Billy Corgan Talks 'The End': 'I'm Over Rock & Roll'

Smashing Pumpkins frontman examines his legacy, says his fanbase "is gone" in new interview

Billy Corgan Credit: Joe Papeo

With the Smashing Pumpkins' new album Monuments to an Elegy officially out, and the final installment of the band's music cycle Teargarden By Kaleidyscope expected to arrive next year, Billy Corgan is looking ahead to the end: "The next album is like the end, end, end," Corgan told The Wall Street Journal. "The trite way to say it is I'm over rock & roll. Which is strange because rock & roll is getting back into me."

Corgan went on to discuss the challenge of reconciling his legacy in regards to his actual imprint on music and culture, but also as a musician still making new material. "In pop, you have this weird cycle where you have to have a pressing awareness of the past, constantly, and it weighs you down more than it lifts you up. I think I’m finally at a place where I’m jettisoning all the baggage. I don’t feel like I have to play certain songs, but I don’t refuse to play them either."

But while he may be in a good place artistically, Corgan's less optimistic about certain aspects of the Pumpkins, especially the fanbase, which he believes is almost completely gone. Despite many of the band's current string of shows selling out almost immediately — including Monday night's concert in New York City — Corgan says the number of fans who actually want to immerse themselves in his work is slimming, noting the low amount of feedback and web traffic he's gotten in recent years.

For Corgan, this decline stands in sharp contrast with the way the Smashing Pumpkins' Nineties output is being reexamined, thanks in part to a number of recent box sets accompanying reissues of Adore and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

"With the tenure I have, and the work and the reissues piling up, there’s going to have to be some kind of reckoning with me in the culture, because I just won’t fucking go away," Corgan said. "You know what I mean? When you look at my generation, I come out on the leaner side of the conversation about people who actually survived, and prospered and continued on. My position as an artist has basically not changed in a world where even Pavement started doing reunion tours. All the people who walked around puffing out their chests about the word integrity? A lot of those people are long fucking gone."

Corgan also appeared on Howard Stern's SiriusXM show today, where he spoke about his love of competition, especially in the unlikely realm of alternative rock. After Stern placed the Pumpkins and Nirvana at the top of the Nineties pantheon, co-host Robin Quivers suggested adding Pearl Jam, but Corgan was quick to shut that notion down. "I don't think they have the songs," Corgan said. "I think you stack my songs up, Cobain's songs up and that band's songs, they don't have the songs." Corgan did kowtow to the band's status as arena rock staples, but added: "People will take that the wrong way, but if we're speaking competitively, they're my competitors."

The frontman also had some choice words for Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters, saying he wasn't particularly thrilled with the band's recent output (though he did admit the band was winning by his own standards of rock and roll competition). "My criticism of the Foo Fighters if I’m being a music critic is they just haven’t evolved, and that’s been the recent rap on them is just making the same music," Corgan said. "Obviously I've put my whole life on the line for making different music as I've gone along… That's just my mentality, and I know it's not for everybody."