After the conclusion of The Smashing Pumpkins, the collapse of Zwan and thepublication of a volume of poetry, Billy Corgan has attempted another reinvention – as a solo artist.
The former singer of one of indie rock’s most influential bands can’t seemto rid himself of the Pumpkin phantom.
Certainly not when fans attend hisshows expecting to hear Smashing songs.
With the release of his first solo album, TheFutureEmbrace, the singer expected to confirmhimself as a bona fide solo artist. But he soon realised that self-indulgentmusic wasn’t going to help his career. When asked in 1995 if he would evergo it alone, the lead singer replied, “I’ve tried and it just doesn’t workwithout the others.”
- Billy Corgan waxes nostalgic…
A decade later, despite doing it alone, Corgan realizesit still doesn’t work. “I’m sort of like a lame, single guy in a red sportscar,” he says of the Solo Billy. And he owes me a thousand bucks. That’s right.Billy Corgan made a bet with me that he would never reform the SmashingPumpkins again, replying with a hesitant “No.” That was just a few weeksbefore taking out a full-page ad in a major Chicago daily and explaining hisreasons as to why he had decided to reform the band (flagging recordsales?). Don’t jump for joy yet – the other former band members haven’texactly confirmed that it’s happening.
“I never wanted to leave the Smashing Pumpkins. That was never the plan,” hetold me. So what happened? “Exactly!” he wonders himself, “We would havethese sort of meetings and I would say, ‘This band should be together for 25years. There’s absolutely no reason that we can’t evolve.’ We’d already setup that we were capable of evolving. We’d already proved that. ‘Let’s justbecome like The Who – we’d keep on evolving and changing with the times. Weall have or ups and downs, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t be together.It’s a special thing.’”
- Billy Corgan on making music without The Smashing Pumpkins
But the other members didn’t feel as devoted to theband. “That level of commitment wasn’t there for James and D’Arcy and Jimmy,even though he was committed to enough. So at one point, the situationbecame toxic. But I never wanted to leave the band. I never wanted it toend.”
Maybe it’s just the concept of being in a band that appeals to him.”Yeah, it’s great. You make better music. I still believe that. And even ifyou look at solo artists who make great albums – Iggy Pop or Bowie – thereare always these other great artists involved. Some of Bowie’s greatestsuccesses were because of lead guitarist Nick Ronson. And Mike Garson, whoplayed piano on all that stuff with Bowie, said Ronson was way more involvedin Bowie’s music than anybody ever. No one knew it, because he was such ahumble person. He never tried to get the spotlight. Of course, Bowie becameconsidered the genius.” Of course.
So basically, Billy Corgan wants to givecredit where credit is due, except that we all seem to equate the SmashingPumpkins with him. And he knows it. He also admits that the band lives on inhis heart. “After Zwan, there was no question I was going to be a soloartist. The Pumpkins exist in my mind as a living entity that is a huge partof my life. As far as I’m concerned, the band’s not broken up. The world gotthe body, but to me, the band lives on.”
- Billy Corgan on James Iha post-Smashing Pumpkins
He seems to read my mind. “But youwill never see the four original Pumpkins on stage ever again, unless it’s aHall of Fame thing. But you would never see a tour. There’s so much damage,there’s no way.” Such as? “James, that’s a bad situation. I’m not sayingit’s not repairable, but it’s pretty far.” I tell him abut the PerfectCircle concert I attended last year, where James played. Billy dismisses it.”When you go from being in one of the best bands in the world to some coverband… As far as I’m concerned, he was playing down at the pub.” Well, I’msure they’ll end up in a reunion tour sometime in the next couple of years.But he dismisses that too.
“I’ll bet you $1,000 that you’ll never see that. The bet will last 20 years,without interest though.” So that’s a thousand times 20?