Listessa Interview - 1998-05-29
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The following interview was conducted during the recording sessions for Adore.
Winnipeg, Canada…the silent, frigid north…Suddenly, that silence is broken by the telephone. It's a call from sunny southern California…Los Angeles to be precise…and it's from none other than the Great Pumpkin himself, Mr. William P. Corgan! Yes, Billy has granted an exclusive interview to the Internet's biggest Smashing Pumpkins fans…the members of Listessa!
Listessa: The Smashing Pumpkins is one of the most unique bands out there, and it is this quality that has attracted me most to your music. Do you agree that your music is unique, and what do you think makes it so?
BC: I think our music is unique in a couple of ways. First off, our attitude has always been one of a free ranging expression, without limits or self imposed generational boundaries, and i think that that shows
more as time goes by. What many fans don't understand about our most recent musical changes is that it is all done in the same spirit we started with in 88; to fuck with peoples perceptions and to challenge our own intuitive ability to respond to awkward situations; to go where no one has gone before. That said, we also have a very keen awareness of musical history, some would say to our detriment, but i think that it is this keen sense (and healthy respect for all that is good) that has allowed us to embrace what we like; to manipulate, avoid, and ultimately destroy it; and lastly, it is the over reach and absolute dedication to these aesthetic principles; a true love of our world that has given us the strength to endure.
Listessa: What does music mean to you, and what do you feel about the connection between a band and their fans?
BC: The music is quite simply my life. It is really all i concern myself with. As far as our connection to our fans, it is one of complete compassion and respect, but not without our own criticism, mainly people refusing to accept the band as we have always put forth; a non compromising vision; that is not to say that we cannot be criticised! We have gone many wrong directions, but as i have said, so what somewhere somehow we dare, and i guess we dare you to continue to follow us and be amazed at our complete ability to dazzle and confound.
Listessa: What is most rewarding about being a musician?
BC: The creation of the songs from total scratch. When i feel that something is borne out of the ethers, it could make me cry because it is of the earth and universe; a magical moment! That also leads me to another common misconception, and that is the way the world views how we/me work. The creation of the music doesn't end until it is fully realized/mixed and recorded, but that is where James and D'arcy and Jimmy when he was around have been fantastic; to allow me to completely pursue my vision of what i hear and feel, and provide the glue to make it real.
Listessa: You put so much time and effort and emotion into your songs, and you've made so many amazing feats, and you continue to do so. What keeps you going?
BC: I honestly don't know except to tell you that it is all i know. I really now enjoy all of it; writing, playing, the competition of getting songs played, making unique videos; I like all of it and feel there aren't enough hours in the day to do all of what i want to do.
Listessa: Since SP are such a heavily bootlegged group, are you planning to release an official live album?
BC: Yes, we hope to someday release a multiple (5+?) comprehensive set that will span the entire time (1988 to the present,) but that won't be any time soon.
Listessa: Is 'Vieuphoria II' in the works? We all heard about the shows at California's The Pond being filmed with a "million dollar camera". Will we be seeing this for sale?
BC: We also hope to do another Vieuphoria and also release an interview/video package.
Listessa: What was the second concept for the Tonight, Tonight video (besides the one similar to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Aeroplane" and the concept actually used)?
BC: As the band played on a surreal stage, the camera would go into people in the audiences eye and you would see that persons dream/vision of the song. One person might be on stage with us; one person might be in bed with 5 girls… blah blah blah.
Listessa: What is your take on the "Pumpkin sound"?
BC: For me, I guess it's the two guitar interplay; the harmonic configuration and tonal stacking… but it's a little more complicated than I can explain.
Listessa: Where do you think this generation's music is heading as far as style goes?
BC: I think that music is headed towards a more hyper-poppy sound (ala Puffy) where people take old catchy things and combine them with new sounds and textures, hooks with sound collages. New original music is
going to disappear as less and less people have to be able to play. The great thing is technology makes it more accessible, but the net result won't have as much depth, but may have more immediacy.
Listessa: Where do you go and what do you do to relax?
BC: (To the) piano or bedroom and write songs.
