May 6th 1996 on MCM with Jimmy and Billy


I: How do you choose the songs you are going to play on stage?

BC: Um, we have a little toy robot and he tells us what to play. His name is Robby. Robby the robot.

I: From Forbidden Planet? Robby the robot?

BC: No, that's a different robot!

JC: Very good! [Jimmy makes eery whistling noises]

I: Mellon Collie has been chosen by Time magazine as best record...yes, best record, in 1995. What do you feel about that?

BC: Um, good. I mean, anytime people recognize the work that we're doing we're very happy about that. We feel more often than not that we haven't been recognized for the work that we've done, so in some ways any recognition is good recognition to us, we don't really classify it.

I: Speaking of classification, how would you describe Smashing Pumpkins to someone who has never heard of the Smashing Pumpkins?

BC: Um, that's kind of an impossible question to be honest, because... it... no one category or categorization seems to sum us up. I mean, we're basically a rock band, but we... we play so many different types of music with so few constraints that there's really nothing to compare it to. Um. You know...you know if somebody hear...heard the music one time they would probably have a better description than I could.

I: You know lots of ba...some bands don't like, you know, making video clips.

BC: Right.

I: So, for you, is it more than the record, you know, or is it something you have to do for marketing?

JC: Um, I think, you know, videos are a necessary part of marketing music in the 90s, um, and, you know, you can look at it two ways, you can look at it like, you know, "oh, why do I have to make a video?", but, I mean, the fact of the matter is, is it is 1996 and you're alive and videos are a part of being in a successful band, so, you know, you can, you can look at them as a way of embracing another art medium and, you know, try to have fun with them, and, and, that's kind of what we do, we try to, we try to put as much input into our videos as we do into our music [Billy nods].

I mean, we're not, we're not, as uh, as efficient in video and film making as we are in music [Billy turns to face the camera, and smiles as if to say "yep, he's not kidding!"] but, I mean, we do, we do try to make sure that, you know, they are, they do have integrity, and they do stand for something. [Billy nods]

I: And how do you work to write songs, do you... Billy...work by yourself or do you still, check the group and, uh, work and progress all together?

BC: Um, some songs I write all by myself, and then we just record them, and other songs I, I bring in the ideas that I have and the band plays and we kind of go back and forth and try different things, and I'll go home and rearrange them and come back the next day and...it's very hard to explain how we work.

You know, people have an, uh, outsiders point of view on what they think we do, but I've never heard anyone quite get it right. I think WE understand how it works, but it's very hard to explain it.

I: Speaking of the way people receive you, or think you are, what do you think of the media? The way the media write or film about the Smashing Pumpkins. Are you pleased? Or maybe you don't care? What do you think when you read basic articles about the band?

BC: Um, generally thinking, I think the media is a bunch of shit.

I: (looking perturbed) Why?

BC: Because I don't think that the media really deals in, in honesty and context. I think the media deals in self-serving needs, which is, um, they need to sell whatever it is they need to sell, TV shows, magazines, um, newspapers.

So, you're expected to hold a high level of integrity while the magazines don't need to hold any integrity at all, they publish and print whatever they need to publish and print to sell magazines.

Now, if you admitted as a band that you were doing whatever you needed to do to sell records, they would cut you in half. But yet this is exactly what magazines and newspapers and TV shows do regularly.

Um, for example, if, if, if you asked us what we thought of an artist, um, and we said two good things and two bad things, you would more than likely, we would be more than likely see the bad things that we said than the good things, because the bad things a band had to say about another band is more entertaining.

Um, I think we've never been received in a full context, I think people have never really understood our music in the, in the ambition that we're trying to play it in, and, and, beat us up for one song that they don't like when they realize that we try to make full albums, and that we just don't make singles. And that we've never been about those kind of things.

So, added up over eight years I think we've gotten a, a, a pain in the ass hard time, and I think the only reason that we're in the position we're in is because people, because people have bought our records and come to our concerts and we've become big because of people, and that's a , that's a great, powerful feeling. It's very satisfying. Very deeply satisfying.

And so you know, we continually deal with the media because we need to, we want other people to hear our music. But in the end, we don't feel that we got the fair shake? shape? (I CANNOT figure out this word) that we deserve.

