The Smashing Pumpkins 25th Anniversary Party at Madame ZuZu’s

Article and images by Geo Folkers

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When Billy Corgan announced a few weeks ago that no official celebration was planned for the 25th Anniversary of Smashing Pumpkins playing live gigs, there was one fan of the band called Matt Sams that felt like ‘this ain’t gonna happen!’.

And when Saturday, October 5th, 2013, marked the spot as being the exact date 25 years after the Smashing Pumpkins took the stage as the first four-piece line up at the Metro, Chicago (IL) in 1988, a plan was born in Matt’s head. And when it all came together last weekend, Madame ZuZu’s Teashop in Highland Park (IL), was the ultimate place to be for a Smashing Pumpkins Fan Event never seen before in the bands’ fandom history.

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Sales awards corner

It all started when Matt posted his ideas on the Forum of the Smashing Pumpkins website, and soon other fans applauded at the idea of organizing a Fan Event in Chicago (IL). Madama ZuZu’s, the Corgan-owned teahouse, was hired, artists were approached for playing live music, poetry reading and trivia games were planned, Smashing Pumpkins inspired art was supposed to be created, SPfreaks members were contributing parts of their memorabilia collections for a rare-Smashing-Pumpkins-items-exhibition, an anniversary cake was organized, and more. Online flyers for the fan event were made and spread around, and when even the Smashing Pumpkins used their highly anticipated social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to highlight this fan-organized event, there was nothing standing in the way anymore of a remarkable and joyful day for the fans of our favorite band.

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‘bat strat’ guitar replica and Machina / The Machines Of God era items

And it all happened as planned. Live music was played in several sessions during the day by Matt Sams himself, who performed “El Sol”, “Eye”, “Lily (My One And Only)”, “Soma” and “To Sheila”, and by Greg Bates(*), who performed “1979”. Together Greg and Matt performed “Today” and “Cherub Rock”, and both artists had the audience singing along to those longtime Smashing Pumpkins fan favorites.

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Greg Bates (left) and Matt Sams (right)

Between the acoustic gigs by Greg and Matt, another Smashing Pumpkins fan, Joy Goscinski, versed multiple Blinking with Fists poems. Then, the trivia games were a lot of fun with many laughs. Crayons, colored pencils, and paper were left out on the tables in Madame ZuZu’s Teahouse for coloring Smashing Pumpkins inspired art. And at some point, ZuZu’s even contributed an anniversary cake by surprise! Meanwhile, Matt Sams, being the organizer and host of the event, did a great job on keeping things moving.

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“The Everlasting Gaze” video guitar

As said, SPfreaks had a grand opportunity to set up and show some really rare Smashing Pumpkins memorabilia that showcased the musical history of the band. These memorabilia included one of the original props from the Grammy awarded “Tonight, Tonight” music video (a moon), and several fans took the one-of-kind opportunity to have themselves being photographed with the life-size video prop. Also on exhibit was Billy Corgan’s “Everlasting Gaze” music video guitar, a fan-made replica “bat strat” guitar, rare vinyl and demo tapes from the early days of Smashing Pumpkins, tour posters, a huge collection of career-defining CDs of the band, and several Gold and Platinum sales awards that the band had earned while building their musical legacy.

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Billy Corgan on Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

Then, at around 8:30 PM, a ‘surprise’ visit from Mr. Billy Corgan himself came next! He brought with him an original “Zero” shirt, one of the Gish album guitars, a set of antique photos that had inspired him during the creation of the monumental Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness album, and the original artwork of the Machina / The Machines Of God album. He shared these artifacts with the gathered fans with joy, and surrounded the items with many personal stories and great musical visions. Next to this, he brought ten prizes that he personally gave away to some lucky fans during another trivia round with-a-twist. Who had thought that we were allowed to ask Billy Corgan questions about his musical career, and then, when he didn’t know the exact answer, he would give a prize to the person who brought in the question. One of the questions to Billy, for example, was how many live performances the Smashing Pumpkins had done since 1988 to date. Since Billy didn’t know the answer precisely (being a little over 1,250), he gave away a copy of the Adore vinyl!

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Billy Corgan on Machina / The Machines Of God

Matt Sams, who performed some Smashing Pumpkins songs while Billy Corgan was watching, would later declare: “It was kinda nerve-wracking to perform SP covers in front of Billy… I was afraid he was gonna come up to me and say: Wrong chord… nope… wrong again… YOU’RE RUINING MY SONG!!! lol”. However, that didn’t happen, and at the end of the night, fans left in great spirits, joining for photographs with Billy and his guitar, meanwhile holding the original “Zero” shirt that he had brought, and sharing many stories of how the art and music of Smashing Pumpkins had affected so many lives.

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We would like to close this article with a big thank you to Matt Sams for bringing this fan event to life. Another thank you goes to Madame ZuZu’s Teahouse for hosting this event, and welcoming all visitors during the day. And thank you to the performers, being Greg Bates, Matt Sams, and Joy Goscinski. Also thanks to Linda Dodge, for all her help, and several fan outlets “out there” for contributing prizes to the trivia games.

And last but certainly not least, a big thank you also goes to Mr. Billy Corgan for taking the time to attend this fan event, meanwhile sharing so many personal anecdotes that were unknown to the fans so far. It was the icing on the cake of a really great day, a day that was highly anticipated on social media worldwide, and a day that many must have felt sorry to have missed in person!

