Fuse.TV Interviews by Joe Lynch and Steve Pavlopoulos, June 2012
Billy Corgan, the Smashing Pumpkins mastermind who is never at a loss for words, talked to Fuse about his longevity in the music industry despite the media drubbings he sometimes takes for speaking his mind.
"I've survived the holocaust of when your career is supposed to go away and never come back," Corgan tells us. "Like when I put out Siamese Dream, I thought it was a great f**king record, but it got sh*tty reviews. Now it's a classic, so whose opinion was right? If I said it at the time, I was an arrogant prick. But here I still am.
"You can't kill me off with bad press. That's already been attempted. No amount of feuds with other bands is going to do any difference. The music is the thing that endures."
Speaking of music, Corgan is not too impressed with today's retro-centric music scene. "I'm sick of this cozy relationship rock n' roll has with its own past. It's really gross. It's not the way rock n' roll was built. Rock n' roll was a destructive force and that what it's supposed to be."
In other interview clips, he talks about how pro wrestling influenced his "bad guy" public persona and why Western culture can't produce the next rock revolutionary.
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan talks about which part of his history he finds cringe inducing and why he doesn't care about bad press or feuds with other bands.
Billy Corgan Thinks Western Culture Can't Produce the Next Rock Revolutionary
"The last 10 years in rock n' roll has been very, very difficult to watch because it's basically turned into a bunch of McDonald's commercials," Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan tells Fuse. "That's why I get very argumentative with the indie class, because if you don't let [indie] bands rise up to the mainstream, that's what you get… [when] you get precocious and keep it in New York or Seattle."
Aside from deriding the exclusivity of indie culture, Corgan believes the music of the 2000s lacks the power to actually change the world in the way previous eras of rock music could.
"What is it producing in the way of great world-changing music? It's not. Because it's not designed to do that, hence the biggest advancements in rock n' roll are electronic music. Because it's existing off most people's radar, in clubs and underground situations. It's not with guys and girls with guitars."
Corgan says you can't even point to one example of a genre-crossing musical genius in 2012. "It should be easy to identify a twentysomething right now who's getting it done. And there isn't a single one of them. At that level—at the level of a Kurt Cobain, John Lennon or Bob Marley. [The next one is] going to show up somewhere where no one anticipates. The next one is going to be in India, Africa, or China and it's going to blow us out of the water, because it's going to be a real movement with real power behind it."
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan talks about the difference between "popular" and "influential" music and how the next form of world-changing music will come from India, Africa or China.
Billy Corgan Is A Rush Fanboy
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan isn't always talking about pissing on Radiohead or dissing Pavement—he has some nice things to say sometimes, too. During our recent interview with the always outspoken Corgan, he revealed his softer side by admitting his superfan tendencies for Rush.
"They're such great guys and such giving people, so I feel very comfortable to talk to them. And they're nice enough to indulge my fanboy-type stuff," Billy said about the Canadian prog-rockers after recently getting the chance to interview them. And then he went on and on about how cute they are. Just kidding.
Billy also managed to turn a conversation about Rush into a metaphor about the state of the music industry today. (He's really good at that, actually.) "With a band like Rush, you've got all these albums you can debate. 'This period, that period, his voice here, this lyric there…' A band like that has an incredible amount of information which fits perfectly into the social media world… If you're an a**hole with one song and one idea, you won't go five minutes into the social media world because once that's explored, there's nothing else for you to do."
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan talks about why he's such a Rush fanboy and why the band has been dismissed by the "critical class."
Billy Corgan Stokes Fire in Long-Running Pavement Feud
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan is not particularly pleased with the way his musical contemporaries are sliding into old age—he believes touring behind vintage material is symptomatic of putting financial security ahead of artistic growth.
"My point of having a problem with nostalgia acts for the grunge generation is that it subverts the original meaning of grunge, which is rebellion," Corgan tells Fuse. "We need those artists to step up and take on the social issues that are going on right now, and they're choosing an economic model over a socio-political message. So as far as I'm concerned, f**k em—they're lazy or scared."
Corgan offered us an example of what he's railing against. "No better case than Pavement. Complaining about me in the '90s [a lyric from "Range Life" attacked the Smashing Pumpkins], now out doing the greatest hits tour. Why? Ka-ching. Cashing in. Maybe that's why they were obsessed with integrity because they didn't have any."
Now before you cry foul on Corgan—who does play vintage hits in concert these days—listen to his explanation as to why the Pumpkins' approach to their old material is still artistically fresh.
"We play just as many old songs as any other band, and we should," Corgan admits. "I understand people come to the shows and they want to hear those songs. It's just when that becomes the main story [that it's a problem]. If that becomes the story, I'm dead as an artist and there's no future for my band. I'm nothing but a rodeo clown doing the act I did 25 years ago. That's not why I got into this."
Corgan cites Roger Waters' touring resurrection of Pink Floyd's The Wall as a prime example of how to keep classic material relevant.
"I just went to see Roger Waters do The Wall for the second time—that's a work from 1979—and he didn't play but one new song in the entire set. But he's re-contextualized the work to have a modern air. He's talking about everything from Apple to Gulf Wars and all this stuff. He's updated it for modern audiences. That's the same thing that we do. [Our shows are] not a sentimental, 'Let's go back to the old days.' F**k the old days—the old days weren't that great."
