Smashing Pumpkins on MuchMusic,
Wednesday January 3rd, 1996.
(Transcribed by Simon Coyle)
(Band enters studio. Lots of screaming.)
MuchMusic: James has left the building...
D'arcy: You're all actors, right?
MM: Yes that's right, high paid extras.
Billy Corgan: How come you're not all in school, that's what I want to know. The future of Canada is at stake!
MM: There should be a revolving platform or something you guys should stay on. How is everyone? All right?
D: We're all sick.
MM: Bearing the cold? Oh, you're all sick, I see.
D: Bringing you new viruses from other countries.
MM: Oh that's always good, bring on the viruses. Ok, so I saw you play last night, and what struck me first about the show would be the amazing long line-up down the street and the use of vouchers instead of tickets. And mandatory i.d to eliminate scalping. Why did you use this method?
BC: We played some shows last February in Chicago, same kind of situation, small show and you know, certainly there's more than whatever number of people want to go to the show and we wanted people who really wanted to go to get there and the problem is like, when you put it through TicketMaster or whatever you have here for phonelines, you're gonna get people who are like, kinda fans like they like one song kinda thing and we're trying to make it like, if people really wanna go they can get a ticket. I mean, if you want to get up and stand in line, you'll get a ticket, you know...
MM: Right it's sort of a task to make it... (lots of screaming from fans outside the buildling)
MM: They want tickets!
BC: A little late. But, see that's the idea and then just take the scalping element out of it so, if you're sixteen and you have you know, whatever amount of money, you're gonna get in. You don't have to pay so many hundred bucks plus...
D: Or have, you know, connections.
BC: Right, you know, I mean, at this point in our lives we'll play a show and there'll be a hundred people there who have nothing to do with the music band, and not the people who want to see you play, it's just 'cos their dad knows Larry the Sausage Guy or something, you know. So we try to avoid that.
MM: Was it true that you waited till the last person in the line-up was inside the building before you started the show?
BC: I think we tried, we tried. But we had a... I dunno. Somebody had a heart attack or something...
MM: Really? In the line-up?
BC: No, us, one of us had a heart attack. We were a little late going onstage.
MM: And you started the show off with a twenty minute acoustic set.
BC: It was more like forty
MM: Was it about forty?
BC: It seemed like an hour and a half.
MM: It seemed like a real bold move to do that, and why did you choose that, starting the night off with that style?
Jimmy Chamberlin: Um, just because it's a rare opportunity for us to play our softer acoustic songs without, you know, without having to play an extremely long show, I mean, to break it up into two things, it's easier to present, like, these are our acoustic songs, so don't expect like, you know, a big raucous rock show, that'll be later.
MM: Yeah, it looked like you were in your pyjamas to begin with and you had like a beautiful elegant ball gown...
D: We were... and we'll be in our pyjamas again.
BC: I thought it was appropriate to wear my pyjamas considering I wrote most of the songs in them so...
MM: It seems very, like, in that very stripped-down manner, without the signature guitars that it really emphasized the fact that a lot of your songs are love songs.
BC: What kind of songs?
MM: Love songs.
BC: We call them hate songs
MM: And the night sort of progressed on to, it started off very controlled and quiet and by the end of the show you were all deranged! Like crazy! (To D'arcy) Like, your eyeliner is going down your face, blaaagghhhh...
James Iha: I don't remember that...
MM: You had like, shinier stuff on...
JC: You were at a different show...
MM: Then comes the magnus opus of the double CD, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Did you start off with conceptually going, we wanna put out a double CD or did you just have so much stuff that it fit onto two CDs?
BC: Both. No, it was a double CD before the songs were even written.
MM: So the idea...
BC: We made up our minds because we're so sick of everyone doing these extremely calculated rock moves and, this is how you do your videos and this is how you do your albums, and this is how you are as a band, and this is what you say. So it's just a total reaction against the way that everything is. We just wanted to provide the most amount of music that we could, for the least amount of money and just...
MM: The least amount of money - like as far as what you pay for it?
BC: Yeah, I mean, the album roughly costs one and a half times a normal album instead of two albums put together. You know, we took less money and worked harder to make something that we cared about. And our whole thing has always been if we care about it, we hope that other people would too. So you know, we're just trying to remove ourselves out of the typical rock game, circa 1995 or 6 or whatever...
MM: And you can call the shots now at the point in your career. Or have you always done...
BC: Well yeah, you can call the shots as long as you can sell records. I mean, the moment we stop selling records I don't think anyone would be too supportive of a double CD.
MM: It's divided into two parts, Dawn till Dusk and Twilight to Starlight, how did you determine which songs fell into which time period?
BC: Well we put the really good ones on one and the bad ones on the other.
MM: Which are the really good ones according to you?
BC: See, you have to guess that part though. Because everyone has a different opinion.
MM: Yeah, I found it very consistent. It was very hard for me to determine what was the deciding force that... you know. Umm, you speak... ahh... your songs are introspective, emotional and turbulent, are you able to..
BC: They are?
MM: They are! Are you able to speak freely as a person about these things or are songs what you choose to... is that the best...
BC: Oh, you're asking me can I speak about the same subject matter outside of the context of the songs?
BC: Yeah I can, but it seems to demean the subject matter.
MM: So it's more effective?
