Billy Corgan Talks About Writing Spiteful Songs and the Impending Death of Rock & Roll
In this week's music feature, we talked to Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan. He was wordy and well spoken; most notably, however, he was open -- there was no topic we couldn't broach. We talked about his bitter break-ups with former band members, what he's trying to accomplish with the new music and where he is personally. "It's been a long, weird journey," he says. "If somebody would have told me fifteen years ago that at 45 I'd be living in a big house with two dogs and two cats, with no wife and no girlfriend, I wouldn't have believed them. My life did not turn out the way I'd planned it. Not even close." But we couldn't fit nearly all the important points of our conversation in print -- here is the extended interview. The Smashing Pumpkins will play the Chaifetz Arena tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.
Neph Basedow: How does it feel when you hear some fans and critics are still wanting you to write songs that sound just like Siamese Dream, so many years later?
Billy Corgan: At the risk of sounding arrogant for the 1,000th time in my life, I can write a Siamese Dream song if I want to - it's not like I've forgotten how to do it - I'm just not interested. It's like when someone says, "I really liked when you told that joke - can you tell it again, the same way?"
I saw (comic) Andrew Dice Clay do stand-up, and he was fantastic. At the end, though, he did his old nursery rhymes bit. To me, it was the least funny part of the night - and people were howling with laughter - but it's like, c'mon, it's not as funny as it was 25 years ago!
So do you ever go out of your way to write songs with the specific purpose of them not sounding like your old albums?
Yeah. I've done that, and it's a total mistake.
What's an example of something you've written like that - something that served as more of a "fuck you" to people?
Well, Machina. [Laughs] Because Machina was reactionary in two ways - it was reactionary against the band breaking up, because I was angry at them, and it was reactionary against the fan base that I thought was failing me, who had left in droves during Adore.
What about Oceania? Are there any classic Pumpkins traces in this album, or do you think it sounds totally fresh?
Oceania has a totally different vibe. It reminds me of what I used to like about the band - yet it's not the same. It's confusing, but it's a good confusing.