9/10に行われたThe Smashing Pumpkinsのシアトル公演に先駆けて、現地の新聞社シアトルタイムスがバンドのフロントマンであるビリー・コーガンにインタビューをした記事が掲載されています。
過去の楽曲をプレイすることも含めて、ビリー・コーガンが等身大の自分で前に進んで行こうとしているのがわかります。The Smashing Pumpkinsは「現在の音楽シーンを駆け抜けている」存在であり続けようとしているだけで、そしてこれが再結成のたった1つの理由だということを強く訴えています。そして、その方法について誰に何を言われようとも、自分自身のやり方で貫いて行こうとしているようです。インタビュアーの質問は的外れで、ビリーを不快にさせるものもあるようでしたが、非常に興味深い内容でした。
Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan talks about himself, the band and its four-year release of a 44-song project
The Smashing Pumpkins’ latest single, “Freak,” is song number six of a 44-song, four-part album bandleader Billy Corgan plans on releasing, one song at a time, for free, online, over the next four years. It’s also the best song in recent memory.
By Jonathan Zwickel
Special to The Seattle Times
The Smashing Pumpkins’ latest single, “Freak,” is song number six of a 44-song, four-part album bandleader Billy Corgan plans on releasing, one song at a time, for free, online, over the next four years. It’s also the best song in recent memory — an anthemic rush of skyrocketing guitar, cathartic crescendo, and Corgan’s boyish vocals and adolescent lyrics — by a band that, 15 years ago, sat at the highest height of the alt-rock pantheon.
That particular pantheon is long gone, replaced by the docile, blog-baiting fashion show we call “indie rock.” Yet Corgan’s still here, his mainstream-conquering, millions-selling days behind him, apparently all the more fulfilled in his maturity. Legions of fans continue to obsess over his music and concerts — Friday’s at the Showbox has been sold out for weeks — even as his current output is dismissed, his legacy ignored, and his motives doubted by ivory tower tastemakers.
For most anyone between 25-40 years old, the Smashing Pumpkins’ music is a very big deal. But whose music is it — the musicians’ who made it or the fans’ who cherish it? Corgan gave The Seattle Times a forthcoming interview before a recent gig in Arizona.
Q: It’s hard hearing music from your childhood without nostalgia or sentimentality overshadowing immediacy and true appreciation.
A: Yeah. The thing I’ve learned over the years is to play in the moment you’re in. You can’t go back. You have to play those [old] songs, when you do play them, with a 2010 perspective. You can’t try to recreate the mosh pit in ’92. It’s just not gonna happen.
There’s a lot of material that I’ve tried to play in practice and I just say to the band, “No, it doesn’t feel right.” The band feels very contemporary, and that’s the best way I can describe it. We’re standing on that knife-edge of sounding contemporary and not getting sentimental. I think sentimentality with music is death.
At the end of the day, no matter what my roots are, I’m basically playing some bastardized form of pop music. And pop music and sentimentality is a bad mixture. So the way I look at it — for example, we’re doing a version of my song “Star.” And the way I approach it and the way I try to sing the lyric is I’m not trying to be the 25 year old that was singing about child abuse. Im standing there as a 43-year-old man that has a different take on the world. So the lyric comes out of me differently. And I don’t treat it as this sort of precious moment from my life, I treat it as a very relevant thing that has a different significance as a 43-year-old person as opposed to the 25 year old that I was when I wrote that. I’ve learned a lot from Bob Dylan from that approach.
Q: Does it seem like the audience is picking up on that?
A: Listen, buddy, who knows what the audiences pick up on, you know what I mean? [laughs] I learned long ago to just do what you believe in and let the chips fall where they may. I’m constantly astounded by the way people interpret what I do, for better and for worse. At this point, they see ghosts where there aren’t ghosts and hear voices where there aren’t voices. I’m in a happy place. I’m very excited to be playing my music. It’s a really good time for me in my music life. I feel a sense of accomplishment to even be standing here in a healthy place with a healthy band. Fans are excited about the shows. I just don’t get caught up in that anymore because that’s too much of a rollercoaster.
I just had to come to a point as a man where I had to be OK with my value system and not get caught up in anybody else’s. Because, believe me, I’ve heard it for 25 years, the [expletive] indie world’s crap about how I should be, how you should be, how you should dress, how you should think, your shows, no guitar solos, all that crap. You just get so tired of hearing it.
Q: That contemporary feeling of the band that you mentioned — it seems like a good justification for continuing under the Smashing Pumpkins banner, playing those songs in the face of a lot of criticism.
