Making albums is, of course a sea change for Corgan and the current lineup of the Pumpkins, who were in the midst rolling out songs in small groups, mostly via download, for their ambitious "Teargarden By Kaleidyscope," which proved not as effective as he hoped. The good news, Corgan says, is that by releasing albums "when we go into these concert halls now, people know the album, so I guess that makes it worth it."
But that hasn't entirely rekindled his enthusiasm for the form.
"In fact, I kind of dread it because I think it's a lot of energy for not a lot of return," he explains. "I mean, what are great sales today? At least back in the day, it was like a million, two million -- at least people were listening to it. Now you sell 100,000, and for all you know two million people are listening to it but you don't see it. You don't get the reward for it. The business treats you like shit if you don't do certain numbers. You can't get played on the radio 'cause the guy in the nameless band is outselling you. I really wish someone had come up with an (alternative), but I don't know what supplants it. It's all very mystifying."
The silver lining, Corgan acknowledges, is that thanks to "Oceania" -- which has sold 102,000 copies according to SoundScan and debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in June -- the Pumpkins "have a lot of good energy around us now. This is the best energy that's been around the Smashing Pumpkins since probably '97."
The group is prepping for a 14-date U.S. tour that kicks off Oct. 10 in Everett, Wash., playing "Oceania" in its entirety as well as a selection of older material that Corgan says "is related to 'Oceania.' We come off 'Oceania' with this vibe in the room, so it's like 'What do we play that makes sense?' It's not just 'Oceania' and the greatest hits. It's more of a theatrical night, honestly."
The show also features visuals by Sean Evans, who worked with Roger Waters on his recent touring production of Pink Floyd's "The Wall." The centerpiece of the Pumpkins show is a 25-foot sphere that features projected images throughout the show.
"We had to almost invent new technology to be able to project onto a sphere," Corgan says, "because I had in my mind that I wanted to do a three-dimensional sphere, and everyone kept saying 'You can't do that. The images will warp.' They actually invented computer technology to kind of alter the images so they don't warp on the sphere. It's pretty wild. So far we've done it five or six times, and it feels different, too. It doesn't feel like a normal concert. The concentration level's like doing a play or something. We're really enjoying that part of it, but it's a big challenge."
Prior to the tour, Corgan will be opening a new tea house, Zuzu, in the Highland Park suburb of Chicago. He's also continuing work on a "spiritual memoir" that he says "has plenty of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll but isn't a rock 'n' roll autobiography."