Friday, March 28, 2008

Billy Corgan Just Makes Me Laugh

All in all he's probably a decent guy, but I just can't take Billy Corgan too seriously. Mostly because he seems to take himself too seriously. It's like, he has this conception of the Smashing Pumpkins as a band that is way more important it probably really is (see AMG's review of Zeitgeist). But who am I to talk, you know? I've never written a song in my whole God damn life. Still, if I ever did get around to writing a song, it's probably safe to say I wouldn't call it "Superchrist" (the title of the new Pumpkins single). More cringe-inducingly anthemic statements such as the one above are on display in this new Rolling Stone interview titled "Corgan's Fury." And man oh man, I wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of his fury if you know what I'm saying. The kicker has to be his scathing anecdote about the record company's obtuseness:

"I'll give you my favorite line of the past three years. I was talking to the label president from Warner Bros., Tom Walley, and we were having a call. They were actually thinking about dropping us, which in retrospect probably would have been good. I was in Arizona, we were starting to write the album, and so I said things are going great. And he said, 'What's the difference between Zwan and Smashing Pumpkins?' And I was like, what do you say? What do you say to a brick wall? What's the difference between your side band and the band that was your blood and your sweat and your heart for fourteen years?"

Uh...Billy...what was the difference between Zwan and Smashing Pumpkins? You know something? I'm with the sleazy record exec on this one. He asked a damn good question if I may say so. Whatever, I guess he just didn't understand that Billy is about the music:

"And as an alternative artist, we're still here because it is about the music. And anybody can point to any other 9,000 stupid things I've said or done. The music still trumped any of those things. So I can sit here at my rosy age and know that that's why we're here, because the music has held us in good stead with a lot of people around the world."

So at least he can joke about himself a little. But let's see, at least 85 of those 9,000 stupid things he's said were probably in this very interview. I did like what he said about American Idol and the music business though:

"Artists are finding their own ways to get paid outside of the major-label system, like the Eagles with their Wal-Mart deal, Madonna signing up with Live Nation.

I think it's really difficult for the young artist, who doesn't have at least some sense of a pathway. For example, if you were a kid today and you're looking at the bands who are successful right now, you think, if you don't sort of sell out and let somebody make you a star, go on American Idol, then you can't be successful. Alternative culture is really critical towards introducing new ideas. We need those young bands to push old band like us, to push new boundaries. We need our butts kicked regularly. That's where all the energy comes from, from the bottom. And when the message on Amy Winehouse is drama is better than music, and for Radiohead publicity is better than music — no disrespect to them. But I think it's a bad message to young bands of how to make it happen. It's almost like the evil stepchild of the rap bling-bling thing, like, the only way to make it work is I've got to come up with a gimmick.

Selling out has lost its negative stereotype in a sense.

We can all talk forever about how cool it is and how things are different: The power's coming back to the artist. But sometimes it takes an oppositional force to make things work. The old music business wasn't great but at least it kind of gave you something to kind of work with or against. Now, who do you work for and who do you work against? The great example is American Idol. I mean, who gets bigger marketing, whose TV show is bigger? And then those artists don't sell. There's a complete disconnect between the drama of the show, the emotional connection with the singers, and then absolutely no care for their musical career. I mean, that's troubling."

You know what people need to do? Here's what Little Earl says. They need to just lock themselves in a room for three years like Elliott Smith did and listen to nothing else and totally bare their psychologically scarred souls onto tape and then release it quietly and shoot for long-term cult success, because otherwise it's just going to be about gimmicks and it's not going to be any good. So Billy, get to work and stop yappin'.

1 comment:

jason said...

Yeah, I love Billy Corgan, but he's really gone off the deep end.

The sad thing about Zwan was that he had David Pajo in his band (one of my favorite musicians) and totally squandered it. They should've just recorded an acoustic album at Pajo's house in Kentucky (they had a whole set of acoustic songs that they played live but never recorded). Instead Billy wasted a fortune on a sell-out record that didn't even sell. I think you're right -- he needs to give up on getting back on top of the charts and just try to make great music again.