The mostly reunited Smashing Pumpkins recently sat down with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe to promote their forthcoming new album Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. In keeping with his commitment in doing the absolute most at all times, Pumpkins frontman and rescue cat enthusiast Billy Corgan, who conducted the interview with his sweatshirt’s hood pulled over his head, aired some old resentments regarding his estranged bandmate D’Arcy Wretzky and how the Pumpkins were never considered one of the “gliterati intellegensia” of the early ’90s alt scene.
After Lowe remarked that the story of the Smashing Pumpkins hasn’t been “a linear ride,” Corgan said that the band’s trajectory “wasn’t designed to be” before taking listeners on a journey through his meticulously crafted self-mythology.
“We made Gish which was at the time was the best-selling independent album of all time,” Corgan said. “We followed up with Siamese Dream, which pissed off all the Gish fans…because it wasn’t proggy or psychedelic enough. It was too poppy…It made us an international band, and what did we follow up with? A way darker, sprawling double album which went the complete Dark Side of the Moon of the record we just made. We were never designed to stick in any one spot.”
Because the band never stayed married to one particular sound, Corgan reasons that they were never taken as seriously by the music press as some of their contemporaries.
“We’d go interview with NME and they’d make fun of us,” Corgan said. “We’d go interview with the New York Times and they’d make fun of us. We’d go interview with the Village Voice and they’d make fun of us and we’re like…we’re literally DIY musicians riding around in a van and this is the music we choose to play, and somehow it wasn’t indie enough and somehow it wasn’t cool enough and that steeled us to be a completely contrarian unit…now we were sort of angry.”
After mentioning a particularly spirited festival performance Lowe saw in the ’90s, Corgan discussed how he behaved antagonistically towards Lollapalooza 94 audiences he perceived as being full of jocks who made fun of him in high school.
“So okay, we’re headlining what became historically the biggest Lollapalooza ever. And there they are. There are the same football players that used to bully us in the hallways….Every other band in my estimation, and I don’t mean to throw shade, this is the way I read it at the time because this is the mindset I was, everybody was cool with going along to get along. Because it was a wave, right? Let’s just ride this wave,” Corgan said. “I looked at it as like, no. You’re the enemy and we are here to take you on. And to this day, I still have people walk up to me at airports going, ‘man, I don’t know what that was about.’ There are people to this day, and again I usually meet them at airports, who refuse to ever see the band or listen to the band after that show. You’re talking about forty-three shows, one was cancelled due to rain. So forty-two times, I took the mic and went after that audience.”
In fairness, I saw the Smashing Pumpkins when the Lollapalooza ’94 tour came to Philadelphia and I don’t remember Corgan pulling any GG Allin moves on stage. I do remember him gushing over “the illustrious Ms. Courtney Love” when she came out to perform a few solo songs. I guess we all remember things differently.
Corgan also rehashed some of the Wretzky drama.
“The whole thing broke down when we had to start talking about time, and reality, and opportunity. And, of course the business part of it all, and there was a wide, wide gap between what I thought was a reasonable expectation of ability given that she hadn’t been on stage in 19 years,” Corgan said. “But she suffered from incredible stage anxiety. We’re talking like a 10 out of 10. And that was that was part of the equation always. So when you saw her on a stage, she was inwardly going through a lot more than you would have thought because her state her stage demeanor was very icy. People used to call her Ice Queen…That was a cool nickname the fans gave her, the Ice Queen.”
Watch the entire interview below.