BC: It's not about effectiveness, it's just you know, ok, if I write songs, you know, I'm as much of an artist as much as someone who paints a picture and I choose to express in those things whatever I want to express. Nobody questions an artist's emotional attitude in a painting or in a picture but somehow musically we have to dissect where it comes from, so I've just ceased talking about those things in public because it seems to cheapen them or something and I'm not gonna cheapen what's real because everyone that I know feels the things that we're singing about so until I find somebody who doesn't feel those things then we'll not be invalid. The media makes these things invalid,it blows them up into, you know, I'm the tortured idiot child who doesn't know any better, you know, and I'm not the tortured idiot child, I'm a pretty normal human being, I just happen to be able to express things very intensely. That's it, it's not any more sophisticated than that.
MM: So to demean your songs is to talk about what the songs are about? D: Not to talk about them, but you know, but Billy could sit there and talk for about an hour about what a song really means to him and maybe he'll sum it up really well, but they're not gonna put everything that he says in there, they're gonna try and sum it up in three really catchy words. And that definitely trivializes it.
BC: It's a soundbite culture and we're not interested in participating in a soundbite culture.
MM: Do you ever find yourself in interviews regurgitating the same answers like, a lot of artists...
BC: Every answer is original and fresh.
MM: Yeah, that's good. Now this album finds you playing more together as a live band, does that more reflect a change of dynamics within the group? Sort of a relinquishing of technical precision for just groove and feel?
BC: I think we felt overall we never really captured the band as the band on record. Maybe Gish to a point, but even then it was still like, you know, first album freak-out. So this album certainly captures, like, all aspects of the band you know, the anal geek part and the total just rocking-out part.
MM: Um, you made an interesting observation about the parallels between like, Hendrix and Coltrane and Sinatra and Miles Davidson. You said something, "great music completely obliterates any conception of genre" and do you wanna kind of elaborate on that?
BC: I dunno how much better I can say it.
D: You said that? Wow.
MM: So these people were like venturing into new musical territory...
BC: Take a great artist, Bob Dylan or John Lennon or Kurt Cobain or anybody like that, when they come along it doesn't matter what style of music they're playing, suddenly what they're singing about and what they're talking about suddenly seems so much more important than grunge or... whatever. And that's what, all I'm trying to say is we so focus on what's 'happening', it's like, by the time you recognize that something is 'happening', it's probably already ceased to happen. The very root of grunge was Seattle 89/90 you know. We saw that and you could feel that. By the time it became this huge media event, everyone had already gone on and moved on.
MM: You've been very critical about the state of contemporary music and how do you as a group continue to challenge yourself and it seems very important for you to make new music - how do you do that?
MM: Are you in isolation most of the time? Do you keep up on contemporary music?
JI: I don't think we really listen to new bands like the new alternative rock bands, we sort of work within the records we've already done and sorta go from there. The songs always come first but I think like stylistically we try to just build from our previous records and not rehash what we've done before.
MM: Are you hard on each other?
D: But we're also really hard on ourselves. I mean I think we all have that perfectionistic attitude.
MM: You keep saying the word 'real' and real is like a subjective thing - but what is 'real' for you?
BC: But I don't think it is subjective, it may be subjective to the individual, but speaking in general terms, real things seem to resonate through a lot of people and umm... I mean you know, we're all playing party to something and you could be a pissant about it, which I try not to always be, but the fact of the matter is that the people who are coming to see us play deserve more. Not only from the Smashing Pumpkins but from everyone they pay their money to. If the audience is expected to give of themselves then the artists should be expected to give of themselves and what disgusts me is it's more about image and manufacturing some kind of intent to actually getting down to providing what the whole point of it is, which is a visceral experience that has meaning, so that twenty years from now you look back on what you listened to and you wouldn't be ashamed.
We look back at what we used to listen to when we were fifteen and it was terrible, it was totally awful. And we're proud to at least provide something of quality and of realness to the people who are listening and what disgusts us is like you know, there's people can look themselves in the mirror then go out and fake their way through it.
MM: You've said that this is the end of the Smashing Pumpkins era as a rock 'n' roll guitar based band, you're moving into the technological direction. Do all of you embrace your electronic future?
BC: You might wanna ask D'arcy that question.
MM: So are you gonna get into computers like (starts making computer-noises)?
BC: We already are, though computers don't make that noise any more.
D: Not our computers.
MM: So like, what are you going to do?
BC: We've worked out a plan where eventually we'll replace all ourselves with machines. So roughly by the year 2002 we'll sit at home and the machine will go on tour.
D: James isn't really James. He's a robot.
BC: That's why he's not as funny as he used to be.
MM: Do you have a lot of input in your videos?
MM: You do? I would imagine the videos are sort of like, you try to get the same amount of quality in there or input 'cos that's like a part of you that out on show.
BC: Well whenever you make a commercial you know, you want it to be good. We try to make the best commercials we can.
MM: Specifically this one's an interesting one, like the post-apocalyptic imagery of all the people, these throngs of people covered in blue mud and then the band. And is the band part of that group of people? Are you part of that whole scenario or are you like...
BC: We're the house band for the armageddon.
MM: Ok, here they are, this is the house band for the armageddon, Smashing Pumpkins, and this is Bullet with Butterfly Wings, thank you.
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