Listessa: You've talked about "realness" and being "real". What is "real" to you?
BC: Everyone knows what that means to them; being true to what you want from your life. My standard of real may be higher or lower than the next person's, but i know what my truth is.
Listessa: I have read that there is an album following "Adore" that will be a rock album. Is this a set plan, and what else can you tell us about it?
BC: Who said that? You won't know what to call the next one, if you can ever give a name to this one.
Listessa: One of the Smashing Pumpkins shirts I have has a series of faces on it with bar codes over the foreheads. Does this shirt have any relation to the song Pennies (the faces could be pennies)? Did the band have influence into the making of the shirt, or any shirts?
BC: That is a James creation, and it has no connection to Pennies.
Listessa: Does the band have influence over items that are marketed?
BC: Yes, we make all decisions concerning our merchandise. You wouldn't believe the crap they try to get us to sell. We are very picky, and have probably not done the best job with our stuff, but it is very time consuming. But there is also a lot of illegal stuff, like those stupid fucking books with our pictures in them, where people make money off us. We have no control over those things.
Listessa: What song off each Pumpkins album is most important to you?
BC: (From) Gish, Siva
(From) Siamese (Dream), Disarm.
(From) Mellon Collie (and The Infinite Sadness), 1979.
(From) Pisces (Iscariot), Starla.
(From) (The) Aeroplane (Flies High Boxset), Last Song.
Listessa: Have you always wanted to be a musician? If not, what other options did you consider?
BC: When I was younger i wanted to be a baseball player. I also considered being a history major.
Listessa: Was there any moment in time where you remember jumping backwards in disbelief from all the success?
BC: Many, many times, but I have never felt it was undeserved. The hard work for me has always equaled the success.
Listessa: Here are some questions that Listessa members have been asking on the list in the past year. Why did you use the name "Porcelina" for the song, "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans"?
BC: Just made it up!
Listessa: What are the words being said in the background of the song, "Bodies" from 1:57 to 2:14?
BC: A bunch of words that start with dis-….disarm/disconnect/distroy
Listessa: How are you in general? How is Jesse?
BC: I am very happy and excited about the new album. I know everyone is going to be very surprised. I did an interview recently where the interviewer described the album as "totally different". My brother is good.
Listessa: How are D'arcy and James doing?
BC: They are fine as well.
Listessa: One sec, I need a sip of tea here. Are you a coffee or tea drinker?
BC: Tea… chamomile.
Listessa: Okay, back to the interview. Will the new album be coming out on vinyl as well?
BC: Yes, in mono.
Listessa: Do you think you may release another collection of b-sides as you did for "Pisces Iscariot"?
BC: Not while the band is together. (We're) tired of b-sides.
Listessa: Who are your favorite authors? Poets?
BC: William Burroughs and Phillip K. Dick.
Listessa: Will there be a tour for the new album? How big will it be? Where will you go?
BC: A short tour (with) no more than 3 or 4 months. Hopefully, all the major cities of the world.
Listessa: Here is another frequent Listessa question. Will the Siamese Dream 7″ vinyl boxset be re-released on CD?
Listessa: Currently, what band or group of musicians are your favourites to listen to?
BC: Radiohead and Spiritualized.
Listessa: Will there every be a biography on The Smashing Pumpkins?
BC: Not by us i don't think.
Listessa: Have you ever thought about writing a book?
BC: (I) started one, but got distracted.
Listessa: Okay, back to some short questions that list members have been curious about. Were you ever a "nerd" in school?
Listessa: Does Marilyn Manson have an influence on your new songs?
BC: As a friend.
Listessa: Will you be creating an unplugged album or performing on MTV unplugged?
Listessa: Have you ever seen the Siamese Dream laser show?
Listessa: Is Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness a concept album based on religion or the human condition?
BC: The human condition of mortal sorrow.
Listessa: Will you be playing most of the music yourself on the new album?
BC: My dog handled most of the parts.
Listessa: I deserved that. Will there ever be a compilation of rare SP songs released on CD?
Listessa: What label will the Pumpkins be on after the Virgin contract expires? Will you start your own label?
BC: I plan on starting my own in the right situation.
