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Billy Corgan on Pumpkins' Split, "Loving" Jessica Simpson: Preview the Story

March 3, 2010 12:48 PM ET

Here are the first two sentences of Rolling Stone's first Billy Corgan feature in a decade:

Unless you count what he's done to his career, Billy Corgan has never attempted suicide. Until recently, there were plenty of mornings when he'd wake up to a stark choice: "Go eat breakfast, or go kill yourself."

When Rolling Stone's Brian Hiatt met with Corgan in Los Angeles in early February, the Smashing Pumpkins founder had a lot to say about a very rough 10 years. "There's a lot of days where you feel forgotten," Corgan says at one point. In a soul-baring, wide-ranging interview, Corgan discusses the idiosyncratic spiritual beliefs that saved him from suicidal depression (including his association with a vintage hippie cult called Source Family); opens up for the first time about his 2009 split with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin (Corgan says he fired him); reveals his father's heroin addiction (his dad was arrested two years ago with a needle still in his arm); says that he "loves" Jessica Simpson; and much more. For the full feature, see our new issue, on sale now — in the meantime, here are a few highlights:

The Pumpkins celebrate 20 years in NYC: photos.

Corgan on His Critics: "Do I belong in the conversation about the best artists in the world? My answer is yes, I do," he says. "I've been too productive for too long, and despite what anybody wants to strip away from me, I am influential. I am. So all the Pitchforks in the world can try to strip me of every ounce of dignity, but I belong."
On the Pumpkins' Breakup: "Rather than break up the band, what I should have done is chuck James [Iha] out," Corgan says. "I should have just said to Jimmy [Chamberlin], 'You go to rehab, and we'll continue, and James, get the fuck out of here.' Instead, I fell on my sword for James, for what I thought was a friend."
On His Spiritual Beliefs: Corgan subscribes to the fashionable idea that we're building to a cataclysm, or at least a major vibrational shift, in 2012; he wonders what was really in the H1N1 vaccine; he fears that the United States is headed toward a Soviet Union-style economic collapse... But when pressed on details, he backs off: "I don't want to be a dead hero," he says.
On "Loving" Jessica Simpson: "If I go, 'Oh, we're just friends,' then it's like, 'Did they go out, did he dump her or she dump him, what happened?' It has nothing to do with any of that. Sometimes people just like being around each other, and good things come out of that. My goal in life is to love whoever I think is worth loving, and I think if people knew her like I knew her, they would love her like I do. It's really simple."

Related Stories:
Hear the Pumpkins' New "A Stitch in Time"
Smashing Pumpkins Unleash "Teargarden" Track "Widow Wake My Mind"
Q&A: Billy Corgan on the State of the Record Industry

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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