Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan’s solo debut, “TheFutureEmbrace,” hits stores today (June 21). But fans in his hometown of Chicago were greeted with a full-page ad in this morning’s Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times announcing the artist’s intentions to “renew and revive” the Pumpkins, more than four years after the seminal alternative rock act’s final show.
“I want my band back, and my songs, and my dreams,” Corgan wrote, but revealed no further details about which, if any, original members would be involved.
The Pumpkins — Corgan, guitarist James Iha, bassist D’arcy Wretzky (who was eventually replaced by Melissa Auf Der Maur) and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin — split after a Dec. 2, 2000, show at Chicago’s Metro. The band issued five studio albums that spawned such enduring rock radio staples as “Disarm,” “Today,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “1979.”
But the Pumpkins’ power struggles frequently threatened its survival, as Corgan was reported to have erased his bandmates’ parts during the sessions for the 1993 album “Siamese Dream” in favor of re-recording them on his own.
Throughout the Pumpkins’ career, Corgan’s giant ambition proved a mixed blessing. Although the band’s sprawling 1995 double-album “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness” debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and sold 4.7 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the 1996 tour in support of the project nearly signaled the Pumpkins’ demise.
On July 12, 1996, touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin was found dead of a heroin overdose after shooting up with Chamberlin. Chamberlin was quickly fired from the group and replaced onstage and in the studio by a host of skinsmen, including Filter’s Matt Walker and Kenny Aronoff of John Mellencamp’s band.
After the frosty reception to 1998’s atmospheric, largely electronic “Adore,” the Pumpkins welcomed Chamberlin back into the band on a spring 1999 club tour. Corgan publicly asserted that the band’s next album would return to the aggressive rock of albums past, and although 2000’s “MACHINA/the machines of god” more or less made good on his claim, the set stiffed at retail, selling just 583,000 copies to date. Prior to its release, Wretzky exited the band to pursue an acting career.
In early 2004, Corgan took to his official Web site to speak candidly about the band’s split, admitting he regretted initially blaming the breakup on “fighting the good fight against the Britneys of the world.”
“By saying that, I was seen as someone who was crying foul, taking his ball and going home, which was sad, ’cause it wasn’t true at all,” he said. “The truth of the matter is that James Iha broke up the Smashing Pumpkins. Not me, not Jimmy, but James. Did it help that D’arcy was fired for being a mean-spirited drug addict, who refused to get help? No, that didn’t help keep the band together, not at all.”
The artist said he would have liked to press on with the Pumpkins, which he described as “essentially my entire life… a dream I still believe in. Many friends at the time suggested letting James leave, so Jimmy and I could continue on under the name. But I was too loyal to the man I had started the whole thing with, and so I protected him until the very end.”
Corgan was particularly saddened after Iha left the band’s final show “without saying goodbye to the two people he had won and lost and traveled the world with. So, I won’t be protecting him anymore and I won’t be protecting a whole lot of other people anymore.”
Corgan formed Zwan in 2001 with Chamberlin, ex-Chavez guitarist Matt Sweeney, guitarist David Pajo (Slint, Papa M) and bassist Paz Lenchantin, but that group also fell apart following the release of its lone album, “Mary Star of the Sea.” Corgan has repeatedly bashed the other group members in recent interviews, telling the Tribune, “I got snookered in by really bad people.”