(*) Greg Bates played with Billy Corgan in a band called Coat Of Eyes around 1984, and when Coat Of Eyes called it quits, Billy would play in a band called The Marked. After The Marked ended, Smashing Pumpkins was raised in 1987 by Billy Corgan and James Iha. Greg and Billy are still friends.

Please enjoy some more pics of the event:

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The Media Corner at ZuZu’s

 

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“Tonight, Tonight” video prop (moon)

 

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Billy Corgan drawing

 

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The Madame ZuZu’s Teahouse anniversary cake

 

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Billy Corgan signing a sales award

 

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The guys having a good time!

Smashing Pumpkins in The Netherlands: Tight and Balanced

Article by Jeroen Bakker
Pictures by Jeroen Savelkouls and Arthur van Pelt

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(Poster Tilburg 013)

Date: July 26th, 2013
Venue: Paradiso
Capacity: 1,200-1,500 (sold out)
City & Country: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Tour: Shamrocks and Shenanigans 2013 Tour
Personnel: Billy Corgan, Jeff Schroeder, Nicole Fiorentino and Mike Byrne
Duration: 2h30m

Date: July 27th, 2013
Venue: 013
Capacity: 2,000-2,200 (sold out)
City & Country: Tilburg, the Netherlands
Tour: Shamrocks and Shenanigans 2013 Tour
Personnel: Billy Corgan, Jeff Schroeder, Nicole Fiorentino and Mike Byrne
Duration: 2h15m


‘She likes surprises,’ Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell sings on their hit album Superunknown. Well, I do not know who ‘she’ is, but I do know that I like surprises too. That’s why I was so happy to read that Billy promised us some unexpected things on their Shamrocks and Shenanigans tour. What would the band have in store for The Netherlands?

02. Billy Amsterdam Paradiso


It was almost two years ago that the Smashing Pumpkins hit The Netherlands during one of their tours. They then almost sold out the huge Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, where they treated the die-hard fans to a lot of obscure tracks and b-sides. Very enjoyable for the fans that own every single version of Zeitgeist, but in a big venue like the HMH, there are a lot of casual fans just looking for some 90’s super hits.

Those fans would have been very happy with the songs Billy, Nicole, Mike and Jeff threw into the audience at the beautiful Paradiso, Amsterdam (in the old days it was used as a church!) and the recently restored and modernized 013, Tilburg venues. Where Corgan refused to play a ‘greatest hits show’ in 2011, the nights at these places were packed with alternative rock classics; “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, “Today”, “Zero”, “Ava Adore”, “Rocket”, “X.Y.U.” and “Tonight, Tonight”, just to name a few. But Smashing Pumpkins never aimed to be a nostalgia act. There was a lot of room for more recent material too. A hard rocking version of “Starz” was definitely a highlight, but also the Oceania album tracks were greeted with much enthusiasm from the crowd. An acoustic rendition of “The Celestials” even had people singing along to this tune. A great and well deserved compliment for the ‘new’ band.

Billy the Gardener
About halfway into the set at Paradiso, Amsterdam, Billy started to chat with the audience, exclaiming that he was getting ‘as they say in America, long in the tooth. That’s called old.’ He laughed about stopping to tour and focus on gardening. People laughed, but after Billy said that he wasn’t joking, some crowd members clearly felt a bit uncomfortable. Is he really planning on quitting rock ‘n’ roll style touring?

The banter was quickly forgotten when Billy was invited to eat Dutch pancakes with a girl in the audience, so Corgan could only reach for his Mellotron to roll into one of the highlights of the night. ‘If there is a God, I know he likes to rock…’. The die-hard fans in the audience couldn’t believe their ears. “If There Is A God” hadn’t been played live for over 12 years! Yet here we are, listening to Billy and Nicole singing without a doubt one of the best songs off the (so far) internet-only album Machina II / Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music. The cheering from the crowd spoke for itself: this really was a surprise, just as Billy had promised. And a very pleasant surprise indeed.

Stadium settings in Amsterdam
At Paradiso, Amsterdam, the band continued to rock through some monumental hits before treating the audience to another track not played in a long time: “The Imploding Voice” from 2000 record Machina / The Machines of God. At this point, the bad thing about the concert really started to show; the sound was way too loud and mixed in an unbalanced way. It was almost like the sound engineer used the settings for a stadium! Because I was in the front row, I had a lot of direct sound coming from the band’s amps and monitors. The voice amplifiers were behind me, so the vocals got drowned in the mix more than once. After the show I heard (as far as I was still able to hear) that the sound wasn’t that good on the balcony either, so it wasn’t just because I stood completely in front of the stage. The people at the mixing desk obviously had an off night, as it would appear.

03. Amsterdam Paradiso

The Pumpkins can’t be blamed for this though, because they gave all they could. Jeff showed once again that he knows his guitar’s neck even better than the back of his hand.  Nicole stole the hearts of many with her sweet backing vocals and rocking bass skills.  Mike hit his toms and cymbals like they had to be destroyed at the end of the show, and Billy did justice to the print on his t-shirt: ‘Je suis un rockstar’. The band was really tight and professional, never missing a beat.

After spoiling us with two encores at Paradiso, Amsterdam, which included pumping versions of “Immigrant Song” and “Cherub Rock”, the band left the stage for the last time, leaving behind an extremely satisfied crowd. The sound problems were the only thing that kept this awesome show in Amsterdam from being really, really awesome. And we are not alone with our very positive review: Dutch music magazine Oor (Ear) created a raving review too on this Amsterdam show, to be found here (warning: Dutch language, but beautiful pics!).

