Epic Records GUITAR WORLD
By Alan Di Perna
Photography by Danny Clinch
(Transcribed by Eric Agnew)
In the grand tradition of the Beatles' White Album, Pink Floyd's The Wall and Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, Smashing Pumpkins place their bid for rock greatness with Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, a sprawling two-disc tour de force.
"Yep, we've played some really awful jams in this room." Billy Corgan laughs, his sweeping gesture taking in the wide expanse of the Smashing Pumpkins' rehearsal space. Tucked away in a nondescript, red brick building in a dingy, working class section of North Chicago, the room is strewn with battle-scarred amps, guitars, some drums on a riser and stray bits of audio gear.
The head Pumpkin is dressed in a double-breasted, maroon corduroy jacket and boldly striped trousers that look as thought they once hung in a wardrobe belonging to the late Rolling Stone Brian Jones.Corgan's wispy hair is dyed a glaring artificial auburn. Like a lot of great, tortured songwriters, he seems ill at ease within his own body. His quiet, precise voice and deep, grayish green eyes seem at odds with the tall, somewhat hulking frame he's been given for this lifetime - perhaps by some cosmic snafu.
Corgan is attended by an efficient-looking blonde woman who silently dispenses vitamins, mineral water, fruit and all-around supportive vibes. The author of angst anthems like "Disarm" and "Today" seems almost cheerful - the genial host - as he leads me around the room, pulling out arcane, dust-encrusted fuzz pedals and guitaristic curios.
"We call this the 'Mayonaise' guitar," he says, extracting a pawnshop-special Kimberly from its case. "It's got those microphone pickups. I bought it for 65 bucks and I've used it on about four songs, so I guess it's paid for itself."
A mint-condition Hammer makes its appearance. "Rick Nielsen gave me this guitar," Corgan says. "It's really nice."
The old brick walls rising around Corgan may have endured some "really awful jams," as the guitarist alleges. But they've also witnessed some brilliant work. The Pumpkins' rehearsal space was the recording site for much of their new album, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, easily one of the most ambitious, epic records of this decade - a sprawling two-disc song cycle that flaunts the full scope of Corgan's songwriting prowess. There's everything from piano ballads to the thrashy-trippy guitar rave-ups that have won the Pumpkins their honored place in the alternative rock pantheon.
There are also moments of Beatlesque music hall whimsy, of Queenish massed guitar grandeur, and trips to that sub-aquatic textureland where Prince and Jimi chase foxy mermaids through eternity. Produced by the British dream team of Flood (NIN, U2, Depeche Mode) and Alan Moulder (Curve, the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine), the record is one whopping huge canvas, which Corgan and co-guitarist James Iha have covered with every guitar color at their joint command.
The size of the project necessarily made Mellon Collie the most band-oriented Smashing Pumpkins album ever, with strong contributions from Iha, bassist D'Arcy and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin.
James Iha arrives at the Pumpkins' rehearsal hall a few minutes after Billy, dressed in a plaid hunting jacket whose trim cut suggests that the garment has probably never seen the inside of a bait-and-tackle shed. At the moment, Iha's hair is dyed in alternating rows of pale blonde and reddish dark brown. His compactly elegant form, high cheekbones and sculpturally perfect features make it easy to see why his friend, designer Anna Sui, recently used the guitarist as a model in one of her fashion shows. But James is no effete, pampered poster boy - he's basically just a regular dude from the Midwest. Like Corgan, he's got a flair for self-deprecating humor and subtly devastating one-liners. "Yeah, I did some glamorous catwalk thing," he admits shyly.
Corgan seems very interested: "How'd you feel without a guitar, though?"
"I thought I'd be fine. But once I got out there, I was just another skittish supermodel. It's scary to think of how much we rely on the guitar as some kind of crutch/mom/dad/phallus/prop thing. You sit there all the time in the studio with one. You sit at home with one. You go onstage with it. It's like..."
