Billy Corgan has never been a guy who has followed trends. When everybody was making grunge, he made an intricate, heavily produced album (Siamese Dream). While most musicians were toying with the third wave of punk, he wrote a sprawling double-disc concept album (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness). And when people demanded an album that sounded like Smashing Pumpkins, he made one that reminded many of Depeche Mode (Adore).
That may be why in an era when everybody is trying to figure out how to sell music (variable pricing, tiered pricing, deluxe editions, et cetera), Corgan has decided to give away three years' worth of work for free. On Monday (December 7), he unveiled the first song from the 44-track opus he's calling Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. The tune is called "Song for a Son," and it's currently streaming at Spinner.com (and will soon be available on the Smashing Pumpkins' official Web site).
The six-minute tune first made an appearance on the Smashing Pumpkins' anniversary tour in 2008, but the final version is dramatically different from its live incarnation. "[The tour version] sounded like a very straight-ahead version of it," Corgan told MTV News on Friday. "It was like a bar band playing it." The new version has several different movements and at least two huge guitar solos. "I got back into the guitar after playing a few shows with Dave Navarro," he said. "I can't beat [his] abs, so the only way I can compete is with guitar solos."
Teargarden by Kaleidyscope will be unveiled four songs at a time in a series of 11 EPs, all of which will be available for a free download. When the project is completed, Corgan (the remaining original member of the Smashing Pumpkins) will sell the 11 discs as a collector's item.
But why would a band whose previous album (2007's Zeitgeist) went gold decide to give away so much product for free? It's something that Corgan has thought about a lot.
"The simplest thing was: Let's just take away the money part of it," he said. "What I like about it is, it takes away the passive-aggressive situation of asking somebody to buy something. I've never liked being a pitchman. I have to create the quality, and I have to assume that the quality will create the interest, and the interest will come back to me somehow."
Corgan expects the entire Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project to take three years, and he intends on seeing it through to the end. And he's not concerned about the possible consequences. "If it doesn't work, at least I don't have to be a pitchman," he said. "I can just be me."