A: Let’s examine those things a little bit. Number one, the band name. Well, everywhere I go, everyone’s like, “That’s the Smashing Pumpkins guy.” [laughs] So I’m in the Smashing Pumpkins whether I’m in the Smashing Pumpkins or not. As a person, I actually like being in the Smashing Pumpkins. So it’s my choice, its something I chose to do. And believe me, being in the Smashing Pumpkins comes with a lot of baggage. It’s not a clean slate.
So I can stand here in total integrity and say I’m in the Smashing Pumpkins because that’s what I want to do. And the fact that I’m releasing new music, I’m being a progressive artist, I’m playing my new songs in concert, I’m releasing music in a way that most people wouldn’t have the balls to do — I think that’s self-evident. To me those questions speak more about people’s sentimental opinion of what they want me to be, locked in their little ’90s box or something. Why can’t the Smashing Pumpkins continue?
When Michael Jordan came back out of retirement, people said, “He’s ruining his legacy!” Well, he wanted to play basketball! I just don’t understand that. Why am I not entitled to do what I want to do? You’re criticized as an artist if you kowtow to other people’s opinions and here I am not kowtowing to people’s opinions, I’m doing what I want to do, and yet I’m being criticized for it. I don’t understand that. I understand the logic that they’re speaking with, but they don’t understand the logic that I’m living with.
I’m happy! That’s the thing that people can’t wrap their head around. I’m not up there miserable, collecting a check. I’m happy! I’m as happy as I’ve been in the mashing pumpkins since 1996. Why isn’t that important? Why isn’t that something worth talking about? To me that’s the culture of death that wants everything in a tidy box. And it’s not a tidy-box world anymore. Why doesn’t U2 retire? Haven’t they made enough money? Why are the Rolling Stones still on tour? There’s only Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards. Why don’t they retire? I don’t understand. What’s the difference? If people wanna play and people wanna go, what does it [expletive] matter?
For better or worse, I’ve been some level of cultural force, at least in my little corner of the world, for 20 years. And I still wield a level of power, some of it acquired, some of it handed to me, some of it just follows me on myth. But I’m still out there doing good things. I mean, I’m walking around as a 43-year-old man, I haven’t had a drink or a drug in 10 years. I talk openly about God. I’m up there happy, smiling, people are going home happy. What is the [expletive] problem? There is no problem! It’s a problem being created out of an intellectual need to explain something inexplicable.
Q: The implication is that you’re never gonna be as good as in your heyday.
A: Listen, there is no greater insult to me as an artist than to basically implicate that you’ll never do better than you did. My answer to all that is go [expletive] yourself. Go back and live in video land, go read Rolling Stone from ’94 and read about indie integrity and see Kurt standing on the hill with the T-shirt, “Corporate Magazines Suck.” You can live it in perpetuity. I’m gone. I’ve moved on to the next town. You know? I’ve got a different horse and I’m riding into a different sunset. And the people that are around seem to be having a really good [expletive] time.
Q: Let’s talk about the new stuff. Have you heard of the slow food movement?
Q: It’s sort of the opposite of fast food — farm to table, sustainable agriculture, a meticulous and mindful approach to eating and consuming food. What you’re doing online — taking four years to release an album, song by song — almost sounds like a slow music movement.
A: I really like your observation. There’s one key ingredient that will make this work long term: The music has to be really [expletive] good. If the quality level drops off on the third or fifth or seventh song, I’m done, people won’t come back. This puts maximal pressure on me to keep upping my game.
I love being back in the moment of pressure. See, when I was a kid, the pressure was, “Can you deliver the rock anthem? Can you deliver the song that’s gonna get played on MTV?” Well, all those pressures are gone, so where are you gonna find that level of pressure? I’ve had to create my own.
Let’s put it this way: I’m not gonna get the good Pitchfork review. I’m not gonna get that kind of … support. I need to figure out how to sustain my own integrity level based on my own authenticity system, not somebody else’s. Because all those systems are broken, whether everybody realizes it or not. Because the lack of high-level mainstream crossover music coming from the alternative ranks shows you that it’s become too precocious. And anytime any artistic movement becomes too precocious it becomes precious unto itself and it basically withers away and dies. And somebody comes along and just figures out a way to do it a lot more fun and a lot easier. Because they’re getting way too intellectual on that side of the fence. And when music goes there, that’s when it’s the [expletive] worst. That’s honestly worse than hair metal when you go there.