Billy Corgan finishes his sentence for him: "It's like...'Fuck you, I got a guitar!'" There is, in fact, a song called "Fuck You" on Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. But there's also one called "Beautiful." It's that kind of record - all-encompassing.
GUITAR WORLD: Did you know from the outset that this was going to be a double album?BILLY CORGAN: Yes. We almost had enough material to make Siamese Dream a double album. With this new album, I really liked the idea of creating expanded forms in which to put other kinds of material we were writing.
GW: Was there a concept from the start?
CORGAN: I did start with something of a conceptual basis, but I found out pretty quickly that I couldn't force myself to write to anything that specific. So it ended up being more about trying to write a lot of songs and then picking out common themes and maybe trying to steer certain songs toward those central themes. The end result is conceptual only in that sense.GW: There are images that seem to anchor the whole thing.
CORGAN: Yeah, like "emptiness," "nothing," "nowhere," "zero." [laughs]
GW: Actually, there's a really wide emotional range. Everything from, "there is a love that God puts in your heart" ["Take Me Down"] to "love is suicide" ["Bodies"].
CORGAN: Well, James wrote the "God puts love in your heart" line. And I wrote the "Love is suicide." Therein you have the Smashing Pumpkins dynamic. Positive J amd Negative B.
JAMES IHA: [sarcastically] The light and the dark.
GW: Do you subscribe to the theory that the artist has to be perfectly happy in order to create? Or the other theory that says the artist has to suffer?
CORGAN: I think there's validity in both. Obviously, if you're tormented, you're going to get some kind of weird deeper resonance in your music. But if you're really tormented, you're usually too overwhelmed to write a song about it. You don't really have the energy to be thinking about your music or your career when you fucking hate your life. I find it's best for songwriting when you're in a kind of middle spot -- not terminally depressed, but not really happy either. 'Cause when you're happy, who wants to sit inside and work?
GW: So you need to get some distance from suffering before you can write about it.
CORGAN: Sure. I think when people get into the lyrics on this album, they're going to think I'm in a very bad way. But in a lot of ways, the album is a commentary on things that have already passed - things that have happened and have been assimilated and digested. I'm commenting on ground I've already been over - not necessarily where I am right now. But it's seen through the lens of where I am right now.
GW: If someone were to run a computer scan on the lyrics for this record, "belief" and "pretense" would certainly rank among the most commonly occurring themes.
CORGAN: I think that's a valid point. I think anyone in our position - i.e., in a successful rock band - is sensitive to the integrity issue. On the one hand, we have a rare opportunity to be creative and live a very exciting kind of life. On the other hand, we're basically asked to repeat the same thing over and over again, at a consistent level of quality. And those are, in my mind, opposing factors. Creativity is not necessarily about repetition. But great artists, of any time period, often find themselves in a position where people desire what they do so much that they're forced to repeat themselves. Jimi Hendrix used to play matinee shows, you know? It's unfortunate, but a lot of times you're surrounded by people whose interests are best served by making sure you keep repeating yourself.
The thing that makes the whole engine go - which is creativity - seems to be not as important as going out and making money. And I think that's also symbolic of life. You have to make the choice between living life to its fullest potential or going out and paying the bills. Everyone faces that. Not just people in bands.
GW: With this new record, I think you've found a way to satisfy people's expectations of a Smashing Pumpkins record without repeating yourself.
CORGAN: Well, we really went into the record with the notion that this would be the last Smashing Pumpkins record. I mean, we plan on doing another record, but we don't plan on doing another record as the band that most people know. This kind of approach, style, music ... everything ... is going to change.
GW: Are you disbanding? Is that what you're saying?
CORGAN: No, you misunderstand. I'm saying we've reached the end of one creative ebb and flow. And it's time to go down a different musical path. Our options are either to disband, or to force ourselves to go in a different direction. We've got a lot of different viewpoints on the culture at the moment. We believe that, to a certain degree, we're taken for granted. It's hard to explain, but you just reach a point where you know it's time to move on.
