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With its misguided setlists and passive-aggressive outbursts, the Smashing Pumpkins’ 20th anniversary tour has left even hard core fans hurt and confused. It’s hard to believe that Billy Corgan is surprised by the negative fan reaction, as he suggested at a hometown gig a few weeks back. The band capped off its “reunion” back in Chicago earier this week, and the Tribune’s Greg Kot caught up with Billy for a postmortem. Among other revelations, James Iha “literally drove me insane.” That explains some things.

Corgan: We’re done with the record business, so we’re free to do whatever I want.

Tribune: So “Zeitgeist” was the last album?

Corgan: We’re done with that. There is no point. People don’t even listen to it all. They put it on their iPod, they drag over the two singles, and skip over the rest. The listening patterns have changed, so why are we killing ourselves to do albums, to create balance, and do the arty track to set up the single? It’s done.

Tribune: So how will you release music?

Corgan: Our primary function now is to be a singles band, that drives Pumpkins Inc. through singles. We’ll still be creative, but in a different form. We won’t do shows like this anymore, where we try to draw a good crowd and balance the past with the present. We’ll go small and do exactly what we want to do and stop playing catalogue. We’ll be like a new band that can’t rely on old gimmicks. I’m not stupid. I want people to feel good about what we do. What we weren’t getting [from playing a more balanced show with older songs] was excitement. We’re in the polarizing business. We don’t want a pat on the back: Good to have you back. We want a reaction, even if it’s a negative reaction.

Tribune: People are still talking about that show you did a few weeks ago at the Chicago Theatre.

Corgan: Energy we can do something with. Apathy we can’t work with. Who’s above us? Who’s lighting the culture on fire? Nobody. We don’t have to live in that world. We have the biggest manager [Irving Azoff] in the world. He tells us we can get there, we will get there. We will crack the egg like we did in ’92, without doing something embarrassing like working with Timbaland. We will find how to do our thing and make it work. I can write songs. We’re big boys. We’ll do it. Last time I talked with you, I said we’re going to come back and make a better album. The album we made surprised us. We kept going back to this primitive thing. We wanted to do “Siamese Dream II.” Elaborate, orchestrated, but it wasn’t coming from me. It put us back in this organic process, and in this position of fighting back to why we do what we do. Now I understand it. It’s the difference between intellectual process and emotional process. We’re sober, healthy, we understand the business we’re in, and the pragmatic reality of what it takes. We have the skill set, we always have, and we belong in the conversation, and we will kick down the door to get back in the conversation. You take a milquetoast middle-of-the-road fake-tattoo band, we can out-write them. If you come up with the songs, the fans will show up. We found with “Zeitgeist” that the alternative audience isn’t alternative anymore. They’re a pop audience that listens to Nickelback. So doing a 10-minute song, nobody will listen to it. We have to come up with singles like “1979,” and come up with songs that sound good on the radio. We have to write those kinds of songs.

Tribune: Why’d you break up the Pumpkins in 2000?

Corgan: The real story was Iha was driving me out of my mind. He was so negative. The guy literally drove me insane. When I walked out of that band, I didn’t know what to do anymore. I didn’t have a direction, a central focus. I wandered through different things, but I couldn’t find that central thing. As soon as I got back in the band my brain started working again. I was engaged again.

That’s just a taste. There’s a more at chicagotribune.com. At the Auditorium Theatre show on Monday, the band brought a black coffin filled with Christmas gifts onstage and passed out candy canes to the crowd. It’s a start.

[Pic by Jeff Loder/Pumpkins Media Militia]

UPDATE: Billy Corgan offers clarification on the interview at smashingpumpkins.com.

Comments (35)
  1. murph  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    Tribune: So “Zeitgeist” was the last album?

    Corgan: We’re done with that. There is no point. People don’t even listen to it all. They put it on their iPod, they drag over the two singles, and skip over the rest.
    **

    note to billy: we’ll listen to a fully album IF THE ALBUM ISN’T UTTER SHIT.

    and at this point, nickelback sounds better than the pumpkins anyway.*

    *actually, they’re tied.

    • Alex  |   Posted on Dec 14th, 2008 0

      Anyone who says the Pumpkins and Nickelback are even on the same level is stupid.
      Nickelback defines “mainstream” in every way, let alone the fact that they’ve ALWAYS been making crappy music.

  2. juano  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    He has a point about what is now considered “alternative” music and he obviously was miserable playing the old songs so I’m thinking this isn’ that bad an idea.

