Billy Corgan Is the e.e. cummings of Modern Music
By Neph Basedow
Poet e.e. cummings said, "To destroy is always the first step in any creation." For Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, destruction and creation are a way of life. "A good artist is willing to die many times over," Corgan says. "What's funny is, I've died so many times."
The lead Pumpkin speaks to us from his home in the affluent Chicago suburb of Highland Park. He's wordy and well-spoken. Most notably, however, he's open -- there's no topic we can't broach, he insists. The conversation's only pauses are when he tosses toys to his cats.
Corgan has garnered some criticism since the 2000 breakup of the Smashing Pumpkins, as well as for its 2007 resurrection in an unrecognizable form. He is now the only remaining original Pumpkin in the band.
"Sometimes," Corgan says, "I'll interview with a journalist who's obviously not a fan, and they just look at me, like, 'Wow, you're still fucking here!' "But if the music wasn't decent, I'd be a footnote at this point."
As he speaks of his former band, Corgan sounds as if he's recalling time with an ex-lover. His voice fills with yearning, love and simultaneous scorn. "When I made the decision with [drummer] Jimmy [Chamberlin] to bring the band back, it wasn't dissimilar from when you think, 'I'm going to get back together with somebody.' But it wasn't that easy ... to return to a place where I even understood what it was about being in the Smashing Pumpkins that I liked."
In 2009, Chamberlin left the band. Determined to endure, Corgan formed yet another lineup to record this year's Oceania, including bassist Nicole Fiorentino, drummer Mike Byrne and Zeitgeist guitarist Jeff Schroeder.