GW: What were you reading when you wrote this album?
CORGAN: A lot of spiritual stuff. The Vedas, the Upanishads [two Hindu texts], Christian martyrs... There's this amazing book, a 4,000-year-old Sanskrit Yoga thing, translated so that it can be understood by a modern Western person. But it's a very simple, small book. A friend gave it to me, and I read that over and over. It has a lot to do with balancing earthly demands with spiritual receptiveness. And where God fits into that. So there was a lot of that. Soul searching's not the right word. I was trying to untangle things.
GW: I ask because the language of the songs is very pre-20th Century at times. "Cupid de Locke" is probably the most obvious example of that. Or even a phrase like "suffer my desire" ["In The Arms Of Sleep"] has a very archaic ring. People don't talk that way today.
CORGAN: I don't know. In the past, I probably could have given you more conscious connections between songs and their specific inspiration. Like before Siamese Dream, I was reading a lot of William Burroughs. So there was a definite connection between that and the album. But with this one, I can't really say I felt any of that. I really kind of write in a bubble.
GW: What are you reading right now?
CORGAN: Comic books, mainly.
GW: Was the whole Mellon Collie album written before you started recording it?
CORGAN: No. We wrote a lot while we were recording, actually - it was pretty much the first time we ever tried to do that. Flood really encouraged the idea of not having every day just be devoted to recording time. We would work on normal recording stuff for five or six hours, but then the band would just jam for a couple of hours, or work on a new song or something. Working like that kept the whole process very interesting - kept it from becoming a grind. It did start to get grindy at the end, but that's inevitable.
GW: How did you get involved with Flood?
IHA: Billy and I are both real big fans of his work. I'm sure both of us own at least 10 CD's that Flood has worked on. And they're all different. Not typical rock bands - all very individual.CORGAN: So I approached Flood about doing the album. I told him about the double album, which he thought was a good idea. He accepted the challenge of it. We discussed where it could work well and where it could go completely wrong. We started sending him demos and talking on the phone.
GW: One tends to think of him as a real sonic manipulator.
IHA: That's the tag that people put on him - that he sits around with synthesizers all day. But he's not really about that. He knows how to do that stuff, but he's just as much into having a rock band play live in the studio. He's very open-minded.
CORGAN: Whatever works. We did things like sampling aerosol cans and the sound of scissors being opened and closed. On the song "Cupid," all the percussion except the drum kit is stuff like this: [Corgan picks up a jar of vitamins and shakes it rhythmically]. And it was real freeing, sonically.
GW: Why didn't you work with [producer] Butch Vig this time, as you had on all your previous albums?
CORGAN: To be completely honest, I think we'd become so close with Butch that it started to work to our disadvantage. You get to the point where you don't even say anything, 'cause you know all the body language. So the communication starts to diminish. We'd worked with Butch from the time we did our Sub Pop single ["Tristessa" b/w "La Dolly Vita," 1990]. So it wasn't really a decision about him as a producer. I just felt we had to force the situation, sonically, and take ourselves out of normal Pumpkin recording mode. I didn't want to repeat past Pumpkin work.GW: Was it a challenge coming up with guitar arrangements for so many songs?
CORGAN & IHA: [In unison] Yeah.
IHA: But here's what was cool about it: in the past, everything had to overdubbed and layered - guitar overkill. That wasn't really the train of thought this time, although we did that, too. But there are some songs with just one guitar track. "To Forgive" has just one live electric guitar take.
CORGAN: But then there'd be a song like "Jellybelly," where Flood said, "On this song, you need to do the "Pumpkin guitar overdub army" thing. You'll hurt the song if you don't." So it was a good, healthy balance.
IHA: There's a lot of rock songs on the album, but we tried to avoid typical rock soloing. The approach to leads was a lot different. Most of them are left of center.
GW: Did you two guys divide the soloing duties?
