Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has spoken exclusively to Billboard about the lawsuit the band filed this week against Virgin Records for using the Pumpkins in a promotional campaign with Amazon.com and Pepsi. "I´m sure they indicated to Pepsi that they had a right to do this, full well knowing they do not have the right," he said by phone from Australia, where the band is touring.
The suit says Virgin breached its contract with the band by using the Pumpkins in a "Pepsi Stuff" promotion without its permission. Corgan insists the group has veto power over such deals and has turned them down several times in the past. A Virgin spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
Corgan says he has been feuding for years with Virgin over the handling of the Pumpkins´ back catalog, but that the Pepsi/Amazon.com promotion "crosses the Rubicon. You´re going to see more of this playing fast and loose with the rules, hoping they don´t get caught. At face value, it´s not a huge deal. But in terms of precedent, it is, because there will be much more of this coming."
In the suit, the Pumpkins claim Virgin has "irreparably harmed the group, their reputation and goodwill with their fans," dovetailing with what Corgan perceives as a lack of respect for the body of work the band has created.
The problem is that according to the contract the Pumpkins renegotiated with Virgin in the late ´90s, both parties are partners where the catalog is concerned. Corgan claims he´s made frequent overtures to Virgin about repositioning the back catalog, offering expanded editions of vintage albums and releasing archival material, but has been met with resistance at every step of the way.
Click to learn more... "We´ve made offers to buy it all," he says. "Look, you have no interest. Let us just buy it. But they won´t put a number on it. They´ve atrophied the catalog down so low that they probably hope we´ll crawl back and ask for cash."
That won´t stop the band from offering unreleased music to fans before the year is out. Potentially in the pipeline are ultra-rare early Smashing Pumpkins shows, studio tracks that have never seen the light of day or alternate versions of songs from sessions that spawned classic albums like "Siamese Dream" and "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness."
The group, which is now a free agent after the expiration of its one-album deal with Warner Bros., is also conceptualizing the gradual release of new music in bundles, culminating in an eventual album project. "We may start to release pieces as we go along, and the album comes out over two to three years," says Corgan, who labels this period as both "fun" and "exciting."
After a summer break, look for the Pumpkins to return to the road in September for shows in New York, Los Angeles and its Chicago hometown.