Billy Corgan Says Nirvana and Pearl Jam’s Success Almost Drove Him to Suicide
Unendingly eccentric Smashing Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan’s latest interview took place on a self-improvement podcast, Why Not Now?, hosted by Digital Royalty CEO and social media maven Amy Jo Martin. In every episode of the show, Martin–by her own description–talks to “a professional Why Notter and learn[s] how they answered the question and took action so you can too.” Corgan began the interview (which Martin calls “one of the most powerful conversations I’ve had in a long time”) by discussing one of his own “Why Not Now?” moments, which he says came following a period of “suicidal depression” in the early ’90s.
Corgan claimed that the unexpected success of Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten following the release of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish made him feel “inadequate in a way [he] wasn’t prepared for,” and sent him into a period of writer’s block. “I was giving away stuff and planning my eulogy and all sorts of weird, self-absorbed things,” he says. He claims that he was “staring out the window” and contemplating suicide when he was inspired to write the song “Today” from 1993’s Siamese Dream, which he described as “a wry observation on suicide” espousing a hopeful sentiment: “Every day is the best day, if you let it be.”
Read the bulk of Corgan’s comments, which begin around the 6:08 mark, and listen to the full podcast below.
The Smashing Pumpkins had put out one album, which was very successful, but as we were out promoting our album, the Nirvana album came out, and as everyone knows Nevermind was a massive album, and then Pearl Jam came out too at that time, and they were massive. Within a short span of time I went from thinking I was very successful within my given field, to all the rules had changed in my given field. Everything I had built myself up to be and do was no longer as relevant as it needed to be. I went into a very strange depression because I felt like something had been not taken, but the change made me feel kind of inadequate in a way I wasn’t prepared for.
I went through a very long depression where I could not write songs, and really struggled for a breakthrough, which I’ve talked about a few times. It really came off the heels of like a suicidal depression, I just really struggled with the emotions I was feeling. I reached this kind of morning in my life where it was like I’m either going to jump out a window, or I was going to change my life. I couldn’t meditate on death anymore. I was giving away stuff and planning my eulogy and all sorts of weird, self-absorbed things.
I woke up one morning, and I kind of stared out the window and thought, “Okay, well, if you’re not going to jump out the window, you better do whatever it is you need to do. That morning I wrote, I think it was the song “Today,” which people would probably be fairly familiar with, it’s the ice cream truck video song. It’s sort of a wry observation on suicide, but in essence the meditation behind the lyric is that every day is the best day, if you let it be.