Billy Corgan

Playboy Magazine

May 1997

(Thanks to Clay Johnston for typing this out for us)

A Few Words From Billy Corgan

PLAYBOY: What effect does Smashing Pumpkins have on its listeners?

CORGAN: We're like a really nice drink. We help people get through the day--we make life a little sunnier. I don't think we have any profound effect. If anybody has had a profound effect, it's the Beatles, and their effect is still minimal. There are things in the world way more important than music. Family is 50 times more important than music.

PLAYBOY: When you appeared on The Simpsons, Homer gave you this glowing praise: "Thanks to your gloomy music, my children have stopped dreaming about a future I can't possibly provide." Did he get it right?

CORGAN: Things don't seem to be getting any better, do they? People always called the Cure gloomy, but listening to the Cure made me happy. There was something about the gloominess that gave me comfort, and I think we're the same way.

PLAYBOY: You have a fondness for the rock of the Sixties and Seventies. Has current rock music become more about its marketing prospects and less about the creative process?

CORGAN: Some of the best rock music was made to sell records. But record companies realized there were bands that could sell half a million records and basically pay the bills. When I gave the induction speech for Pink Floyd at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, every heavy in the record business was in the room. And here was this band that's never really never really had a hit song but has one of the biggest-selling albums of all time. The point is, rock music is not always about what it seems to be about. I've had hit songs, but I've also been able to have artistic indulgences. I can fully appreciate both opportunities.

PLAYBOY: The members of Smashing Pumpkins have not been known to get along with one another. In fact, you first hired the Pumpkins bassist D'Arcy after a fierce argument with her on a Chicago street. What do you learn about somebody in an argument that you wouldn't learn otherwise?

CORGAN: You realize that they're as stupid as you thought they were. They're just confirming it. And I know they're thinking the same thing about me. The Smashing Pumpkins is just like a family. Not everyone gets along, not everybody's cool with one another all the time. We get under one another's tits. D'Arcy has even given me the finger onstage and told me to go fuck myself. And I've told her to get the fuck offstage. We're just being ourselves. If you were in a band with people long enough, you'd tell them to go fuck themselves, too. It's inevitable. And the next day we're back to normal. I think it's healthy.

PLAYBOY: You originally intended the video for 1979 to end with a riot, with the kids trashing the convenience store and attacking the clerk. What made you think of that? Did you think it fit the thematic conclusions of the song, or did you just want to see it happen?

CORGAN: My original idea for the video was a little more over-the-top. It's not that the song is about that, but I just wanted something that was hard-core. The directors of the video steered it into something a little more general and a little more nice. Their intuition was right. Trashing the convenience store at the end was completely not in line with the tone of the video. It was probably more in line with how things really are.

PLAYBOY: Before the release of Siamese Dream, you suffered a bout of depression. What did you learn about yourself from that experience?

CORGAN: That there's no point in being depressed. Most of the depression I've ever had is my wishing I were something else. My life's not so bad. There's a difference between depression and sadness. Depression is a form of abuse. I'm in a good place, but four years form now, I might feel depressed again. I think people's focus on this is silly, because it's a part of life. People die, people change, relationships fall apart. You don't even know why. Life is always about change, and change is sad. You have to deal with those changes the best you can.

PLAYBOY: Has your tremendous success allowed you to indulge in any guilty pleasures that you weren't able to indulge in before?

CORGAN: Bulls tickets. Michael Jordan is the man. Not only is he the most gifted athlete in sports, he's also the most determined. That's an amazing combination, because usually the two don't go together. It's like pretty girls and brains.

PLAYBOY: If you asked the Magic Eight Ball if the Pumpkins will still be together in 30 years, what do you think it would say?

CORGAN: "Very doubtful." I'm committed to letting the band come to its organic end. I've considered doing different things, but the form an function of the band allows me to do whatever I want. They're good people, and I'll continue playing with them as long as we can stay focused on the same thing. What scares me more than anything is letting go of that zealousness. There's something about cars and houses and age and wisdom that makes you realize that rock and roll is not so important. That's why I've started talking about changing the way the band works and changing our musical direction. I don't want to be competing against imitations of myself or my former peers. I really take heart from Tom Waits and Neil Young, who continue to be innovative and inventive in their older years. They haven't let go of that pursuit. It's a shame when you see people become caricatures of themselves. --ERIC SPITZNAGEL AND CARMEN ARMILLAS


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