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Billy Corgan Blasts the Critics

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How would you describe the past year – as a success, a failure or inconclusive?
My definitions of success have changed. If you'd asked me that question a year and a half ago, and I knew what I know now, I would say it was a failure, definitely. The person sitting in front of you – he believes it's a success.

You're talking to a guy who in a two-year span hit every high, then lost his mother, lost his drummer– the person he was closest to in the band – and got divorced. Pumpkins or no Pumpkins, that's head-check time. To have gone through that tunnel and come out the other side – I'm happy.

If you had Adore to do all over again, is there anything you would do differently?
I would have gone further with the vision of the record. I would have made it more opaque, more dense, more hard to reach. At some point along the way, I tried to pull it in a little bit.

The most amazing compliment I get on this album is, people pull me aside and go, "I have been listening to this record over and over again. I can't get it out of my stereo. When l first listened to it, I thought it was kind of OK. But it snuck up on me and hit me like a ton of bricks." Maybe it's like a Lou Reed, Berlin kind of record, where it's got to sit for a while, be digested and maybe get away from the politic of a certain time.

What is it about Adore that people have misunderstood?
When I was on Howard Stern – I know this pissed a lot of people off – he asked me about being disappointed about the record. I said, "Well, I'm disappointed with our fans." Which, you can imagine, lighted up the fucking Internet. What I was saying was, if I put out what is apparently a testy record, at least give me the chance. Listen to it and then tell me you don't like it. I don't think I got that chance.

Weekend Rock Question: What is the Best Smashing Pumpkins Song?

Were you surprised at the lack of audience loyalty?
There's definitely the moment where you go, "What happened?" You have this feeling of desertion: Maybe they don't love you anymore.

But then you realize it's not about that. It's not a negative energy. You have not created the positive energy, whatever it takes – that kinetic connection. At the end of the day, if people do not connect with Adore, that is my responsibility. But in fifteen years, if somebody pulls me over and says, "Adore is the best record you ever did," I'm gonna fall over laughing.

When I saw you in the studio during the Adore sessions in January, you were recording a song, "Let Me Give the World to You," that sounded like a total hit. Why didn't you put it on the album?
Didn't fit. And I knew it was a hit song. There was another song you didn't hear that was a total hit song, a heavier song. I would play it for people and this is what they would say: "maximum KROQ rotation."

There's no better example I can give you of the integrity that I tried to put into that record. I knew I was cutting my own wrist. But it's like a test, and I stayed the course. Not only through the album, but through the tour. Now that I've passed that test, I don't have that doubt about myself anymore. Whatever my integrity test in my head was, I passed.

When Adore came out, you went right to Europe and played some unusual venues.
We played a botanical garden in Brussels. We played Tivoli Gardens, in Copenhagen. We played on the water somewhere in Sweden. We did all these crazy things, and the energy was so amazing. Then we come to America and it's like [makes the sound of squealing brakes]. That was weird, because we came in with such a positive energy, and we'd set up the charity tour.

What was the inspiration for the charity shows?
The original impetus was, we wanted to play free in twenty American cities: Give us your park, we'll set it up. It was that Seventies feeling – out in the park, listening to music. We thought it would be fantastic. And we got no, no, no, from everywhere, including Chicago. [The Pumpkins ultimately played a free show in Minneapolis for 100,000 people.]

How did the free tour then turn into a charity tour?
We didn't want to let go of the idea of doing something different. The whole thing was to stick with the vibe of Adore through thick and thin. So we thought, "We'll do theaters but give the money away. And if we are going to give money away, are we giving enough away? What is the point of rolling in, saying it's for charity and giving twenty grand?" That's when we decided to belly up to the bar and put our money where our mouths are.

What about the shows? On the first night at Radio City Music Hall, in New York, you encored with "Transmission," by Joy Division, and pulled kids from the audience onstage.
It started as a spontaneous act. Then we put it in the show, because it was too perfect. If we had a good show, we played "Transmission." At the end, we'd pull kids out of the audience and give them our instruments. We'd leave the stage and the kids would continue to play. The sound, the exuberant teenage cacophony, was the beautiful way to end it. I remember, after we played in L.A., Gene Simmons from Kiss saying, "That's one of the greatest things I've ever seen in my life, for you to break the fourth wall and make the audience part of the show." Which is a pretty good compliment, because he's a consummate showman.

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