The Smashing Pumpkins Are Still Addicted To Making New Music

The Smashing Pumpkins bring their touring festival 'The World Is A Vampire' to Australia April 2023.
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A seasoned all-rounder music writer and storyteller with a specialised interest in the history of rock.

Billy Corgan makes no apologies for a history of subverting expectations and not giving a sh.t about what people want.

"I think there's no mistake that the way I've gone about things hasn't engendered me to people because they expect you to either put on a false sense of humility or to act like you're surprised that you made a great record," Billy says.

"I always feel that's a bit cheeky. I don't believe in insulting the audience. If somebody is a great filmmaker, I don't need them to be humble, that to me is very bourgeois. I want to learn from them, I want to understand how they made the great movie."

As the frontman and creative engine for one of the biggest rock bands in the world responsible for the best-selling double album of the '90s, Billy knows all too well there's little room for compromise when it comes to pursuing an artistic vision.

In his eyes, not giving people what they want is just part of The Smashing Pumpkins' DNA.

"The way our personalities work is if you don't let us be who we are, we're not in any hurry to give you what you're looking for," he says.

"It's just the way we are. We were like that in the '90s. You know enough about us back then to know we weren't in any hurry to repeat ourselves just because we were successful and selling a lot of records."

"It's funny that after all these years we're still capable of irritating people with our music." - Billy Corgan

Case in point, following the success of The Smashing Pumpkins' 1993 sophomore album 'Siamese Dream', which placed them among the darlings of the blossoming and lucrative alternative scene, their label was keen to hear more of the same.

But true to his divisive nature, Billy had other plans. "We made the decision to go off in this other direction and then the fatal part of it is that I insisted that it be a double album," he explains.

"Virgin Records were completely opposed to the idea. They were like: 'You're insane. You just came off this massive record. You're going to kill everything you just created.' And I was insistent, I was like: 'No, we're going to make this double record.'

"My motivation was that I didn't like that we were getting lumped in with all these other bands.

"Not that the bands were bad, but we thought we didn't sound like those bands. It became a casual thing to say: 'You're just lumped in with all this grunge music.' And we felt we were of a different stripe."

The result was the decade-defining double feature 'Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness', which forever set The Smashing Pumpkins apart form their peers.

"By doing an album like 'Mellon Collie', we were going to demonstrate there was no other band in our generation that was like us, and that turned out to be prophetic. So, credit to the band for supporting my vision of how to get it done," Billy says.

With each album they've released, The Smashing Pumpkins have garnered both acclaim and ire from fans and critics alike. Billy found those who wanted another dose of the band's previous release were often left confused and irritated by the band's follow-up.

"When we made 'Siamese Dream' all the 'Gish' fans hated it and when we made 'Mellon Collie' all the 'Siamese Dream' fans hated it, it was this weird thing. So, it's funny that after all these years we're still capable of irritating people with our music," he muses.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is, if after 30-something years you have the ability to have people think they know who you are or who they want you to be and you're still able to circumvent that, I think that's quite an accomplishment because it means you're doing something right."

This April sees the highly anticipated return of The Smashing Pumpkins to Australia with their own touring festival 'The World Is A Vampire', which also features '90s alt-rock legends Jane's Addiction alongside a handful of killer Aussie rock acts and live professional wrestling from Billy's own National Wrestling Alliance.

Billy says it's important for him and the band to be able to bring a festival type line-up to Australian fans eight years since they last performed here. "We've reached a point where we're drawing from multiple generations of fans, which is awesome," he says.

"I remember as a kid going to see a bill that was Iggy Pop and The Ramones. Jane's Addiction was opening but I'd never heard of them then and I never heard them play, which I've been forever regretful over because that was 1987, I believe.

"So, I think bills like that are really important, it's a great way for young people to discover artists they wouldn't know are great. I just love festival formats."

At this stage, Billy is adamant to resist being relegated to nostalgia, balancing a distinct contrast between celebrating The Smashing Pumpkins' immense catalogue of hits and promoting the latest music they've produced.

"I'm not a big fan of being in an 'oldies band', and I've seen where people at different times have tried to push me or push us there," he says.

"You get in this weird conversation where it's like: 'Well, you're playing a bunch of your old songs,' and it's like: 'Yeah, because they're really good,'" he laughs, "and say for fans like yourself of an album like 'Melon Collie', why wouldn't we want to play those songs? The two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

"If I go see Metallica, of course I want to see them play 'Enter Sandman' and there's nothing wrong with that. But there comes this point where there's this pressure on you to stop growing, stop chasing, stop trying new stuff."

This year, The Smashing Pumpkins release their latest album 'Atum: A Rock Opera In Three Acts', a sprawling 33-track opus that provides a tidy bookend to the trilogy already comprised of 'Melon Collie' and 'Machina/Machines Of God'.

"When James (Iha, guitarist) came back to the band I made a big point of saying: 'I know this is going to be obviously pointed in one direction with you coming back, but for me this is a real opportunity to really triple back down into making new music,'" Billy says.

"Over the past few years, we've had fits and starts and good moments and some moments not as good, but it's finally sort of all added up to where we feel as a recording unit again that things are starting to click. The fact that young people in particular really seem drawn to 'Atum' is a big deal for us."

Smashing Pumpkins and Jane's Addiction 2023 Tour Dates

Sat 15 Apr - Eatons Hill Hotel (Brisbane)* new show
Sun 16 Apr - Sandstone Point Hotel (Brisbane)* sold out
Tue 18 Apr - Hordern Pavilion (Sydney)* sold out
Wed 19 Apr - Hordern Pavilion (Sydney)
* new show
Sat 22 Apr - PICA (Melbourne)* new show, moved from Hastings
Sun 23 Apr - Kryal Castle (Ballarat)
Wed 26 Apr - Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Thu 27 Apr - PICA (Melbourne)* selling fast
Sat 29 Apr - Newcastle Entertainment Centre
Sun 30 Apr - Broadwater Parklands (Gold Coast)

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