Nostalgia rock is a big industry these days, as numerous bands from yesteryear have reconvened in order to play the old hits and release revival albums. Not Billy Corgan, however, whose work with Smashing Pumpkins remains as forward-thinking as ever. Having recently released Oceania, the Pumpkins leader spoke with Exclaim! about the challenges of remaining relevant in a fickle industry.
In regards to live shows, Corgan says, "If we don't lead with new music, we don't lead with anything. Then you deal with this blog crowd that think you haven't written a good song since 1995. So let me get this straight, we shouldn't have reformed, but now that we've reformed, we should do what? Play old songs only? So you're chastised for reforming, then you're chastised for playing new music."
He goes on to explain that his goal with Smashing Pumpkins is "not to make pleasing music," but to "invent new systems" of working and "try new things." And even though this boundary-pushing approach has resulted in struggle and occasional failure, he notes that he considers his latest work a success.
"I think Oceania is the byproduct of the trial and error that I put myself through over the last five years, to get back to a place where I feel I can very consistently put out a very high quality of music," Corgan says. "With the band, the ending of this movie is not yet written. I think that's the interesting thing. People keep trying to write the end to my life, my musical journey, my band, and I just won't let them."
The next chapter in the Smashing Pumpkin's ongoing story will be a North American fall tour, which is still in the tentative planning stages. He explains, "With the production we have, we have this big staging, so we can really only play big places. The good news is we can only play big places. The bad news is we better sell enough tickets to play big places."
Be sure to read our review of Oceania, and check out our Questionnaire with Corgan here.