Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin, The Edge - 1991-12-??
(lookup on archive.org)
Jimmy: The reason I wear the hat is because I'm actually bald.
Interviewer: The size of my shoes are…. Is that all right Ron? What was that?
Ron: (pre-recorded machine voice) That's all right.
Interviewer: That's all right? Okay cool.
Billy: It's like the voice of God.
Interviewer: Yeah I know.
Jimmy: (in a Godlike tone) Speak to me.
Interviewer: It's kind of special. It's very very special. Well, thanks for coming by because I know you guys are busy and burned out apparently? Are you sorta tired of being everybody's favorite band?
Jimmy: No I'm not tired at all. I just have a sore throat.
Interviewer: Hmm. But has it gotten…
Jimmy: It's not even sore. It's just gone. It doesn't hurt.
Interviewer: This is from New Orleans?
Jimmy: I believe this happened in New Orleans. It was the start of all this, but..
Billy: No he had miles of Deckidins proceeding New Orleans.
Jimmy: I think New Orleans was the start of the sore throat and I think Dallas might have been the apex.
Interviewer: Could we trace the beginning of the deckidins though?
Billy: No, you'd have to go back to the fetal stage with him.
Jimmy: You have to bring a box of itineraries.
Billy: You know you see that picture of the fetus smoking? You know those ads were him.
Jimmy: I was actually a star when I was little. A star baby.
Interviewer: (laughing) You were a child star.
Billy: But to answer your question, we are very crispy.
Interviewer: Very crispy. God, how long have you been on the road now?
Billy: Well, this is we have been on the road, this is two months straight. But, before that we had done in a hole in the American tour so roughly on and off since June.
Jimmy: And a small European thing we did too.
Billy: We haven't been home a lot. That's.
Jimmy: I've been home about 15 days since July 8th or something.
Interviewer: Wow. Have the songs changed a lot since you've been playing them live so much?
Billy: More sonic.
Jimmy: Yeah, there a lot free-er, a lot looser. There not so anal anymore. There more of a , we try and get more of a jam atmosphere now as opposed to playing the songs exactly how they are on the record.
Billy: The real lesson I've learned from playing so much on the road is that it does everyone disservice if the band is disinterested in the music its playing and it's like anything if you do over and over and over again it just loses its brilliance or brightness or something so we try to find ways in the songs to keep our minds in them so that you know we don't wanna I mean we're not out there to jam we're not the Grateful Dead, but we've kinda opened up our songs a little bit for more interpretations. I think it's really made our shows a lot better and I think it gives audiences a chance to see more personality than like be like Rush and just get up there and play the album cause I think in the end that's what people wanna see when they have the album and they know the songs they're looking for some other element. So..
Interviewer: So what personality of the band do you think comes across the end?
Billy: The meanie.
Jimmy: The reckless.
Billy: The reckless meanies.
Interviewer: (laughs) The devil may care version of the Smashing Pumpkins?
Billy: Ummm. That's a good question. It's just um. See when we formed as a band, we weren't a jammy sort of band we wrote songs and then brought them to the band. We weren't like the band who wrote the songs as a jamming band. So, to open it up like we have is kinda like a new thing for us. What aspect that brings out of us it really is kinda funny because it um just depends on night to night. You know if you're angry it has more of an edge. And if you're feeling a little more lovey then it tends to be a little softer in places. The best thing about it's really an honest interpretation of your feelings filter through the meaning of songs. And by doing that, I think that personally made my life a lot easier because I don't have to get up there and pretend to be something I'm not. If I'm angry I get up and play my songs angry and it lends a death to the songs and maybe it wouldn't be there if I didn't have those emotions. And conversely, no one's seen me up there with a propped up smile aching to put on rock moods that I don't really believe in you know.
Interviewer: I would have guessed that there was a lot jamming of the band just the way the album sounds.
Jimmy: I dunno.
Billy: I dunno.
Interviewer: Okay so let's take like “Bury Me” and that one is all worked out and it..
Jimmy: That song was worked out in every detail.
Interviewer: So how does like who started that one? You know, did you have lyrics and..
Billy: No, “Bury Me” is the type of song that I literally wrote the whole song and just brought it to the band and then it was just fine tuning.
Interviewer: Hmm. So it's like you come in with chords changes and this where this is where the solos go and then we do this and then we do that.
