93XRT Interview with Billy Corgan
(Thanks to April for typing this out)
Richard Mill>> Hello there ladies and gentleman. Welcome once again to Local Anesthetic, XRT's monthly tour through the Chicago music community. I'm Richard Mill and I'll be your guide here on WXRT Chicago. Tonight's trip will include profiles on Smashing Pumpkins, practitioners of the smokin' sold out XRT Chicago Showcase at Metro in June. Their debut Gish is a real good one, and we'll tune into their thoughts about it, along with some comments they have about what can be done to really create more of a buzz in Chicago bands.
[stuff about other bands]
It's all on Local Anesthetic, XRT's monthly tip sheet on who's doing what, where, and why, among Chicago musicians, artists, and entertainers. So to cop a line from the Ramones, hey-ho, let's go.
Formed in 1988 by vocalist, guitarist, and song-writer Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins released their debut album Gish this past spring on Caroline Records. And it's an album that's a wonderful blending of power, beauty, dynamic song structures, and strong instrumentation provided by Corgan's bandmates D'Arcy on bass, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, and guitarist James Iha. Smashing Pumpkins were much sought after by major and independent labels alike, but decided to sign with Caroline Records earlier this year.
Billy>> Just because we, you know, it was as simple as like, hey we can jump ahead of the steps, everything that we've done up to this point has been kind of like a stair step thing, you know. One step after another, a little bigger a little bigger. And it was like a big leap, and a leap that we really didn't think was necessary. We just wanted to move what we thought the next step up was, and we thought we chose the best step in Caroline. We had a chance to go with Sub Pop, and we just didn't feel the vibe was right. I don't think they were really into us as a band. They just saw us as a band that could sell some records, but I don't think they loved us like they love Mudhoney or something. And Caroline, you know, we really feel comfortable with them and they really like us and we feel like we've found a home, and that's what it takes at a record company. The people who work at a record company really need to feel committed about a band.
Richard>> The band worked with producer Butch Vig, of the Madison, Wisconsin fire town spooner axis. Gish is a pristine recording and Smashing Pumpkins is happy with the results, even if the album's creation was a sometimes painstaking process.
Billy>> You just grab everything as it comes, you know, I mean sometimes there's no order, it's like you just reach for whatever's there. Sometimes music comes, no words for six months, sometimes it all comes in one batch, or you can write half a song and then be stumped for months, you know. We just keep, I would say we just kinda keep hammering away until we're satisfied with it. And for the most part, the songs on the album we're pretty satisfied. But they, you know, a lot of those songs went through 20, 30 rewrites, you know, just over and over and over.
Richard>> And then there's the matter of trying to turn the recorded performance into a live performance, yet keeping it fresh each and every time you play it live.
Billy>> Well, the hard thing though is once you finally do record them, it's like it's so embedded in your head. And the stifling part is we kind of believe in a certain amount of spontainety and sometimes it's hard to get that, you know, that solo or whatever, you know, because you've heard it so many thousands of times in the studio.
Richard>> And knowing Smashing Pumpkins, you can bet it was really loud in there. Looking for that big bodied, fully croizened guitar sound, listen no further.
Billy>> It harkens back to the fact that when you crank up something really really loud there's things in there that just, subtones and harmonics..
Richard>> Things that can't be created elsewhere..
Billy>> Yeah, it's just, it's that simple.
D'Arcy>> It's called ringing in the ears.
Richard>> After awhile, yeah...
Billy>> As you can tell, everyone's really into the big guitar sound.
Richard>> But it's not all whammin, bammin and jammin for the Pumpkins, there are moments of tender ethereal beauty on their album Gish, some of which you'll hear in a minute. But a question of the Chicago music scene's good and bad points came up, and it really had to be asked. Is Chicago your kind of town?
Billy>> Chicago facilitated, like, the growth of the band, because it's big enough to have people to come to see you, yet it's small enough or limited enough that, you know, you can get enough gigs to play and kind of hone what you do. You know, I wish there was more competition, I wish there were more places to play, and I wish there was more excitement. That's the drawback, I mean, we've taken advantage of what exists to, you know, get our music out of Chicago, but at some point it's kind of a disappointment because you go somewhere else and there's so much more excitement and there's so much more genuine enthusiasm about music.
Richard>> Well that's certainly a problem, what are we going to do about it?
Billy>> Think what two pages in the Reader every week..
Billy>> ..just about local music. Maybe one interview a week, and maybe some reviews, not all local. Think of what that would do to the sense of community. It would create interest in the bands beyond the fact 'oh so and so is playing,' you know. I mean, that's what music's all about, is excitement and this image that something bigger is going on than four people standing in a corner playing on a stage, and Chicago doesn't create that, you know. And that's unfortunately why a band when they go into another city why they walk in with that mystique, because, you know, people don't see them, you know, acting normal, I guess, I don't know. And I think the media here could help to create those things, not that it's their responsibility, but I think it would be nice. And I think because of the competition it would create, and because of the kind of atmosphere it would create, you'd see more bands exporting out of Chicago.
Richard>> As David Rothchild writes in the current issue of Newscity, this is Chicago, after all, where even the best bands in town die with their secret intact. There's a current crop of real good bands in town, and Local Anesthetic here on XRT will do its best to keep you abreast. From Smashing Pumpkins and the album Gish, this is Crush.
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