I: OK. And in the United States there's a lot of entertainment, lots of business, country of business?

BC: Yeah.

I: So how do the Smashing Pumpkins feel in the country of business?

BC: Um, well we just look at it as like, um, you know, they call it the music business. Um, you know, we've expressed continually that we want people to hear what we do, we're very proud of what we do and we want people to hear it. And, um, the only problem we seem to have is with media.

We have very little problems with people, we have very little problem with people liking our records. People continually tell us how much they enjoy our records, every album we've put out has sold more, um, our concerts only get bigger, people seem to have a better time.

So, the only part of the business that we have any problem with is dealing with media. Because people are completely saturated by media, and there's no way around it. If we could deal...if we could do it without it we probably would, but we can't. So, we're in a very awkward position because, um, we also come into a lot of situations where people have pre-judged us. They pre-judge us as difficult artists, um, I'm a tyrant, you know, basically what most media does is they read other interviews, and they take other people's pre-judged opinions and then continue to further those opinions by asking us similar questions. So, we're in a difficult position.

But, um, in the end we hope that all that'll really stand is the music, you know.

I: Speaking of music, what kind of artists and bands did you listen to when you were teenagers?

JC: Um, I listened to everything from Zeppelin to Duke Ellington. I mean, I had five brothers and sisters who were older than me and a father who was way into big band jazz, so, I mean, at any given time there was just about anything playing in my house, and that's basically what I still listen to today.

I: And you Billy?

BC: Um, I just listen to the sound of trains whizzing by my window. And, uh, motorcycles racing around my head. I don't like to talk about my influences because people just try to pin'em on my shirt, you know, so...

I: For lots of French, or European teenagers it's like a dream to grow up in the States because of, uh, what they see on TV...

BC: It's a baa... let me tell you, it's a baaaad dream!

JC: It's a nightmare.

I: Why?

BC: No, I mean, we love our country, um, um, having travelled the world we really appreciate the freedoms that we do have, and we, we um, we have the freedom to be, you know, pissants about the whole thing, and make fun of it. And that's the great thing about America, is, it's the freedom to come and go and say what you want, and in the end you're still proud that you represent something.

It's not perfect, um, I think we're going through an age right now where we're trying to come to grips with the fact that the American Dream isn't quite real. We're facing up to our own problems of racism, and uh, class society, um, and, you know, a lot of, a lot of people have asked us, you know, a lot of American artists, all they do is seem to whine. You know, all they seem to do is be angry and whine. It's because we grow up in an environment where, where expressing those things is OK. Not every expression of those kind of things is, is good. But still, people, people can indulge in these negative feelings and in the end will probably be better for it.

I: And uh, speaking of the country, this year it's election year, so what do you, what's your opinion?

BC: Well, it's just getting worse. I mean, what's amazing about this particular presidential election coming up, is the, the best candidates aren't even running, because there's no point.

The political process is so inherently negative that you literally have to grow up in a convent and emerge at forty years old ready to run for president, so, um, it's very disappointing.

And ultimately the American people need to decide that they want a government that represents the needs of the people, as opposed to the desires of the people. And, um, as long as we keep electing people because they're good-looking, or too old or, you know, things like that, you know, we're going to keep getting these crap candidates.

I: And what do you do for fun when you're not playing? A specific, um, things?

JC: Um, I play, more. Um, actually, my new thing is speed. So I try to drive as fast as I can and like, put myself in really dangerous situations.

I: That's why you're going to watch on TV the Grand Prix?

JC: Yeah.

I: OK. What do you do Billy?

BC: I just watch him go fast. I live through Jimmy.

I: OK. And how would you present each member of the band in your own words? [To Jimmy] How would you present Billy to someone who's never heard of him? [To Billy] How would you present Jimmy to someone?

BC: You go first Jim.

JC: Hmm. Uh, basically, I would just say, uh, this is, you know, my best friend Billy. [To Billy] Top that!

BC: Jimmy's the guy who you would be most likely to lend money to, um, D'arcy is a one of a kind of person. Unless you've met her, you can't really understand her, and even if you do meet her, it's still hard to understand her [Billy and Jimmy laugh and give each other knowing looks]. James...he's king of the world, he's living it, he's happy.

JC: yep, he's right.

I: What's your projects?

BC: Mean like, future?