Billy: Exactly. It's not always that way but it for a song like that it is
Jimmy: A particular song goes..
Billy: We're very specific because this is answering a bigger question you haven't even asked me but um what we do specifically, musically, to us its important in the sense of establishing something else. Like emotionally. So we're more looking for an emotional intangible element in musical. I dunno. It's hard to explain how that works with how we make up our songs, but..
Interviewer: So, when its like “Bury Me” is to you its like this emotion I want to get across. And like “Rhinoceros” is a different emotion.
Jimmy: I don't think it's that specific. I mean, “Bury Me” was a very anal song when we did it in the studio everything was worked out. But I mean when we do it now and we do it totally different. I mean there's a totally different feel. I mean it's not necessarily the same things that I was feeling in the studio when we did it or necessarily that Billy was feeling.
Billy: I dunno. It's really hard to explain because its by being very specific in terms of what everyone is doing in a mechanical sense, it freeze the mind up. Because you know where everyone is going at every specific time. There isn't this kind what you do is you create this kind of machine that's all working in one direction and by doing you freeze the mind up. And, that's why we're so specific in the way we write our songs and the way that there meant to be played so you can achieve other things. It's a hard concept to explain. You know to most people it's probably really unimportant, you know.
Interviewer: No it's like. I was thinking it's like a race car driver that knows all the little or an airplane pilot all the little things that you have to do so then you're open so that all those things you don't have to worry about.
Billy: There, taken care of.
Interviewer: Taken care of.
Billy: And your not constantly fighting each other on stage or why you play the song because somebody is going in a different direction. We know that as a band exactly what everyone else is going to do and by doing that it allows you the freedom to roam in your mind and bring out a lot of other things instead of having to stand there and having to concentrate and worry about what the person next to you is doing all the time.
Interviewer: Are you a big classical music fan?
Interviewer: No? Cause it's like a symphony sorta it goes all over the place but it's in a every incredibly ordered way.
Billy: Orchestrated would definitely be the word. Some people that have seen that kind of process with us in action are kinda surprised you know. But, I think it's very important because the end result is to achieve the maximum effect that you are looking for and nothing about hopefully nothing about what you're doing musically is distracting from that. That's why we're so specific.
Interviewer: Yeah, makes sense. Hmm. It's um, do the audiences have a big effect since we're talking about diverse how they were saying how from like show to show and from city to city what they see in the audience, what the people look like, and how they react to the first song totally changes like the show from night to night for them. And they thought way in a much bigger way than say if you were in Bon Jovi, where the crowd probably looks the same from night to night.
Billy: Um, there's definitely something about how an audience reacts that has something to do with the band but I think it's really important that a band not get an applause happy and reaction happy and ultimately you have to achieve a satisfaction within your band because playing music that's important to you shouldn't be about validation it shouldn't be about someone validating your existence and your presence in a club somewhere. It should be about your pride and your establishing something to people and some of the best shows we've ever played have been shows were the audience didn't react. We didn't get anything from the audience. There's no equation. There's no simple equation. Sometimes you play in front of great audiences and the band is horrible. You know. It definitely pumps you up and gives a different high when the audience knows what you're doing is familiar with the songs and reacts but I think ultimately you have to shut yourself off to that. Because what you do is that you end up doing is being applause happy and you end up steering your sets to and everything you do towards maximum response and I think that's the wrong thing to do.
Interviewer: When you first started playing music, did it sound like anything the Smashing Pumpkins sound like now?
Jimmy: Absolutely not.
Interviewer: So what you were playing drums along to..
Jimmy: Bad pop songs.
Interviewer: Bad pop songs? Like…
Jimmy: Like bad pop songs like..
Interviewer: That you wanted to be a drummer? Did you want to be a rock 'n' roll drummer?
Billy: I think she's asking you from the beginning. Like pre-Pumpkins.
Interviewer: Yeah, pre-Pumpkins.
Jimmy: Actually, I wanted to be a lumber jack.
[all three laugh]
Interviewer: In Chicago?
Billy: Obviously a far out mystical thing to want to be.
Interviewer: Right, he was a special child!
Jimmy: Well, I just wanted to play music that I liked and I mean whether I'm in the Pumpkins or whatever and the fact that I can do it now and make somewhat living at is a great thing. But I mean it's not the most important thing to me, I just I mean if I didn't like the music I wouldn't be in the band.
