The End Of The Smashing Pumpkins As We Know Them
By Michael Goldberg
After selling three million copies of Siamese Dream, heading Lollapalooza and completing an epic new album, you'd think Billy Corgan would be happy. Right?
Pumpkinland, the Chicago studio where the Smashing Pumpkins spent much of a year recording their epic new album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, is located at the center of Gang Central. "If I could get the garage door down, I could show you the symbol for the Latin Kings," says Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, as we stand out in the alley behind Pumpkinland. "The Latin Kings are in a gang war with the Simon City Royals."
The graffiti covered walls of nearby buildings attest to a territorial rivalry. "They leave us alone though," continues Chamberlain, glancing up the alley that leads to the studio's rear entrance.
"One night there was a drive by while we were eating in the restaurant across the street," Chamberlain says. "Two bullets through the studio window, but no one here got hit. Come on, let's go back inside."
The Pumpkins, of course, have been engaged in their own "gang war" of sorts since forming in 1988. According to the outspoken leader of the group, Billy Corgan, they were never accepted by the other Chicago bands. And their increasing success, first with Gish, then with Siamese Dream, only made them the target of national and international gibes. Anti-Pumpkin sentiments came to a head, perhaps, when Pavement actually dissed them in "Range Life" ("I don't understand what they mean/ And I could really give a fuck"). Nevermind. When you've sold over three million copies of an album (Siamese Dream), you can put up with the slags of less successful bands. Or can you?
"I'm mad as hell," Corgan will tell me, mid-way through a conversation that takes place in the studio lounge. "All I can really say about that is that when you're young, the anger comes out in dumb ways. The anger comes out in breaking things or doing crime or whatever. And then as you get older, the anger comes out in other ways, like verbal things. The core of my anger is, I think, still intact. It's just taken a different form. It's not as viscerally surfaced but it's still in there. It's something I don't think I've ever dealt with."
Whether because of, or despite the anger, Corgan his fellow Pumpkins have followed up Siamese Dream with an incredible piece of work. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a 28 song rock masterpiece, a double album that deserves to share shelf space with the Clash's London Calling, Springsteen's The River and, yes, the Stones' Exile On Main Street. Only time will tell, but after listening off and on to the album for nearly two months, it still sounds like a classic. At Pumpkinland, where the album was recorded with Flood and Alan Moulder sharing the role of producer, Corgan attends to a phone interview, standing atop an equipment case, pacing in circles, a portable phone glued to the side of his head. Bassist D'Arcy is having her makeup done for a photo shoot, while guitarist James Iha is hunched over a conference table, inhaling coffee in an attempt to wake up.
Chamberlain gives me a quick tour of Pumpkinland. The main, immense, brick-walled studio, still contains his drum kit, Marshall amps, synthesizers and guitar cases. Lots and lots of guitar cases. "That over there is probably the most important piece of equipment," says the drummer. He is pointing to a heater. There is a beat up Stratocaster with a sticker that says "I Love My Mom" on it. Lyric sheets are sitting on a music stand. "I'm never coming back/ I'm never giving in," reads one lyric fragment. On one wall hangs a white board listing all the songs that ended up on the album. As each band member finished their partsbass track, drums, guitars, vocalsit would be checked off. "That was the only way we could keep track, there was so much material," Chamberlain says. Nearby, I discover the secret of the Pumpkins' sound. There is a pile of old, analog guitar effects boxes and pedals: "Fuzz Tone," "Bassballs," "Phaser FX20," "Rat," "Maestro," "Phase 100," "Big Muff."
I spoke with Billy Corgan in the lounge at the front of the studio. Sitting rather stiffly on a couch, he answered my questions frankly, but was quick to let me know when a subject was off-limits. As we spoke, he seemed to loosen up. It was clear that he has thought long and hard about the Smashing Pumpkins' seven year journey. Clearly a control freak, Corgan is doing his best to leave nothing to chance. As you'll discover when you read this interview, which took place in late September (a month before the release of Mellon Collie), he'd already made plans for the two possible eventualities. The new album becoming: 1) a smash; or 2) a commercial failure. Addicted To Noise: A double album is a pretty ambitious project...