  3. Paul  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    No, the “hard core fans” were NOT hurt and confused. I speak from experience and from speaking to numerous other fans. The shows were awesome, with about half and half old-and-new stuff (including nearly ALL the major hits). The people who were angry about having to hear the new stuff were clearly the ones not listening b/c, let me tell you, some of it is extraordinary. And, yes, they’re going to release new music in the most commercially viable way because (HELLO!) they are funding everything themselves. There’s no label to support them because there’s no label who WILL support them. And, furthermore, Zeitgeist is NOT “utter shit.” It’s a (mostly) great album that is even more easily accessible than Machina was. Listen with an open mind, as if it is the first album of a new band. Do it if only to listen to the incredible musicianship on display (especially Jimmy, best drummer alive).

    • TC  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

      The fact that the hardcore fans actually enjoyed the setlist only makes it that much more pathetic that he felt the need to whine like a little bitch about how his fans are “upset with him for not doing what they want him to do” (his words).

  4. adam  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    Up til Zeitgeist, i was a pretty big Pumpkins fan. But now Billy seriously needs to shut the fuck up!: “We will crack the egg like we did in ’92, without doing something embarrassing like working with Timbaland”. He seems to blame the bad response to their new music and awful setlists due to the fact that they’re not selling out ‘and working with Timbaland”. No Billy, thats not true. People are responding because you made the shittiest album imaginable, and played even worse live. Shut down this band now, its just sad. Billy you’re a pathetic, winy, arrogant asshole, and that comes from someone who used to practically worship your talent (of which you now have nothing left)

  5. adam  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    Up til Zeitgeist, i was a pretty big Pumpkins fan. But now Billy seriously needs to shut the fuck up!: “We will crack the egg like we did in ’92, without doing something embarrassing like working with Timbaland”. He seems to blame the bad response to their new music and awful setlists due to the fact that they’re not selling out ‘and working with Timbaland”. No Billy, thats not true. People are responding because you made the shittiest album imaginable, and played even worse live. Shut down this band now, its just sad. Billy you’re a pathetic, winy, arrogant asshole, and that comes from someone who used to practically worship your talent (of which you now have nothing left)

  6. FBC  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    The Smashing Pumpkins are my favorite band. I even like the much-maligned Machina and Adore albums. Hell, my favorite song of theirs (Age of Innocence) is from Machina. But even I know that Zeitgeist was hot garbage and Billy has finally gone completely insane. The band should have stayed dead, now it’s just becoming increasingly embarassing to call myself a Pumpkins fan.

  7. Chadams  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    Irving Azoff must possess the most zen-like patience in the entire world.

    And from a mathematical standpoint, SP putting out singles as opposed to albums lessens the impact and the amount of material to constitute something worth turning one’s attention towards.

  8. Zeitgiest, while not perfect, does have a few crackers up its sleeve – ‘Bring the Light’, ‘Doomsday Clock’..

    Shame there won’t be another studio album.

  9. “…doing something embarrassing like working with Timbaland”

    uh, except Timbaland is about 100X as relevant and talented as you are. shut up and go away forever please, Billy.

  10. “People don’t even listen to it all. They put it on their iPod, they drag over the two singles, and skip over the rest.”

    Naw, things have changed again, we’re not working with 250mb iPods anymore. We throw on the whole album and put it on shuffle along with everything else and see what sticks. We decide our own singles, and delete the chaff accordingly.

  11. Actually United States (the long 10-minute song) was the most memorable thing about Zeitgeist, particularly the drumming. And “Bring the Light” and “Starz” were both really cool. They definitely picked the wrong songs to be singles for that album.

  12. Yee Ha  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    Note to Corgan: Less talk. More rock.

  13. Sounds like he is trying to convince himself that there is still a future for the pumpkins. I wouldn’t be so confident if all I had released in the past few years were self indulgent duds.

  14. “We will crack the egg like we did in ’92, without doing something embarrassing like working with Timbaland”.

    Corgan is SO going to get F’d in the A.

  15. innercityblues  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    I miss Zwan.

  16. edog  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    Few bands can open a reunion show with a 20 minute rendition song from the new album, and the Pumpkins aren’t one of those bands. The fans came back around to what became an awesome show, but it was a cold start.

  17. Sam  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    Working with Timbaland is embarrassing? I would think that releasing a terrible album and then playing a set of horrible shows would be more embarrassing…

  18. Harold  |   Posted on Dec 10th, 2008 0

    “We’re big boys”? No, YOU’RE not, Mr. Corgan.