Another show and a second SPfreaks meet-up in Tilburg
Luckily, for the band and the fans alike, the band got another chance one day later. With buzzing ears, sore throats and tired legs from the night before, we headed down south in The Netherlands to the city of Tilburg for another night of fuzzy rock and oceanic tones. This night was not only a Smashing Pumpkins show, but also another SPfreaks members meeting. Quite a few SPfreakies showed up again, one even driving all the way from Germany to see the band play! It was cool to get together to see our favorite band for another time.

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The summer heat outside had found its way into the venue. The audience was hot before a single note was played, so warm-up act Beware of Darkness didn’t have to do much. During their opening act, we did notice the sound was a lot better than in Paradiso, even in the front row. Nice! Now we could finally hear the band sing properly!

The Pumpkins cranked out almost all the songs they played the night before, but they changed the order up a bit. Due to time constraints, a few songs like “Immigrant Song” were skipped. And starting with “Tonite Reprise” leading into “Tonight, Tonight” was a smart move. What a way to open a show!

The improvement in sound was clearly noticeable, which made the show even more enjoyable. However, it was noticeable the audience was a little more stiff than in Amsterdam. It was plain to see that a somewhat bigger venue brings a wider and more critical crowd. However, all time classics such as “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Zero” got even the most difficult visitor to jump.

Billy didn’t say anything about last night’s banter anymore, so I think we can conclude that he was joking when he said they wouldn’t be touring anymore. And walking back to the train station with rain falling down and lightning illuminating the sky, I realized we should hope they were joking. The Smashing Pumpkins showed once again that they are so much more than a revived 90’s band. This band is still moving forward. Sometimes stumbling, sometimes incomprehensible, but always fascinating. I don’t know where the band is headed to next, but I do know I’ll be glad to follow them wherever they go.

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Setlist Paradiso Amsterdam

Quasar
Panopticon
Starz
Rocket
Space Oddity [David Bowie]
X.Y.U.
Disarm
Tonite Reprise
Tonight, Tonight
Pinwheels
Oceania
If There Is A God
Thirty-Three
Ava Adore
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
The Imploding Voice
One Diamond, One Heart
Pale Horse
Zero
Today
Stand Inside Your Love
United States

Encore 1:
The Celestials (acoustic)
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans

Encore 2:
Immigrant Song [Led Zeppelin]
Cherub Rock
(1979 was on the setlist for this encore, but was not played)

Setlist 013 Tilburg

Tonite Reprise
Tonight, Tonight
Cherub Rock
Starz
Space Oddity [David Bowie]
X.Y.U.
Disarm
Quasar
Pale Horse
Ava Adore
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
The Imploding Voice
Pinwheels
Oceania
If There Is A God
Thirty-Three
One Diamond, One Heart
Today
Zero
Stand Inside Your Love
United States

Encore:
The Celestials (acoustic)
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans

Even with ‘Basic Show’ Pumpkins have Much to Offer

Concert Review by Jeroen Savelkouls

Date: June 20th, 2013
Venue: Live Music Hall
Capacity: 1,200-1,800
City & Country: Cologne, Germany
Tour: Shamrocks and Shenanigans 2013 Tour
Personnel: Billy Corgan, Jeff Schroeder, Nicole Fiorentino and Mike Byrne
Duration: ca. 2h15m

Ticket Smashing Pumpkins Cologne Germany
No orb, no video projections, and limited lighting showed up for their first show of the European leg of the Shamrocks and Shenanigans tour. The Smashing Pumpkins largely ignored periphery visual distractions and focused on a tight gig and balanced set list; these ingredients were more than enough on Thursday evening to convince the crowd of approximately 2,000 in the extremely hot Live Music Hall (LMH) in Cologne (Germany) that this band is still relevant.

Coupons

It was not the first time singer and lead guitarist Billy Corgan played in this venue. The Live Music Hall was also his stage of choice for one of his solo shows in 2005. During the last visit of the Pumpkins to Cologne two years ago, however, the band preferred the much larger Palladium. Considering that 4,000 tickets back then didn’t sell, it seemed like a wise decision to scale down their ambition. This time around they found themselves playing in a full house which is beneficial to both the band and audience.

The doors opened at 7pm. At that time just enough people were there to occupy the first two rows, but right before supporting act NO started their show the hall quickly filled up. NO is six piece guitar band from Echo Park, Los Angeles, often compared to The National. They are touring in Europe since June 15 and will be playing during the next few weeks in Tilburg (the Netherlands), Gent (Belgium), and Paris (France). Their gig in Cologne is the only one which sees the band opening for the Pumpkins.

Opening Act NO

NO turned out to be a very energetic band and its musicians obviously enjoyed their time on stage very much. With their radio friendly pop/rock songs the ensemble around lead singer Bradley Hanan Carter swiftly won over the crowd. They played ten songs of their debut EP, Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Here Forever, to be released as their first proper album later this year. Afterwards, Carter handed out coupons with codes for downloading a couple of their songs for free. Commercially, maybe not the smartest thing to do (or perhaps their EP is sold out), but it did generate a lot of good will.

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Shortly after 9pm, it was the Smashing Pumpkins’ turn. With the reissue of The Aeroplane Flies High box set to appear next month and announcements on Twitter and Facebook about ‘surprises’, many were curious which gems the band would dig up from their back catalogue. And could we expect new material, too? One song on the set list Corgan already gave away in a tweet a few days before the show was the second to last Adore (1998) track “Blank Page”.