Billy Corgan: In the original inception of the band, the notion was to, in a general way, push boundaries and as a live band, we've tried to do that in the song structures, we've tried to do that in our videos. So it only follows that we would make an album that would follow in that same line of thinking. The first reaction that people have is it's such a preposterous '70s kind of thing to do, why would you do that in 1995? That's exactly the point. It kind of knocks people upside the head to at least reexamine their perception of what an album is. Things like that.
ATN: The fact that someone would say something like, oh, such a '70s thing as opposed to like....when the Rolling Stones, for example, did Exile on Main Street, I don't think they cared what someone else thought. They had a lot of material. They recorded all this stuff. It was cool. Or the Beatles...bands back then didn't seem like they worried so much about what was hip at the moment.
Corgan: I don't think we had the same amount of media speculation and judgment. I think a lot of those ideas were still being formed [during the '60s]. I really reached a point in my life where I don't care what the preconceptions are about what a rock band should be because I think we've, at least in some ways, proven that it's not about sticking to any kind of rules. It's not as obviously anarchistic. You're not breaking your guitars and shouting anarchy, but it's a little more insidious, I think.
ATN: Were you thinking, well, this is something that goes completely against the grain of what's happening now? Was that a factor in deciding to do a 28-song album?
Corgan: No, it had more to do with my own malaise and trying to find a structure to work in that would be inspiring and really push me as a songwriter. Yeah, giving everybody the finger is part of the thinking, but it's not a large part of the thinking.
ATN: Change seems to be one of the themes that comes up. I haven't studied every lyric but it's definitely there in a number of different songs. Tell me about that. Why is that a theme that's in this album?
Corgan: I don't know. Life kind of goes in seven-year cycles and the band's in it's seventh year. You're kind of hitting the end of one cycle and moving on to another so there's a friction that goes on between giving up the old and moving into the new.
I think the world has changed in seven years. I've certainly changed in seven years and the band has changed in seven years. Change is kind of a frightening thing, you know. The thought of change is sometimes a lot worse than actually where you end up. But it's the fear of what the possibilities are.
ATN: Have you felt that? Have you felt afraid of change?
Corgan: Oh sure. Nobody wants to get old.
ATN: When you think about change, what are the things that you've been afraid of? Obviously getting old would be one.
Corgan: Well, simple mortality kinds of things like disconnecting from... in my case, it would be disconnecting from the audience to the point of where I can't relate anymore. That's why I thought it was important to write this album now because I can still communicate and connect with, you know, a teenage heart. I'm not sure I can connect with that heart too much longer. ATN: So then what happens?
Corgan: I don't know. I haven't gotten there yet. I'm still on the other side.
ATN: You're 28 right now. Turning 30 used to be such a big deal back in the '60s and '70s, but is it such a big deal now to you?
Corgan: Certainly. Of course it is. Basically, we've extended the boundaries by which rock music is played by people as far as age is concerned. But let's face it, these bands that are 40+ are not really rocking anybody, you know what I mean? They're capable of being moving, but the difference between what a band like Nirvana was capable of doing in their prime versus what the Rolling Stones can now do at age 50, there's no comparison. And that's the reality of it and I think you have to see the forest from the trees. That has a lot to do with your youth, your ambition and your energy. You start getting cars and mortgages and wives and families and... It's not the same. Going out and rocking everybody is not a central part of your life. And I think as that starts to move away from the core of your existence, you have to recognize the shift in where your focus lies. Nobody wants to hear that. It's not very pretty but it's the truth.
ATN: Also, there's a tendency, it seems, that when someone is in the middle of success hitting, that it feels like it's going to be there forever. You see a lot of artists slip into this thing, selling several million copies of an album then suddenly before they know it, a few years have gone by and they're over here and the audience is over there...
Corgan: And the world has passed them by. I think that kind of consciousness that I'm talking about is a necessity to keep on that razor's edge of consciousness.
ATN: You work really hard for a long time but when it actually happens, the moment when an audience suddenly catches on is pretty quick. There are a lot of changes that happen. I wondered about some of the ways success has affected you and the band.
