Billy Corgan Speaks Truth on Pro Tools, Reveals Why Everyone Prefers It to Old Ways

During his recent chat with Rick Beato, The Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan discussed the modern recording standards, mainly the use of Pro Tools and similar DAWs. In particular, Corgan reflected on how the modern ways changed the whole approach to recording music and why almost everyone today prefers it to old ways. When asked by Beato whether he’d be able to go back to the 1992 mindset when The Smashing Pumpkins made some of their finest works, Corgan offered (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“To answer your question faithfully, it’s hard to go back into that brain. In ’92… you could use a click, but you pretty much weren’t gonna, because it was just too laborious. It was better just to get a great take right, and then play good stuff on top of it. You were fully committed to that; you had to do to achieve something.”

The Smashing Pumpkins - Beguiled (Official Music Video)

“Subconsciously, now, if you try to do that, you’re thinking in the back of your mind, ‘Well, if I mess up, we can fix it, move it…’ And when you start moving — it’s over. It’s like the filter on Instagram, right? The minute I use the filter, it’s like, ‘Well, that looks better!’ You don’t go back to the unfiltered picture. So, I think that’s the difficulty.”

Of course, using modern tools at our disposal comes with countless benefits. It doesn’t only make the process quicker but also allows for different ways to record and edit recorded music. Instead of cutting and gluing the tape back together, you can simply do it all in a very visually pleasing and quick way, in addition to quantizing and putting everything in a “grid,” so to speak.

However, as Corgan further pointed out, there are certain benefits to doing things the old way. Although considerably outweighed by the advantages of modern DAWs, a handful of aspects are very difficult to replicate using modern tools. He added:

“But there are certainly songs, like ‘Jellybelly’, or ‘Cherub Rock’, that you could never in a million years play to a grid. You’d be hard pressed, in modern life, to get people to commit to that; even producers, engineers, mixers… they get used to it.”

Jellybelly (Remastered 2012)

“Now you come in, and it’s like, ‘Well, in bar 36, it doesn’t quite line up. And then it gets a little messy in the sub, and I had to go in and carve out the frequency. They’re not living in that world anymore.”

“Jellybelly” and “Cherub Rock” are one of Pumpkins’ greatest pieces that pretty much define what the band was all about in the 1990s. Although belonging to the grunge movement, there was still a variety of other elements in the band’s music. “Jellybelly” is a piece from the band’s 1995 record “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.” It was written in the drop C# tuning, giving it some serious Sabbath-ish vibes.

“Cherub Rock,” from the 1993 “Siamese Dream” album, also showcases the band’s unique approach to grunge. Although belonging to this era, it still had a guitar solo, something that wasn’t expected from the bands that were a part of this movement.

The Smashing Pumpkins - Cherub Rock

In 2022, The Smashing Pumpkins released the first part of their 12th album, titled “Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts.” This first act landed on November 15, bringing a total of 11 new songs. “Atum: Act Two” is expected to be released on January 31, 2023, and will feature another 11 pieces. So far, they’ve released its first single “Beguiled.” As for “Act Three,” the fans will have to wait until April 23, 2023, but will get additional 11 pieces.

These 33 new songs build a concept album that’s a “sequel” to “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” and “Machina/The Machines of God.” This rock opera follows the same character and lore as these two records and brings it to a whole new level.

Photo: claudia.rahanmetan (Billy Corgan with The Smashing Pumpkins 2008-02-18 (2))

David Slavkovic

David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.

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