Like many of their recent performances, the band started out with “Quasar” and “Panopticon”, the first two tracks of the 2012 album, Oceania. The songs were played tight and fast; approximately as they were released on the studio album. Corgan, dressed in a shirt with picture of wrestler, The Sheikh, seemed a bit disgruntled about the sound (and a guy throwing empty beer cans at the stage), but in the first few rows such nuances were difficult to distinguish. It was annoying to hear the singer’s voice often drowned out by the music. That made it hard to follow along with the lyrics; especially the newer songs that not everyone seemed to know that well.

The same went for the third song of the evening, “Starz”, which was played in a slightly different way than the version on Zeitgeist (2007). Subsequently, the vocals on “Rocket”, “Space Oddity”, “XYU”, “Disarm”, and “Tonight, Tonight” (including the ‘reprise’ version) turned out to be less of an issue since most of the crowd yelled along with Corgan. With the first notes of “Rocket” the crowd lost any hesitation it might have had and the band seemed a bit more relaxed. The David Bowie cover, “Space Oddity”, turned out almost as popular as some of the bands own classics; apparently, the musical love between the Pumpkins boss and the 66 year old British singer is shared by their fans.

Led Zeppelin

Next, a few songs off Oceania – “Pinwheels”, the title track, “Oceania”, and “Pale Horse” – were followed by fan-favorite “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, “Ava Adore”, and “One Diamond One Heart”. At around two thirds of the set list, the band thought it time to deliver on a promise; for the first time since November 12th, 2000, they played “Blank Page”. With Corgan behind his Mellotron and the beautiful backing vocals of bass guitarist Nicole Fiorentino, the song developed from a fragile ballad to a rocker; this was definitely one the high points of the evening.

The first real surprise of the evening followed immediately after: “The Imploding Voice” off the 2000 album MACHINA/the Machines of God. Although maybe not the most well-known song among casual fans, this fast and loud version turned out to be a real crowd pleaser. The same went, of course, for “Zero” (with an new intro), “Stand Inside Your Love”, and to a lesser degree, for the last song of the main set, “United States” (without the Star Spangled Banner in the middle section). Concluding with two encores, the evening ended with the Led Zeppelin song, “The Immigrant Song”, “Today”, and “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” off the Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness (1995) album.

Smashing Pumpkins (Billy Corgan)

Surprises?

The biggest surprise of this show turned out to be that there were no real surprises. Since 2011 the set lists developed slowly into their present form, without any radical changes; apart from a few songs and two covers – of which one is been on rotation for quite some time now.There was not much new to see or hear in the Live Music Hall. Considering the absence of sophisticated visual elements like they had on their recent US tour, ‘Cologne’ was very much a basic show; but if basic is always this good, I’d settle for it any day.

Set List

Quasar http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcoXmrctikw
Panopticon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QF2W1UEAQ48
Starz http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRurwPXFm4Y
Rocket http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9CsTyIHPGE
Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
X.Y.U. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXrdzWrk5YM
Disarm http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYWboai3PBA
Tonite Reprise http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-lBBdH6hLU
Tonight, Tonight http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2Zq8MRE5WA
Pinwheels http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFiqFpHUK2M
Oceania http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMIwfMZ4-Ao
Pale Horse
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
Ava Adore http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1d30bPK_8w
One Diamond, One Heart
Blank Page
The Imploding Voice http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC6ysi2jEdA
Zero http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oNlyPOOBRo
Stand Inside Your Love
United States

—encore1—
The Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin cover)
Today

—encore2—
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans

The Stars Are Out Tonight

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

TSAOT04

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!

A Beginner’s Guide to The Smashing Pumpkins

Article written by Mike Nunn

About one and a half years ago I got word that Smashing Pumpkins were going to be touring and playing a show in my hometown. A friend of mine seemed overjoyed at this news and was eager for us both to get tickets. The Pumpkins were a band I had heard of, but my knowledge of their music stretched no further than the two songs they had on the game Guitar Hero, that I loved. So as a lover of music and the live experience, I took it upon myself to get a ticket and maybe listen to a track or two before the show. It was only then I reached a place I can only imagine everyone approaching this band in this day and age comes to. This place had me staring at a 20-year-long, extensive, complex, and at times, very obscure back catalogue of music that was frankly daunting to say the least. I sat there and asked myself, “Where do I start?” When faced with a band with a legacy like the Pumpkins have, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed; but the thing to remember is to take it at your own pace. There are many sides to the band that do take time to fully appreciate, but it is definitely worth making that effort, as they are a band that I know from experience can allow you to unlock parts of yourself you didn’t know were there.

My venture into the band started, as I used to do with most bands that were new to me, by getting a copy of their greatest hits. I listened through these tracks and the only thing I really digested was an air of great musicianship and songwriting, but I was simply hearing what seemed to be fairly basic grunge. In light of this initial generalization, I gravitated towards the more experimental tracks toward the end of the album, which I would soon come to know as Adore and Machina era material. These new approaches to music intrigued me and convinced me to stick with the band. The next day I bought Adore. For those of you new to The Pumpkins, Adore is a dark album which is very piano based with some very intense themes running through it. This was not the vibe I got on my first play of the album. I was hearing music that, although intriguing, was not something I was necessarily enjoying. I didn’t seem to be able to tap into what the band was trying to put across to me, but I did as I was told by a friend and I stuck with it. I listened through the album about three or four times before I had a moment of clarity. I found myself standing still, eyes shut in the middle of the pavement, actually listening to this dark, but somehow warm album, and having a connection with it. The deep sadness from Billy’s voice was no longer a grinding irritant, but now a familiar channel of pure emotion, provoked by the recent passing of his mother. I took this opportunity to look at what had just happened; the transition from hearing an album passively to listening to an album you love. It was a surreal thing for me, but the only notable and transferable difference I could find was that I was “listening” to the music.

