|Kerrang! 1997 Interview|
|January 1, 1997, 12:00 am|
Kerrang! 1997 [No Specific Date]
Rock is dead. It's been said many times before and every time it's been wrong. But when the person saying it is The Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan - leader of one of the biggest rock acts on the planet - is it really time for all of us to pack up and go home?
Billy seems to think so, as he and guitarist James Iha sit backstage at the MTV Awards in London's Alexandra Palace, where the Pumpkins are just about to acclaim 'Best Rock Band'. Hmmm, confused? Corgan isn't.
"A missive to all you metal bands," he announces, raising an eyebrow for emphasis, "The world is totally over the rock thing. We're out there touring now, and you can forget it. Everyone is over it. Most rock is completely, extremely redundant. And we've only helped to feed into that."
So what now for the Smashing Pumpkins?
"Our cyberfuture?" ponders Iha, "We'll do our next album on roller blades."
He shrugs and gets serious for a moment: "I just think that most bands are re-treading the same waters. Everything we've done has been mainly as a four-piece rock band, so we're gonna try and get away from that, I guess."
He shoots a glance at Corgan, "Right?"
"Yeah," Corgan nods, "we're going to go into some future territory and we'll see where we end up."
If this last comment of Corgan's seems uncharacteristically vague, don't be nisted. Billy is nothing if not focused,and he has very strong ideas on how the Smashing Pumpkins' music is to be redefined now that rock is, apparently, belly up.
As he revealed in last week's Kerrang!, Billy is fascinated by electronic music. Don't just expect The Pumpkins to start knocking out a bunch of Ravey Davey-style bangin' choons in the coming years. Billy is too smart for that.
To illustrate the kind of change he foresees for the Pumpkins, Corgan turns to 80ss electro-pop group New Order. New Order formed from the remnants of seminal late-70s art rock group Joy Division, whose song 'Isolation' was revived by Therapy? on the 'Troublegum' album. Although 3/4 of Joy Division featured in New Order, the new band's music was radically different. Joy Vision made stark, jarring, post-punk rock noise; New Order created pre-handbag electronic pop.
Ironically, New Order formed as the result of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis' death. Although Curtis committed suicide, there are obvious similarities to the Pumpkins: the recent death of keyboard player Jonathan= an and the sacking of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin after the pair overdosed on heroin.
"You may listen to the next album and say it still sounds like the fucking Pumpkins," Corgan says, "But instead of big rock anthems you've got three-minute pulsing...whatever. I don't fucking know. We're just over the rock thing.
"Rock has been pretty much dead about five times and it always manages to resuscitate itself, but in modern culture we're so aware of music, we've lost so much of our naivete, that rock is certainly deader than its ever been."
And Billy will be dancing on its grave?
"No," he smirks, "I think you'll be dancing to our music on rock's grave.
We've always done out own piss-take with everything. I still marvel at what people said when 'Gish' came out. They said it was redundant, a fad, too 70s, a poor attempt at Led Zepplin. Now, it's like this weird holy rock album. Every other kid I meet who's in a band, 'Gish' is their Bible. It's crazy.
"We've always done our own little slant on things, and we'll do our own little slant on whatever we want to do next. We're not worried about it = at all.
"My model is up. Or REM. I'm not shy about pointing out those bands as influences on the way to handle yourselves. Those bands were, and are, so huge, but they were willing to make shifts in their music because they realized that the climate of the world is changing.. That shows that it can be done and that people will follow you if the music is vital enough."
"And," James adds, "it's redundant to sit around and jam on a bunch of riffs like we've done for the past eight years. We're finding it harder and harder to come up with really good rock songs."
If songs like 'Tonight, Tonight', 'BWBW' and 'Zero' are signs that the Pumpkins are struggling, there are a few bands out there who wouldn't mind having Billy Corgan's problems.
What Corgan needs now is a new challenge.