Joining the Klein. Ally. Show. at the KROQ studios in Los Angeles to celebrate 'Beer, Burrito, and Billy Day' is Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins as the band's new rock opera album ATUM gets its full, three-act release.
The Smashing Pumpkins have officially dropped all three acts of their 2023 rock opera album ATUM, with autographed, colored vinyl boxset copies only available via frontman Billy Corgan's Madame ZuZu's. The set has arrived just months before the band hits the road on their The World Is A Vampire Tour, a 26-date North American trek with Interpol, Stone Temple Pilots, and Rival Sons kicking off in Las Vegas on July 28.
After years in the making -- "it might even be five at this point... it's crazy," Billy admits -- The Smashing Pumpkins' three-part Mellon Collie and Machina sequel ATUM is finally here. "I never thought I would make these crazy concept records," he adds, "but it just kind of worked out that way, and it's funny because it's like history repeating itself. 'Mellon Collie,' everyone told us 'don't do it,' and we did it and it was very successful. 'ATUM,' a bunch of people told us 'don't do it,' and it's been very successful. So, it's been a strange journey."
"To our credit, we have never had the 'Yes Man' thing around us -- or I guess these days it would be 'Yes Person,'" Billy says. "We just don't roll that way. We want people to tell us if we're off, we're off. But I always find it the strangest thing when people around you in the business side try to talk you out of making music. That's why I was in a basement listening to Rush and The Cure and playing those songs over and over again. I didn't do that so that one day somebody could sit in an office -- which looks like a white cube -- and tell me, 'Hey, by the way, don't make music.' Well, what am I supposed to do? Go do your wrestling thing, have fun with that."
With such a vivid story being told on ATUM of a future artist being banished by Earth's distrusting government to live a solitary life in space, could there be any possibility of a series? "Oh, I'd love it... You're way ahead of me on that one," Billy admits. "I'm very superstitious -- I can't dream that dream yet because it's like saying it's gonna happen. But I love the question. Gosh, who would be great? Obviously, the main character is based a lot on me but I couldn't do a good job unless say it was animated. Maybe like Ethan Hawke or something?"
Making a new album is "always a bit of a rollercoaster ride," Billy says, relating a very specific story from the making of ATUM. Once the mixing and mastering were being undertaken, "a very nervous time because the files are finally going out to different people and as you can imagine everything these days is digital," a fan had contacted him to let him know that nine of the songs had been leaked. "Six months ago," he adds, "and they were all probably the most catchy, single-y type songs."
"Somehow, some hacker was offering the files for money," Billy explains, "and we were able to trace it, and pay off, and keep it from leaking... and the FBI got involved." Luckily no severed toes (with nail polish) were offered up as proof, but Billy says "They strangely had stuff... I don't know how they got what they got." Eventually, ransom was paid, "out of my pocket, unfortunately," he says. "What we were able to do was stop the leak from happening. It was a mercenary person who would hack somebody... they had stuff from other artists. It wasn't some Pumpkins fan... and somehow they gave some information that allowed the FBI to track them."
"I don't know the end result of it yet," Billy says. "They had stuff that was shocking to me, classic stuff from bands in the past probably doing re-issues. I don't think any of that stuff's leaked out, so whatever happened it all got shut down."
Listen above for Klein and Ally's full chat about The Smashing Pumpkins' ambitious new album, and to hear Billy's personal thoughts on alien contact -- including his and former Pumpkin D'Arcy Wretzky's own close encounter of the first kind.
The Smashing Pumpkins' ATUM is OFFICIALLY out now. (Stupid hackers.)
Words by Joe Cingrana Interview by Klein. Ally. Show.