To hear Corgan talk about how artists and rockers "can really change sh*t up from the outside" when it comes to government and culture, watch the video below.
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan talks about how it hurts him to see musical acts surviving on nostalgia and why sentimentalism is destroying the music industry.
Billy Corgan: "I Didn't Forget How to Make Commercial Rock"
As fans of the Smashing Pumpkins know very, very, very well, Billy Corgan doesn't regurgitate press release soundbites during interviews—the alt-rock giant speaks his mind with incisive candor. So when Fuse sat down with Corgan to talk about the Pumpkins' new album Oceania—what some critics are calling the band's best album since the 1990s—he offered up some insightful, rabble-rousing commentary on the music industry today.
"All these bands [are] touring on their old albums and everyone saying it's great. No, it's not f**king great, it's terrible for the business overall," Corgan tells us. "It actually diminishes the power of young artists, because how are they going to compete with their one song against the classic album? It's [old artists] clutching the edge. Nobody wants to fall into the abyss, but Smashing Pumpkins, we decided to fall into the abyss. The phoenix aspect of Oceania exists because we were willing to fall into the abyss and walk away from the easy part of the business."
Corgan explains why the revamped Pumpkins aren't willing to desperately rehash the sounds of their heyday. "When you have a band that has a legacy, people automatically assume [new material] is going to sound like what they're familiar with. But then you're competing with their memory—and when you're competing with a memory you can never win." Fair point.
"People assume I forgot how to make commercial music or mainstream rock n' roll," Corgan says. "I never forgot. I pioneered some of the things that still exist, that people still use in alternative radio, as far as how they make their singles and the sounds they use. I didn't hit my head and forget all those things: I just didn't feel like doing those things because I didn't see where it was really working. Once I had enough information to bring something new to the table, that's what we did [with Oceania]."
For the full interview with Corgan, including his explanation as to why the Teargarden for Kaleidyscope project could end up being 60 songs, click the video below.
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan talks about the band's new album "Oceania," how it fits into their larger "Teargarden by Kaleidyscope" project and why that might be more than 44 songs long.
Billy Corgan on How Wrestling Inspired His "Bad Guy" Public Persona
Smashing Pumpkins' frontman raised a few eyebrows (something he's more than accustomed to) last year when he announced his involvement with a wrestling startup called Resistance Pro, but Billy Corgan tells Fuse that his love for the performance sport is hardly out of character.
"I was into [pro wrestling] as a kid, I loved the larger than life [element]. It has had an effect on how I view my job," says the career rock star. "The pomposity is something I always thought was funny. The wrestling guys can wink their way out of being a bad guy. Well, I've been willing to play a bad guy just because I think it's funny. It's certainly funnier than being a good guy. And oftentimes in rock n' roll you find the guys who are perceived as good guys are actually big f**king a**holes behind the scenes. That's the reason they're so intent on being a good guy—unconscious guilt."
Corgan also talks about the enduring appeal of wrestling: "I think there's part of the American psyche that just wants to have a good time, and wrestling is just a dumb, good time. It's just fun, it's a different form of the circus," he says. "It's just very crude live theater. Very crude."
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan talks about the pro wrestling league he co-founded, Resistance Pro Wrestling, and why he loves playing the heel.
Billy Corgan Disses OK Go, Says Videos Today Are "Just Gimmicks"
When we spoke with alt-rock's most-outspoken frontman, Billy Corgan, he shared his unequivocal thoughts on why two cornerstones of the music industry—the album and the music video—are no longer as relevant as they used to be. He even took a thinly-veiled potshot at viral music video craftsmen OK Go.
"I love videos but they're just not effective right now? [not as much as] they were, say, 20 years ago," Corgan says. "Is it the technology? Is it the fact that everyone has access to really good HD cameras right now? Is it that the major labels don't have the budget to make big budget videos anymore? Are we out of video ideas?"
Corgan also expresses his apathy toward recent music videos, not-so-obliquely referencing OK Go in the process. "Why are the most celebrated videos of the last five years basically just gimmicks as opposed to substantive things that are worth repeating? They're more like cultural curiosities like, 'Oh, look! They're running on the treadmill.'
"I would love to make videos again—I have a good history with videos," Corgan says, which we heartily concur with. "But at the same time, the system as it exists is, if you don't have a new single, they're not going to play [the video]. So if you're not getting radio play, you make the expensive video and then the systems that play videos don't play them. So why are we spending all that money? Maybe we should be spending it on something else, like getting a big mouse head or something more fun."
Hmm… perhaps Corgan will go the deadmau5 route. Maybe rename the band 5mashing Pumpkin5? He also explains why Smashing Pumpkins still make albums, an art form he mostly considers dead.
"I believe the album is dead, absolutely, which sounds counter-intuitive to the message," Corgan says. "We [the band] still think it's an effective form of communication, because in our case it's helping change the perception of the band's artistic legacy."
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan talks about the irrelevance of albums in today's music industry and how videos aren't too effective, either.