Interviewer: Always drums though? Did you want to be…
Jimmy: Always been a drummer yeah, since I was 8 years old. I mean I play other instruments too but drums is definitely the thing I like best. I mean, better than anything else in my life, I like to play my drums. I guess yeah.
Interviewer: So you were terrorizing your family from 3rd grade on?
Jimmy: Well, yeah but my brother was a drummer before that. So..
Interviewer: Oh good.
Billy: Happy family.
Jimmy: They've been going through 22 years of drums.
Interviewer: They're proud now!
Jimmy: Yeah, but none of them can hear.
[all three laugh]
Interviewer: They would like it if they can hear it. From the time the Pumpkins got together until now did the music go through a lot of different changes?
Interviewer: So when the band was coming together what did you want? So what were you saying to each other? “We want a band that ..”
Billy: See, I guess to answer the question that you're asking me I have to say that the Pumpkins were formed more on a theoretical idea than a musical idea. The idea was to be able to create an environment of a band that could allow you the freedom to do whatever you wanted to do. To express yourself whatever way you want to express yourself. If that meant blasting out or being very subtle. So those being the basic parameters we set about to find comfortable musical styles for ourselves that was more instinctual and not necessarily related to trends or anything like that. So, in the early process of the band it was just kinda like 'okay, here's a good song I wrote' We'd play it and then realize we weren't comfortable with it as a band. It wasn't the ultimate direction we wanted to head. So it just became a process of weeding out where we're comfortable to say we wanted to do whatever we wanted to do is simple. But to be a band and get up on stage and play really heavy songs and then turn around and play really mellow songs is a really hard thing to do and to establish a gracefulness from those extremes was really difficult. So it took us a couple years to feel really comfortable with you know the two symbolic sides of the band. It's really a strange thing because you know when you first start a band you reach with things that you are comfortable, you reach with things that you understand, just like anything that you go with what's around you that is easy to understand. Since we've gone along, we've shed all those things, literally everything that we started with we've shed them all and like followed our instincts. So, as we go along more and more, influences mean less, it's like we don't really you know what just comes out. Because there's this process established of what we are and how we are so now everything that comes out sort of filters through this thing. Most of my friends that play in bands say that we are not like any other band, I don't mean musically necessarily but how we act and the way we come about what we do is very backwards. But I think that was very necessary in the process that we went through to become what we are now. Yeah, because it wasn't like God spoke to me and said 'you're going to be in this band and it's gonna sound like this' because it was arrived at by a lot of trial and error and just finding what you're instinctively comfortable with.
Interviewer: Plus you're pretty close to uncategoralizable.
Billy: That makes me very happy to hear that. That's what I want. We've reached this zenith point in music where it's like everyone has heard it everything. You cannot solo Jimi Hendrix and you can't outgod Led Zeppelin you can't out Iggy Pop Iggy Pop. Everything has reached its point where it's like you can't be anymore whatever unless you're going to kill yourself on stage and that would be a one time act. You know, that's really the last thing left to do. So it's like there's a frustration there of just like 'where do we go? where do we head? I don't want to be a regurgitating retro. let's mish-mash the past up and delivery it to someone in a different box and pretend that it's different.' We don't want to do that. We're really trying to find some kind of area you know. So that's why when I say that it's more about emotion for us than it is music in a lot of ways because musically how many different ways can you really express yourself? We look for something that will mean more in some other way.
Interviewer: Yeah. That was a great line 'you can't outgod Led Zeppelin'.
Billy: Well you can't outpop Iggy.
Interviewer: Can't outpop Iggy. Can't outgod Led Zeppelin. What makes you right? Are you always working on lyrics or is it do we have notebooks and notebooks and notebooks that get carried around and cassettes and scribbles?
Billy: Exactly. As long as I can remember, it's always been like a process of creation for me. From scribbling, drawing, writing, poem you know you name it, it's always been about expressions. So, being in a rock band is for me the ultimate way to express myself because I can express myself in a very aesthetic way which is to make records. And then I can also express myself in a way that is very personable, live. You know, maybe rock 'n' roll is disposable at some level but as far like for the moment it's probably the best art form you know because it's alive and it breathes. Maybe no one will listen to our tapes in a 100 years and they'll have somebody's painting on the wall, but as long as I'm alive at least I'll feel like I'm doing something that's like breathing.
Interviewer: Are you a writer before you were a musician?