Corgan: Because it's happened over time, in some ways, it's been a gradual process of adjustment. You adjust to people asking you for things, whether it be autographs or pictures or people want to talk to you about something you said. You adjust to that as a normal part of your life. The hard part is things like you start to get this snipey press because you become symbolic of something, so you're an easy reference point. Things like that. People finding out where you live. It's stuff like that that's been the hardest adjustment for me. I can't speak for everyone. Everyone has their own take on it.
But as far as the adulation part of it, our feet are so firmly planted in the ground and it's always been the core essence of where the band takes its energy from that the starry-eyed part has never really taken grasp. I've seen people go through their little phases but in general, we're pretty much the same people. If you could look at our surroundings here, although it's a nice big place, it's pretty humble. We sit at that thrift store table and eat chicken and go and rehearse. It's still about the music for us and it's still about the power of it. That, in comparison to what goes on around it, it doesn't seem that important. And in some ways, if you're doing it right, it should come with it, you know.
ATN: How much is riding on this album?
Corgan: A lot. Probably everything.
ATN: What are you thinking of?
Corgan: I really believe that there are still lingering question marks about the band. As other people have kindly pointed out, a lot of people don't really realize this is our third album [fourth if you include Pisces Iscariot]. And I really think in this day and age of quick communication and the way that people are so quickly and easily dismissed, and considering the amount of years in the band and everything, I think that it's kind of a necessity that this album be very successful or it's pretty much the end of the band.
I don't want this album viewed as an artistic failure publicly. And the way that it will be viewed as an artistic failure publicly is if it doesn't sell. Because people will say if you'd just done a single album and written some hits, you would have been fine. But you had to go and do this....your self indulgent album... and look what it's done. And that is why you deserve to be beaten over the head. I'm not going to live in an environment like that and I'm not going to go out and play shows with people clucking their tongues and saying "What an idiot." I don't believe that it's an artistic failure but I'm certainly not going to allow the world to beat me up about it. No one can take away the album. But we can take away the band from getting beaten up on. I know the album is good and I hope everyone else agrees, but if you're going to go out in public, if you're going to do interviews....imagine if this album was a failure and we did another album, what would be the first or second question. "So in the wake of the last album, what are your feelings now about doing the double album?" I don't want to live with those kinds of questions because I would take great offense.
ATN: Are you saying that if this album doesn't achieve a certain amount of commercial success that the band will break up? Corgan: Any way you look at it, it's pretty much the end of the band as far as people would know the Smashing Pumpkins, because we're going to move on musically anyway and take a much different tact. That's already been decided. So you have three options. One is the band breaks up. Another option is the band continues on but in a totally different level of operation. We could easily go back to playing clubs that hold like a thousand people and we could do that fine and we could put out the kind of albums that we would want to put out without that kind of commercial pressure, acoustic albums, experimental albums. That's a totally different tact. And take yourself out of the top 40 ring, which we're in, you know. And the other possibility is that it's a huge success and the band goes on to bigger and better things. So those are the three possibilities. I think they're all valid and I think they're all realistic.
ATN: You said that you've already decided that no matter what happens that there's going to be a change. What's that about?
Corgan: I think, me personally, that I've certainly reached the end of a creative cycle. Five, six, seven years ago, I made up my mind about how I was going to play my music, what kind of band we were going to beyou make those kinds of decisions. And out of those decisions have come really amazingly positive things and some negative things because of the shortsightedness of it. I think we're one of the best live bands, but we're the kind of live band that you have to follow the whole time. We're not going to hit you over the head in the first five minutes and then the rest of the show is boring. It's hard to explain but with every philosophy comes its advantages and disadvantages, and I've reached the end of this philosophical point, I guess. You know, if you decided seven years ago that you were going to be a certain kind of writer and your slant was going to be this, this and that, and you build your career around it, you reach a point where those rules and those constrictions don't necessarily apply anymore but you're still living in the preconception of that's what you are. So I want to destroy those preconceptions by going on to something different. Also it's like casting yourself back out into the musical water and expecting yourself to come up with something new. Totally new. Not just the next extension of what you would expect from the band but something completely different.
ATN: So is it going to be the four of you?
Corgan: That's the plan but I don't know. I'm going to do it no matter what. Obviously what happens has a lot to do with it. If the band ended and I start to form a new band, then obviously that band's not going to be as big as this band. So you're operating on a different level. And there's different mind-sets to go into each situation.