IHA: Not deliberately. But it kind of came out half and half in the end, I guess. For example, on the song "Muzzle" Billy plays the first solo, and towards the end of the song there's an outro solo that I play. That's just the way it seemed to work best.
CORGAN: A lot had to do with the way we were working. There was recording going on in two rooms at once. I'd often be in one room, doing a lot of singing or working on an arrangement. And all that time, James would be in the other room, working out lead guitar ideas. Maybe a whole eight hour day of putting different leads and things on tape, over the basic rhythms. Because of all the other responsibilities I had, I wasn't focusing on the lead guitar as much on this album. And James had more time to explore guitar ideas than he'd ever had before. In the past, we were always dealing with such time constraints that it was way easier for me to play something immediately. But James always has really good ideas.
GW: Does Smashing Pumpkins feel like more of a band now?
IHA: Yeah. This record really was conducive to that whole feeling. There were just too many songs for one person to do everything. I think the record really conveys a band feeling.
GW: Did any circumstance arise where you two played together? Interlocking guitars on a rhythm track,for example?
IHA: A few were done live like that. "X.Y.U." was.
CORGAN: We're pretty firm believers in super-tight rhythm guitar playing. There's definitely a poignancy to four people playing together in a room - the feeling that you get from the miasma of everyone's own rhythms against one another. But if you're not specifically going for that kind of feel, then you've really gotta build the song from the bottom up, layering the rhythm guitars one track at a time, very precisely. To me, a song like "Jellybelly" is most effective when it's built like that super-tight chopped rhythm playing honed to a razor point. Played live, it's powerful but, to me, not as effective.
GW: Was the two-room scenario a Floodian strategy?
CORGAN: We'd talked about that even before Flood got involved.
IHA: It was almost necessary. Otherwise it would have taken too long to make the record.
CORGAN: After Siamese Dream, I tried to figure out ways to lessen the basic tension that develops during the making of a record. And to me, the biggest offender was the insidious amounts of time that everyone spends waiting around for guitar parts to be overdubbed. There were literally weeks where no one had anything to do but sit and wait. What's the old expression? "Idle hands make for Devil's work." The two rooms were a way around that endless waiting.
GW: Were any core guitars or amps used to make the record?
CORGAN: It pretty much broke down to my live rig and the Siamese Dream setup, which is this Marshall head I have [an '84 JCM 800] that's been used on literally everything the Pumpkins have ever done. We call it the "soul head." I bought it off some stoner guy. Saw an ad in the paper and bought this half stack. The cabinet ended up being used on 90% of the guitar tracks for this album, and the head on about 30%. The other main rig was a Marshall rack preamp and Alesis compressor- which, for some reason, really sounds good with guitar - into a Mesa Boogie head. That's the basic sound. And for a lot of stuff I used the same '57 reissue Strat that I did most of Siamese Dream with. We probably used 20 different electric guitars and 10 different acoustics on the album. We lined them all up in a row.
IHA: We'd take five guitars and try them all until we'd narrowed it down to the one that was best for the part being worked on. We never had the luxury to do that in the past - neither the time nor the money. But a lot of times we'd end up going with the guitar that would stay in tune the best. I have this early Eighties Les Paul Custom a silver sunburst that we used a lot, not only because it has a great Les Paul sound but also mainly because it stayed in tune. Basically, we used Strats and Les Pauls.CORGAN: And of course we've got the full pedal army. Between the two of us, we've got 30 or 40 pedals.
GW: What's the sickest pedal that you own?
CORGAN: The Fender Blender. Kevin Shields [of my Bloody Valentine] told me to get one. It's just the destructo pedal of all time. Listen to the song "Bullet" - at about two-and-a-half minutes there's a part where the key changes and it comes in all loud and thick and the speakers sound real distorty. That's that pedal. There are so many weird harmonics in the thing that if you turn it up a certain way, you get distortion beyond distortion. It makes the guitar sound almost unintelligible.
