Smashing Pumpkins lawsuit latest step in feud
By Jonathan Cohen
NEW YORK (Billboard) - Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan said his recent breach-of-contract lawsuit against Virgin Records comes on the heels of a lengthy feud with the band's former label over the handling of its back catalog.
The rock band sued Virgin on Monday, claiming that the EMI Group unit used its name, music and image without its permission in a "Pepsi Stuff" promotion to market the soft drink and Amazon.com.
Corgan told Billboard.com that he had been at loggerheads with Virgin for years, 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."
The problem is that according to the contract the Pumpkins renegotiated with Virgin in the late '90s, both parties are partners on the catalog. Corgan, on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins in Australia, said his frequent overtures to Virgin about releasing archival material and expanded editions of the band's albums had met with resistance every step of the way.
"We've made offers to buy it all," he said. "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 rare early Smashing Pumpkins shows, studio tracks that have never seen the light of day or alternate versions of songs from sessions that spawned 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," said 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.
A Virgin spokeswoman declined comment on the lawsuit, citing a policy against discussing pending litigation.
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