Billy Corgan Laments the Death of the Old-School Record Producer

A couple of weeks back, I went to see Billy Corgan perform a two-part solo acoustic concert. The first half was a full run-through of his new (and very pretty) album, Ogilala, while part two was devoted to covers and tracks from both the Pumpkins and Zwan.

Ogilala was produced by Rick Rubin, an old-school guy who is more psychologist and life coach than he is a knob-twiddler. Billy spoke of working with Rubin to the pro audio site, PSNEurope.com.

Throughout the course of his career, Corgan has also amassed a wealth of studio experience as a producer and engineer, having produced or co-produced several Pumpkins records of the years, as well as releases from Zwan and his debut solo album. Yet in spite of his plentiful production credentials, he opted not to produce Ogilala himself, instead calling on the services of rock producer extraordinaire and friend of over two decades, Rick Rubin, to take up duties behind the desk.

The move to recruit a producer and not take on the role himself is arguably a surprising one, especially given the stripped back, highly personal nature of the album. Stripped back largely to acoustic guitar and/or piano, with the occasional orchestral flourish, Ogilala presents Corgan’s songwriting prowess in its barest, most intimate form, allowing voice and lyrics to take centre stage for proceedings. So why not go it alone in the studio as well?

“Well, when you’ve got Rick Rubin willing to help…” he laughs. “And I was at a point in my life where I was feeling a bit low and I was open to the idea of not taking on the extra stress. Also, I just had a kid – at that point my son would have been about a year old – so I had a lot going on. And some of the criticism of my work in the past few years suggested that I’ve tried to take on too much.

“I’ve known [Rick] for 20 years and I called him to ask if he could recommend someone for me to work with,” he continues. “I thought he would know who the hot young producer would be. And I told him it was a kind of personal record and that maybe it would need a different approach, and he said, Well that’s something I’d be interested in doing.”

Read the entire interview here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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