GW: Is all that front-end gain - from all those fuzz boxes - the key to that supersaturated Smashing Pumpkins distortion?
CORGAN: To be honest with you, the basic sound on this album comes from that amp rig I told you about, with the Marshall preamp and Mesa/Boogie head. You just have to take the time to tweak it to get the most gain and then figure out how to get the most gain out of the combination of guitars you're using. I think most people do a very poor job of that. They get something that sounds like it's really exciting and distorted, but when you really listen to it, it's crap.
IHA: That's the worst thing. All these alternative bands with big hits right now, they think if they buy a Big Muff and a Marshall stack, they're gonna get the "Kurt Cobain sound." But they just don't know what to do with it. I mean the Big Muff was cool, but you just hear it so much now. And people use it so poorly. Just on and off. They seem to think they're cool just because they have one.
GW: So which song on the new album has the greatest amount of guitar tracks?
CORGAN: I think "Thru The Eyes Of Ruby." In the end I think Alan [Moulder] said there were 56 guitar parts on there. "Jellybelly" had lots of guitars, too. That's your typical song with a lot of what we call "drop in" leads. That's where you're between verses and you want to play something for just eight seconds or so.
IHA: We did a lot of layering with E-Bows on this album, too. Like the middle eight in "Here Is No Why"; it's got 14 tracks of these little two-note E-Bow figures. And the song with the most effects pedals, would probably be "Tales Of A Scorched Earth." There's this one ridiculous solo where we had like 20 things chained together and it was just going Unnnnoohhhhh [does a convincing impression of an aroused mastadon] when the guitar wasn't even on. We plugged all this stuff in, then we had to leave the room. It was so loud.
GW: Do you ever detune for things like "Jellybelly" - the chunka-chunka thrash numbers? CORGAN: Yeah, yeah, we use the "grunge tuning."
IHA: Dropped D only the first string.
CORGAN: Yeah, but then we detuned everything on the album down a half step. So, like, the bottom string on the bass was E flat. And the dropped D stuff is really C sharp. We just wanted to make the music a little lower, that's all.
GW: Do you guys have similar musical tastes? Do you share guitar heroes?
CORGAN: I think we're pretty much in agreement on the old stuff we like. We're both big fans of the same old bands, like Sabbath and the Jefferson Airplane.
IHA: The older I get, the more I appreciate [former Rolling Stone] Mick Taylor.
CORGAN: Yeah, when you're younger you can never appreciate how good a guitar player Mick Taylor was. But when you grow older, you start to appreciate a contribution to a song. You move away from just a solo thing.
GW: Although live with the Stones, Mick Taylor was always soloing all over the place.
CORGAN: Was he?
IHA: Oh yeah, all over the place. On record, it was different.
CORGAN: See, I didn't know that. Fuck him, then.
GW: Did you guys say you like the Jefferson Airplane?
CORGAN: The old stuff. They were pretty cool. Obviously, because of where and when sw were born, I think we just sifted through a lot of music we 'd heard about and f ound the stuff that we liked. I used to work at a record store, so I'd tell James, "Check this out, you'll really like this." With a band like the Jefferson Airplane, there's stuff in there that's genius. And then there's stuff that's total crap - just obvious, drug-induced, hazed-out, no-thought-about-anything crap.
IHA: It was cool to be rock geeks, 'cause then you found out what was actually good about all these old school bands. But most kids today wouldn't give two shits to listen to all that stuff.
CORGAN: Everybody always points to the supposed influence of those bands on our band. But I think we took our cues more from asking, "What makes this band good here and makes them suck there?"
IHA: Like the Jefferson Airplane have this totally rocking live album, Bless Its Pointed Little Head. And it's totally rockin'. They had a funky drummer, an amazing bass player, and it's some kind of weird San Francisco pre-Blues Traveler thing. And there's actually a song on there that had this thing that we always wanted to do...
CORGAN: We actually tried it!