Hearing and listening are very different things, yet they seem so similar. Smashing Pumpkins are a band you have to completely immerse yourself in and allow the music to surround you. You have to make sure you are really listening to what the band are putting across. Billy writes very emotive music that can resonate within you, provided you let it. Each release brings across a different artistic style. Albums such as Siamese Dream, portray a warm tone that is easy to access and the electronic, futuristic Machina / The Machines of God, which even I haven’t grown to fully appreciate. It is such a work of art with so many layers to it, yet is an astounding release. There is then the matter of the extensive amount of demos available through the community and reissues and downloads alike, that can allow you to see a different perspective of a song that means a great deal to you; or discover a track that never made it on to an album that captures a similar vibe to tracks you’re familiar with.

To summarize, this band really is what you make of them. They have done their part and if you choose to let their material into your life and appreciate it for what it’s worth, the value of it will speak for itself. So to any lover of music and art, I ask you to listen to Smashing Pumpkins and see for yourself what a journey listening to their music can be and see what you can discover within yourself as you let the emotion surround and occupy you.

Rotten Apples - Adore

The two albums that started it all off for me: Rotten Apples – The Greatest Hits and Adore

Internet Killed the Video Star

Article by Corenski Nowlan

 JIha

I used to think that James Iha was a girl. There. I said it. Not a particularly attractive female but none the less not packing man parts. I was twelve (the highly hormonal age) when the music video for “Today” was playing in high rotation. James Iha’s cross dressing raised recess debates among the kids in my sixth grade class who were cool enough to watch Much Music (or were allowed to by their parents). In my defense, I was a notch above my classmates on the gender identification scale, because I did point out James’ flat chest, and dirt-stache. Recognizing masculine cheeks bones and jaw lines was beyond me. I settled the argument when I purchased Siamese Dream (on cassette!). Upon review of the liner notes, we determined that Billy, James, and Jimmy were man names. D’Arcy was the only girl name, and obviously she was the hot blonde…

It was a different time. There was no Wikipedia. No internet domestically available and the general public really, really adored the Smashing Pumpkins. The band could do little or no wrong especially when it came to their music videos. In the second half of the 90’s, the media’s love affair with the band dwindled but what did not change was the acclaim that their music videos amassed. Adore, and Machina / The Machines of God were not received favorably by critics or fans, but music videos for the songs “Ava Adore”, and “The Everlasting Gaze” are fan favourites from the band’s catalogue. They achieved a lasting legacy that is arguably larger than that of the songs, or of the albums that spawned them.

This is the reason why the image of James Iha in a dress was not permanently and irreparably imprinted on pop culture. To clarify what I mean, I present Exhibit A – the Hanson brothers. When the video for “MMMBop” dropped, it was universally accepted that the lead singer of this new teenie-pop band was a prepubescent girl. I would wager that anyone who was in a middle school or high school in 1997 probably heard at least one presumably hetero-boy decree, “that chick from Hanson is hot!” I knew one guy in high school who had a straight up crush on Taylor Hanson. He was a cousin of mine, and judging from late night, drunken jokes by old acquaintances, it is apparent that he has not yet lived down this ill informed infatuation. Hanson will always be remembered for the gender ambiguity represented in their first music video. Always. I mean like, it’s the first thing most people think of when they think of Hanson, even fifteen years later.

When the lineup for the super group, Tinted Windows was announced, I still heard people express, “the singer is that guy from Hanson, who looks like a girl,” or something to that general effect. James Iha though? He was James Iha from the Smashing Pumpkins, no attachments of androgyny in anyone’s remembrance. It should also be noted that Taylor wasn’t purposely trying to look like a girl. So why have such gender confused connotations stuck with him, but not James? I assert that it is because the Smashing Pumpkins’ music video library is so awesome, that everyone forgot about how unflattering that dress was on James. Baby blue and one of his shortest ever haircuts; really? Hard to believe that the man is now an up-to-the-minute fashionista of the New York art scene.

Of course I’m bordering on the playful, ludicrous side. Apart from young children, no one really thought James was a woman. Additionally, cross dressing was actually a thing in 90’s music videos, popularized by Nirvana, perfected by Marilyn Manson. No one pokes fun at Dave Grohl, same as they don’t at James Iha. Now, Taylor Hanson… unfortunately I wasn’t joking about. With that said, I humbly concede, in full awareness that I have exhausted the gag. I will, however, say that glam-rock James from “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, zombie James from “Zero”, or vampire-count James from “Ava Adore” are ultimately more compelling personas than summer dress James from “Today”.

Iha3

 

The Smashing Pumpkins arguably perfected the art of the music video, proving that it could indeed be an art form, and not just a corporative-mandated commercial. The band boasts one of the most eclectic collections of clips that any group has ever produced. They have invoked the guises of hippie, hipster, glam, and goth. Their videos range in quality from good to bad to downright incredible. Grainy, atmospheric, low budget indie pieces like “Siva” are reminiscent of decades past. Flashy, futuristic, digitally over-edited pop culture run amuck hodgepodges like “The End is the Beginning is the End” is the bastard child that every 90’s band seems to have (sad to admit that as it’s one of my favourite songs). Then there are gems like “Tonight, Tonight”, which are genuinely gorgeous works of film making, and do what great music videos should do; act as a visual companion to enhance a song’s message and meaning.

