Interview with Billy and Jimmy from December 1991
(Thanks to Sachin Bansal (Pumpkins28@aol.com) for typing this out)
Jimmy: The reason I wear the hat is because Iím actually bald.
Interviewer: The size of my shoes are.... Is that all right Ron? What was that?
Ron: (pre-recorded machine voice) Thatís all right.
Interviewer: Thatís all right? Okay cool.
Billy: Itís like the voice of god.
Interviewer: Yeah I know.
Jimmy: (in a godlike tone) Speak to me.
Interviewer: Itís kind of special. Itís 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 everybodyís favorite band?
Jimmy: No Iím not tired at all. I just have a sore throat.
Interviewer: Hmm. But has it gotten...
Jimmy: Itís not even sore. Itís just gone. It doesnít 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, youíd 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 havenít been home a lot. Thatís.
Jimmy: Iíve been home about 15 days since July 8th or something.
Interviewer: Wow. Have the songs changed a lot since youíve 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 Iíve learned from playing so much on the road is that it does everyone diservice if the band is disinterested in the music its playing and itís 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 donít wanna I mean weíre not out there to jam weíre not the Grateful Dead, but weíve kinda opened up our songs a little bit for more interpetations. I think itís 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 thatís what people wanna see when they have the album and they know the songs theyíre 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. Thatís a good question. Itís just um. See when we formed as a band, we werenít a jammy sort of band we wrote songs and then brought them to the band. We werenít 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 youíre angry it has more of an edge. And if youíre feeling a little more lovy then it tends to be a little softer in places. The best thing about itís 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 donít have to get up there and pretend to be something Iím not. If Iím angry I get up and play my songs angry and it lends a death to the songs and maybe it wouldnít be there if I didnít have those emotions. And conversely, no oneís seen me up there with a propped up smile aching to put on rock moods that I donít 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 letís take like ďBury MeĒ 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, ďBury MeĒ 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 itís 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. Itís not always that way but it for a song like that it is
Jimmy: A particular song goes..
Billy: Weíre very specific because this is answering a bigger question you havenít even asked me but um what we do specifically, musically, to us its important in the sense of establishing something else. Like emotionally. So weíre more looking for an emotinal intangible element in musical. I dunno. Itís hard to explain how that works with how we make up our songs, but..
Interviewer: So, when its like ďBury MeĒ is to you its like this emotion I want to get across. And like ďRhinocerosĒ is a different emotion.
Jimmy: I donít think itís that specific. I mean, ďBury MeĒ was a very anal song when we did it in the studio eveything was worked out. But I mean when we do it now and we do it totally different. I mean thereís a totally different feel. I mean itís 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. Itís 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 isnít this kind what you do is you create this kind of machine thatís all working in one direction and by doing you freeze the mind up. And, thatís why weíre so specific in the way we write our songs and the way that there meant to be played so you can achieve other things. Itís a hard concept to explain. You know to most people itís probably really unimportant, you know.
Interviewer: No itís like. I was thinking itís 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 youíre open so that all those things you donít 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: Itís like is somebody, are you a big classical music fan?
Interviewer: No? Cause itís like a symphony sorta it goes all over the place but itís in a every incredibly ordered way.
Billy: Orchestrated would definitly be the word. Some people that have seen that kind of process with us in action are kinda surprised you know. But, I think itís very important because the end result is to achieve the maximum effect that you are looking for and nothing about hopefully nothing about what youíre doing musically is ditracting from that. Thatís why weíre so specific.
Interviewer: Yeah, makes sense. Hmm. Itís um, do the audiences have a big effect since weíre 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, thereís definitely something about how an audience reacts that has something to do with the band but I think itís really important that a band not get an applause happy and reaction happy and ulitmately you have to achieve a satisfaction within your band because playing music thatís important to you shouldnít be about validation it shouldnít be about someone validating your existance 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 weíve ever played have been shows were the audience didnít react. We didnít get anything from the audience. Thereís no equation. Thereís 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 youíre doing is familiar with the songs and reacts but I think ultimatley 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 thatís 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 Ďní roll drummer?
Billy: I think sheís asking you from the beginning. Like pre-pumpkin.
Interviewer: Yeah, pre-pumpkin.
Jimmy: Actually, I wanted to 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 Iím 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 itís not the most important thing to me, I just I mean if I didnít like the music I wouldnít 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 terrirozing 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: Theyíve been going through 22 years of drums.
