Article by Corenski Nowlan
The Smashing Pumpkins could be the poster child for dysfunctional bands. Their history is a tapestry of conflict and scandal. They have a fast-paced revolving door for musicians – especially bassists. There is an established pattern at play; depression, drugs, departures, and defaming. Someone ought to plot a roadmap for the benefit of all current and future members that explains how to pack it up and vamoose from Pumpkin-land, and what to expect after your emancipation. For example, how does one cope with the inevitable public deconstruction of character and the flaunting of flaws to any journalist with an open ear? Ex-Pumpkins might want to muse over establishing a support group for themselves, or create a safe haven for them to talk out their feelings and attempt to make sense of their tenure under the restraints of celestial fascism.
That’s right. Their t-shirts wouldn’t have bash-Billy-slogans, liken him to a dictator, or even paint his face in Joker makeup. The shirts would blame the real culprit, the Zodiac. The tagline would read “I Survived Life with a Pisces.” I would buy that merch. I have some horror stories about some Piscean ex-girlfriends. In fact, I reckon that a lot of people have their own abhorrent Piscean encounters. If they don’t, they either a) are fortunate enough to have never been acquainted with one of these weirdo fish-people, b) they are unfamiliar with astrology and are unaware that the stalker who claims to be their soul mate is a merman or mermaid, or c) they are a Pisces themselves. There is a simple reason for this; in a nutshell, Pisces are known to be nuts.
Pisces Iscariot, the name of the Pumpkins’ 1994 compilation album, is a clever astrological commentary on Judas Iscariot. His name lives in infamy as the notorious turncoat who sold-out Jesus to the Romans for a mere thirty pieces of silver. I guess you could say, Judas didn’t give a Silver… FUCK about Jesus! (my apologies, but this struck me as an obligatory insert?) The point is, if I was to make an educated guess regarding Mr. Iscariot’s sign, I would have a short list of: Cancer, Gemini, or chiming in as my #1 speculative answer – Pisces! Why? Because when Pisceans feel that their emotional needs are not being fulfilled, they can turn incredibly selfish. With eleven other disciples licking clean JC’s dusty feet, it must have been a frustrating competition for the big Jay’s attention. Judas “Pisces” Iscariot probably got mad jealous, and rationalized his betrayal as just reciprocation for himself being ignored. Pisceans are also known to be spiritually malleable. They can up and convert to a new faith faster than Saul became Paul!
By deeming the Pisces as the bible’s black sheep, was Billy Corgan passing judgment on himself? As a child of St. Patrick’s Day, from what I know about Papa Pumpkin, he’s the text book definition of his star chart. Let’s review some basic attributes of Pisces. The first thing you should know is their feelings, as a rule, are always off-the-scale intense. Whether it’s happiness, sadness, love or anger, Pisceans feel to the extreme! They are perhaps the utmost passionate of all the signs. When a Piscean has a feeling… you don’t understand, you can’t understand, and you won’t understand. Just get out of the way, duck and cover. Due to this over sensitivity, Pisceans usually have a natural talent for deciphering the psychology of others. They are intimately tuned to those who are closest to them. It’s almost as if they read the minds of loved ones. Like psychic vampires, they feed off of the vibes of those around them. If someone a Piscean cares about is unhappy, the Piscean will involuntarily feel the same. Whether or not this is genuine empathy is debatable. Some astrologers consider Pisceans to be chameleons, not fully comprehending the emotions of others but having the ability to emulate them in an uncanny way.
An argument can be made that this sounds characteristic of Billy Corgan. Some of my all time favourite lyrics from any band are, “if you want love / you must be love / but if you bleed love / you will die love,” from “Age of Innocence,” Machina/the Machines of God. I don’t know the man personally, but from what I do know of him, I would suggest that this could be his mantra for life. He doesn’t just wear his heart on his sleeve; he has it strapped to his forehead so you really can’t miss it. To me, I believe this is an asset. To others, such as former collaborators who spent years huddled in the confined space of a tour bus with him, these traits might seem overwhelming. It would be especially overwhelming if one day you happen to be in a bad mood. You go into the studio and soon discover that your attitude is apparently contagious. Your aura bounces off Billy and he sends it crashing back on you tenfold. When taking Corgan’s Pisces nature into account, it can make one reconsider some of the situations the band has gone through.
