Smashing Pumpkins Finish New ‘Machina’ Album

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Billy Corgan has confirmed that The Smashing Pumpkins have officially completed the new version of MACHINA, 20 years after the original two albums were released. The record will feature songs repieced together along with unheard material. The Pumpkins are also currently recording a sequel album to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and MACHINA.

Corgan said, as transcribed by Alternative Nation, “Good news: We are putting together all the Machina pieces together today (main + reconstituted album + extra tracks) so the project is officially complete (save the mastering process and artwork). Thank you for your interest thus far…” Below is what Corgan has said about the songs from the records.

Le Deux Machina

The theme of all of Machina, for which there is no master tape, only 3 digital recordings to stereo. So in that, we chose the best one (there’s no indication of what was the originating master on any box) and added new overdubs.

Stand Inside Your Love

Our choices are between a new mix from master tapes, a DAT mix (done in 1999), or 2 different tape transfers of original mix (also 1999). But wait, there’s a problem! We’ve discovered that tape transfers made from the M1 safety mixes (produced from masters in 1999) were done incorrectly (as at the time we used Dolby SR). So now those have to be re-done…

I of the Mourning

Our choices are between a new mix from master tapes, a DAT mix (done in 1999), or 2 different tape transfers of original mix (also 1999). But wait, there’s a problem! We’ve discovered that tape transfers made from the M1 safety mixes (produced from masters in 1999) were done incorrectly (as at the time we used Dolby SR). So now those have to be re-done. To illuminate the process further, as for the 1999 mixes we have 3 options: Digital Audio Tape, Master Analog Tape, Safety Analog Tape. And the current issue is with a fresh transfer of the safety copies. A safety, if you don’t know, is just a copy of the original made for ‘safety’ in case anything happens to the original. The original masters were transferred by our record label over 5 years ago, so the hope is the safety tapes, which were never played, and using new technology, would yield a better result.

The Crying Tree of Mercury

The digital tape just sounds more modern and present, and so we’ve chosen that over tape sources.

Promise

Involved running it through various vinyl and speaker simulations to get a certain sound.

Slow Dawn

Original masters, which are a bit complicated (as the live band take was done at Pumpkinland onto an ADAT recorder and then later transferred to analog tape for additional vocals/overdubs). The good news is this new mix is a vast sonic improvement from the M2 version and this is where I hope fans of the record will find fresh inspiration and insight.

The Sacred and Profane

The master reels have been lost (long story there). So in total, 7 songs are ‘lost’ although it is possible our parent company for this record has the original 24-track reels, or ‘dupes’. Given our past history, I decided not to bother with those as it is doubtful they’d send those to us and since they were recorded with Dolby SR (a tricky process with 24-track reels) it is also doubtful any transfer by a 3rd party would be to my satisfaction. So we have a nice, vocal up version off tape which alone distinguishes it from the mix you’re used to hearing (where the vocal was more buried).

The Everlasting Gaze

Masters also lost, but good news here is Alan Moulder’s original mix (off 2-track analog tape) is smoking and with modern conversion sounds even more 3-dimensional.

Here’s to the Atom Bomb (M1 version)

The version you’d be familiar with was a rough mix Flood did as we recorded the song. Luckily, we have the master tapes, and have mixed it anew. Sounds groovy, a little clearer and is a nice document as it’s us playing live, straight to tape.

Glass’ Theme

What makes it a bit tricky is there are 4 rhythm guitars, plus OD’s, plus y tracks of bass. Yes, you read this right: 7. With original drums recorded by Flood, and later guitar/bass recorded by Howard and I during the M2 sessions in Fall of 2000.

Heavy Metal Machine (M1 version)

Masters lost, but we have a very nice, vocal up version (1/2 a db from the original) that clears the original mix up a bid and sounds great.

Blue Skies Bring Tears (M2 version)

Here’s where it gets complicated. We do have a missing reel of the masters, but have a mixable version on this other reel. But wait, there’s a problem… in experimenting on this second reel, I distorted the vocal so unlike the clean original, there is that to navigate. Plus can’t say for sure we have all the parts needed to mix. We do, however have many original, 2-track tape mixes from the M2 sessions to choose from. So whatever is ‘better’ is what gets chosen for the final sequence. We went with the nex mix from remaining master, the distorted vocal being a challenge but ultimately chose that over M2 version.