ATN: So you'll just look at what happens and then you'll make your decision.
Corgan: Right. Somewhere in the back of my head as I'm writing this record I know that I have to make videos, I know that there has to be singles. You can't live with the illusion that it's not going to be that way. It has to be that way. You're living in that ring. If you take yourself out of the ring and you put yourself in the Tom Waits ring, that's a much different ring to be in. That's a freer ring but you also accept the consequences of those kinds of decisions. You may have more artistic success and less commercial success. That's all part and parcel of where you put yourself. The point is, I'm just trying to be open to all the possibilities. I want the band to continue. Make no mistake about it. I really hope that everyone loves this album and the band has a great tour and go on to bigger and better things but I think you have to be realistic. Because if you cut yourself off from the other ideas, you start behaving in a way that, well, the band has to be together and the band has to do this and this and that starts to cause a lot of resentment and problems in the band because everyone feels trapped.
ATN: There's a line in one of the songs...
Corgan: I wonder how many lines there are on this album (laughs).
ATN: ...in which you sing, "Despite all my rage/ I'm still just a rat in a cage." What was your intention in that with that line?
Corgan: I don't really explain the specific things because I think if it's not apparent, I'm not doing my job. To explain it further is to demystify it and to take away from the power of what it is. It's taken me awhile to come to this conclusion but the music is it's own interpretive force and everyone's going to apply their own experiences to the interpretation of it. Me explaining it demystifies it, narrows the ability for people to enjoy it and then becomes the click phrase by which everyone says, "Well, okay, with that song 'Bullet,' you were trying to say such and such. What were you really trying to say."
People ask you questions based on what you said and it's a never-ending cycle, so I've taken myself out of the game on that one. No explanations. I'll talk about the thematic aspects of the album but I'm putting the responsibility in the hands of the journalist to ask specific questions and then I'll answer those themes. Like you asked about change so I'll talk about change. But if you asked me what the themes are in the album, I'll say...
ATN: Figure it out for yourself.
Corgan: Yeah, because there's 20 themes on the album. There's 30 themes on the album. But people are going to focus on one or the other. If I listed all the themes that are on the album, somebody would pick the two that were the most entertaining. This is my experience with the media and this is my own way of doing my own spin because I don't want to deal with the boomerangs that come back.
ATN: Neil Young, for example, writes so intuitively that it almost comes through him. It's there. He doesn't even know while he's writing what it's about and later, he may see something. But it sounds to me like you work a little differently.
Corgan: No, I work both ways. I'm a very multi-brain person. I don't know if it's my Piscean nature but I sit in a lot of different chairs. For example, a song like "Disarm" was completely intuitive. There's nothing conscious about that song. It, like, wrote itself. "Today" was an intuitive song. There's other songs where I really have to spend time to make it all glue together.
ATN: Where it's more crafting.
Corgan: Oh, "Tonight, tonight" was probably a more crafted song. You're looking for something specific. You know what you're trying to say but you've got to find the right words to say it with the right sentiments. It's obviously a well-crafted song. That took time to put all the pieces together. Stuff like that. I move back and forth.
ATN: I was going to ask if in fact a lot of the times, like with this album specifically, if you had themes that you wanted to deal with. And it's like, "OK, I'm going to write some songs, these are things I really want to get across. "
Corgan: Yes. I did that on Siamese Dream and I did that on this album too. I map out a road map. I pick my posts and try to stick between them. It helps focus. On this album, I wrote 40 something songs. You have to have some kind of threads in there or you're just going to spin off into so many different aimless directions. There's so many ideas in the world. If you can narrow them down to some themes, and some kinds of leanings, it helps focus the way you write.
ATN: What were you listening to while this album was coming together?
Corgan: Literally nothing. Absolutely nothing.
ATN: There's certain songs where I hear a Rolling Stones kind of thing. Particularly a couple of ballads where it's a country-blues-ish thing. I just wondered if that makes any sense to you.
