are here…

We are having such a rotten time that we decide to cut our trip short…our flight out is in the afternoon, so we get up early, take all the dishes and other goodies we had bought at the ancient market to the front desk (to be shipped back home), and hit the town one last time…we have put off Haga Sophia until the end, because being the most famous destination, figure it will also be the most crowded…as we are walking into the mosque complex, I am verbally attacked by a street vendor for refusing to acknowledge his sales pitch (in various languages no less)…”yankee go home, fuck you, fuck America…American piece-a-shit”…after 10 days of this nonsense, I snap, and am ready to punch this guys lights out…suddenly, it is me and 4 of his friends…things get really out of hand, and as we go inside I can’t even enjoy the immense beauty of the place…I am standing at the crossroads of history and all I can think about is how I am gonna get my ass kicked the moment I step out of the door…so much beauty, and so much ugliness…all the warning signs of what is to come are here for me to see…my future, my past, our future, our past, all mixed with my “rockstar” disconnection from reality…sadly, I ignore, or don’t see, all these signs…(when we get back to Chicago, all the dishes arrive shattered into a million pieces)

Supposedly now rested, I foolishly decide we are going to move to a new studio each and every week (6 weeks, 6 studios) to keep things fresh…this means packing up everything and moving guitars, wires, amps, all sorts of shit each time…this in theory sounds good for creativity (the keep it moving theory), but will bring to bear all sorts of technical issues (which prove to really bog the sessions down)…I hire Brad Wood, for co-producer, from his great work on Liz Phair and Red Red Meat, because I think he will help me get the sound I am looking for…everything is set to go, we don’t even rehearse, we are just going to learn the songs on the fly.

The first day we in, I meet the new pro-tools guy, Bjorn (little do I know that we will not only work together on my next 4 albums, but he will also become a close friend)…the first song we are going to record is a beautiful acoustic song that I envision will begin the album…James and D’arcy are not even in the studio when I start working (this is fairly typical)…I have bought an old Martin nylon string guitar just to record this particular tune…however, the guitar won’t tune right, and every time I go to the d chord, the darn thing is out of tune…too late!! Time to record…I decide I am going to record the guitar and vocals live, with no click track…when I start that first take, my whole body is shaking…I have totally put myself on the spot like never before…I feel terrified, like I am going over a cliff, and there is no one here to stop me (or catch me!)…Bjorn later told me that as I was playing, Brad Wood was bragging to him and the other engineers in the control room how much free equipment he had gotten by dropping the Pumpkins name (instead of listening to the take)…when I finished, I asked Brad how it was, he whirred around, pressed the talkback button said “that was great!” (and in that very first hour, we recorded “To Sheila”)

the general idea was a good one, to record one song per day, and in the beginning of the sessions this proved to be exciting and stimulating…I was mostly just working by myself, as it was easier and quicker and less stressful…after so many years of a passive-aggressive relationship of who plays what, and when (and how), James and D’arcy now knew to just get out of my way…Matt was my new partner, and stood by my side a lot as I navigated all these new ideas…he was truly wonderful, and supportive of me, and encouraged me to keep taking chances…The beginning of these sessions felt magical, like a whole new world of possibility had opened up…long before we had even started the album, an electronic song that I had done for the movie “Lost Highway” had been a hit (the song ‘eye’)…this added to the sense that I felt I could do no wrong…everything I touched (for about 5 years) seemed to literally turn to gold…this created a sense that I could do whatever I wanted, , and go wherever I wanted, and now I was going to tackle some sort of futuristic, electronic folk-rock (and it would sell too!)…but as often happens to an idea whose foundation is not based on pure intent, I ran out of gas fairly quickly…I slowly found that Brad, my supposed co-producer, wasn’t contributing much to the songs…I was used to guys like Flood, and Butch, who thought the song you were singing was everything…Brad was more of a “interesting type sounds guy”…and is often the case in the indie world, he was used to using clever production to cover up weak writing…but this left him without the skills to know how to get out of the way when a song was great (which a few of these songs were)…I grew more and more isolated as the days went by…I didn’t have Jimmy there to keep my spirits up (and also take the music to a higher level)…it had become James and D’arcy vs. me in the power department, and their opinion centered more on a “we’re tired, let’s take some time off” vibe than what would be best for the album…instead of taking stock of my own misgivings, or insecurities, I started to look for someone or something to blame for my lack of resolve…the long, slow tailspin started about 2 or 3 weeks in…instead of backing up, and seeing the writing on the wall, I got even more determined and stubborn, and just pressed myself harder…and sadly, stopped listening to anybody…

However, there were times in those first 6 weeks where the hassle was all worth it…the most magical moment of these first sessions came when we were set to record a long instrumental piece, at that time called “48 chords” (notable for the fact that the chord sequence did not uniquely repeat until 48 successive chords were played)…up until that point, I had not dealt with my divorce in any of the new songs, which I thought was odd considering the bitter fallout, but I blamed it on the fact that I was in a fairly new relationship and maybe just didn’t feel like getting into it (my girlfriend at the time forbade me to speak of my marriage)…I woke up early on a crisp, sunny morning, and reeled off a stream of consciousness type poem that seemed very much to deal with my anger towards my ex-wife…this surprised me, but I thought little more of it once I got in the shower…I typed it up, and put it in my pocket thinking I might rip off some of the better lines for a song as yet unwritten…I got to the studio, we miked up the piano, and fairly quickly nailed the long sequence of chords (I kept time by playing to a whole series of delays)…the basic concept is that I would put some guitar and strings over the top of it, creating a piece like something for a movie (one of the original ideas for Adore is that it would sound and feel more like a movie score, with instrumentals interspersed amongst the “sung” songs…) when I went into the control room, for some reason I pulled the poem out of my pocket while the boys were busy doing something technical, I started to sing the lines of the poem without much thought, and it was like something out of a dream…suddenly, the song rushed upon me, coming quicker than I could think it up…I got really excited, and ran out to a vocal microphone…”hurry, hurry, I pleaded”, fearful the feeling and the thought I was in would leave my body and never return…over the next 20 minutes, working line by line, I “laid” out the entire song…sadly, every time I asked Brad a question, he didn’t seem to have a solid answer, or feel as excited as I did about the piece…it was like I was trying to convince somebody their meal tastes better than it does…he just wasn’t “with” me, in lockstep…here I was, having one of the most exciting moments of my recording life, and I feel like I am in a boat by myself in the middle of the ocean…there was no one else to turn to at that moment (again, no band in the studio)…by the time I had finished singing all the lines, I had my mind made up…Brad would have to go…

Feeling restless and uncertain, I start to blame Chicago for the gray clouds hanging over the sessions…maybe it is my past here, far too many shadows and people rooting against me…everywhere I drive in Chicago I am reminded of my many failures…I was already paranoid (from years of self-denial), and couldn’t accept that I was in way over my head…in addition, my girlfriend really disliked Chicago, and didn’t want to spend any time there…I figured that if we all relocated, she would be happier (and come stay with me thru the end of recording)…I could get some support, the band could get some sun, and all would “instantly” improve!…so of all places to get centered, and find the heart of this album, I choose lovely, spiritually grounded Los Angeles, California…(look out Hollywood, here I come)
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