Reflex Magazine April 7, 1992

by Marshall Gooch

Billy Corgan's not as surprised by his band's success as you might think. "I always set myself up for the worst-case scenario," he says, "so I'm not constantly dealing in disappointment. In my mind, the worst thing that could happen was the record would sell 25,000 copies and be received fairly well, press-wise." Corgan may be the king of understatement. GISH, the band's first album on Caroline, has sold over 100,000 copies since it's release last year. Not quite gold, but certainly respectable. And regarding the media, you'd be hard pressed to find one bad review among the hundreds that've been printed. "I knew the album was solid," Corgan adds, "especially for a debut, [and] it was definitely a little stronger debut than most bands have."

Smashing Pumpkins' music is stronger than most of what's out there, too--recalling 60's bands like The Doors and Zeppelin in its dynamic tension, yet fully aware of today's indie guitar gang. The band's delivery is mesmerizing: just when you think it's safe to pull your hands from your ears--GA-ZANG!--powerchords and heavy duty rhythms hammer you into nirvana. And while a lot of bands are content to piledrive through a song from start to finish, Smashing Pumpkins aren't. Tracks like "Rhinoceros" and "Siva" come with quiet passages, followed by said piledrivings, then more quiet interludes. The ensuing dynamic tension is what makes Corgan's songs stand out from the current crop of critic's faves.

Corgan himself has stopped reading most of his reviews, due to a reluctance to have to live up to what one person thinks is a shortcoming or failure. "You can't satisfy everyone," he says. "There is a path in life of self-realization. It doesn't even have to do with being a musician. I think you need to come to things--realizations-- as naturally as possible, because your mind and soul will be behind those things 100%. And what I found myself doing in reading press was going 'Oh, I'm not this? I'm not this either. Okay, well I'd better learn how to be this.' And then I was going 'Well, wait a second. This is stupid.' If it comes to me to be funny . . . or whatever, I will."

Since Corgan doesn't read the press, then, what does he use as a measuring stick? Is he going by the audiences Smashing Pumpkins play for? "Yeah, I would say that," he agrees. "[In the beginning] there were no journalists that ever trumpeted us as a band to watch . . . but yet, two years ago, we were playing to fairly decent-sized audiences, and people were really into it. And that, to me, was the alternate measuring stick. The audiences were always there, so now some of the critics have finally come around."

Smashing Pumpkins recently signed a major deal with Virgin, but a new album's still a ways away. "Fall ['92] would be the absolute earliest," predicts Corgan. Meanwhile, Caroline issued a four-song EP, LULL (comprising "Rhinoceros" from GISH plus three previously unreleased cuts) to fill in the gap. The quartet's currently on tour in Europe and Japan. From there they'll go into the studio to record a song for an upcoming movie soundtrack (Cameron Crowe's SINGLES), and then, finally, begin work on their second album. But before any recording gets done, Corgan and Co. are anticipating some good ol' Midwest rest and relaxation.

"We're looking forward to going home and being normal people," explains Corgan. "I have a cat, [guitarist] James [Iha] has a dog . . . I'm looking forward to [getting] back to eating cereal in the morning . . . for at least a week."

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