Smashing Pumpkins Talk Haters, Rock Out With Chris Isaak

Scott Lapatine | February 25, 2009 - 6:11 pm

Retro rocker/funnyman Chris Isaak has a new interview show premiering on the Biography Channel :( tomorrow night. It’s called The Chris Isaak Hour, not to be confused with the fictionalized Chris Isaak Show that aired on Showtime a few years ago. Or maybe it is to be confused, they are pretty similar titles. It’s a Q&A and performance format, not unlike Elvis Costello’s Spectacle, except Chris’s hour isn’t filmed in front of an audience. Guests include folks we never blog about (Trisha Yearwood, Glen Campbell, Chicago, Michael Bublé) and also the Smashing Pumpkins, who we always blog about.

Pop & Hiss shares some details:

Musicians typically play five or six songs live in the studio, and Isaak usually joins on one or two. Then they sit down on a couch on the ’50s-retro set to talk. Isaak keeps a couple of guitars within reach in case anyone wants to illustrate a point musically, which is precisely what happened during both the Yusuf Islam and Smashing Pumpkins tapings.

The banter is often musically insightful and occasionally loopy, as when Isaak asked Yusuf — who walked away from his music career three decades ago to devote his life to his newfound Muslim faith — whether he got a lot of girls back when he was pop star.

While Pumpkins founding members Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin were busy running through a handful of songs, Isaak looked on with admiration, and just a bit of trepidation, from his director’s chair in front of a video monitor.

“I’m a little nervous,” Isaak whispers. “Billy’s really smart. I read his book of poetry, and it’s not just somebody putting crazy words together and trying to make them rhyme. It all makes sense, and it’s really heavy stuff. I want to ask him about it.”

Once they hit the couch, for which a mural of the Golden Gate Bridge provides the backdrop, Corgan is characteristically intense. “Life is dark, and we know we’re going to die one day,” he says matter-of-factly. Corgan, erudite and not without a sense of humor, takes the conversation into areas that his publicist, looking on from one of the green rooms, says he’s never opened up about before.

There’s also a highlight reel of the SP episode you can watch here. The bit where Jimmy and Billy explain the “movement of anger” directed at their band is wonderfully awkward.

CHRIS: “Your fans… They’re not just fans, they’re really intense.”
BILLLY: “Yeah, they really don’t like us, that’s the funny part.”
JIMMY: “I think they need something to hate and they found it in us.”

CHRIS: “Do they come to the show and say angry things?”
BILLY: “Oh yeah.”

I like how Chris is genuinely perplexed that this band’s fans “hate” them. As he should be, since it doesn’t make any sense. Billy continues to confuse criticism with something much uglier. The Smashing Pumpkins episode airs in April. No clue what songs they play, but it will look like this: