Billy Corgan: Still A Smashing Pumpkin, But No Shrinking Violet

A couple of weeks back, Rocks Off spoke with the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan for our print edition about the state of the music world, who excites him now and the indie-rock "shell game." The initial interview was only scheduled for 15 minutes but we ended up chatting for half an hour, speaking about the maturation process of bands. You can catch the rest of our chat here.

With Corgan's status now as one of the fathers of modern rock, he obviously has plenty to say. It was an enlightening 30 minutes, not just from a music-journalist standpoint, but also as a student of music-industry genealogy.

Tonight Corgan and the Pumpkins pull into Warehouse Live to perform songs off their in-progress Teargarden by Kaleidyscope and an assortment of hits from their treasure trove of albums from the '90s on. Admittedly, we have been burning up Rdio listening to Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness.

Rocks Off: Who is using this new system right today?

BC: Honestly, I would say Lady Gaga. She's not pretending, she's having a great time, she's making good music. She can sing, and she certainly has real talent, so it's not like she's computer-constructed. And she's just laughing all the way to the bank.

I actually think she will be a very important artist in many ways because she's both celebrating the shallowness of it all while at the same taking advantage of it while also bringing some depth to it. When the shallow people are curious about your depth you are really doing something.

RO: She's not pretending...

But there are all these other fucking pretentious art bands out there that are acting like they are not marketing at all. Meanwhile, they are in the board meetings just like we were trying to figure out how to market themselves.

They play this shell game with Pitchfork. "Oh we aren't really marketing ourselves," but they are. They are going to figure out that the hand they are licking now will turn on them.

RO: As tastes change?

My friend tweeted the other day: "Live by the Pitchfork, die by the Pitchfork." I saw it with Spin magazine, and Alternative Press before that. Those bands that get the hype thing from the indie-world machine, eventually that machine just by the nature of its design, will turn on them. That system will not allow them to grow up. It's a shell game.

RO: What does this mean for the future?

BC: You are going to have this massive hole of time where bands that should have been like a Talking Heads, super-quirky and able to cross over into the mainstream, you won't see those crossover bands. They won't rise up beyond that level because they won't be allowed to, and they won't have that opportunity because they will be worried about that world turning on them.

The maturation process is so artificial that bands will not find their ultimate stride. It's pretty clear in rock history that when people find their stride, if they are lucky, it only lasts five to seven years. Relationships burn out and the audience grows and changes. They have these peak moments and we are beneficiaries of those peak moments.

When the audience is extremely invested in the haircut or whether or not the band sold their song to the right commercial, when the audience is invested in that you see it is not about music.

With Bad City, 8 p.m. tonight at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel, 713-225-5483 or www.warehouselive.com.

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