Rockline Interview with the Smashing Pumpkins, 6/10/96

(Transcribed by Adam Bellinger)

SD=Steve Downs (Host)
BC=Billy Corgan;
JC=Jimmy Chamberlin;
First names=Callers

Eric: Who came up with the idea for the Tonight, Tonight video and are there any plans for a new album out in the future?

BC: Well the video concept was actually from a Jonathan and Valerie, this married couple that we do a lot of our video work with, and it was their idea; the original concept of the video comes from a director called Meiles who made some of the first movies early in the 1900's. And as far as a new album, we probably won't have a new album out until either the end of 1997, or somewhere in 1998. We are planning to release, hopefully, a box set of our singles with all our b-sides, and we're shooting to have 28 b-sides that will be all in one package for Christmas, and some of the stuff will only be available in the box set. So there will be no new material, but we're still putting out some of the b-sides stuff from Mellon Collie.

Chad: How do you feel about the evolution of the band over the last 4 years of the band?

BC: That's a really good question.

JC: Well I think if you go through and listen to the records you'll see, you know, if you listen to Gish you'll hear a very young band, with a lot of big ideas, and I think the band has matured gracefully. I think definitely from a rock standpoint the band has reached some type of zenith; well ya, I think from the starting point till now, we've achieved pretty much everything we've wanted to do as far as a rock context goes and I think the thing you'll see in the future is a little step ahead of that, maybe a little bit more embracing technology, and who knows? But ya, I think the band has been a very natural progression.

SD: How about the musical environment, in general, the late eighties, compared to now. Particularly here in Chicago. Is it much different now than it was, back in 1988 or so?

JC: Hm, you're really asking the wrong people cause we're never here. No, I think definitely with the success of the pumpkins there's been a little bit more attention paid to Chicago, I think it's a really good thing. Unfortunately, we don't get out much to hear many of the newer bands cause we're always working, but bands like Urge Overkill, definitely great bands like that deserve a lot of attention.

Evan: I've seen you guys in concert a couple times and I noticed that you do not like, play your rare stuff and b-sides very much, and I'm seeing you guys twice in a row this summer, and I was wondering, will you be playing more of your b-sides and stuff, cause the ones you released for Siamese Dream and on Tonight, Tonight were just like some of the best ones I've ever heard.

BC: Thank you, that's another really good question. Unfortunately, we found that the popularity of the band has kind of narrowed what we can play as a live band. When we used to tour on Gish and early on Siamese Dream, we used to play a lot of our alternate material, and covers and things like that. But these days with the size crowds that we seem to be playing in front of, it's really hard; people basically wanna come and hear the songs that they know, and you get into a position where you play stuff that only 5-10% of the crowd knows, and you put yourself in the difficult position to give everyone a good time. So we've taken the high road on it, which is to try and keep people happy and kind of not be so difficult. We were a very difficult band to listen to and go to see live for a very long time, so for us this is something we've worked into; it's not always been the case.

Jean-Marie: What was your experience like playing the guitar with David Gilmore?

BC: It made me very nervous, and I actually-she's referring to, um, I played with some of the members of Pink Floyd for the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction of Pink Floyd. I was very nervous, and unfortunately I blew the chord the first time when David comes in to sing, and I thought: Oh..rock and roll tragedy. But they're really great guys and I've seen a couple of them since and it was a great thrill. They represented to me at probably the age you're at what hopefully we represent to you. It was kinda a full circle feeling for me.

SD: Do you ever hear of that expression: It's not wise to be too close to your idols?

BC: Sure

SD: Not necessarily with Pink Floyd, but not excluding them, does that ring true to you at all? Either with them or other folks that you've met?

