Any excuse to reuse Billy Corgan’s Paws Chicago cover! I love his cats. And I’m sort of loving Billy too, which is weird for me. When I was a kid in the ‘90s, I was always more of a Nirvana/Pearl Jam/Jane’s Addiction person. I actually can’t remember the last time someone important name-checked Perry Farrell, right? So, I was never into Smashing Pumpkins and I never really had an opinion about their music or Corgan as a person. As it turns out, he’s a deliciously smug, arrogant and gossipy bitch. Does that make you love him more? Billy sat down for an interview with The Independent last week, which you can read here. The highlights are amazing though:
Billy on his comeback album Monuments to an Elegy: “I needed to find my way back to the centre. And whether it’s David Bowie, John Lennon or Bob Dylan, if the public can only deal with certain personalities when they cross the line of pop and artifice, so be it.”
Reuniting Smashing Pumpkins in 2007: “We were shocked when we came back at how shallow that culture had become. Even Smashing Pumpkins fans were demanding Top 10 songs. We had always played long, rambling things, jokes and weird pranks. But now you’ve got to go along to get along. Trying to put across high-minded art concepts to 70,000 kids in a field when it’s raining isn’t the right space. When the Pumpkins worked at that level in the mid-90s, I was younger, I had my ear to the street, I knew what I was doing. You get a little bit older, you lose that touch. People started to write about me like I was never going to come back. It’s like reading your own obituary.”
Upon hearing that Eddie Vedder felt survivor’s guilt after Kurt Cobain’s death: “That would be Eddie Vedder,” Corgan snorts. “Somehow he makes it about him even when it’s about somebody else! I had a much more personal perspective, because I’d been in contact with Courtney [Love] through a lot of the setting up of that period, and afterwards. I found it devastating because, whether we wanted to admit it or not, he was quarterback of the football team, leading the aesthetic and integrity charge. He knew how to navigate those things.”
How he felt about Kurt Cobain: “Now, he and I didn’t necessarily get along. But I like to sing his praises, because he really was that talented. I like to think the world with him would have been a better place, and I like to think a lot of the crap music that followed wouldn’t have existed if he had been around to criticise it. Because he had the moral standing to slay generations with a strike of the pen.”
Whether he looked up to Cobain: “No. In the purest sense of the word, we were competitors. He and I were the top two scribes, and everybody else was a distant third.”
Moving back to Chicago in 2000: “I found this thing happening. An uncle, or somebody on the street, would walk up and [sneer]: ‘Welcome back.’ Meaning: ‘Yeah, you went out to California, now you’ve come back to dig ditches with us again.’ The sucking sound of the working class, to justify that you can’t escape it. Like the saying, water finds a level. Even in the Chicago press I was treated like a curiosity, still wandering around like a male version of Miss Havisham. I had this interview in Paste magazine in 2005, when the journalist said: ‘I don’t understand what it is about people like you that had your success, and why you keep hanging on.’ And I thought, ‘Jesus Christ, I’m 37!’”
His daddy? “I’m a person who does a lot better with praise. My father thinks that all the bad childhood and the adversity toughened up his Piscean son. He’s fantastic now, and that’s been great. But as I like to tell my daddy, if I’d been loved right, with the gifts that I had, I might have been a classical composer, having a very quiet life and a glass of wine, and not have been in this dirty pop business.”
Daddy? LOL. My goodness, that was a lot of smug to unpack in one interview! I kind of love how unapologetic he is too – this is not a guy begging for a compliment. He’s not humble-bragging either. He thinks he’s amazing and he’ll tell you how amazing he is. He thinks he and Kurt Cobain were at the same level, and that he (Corgan) will be regarded as a John Lennon/David Bowie/Bob Dylan kind of musical icon. Um… really? I mean, I’m sure there are lots of old-school Pumpkins fans who consider Corgan to be one of the best musical talents to come out of the ‘90s. But to put himself in the same category as Bowie, Dylan and Lennon? NOPE.
And why does he hate Eddie Vedder, for the love of God?
Photos courtesy of WENN, Paws Chicago.