  19. This from the guy who is still pissed that they got dissed by Malkmus/Pavement…hmm

    Make some decent music and perhaps people will listen to the album. This is about how people listen to shit albums with one or two “decent” songs rather than how people listen to albums in general. I personally would be glad if they stopped releasing music period. It is not as if the semi-relevant albums that they made in the past will disappear.

  20. Dear Mr. Corgan,
    SHUT THE FUCK UP FOREVER!!!1!

    Sincerely,
    -I PEE GOLD

  21. Kevin Barnes in 10 years.

  22. Raoul Duke  |   Posted on Dec 11th, 2008 0

    I don’t think hardcore pumpkins fans are at all upset with where the pumpkins are now. Zeitgeist is a good album, I am aware that it’s not their best, but it is an interesting listen. The pumpkins are now starting to sound like a band that are liberated, where they’re not stuck in the sound of old but are trying new things. Whether every song works or not is irrelevant, it is just good to hear a band going through the creative process. It is sad that there may be no more albums, but I hope this just means that they will continuously releasing good EPs rather than the odd song here and there. Any pumpkins fan can talk about the sheer volume of work up until now that has never been on a studio album, but is widely available through their very active bootlegging community. Maybe this is the next logical step for them to just release as much as possible as soon as possible using the EP/single route?

  23. Bryan  |   Posted on Dec 12th, 2008 0

    Whatever happened to all those beautiful acoustic tracks that Corgan penned for the Spun Soundtrack? There was a lot of potential there and they never were released.

  24. Greg  |   Posted on Dec 12th, 2008 0

    Iha made the Pumpkins a great band, rather than Billy’s wanky solo project. Listen to their interaction on the guitar in some 90s bootlegs and you’ll see what I mean.

  25. Shoot for the stars, Billy!

  26. Lonnie Pigford  |   Posted on Dec 14th, 2008 0

    Billy, you F’d up. “Mary Star of the Sea” was a much better record than ‘Zeitgeist’. If you would’ve kept the Pumpkins name instead of breaking up for no good reason and starting a new band and calling it Zwan (even though it’s exactly the same thing as the new SP) you wouldn’t be in this predicament. People saw that you wavered in your confidence in SP and lost respect for you. Didn’t help that you opened your big mouth one too many times.

  27. Zeitgeist was good. I love the sound, especially the drums. It’s their best since Melloncollie. I find myself putting it on pretty frequently actually, I’m not sure why everyone hates it so much.

  28. reborn  |   Posted on Dec 17th, 2008 0

    It is good to see Billy doing what he wants. The Smashing Pumpkins aren’ t the band they were in the ’90s any more, but I don’t have a problem with that. As someone suggested earlier, listening to Zeitgeist not as the latest album of an old band, but as the first album of a new band will do a lot for your perception of it. I don’t want them to be cashing in on old fame by trying to replicate something like Siamese Dream, I want whatever it is that Billy and friends want to make, and will enjoy as the new Smashing Pumpkins.

  29. Susie  |   Posted on Dec 17th, 2008 0

    Seriously, for Christmas, someone should just buy Billy a muzzle. The man really needs to just shut up.

    I used to be such a hardcore Pumpkins fan but that ended the day Darcy and James walked out.

    So, the way I see it, all Billy is doing is spitting on the memory of what once was a great band.

    Sad.

  30. Friedd  |   Posted on Jan 5th, 2009 0

    Damn, you’re all so stupid !

    Okay Zeitgeist is not that great,
    okay corgan sounds a bit angry,
    okay working with Timbalandis not that bad,

    but FUCK, corgan is RIGHT.
    how many people ONLY have Today, 1979, and Bullet w/ butterfly wings in their iPod ??
    i buy vinyl albums because when you get it, you listen to the entire album,
    it’s just like you were only watching 1 scene of a movie when you’re loading a single in your iPod !
    We cana’t blame them, music still is an egoist pleasure, but regarding the music business situation and the touring business situation he just can see things changed, and not only for better things.

    and even if they’re weird, you can’t spit on the smashing pumpkins gigs, who else gives you 3 hours gig ?

    Mr Corgan, i’m Totally on your side

  31. everyone defending Timbaland…have u heard Chris Cornell’s Scream? I think this is what he’s refering to. Not defending Corgan’s rant, but yeah timbaland kinda blowsss

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