There were people who made mantra, the lyric, “video killed the radio star,” (The Buggles 1979) alleging videos were making music secondary to image. The cultural impact of the visual medium is up for debate, but in terms of my favourite band there is a truism at work that cannot be denied; the original Smashing Pumpkins lineup is more memorable than the new lineup, and it is partially because of music videos. The classic lineup is beloved not only by fans, but by the public at large. Anyone nostalgic for the 1990’s is susceptible to bouts of giddiness should they see that tire from the beginning of “1979” start a rollin’. James Iha, D’arcy Wretzky, and Jimmy Chamberlain are every bit as synonymous the average person’s vision of the Smashing Pumpkins as Billy Corgan. If you watched MTV or Much Music in the 90’s, you probably have a mental composite of the band that is made up of screen shots from their various music videos.

Since the reformation of the band in 2007, the Smashing Pumpkins have been plagued by bad press simply due to the absence of a couple of first generation members. In 2009, the criticism was perpetuated by the departure of another legacy member, Jimmy Chamberlin. Since then, Billy Corgan has been the only familiar face, even though Jeff Schroeder has been in the band for nearly six years. The newest album, Oceania, and its supporting tour, have been positively reviewed more than anything Corgan has done since the mid 90’s, but is it helping to change public perception? A common phrase associated with the new lineup is “rent-a-band.” There’s Not-James Iha, Obligatory-Hot Girl on Bass #… (ah, well we lost count of bassists, but who cares she’s hot!), and Not-Jimmy Chamberlain, who’s like a sixteen year old kid that worked at McDonald’s or something. Or so the legend goes…

MelissaInternetVideoStarMember changes are nothing new to the Smashing Pumpkins. Chamberlin had his infamous hiatus in the second half of the 90’s, but to be fair the video for “Ava Adore” is so damn awesome that no one really noticed Jimmy wasn’t in it. Am I wrong? In 1999, Melissa Auf Der Maur made personnel swapping look effortless, as she replaced D’Arcy without reappraisal. For me, the transition was so flawless due to the splendidly stunning videos for “The Everlasting Gaze”, and “Stand Inside Your Love”. Then skip ahead to “Tarantula”. Enter Jeff and Ginger. Meh. “That’s the Way (My Love Is)”? Passe. “G.L.O.W.”? It’s alright. “Superchrist”? Pointless. “Owata”? Oh, what a beautiful fright… like “Try, Try, Try”, “Owata’s” real downfall was that it did not feature the band. At least Billy appeared in “Try, Try, Try”, but his scenes were randomly thrown in and not visually cohesive. It felt tacked on. So what’s wrong with the Zeitgeist-era videos? I am apparently one of the rare fans who actually really likes the album, but the music videos are nothing special. Not terrible, just not as good as the earlier videos, or as artistically inspired. So are the new videos toss-aways, or have they not been given a fair chance? The older videos were overplayed on TV and in the DVD players of fans who have the video collection. Is the quality of the videos the issue, and if so, is that due to budget restraints? Quality directors, props, etc are expensive. The Smashing Pumpkins no longer have major label backing, not that the big guns put forth much in the way of funds for music videos these days. There’s no money in it. No revenue from advertisers, because music video stations are all but dead. Can we blame the internet, and in particular YouTube? When I was a teenager, I would turn on Much Music, and a VJ would tell me that a new Smashing Pumpkins video was coming up. That could mean it would be the next to air, or it could be another half an hour, or hour away. If I wanted to see the video, I had no choice but to continue watching their network, and sit through whatever tripe the programming gods saw fit to subject me to (*cough*… Hanson). Technology has empowered people with the ability to watch what they want, when they want.

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of options when it comes to watching the new Smashing Pumpkins. There’s lots of live material, but it makes me envious of the crowd, and a little angry about how economically and geographically disadvantaged I am (I’m sort of poor, and a ten hour drive from any major concert destination). It pains me because I so badly want to see the current lineup in action. My exposure to the new members has been minimal. I still vividly remember the old band. I love them because they are permanently etched in the inner reaches of mind. I cannot let go of them because I have consumed copious amounts of media displaying James, D’Arcy, Jimmy, and Melissa, every bit as prominently as Billy. The Smashing Pumpkins were not just rock stars, they were pop icons. They were one of those scarce few bands to whom image was as important as the music, without the image overshadowing the music.

The new SP

The fact is, there’s not a lot of official media featuring the new members. Thanks to repeated viewings of If All Goes Wrong, I’m pretty comfortable with Jeff, and I was comfortable with Ginger. I’m not really familiar with Nicole and Mike. Never saw them  live. They haven’t appeared in any music videos. There’s no DVD which features them. Back in the 90’s the full band used to do interviews together all of the time. That’s not the case with the new lineup. Billy almost exclusively handles all television appearances radio, and print interviews. I’m not one of those people who bemoan the new band, and are resentful that they are not the old band. I’m very much the opposite; I love everything they’ve done since the reformation. I want to like the new members, I just have not had an opportunity to really get used to seeing them, and thinking about them as being the Smashing Pumpkins.

Consider this an open letter to the band. Showcase this new incarnation! Make music videos. Please! Make me love Jeff, Nicole, and Mike! Depict them as so epic that it erases my memory of the old members. If it’s a matter of money, try on the crowd sourcing phenomenon, or recruit help from the uber-talented, obsessively dedicated SP fan base. Perhaps I am being foolishly nostalgic, but I believe in my favourite band. They’ve abandoned a medium which they helped to define. The medium is not as relevant as it once was, but I believe that it could be redefined, and I believe the Pumpkins could be the band that does it. So here’s to wishing that “The Celestials” or “Panopticon” get the old school music video treatment they deserve.