BC: I've been lucky to meet some really great people. I've gotten to know Rick Nielson from Cheap Trick a little bit, I've gotten to know Rick Patasik (sp??) from the Cars a little bit, and I found that everybody that I admire, the things I admire about them still hold true. They're still great people, and the qualities that attracted me to them at 15 are the same qualities that attract me to them at 29. I think the fact that I was attracted to bands who were themselves holds true for the personalities of the people later on and my experiences up to this point have been nothing but great.

Billy: Billy, have you always called yourself Billy? Have you ever used Bill? And I was wondering if people ridicule you and say you're childish for using the "y" in your name.

BC: You know, this is actually a very interesting concept-Jimmy knows this whole bit. Actually, my father was always Billy.

JC: Could you please call me Jim?

BC: Sorry Jim. My father was always Billy, so everyone called me Bill, but when I turned 18, I decided that Bill reminded me of all my uncles who had potbellies. So, I thought I'd go to Billy. And it's really funny cause I'll go to introduce myself to grown men as Billy, and they'll say:"Oh, nice to meet you Bill". So, they can't deal with it. I feel like I wanna go for like kinda a "Cher" "Madonna" thing. There's only one Billy-even when I'm 50.

SD: Perhaps at some point you could be the person formerly known as Billy. How about you, Billy, there on the phone? You're Billy obviously, right?

Billy: Right. Maybe in 5th grade I think I went over to Bill.

BC: He suffers from the same shame.

SD: He was known as Billy right before that.

John: I was wondering where you came up with the name of your album, Siamese Dream.

BC: No one ever believes me, but these things just come to me. I swear. I really never though about it, it just came to me one day, and it was almost like-I get these really dumb thoughts, and when I heard that in my head, I thought: There's the title of the album. That's how it's been for all the albums. It just comes to me and that's it. I never really think about it much.

SD: I think the important thing is that you listen. When it's there, that you're listening. Sometimes we don't do that.

BC: The album could have easily been called-

JC: Siamese Cat

BC: No, like Ha-

David: I just wanted to say that on the new '96 tour you've been playing a new version of Silvercrank, and it's amazing. And I was wondering where you got the idea for that.

BC: That song's a funny song cause-well for those of you who don't know the song very well, he's referring to a song off of Siamese Dream. And the way we kinda came up with that song like, I kinda told the band what I wanted to try to do, but we never really wrote parts. We just kinda made it up as we went along and I kept changing it, and we kept remaking it, and I directed the band to go in different directions. And so the version of the song kept mutating until we finally recorded it in one particular guise, but then the song continued to evolve after we recorded it. Then we played it so many times, we got sick of that so we completely went at it in a totally different way, and we're on like our 4th completely different version. One thing I've thought of is one day putting out the 4 different versions of the song cause they're all so completely different. That song in particular has been an interesting experiment in never locking into one version.

Howie: Did you have to put your voice through some kind of a synthesizer for Tales Of A Scorched Earth, or is that really your voice?

BC: That's actually my voice just super-distorted. When you distort something like a voice, certain frequencies tend to pop out. And since I have such a nasty, whiny, Ozzy-like voice, all those nasty Ozzy-like frequencies jump right out.

SD: You know kids, I don't know if this is true of all kids, but when we're younger we always-when we're 7, we wish we were 10, when we're 11, we can't wait to be 13, when you're 16, you wanna be 18..

BC: And when you're 30, you wanna be 20!

SD: You do get over that at some point, but I wonder if-

JC: That'll all go away soon.

SD: -if there was ever a summer let's say, for you Jimmy-

JC: Summer of 69'

SD: You know, when you had that-

BC: You and Bryan Adams.

SD: When you sorta had that realization that like, you know, it is pretty good, and it's probably never gonna be like this again. I wonder if you ever..

JC: Yeah, I think when I was 25, even though the band wasn't really very successful at that point, just the fact that things were starting to pop for me musically. I think that was probably the best year of my life. Even up till now, I think in spite of everything I have now-my success, whatever..I think the initial starting point of the band was probably the happiest time of my life.

Chris: I just wanted to ask Billy if they were gonna play the double set that they and..

