Interview: Billy Corgan and the Fool’s journey (pt. 1)

Interview: Billy Corgan and the Fool’s journey (pt. 1) (photo)

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In Tarot, the Fool represents infinite possibility, new beginnings, and the often naive exuberance one may feel setting off, wide-eyed, on life’s path. He is a pleasant figure, much more so than the contemporary meaning of the name implies, or what rumor may sometimes suggest. The Fool’s journey is one of discovery and delight. Freed from caution and convention, he passionately pursues the path that he chooses. He does what you, indeed what many, may not always have the courage or disposition to do, he follows his heart — or as Joseph Cambell, popular purveyor of the kindred, Hero’s journey once advised, the Fool might say “follow your bliss.”

Billy Corgan once followed his bliss, but then the world changed, the album died, his band broke up and we were left with rumors about him snorting sea monkeys with Marilyn Manson. But Corgan is back, and in December 2009 The Smashing Pumpkins began releasing “Teargarden By Kaleidyscope,” a colossal 44-song work being put out piecemeal for free online first and as a collection of EP’s. The Pumpkins’ upcoming album within an album, “Oceania,” is part of this larger work, which Corgan has described as harkening back to the band’s “original psychedelic roots.” I talked to him about this new incarnation of the Pumpkins and a short film/music video they did with director Robby Starbuck for the song “Owata.” Our conversation took some heavy turns into his views on spirituality, the world of female wrestling, and the films of Andrei Tarkovsky. As such, this is only part one, part two is here.

You’ve said Teargarden By Kaleidyscope” is about “The Fool’s Journey.” Are you willing to play the fool?

Well, all rock and roll is based in artifice. The Ramones were not really the Ramones 24-hours a day. Nor were the Stooges, or even the Beatles. What most people do is try to find a comfortable persona that they’re in alignment with and the public likes and appreciates them for. In my case I don’t mind playing a character that irritates people or makes people question my sanity.

Do you think you’ve been stuck as a kind of character in the public’s mind, or perhaps a different one at different points in time, the Billy Corgan of “Siamese Dream,” the Billy Corgan of “Oceania,” is that something you’re conscious of?

Yeah, but it doesn’t mean anything. You know?

Well, where do you find yourself now, spiritually speaking?

What’s surprised me about having a consciousness about spirituality or a relationship to, let’s call it a higher power, is that it’s a multi-dimensional shift. It’s not one singular destination and I think that does relate to the Fool’s journey in that sense. You’re not gonna conquer yourself, you’re not gonna understand God by sort of, one thing. You’re not gonna figure it out by praying. You’re not gonna figure it out by charity. You’re not gonna figure it out by throwing yourself off a roof and you’re not gonna figure it out by sitting on a mountain. You have to figure it all out, and that’s sort of the point, I think. So if you’re asking where I’m at in my spirituality, I think I’m in a good place, a balance where I have a deeper understanding of myself spiritually, but I’m also more invested in my life. Where for a time, I had a hard time understanding how life could be spiritual. Or being in a very materialistic culture like America, being in a very materialistic business like the music business, it was very hard for me to understand how I could be a spiritual person and still be successful. They seemed counterintuitive to each other and now, I’m at a point now where I don’t see it that way.

That’s wonderful…

Which brings us to the short film [laughs].

Yes for “Owata,” shot on the Red Epic camera, which may be a first for a music video — and this isn’t the first time you’ve been associated with wrestling.

No, my public relationship with wrestling goes back to I think,’99. I was doing stuff with a promotion called ECW out of Philadelphia.

Why now and why female wrestlers?

I’d wanted to do something to do with wrestling for a while. Wrestling has a very fascinating subculture. Most people don’t know that wrestling came out of the circus. I got very disappointed with rock and roll as a subculture in the ’90s when I, sort of felt like I wasn’t having a good time with it. It ceased to be something of fascination for me. I found, somewhere along the way, that I could find the same enjoyment out of this subculture in wrestling, that used to find rock and roll. The same kind of mythic aspects to it without I having to be personally related to me. And then, over time, I got to know people in the wrestling business, and became friends. The lead in the “Owata” video, Melissa — the babyface, the girl in the silver outfit who wins the match — she’s a friend of mine. We were in Vegas, got to talking about how we should do this video I’ve had an idea for, and that was the birth of the whole thing.

Tell me about the misogynistic themes running through it with the male character, you just want to shove your fist in his mouth.

He’s good at that [laughs]. Yeah there’s a tremendous amount of misogyny in the wrestling business. There’s a movement just like there was in the alternative music culture. There’s a movement within wrestling that women want to be respected athletically, physically the same way that the men are. They don’t just want to be cheesecake, tits and ass. They actually want to be recognized for being athletes who have a skill and a craft. You have a similar thing that you’ve seen in many subcultures politically where women are stepping forward and saying, hey, “We’re just not going to accept the role we’re handed to by men. So I was fascinated by that because it reminded me of what we went through with the Pumpkins in the beginning, because we had a woman on bass. I mean we were constantly questioned like as if she was just a prop on stage, giving no credit at all to her craft, the hours that we spent, the travel, everything. It was just like we hired some, you know, model to stand on stage because it would help us sell records. It was very offensive to her and to the band.

Were you into the old school wrestlers like Rowdy Roddy and Andre the Giant back in the day?

Oh yeah, and even earlier than that. Like the wrestlers out of Chicago, Dick the Bruiser, Baron von Rashke, who had a Nazi gimmick, hard to imagine anybody doing that now.

There’s also this Pumpkins clip with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar floating around — whom I once had the pleasure of sitting behind on airplane. I’ve never seen a man make an airplane look small before [laughter]. How did you two hook up?

Actually my best friend, who also hooked me up with Robby [and the”Owata”] video, he met Kareem at Bonnaroo. They became friendly and it was Kareem’s idea! I think that’s really the world we’re entering into, people working together to draw attention to what people have to say. I was really excited to work with someone I really respect. You know, it was a small thing but, it really meant a lot to me.

Wrestling, basketball legends, you’re doing a lot of cross promotion. You’re also giving all the songs completely for free [digitally] on this release. What do you think about the state of the music industry, what’s your strategy?

99% of the people in the music business now don’t have the resources to properly market their music. So if you’re gonna market yourself you have to figure out how. We’re trying to do it with a wink and a nod. But you have to figure out how to generate energy. You have to register some level of creative integrity. The Pumpkins, as a business, is a creative enterprise that’s constantly generating new waves of energy, through music, through cultural fucking-with… through the Tarot [laughter].

In part 2, Billy talks about Lady Gaga, the death of the album as an art form, and the films of Andrei Tarkovsky. Read it here!

Are you a fool for the Pumpkins? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook!

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.


IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines


The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.


Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.


A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.


Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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