Billy Corgan is a Blankety-Blank-Blank!

Article by Corenski Nowlan

In my offline life, I have never known another person who is a truly hardcore Smashing Pumpkins fan. A few friends are casual listeners. One pal of mine has a vested interest, but is definitely a notch below the crazy-obsessive-pumpkinhead level. *ahem* It is an incredibly occasional occurrence for me to have an internet-unplugged-opportunity to engage in Pumpkin-centric discourse. So naturally if someone name-drops the great SP first, I’m ecstatic to indulge.

Days before the release of Oceania, such luck on was my side. Or so I thought. The chat went down something like this (no verbatim claims/probably paraphrased):

Friend: 
You love the Smashing Pumpkins right?
Me:
You’ve noticed! (not hard) You know, their newest album comes out on Tuesday!
Friend: 
Sure, I vaguely remember them being a band once or something, but how about that Billy Corgan guy? I read an interview the other day and he said that blankety-blank-blank was a blankety-blank-blank, and since I happen to feel very, very passionately about blankety-blank-blank, I won’t be listening to that pretentious #$%&’s new album.
Me:          
Oh well, ah… that’s too bad I guess. Personally, I’d recommend still giving it a chance, I mean blankety-blank-blank isn’t really relevant to the Pumpkins, or this album, and…
Friend: 
Yeah well, I also read Corgan’s opinion on *insert issue*, and I really, really hold that particular issue close to my heart because I’m totally flawlessly awesome. Corgan really offended me personally and I think he meant to. I mean, he doesn’t even know me and he’s talking crap about me? Why the hell would I listen to his music? Why would anyone? He’s devoted the past decade to the systematic alienation of his entire fan base, often singling fans out individually and what the hell is up with the wrestling thing?
Me:         
I… um. Huh. Let me get back to you in a week or so after I do some research (aka, lurking fan site message boards) and write a blog about this.

When I cite my interest in Pumpkins-chat it does not necessarily mean I’m looking for an all things Corgan-esque conversation. I’m actually more interested in music than gossip, like lyrical interpretations versus who Billy’s bangin’. Being knowledgeable about a celebrity’s personal life is not the same as knowing them personally. Wild concept right? What someone says in an interview does little more than skid the surface of their psyche. Does sharing an opinion on politics provide the public with insight into how they conduct themselves in private? Is it a way to glimpse/gage how they act when socializing with friends or family? Key aspects are exposed, like whether they are philosophically left or right leaning, but the media paints incomplete and inaccurate profiles.

So why does it seem that Billy Corgan is such a venomous force on the promo circuit? It doesn’t seem that way to me. Whenever I watch a video interview with Papa Pumpkin, I feel I am witnessing an articulate, intelligent, and gracious individual. The man is opinionated, but his statements are thoroughly and thoughtfully backed up in what is generally a passive manner. He is an avid conversationalist, always willing to elaborate upon his points and entertain debate. It is not often that a Corgan interview spawns a scathing, scandalous sound byte. In fact, I would say that ninety-some percent of the time when Billy makes a questionable comment it is in a print-only interview, or a tweet. Those small, arguably insignificant chunks of text quickly become mainstream quotable and everyone loses their minds.

Am I taking on a role of a diehard Billy-washed, er, I mean… brainwashed fanboy? No, I don’t believe so. Would I defend Billy Corgan’s character so wholeheartedly that I would grant him a “Get Out of Jail Free Card” for any wild notion he might murmur? Sort of. There is no denying the Great Pumpkin’s reputation for stirring up more than a vinyl storm, but as much as it might pain some fans to admit, he is only human. Believe it or not, Billy has bad days too, and as difficult as it is to decipher from his cryptic songs, apparently some people also suspect him of suffering from the syndrome of “human emotions.” The public seems to forget that like everyone else in the world, Billy puts his skirt on one leg at a time(?), or something like that… perhaps pertaining more so to hipster scarves and fisherman hats (no sarcasm here, the aforementioned articles are often included in my regular wardrobe).

I do not blindly obey Billy Corgan’s every command, nor will I defend every syllable that he utters (no matter what my family or friends might say). Billy doesn’t need his fan to make excuses for him, but we do. I recently read some posts suggesting that when Billy speaks ill, it is purposeful. Calculated strikes against his foes as a plea to garner more media attention. Some people even linked his less than cheerful comments to his wrestling obsession, charging that when he slams ex-musical collaborators it is a akin to “trash talk” by wrestlers. These are not theories that I support. It serves to remove Billy from the situation. Ideas like this extol him to godhood, implying that everything he does is deliberate, and that he does not sometimes succumb to impulse like the rest of us, or make mistakes. It also partially exonerates him of any responsibility for anything that he does. If everything is planned and he’s simply playing a role, then he can’t really be blamed or be at fault. If he’s always playing a part then where is the real Billy? Buried deep, never to rear his real face to the camera-eye?

This type of thinking constitutes an excuse more so than what I am proposing. Where does it leave Billy as a person? Well, it means he’s the kind of the person who wakes up in the morning, and consciously makes a choice to publicly insult someone.

“But who,” a malevolent Billy ponders while shining up the old cue ball in preparation for his afternoon interview.

“Uh-huh! I got it. Him. Yes, him. I haven’t taken a jab at that guy for a while… what should I call him? I’m thinking something that pertains to fecal matter. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. That’ll get everyone talking, muawahaha, haha… ha.”