Corgan: Honestly, I don't know. It's the first album I've done where I really wasn't thinking about anything, anybody else. I wasn't referencing albums. I wasn't thinking, well, I'd really like it to sound like this Black Sabbath song. I really feel like I crossed a bridge into my own territory. The best way I can answer a question like that is the influences that you have become part of your language and at some point, it's hard to distinguish between what is your language. It's like, what part of you is your father and what part of you is you? If those things are in there, they're in there in the most unconscious of ways.
ATN: You've been fairly public in interviews about being in therapy.
Corgan: Right. I don't talk about that anymore. There's another big mistake.
ATN: You decided that was a mistake?
Corgan: Certainly, because It becomes like a thing. The things that I talked about because I thought they were all relatable to people that I was trying to communicate with, which is my audience, and not journalists, was things like childhood, things like being a fuck-up, things like not wanting to work, laziness, all this. I thought all those themes were applicable to where I was coming from so I considered them all within the range of what was worth talking about. And what happens is it just becomes a thing, you know. You're the sycophant who was so fucked up he has to go to therapy or you're the disgruntled child who really wasn't that disgruntled. You become a caricature. Your humanness is stripped away from you, and you become like this thing that's propped up by sticks. I won't play party to it anymore.
ATN: I didn't see this, but I was told the first time you went on 120 minutes and they asked you something about the Chicago scene and you said, we're not part of that, there's so much bad music out of there.
Corgan: Yeah, that caused a lot of problems. That caused a lot of problems for a long time.
ATN: In terms of bands not wanting to play with you or what?
Corgan: Oh, this kind of vitriolic hate thing. But what was interesting was the bands that took umbrage with it were the bands that had shunted us and ignored us and not provided us with any assistance. As probably the most known band in Chicago at this time, I consider it a responsibility to reach out to other area bands and to provide support and assistance where necessary. James and D'Arcy have started their own label. We've always tried to not forget. It's like the old thing. How can you complain about something, then when you're in that position, you don't do something about? So we've tried to do something about it and so at that time, I considered it a certain responsibility of the bands that were bigger than us at that time to reach out to us and these bands just turned a cold back to us. These were the bands that had a problem with it. It just goes to show you where their hearts were. They hadn't shown us anything and then when I said that, then they took umbrage with it. How dare I say that and who was I to say that? That shows you exactly the way that they thought about us. People tried to start fist fights. It was very stupid.
Corgan: Totally. How dare you say that? Who are you to talk about Chicago?
ATN: Isn't this right? I'm not from Chicago, but isn't this right, that when you guys were coming up, you had a hard time and you weren't part of the scene...
Corgan: That's right.
ATN: ...and you were kind of considered outcasts...
"Just call me Jimi!"
ATN: Obviously that wasn't a cool thing to experience.
Corgan: It was sad, really. Because we wanted to be part of that community. We were attracted to that community if anything on a fraternal level and all those bands basically turned a cold ear to us. No bands would ever come to our shows. None of them lent any support. In the two years before Gish came out, we were never written about in Chicago one time. If you can imagine a band that's from Chicago, especially if you can clock your head back to the way the music was five, six years ago, if you can imagine a band from Chicago raising national attention from major labels at that time, etc., etc.... It was a big thing to the rest of the world and nobody gave two fucks about us in Chicago. It took the rest of the world validating us be fore we finally got validated in Chicago. So now there's this begrudging respect because we ain't going away kind of thing.
ATN: Why do you think these other groups, Pavement for example, single out Smashing Pumpkins and...
Corgan: I don't think we're that singled out. The Pavement thing was really silly and immature. But honestly, I don't really think we're that singled out. I think basically any problems that have ever existed exist in that Sonic Youth, Pavement, Jesus Lizard, you know, that segment of indier-than-though, I think they take umbrage with a band that can basically do what they do but better and have more success than they have. Because apparently, in their mindsetand this is the problem with their mind setthey think that being cool and having these cool friends equals the kids are going to respond to what you're doing.
And that's that very kind of thinking that separates them from the audience. They can sleep at night thinking they're the coolest people on the planet but the fact of the matter is, kids don't get up in the morning and listen to those bands. Kids don't fall in love listening to those bands. And that's the difference. And I think that's what causes the friction.