Interviewer: Theyíre 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 till 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? ďWe want a band that ..Ē
Billy: See, I guess to answer the question that youíre 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 yourslef 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 Ďokay, hereís a good song I wroteí Weíd play it and then realize we werenít comfortable with it as a band. It wasnít the ultimate direction we wanted to head. So it just became a process of weeding out where weíre 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. Itís 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 whatís around you that is easy to understand. Since weíve gone along, weíve shed all those things, literally everything that we started with weíve shed them all and like followed our instincts. So, as we go along more and more, influences mean less, itís like we donít really you know what just comes out. Because thereís 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 donít 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 wasnít like God spoke to me and said Ďyouíre going to be in this band and itís gonna sound like thisí because it was arrived at by a lot of trial and error and just finding what youíre instinctually comfortable with.
Interviewer: Plus youíre pretty close to uncategoralizable.
Billy: That makes me very happy to hear that. Thatís what I want. Weíve reached this zenith point in music where itís like everyone has heard it everything. You cannot solo Jimi Hendrix and you canít outgod Led Zeppelin you canít out Iggy Pop Iggy Pop. Everything has reached its point where itís like you canít be anymore whatever unless youíre going to kill yourself on stage and that would be a one time act. You know, thatís really the last thing left to do. So itís like thereís a frustration there of just like Ďwhere do we go? where do we head? I donít want to be a regurgatating retro. letís mish-mash the past up and delivery it to someone in a different box and pretend that itís different.í We donít want to do that. Weíre really trying to find some kind of area you know. So thatís why when I say that itís 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 Ďyou canít outgod Led Zeppeliní.
Billy: Well you canít outpop Iggy.
Interviewer: Canít outpop Iggy. Canít 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, itís always been like a process of creation for me. From scribbling, drawing, writing, poem you know you name it, itís 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 ascethic way which is to make records. And then I can also express myself in a way thatís very personable, live. You know, maybe rock Ďní roll is disposable at some level but as far like for the moment itís proably the best art form you know because itís alive and it breathes. Maybe no one will listen to our tapes in a 100 years and theyíll have somebodyís painting on the wall, but as long as Iím alive at least Iíll feel like Iím doing something thatís like breating.
Interviewer: Are you a writer before you were a muscian?
Billy: Um, I definitely wrote a lot of poetry and stuff like that. I donít 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 trivious person coming and going?
[Billy and Jimmy snicker]
Billy: Absolutely. The hardest part was to saying to someone ĎOkay, Iím going to form this band and this is how itís going to be you know.í And theyíd say ĎWell, what kinda band, what kinda music?í ĎWell you donít understand. Itís more about an idea.í 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 impotus 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 ĎYeah, I like this person I wanna be..í
Jimmy: Nobody really likes each other. But we all...
Interviewer: Whatís that bond that holds together?
Jimmy: Itís definitely the music. Itís definitely the feeling. Nobody..
Interviewer: Would you be friends if you werenít in the band?
Jimmy: I donít think that anyone in the band is actually best friends persay. But I mean I think everyone knows theyíre going to be in the band forever.
Billy: Even if the band breaks up, at some point which it will, weíll give the band up. Itís kinda like being in the Musketeers. Once a pumpkin, always a pumpkin. Weíve really subjecated 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 muscican, 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 thatís really a strange thing.
Interviewer: Hmm that is, and really nice to. Sort of. Whatís an album that you both might have in your record collection? Like whatís something that would be like an old bond. Like Led Zeppelin 2?
Billy: (laughs) Absolutely.
Jimmy: Well, between Billy and me, weíve probably got every Zeppelin, Hendrix, Sabbath..
Interviewer: King Crimson?
Jimmy: Iíve got some King Crimson.
Interviewer: I knew. I knew there was some King Crimson in sombodyís back there.
Jimmy: I was once the anal drummer.
Billy: Now heís the oral drummer.
Interviewer: Now heís the oral drummer. Yeah. I have to ask you, and Iím sure youíve been asked this a billion times, and Iím sorry, but why is ďRhinocerosĒ called ďRhinocerosĒ?
Billy: Um, I never talk about what my songs are about.
Interviewer: Thatís 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 Iíll explain to you, this is how I write up my song titles and this kind of is the nicikitve high to ďRhinocerosĒ say you write a song about a chandlier. And the chandlier gives off light. And the light is the color red. And red reminds you of the color youíre not supposed to wear around a bull. So, you name the song ďCowĒ.
Interviewer: Okay. Thatís good, it all makes sense. Thereís 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 ďSivaĒ around in my mind for like 5 years. That I knew one day I would write a song called ďSivaĒ I just knew. I have tapes from 5 years ago with ďSivaĒ written on them you know. You know trying to put that title to a song you know.
Interviewer: Blank tapes. Youíd just be ready.
