Billy Corgan

Rolling Stone

January 23, 1997

(Thanks to Sara for typing this out for us)

"It's time for Billy Corgan to trade in that sweaty Zero t-shirt for one that reads hero. In a year that tempered untold fortune with incomprehensible pain for the Smashing Pumpkins, the frontman waxes triumphant about his band's top honors in the Rolling Stone Readers Poll. "We've always done better with readers than with critics," Corgan says. "Usually that means you've at least got people's hearts."

Then again, even the famously sanguine Corgan couldn't have anticipated that nearly nine years after the Pumpkins' inception, the once-cultish band would achieve mass acceptance of such historic proportions. Mellon Collie and the Infinate Sadness, with all its mad beauty, raputre and excess, would certify platinum seven times in 1996, making it one of the more prodigious double albums of all time.

"We were aware of the grumbling politics that go with anything that's percieved as being pretentious," Corgan says. "But we always took the double album to be a giving thing because we put so much of our selves into it."

And Mellon Collie was the gift that kept on giving. The seemingly bottomless concept album coughed up a mini-opera and a hit single of every mood. Watching Corgan float the whole thing live in sports arenas - along with guitarist James Iha, bassist D'Arcy and former drummer Jimmy Chamberlin - was an alternative-rock sight to behold. The Pumpkins sometimes looked as if they might be blown off the stage by their own roar.

Amid last summer's controversy surrounding the death of keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin, the Pumpkins fired Chamberlin, who was involved in the drug taking that claimed Melvoin's life. Corgan has no regrets. "Most people know in their hearts that firing him was the right thing for us to do as human beings," he says.

The Pumpkins returned in late August with Filter's Matt Walker behind the kit. But despite the rousing success of the made-up shows, Corgan foresees an extended retreat to the studio followed by a total reassessment of the band's live experience.

"There's a point where you think, ' What's that guy in the last seat of the last row - who looks like an ant to me, and I look like an ant to him - getting from my facial tics? ' " Corgan explains. "We have to find some way to communicate beyond the boundries of space and time."

With the recent release of The Aeroplane Flies High, an exhaustive box set that includes B sides and covers, Corgan's creative thirst remains as exhilarating as it is unfathomable. "My main goal is to become more of a leader musically," he says. "I's like to stand in the shoes fo some of my heroes - like Brian Wilson and John Lennon."

Corgan envisions the truncated Pumpkins lineup as a window to new worlds, with more risk taking, collaborations and side projects. "We used to say that if anybody left the band, that would be it," he says. "Then we realized that we still have a lot between us, and we couldn't really pull that trigger."

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