Billy Corgan

The following is excerpted from “Signal to Noise,” a feature on the Smashing Pumpkins that originally appeared in the October 2008 issue of EQ.

The following is excerpted from “Signal to Noise,” a feature on the Smashing Pumpkins that originally appeared in the October 2008 issue of EQ.

On staying outside the comfort zone . . .
I’m a person who tends not to repeat technique, which I guess is kind of suicidal, in a way. Most people look at a recording career as a series of conclusions. I’ve always treated my recording career more like a journey. I think when any artist gets into a comfortable set of choices, that’s where the death of creativity lies.

On his unique voice . . .
My voice is really hard to record. It’s hard to record, it’s hard to monitor, and it’s hard to mix. I’m Irish; I’m meant to sing sad ballads! My voice isn’t really meant for rock, and I’m pretty sure many people out there would agree with me.

On tracking Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness . . .
Flood felt like the band he would see live wasn’t really captured on record, so a lot of Mellon Collie was tracked by the band at deafening volumes. I mean, deafening. There was so much SPL in the room that it was physically uncomfortable. Your ears, your emotional resistance, would wear down.

On stylistic shifts . . .
“I did go around and proclaim rock to be dead,” Corgan laughs, “which was probably the stupidest thing I ever did. I was in my Adore personality, saying Adore personality things like ‘F**k the electric guitar!’ And of course 12 months later I’m playing ‘The Everlasting Gaze.’”

On the evolution of the Pumpkins’ success:
Go back and read the press on us from 1989 to 1992; people had no clue who we were and where we were going. We were onto something and we followed it through, and it built up into something that sold and was popular. It had its moment, but I think once we crested that wave, it was back to a level of experimentation. What we didn’t understand were the ramifications it was going to have on the band, commercially. You can’t build yourself into this superpower and then say, “I’m going to go back to being arty guy.” They don’t want to hear that, and I wasn’t sophisticated enough to understand that. Now I am.

The mainstream world only wants to hear you when you have your shit together. It may take us three years to get our shit together to a point where we can make that kind of level of work, and then we’ll show up and we’ll set the phasers to stun. I’m 41, Jimmy’s 44—we still have a good seven-plus years where we can play that kind of music that way.

If I can truly do phenomenal work, it will be heard, whether it’s acquired for free or bought, it doesn’t make any difference. There’s nothing standing between me and an audience. Look, we hit massive homeruns. We never followed them up. We never took the safe, obvious next step, and I think that gets lost. We’re not a milk-it band. We never were a milk-it band. There’s that old saying, “If it’s on the cover of Time, it’s too late.” By the time people got around to understanding what we were doing, we were gone. Now is the time to prove our mettle.