Billy: Um, I definitely wrote a lot of poetry and stuff like that. I don't know if it was good or bad, but there was always this impulse to want to do something you know.
Interviewer: Was it hard getting the band together? Getting the personalities together you know? Was there a lot of trying this person and trying that person?
[Billy and Jimmy snicker]
Billy: Absolutely. The hardest part was to saying to someone 'Okay, I'm going to form this band and this is how it's going to be you know.' And they'd say 'Well, what kinda band, what kinda music?' 'Well you don't understand. It's more about an idea.' And to find people who are willing to accept that challenge and willing not to go for such an immediate accessible thing. And to be willing to put in time and years and really work at it and really believe in this idea that somehow we would achieve something that was bigger and better than everything around us was. Being from Chicago, it was such a frustrating music scene. It gave us all the more impetus to want to grow beyond that. I went through so many people to try and find the right people. A lot of people like the idea of being in a band than they actually like working for a band.
Interviewer: A gang with guitars and they just sorta want a different social group.
Interviewer: What made you know it was going to work? Like, what was said, what was played, and you said 'Yeah, I like this person I wanna be..'
Jimmy: Nobody really likes each other. But we all…
Interviewer: What's that bond that holds together?
Jimmy: It's definitely the music. It's definitely the feeling. Nobody..
Interviewer: Would you be friends if you weren't in the band?
Jimmy: I don't think that anyone in the band is actually best friends per say. But I mean I think everyone knows they're going to be in the band forever.
Billy: Even if the band breaks up, at some point which it will, we'll give the band up. It's kinda like being in the Musketeers. Once a Pumpkin, always a Pumpkin. We've really subjugated ourselves to this idea how things should be and when it really comes right into your face is when you try and play it with someone else. You try and go outside and play it with some other musician, you realize how intense you are with what you do and how you do it. We have such a kind of psychic process that goes on now that's really a strange thing.
Interviewer: Hmm that is, and really nice to. Sort of. What's an album that you both might have in your record collection? Like what's something that would be like an old bond. Like Led Zeppelin II?
Billy: (laughs) Absolutely.
Jimmy: Well, between Billy and me, we've probably got every Zeppelin, Hendrix, Sabbath..
Interviewer: King Crimson?
Jimmy: I've got some King Crimson.
Interviewer: I knew. I knew there was some King Crimson in somewhere back there.
Jimmy: I was once the anal drummer.
Billy: Now he's the oral drummer.
Interviewer: Now he's the oral drummer. Yeah. I have to ask you, and I'm sure you've been asked this a billion times, and I'm sorry, but why is “Rhinoceros” called “Rhinoceros”?
Billy: Um, I never talk about what my songs are about.
Interviewer: That's not about what the song is about, but okay…
Billy: But that kind of is talking about what the song is about.
Interviewer: Okay then I thought you could answer this indir…
Billy: Here I'll explain to you, this is how I write up my song titles. This is indicative of how I came up with “Rhinoceros”. Say you write a song about a chandelier. And the chandelier gives off light. And the light is the color red. And red reminds you of the color you're not supposed to wear around a bull. So, you name the song “Cow”.
Interviewer: Okay. That's good, it all makes sense. There's the other thing that Joy Divison makes up a list of great phrases and then after the album is finished. They just all go through and pick up 10 phrases or words or whatever and I thought that might be something…
Billy: I think song titles is really important. Its kinda like the wrapping paper on a gift.
Interviewer: Do you ever start with a song title?
Billy: Absolutely. To be totally honest, I carried “Siva” around in my mind for like 5 years. That I knew one day I would write a song called “Siva”, I just knew. I have tapes from 5 years ago with “Siva” written on them you know. You know trying to put that title to a song you know.
Interviewer: Blank tapes. You'd be ready.
Billy: I even thought about calling the band “Siva” actually.
Interviewer: Wow. And it finally came out with the right combination of people.
Billy: It finally came out. So now I have these songs called “Kill Mom” and “Shoot Dad”.
Interviewer: I love the sacred heart on the back. Who's the inspiration? Who found the picture?
Billy: It's actually like uh…..
Interviewer: One of the little…
Jimmy: It's like an ornament.
Billy: An ornament or..
Interviewer: What's the word?
