Billy Corgan and Kevin Dippold (seated) during pre-production
Photo: Kristin Burns
When Smashing Pumpkins lead singer Billy Corgan came into Coldwater Studio (Beverly Hills), he had 30-plus songs but whittled that number down during a month of pre-production for their upcoming album, Oceania. “The studio is situated in a guest house so we were able to jam in a comfortable room with lots of light that faced a pool,” says studio head engineer Kevin Dippold, who works with owner/producer Kerry Brown. “When Billy was happy with a particular arrangement, we’d move into the studio section of the guest house to do a quick acoustic guitar demo. Billy had just acquired an amazing vintage Martin that we miked with a Soundelux e251, and an AKG 451 and 414. These were all amped with a modified Neotek sidecar and summed on a Neve 5088 mixing board using the Roy Thomas Baker summing method. We also used a handful of soft synths to flush out the structure in the form of quick Pro Tools sketches.” During the last week of pre-production, Pumpkins drummer Mike Byrne and bassist Nicole Fiorentino came in to refine their parts.
When Corgan is asked about the use of technology during the pre-production stage, he replies, “I’m cool with it if it facilitates a better song or does something that a human can’t do. I’m not into it if it fakes what a human can do. Digital editing has made the musician with great chops almost irrelevant—not totally, but almost. I’m looking for a casual, relaxed setting [during pre-production], and Kerry has always brought that to me no matter where we have worked.”