Billy Corgan Blasts the Critics

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Were there any other inspiring nights?
We were so confident that we did five or six shows where we did the whole Adore album, all fifteen songs – if you don't count the last joke [the short piano coda "17"].

Did you play the songs in the same order as on the record?
Nope. That would have been suicide. Playing the whole fucking album, that's pretty close. On the entire tour, we played at most five songs from Mellon Collie. We did no songs from before Mellon Collie. Everything else was Adore. We went up with it – and we sank with it.

In the 1960s, superstars like the Beatles and the Beach Boys were releasing two albums a year, plus singles. The industry standard now is two years between albums; you had a three-year gap between Mellon Collie and Adore. Don't you think that has a lot to do with the problem of audience loyalty?
You want to know what's funny? Some people in my world think we didn't wait long enough, because the Mellon Collie wave was so strong: "The people didn't have a chance to get away from you." There's a thought in the music business that you have to have a downtime so that people can stop being sick of you. Now for someone like me, who writes thirty-plus songs a year, what the fuck am I supposed to do? I can only put out so many B sides.

The desire to hit a big home run is dominating the music business. And the idea of great music finding a good audience is not enough – to the music business.

Which leads to my next question: Is rock dead? If so, does it matter?

Believe it or not, I'm guilty of saying the same thing [laughs]. I'm on Howard Stern; I say rock is dead. Angry phone calls: "Nashville Pussy are better than you guys." I don't care. Rock & roll is not about what you play, it's about how you play it. It's the spirit, OK?

My rock & roll – alternative music – has been co-opted, become something easily imitable. So when I seek inside myself for what I want to do, my guide is: Is it pushy? Is it edgy? Is it going to make people uncomfortable? For the first four years of the Pumpkins, we didn't get a lot of applause. We got a lot of head scratching.

Then we got a lot of applause and patted ourselves on the backs for being so smart. Look where it got us. It's hard to go back to the head scratching, but maybe that's what you gotta do. It is that uncomfortableness, that uncertainty, that is the heart of rock & roll.

When you look at the Billboard album charts now, are you pissed that you're not up there with 'N Sync and Shania Twain? Or relieved?
Neither. On a cultural-observation level, I'm horrified, because there doesn't seem to be any value. But this is not new. We kid ourselves into thinking, "Ha, ha, ha, the Seventies will never happen again." But I look around and everyone's doing cocaine and listening to techno while they're drinking their cappucinos – what's the difference here?

Have you ever listened to a Backstreet Boys record just to see what the hoo-ha is about?
No. I have a kind of pleasant apathy toward all that kind of stuff. It doesn't disturb me. What disturbs me is things that are given more weight than they deserve. There is much that is disappointingly unreaching and unprogressive.

But that's not what the charts are about. Bob Dylan has never had a triple-platinum album. Frank Zappa had one Top Ten LP in his lifetime. Nick Drake died without having a record on any chart. The point is, do you want to be loved now, or do you want to be remembered?
Both [laughs].

But if you can't have both . . .
I don't have any sentimental notion about how people are going to remember me. I'm prepared to spend the rest of my life playing clubs, if that means I'm playing music that I believe in. Don't forget, I've tasted the top. There were great moments, and there were shitty moments. But I won't go to my grave wondering what it was like. I hit a home run in the World Series. Even if they send me back to the minors. I did it.

 This story appeared in the December 24, 1998 issue of Rolling Stone.

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