Of course, the greatest mystery surrounding the reverse swimming fish is why are they symbolically represented by opposite paddling sea life? It’s because Pisceans are thought to live in two worlds. This is not to be confused with Gemini’s duality complex. The personality of a Pisces is fairly consistent, but they simultaneously dwell in two distinct realms; the real world, and the spiritual plane. As I stated earlier, the religious beliefs of a Pisces are always subject to change. Their metaphysical understanding is constantly evolving and it is common for them to become engrossed in issues pertaining to mysticism. Pisceans are also predisposed to drug use but not drug addiction. Most go through a period of using heavy psychedelics. They tend to justify it as existential exploration- something that is necessary for their spiritual growth.
Does this sound like a certain bald, quasi-new-age-guru to you? I think that this fits Billy perfectly. It also puts some of his endeavors into perspective and helps them to make sense: his self-admitted LSD usage during the Gish era; the mythology of the Machina album; and the philosophy behind the Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project (the Tarot/the Fool’s Journey). Also consider all of the other countless references to God spanning his whole career right up to Oceania’s “Quasar,” which a Taurus friend of mine put best when he described it as treating deities/religions as sports teams. The song is kind of like an anthem, and Corgan is the head cheerleader acknowledging that be you Christian, Hindu, or Jewish, it’s cool. Yod He Vau He Om and all that, deities of your choice be praised! And is it just me, or does Oceania in general have loose overtones of Paganism?
As nice as this emotional empathizing and religious tolerance is, Pisceans have a bad reputation. It is popular consensus that they are crazy, act like control freaks within relationships, and are, in general, difficult to deal with. Unfortunately, this also sounds reminiscent of our musical messiah. For as long as Billy has been in the spotlight, there have been accusations of him being a dictator lording over his band mates as an infallible prophet of rock and roll! We know for a fact that Billy often made a habit of playing James’ and D’arcy’s parts for recordings. Allegedly, this was done to save time and money because he could do it more efficiently than they. But of all the rumors about the Pumpkins of the past, what else is true? Of the quarrels and hurt egos, how much of it relates to Billy’s innate and inescapable Pisces tendencies? Perhaps the various signs of each of the individual former members were at fault?
Well first of all, you have to believe in the power of the constellations. There are scientific defenses for astrology, such as cosmic gravity effecting our liquid brain chemistry, solar winds, and electromagnetism. I’m not trying to make a believer of anyone. You can research the theories for yourself. Right now though, for the sake of curiosity, let’s suspend disbelief and accept my thesis as incontrovertible truth; the old Pumpkins lineup failed because astrologically speaking, they are too different. The new lineup is succeeding and has a greater chance at longevity because they are more astrologically aligned. The same can be applied to short lived members like Melissa Auf der Maur or Ginger Pooley, who quickly joined and with equal haste, bowed out. Wait though, you might say, isn’t Melissa another Leprechaun child like Billy? While they share the same birthday, that doesn’t mean that two Pisceans actually work well together, be it professional or as lovers, Pisceans don’t mix well with other Pisceans. Their relentless zeal tends to clash. Pisceans will feed off one another. It’s back and forth until the process becomes unbearable for both involved. Pisces: Too Vehement to the Max, Even for Other Pisceans.