IHA: At the end of this total space-jam song, 'Three Fifths Of A Mile In Ten Seconds," it stops and you hear the crowd start to clap. And all of a sudden the drummer goes into this ridiculous drum roll...
CORGAN: And then they do the big ending. And the audience goes crazy! And we were like, "What an excellent way to end a song. We gotta use that!"
IHA: We tried it onstage - in "I Am One," but we could never make it work.
CORGAN: We were no Jefferson Airplane. It was so bad. We'd planned on doing it two nights in a row in Chicago. It was terrible the first night, so we didn't bother trying it the second.
IHA: It was a great idea when they did it, though. I don't know how they did it. It just sounds so... fabulous.
CORGAN: The other thing is, go back to the Eighties and what do you find that's worth listening to? You can say there was some good Blondie stuff. There were things like Television that certainly hold up. But not with the same amount of depth and wealth that there was in the late Sixties and early Seventies. It's hard to be, like, Generation X and not wonder why things are the way they are. So exploring these things in some way explains how we got to where we're at. I think music is a great barometer for culture.
IHA: I think Nathan Larson from Shudder To Think is one awesome, totally rocking guitar player. He's got a very unique style, which mixes in some jazz ideas. He has a real hard style, but then he plays all these intricate, mellow things. Every other rock band now is just Nirvana chord, Nirvana chord...
GW: Smashing Pumpkins is one of the groups that relegitimized heavy metal.
IHA: I beg your pardon. Although there are some pretty good Judas Priest grooves on this new album. I can point out which songs.
IHA: This is a small sore spot between us.
GW: You know what I mean. You were among the first alternative rockers to mention people like Ozzy and Black Sabbath with anything other than contempt.
CORGAN: Well, I've always said that you can certainly quarrel with Black Sabbath's Satanic politics, or Judas Priest's pseudo leather man aspects. But what drew me to that music as a kid wasn't what they were singing about - although that did hold a kind of kiddie fascination for me. People attach all this other schmaltz to the music, which is understandable. But the fact of the matter is that Unleashed In The East is a great fucking rock record. Masters Of Reality by Black Sabbath is an amazing-sounding record. There's no getting around it. That power is universally appealing. I think you can see that in the fact that Pantera is probably the best heavy metal band right now. You can certainly quarrel with their non-P.C. aspects, but the fact of the matter is that nobody sounds fuckin' heavier and meaner. That's why I like them.
The only new guitar player I like is Dimebag Darrell. Darrell is just the shit. Flood loves Pantera. When he found out I was a Pantera fan, he literally jumped up and down. He told me that when he was working on NIN's Broken with Trent Reznor, they had to drive 20 miles every day. And every day they'd listen to Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power. Flood and I went to see Pantera. I think it's really dumb when people try to turn sound into a political question. All we ever wanted to do in this band is kick people's ass. There's something funny about loud drums and rocking guitars that seems to assist that process.
GW: Billy, you've been highly critical of your own work in the past. Do you feel like you've done it on this album? Have you satisfied your own expectations?
CORGAN: I think this is absolutely the most solid representation of everything we've ever been. I think it represents periods of the band that have already come and gone. For example, I think in '92 we were the best rock band that we ever could have been. I don't mean that to sound self-deprecating - a bad reflection on what we are now. But in '92 we had total attack, style, thinking - we were extremely aggressive onstage.
To me, that was our peak as a rock band. Unfortunately, I don't think we ever got that on tape. And I think there's a reprentation of that aspect of the band on songs like "Fuck You" and "Jellybelly." I think I finally got that on tape, albeit after the time when it was most alive. We play better now, but we don't have the same attack. So I really think this record is a big exclamation point on seven years of Smashing Pumpkins.
GW: The idea of the big, concept double album - where everybody talks about what it means - belongs very much to another era of rock. Was that a concern of yours?
