June 3rd, 2011

the real frontman

Written to you from a not-so distant shore...

We are now in our fourth week of working on the record, aptly dubbed, for reasons too numerous to count, 'Oceania'. Luckily for all of us it rolls off the tongue easier than say Teargarden by Kaelidyscope. I have seen some professed confusion here and there about how Oceania may fit into Teargarden as a whole and my answer to that would be 'quite nicely, thank you'!

Teargarden was conceived in my head and heart as a documented journey of faith. Where it differentiates from the classic album model is that it is an attempt to capture an arc of expression as opposed to the just result of a foregone conclusion. Teargarden is about the confusion that comes from asking a very real question;, 'how do you make something work that appears to all to be broken?'

I myself feel quite whole and happy in my life, and would love to find once again the magic within/without, without, mind you, the classic costs associated with successful rock and roll. If I once made a strong sound from a place of existential pain and self-loathing theatricality, certainly success would now be to make fantastic music from a healed heart. So 'Oceania' is that next step in my own journey to see if I can actually pull that trick off. In order for me to have taken that first step, I had to start off from a real place of inner truth.

So a year and a half ago, drummer Mike Byrne, bassist Mark Tulin, producers Kerry Brown and Bjorn Thorsrud and I took those first glances into the void, as friends and brothers . Because I was so uncertain as to where it all went, I made no promises to myself that there would ever come the day of another Pumpkins release, much less a stage show to follow. It was for me an all-or-nothing proposition to try to pick back up the real pieces; if there were even any to pick back up. I was certainly focused in those first days of recording on the core feeling behind what we were doing than the actual results. That is not to say I do not embrace that music, for each song is loved by me.

This thinking would have been impossible for me 20 years ago, as success was measured for me on someone else's value system, and not my own. I was willing then to willingly submit myself to that system to get what I wanted, which was frankly to be heard. Ahh, the wonderful, vain dreams of a young man. I am lucky now to be surrounded by so much love and support in the group and in my life. Whatever comes as the result of this union is far better in my eyes now than chasing that old kind of success, for to me that type of success gained at such a high cost would no longer be success at all.

And with that preamble, an update: So far, we have laid down the drums for 13 songs, one of which we choose to take off, so that leaves us with 12. Until we get into finishing each one that may be the final number or less I'm guessing. This also doesn't preclude me writing a new song that would be easier to record without drums, or having to wait to cut it when Mike would come back out towards the end of the process to add backing vocals. Putting myself back into 'album thinking' as opposed to 'song at a time thinking' has pushed me to write some really strong songs that fit together as a whole. I know I am prone to grandiose hyperbole at times but I feel this is as strong a batch of Pumpkins songs as I have written for a very, very long time. These songs have come from a place that has laid long dormant within me, and quite honestly I wasn't sure I would ever come into contact with ever again. It has surprised me that that young voice is as strong as ever, and was just waiting for the perfect moment to come back and assert some authority. It has honestly taken this circuitous journey, and this wonderful band, for me to feel safe enough again to open back up with joy.

So it's now Nicole's turn to put down all her bass parts. Because we tracked live together, Nicole has had time to really work on her parts, which are complex and at times dizzying. I am always thrilled with how she re-interprets my progressions and hands them back to me sort-of upside down. Mike did a fantastic job playing on these songs, his strongest drumming yet, as he is coming into his own style and still wrapping his head around the complex dynamic shades of SP. Because the sound of this record from a guitar standpoint with be a hazy and clear wall of loud guitars, our next few days will be focused on getting a unique bass sound that will ring through the big wall so all of Nicole's wonderful parts can be heard. I'm really excited as this record will afford some really inventive, progressive, and flat-out cool guitar stuff, hence the need for a new fuzz thanks to Devi Ever and the dusting off from the closet of some of ye' olde pedals.

I know that there are so many Smashing Pumpkins fans out there rooting for us to get this right, to make really emotional, beautiful, and epic music together. Those of you that have kept their faith in me, and opened their arms to Jeff, Nicole, and Mike have inspired us to reach just that little deeper than maybe we would left to our own devices. It is that Love that pushes us, and nothing else.