So here’s the breakdown of the oldies:
James Iha, March, 26th – Aries
D’arcy Wretzky, May, 1st – Taurus
Jimmy Chamberlin, June, 10th – Gemini
And the new kids in town:
Jeff Schroeder, February, 4th -Aquarius
Mike Byrne, February, 6th – Aquarius
Nicole Fiorentino, April, 7th – Aries
Let’s start with the Aries. Sorry to say, but you’re doomed if your leader is a Pisces. Despite being back to back on the zodiac chart, these two signs could not possibly be more polarized. The Aries is far too fiery and too aggressive for the sentimentally vulnerable Pisces to handle. For instance, James was always a quiet fellow, but under his calm facade I assume he had big feelings. I would not have wanted to be in the same room when the urge spurred him to express said larger-than-life dramatizations. Also, the fact that he was often silent and soft spoken probably meant that when he had something to say it carried a lot of weight for Billy to bear. Trust me, I was raised by an Aries grandfather, and have a horde of Aries friends. When they’re right, man are they ever right; almost in an omnipotent sort of manner. When they’re mad… well, I don’t want to talk about that. As for Nicole, I don’t know a lot about her. But from what I do know, she seems really, really nice. However, since we’re pretending astrology isn’t a load of hogwash I’ll make my prediction that of the new members she would be the first to leave. Aries + Pisces = recipe for eventual toxicity.
Next up is D’arcy, the Taurus. It should also be mentioned that Ginger is a Taurus. This is actually considered a positive combination with a Pisces. Perhaps this is why Ginger left the group amicably and is still on excellent terms with Billy (as far as I know). As an Earth sign, Taureans are logical, passive, and organized people. A Taurus can help to ground a Pisces, and prevent their wild imaginations from devouring them whole. As for D’arcy, since I’m insisting astrology is apodictic, my only explanation for why she’s not still in the band, and nay, why her and Billy are not blissfully married, is – drugs. It’s gotta be the drugs, because planetary alignments cannot lie and are never wrong. If it wasn’t for the drugs, astronomy says that Taurus and Pisces would be perfect, absolutely perfect. Imagine that I’m quoting the complete lyrics for the song, “Perfect” here.
That brings us to Jimmy who is a categorically typical Gemini. Don’t believe me? Read up on Gemini. It’s amazing that he and Billy worked together for as long as they did. The Gemini is represented by “the Twins.” They are two-faced. One side is your best friend, and the other side is vicious venom. Neither side has an explanation for the other. It is also the least compatible sign with Pisces of any sign in the entire Zodiac. The Gemini have a habit of telling white lies for the sake appeasing others or for protecting themselves. Pisceans are often labeled as masters of manipulation, but they do it by tinkering with facts and are careful not to lie. They value honesty and transparency, qualities that a secretive Gemini would struggle to deliver. What can I really say about Billy and Jimmy? There was a Doomsday Clock ticking in their hearts, and it most certainly WAS broken.
Finally, we’ve arrived at the super-awesome-lovable-charismatic-artistic-and delightfully eccentric Aquarians. I say this without bias, because I am totally not an Aquarian. Nope. Not even close. *whistling* Jokes aside, Pisces and Aquarius jive well together. As lovers they comprehend each other as perhaps no other signs can. As friends they can be as close as family. As artistic contributors, they are the best possible match you could hope for. Both signs are fiercely devoted to their work. There is only one thing to beware; the ego of the Aquarius. If they feel that they are not being allowed their fair share of input into the creative process, they can become very cross indeed! Mutiny might also occur if Jeff and Mike ever reach a point in which they feel that their skill sets have surpassed Billy’s. Still, Aquarians are the best hope a Piscean like Billy has for maintaining a stable roster. A fortuneteller would likely predict that Billy, Jeff, and Mike will still be making music together well into their golden years. Here’s to hoping.
I hope you’ve had as much fun reading this article as I’ve had writing it. I’m not claiming the Zodiac is factually accurate, or that divination is real, but it is neat to think about, isn’t it? Even if you are a skeptic, you have to admit that Billy does seem to embody the qualities of a Pisces. You might not be able to trust astrology as a science, but there does seem to be some level of validity to it. A horoscope writer would condemn the old band as destined for disaster, but would bless the current incarnation as kindred forces to be reckoned with. As with everything you read on the internet, I encourage to you to investigate and come to your own conclusions. As for Billy’s former affiliates, perhaps a support group might not be a bad idea. If you went outside of SP’s ranks and invited the Zwan-squad, the side project performers, and all the hired touring help, it would be quite a mixer!