Billy: I even thought about calling the band ďSivaĒ actually.
Interviewer: Wow. And it finally came out.
Billy: It finally came out.
Interviewer: With the right combination of people so I now I have these other new songs like ďKill MomĒ and ďShoot DadĒ.
Interviewer: ďDeckidins in New OrleansĒ
Interviewer: All sorts of things. And I love the sacred heart on the back. Whoís the inspriatin? Who found the picture?
Billy: Itís actually like uh.....
Interviewer: One of the little
Jimmy: Itís like an ornament.
Billy: An ornament or..
Interviewer: Whatís 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 itís supposed to shoot straight up but it shoots toward the left? Thatís kinda what thatís all about. It kinda went off for a while.
Interviewer: I mean do you still have it?
Billy: Yeah, itís actually my girlfriendís. I gave it to her. I had to pry it out of her to use it for the album.
Interviewer: Itís just such a wonderful thing. Have you guys been to Boston yet?
Billy: Yeah, sure.
Interviewer: At the Boston Museum of its their equivalent of modern art. Theyíve got itís all in Spanish itís all blue and hearts. Itís like this one oceanial exhbit. Itís like the heavist thing youíll 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 couldnít and then I was thinking what she was like and what she went through and maybe their was some link there.
Billy: Gish sounds like such a sentimental word.
Interviewer: Yeah. You know its so...
Interviewer: Something. Yeah, Gish is the icor of something. I donít know. Itís all smiles. Gish is such a smiley word.
Billy: Yes, it is.
Interviewer: And the back is so intense. And so rip you open.
Billy: That pretty much sums up the Pumpkins. You know.
Billy: Just when you think weíre getting soft on you, it hits you over the head. You know.
Interviewer: Yeah. Well great, Iím glad you guys came by.
Billy: Thanks for having us.
Interviewer: Itís 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: Oh do them for me, do them for me. And if you donít go to Boston, a friend is sending me thereís a book.
Billy: Youíre kidding.
Billy: I have a friend in Boston maybe.
Interviewer: Tell him. Itís like their museum of modern art. You just need to do the on the edge ones if you could read them.
Interviewer: You could do you know Iím Billy and Iím Jimmy and Smashing Pumpkins and blah blah blah.
Billy: Ok. Howdy there folks. Iím Billy from the Smashing Pumpkins. Iím on the edge, canít you tell? Right after this so stay tuned.
Billy: Yes life on the edge. Iím William Patrick Corgan from the Smashing Squids. And weíll be back with some of our music. (laughs) I always think that these are so silly so Iím sorry.
Interviewer: Well, I know. But the only thing people hear is you and this is the beginning and top of the show. They wonít know whatís going on.
Billy: Hey, Iím back. Iím on the edge. Been takiní a lot of these pills. Iím Billy from the Pumpkins. Weíre on the edge. Get it?
Interviewer: Letís make Jimmy do something.
Billy: (laughs) Yeah.
Jimmy: (in a croacky voice) Iím really on the edge.
Interviewer: So when youíre voice comes back Iíll be able to send you this and youíll go thatís what I sounded like Ďthatís what I sounded like on that dayí. Itís very good. Itís very kind of Robert Micthev or something I donít know.
Billy: More like Vic Taback.
Jimmy (in a croacky voice): Alice!
Interviewer: Yeah light another cigarrette up Jimmy!
Jimmy: Hi, Iím Jimmy from the Smashing Pumpkins. Iím on the edge. Right after this. So stay tuned! Hi, this is Jimmy from the Pumpkins. No one rocks southern California like one unhell.
Billy: Youíre reading the wrong one.
Jimmy: I canít see the highlighter.
Billy: You gotta read these.
Interviewer: He wanted to read that one though.
Jimmy: Oh okay. I canít see the hightlighter.
Interviewer: Yeah itís hard on pirate radio.
Billy: Theyíre all on the edge ones.
Jimmy: On the edge. Iím Jimmy from the Pumpkins. Back with our music. Weíre back on the edge. Iím Jimmy from the Pumpkins.
Billy: You canít use any of these! These are terrible!
Jimmy: Hi, Iím edge from U2. Youíre on the Pumpkins.
Billy: Stay tuned.
Interviewer: The Pumpkins are my favorite band.
Jimmy: Stay tuned. The Pumpkins are my favorite.
Interviewer: Donít go anywhere. This is a great record.
Billy: Oh thank you.
Interviewer: Itís really really good.
Billy: I promise the next one will be even better.
Interviewer: Really? ďRhinocerosĒ and ďBury MeĒ 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? Thatís good.
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