Billy Corgan: ‘The Mythology of the Nineties Now Is Irrelevant’
Billy Corgan has been asked to revisit the heyday of Nineties alternative rock a number of times while promoting the Smashing Pumpkins‘ most recent record, Monuments to an Elegy, but in a new interview with The Guardian, the rocker seemed to hit a breaking point, saying: “Right now that era is irrelevant.”
Corgan noted that neither the Pumpkins nor any of the other bands from that era are charting anymore, and dismissed the notion that a lot of new bands are being influenced by Nineties artists. “I don’t hear that,” Corgan said. “The mythology [of that era] right now is irrelevant to combat the pop menace in America right now.”
While Corgan didn’t back up his rhetoric by naming names, he stated, “EDM is kicking everybody’s fucking ass,” and argued that no matter how sentimental people get about the Nineties, if that music, or the music it inspired, can’t compete in the top cultural spheres, “it doesn’t mean anything.”
“Look at the numbers the DJs are making!” he said. “They’re kicking rock bands’ ass. And we’re sitting here talking about an era from 20 years ago because it’s misty in people’s minds. Meanwhile, there’s 60,000 people in a field watching a guy with lights behind him.”
Although Corgan hasn’t necessarily expressed a rose-colored perspective of the Nineties in other recent interviews, he seemed far more emboldened while talking with The Guardian. Specifically, he pointed to the spate of three-star reviews Monuments received, saying they were no different than the three-star reviews his Nineties albums received – though those are now considered classics.
“Here I am all these years later making a Smashing Pumpkins record that sounds a lot like Smashing Pumpkins and, childish as it may be, I thought there might be a moment of repose this time,” Corgan said. “But here comes the guy with the fucking steak knife that just can’t give the credit. So it reminds me of that 25-year-old that wasn’t getting the credit either. I’m never going to get the credit. That game is over. So I’m going back to being an aggressive, street-level artist.”
Corgan has addressed the Nineties in a number of other interviews as well, whether he was calling himself and Kurt Cobain the top two scribes of the era, questioning Pearl Jam’s place in the alt-rock pantheon (“I don’t think they have the songs”) or reconciling his status as one of the era’s few revered survivors while still being an artist making new music.
“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,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “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.”
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