National Post Interview - 2012-06-18
(lookup on archive.org)
On June 19, The Smashing Pumpkins, the band in which singer-songwriter Billy Corgan is the sole original member, will release Oceania, the band's first studio album in more than five years. Since bass guitarist D'arcy Wretzky left the Pumpkins in 1999, members have come (Melissa Auf der Maur) and gone (everyone else), and Corgan has tried his luck with new bands (Zwan) and solo efforts (2005′s The Future Embrace), all to mixed reactions. Now with a completely new lineup, Corgan says Oceania is the best Smashing Pumpkins' album he's recorded since the early '90s. But you don't talk to one of the most outspoken artists in the industry without getting his opinion (and more than a few f-bombs) on more than just his new album. Here are a few highlights — check back tomorrow for our full profile of Corgan and the new band.
On other '90s artists
"If an artist from my generation can step forward and make a really strong record, rather than another f–king reunion tour, then it starts to draw a really big line between those artists who are relevant and those who are strictly in the past, and people need to make the distinction. One is pleasure and one is creativity. If you want pleasure, porn is always readily available."
On the spirit of Smashing Pumpkins
"A lot of bands, just like Rush, take inspiration from the band's spirit more than its members and the Smashing Pumpkins is one of those bands. People take inspiration from the spirit, the defiance, the willingness to say 'I'm not going to compromise with your value system, Mr. Indie Guy or Mr. Stuck up Mainstream Guy, f–k all of you.' There are those bands that represent more than just whether or not the songs are good.'
On his reputation for being controlling
"It's always been collaborative, it's just who does what, when and where. With the original Smashing Pumpkins everyone was involved with every phase of it, but when you got down to the nuts and bolts, like, 'Can you play this lightning fast guitar part, James [Iha]?' Well, in a lot of cases he couldn't. You're standing there with one of the best producers in the world and he's going, 'What are we going to do?' It wasn't like me and three people with blindfolds on."
On the power of online comments
"I think that the audience needs to evolve with the artist. When you have an audience not really willing to understand the difference between an opinion and support then you just consigned your favourite artist to the dustbin. Don't fool yourself, when there is a message board for Coachella and fans are writing who they want to see, there is someone on the other end reading that. Those are real things. Requesting, writing, demanding, tweeting. Those do play factors. If your favourite band in the world which you talk about on your website every f–king day releases a new song and within five minute you're saying it's the worst piece of s–t you've ever heard, what do you expect to happen to your band?"
On why they will be playing Oceania live in its entirety
"We've hired an interesting person in Sean Evans [the mastermind behind Roger Waters' The Wall tour] to do the visuals and we want to play the album in sequence, as a little bit of a f–k you to all the people out there playing their old albums. We just want to play it as a total statement so fans will be able to experience the album live."
On coming to terms with change
"Change is scary. I don't like it, either. You think I wanted to go through everything I have in the last 20 years? I was once in a somewhat solid alternative band that was successful, and ever since then I've had to deal with the wreckage of that plane that exploded mid-air. There are things I would change and things I regret, but here we are. We're still going. Do you want to dwell on something that's already been overly dwelled on or do you want to get in on the party that's going on now?"
On fans' reactions to the online-only Teargarden by Kaleidyscope
"One of the releases was called A Stitch in Time, which in my estimation is a pretty good song that could have very much fit on many Smashing Pumpkins' albums. I was reading about it as if it was the worst piece of s–t they'd ever heard, and I'm like, 'My god, it's just an acoustic song. How bad can it be?' "
On proudly showing his influences
"When I was younger I was a little more hell bent on hiding my influences, whereas now I'm OK with the fact that I was listening to a lot of Randy Rhoads or '80s shoegaze music. I'm totally cool with that. I really love my idols and my heroes and it's a way to pay tribute to them.
Source: National Post
June 19th, 2012 update: Oceania is more Smashing Pumpkins than Smashing Pumpkins
Billy Corgan is tired of talking about The Smashing Pumpkins. Or, at least, he's tired of talking about the band formed in 1988 and consisting of James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin and D'arcy Wretzky that would go on to rule '90s alternative rock with such songs as Disarm, 1979, Today and Bullet with Butterfly Wings before breaking up for good in 2000 (Wretzky was replaced by Melissa Auf der Maur in 1999).
"I have a theory about my hardcore fan base, which is that they hoped I would fail and have to go back to the original Smashing Pumpkins lineup," Corgan says over the phone from Chicago, adding that a reunion is definitely not in the works. "I don't see how it would work, and I keep saying it and people keep asking it, so I guess I'm a little confused because I've just made a really good new record. What's more important: the reuniting of the original band or making a really good record?"
The record in question is Oceania, the first Pumpkins' album in more than five years, produced by Corgan and Björn Thorsrud, and featuring Jeff Schroeder on rhythm guitar, Mike Byrne on drums and Nicole Fiorentino on bass guitar and backing vocals.
While Corgan may be the only original Pumpkins member on the album, he says Oceania captures the "same spirit of the old stuff," even more so than 2007?s Zeitgeist, which saw Corgan — after short-lived attempts at starting a new band (Zwan) and going solo (2005?s The Future Embrace) — reunite with Chamberlain to mixed reviews.
"I think, in a weird sort of way, Zeitgiest was the death of the old Smashing Pumpkins, literally and figuratively," he says. "So Oceania is finally what happens when you clear the decks and have something new to say without the past looming over your head like the sword of Damocles."
That "death" allowed Corgan to reach a point where he wasn't confined by conceptual constructs of what a Pumpkins album should be, and the result is a disc that "ended up sounding more like a Smashing Pumpkins record than if I actually tried to make a Smashing Pumpkins record, if that makes any sense," he says.
If anything, Oceania seems to combine all the elements of what hardcore fans have come to expect from a Pumpkins album, from the layered, loud and guitar-heavy opener Quasar to the pop-inflected keyboard notes of One Diamond, One Heart to the melodic and quiet closer, Wildflower.
It also marks Corgan's decision to reverse his 2008 claim that the Pumpkins would never release a full studio album again, which he followed up by recording Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, an online project of 44 songs released for free as they were recorded.
The incomplete Teargarden, he admits now, was a gamble, and while it didn't succeed on its own — "I couldn't believe that people who had been fans for 15 or 20 years were tossing the material aside so carelessly," he says — it was a necessary step to make Oceania a "successful musical statement."
"I had to go through all that and let go of some stuff, let go of some idealism," Corgan adds. "But it was also completely demotivating to release one song at a time. A proper studio album was the only thing that I could see which would get me motivated again."
The only question remaining is whether or not fans will accept the new Pumpkins lineup. Either way, don't expect Corgan to be too concerned.
"They either embrace it or say, 'No, nothing beyond 1999.' It's their call," he says. "If people have a problem with the band being called The Smashing Pumpkins, in which I was the main songwriter, the main producer and the main core, then I think that's a pretty flimsy excuse."
Source: National Post