Q&A: Seattle Rock Orchestra's Founder on Their Upcoming Smashing Pumpkins Show


Q&A: Seattle Rock Orchestra's Founder on Their Upcoming Smashing Pumpkins Show

  • Q&A: Seattle Rock Orchestra's Founder on Their Upcoming Smashing Pumpkins Show

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    In this week's paper, I speak to Scott Teske, founder of the Seattle Rock Orchestra, which will perform songs from Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Siamese Dream this Saturday at the Neptune. For the piece, we talked at length about the appeal of the Pumpkins, and especially Mellon Collie, one of the '90s most influential albums, which has gone on to sell more than 10 million copies. But much of our conversation didn't make it into the print edition, so here are some of the other tidbits we touched on during our chat.

    What makes Smashing Pumpkins a good candidate for the orchestral treatment? Are there particular characteristics that you've found work best for arrangement with an orchestra? I kind of listen for the number of musical elements that are happening in the song. If it's a really simple song, and the band is just playing one riff, there's not a lot of material to draw on. We look for really rich recordings. The Pumpkins have so many overdubs and there's so much to draw from and different instruments, background vocals and stuff like that. The Pumpkins do a great job of having rich textures on top of the songs.

    What's a good example of band that wouldn't be a great option for the SRO treatment? We had a little bit of trouble with our Led Zeppelin show because we found enough songs, but a lot of the more well known ones, the really blues-rock-based tunes, were a little too simplified.

    Is there a general audience for the SRO? Are you in the target demo, for example? I would probably say it changes from show to show based on what we're offering. And we try, over the course of our season, to offer something for everybody. This particular show is pretty well suited for my generation but we're also hoping that a lot of younger kids that are now between 13 and 16 will come and they will relate to it and identify with it.

    Have you done anything squarely contemporary that might cater to a younger audience specifically? The biggest progress we've made in that area is at our summer camp, where we played all contemporary radio artists. That was really fun, but those songs haven't seen a lot of public performances. We just did a show in Renton, which we did side by side with Renton High School and we did some of that stuff - Adele and Awolnation. Here and there we're sprinkling some of that stuff in.

    Will the SRO always stick with one group or album or might you someday build a show around an era or genre or theme? We certainly think about that as were thinking of these themes. I really like the one-artist show because you really get to dig into their catalog. You play their hits which you can juxtapose against the deep cuts. That said, we're four years old now, and we've done a lot of these single-artist shows, and there's probably a few more we could do, but I kind of feel like we may be running out of these iconic artists. In the future we might be mixing it up a bit more out of necessity.

    How deep will you get into the Pumpkins catalog and how do you figure out which songs to do? Is it based more on what will work best with an orchestra or is it as simple as you just choosing the songs you like best? When I pick the setlist I really try to pick the songs where we have something to say, something we can do with the orchestra because you can go see a tribute band at Muckleshoot Casino and they'll play the hits, but because we have an orchestra at our disposal, we have an opportunity to give people a different experience.

    There are fewer singers listed for this performance than many of your previous ones. Will singers be tackling more songs than usual? The reason is that we're only doing one longer set instead of two shorter ones because we're having Hobosexual do a half hour set of Pumpkins covers as well, for some of the songs that people like to hear that don't necessarily call for an orchestra.

    You can read more from our conversation here.

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