Listessa: Do you think the Collective Soul song "Smashing Young Man" is about you?
BC: I heard it is from someone who would know. That guy is very talented but a shameless rip off artist. He ought to get his own sound and video style!
Listessa: Is there a video for Muzzle?
Listessa: Have you every considering becoming an actor?
Listessa: Okay, now I have some very general questions about yourself. Which is your favourite sport: Hockey, Basketball, or something else?
Listessa: As a kid, did you watch Looney Tunes? Tom & Jerry?
BC: 3 Stooges and Johnny Sokko.
Listessa: Will you be making an appearance on an upcoming X-Files episode? Another Simpsons episode?
Listessa: How often to you get to watch TV? What do you watch?
BC: Sports is all i watch, and 3 Stooges.
Listessa: Were you tall as a young child?
Listessa: Back to questions about the band…Do you have plans to use a drum machine on future albums?
BC: Who wants to know?
Listessa: What are your feelings on bootlegs? Do they bother you?
BC: As long as it is for fans, I don't really care.
Listessa: What do you think of James' new album?
BC: I'm very proud of James work on the album. I think he surprised everyone.
Listessa: Are you able to let insults to your character by the media slide off you? What irks you about them?
BC: I've learned to take praise and criticism with an equal grain of salt. What irks me most about the criticism is they can't really cut down the music so they become personal. If fans were more assertive, I think the magazines would think twice before being so callous…but we live in a negative world, so the magazines only feed into that.
Listessa: How comfortable do you feel with the rate of technological advances? Are you comfortable on the Internet?
BC: Technological advances? It's all the same. We are looking for the next big thing. The Internet; I like the info access, but despise the kings and queens who hide behind words and taunts….digital cowards.
Listessa: I'm going to go back to some questions I've received from Listessa members. Did you enjoy being on Regis and Cathy Lee? Other TV shows?
BC: I enjoy doing anything that is outside the ordinary.
Listessa: Did you plan the "dancers" as you performed "1979″ on the Grammy Awards?
BC: That was my idea to not make the whole thing so "serious", and it worked!
Listessa: What's up with Rasputin on the 33 album? Is it a Boney M. reference?
BC: (It's a) Russian influence.
Listessa: Are the Pumpkins set to split up any time soon? Do you see yourselves lasting as long as the Rolling Stones?
BC: With us it is always album by album…
Listessa: What's up with the SP fanclub? Is it still active?
BC: What fanclub? There never was one….that was Virgin's fault…we just had this p.o. box….next thing we were supposed to have a fanclub.
Listessa: Where you trained on any instruments as a child?
Listessa: Why do you use the word "June" so much?
BC: (It) rhymes with spoon.
Listessa: What comments do you have about the songs you wrote for the "Ransom" soundtrack?
BC: Experimental. (I) wish I'd had more time and control over the music placement in the movie.
Listessa: Do you know why James is so tired? Perhaps he needs more exercise or iron?
BC: James is 800 years old.
Listessa: Are you planning on coming back to Canada any time soon? How about another world tour?
Listessa: What is the answer to the meaning of life?
Listessa: Do you have any more plans for the Starchildren?
BC: Yes. We are going to go nowhere.
Listessa: Where are the Gish lyrics?
BC: In a barn in Oxnard, CA.
Listessa: Will the 1989 demos ever be released?
Listessa: What is the inspiration behind the new album, Adore?
Listessa: The End is the Beginning is the End…of the Pumpkins? What is the meaning behind the song?
BC: See, that's a big joke, and none of you got it. Everyone is too serious.
Listessa: Is the future of the Pumpkins Techno? Acoustic? Rawk?
BC: None of the above.
Listessa: Here are a two questions about Listessa. What do you think of the Listessa tribute book? The Listessa shirt?
BC: Very flattered.
Listessa: Have you ever heard the Listessa tribute tape?
Listessa: I'd play it for you, but it's in my car right now. What kind of car do you own?
BC: A jalopy.
Listessa: Okay, back to some serious questions again. Thinking back to 1991 (the Gish era), how can you compare your life as a band then to your life as a band now? What kind of progression/regression has occurred?