With his target in mind, and the proper bullet from his insult arsenal in hand, old Bully-Billy is off to his interview with but one task remaining; psychically steering the journalist towards asking the right question. The necessary prompt needed to unleash his methodical maelstrom without it seeming like he wanted to have the topic brought up.

 

This isn’t Austin Powers, so don’t get Billy confused with Dr. Evil. Is it not more realistic, more human, to think that Billy really doesn’t want some topics brought up, and when they are it agitates and upsets him? I don’t believe for a moment that he would plan to insult someone in an interview. How would he even know that a question about that person might be asked?

My purpose is to humanize a man who happens to be one of my heroes, and whom I sincerely believe deserves the benefit of the doubt. There is a trend to judge him by an entirely different set of standards than that which every other artist is judged by. Does Billy sometimes say things that he should not? Yes, and no. Yes, but at some time in our lives we all say the wrong thing. The “No”, is slightly more complicated. To put it simply, who am I to judge whether or not a statement made by Billy Corgan is appropriate? If he is talking about his personal life (say, a soured relationship for example), than I have an incomplete understanding of the subject matter. I know what the media has told me, and over the years my memory has created a patchwork of who I believe Billy Corgan to be. Objectively, I would say I’m disqualified from critiquing him as a person, but I remember that he is a person and therefore should be cut some slack.

Imagine if you will… it is pouring rain. On his way to an interview, Billy’s car breaks down. By the time he reaches his destination he is soaking wet. His clothes are splattered with mud. He’s cold and cranky. In addition to car troubles, there is an infinite list of unpleasant variables that might have tainted Billy’s morning. Last night was a late one. The band’s been working their asses off on the new album. Billy sleeps in, has to skip breakfast, slips in the shower, a dog has a brown squishy accident on the carpet, the radio announces that yet another 90’s alt-rock act that hasn’t made an album in the past decade and has absolutely no intention to produce new music, are jumping on the reunion tour bandwagon and everyone is super excited to throw their money and praise at these rock’n roll legends, etc, etc, etc… (don’t forget I mentioned that new album SP the band has been working their asses off on) and that brings us to the point in which the very professional music journalist who did lots of homework for this interview by googling “Smashing Pumpkin,” asks Billy when the original line-up is returning. That’s when our normally gentle giant loses his shit.

If this fictional interview was being filmed, then Billy would likely feel inclined to explain his dampened attire. If it is a print interview, neither he, nor the journalist need make mention of his disheveled appearance. Context is immensely important, and unfortunately crucial elements of human interaction such as tone of voice, cannot be properly expressed through text. The intent of the speaker is not always clearly communicated. Devices like sarcasm or humour can easily be lost in translation. It can be difficult to pinpoint the emotional intent of an interviewee. Perhaps some of Billy’s print-only comments have been misinterpreted. Video or audio might change our minds. It is the job of a journalist to effectively present the results of an interview. A reader’s impression is reliant upon the skill of the journalist. If they are not competent at their job, or able to put personal bias aside, they can make an artist look very bad. The journalist holds the artist hostage.

I realize that this blog might not be perceived the way it was intended. If anything, I’d like to remind people of what is really important; the music! Isn’t Oceania amazing? Yes, it really is. The conversation I had last week ended with my friend humbly asking, “How do you read the stuff this guy says, and still listen to the music?” If I read something truly terrible that Billy said, how do I reconcile it? First and foremost, I listen to the beauty that he’s given to the world. No matter what, even if Billy were to become some sort of cruel, psychopathic monster and was convicted in court for blah-blah-whatever, it’s never going to change his music. It’s never going to change what it’s meant to my life.
 

What has changed is my access to information. I follow Billy on Twitter. I get updates about the band from Facebook, Google +, in my email inbox, and from fellow fans. I know so much about the band’s history and about Billy on a personal level. More than I need to know. Back in the 90’s there were two ways to get band info; magazines, or Much News. (Much Music’s version of MTV news, I’m Canadian) I missed a lot. I didn’t watch Much News every night and I couldn’t track down every magazine, believe me I practically grew up in the woods, it was hard to find a store that carried Rolling Stone let alone the smaller music-mags. Also, hyperlinks weren’t embedded in the text of magazine articles, so if an older article was referenced it’s not like you could click and instantaneously read it as well. Kids at school would sometimes say things to me like; 

Friend: 
Hey did you catch The Smashing Pumpkins on Much News last night? (or in this month’s issue of…)
Me:          
No I didn’t, did you tape it? (or do you have that magazine on you?)
Friend: 
No, but you should have heard/read what Corgan said about so and so!”

But I didn’t hear/read it, and since there was no YouTube, and my Ewok-forest village didn’t get internet access until 1999, there was really no way for me to. Today, I read all articles on the band, and watch all interviews. I care about the band beyond the music, I really do. At the same time my love for the music always comes first, and that’s why I don’t feel like I’m overexposed. There are those who feel saturated with information and I think that interferes with their ability to enjoy the music. They get caught up on one weird thing that Billy says, and it actually does make them want to boycott the Pumpkins. Then there’s the whole wrestling thing. A lot of fans, (like myself) are bewildered by Billy’s love for wrestling. Personally I’ve had a lifelong loathe-affair with it, but I couldn’t care less if he enjoys it. I can opt to not read articles that pertain to Resistance Pro if I want to. There’s also the way that the media, and people in general tend to focus on the negative instead of the positive, but that’s a whole other culturally confused ball game.