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Beef Of The Week #392: D’arcy Wretsky v The other Smashing Pumpkins (or maybe the other way around)

By | Published on Friday 16 February 2018

Smashing Pumpkins

Yesterday, the Smashing Pumpkins announced a reunion tour. So that’s nice. The big reveal came after a countdown clock on the band’s website finally reached zero. Who could have guessed that would be their news? Well, everyone. Because for something that was supposed to be a surprise, there sure was a lot of talking about this reunion tour beforehand.

The seeds of this reunion date back to 2016, when frontman Billy Corgan said in a video on Facebook that he had been in touch with the other three original members of the band.

“We’re not rushing to something”, he said. “We have to repair some things between us, and see what’s out there for us, if those opportunities are even there”.

Earlier that year, Corgan had performed live with guitarist James Iha a few times, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain has remained a collaborator since the band split (including subsequent Smashing Pumpkins line-ups put together by Corgan). So it seemed that those relationships were already well on their way to being repaired. That leaves bassist D’arcy Wretsky.

In that same video, Corgan said: “I’ve been in communication with D’arcy for the first time in sixteen or seventeen years, it’s awesome to have my friend back”.

Wretsky was the first to leave the band in 1999, shortly after the return of Chamberlain, who had been fired following the drug related death of keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin. She then dropped out of music entirely. Still, according to statements she’s made over the last couple of years, and particularly the last few weeks, she was keen to take part in any reunion.

Things started to take a turn for the angry last month though, when Wretsky told BlastEcho that she had “only just found about yesterday that the band has decided to go with a different bass player”.

Last week, she told the same website that Corgan had shut her out. She claimed that he had invited her to take part in the reunion, but then retracted the offer. The article referred to text message conversations between her and Corgan, which were later published by Alternative Nation.

The messages were clearly shared in order to show Corgan in a poor light. Although, given the lack of context, and the omission of key parts of the conversation, they can be read in different ways. It appears that Corgan was keen to have Wretsky involved, but was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to perform a full show – offering her the opportunity to come up and play a few songs (likening the deal to that of drummer Steven Adler during the Guns N Roses reunion).

With the countdown clock still running, the band broke their own embargo by issuing a statement, saying: “In reuniting The Smashing Pumpkins, the band’s dedication remains to its fans and its music. To that, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin and William Corgan haven’t played a show with D’arcy Wretzky for over eighteen years. But it’s not for a lack of trying”.

They continued: “Despite reports, Ms Wretzky has repeatedly been invited out to play with the group, participate in demo sessions, or at the very least, meet face-to-face, and in each and every instance she always deferred. We wish her all the best, and look forward to reconnecting with you all very soon”.

In an interview with Alternative Nation, Wretzky claimed that since she had been in touch with Corgan, he had often told her about recording sessions or performances, but then not let her know where or when they would be. Or in some cases informed her after the event.

She added that there had been plans to record one song together as a test before the tour, but then Corgan had recorded a whole new Smashing Pumpkins album, with the involvement of Chamberlain but not Iha. She also claimed that Corgan was taking the largest share of royalties from the tour, with the other band members placed in a subordinate status. As negotiations went on, things became more fraught, she said.

“With every argument, Billy would answer me, but I felt like he wasn’t bothering to read my texts”, she recalled. “There’s nothing that you could say that I didn’t try, because I really, really, really care, and I really wanted to do this way more than they did. I really wanted to do it, and I thought we could do it right this time, but Billy just can’t do it”.

She went on: “I thought he wasn’t reading my texts, then he said, ‘Blah blah blah, I wish you well’. I was like, ‘You don’t wish me well, you don’t love me, you don’t love anybody, you don’t care about anybody’. Then he’s like, ‘Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!’ I’m like, there he is! There is the real Billy Corgan, I finally got through to you! He’s a like a dog with a bone, you just can’t get through to him”.

“Everyone said he changed since he had a kid … and he can be very charming, and fun”, she also claimed. “He’s fun to talk to; I enjoy mental sparring with him. I just was so out of that world for the longest time, I wasn’t aware of a lot of the crazy stuff, like he supports Trump. What? The shapeshifting thing, I honestly think he may have a brain tumour. He’s always been insufferable”.

So, fair to say, things aren’t amicable. The official line-up for the reunion tour now doesn’t even feature a bassist – the fourth member being guitarist Jeff Shroeder, who has performed on Corgan’s post-split Smashing Pumpkins albums and tours since 2007.

At one point in his text message conversation with Wretsky, Corgan says that the live show they have planned is “a Broadway level type show”, adding: “We have to prove to [the] world that we can compete at [the] highest level or [the] tour [will] never get out of America”.

The scale of the tour remains to be seen, as does how keen fans are on a 75% reunion of the original band.