BC: We were much more of a band day to day. We rehearsed more, but also had a more normal life.
Listessa: What sort of atmosphere do you find most inspiring for your song writing? Does it depend on the mood of the song?
BC: Quiet…and no (it doesn't matter on the mood of the song.)
Listessa: Do you command the lyrics to get themselves on paper or do you wait for them to come to you?
BC: Both i suppose. i spend as much time these days on lyrics as music, but on this album everything was done very quickly.
Listessa: Do you get overwhelmed by the amount of people who follow you and to what extent they "study" you? Are you used to this behaviour yet?
BC: You should ask them!
Listessa: What kind of musical direction do you think the Smashing Pumpkins will be taking with upcoming albums? Are you investigating computer generated sounds? Are you moving towards acoustic sounds?
BC: Unconventional sonic textures with non-sequitur detours.
Listessa: What's up with a replacement for Jimmy? Will Jimmy ever be back? How about that guy you promised on Vieuphoria to include in the band? Did he ever get asked???
BC: Jimmy is no longer in the band, but his presence is with us everyday.
Listessa: How accurate is Vieuphoria to the life of the Pumpkins?
BC: Back then, close. Now, not even.
Listessa: Let me grab a few more questions from the mailing list. Where did you get the heart from on the back of Gish? Did it come from Ste. Anne de Beaupre, Quebec, Canada?
BC: A woman in Florida gave it to me when i was 19.
Listessa: What was the inspiration for "French Movie Theme"?
BC: French porn.
Listessa: What's up with "2007″ on the Pisces Iscariot? Who is the "Pisces Iscariot" that is being referred to in the title?
BC: 2007? Not my deal…Virgin….Pisces….duh!
Listessa: Was Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness influenced by the writing of Elie Wiesel?
BC: (I) never even heard of him nor read any of his work. (I) was deeply insulted by the accusation of lyrical plagiarism. Anyone who knows me knows i would never be that lame. A guitar riff, maybe, but not words. There are only 12 notes, but a million words.
Listessa: What do you want for your birthday?
Listessa: Is Flood working on Adore?
BC: Very diligently.
Listessa: Are you currently writing "happier" music than MCIS era songs?
BC: Fuck that happy concept. I write songs that reflect my surroundings and experiences. There is no happy or sad when it comes to music.
Listessa: Four albums over the next five years? True or false?
Listessa: Are there any cover tunes in the Pumpkins near future?
Listessa: My final question for you. After all of this time, how is it that you can still write meaningful songs?
BC: Because i have a heart.
Listessa: Any final words for Listessa members?
BC: I have read many discouraging things in regard to the lack of a future that my band has, or how we shouldn't change, or we used to be better. For those that live in the past, well you always have your c.d.'s there
to keep you warm, or hopefully you saw a memorable show with the original lineup that you can dream back to. I know that i get sentimental sometimes for old days and times, but those days have passed. The band is not 20 anymore. We have seen a lot. We have been through a lot, and we can only pass our experiences through our music in a way that is in harmony with the people we are today, not yesterday. We wish everyone could be happy and satisfied but alas, it is not human nature. We never set out to be anything but ourselves. I would hope that our success could be viewed with pride and satisfaction, not as a sign that something has been ruined. For those of you that have been there from the start, well to you I can offer only gratitude. For those of you that have found us along the way, try to connect the dots and see everything in context.
I would like to add that I'm very proud of this new album, I believe it is something to believe in. It has many layers, some which may not seem to be there on the first 3 or 4 listens, but this album has a sneaking power, and that is what i love about it. We could do all the the things that people seem to like now, but remember that we did them then when those things were not so popular…guitar solos in 1989??? I would hope that all the true fans can extend to us a chance and positivity. We wouldn't have come this far without you, and we acknowledge your support graciously, but no one owns us but ourselves. If you feel betrayed, then that is what you feel. If you feel that something has been lost, then that is what you feel. Remember that it is you too who are changing, and that us changing may remind you of a change or of a future that you might not want. All good things come to an end, so let us begin again fresh…have faith….it might do us all some good. I hope you like the new album….love billy