CORGAN: I knew people were going to have questions, problems, be antagonistic about it... whatever. But I really just decided not to care. If it was about some bloated concept, I could see people having problems with it. If it was three-quarters jack-off soloing, I could understand people being antagonistic towards it. But it's not, and I'm very proud of the fact that it's song after song all different, all trying to say something different, yet all adding up to a fine idea, like a long novel or something. The fact that that comes with a package that's associated with the Seventies, I don't really care about. I see the pitfalls in it, but we addressed those and got around them as best we could. I think the record ended up being a double album more like the White Album than like The Wall. Whether the record proves itself remains to be seen.
GW: When we last spoke, in '93, you said, "I'm sure that, in three years, rock will be passe again."
CORGAN: [Shrugging] Well, I'm a prophet. I think we're headed right to disco. We've had our little rock explosion. And, unfortunately, we're coming out of it even more jaded about rock than we went into it. The cliches are even more obvious.
GW: A return to disco. Is that how you see the Tricky/Portishead thing?
CORGAN: No. Honestly, I'm excited about that. Because I think that's a natural assimilation of technology and a multi-cultural world view of music. That's even possibly where I may be headed - the Billy Corgan version of that. When I say disco, I mean things like ABBA. Ace of Bass. That nameless, faceless synth pop for the masses. We're gonna get it all over again. And it's gonna be even worse. That and maximum AOR. We thought Phil Collins was bad? We've got a whole new generation of that coming, as the supergroups break into their solo careers yet again.
GW: Oh God, please. I hope it's not gonna be that grim.
CORGAN: Leave it to me to paint you a grim picture. What's unfortunate is, if you're a 15-year-old kid right now, and you're looking at how everything is, you're seeing bands being rewarded for copying Nirvana and Pearl Jam. So if you're a young kids are you going to go in the direction of mimicry or in the direction of your own thing? In my heart I would hope that, if there's any inspiration we provide, it's that there's a point to pursuing your own sick, twisted vision of rock. But when you look at the beating we've taken for doing that, I can't imagine that a lot of kids would prefer going down that road. So I think the music scene is even worse off now than it was five years ago. Because, instead of heralding a bright new future with lots of alternatives, we've narrowed the scope even further. Although it's more pleasant to listen to some band copying Nirvana than it is to listen to Phil Collins, it's also more insidious and it hurts even more. Because it's a total blasphemy of what was sacred about that stuff in the first place.
GW: With Kurt's death, do you feel attention is more focused on you to be that kind of figurehead?
CORGAN: No. Put it this way, if anybody considers me a figurehead now, they certainly didn't consider me that way before. I certainly don't want it by default. I'm not interested.
GW: Apparently Kurt Cobain didn't want it either.
CORGAN: I wouldn't jump to that conclusion.
GW: Well, you knew him.
CORGAN: No, I didn't really know him. But I think there is a public image and there's a private thing, and anybody who reaches those kind of heights is aiding and abetting it at some level, however unwitting they claim to be. Put it this way, you don't sit in your room and write one of the best records of your generation by accident.
GW: One last thing, do you have any recurring gig nightmares?
CORGAN: I do, actually. I have these insane nightmares. Do other people express these dreams?
GW: Every musician has them, yeah.
CORGAN: The one that sticks out in my mind is one where I'm on stage in, like, a Lollapalooza kind of setting. Big stage. Lotta people. But no one's listening to the band. Everyone's talking. I go up to speak into the microphone and it just falls off the stand. The band is still tuning up. I get the sense that the band's not ready to play the song. I'm kinda frustrated. Don't know what to do. I go to play my guitar and the neck's made of rubber and the strings all start to break. The amp doesn't work... I've had this dream.
GW: You can't depend on anything.
CORGAN: Yeah. I used to have a similar dream when I was little. I'd be shooting a basketball and no matter what I did, the ball wouldn't go in the hoop. It reminds me of that. Just a total anxiety dream. But I don't really get nervous going on stage anymore. So it's really weird. I guess I'm just suppressing.
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