Pale Scales

A version Howard says is from Pumpkinland but I thought was from The Rivera Theatre (where we rehearsed for tour). Luckily, we have the full master which I have fixed by replaying bass and adding some additional music.

Vanity

Doing a fresh mix that is a really beautiful update from the M2 mix. And one interesting thing to note is the music on this track was done live by the band at Pumpkinland, with a vocal added later. So you get a real sense of what we sounded like in there when playing.

Le Deux Machina (3)

A variant of the main theme recorded at my home with new overdubs added this years. The original variant was recorded onto a DAT machine.

Glass and the Ghost Children

Was recorded in two parts. The first, a live, off the floor performance with James on guitar, JC on drums and myself on bass, with vocals added later. The original masters are also lost here, so we are left with the original mixes, also done at Pumpkinland on what was my former API board. And so in this case, the original master mix will do, off of 2-track analog tape.

Real Love

Missing reels but we do have mixes done at Pumpkinland. Here there was some confusion between DAT and allow sources but after some detective work we’ve located the proper mix (which is somewhat clearer than the one that appeared on Rotten Apples).

The Imploding Voice

With confusion, we’d thought one of the reels was lost. But no! We have it and are mixing it fresh… and I think the song will benefit from modern technology and clarity.

Try, Try, Try (M1 version)

We have the masters, and the mixes. So current debate is between the original mix off DAT and a full remix. Currently the DAT mix is winning as it’s crearer than the one you’d be used to from M1 pressings.

Whyte Spyder

We do have the masters. But wait, there’s a surprise. This version has Jimmy playing drums on it… and let’s just say it’s more ‘biting’ that ever. So yeah: clearer, meaner, more wykyd.

Don’t Want to Be Your Lover

DAT only version (as in ‘no other source’) recorded at my Victorian home in Chicago somewhere end of 1998 or early 1999, and unlike many of my other demos, here I made the curious decision to record guitar and voice straight into a DAT machine (thereby sealing the mix). So our efforts here would be to smooth out any digital harshness, flatten some stray vocal peaks, and lose some of the booming bass of a finger-picked acoustic guitar. So yes, nothing to ‘mix’ per se but plenty to tweak around with to maximize your listening pleasure.

Cash Car Star

One of JC’s all-time greatest takes (no edits, btw). And yes, we have the master tapes, which allow us to do a mix that is far more clear and punch than the commonly passed around M2 mix. To create some context on the M2 mixes, they were never meant to be released and were purely what we call ‘rough mixes’. Now, I’ll admit they do have a certain brutish charm but hearing a song like CCS at full fidelity is really a treat and I think you’ll heard that too when you purchase your super deluxe box set.

Lucky 13

We were able to vastly improve on the M2 mix. It’s an interesting blend, live guitars and drums from Pumpkinland, vocals and bass done at CRC a year later.

Heavy Metal Machine

Mass confusion as the version set for mix had 3 basses playing different parts and 3 James’ playing also different parts. Plus random vocals is missing. All is sorted now and Howard is bridging the gap between ghoul pap-pop and noize rock.

Without You

Here we have the original master, which is the band playing live on the floor and with a few select overdubs to give it some depth. The difficult in mixing something like this is it was never designed to be released… As it’s ostensibily a ‘demo’ (but still, the only document we have of the song). And unfortunately the better you mix it (by modern standards) you can start to hear the kind of imperfections that are normally hidden to careful recording. So the balance is to provide a great and accurate listening experience while not betraying the recording (which is sort of an imperfect document of a moment in time from over 20 years ago).

Winterlong

We have the original recording (a digital demo, actually, done at home) with some added overdubs. As with Without You, this is an ‘imperfect’ live recording done in less that ideal circumstances (in this case, you can hear it raining outside!). I could of course re-record any of these songs but there is no way to recreate the ambience of the times. So again, that’s the challenge with this mixing: letting these documents be what they are while providing the listener with something worth hearing and understanding.

