Rip Magazine Interview - June 1996

(Sent to us by Eve Stahlberger)

The inscription on Billy Corgan's gravestone will no doubt read "Amid grand sonic architecture he dared to rock."

"I know I have the power and the energy to do something about what I'm doing right now, " Corgan begins." I think it's borne out in my attitude about my music and how (the smashing pumpkins) are behaving. I looked in the mirror and I said "Okay, your's 27 years old-this was a year ago-you still have these connections, this audience. You can still reach them, you can still communicate what your feeling, not only personally, but on a bigger level, about what's going on in this particular generation and the next one to follow, and now's the time to do it. If your'e not going to do it now your never going to do it. Thinking like that had a lot to do with why we did the double record."

The album in question Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, is ample testament to Corgan's almost other worldly talents. Right now more than at any other time, the Pumpkins have carved out their own patch of aural atmosphere, a place where they can exist untouched, almost as if under or behind glass, But with this statement in mind and the release of Mellon Collie...meant that the already elevated expectations for the Pumpkins were increased tenfold. Corgan seems unconcerned about the financial expectations, but ponders whether his audience expects too much from the band.

"That's a difficult question. I think an audience deserves to expect a lot of us musically. I think they deserve us to be good, in good health, well rehearsed...all of those things. But what the audience doesn't deserve is me on a string. I think anybody who knows Smashing Pumpkins knows that I'm a highly emotional person and that you can't put me in a box. I'm not who I am because I'm a normal happy go-lucky kind of guy, the world is great person. I'm a complicated, emotionally dense person, and so that person comes out on stage from night to night id different person depending on circumstances and events. What I have trouble with is the expectation that I'm supposed to behave a certain way."

The frantic year of work on the album began just days after the Pumpkin's Lollapalooza run ended-a touring episode that Corgan describes as "some of the best experiences and some of the worst." The work schedule left no time for Corgan's basketball breaks-at over six feet everyone wants him on their side-but more amazing still in that compressed time-frame there is 20 songs left from the album sessions.

"It wasn't really that difficult writing the material from a "heart" point of view, " he says. "it was the concentration and go in work hard everyday, and the concentration to work hard for such a big goal when no one was telling you this big goal was worth anything. Does that make sense? No one is patting you on the back saying "yeah do a double album."

In fact a lot of people were saying I think it's a bad idea. In my heart, I thought it was the right thing to do, but it's very hard to pursue a goal that is so unclear. You're just writing, and writing, and writing, and you don't know in the end what's going to work and what isn't. I literally did it every day for a year."

The results, at times, almost appear to come from parts unknown (He beams when he hears this: I'm laughing because I agree with you." ), but Corgan feels that they occurred primarily because of the band's outsider status. "I think it was because we were emotionally operating in a vacuum, because we took a lot of shit during and after Lollapalooza and after Lollapalooza, and you get to a point where you have to decide whether your right or the world is right. Its an insular perspective, because your in the band and your going to hear about what people say about you and things like that. Obviously, most of the world doesn't give two fucks about rock and roll, but in your world it matters. It was a case of deciding what I felt was important than the world, popular opinion, what was cool, punk rock...any of that crap. I just let it go. I just said Fuck it! I'm going to make my record and I hope people like it. And that is a different power than to be really worried or not if a song is going to be played on the radio."

Punctuated with a Hendrix like guitar, which often drops into the mix out of nowhere creating a fresh, metallic cyberspace, Corgan's tinny almost Jaggaresque singing, Mellon Collie...shows that the double album format-or what format represented for bands like the Clash, Husker Du, and Led Zeppelin- id not only fitting but actually necessary to encompass the full spectrum of Pumpkins depth and breadth. " I would agree, " Corgan replies. "This is why I thought the double album was so appropriate for us, because the band does so much to cover so much ground, and does it well, that's not really asking the audience to make any leaps of faith. Siamese Dream was fairly wide in scope and this is just a little wider, with some of the middle filled in more."

The length of the record is simply not an issue as far as Corgan's concerned; offerings of one's soul don't have to come in a regulated length and size. "I've met people that didn't even get past the sixth song on Siamese Dream. There's people out there who have never heard anything more than Disarm. So what is the difference how long it is? I meet people all the time who have every b-side, every seven inch, every bootleg. those are the people that are dying to hear the double album. I know there's an audience out there that will listen to it and I know there's an audience who won't, but why should you play to an audience that's not going to listen to your songs? I don't understand that."

And if your wondering, as far as Corgan's concerned, no, Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusions project didn't make the grade in terms of conciseness of thought and execution. "No. Absolutely not. That's exactly what we didn't want, which was indulgence. I think we indulged in the songs but I don't think we indulged in showing what great instrumentalists we were. It's a song based album. There's no ten-minute spacejam. There's no four minute guitar solo. There's nothing like that. It's not about indulgence on a personal level. It's about indulgence in the love of the musics, and that's what i was afraid of not that I was thinking about Use Your Illusion, but I think that's indulgence, not only in the things I'm talking about, but in expecting an audience to listen to your b-sides. I'm sorry but I think an album is a very sacred thing, and I think you have to have respect for what an album means and everything that goes into an album and everything that surrounds an album, you should really give a lot of thought to what's important, because it's really what you're going to be remembered for."

Interestingly enough, Corgan once predicted that the album would eventually become mellon Collie...would be a stark and stripped down affair. He believes he has held to that vision. "I do remember saying that at the time. I think I still reach for that majestic music moment, but I think emotionally and lyrically it's very stark record. its almost like a beautiful movie that makes you very sad, or its like somebody that shoots a field beautifully..." He laughs. "It's like a beautiful plain picture. There's a lot of space in there if you really listen for it. It may not come across on the first listen, but I think it's there. It's hard to explain the subtleties, but Fuck You is a pretty heavy Pumpkins sound and it's like how many songs like that do you need? I think that song says it pretty good. There were a couple other songs that were like that. Not that they sounded exactly the same, but they made you feel the same way, and Fuck You was the best of the bunch so screw the other songs!"

Although the jagged song would appear to stand out from the other, more ethereal pieces on the record, Corgan laughingly admits the title may have played a part in it's selection. "Well in the pumpkin way of thinking, that's why its on there. Do you know what I mean? I don't think it sticks out like a sore thumb at all."

Noted for his controlling influence in the studio, Corgan sees the live Smashing Pumpkins experience in a different light. "You can't really do much about everything else, about what the audience is feeling and what the mood in the place is, but you can expect a lot from yourself emotionally, and obviously the music can be very technically demanding, so we expect each other to uphold that end of the bargain. I'll tell you what there are shows where you play great. There is no reason you just play great. the shows that stick out in my mind for are the shows where we start playing and its not going very well for whatever reason- I'm not singing well-a hundred different reasons. But for some reason we still manage to pull it together and play a great show. It's like the emotional resolve comes in. That, to me has a lot to do with who we are in our hearts, because we can look each other in the face and say we suck and find a way to make it happen. That takes a lot out of you emotionally, and these are the kinds of things that most people can't understand. That, to me,differentiates us from a lot of other people, because a lot of other people wouldn't have that to go to."

All these processes and nervous impulses can tale a toll on a person. "I feel like I'm a million years old," he sighs. "I'm an old souls as they say."And does he have a best friend? "No." Surely his wife would fall into this category? The world's third most forgotten boy, next to Iggy Pop and Trent Reznor laughs quietly, and, simply says: "No."

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