The best way to sum up anything that surrounds us like that, the media problems, those kinds of problems, is we're an anomaly. There's no other band like Smashing Pumpkins. The most recent band that even fit in our niche, that had the same kinds of problems, was Jane's Addiction. It's an anomaly thing. No one can really put their finger on why the band is so popular, why the band sells a lot of records, but it just happens. And that says more about the true essence of rock and roll than anything else. Because that's the way it's supposed to be. It's not supposed to be about MTV, it's not supposed to be about radio, it's supposed to be about the fucking people who are buying the records.
ATN: It's a visceral response to music.
Corgan: That's right. It's a visceral response. What I found so ironic was things like Perry Farrell, at this point, is considered this statesman of alternative music and he deserves to be, but their albums used to get panned. I remember reading a review of "Nothing Shocking" in Rolling Stones. It got two and a half stars and got called a trite piece of garbage but I bet if you polled 10,000 alternative kids, that would be one of the top 10 albums so what's more important? The music getting heard and the music getting responded to and the music being part of somebody's life or winning some critic's choice award. That's the difference. That's really the difference. And I want to live there. Yes, there's a part of my ego that wants to get patted on the head. But that's where I want to live. Every time I would choose those kids. I would choose those fucking kids every time.
In a weird way, there's times when people call us cocky and arrogant and things like that. But that security comes from the fact that we know there's a reality there. It's not ballooned up by a record company pushing our single. It's real. We can go to any major American city and play for tons and tons of people. Without an album. We don't even need an album out. We don't even need a video out. That's real. That's so important to me. That's so important.
ATN: It seems like, in a way, things got real perverted in the '80s. You don't want to be successful. It almost got like that. A lot of bands, at least talking and acting like what's really cool is having this small group of people that dig what we're doing. Historically, rock and roll was always about reaching a huge, mass audience. That's what Elvis wanted to do. That's what the Beatles and Stones wanted to do. That's what Patti Smith wanted to do.
Corgan: I think the real distinction is can you do it with integrity and grace. That's always been our line in the sand. As long as we can keep our own set of integrity rules and our ethics are intact, you don't see us doing the Molsen polar ice beer.
... You know what I mean. That's something we would never do. Our ethics are intact. We know we're fair to our audience. We provide the best whatever we can provide, whether it's videos or home videos or music. We try to do everything well and that's all anybody can ask of us.
ATN: Are you still as angry as you used to be?
ATN: Why do you laugh?
organ: (very sarcastic) I'm mad as hell. I don't know. How do you qualify anger?
ATN: I would think that things that you had dreamed about happening have happened. If I was in a band and it became successful, that would be one of the things I would want to happen. It would have to be on my terms which it seems like what's happened. And so, getting kind of what you want can kind of temper a lot of things or not. It depends. For some people it doesn't really change it. Other people it does. They see things a little differently. They don't have to struggle in the same way.
Corgan: All I can really say about that is that when you're young, the anger comes out in dumb ways. The anger comes out in breaking things or doing crime or whatever. And then as you get older, the anger comes out in other ways like verbal things. The core of my anger is, I think, still intact. It's just taken a different form. It's not as viscerally surfaced but it's still in there. It's something I don't think I've ever dealt with. I've dealt with it in a way that's more graceful.
ATN: The entire band played on this album, which was a big change from the previous one.
Corgan: Well, everyone's always played on every album. It's more the percentages of it.
ATN: The whole band did a lot more.
Corgan: Not just the performances but also the input. There was a lot more input on how a part should be approached and things like that. I felt on this album everyone kind of kept their basic responsibilities whereas on other albums, I felt they really hadn't. But whatever, that's beside the point...
ATN: What allowed you to let that happen?
Corgan: I think the band made a basic agreement before we did this album that we were going to try to do everything we could to be inclusive and to try to avoid the pitfalls that we'd fallen into before. Like you get under duress, you get under a certain time schedule and it's like let me play that guitar part because it's got to get done right now. And it's going to take you an hour and it's going to take me five minutes. So what we did is we had two rooms running. In the case of James and D'Arcy, with the parts that they would play, they had all the time in the world to work out their parts, apply them to the songs, everything that's necessary. For me, it comes a lot quicker so it's unfortunate in the past, everyone's had to deal on my time agenda.