Laugh

A DAT master where I just recorded live a vocal and guitar with no separation (at my house, I believe). In this case, a song I wrote for Machina but never played for the band. The advantage with modern technology is you can take a recording like this and substantially improve and warm it so that it sounds both fresh and recently recorded without subverting what makes it a unique ‘moment’: warts, rain and all…

If There Is a God

But wait! There’s a catch… as in what version? Originally I’d slated in the band’s version, a sort of decent demo heard on M2 but in this long run sequence it felt inadequate. Which sent me to the 3 piano demos I recorded in the fall of 2000 (during the M2 sessions). So we are now mixing take 3 and gene splicing it with a beautiful interpolation of the song’s melody by Mike Garson done at Pumpkinland in 1999 during M1 sessions.

Blue Skies Bring Tears (M1 version)

We’ve decided to use the original master, which was hand-mixed by Howard, Flood, and I in the midle of the night somewhere circa 1999. The only difference here is we have a vocal up version that when processed with modern technology really illuminated the beauty and depth of the mix.

This Time

The backing track, featuring myself and JC, was recorded the same day I wrote the song (which means all subsequent tracks were built up around my acoustic and his drums). Fun fact: the distorted rhythm guitars were recorded thru the Gish setup: Soul head and cabinet, ADA Mp-1 and the Bat Strat. But today’s mix illustrates lots of other hidden treats that compose the ‘wall of sound’. For example: a single note guitar part run thru the Machina setup (IE line out of a Crate practice amp) that sort of follows the bass line. Sounds lovely. It’s hard to put into words what hearing some of these mixes makes me feel, but I will try; as I think it illuminates what makes Machina such an unique album. On one hand you have a band that’s breaking up, and knows that it is breaking up (albeit when the album is done and the tour for it is finished). So there’s a weird shadow over everything we are doing, or a sort of sadness. Plus, we are only 3/4th’s of the band that started the record. But somehow thru that we find new songs and a new, more modern approach to recording that (if this mix of This Time is any indication) means we could have readily transitioned into being a band that fit quite comfortably with the musical and cultural changes ahead.

In My Body

We have the masters, which are pretty simple (bass, drums, some guitars and double tracked vocals). The idea here is to maintain the integrity and feel of original M2 mix while opening up the clarity for more depth and, you might say, spookiness.

Try, Try, Try (M2 version)

An interesting mish-mosh. Live take with JC on drums and me on bass with acoustic doubles added just after, along with electric guitar (May 18, 1999). Keyboards and vocals (added July 28 and 29).

Home

A live take with a live vocal, me on acoustic, James on bass and JC on drums. As with any live vocal take, you have to navigate around the instruments bleeding past the voice, as well as bass bleeding into drum mics and drums into bass mics and so on.

With Every Light

Another with masters lost, unfortunately. But luckily, we’ve got a beautiful transfer of the mix Howard did at Pumpkinland and it sounds quite beautiful.

Age of Innocence

I had decided at the last minute, after the M1 album was wrapped, that I wanted to finish this song. And what makes this unique (and yes we have the tapes) is that Howard and I recorded the entire thing in Los Angeles at The Village with rental gear. So to my memory, all we had to start with was the drums, which had been sped up from the original (and slower) version. And… it gets more complicated as we don’t have the original track sheets.

So it’s a bit more detective work to figure out what guitars are in or out, or if they were used at all in final mix. It may sound simple, but you never think that the thing you didn’t mark or highlight on a piece of paper (if you even have that piece of paper!) will come back to later haunt you. That said, the tracks sound quite good and more open than you’d remember from the M1 mix, and when we get it together it should be a considerable improvement. This is a curious one. For example, the drums are sped up (so they sit a bit higher totally than they normally would). The vocals? They were recorded distorted (I guess that’s what I wanted circa 1999). There is a wall of guitars which when added together form a beautiful but often impenetrable wall.

Let Me Give the World to You

We’ve sought to find a balance between the unwieldy but exciting M2 vs one we can achieve now with much more distinction and clarity. To that: you have one JI rhythm and picked guitar parts, plus 3 acoustics from me (plus bass and drums, obviously) to create the maelstrom.

Soot and Stars

The recording, primitive as it is from a demo done at my house during the making of M1 but never played for the band or producer.

Untitled

Howard said he was shocked how good the original tones off tape are, so this mix is surprising and sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday.

Identify

In amongst various demos and non-studio live takes (live James and I playing Here’s to the Atom Bomb on acoustic guitars) we are now into mixing the demo I made of Identify for the Stigmata soundtrack (and ultimately sung by Natalie Imbruglia).