Billy: I used to wear it around my neck. It was given to me by a woman in Florida when I was 19. It was a strange thing I had. You know its like when sometimes they shoot a rock and it's supposed to shoot straight up but it shoots toward the left? That's kinda what that's all about. It kinda went off for a while.
Interviewer: I mean do you still have it?
Billy: Yeah, it's actually my girlfriend's. I gave it to her. I had to pry it out of her to use it for the album.
Interviewer: It's just such a wonderful thing. Have you guys been to Boston yet?
Billy: Yeah, sure.
Interviewer: At the Boston Museum, they have their equivalent. They've got it all in Spanish and it's all blue. It's like the heaviest thing you'll ever see in a museum in your life.
Billy: The sacred heart image or the bleeding heart image to me is the image I attach myself to like a lot people are into crosses but that to me is the ultimate image you know. The soul of God. This is such a dualistic image. It has fire and thorns. It says so much to me that I just thought it was just right it is in a way. In some ways that should have been the front cover you know. That image is pretty much symbolically is the album. That kind of torture.
Interviewer: At first, I was trying to link Gish and the heart and I just couldn't. Then, I was thinking what she was like and what she went through and maybe there was some link.
Billy: Gish sounds like such a sentimental word.
Interviewer: Yeah. You know it's so…
Interviewer: Something. Yeah, Gish is the icon of something. I don't know. It's all smiles. Gish is such a smiley word.
Billy: Yes, it is.
Interviewer: And the back is so intense. And rips you open.
Billy: That pretty much sums up the Pumpkins, you know.
Billy: Just when you think we're getting soft on you, it hits you over the head. You know.
Interviewer: Yeah. Well great, I'm glad you guys came by.
Billy: Thanks for having us.
Interviewer: It's 2 minutes after four, how am I doing? Can I have you do liners?
Billy: What is that?
Interviewer: You know, insert your name here.
Billy: Oh, okay. I never do these, but for you I will do them.
Interviewer: You could do, you know, I'm Billy and I'm Jimmy and Smashing Pumpkins and blah blah blah.
Billy: Ok. Howdy there folks. I'm Billy from the Smashing Pumpkins. I'm on The Edge, can't you tell? Right after this, so stay tuned.
Billy: Yes, life on the edge. I'm William Patrick Corgan from the Smashing Squids. And we'll be back with some of our music. (laughs) I always think that these are so silly, so I'm sorry.
Interviewer: Well, I know. But the only thing people hear is you and this is the beginning and top of the show. They won't know what's going on.
Billy: Hey, I'm back. I'm on the edge. Been takin' a lot of these pills. I'm Billy from the Pumpkins. We're on The Edge. Get it?
Interviewer: Let's make Jimmy do something.
Billy: (laughs) Yeah.
Jimmy: (in a croacky voice) I'm really on the edge.
Interviewer: So when your voice comes back, I'll be able to send you this and you'll go that's what I sounded like. “That's what I sounded like on that day”. It's very good. It's very kind of Robert Micthev or something, I don't know.
Billy: More like Vic Taback.
Jimmy (in a croacky voice): Alice!
Interviewer: Yeah, light another cigarette up Jimmy!
Jimmy: Hi, I'm Jimmy from the Smashing Pumpkins. I'm on The Edge. Right after this. So stay tuned! Hi, this is Jimmy from the Pumpkins.
Billy: You're reading the wrong one.
Jimmy: I can't see the highlighter.
Billy: You gotta read these.
Interviewer: He wanted to read that one though.
Jimmy: Oh okay. I can't see the highlighter.
Interviewer: Yeah it's hard on pirate radio.
Billy: They're all on the edge ones.
Jimmy: On The Edge. I'm Jimmy from the Pumpkins. Back with our music. We're back on The Edge. I'm Jimmy from the Pumpkins.
Billy: You can't use any of these! These are terrible!
Jimmy: Hi, I'm Edge from U2. You're on the Pumpkins.
Billy: Stay tuned.
Interviewer: The Pumpkins are my favorite band.
Jimmy: Stay tuned. The Pumpkins are my favorite.
Interviewer: Don't go anywhere. This is a great record.
Billy: Oh thank you.
Interviewer: It's really really good.
Billy: I promise the next one will be even better.
Interviewer: Really? “Rhinoceros” and “Bury Me” are my favorite songs.
Billy: The funny thing about that record, I mean this makes me very happy – is that everyone I talk to likes different songs.
Interviewer: Different songs? That's good.