The Smashing Pumpkins has a new album out, meaning another round of unfiltered interviews from its ever-outspoken frontman Billy Corgan.
In promoting “Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun,” released Friday, the polarizing rocker has threatened to call the FBI over leaked music, compared the Pumpkins to Nirvana and aired his dirty laundry with former bassist D’Arcy Wretzky, the band’s only original member to not partake in the current reunion.
Talking to USA TODAY about the release, Corgan, 51, also shared his thoughts on the state of rock music, his Smash Mouth “beef” and why he refuses to discuss politics anymore.
Question: You drew criticism early last year for comments that were perceived as supporting Donald Trump, although you later clarified that you haven’t voted for anyone since 1992 and you’re a “free-market libertarian capitalist.” Have your opinions of him changed since then?
Billy Corgan: I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t talk about politics at all anymore. There’s no way in this culture to have any kind of nuanced conversation in any way, shape or form. You have to either be for something or against something. You can’t say, “Well, I like this, I don’t like this and I definitely don’t like that.” It gets turned upside down and turned into a meme. I refuse to be anybody’s meme-bait. If they want to take pictures of me at Disneyland and make me a meme, that’s fine. But the rest of it, I’m no longer a willing participant in the culture war.
Q: Last year was the first year that R&B/hip-hop overtook rock as the most popular genre, in terms of pure consumption (album sales, song downloads and streams). Why do you think rock has fallen out of vogue?
Corgan: I don’t know. I make rock ‘n’ roll music in its various forms, and when I do it well, people like it. I see those (statistics) and can appreciate them, but then we go to New York and sell out Madison Square Garden or play two dates at The Forum in LA. So it’s hard to tell me that rock ‘n’ roll is dead. And certainly, rock ‘n’ roll has withstood other challenges at other times.
I mean, back to me being a free-market libertarian capitalist, may the best music win. The public is going to go after that which they’re attracted to. I don’t have a problem with that. I can have a personal opinion without necessarily negating that people are going to like what they’re going to like.
Q: Imagine Dragons is considered the most popular rock band right now. Have you listened to their music?
Corgan: I don’t comment on any artist. There’s no way to say anything about anybody. And I’m going to play victim for five seconds: I didn’t create this culture. I contributed to it, but this is somebody else’s Frankenstein, and they can live in it. I don’t participate. You can all argue about who’s great and who’s not great. I’ve said so many complimentary things about artists through the years that never gets quoted.
I got in this stupid thing this year with Smash Mouth because I mentioned on Instagram that at one point, we were up for the first “Shrek” movie (soundtrack) and then DreamWorks replaced (us) with Smash Mouth. Which was fine, that’s Hollywood. Somehow the Smash Mouth guys got all bent out of shape, and I was in a meme war with guys I used to hang out with who had heard the story from me personally 15 years ago. It turned into this thing where I’m a bad guy because I brought up a historical fact.
This culture is so beyond me in its level of stupidity. It weaponizes something as stupid as a historical fact into a gossipy, TMZ moment – which by the way, doesn’t sell anything other than clicks. It doesn’t sell records; it doesn’t sell concert tickets. It’s totally to the detriment of the artists that are participating and to the benefit of other forces that don’t care about music. I only brought up the Smash Mouth thing because it’s out there. I don’t want to create a new (feud).
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