Aptly Titled ‘If All Goes Wrong’ Captures Smashing Pumpkins in Flux17 Nov, 2008 By: Billy Gil
Anyone following the current incarnation of former rock demigods the Smashing Pumpkins has seen it all: A touted “reunion” with only half the original members, head-scratching live sets that favored lesser-known late-era tracks and 30-minute experimental guitar noodlings, a track recorded for Guitar Hero, and a frontman equally bent on challenging himself as he is on challenging his audience to keep listening.
Reviews of the band’s current shows to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band haven’t been kind, painting frontman Billy Corgan in much of same light as he has been throughout his career: a difficult autocrat with no patience for dissent, even as he welcomes it, asking fans what they think of the shows and the new songs. Fans who feel frustrated or confused by the new Pumpkins might do well to watch Coming Home Media’s new DVD If All Goes Wrong. The two-DVD set features a documentary, also titled If All Goes Wrong, about the band’s 2007 reunion shows, consisting of 19 nights of residence at the Orange Peel in Ashevill, N.C., and the Fillmore in San Francisco; as well as The Fillmore Residency, featuring 14 live songs from the residency and five new songs played in rehearsal.
Director Jack Gulick was part of a team that proposed filming the residencies to Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, the only other original member of the band to rejoin the fold. He said contrary to popular belief, Corgan was the one who pushed for “unfettered access” to his work.
“The direction was, ‘get the moment, I don’t care what it takes,’” Gulick said of the grueling recording sessions, in which filmmakers left cameras recording Corgan for extended periods while we worked on new songs to be performed live that day. “It was our opinion as a company that this was the moment to go after shooting Billy because we could reveal his personality through the process … much better than some studio piece where they just follow the band on the road.”
It’s not the love-fest fans may expect. If All Goes Wrong is a warts-and-all tale — Corgan is seen struggling with writing new songs, discussing his frustration with the constant questions about former guitarist James Iha, and at one point new guitarist Jeff Schroeder is seen throwing his guitar down onstage and walking off to sulk backstage.
“I was positive he would say, you can’t show that,” Gulick said about certain scenes. “Instead, he said, ‘you know, there’s a little more to that story. He never really said no to anything.”
But there are loads of positive moments as well, such as Corgan meeting awestruck fans in Asheville, or the band clicking when they finally get new song "99 Floors" right. Gulick shot more than 300 hours of content for the 105-minute documentary, including interviews with fans, critics, critical fans, and musicians, including one Mr. Pete Townshend.
“I get this call from Billy saying Pete Townshend is in town to do this Who event and he has literally said he wants to be involved in any way, would that fit?” Gulick said. “I said absolutely. As a singer songwriter who has been very misunderstood … it didn’t escape me that Pete could she d a lot of light.”
The documentary features a number of new Corgan songs, including “99 Floors,” “Peace + Love,” “No Surrender,” “Mama” and “Promise Me,” all recorded in high-quality with a solitary mic and mixed by Corgan and soundman Kerry Brown, as well as the stories behind the songs. The documentary also features an original score by Corgan, recorded on a keyboard called an Elka.
Songs on The Filmore Residency:
1. The Rose March
2. Peace + Love
3. 99 Floors
5. Lucky 13
7. Death From Above
8. The Crying Tree of Mercury
10. Heavy Metal Machine
12. No Surrender