On the eve of the Smashing Pumpkins' shows here, Billy Corgan talks to Kirk Gee In Los angelas.
Most of the world woke up to the Smashing Pumpkins with 1993's Siamese Dream, and album that threw some heavy psychadelic tendencies in with an affection for solid-rock moves, and somehow made the leap into the mainstream. Success beckoned, so the Pumpkins spent some time arguing among themselves, then as the world rediscovered punk last year they released Mellon Collie and the Infinate Sadness, a prawling double album that went from dreamy, drawn-out guitar epics to full on guitar assult, often in the same somg. All this make the newly punk-loving critics dizzy with its complete lack of cool, but people still dug it and now a relaxed Billy Corgan is taking time out before their Australian tour to further explain himself.
Normally interviews happen as a band is about to release an album, but this time I've got you months down the track and halfway through a big tour. How does the material and album concept feel to you now?
Pretty good really. We wanted to make diverse music that was representive of the band in its entirety, and I think we did a pretty good job of that. Now, going out and playing the songs, they feel good.
The press seemed pretty amazed that you made a double album. Some reviewers were complaining because you made a diverse-sounding album, like it was confusing for the public or something.
I don't know how people are expected to find now things in the same music. With us it's been a case of the power of diversity and the power of emotional material coming through different songs, and complaining about that misses the point of what we're about. Sure we could be a one or two-dimentional band, and if we did that we probably be a better band commercially, but it's never been the intent for us.
Now that alternative rock is more or less the mainstream, how do you see yourself fitting into the rock world?
We don't realy care anymore. We come from that background, we have that mindset and most of our fans are alternative rock fans, so that's it. I think nowdays it doesn't matter as much as five years ago when you had this huge discrepancy between the amount of records sold and the attention paid to the music. Nowadays, you have a band like Siverchair, these 16 year-olds playing Pearl Jam/Nirvana music, and they're hugely popular. The validity and integrity of Silverchair is completely minimal. People should just recognize us for our achievement and our power as a musical unit. We never really get in with alternative rock, that community never fully accepted us and we're not quite mainstream.
There's always bands like yourselves or Soundgarden who have been out there for a while being ignored by the cool kids for not being alternative enough, for being too metal or to rockist, and now you're too alternative.
I think the ultimate irony is that five years ago we were this careerist, overly ambitious band, a psychadelic Led Zepplin/Janes Addiction clone that couldn't write songs, and now look at how people percieve us. I think that given all that happened to music, we come out looking pretty good. We've stayed our course, we haven't sold out. You can look at the double album two ways. You can call it totally pretentious over indulgence, or you can look at it as right when the career move would have been to come out with the hit album, we do the opposite. To me, that's integrity--doing exactly what you want, not what people expect you to do.
But that's sort of cool in a way. I like albums to be a grand statement, and I like bands to be sort of insane, or at least have a few psychodramas going.
Yeah, sometimes I read stuff that people have written about music and how it seems pretentious, and I think, "Well, what was so bad about taht stuff?" Look back at the heyday of rock and people dressd crazy and acted crazy, so what is wrong with it all being entertaining on another level: What's wrong with a little pretentiousness? The very notion that you're not being pretentious when your standing up there singing your songs is so wrong. The very act of rock and roll is pretentious: "Hey sit still while we assult you for an hour with our music"--it's totaly pretentious.
Exactly, and if I'm paying my hard earned cash to see you in a big hall, I damn well expect my money's worth. I want grand gestures and lots of them.
Hence the explaination of the sort of band that we are. If you put 5,000 people in front of us, we will kick their asses, it's not fair to shuffle about and noodle them off to sleep. We have the ability to play precise, powerful rock, so why not? I take a lot of inspiration like Bowie or the Who, people who have made this amazing music, had this recorded output, but managed to be themselves and have fun doing it. We're having fun, it's great to go out and play live and have people actually know the songs. We've pulled our act together, the ego problems have stopped and we're having a great time.
With all these rumors floating around about how you all ahte each otehr and the lead singer is nuts, what is going to happen to the band? Is it as bad as we're led to believe?
It's weird, so many people seem focused on the band breaking up that you almost feel obliged to. We plan to make another record although we'll probably take a break after this tour because we haven't been apart for more than a few weeks in eight years. So we'll relax, write a bit and experiment with new directions. We recognize we're in rare air here, you don't often get the chance to do this eclectic music and have an audience for it so we don't want to blow this chance away. It's a weird act of God that four people can come together and make this thing work.
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