SD: The double set

BC: He must of said a bad word. Anyway, yeah we did a small tour of the U.S. where we did 2 full sets-we'd play like 3 hours. To play alot of the kind of the more acousticy kind of material on the album. Unfortunately, that was just for that and we knew we had to play really small gigs to do that. So we'd play like 1000-1500 "occupancy" places. And it was great, amazing, it was probably one of the best things we've ever done for us, but it was completely exhausting and my voice barely held through the whole thing cause of the (I cannot understand this word). So if you saw it, I'm glad you did cause we enjoyed it. For anyone out there scratching their heads wondering what they missed, we're still playing about 2 1/2 hours a night as it is.

SD: Really? Wow that's a full night's worth of music for sure.

Ali: I wanted to know how it was to do that Simpsons episode Lollapalooza thing and how you got involved with that?

JC: They basically just called our management and asked if we would be interested, and we being huge Simpsons fans thought, you know. We usually don't play party to t.v. things, but the Simpsons being so cool and so funny we thought we would get a kick out of it. It was actually really easy we just went into a studio, they gave us our lines, we rehearsed them a couple times, and just recorded them, and they did the rest. And then they gave us a bunch of really cool free stuff.

Ali: I wanted to know what kind of jobs you had as a kid and like what you did before you were in a band?

BC: I only had 2 jobs ever-besides being a hapless loser. I was a pizza delivery guy, and I worked at a record store.

JC: I think my first job was playing drums for a t.v. polka party television show on channel 26 here in Chicago. After that I just..I did crime until I joined the band.

SD: And now, are there any tapes floating around of those polka parties by any chance?

JC: Uh, I think I have them all now.

SD: I see, you've collected them all. And I think I heard, Billy, that you do an incredible-is it "Homer Simpson"?

BC: Now's not really the time.

JC: He does a really good Ross Perot.

Jeff: I enjoy the change from each album, how it's different in away. What's the reasoning?

BC: That's another great question. We always feel that every album should be like a new book, or a new movie or something. And as long as it comes from us-ultimately you would hope that the people who buy the records aren't just buying the records because they like one song; they're buying the records because they like you and what you're about. So we just think the records are just different reflections of what we're about. And as we change and go through different things, some good some bad, we try to reflect that and we've tried really hard to stay true to that. A lot of people can view Mellon Collie as a negative thing, like it's some kind of pompous act, but for us, we've received so much encouragement from the people and the things that have happened and touring on Siamese Dream, and the band-it's so come together we wanted to do something monumental to mark where the band was at and in some ways kind of close the chapter on what everyone would understand us to be so we can move onto something completely different.

SD: Do you have any sense, Billy, as to what that new direction maybe now that some time has passed from Mellon Collie?

BC: I don't think that we could play music that didn't move us, and that wasn't kind of intense and emotional-that's something I don't think we could ever move backwards from. But I think it's just our way of thinking; when we started it was pre-grunge revolution-stage diving and mosh-pitting and all that-that was not a common theme at a concert. Those things would only happen when you played really well and you played music that was really exciting. So we witnessed before-that, during-that, and now we're in the after-that. At one point, playing music that way was very much-you know, the loud-soft, up-and-down kind of bit was a way of getting everybody excited and making the concerts kind of monumental-used the word again; and it ceased to be effective in that way. And in some ways we feel like we're mimicking sometimes what we helped to start. And I think a lot of bands that are in the similar ilk feel the same way. So we want to create a new intensity that's maybe something a little different and doesn't rely on the need to perpetuate the audience to perpetuate the concert.

Josh: What's like the meaning of "Zero"? Like the song, with the shirt, and everything?

BC: I don't' know. It's supposed to be fairly obvious, but-I don't know. It's changed for me-originally it was kinda a funny joke, kind of an idea, but it's kinda caught on and people seem to look at it in different ways. I'm about ready to take the stupid shirt off.