I: Yeah.

JC: Um, I think we're going to finish up this tour, maybe take a small break, and then start working on the new record, which we hope will be the start of something new, interesting and big and decipherable. [laughs]

BC: We're going to become a populist, populist band.

I: And speaking of populist bands, what do you think of bands which are heavy into political things? Like Rage Against the Machine?

BC: I have a lot of respect for them to be honest, um, personally, um, we don't feel we have any position to engage in those kinds of things. I have a lot of respect for people who do because they're opening themselves up to a lot of criticism and a lot of crap.

But personally, we just don't have any strong feelings in that way, because our music has never been about telling people what to do. Our music is about an open mind. So, in the same token, it's hard for us to play music that is supposedly open-minded and then kind of have a political position that is ultimately close-minded.

I: OK. And if you had any advice to give to a new-comer band, which would it be?

BC: The best advice that I could give to a new-coming band is, um, pay absolutely no attention to what's going on around you and just do whatever it is you hear in your head. And, um, that's the best thing you can do. If I listened to all the advice that I'd been given I wouldn't be sitting here with you. I'd be back in Chicago in my bedroom. All the advice that I got was WRONG. Absolutely WRONG.

People told us to change the band name, people told us we would never get out of Chicago, people told us our music was too heavy, people told us our music was too wimpy, people told us our songs were too long. People said I couldn't write hit songs.

People have said every conceivable thing about us that you can imagine, and you know what? They were ALL wrong. Completely wrong. We just did what we wanted to do, and that's the best thing we've ever done. Every time we've done that, we've had success, and every time we strayed away from it, we paid for it.

I: And, uh, speaking of the band's name, what's the origin of it?

BC: Um....fortune cookie. [Grins]

I: Are there any artists in the US right now that you feel close to?

BC: Not particularly. I mean, uh, it was only four or five years ago we felt we were in a weird kind of direct competition with bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana and Soundgarden and things like that.

Now we're not really competing with those bands anymore. We're competing against Whitney Houston...

As far as new bands go, I'm sure they're out there. I'm sure the next new wave of music is in the garage right now, and we have no idea where it's going to come from or what it's going to be. It's always going to be there. People are going to look at a band like us and say, "They suck!", and they're going to do something better than we did. But it takes a band like us to look at and say, "We can do better than that".

And that's the great thing about music is, is it's cannibalistic. People takes what exists, shit on it, and move on. And it's up to a band like us now to not let people basically do what we do better. We have to move onto something, you know, more different, and be innovative. We can't just continue to be the Smashing Pumpkins, because, in a way, the world has caught up with the Smashing Pumpkins.

I: Lou Reed says, "If you want to understand me, read my lyrics". Is it the same for you?

BC: Um, yeah, I'd say it's pretty close. Although, um, I think the person in the lyrics is a lot kinder, gentler than the person in real life. I think I'd like to think I'm that person most of the time, but I think I'm not quite that person all the time.

I: And, um, Mellon Collie starts from Dawn till Dusk, then Twilight to Starlight, so it's, there is still hope?!

BC: Of course. My heart's still beating!

I: OK.

BC: I'm sure I can be nice one day!

I: So, it wasn't too painful to make the interview?

BC: I'm sorry?

I: Do you have a bad image of the French media after the interview?

BC: No, actually, to be honest, um, the French media, by and by, has been very respectful of the Smashing Pumpkins. And the question I answered before was in general.

Um, it depends, territory to territory. Um, I think, you know, there's a long history in France of artistic pursuit. It's very rare.

Everywhere else all people really care about is selling records. They pretend that they don't care about it, but if you're not selling as many records as the next guy...forget it, they're not interested. But they pretend that they are, so, no, I don't have a problem with the French media.

I: Do you have anything special to say to our viewers?

BC: Woo! That's always a toughy you know, because, um, we really feel that, um, people really aren't that different, you know.

There are cultural differences, there are different ways of eating, you know, people certainly eat slower in Europe than they do in America. But, beyond that, no, we think people are basically the same.

When we're playing in front of people in France, or Germany, or Brazil, or America, we really just think about one thing, and that's playing as good as we can, and we think that as long as we do that people will understand what we're doing, so, in a way there is no direct message, except thanks, and...see you soon!

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