Nov 1998-Sept 1999 - Pumpkinland and Chicago Recording Company

Produced by Flood and Billy Corgan; Engineered by Howard Willing


Sessions for the final Smashing Pumpkins album, Glass and the Machines of God. Due to the departure of D'Arcy and label pressure, the album was whittled down to Machina/The Machines of God, with a posthumous self-release of outtakes Machina II/Friends and Enemies of Modern Music. A completely different bootleg also called Friends and Enemies of Modern Music contained early takes of "Glass Theme", "Blue Skies Bring tears" and "Disco King". Additional Machina outtakes leaked on the internet in 2014, including: two alternate versions of "Raindrops and Sunshowers", "Without You", "Sleeping Giant", a full-band acoustic "Glass and The Ghost Children", two alternate versions of "Home" and "Strength in Numbers".

Chamberlin returned to the Smashing Pumpkins in March of 1999, but another absence would alter the face of the band’s fifth studio release, Machina/The Machines of God. Flood was once again asked to produce, but unlike Mellon Collie, where many ideas were mapped out before a single note was recorded, few were aware of Corgan’s creative intent: a concept album about a fictitious rock band fronted by a character whose life is forever altered after hearing the voice of God. As could be expected, the sonic subtext would prove just as esoteric.

Billy's chart

The goal was to take the digital lessons learned from Adore and apply them to a rock environment. How does one create the sound of a band playing on another planet? Through tape degradation, synth-like mechanized guitars, soaring pads and effects, heavily-processed vocals, and of course, big drums. Chamberlin returned with a custom-made Yamaha green maple kit, but Machina marked Corgan’s first real departure from his fleet of Fenders, instead using a Les Paul Junior reissue with P90 pickups that often ran through a Crate practice amp. An SIB Varidrive and a host of Moogerfooger pedals were also used to add to Corgan’s sonic repertoire. The hazy shimmer in big choruses for “Stand Inside Your Love” and “The Everlasting Gaze” is another trademark Machina sound.

“I hope I’m not taking credit for somebody else’s work,” laughs Alan Moulder, “but I’m pretty sure I created it with a tape delay on a short, slappy guitar reverb going through an AMS Harmonizer. I think I ducked it with compression triggering off the drums.”


To help the band gel with the new material, Corgan decided to take the Pumpkins out for a few select club dates in April of ’99 while Flood went on holiday. They would return to the studio fine-tuned, ride that live momentum through a weeklong recording session, and then bring in Moulder to mix after another headclearing break. When Wretzky’s commitment to the band began to erode, plans began to change. Though rumored since late summer, it was publicly announced in September that she had left the band.

“Billy and I thought, ‘How are we going to do this?’” Flood remembers. “We decided that we were going to have to make a very different kind of record. They saw out their time on the tour, and after that we pretty much went back to the drawing board. Certain songs on the record are survivors from that first period, but it meant a shift in the way the songs had to be formed.”


The majority of the songs were recorded into Pro Tools through Corgan’s API Legacy board, but the band had multiple mixing consoles to choose from at Chicago Recording Company, so Flood performed a litmus test. He transferred two songs onto tape using a Studer A280, which as luck would have it, was found in each of the mix rooms. He then ran the tape through each console with all the faders at zero—no EQ, no panning—and then into a DAT machine. When he compared the recordings, the differences were unbelievable. Of the Neve VR72, SSL 6056E, and the ’80s Neve broadcast console that Corgan brought in, the SSL won out. Its low-mid punch would help tighten up the record’s bright sound. Though Corgan wasn’t a big fan of SSL boards, the team found a workaround.


“Howard Willing, one of the mix engineers, knew a guy at Inward Connections who built an API simulation mix bus,” remembers Moulder. “The idea was that we were going to replace the mix bus in the SSL with this API one, which kind of ‘de-SSL’d’ it a bit.”