JC: No, no, no

BC: But the band won't let me.

JC: No, the shirt stays.

John: I was just wondering whether or not either of you believe in aliens and just briefly what Billy's childhood was like.

JC: Is there any correlation?

BC: Yeah, I was wondering like, somehow, those 2 are connected. Actually, D'arcy and I have seen a UFO, so I guess in that way I do believe in aliens. And what was my childhood like? Well that's probably a subject that's been reported on ad-nauseam. My childhood actually was pretty sunny and light and it was like floating down a chocolate river on a strawberry boat.

SD: Really? With tangerine dreams and..

BC: Marmalade eyes

SD: Yeah, there you go. It's no big secret your dad's a guitar player and plays jazz blues professionally. If you had to single out a specific-I don't know if "lesson" is the right word, or just something that helped you in terms of formulating your style-does anything come to mind?

BC: The greatest thing my father ever told me-well he told me 2 great things that have always stuck with me-one was to not bother imitating anyone or anything and the other one was to-because I was having a hard time finding people to play in a band with-he told me that I should not really worry about finding other people, and that i should concentrate on the skills that would be necessary to understand why other people do those things so i started learning how to be a bass player and started to try to understand how drums work, and those 2 things are really what define my role in the band.

SD: One would assume that, your father being a guitar player, that there was a great relationship on that level. Do you fell was he supportive of what you were doing? Or did he get involved much?

BC: I think my father had had a hard time with music and he was gone a lot, it brought problems upon the family, it's not the easiest lifestyle. I think now that I've grown older, I think what I saw at the time is non-support for me musically, I think it was him looking at me, not wanting me to get into this life, thinking that if he fails in what he's trying to do, that he won't have a good life. I think that was his trying to be a father, trying to get me to have a good life. It's easy now to look back and say, well, he was wrong in that sense, but the chances of any body's child being successful is pretty minimal, especially what we, as a group have aspired to.

SD: Especially, yeah, in this business.

Matt: I just wanna tell Jimmy something: I don't think in any of the song's I've heard, I don't think I've ever heard the same fill played twice. I was wondering, why is Garbage opening at a few of your concerts?

JC: Actually, they're opening for the 1st and 3rd legs, and we're really good friends with Butch, of course, and we think they're a really good band. They've got something to promote, so, why not give them a shot to come out and play. Plus, I really like to golf, and Butch is a really good golfer, so I'll have somebody to golf with, too.

SD: Now wait a minute, I'm not sure this Cincinnati date is still happening, and maybe we could clear that up. There has been reports that, the city fathers, in their infinite wisdom, in Cincinnati have canceled that date as a result of the tragedy in Dublin.

BC: That's news to us.

JC: Yeah, I haven't heard that.

SD: Hopefully that's not the case and maybe we can get 'em to play.

BC: Actually, even if that's the case, I'd just like to take this opportunity to say that if people don't know it, a girl was killed at one of our concerts in Dublin, Ireland. We're not quite sure exactly how it happened, but she was obviously injured. The positive thing we'd like to take out of this is that everyone has to be way more careful in those situations. Unfortunately when you're young, you think that you're immortal and you can't get hurt. We're trying to do everything we can to make sure that everyone is safe at our concerts. That's a tragic situation and it's the last thing we'd ever want to see happen again.

SD: I though you made a good point earlier, about how moshing used to be a spontaneous action that was a result of a high point at the concerts, and it just reached that moment. Now, it's more of a fashion thing than particularly inspiring at that particular moment. It's time to take stock and be cool out there.

Mike: Is there any Floyd influence? Cause I remember you talking about David Gilmore about the fact that your album, overall, starts with the piano, and at the end of the album, Mellon Collie, it ends with the same similar piano. Kinda like Roger Waters used to do with Floyd?

BC: Um, that's a bit of a stretch. If there's any influence on MellonCollie, in terms of format, it would be the White Album.

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