We tried to create space for everyone to work at their speed and that's proved to be very successful. And I have very specific ideas about music so it gets in this situation where I'm looking over people's shoulders saying no, no, no, yes, yes, yes. You gotta let people go and walk that road on their own and see where they end up. Sometimes you're surprised. Sometimes it ends up where you thought it was going to end up but the person is better for the experience. From a producing point of view, to let someone else in the band go down a road helps them better understand what you're trying to get at also. There's more of a sympathetic understanding of the entire goal. It's not about my part and your part.
ATN: In a Spin article, it said that at an MTV awards show Springsteen came up to you and said he liked the band. Did that really happen?
ATN: Did you like that?
Corgan: Yeah. But here's a perfect example. There was a nice small five-second moment in my life. And this asshole from some magazine turns it into a stupid thing and makes fun of me for giving the guy respect. OK? I don't like everything he's ever done. It's not something I listen to all the time. But I damn well respect somebody who has done what the guy has done. He's a great songwriter. He's always stood for what he's stood for. He's obviously not a cheesy person. That's respect in my book.
See, this is another distinction I'll make. A musician who's been on tour and been through what a musician goes through can respect another musician for a common experience. So as a person who's been on tour and making albums for five years, I can look at somebody who's been doing it for twenty and go, "Wow, I have a lot of fucking respect for you." A journalist who's never been on tour, never sung a song, never made an album cannot understand that experience. So of course they break it down to being star struck. It's about a respect for the experience... it's like the bad analogy of ships passing in the night. Occasionally you run into people. And even though you don't necessarily jive with what they do, there's a respect there that goes with just being human. And that's what sickens me about the people that you're supposed to like and the people you're not supposed to like. I mean, fuck, if I'd met Liberace, I would have been impressed. I'd be impressed to meet Rob Halford. I'd be impressed to meet a lot of people.
ATN: There's another thing I read that I want to ask you about. This was Michael Azerrad who had you saying that if you lost the audience...the quote was "I'd probably kill myself" or something like that. You didn't literally mean that?
Corgan: See, there's another example. That was something that was taken out of context. The conversation at that point was about how you have trouble distinguishing your life from your music life. And what happens is you're on tour and you're wrapped up in things like that, it's really hard to see that there's another you. The other you that sits with your mom at the kitchen table and talks about your grandma. The context of it was, you get so wrapped up in it that you think that if you were to lose your band or if you were to lose your audience or you were to suddenly become unpopular that you couldn't live. And what I was saying is, that's sick. That's sick thinking but that's the allure and intoxication that music can be. Because there's so much energy, there's so much...power's not the right word, but there's so much everything that it's very hard to imagine going back to a life of like digging ditches.
ATN: So you really almost meant the opposite of that.
Corgan: I was talking about it in the context of like, isn't this sad that that's the way I feel. I can see that it's fucked up, but that's the way I feel. But of course, it comes out as like, I'll kill myself if I don't have rock and roll. I tell you, if I did kill myself if I didn't have rock and roll, it'd be pretty pathetic. But it's a possibility, you know, because that's that mindset. See, that's what I get for being candid. That's what I get for being honest. Most people would never answer the question that way.
ATN: Why do you do that? Why are you so candid.
Corgan: I don't any more.
(Over a year ago D'Arcy and Iha formed an indie label together, Scratchie Records).
ATN: Or not as much.
Corgan: I made the mistake of thinking the public me had to be the same as the real me. And what I realized is that the media is not about truth. The media is about entertainment. So it's the entertainer that has to do the interviews, not the me. And that's the distinction I've made and so far, it's been a lot healthier.
ATN: So you can say this is the private stuff that I'm going to leave over here and that's not what I want to talk about.
Corgan: Right. In the past we would talk about the intimate details of our whatevers. The fact of the matter is, it's nobody's business anymore. It probably never was anybody's business.
ATN: And that's kind of what you learned. You did it and you saw what happened with it. Corgan: Well, it's a funny thing. Like somebody hits you over the head with a stick and then you go, gee, I don't like getting hit over the head with a stick, how can I make them stop hitting me over the head with a stick. And then you figure it out.
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