Machina was made with the understanding that it would be the Pumpkins’ final album. Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music—originally intended to be the second disc on a Machina double album before Virgin vetoed the idea—received an Internet-only release, but a handful of copies were distributed on vinyl through Corgan’s own imprint: the befittingly titled Constantinople Records.[1]

Song board

Billy Corgan: First off, Jimmy hadn't played drums a lot for the three years he was out of the group, so it took a while for him to even find his chops. Because he'd broken the linear chain of us working together, it wasn't like he just stepped back in and picked back up emotionally and musically where he left off. In fact, he missed the whole transition of Adore. The last record he'd played on was Mellon Collie..., and now he's playing on Machina; where spontaneity, darkness, and these weird undersea tones are prevailing. We're speeding up and slowing down drums, and doing anything in our power to make every element of the record sound different. So Jimmy was thrown into an interesting fire. I found the most effective thing to do with him, at that point, was just to say, "Here's the song." And we would go and record it.

Jimmy Chamberlin: On Machina, I think we got – in my opinion – to where we always wanted to be sonically. That record, for me – drum-wise with the distortion and the [Eventide] Omnipressor on the snare drum, the crispy-and-crunchiness of those drums, and how they interface with the guitar dynamics – from a production standpoint, really is our crowning achievement.

More gear

Howard Willing: We recorded part of that album at the band's rehearsal complex, Pumpkinland, and it was wild. There was an API console up at the front, and it was like, "Okay, this is where we're recording." I said, "What the fuck is this?" This place was enormous. We had PAs set up. That's how we would track and rehearse, with the PAs going! So if Jimmy was playing drums, he was getting blasted with the PA and that's getting picked up by all the microphones. That became part of the sound of that record.

Flood: When Pro Tools first came out, I'd been working with Trent [Reznor, Nine Inch Nails] and I was very, very used to working with whole songs based in Pro Tools, and then committing them to tape. So it was very good for Machina. When he wanted to go off and follow a particular idea he could do that in Pro Tools, brilliantly. It was a great vehicle for him. Then I would try and hone those ideas down; just trying to make decisions. It was really good, and it meant that Billy could get rid of some of his frustrations, or try ideas while I was trying to manage something else. This is another reason why Alan [Moulder] is so vital; because he understands. If you're dealing with a very difficult situation, someone's got your back. The same for Billy. He knows as soon as Alan walks in the room that he and the other guys in the band respect him immensely. That's the thing about albums and individuals. It's never about one person; it's always about a group of people. One person cannot take credit; it's that collaboration. That's what's brilliant about music: capturing human beings reacting and working together, and providing an emotional response. You hope that you can capture that. I think you can. It's hard, but you can do it; and the Pumpkins were amazing for that. I think for me, Mellon Collie..., and Adore, and Machina capture that emotion perfectly – they're just very, very different records.[2]

D'arcy: That was more towards the end of the recording actually [that D'arcy left the band]. We probably did most of it before the tour, and I was told by both James and Billy that they were going to change my basslines and re-record them, but for the most part they didn’t. It was mostly my stuff, and they actually sent me some of the Gold records from it. Now Billy is saying that’s not true.

But the thing with that was I was going through a really bad time, I didn’t know what was happening, I was having a nervous breakdown. I had 30 plus panic attacks a day, I didn’t know what it was, it was terrible. The day after the tour, I had tried to quit two or three times, but it’s difficult to do when you have everybody, my husband, my family, telling me, ‘No, no, just wait until the next record. All of these people are depending on you, all of these people who work for you guys, don’t just think of yourself.’ I just should have left a couple of years earlier.[3]

Return to Machina

  1. Richard Thomas, "Signal To Noise: The Sonic Diary Of The Smashing Pumpkins", Electronic Musician, October 1st, 2008
  2. Jake Brown, "Smashing Pumpkins: A Studio History", Tape-Op, Sept/Oct 2016
  3. Brett Buchanan, "Smashing Pumpkins Bassist D’arcy Holds Nothing Back In First Interview In 20 Years", Alternative Nation, February 14th, 2018