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Billy Corgan talks about going solo

Don’t expect a Smashing Pumpkins reunion
/ Source: The Associated Press

All things being perfect, Billy Corgan would never have released a solo album.

All things being perfect, Billy Corgan still would have been churning out hits as part of the seminal ’90s angst-rock band he founded, the Smashing Pumpkins — or at the very least, would have been readying a follow-up album with the band that followed it, Zwan.

But things have never been perfect for Corgan, the brainchild behind both groups and one of the more mercurial figures in the rock world. He famously smashed the Pumpkins into pieces in 2000 after the band had sold more than 20 million records worldwide with their pathos-laden songs; the relationship between the foursome had disintegrated and Corgan’s artistic path for the band was not replicating past pop success. In 2003, he formed Zwan, but that band lasted only a year.

This week, Corgan has decided to step away from the band format with his solo debut, “TheFutureEmbrace.” But it’s not his only individual project. Besides a book of poetry that he released last year, “Blinking with Fists,” Corgan has been writing about his life on his Web site — detailing everything from the childhood abuse he says suffered at the hands of his father and stepmother to his very adult battles with depression and other demons.

Corgan — a tall and striking figure with his shaved head, pale skin and piercing blue eyes — spoke about putting his life story on the Web, his new album and why a Smashing Pumpkins reunion wouldn’t be what you expect in a recent interview with The Associated Press.


AP: When did you decide to start writing your autobiography and put it on the Internet?

Corgan: It’s something I thought about for two years as far as writing my life story. I went through various scenarios — should I put out a book? You’re first thought is conventional thought ... like, this is how it’s done, and how much, and what’s it for, and what can I say, what can’t I say and all that. So after thinking about it like that, every time, I would come up to what can I say, what can’t I say, I would get bummed out.

AP: Why?

Corgan: Anytime you take money for something, then it opens the door to another whole range of topics. Like when Jose Canseco put out the steroids book, the first thing they did was to attack him and say that he’s lying because he’s making money; he’s saying these bad things because he’s going to make more money. So that gets into a credibility issue. But to me, it you take away the money, then what’s the credibility issue? Then it’s personal motivation. Is it malice, is it truthful — what is it? I don’t have justify it in any way, shape or form. There’s no justification, there’s no catch all.

AP: What’s been the feedback?

Corgan: Amazingly positive. The only ones who seem to have a problem with it are males. No negative feedback from women at all. Zero. Only guys.

AP: Why do you think guys have a problem?

Corgan: Because they get uncomfortable with guys being sensitive. They get really uncomfortable. Guys are brutalized in a certain way, even if they’re not brutalized physically. They’re sort of pummeled on the feeling end. I faced the same thing in the beginning of the Pumpkins, because the Pumpkins was so far ahead of the sensitive curve ... talking about child abuse, things like that. People were very uncomfortable with that.

AP: When the Smashing Pumpkins broke up, instead of doing a solo album, you formed Zwan, which was short-lived. Why not do the solo album then?

Corgan: I wanted to do a solo album and actually started one, and then the Zwan thing kind of came together, and it was like a fun thing. It was sort of like a welcome relief after the Pumpkins ... I never didn’t want to be in a band. I didn’t want to leave the Pumpkins. It wasn’t my choice, I always thought of being a solo artist in the context of being in the band. Like, you’re in a band and you do a solo record. I never thought that I would have to leave my band to go solo.

AP: Do you ever wish the Smashing Pumpkins could reunite?

Corgan: You can’t recreate what was.

AP: A lot of bands try, though.

Corgan: That’s because they try and go back to what was. I showed it already. I didn’t think the Smashing Pumpkins could stay where they were for two years. So I have no desire to go back to a sentimental position to the band. If I ever did go back to the band, it wouldn’t be the same thing, it wouldn’t be for those reasons. It wouldn’t be a reunion to cash in. I have no interest in that. My goals are always artistic, and they were even in the context of the Smashing Pumpkins. If you ever see Smashing Pumpkins on the marquee, it won’t be what you think it would be. The Pumpkins was a progressive art concept, it wasn’t a normal band. It was meant to sort of disrupt, cause problems, and it did. And we were successful in doing that. But we would never go back ... and on top of that, some of the relationships are totally destroyed. It would take some serious divine intervention to see.

AP: Since you always wanted to be in a band, why not put together another band after Zwan?

Corgan: (Laughs) Not after the last experience, no. I came to the conclusion that trying to start another band was completely naive. It was kind of like trying to start a relationship when you’re in love with someone else. It just ain’t gonna work. I’m in love with the Smashing Pumpkins ... there would be no other third band. I realize all that now. Everything in Zwan was pretty cool up until we made the album and they started to show their colors ... They were in it for fame and money.

AP: You’ve talked a lot about depression in your life — are you at a point where you’re happy?

Corgan: That’s a set up question (laughs). I don’t know how to answer that. There are some things that are worse and some things that are better. I feel like for a lack of a better word, empowered. ... I feel completely free to do whatever I want and how I want to do it. I feel unburdened by my past.