Interview: Billy Corgan and the Fool’s journey (pt. 2)

Interview: Billy Corgan and the Fool’s journey (pt. 2) (photo)

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Part one of this interview with Billy Corgan where he discusses finding spirituality, misogyny in female wrestling, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.can be found here.

What about the idea of the band, what’s changed?

In essence the band isn’t a real thing anymore. I mean, we work as a band, but much of the public doesn’t accept that it’s a band because it no longer falls into the traditional model — the four people who rode around in a van. Of course that was a true story, the four of us did ride around in a van and became successful. But I treat it more as a collective now, the band means more as a symbol than a literal thing. I’m tired of trying to sell people on the literal thing because that falls into an old way of thinking which isn’t really relevant anymore. Where is this great love for rock and roll that existed for 50 or 60 years? The world’s changing so fast and if you look at most artistic constructs within the music business people work together for one album, two albums, and then they move on to some other collaboration. That’s more emblematic of what life is like. We’re lucky if we can find a partnership that can last 10, 20 years in any regard, beyond our family. We’re holding on to an old idea of what the band family looks like, but the way people actually live is probably closer to something like Arcade Fire, more of a collective mentality.

Everything is changing at light speed, unrecognizable from 50 years ago.

Yeah, the thing I’ve learned over the last four or five years since coming back to the Smashing Pumpkins, is that; is there a person named Billy Corgan, or William Patrick Corgan? Yes. Does it matter if he exists or doesn’t exist? No. Because in a weird kind of way I exist whether or not I choose to because people can google me and listen or watch all these things I’ve already done. It’s more the act of creation than trying to uphold a symbolic partnership that hasn’t existed since…

It was simpler in the 90’s wasn’t it? Toil on a critically acclaimed record, follow up with another, releasing a happy sounding song that plays on MTV in wild colors and the four of you singing in an ice cream truck, and overnight, you’re cultural Gods.

We also existed at a time where that system was ending. In the heyday of the 90’s, MTV, million dollar videos, no one new that in five to seven years the music business was going to implode. That was the end of that. So everyone was living within that paradigm and the game was, can you work and exploit and prosper within it? Since that paradigm has fallen apart no one’s replaced it with anything. They continue to beat the dead horse and diminished sales. CNN headlines about how few records Lady Gaga is selling. But if you look at an artist like Lady Gaga, who’s very successful on many levels, does it really matter anymore whether she sells records? Her influence is so huge as a cultural icon, I would say it doesn’t really matter. I’m sure it matters to her, and it would matter to me, but my point is the old markers of what used to matter, don’t matter. Is it more important that Lady Gaga sells 100,000 CD’s or that she gets 3 million web hits on an article? I would say it’s more important that she gets the web hits, because that will get her a perfume line, or whatever.

Yeah, a perfume line, that’s a big one.

All those dynamics are shifting. Rock and Roll is still asking people like me to live up to the old guard’s concept of what success is but it doesn’t mean anything. You can still do it, but everybody exists in a bubble.

So why bother to go through all this work putting out a record like “Oceania?”

Because I want to.

Do you still believe in the album as an art form?

No, not at all [laughs]. No I don’t. But it pushes me. It pushes me to do something I wouldn’t do without it. Do I believe that people are going to sit and listen to the whole thing and really glean something out of it? No. What indication in the culture would I have to think the average person is going to listen to this 10 times? My only hope would be that I do something so extraordinary that they would be compelled to listen to it more than once or twice. But, for me, it’s a personal journey to push myself into a space that I thought I’d walked away from.

There are people who will really listen to it. I remember when “Siamese Dream” came out, it was a huge event, you guys had a style and influence that’s immeasurable, you affected people’s worldviews, and none of that could have happened without the integrity of that album. People still want that. Although, I had an ex-girlfriend remark to me sometime in the late 90’s that she could no longer stand to listen to the Pumpkins anymore because it reminded her too much of us [laughter].

The funny thing is there still is that world of me, but it’s the tree falls in the forest. Does it matter if it falls if no one hears it? I mean my point as an artist is I’m on my own little weird journey across the sky here and whether or not anybody’s listening, or listening to the degree I would like them to, at the end of the day has to be an inconsequential thing because I can’t chase this culture. It’s the wild west out here. We made the video for “Owata,” but can anyone say if it’s going to change anything? Does it need a million YouTube views to be worthy of something? Does it need to be recognized via this interview? All you can do, is just do what you believe in, and hope that in this convoluted world we’re living in via social media that the right people will come across it and it will influence them in the right ways. If I go on YouTube and see a count of 42,000 views, but those 42,000 people are idiots than it doesn’t mean anything. Because those idiots won’t turn around and do anything about it, they won’t make anything from it, they won’t create their own art. They might go on a website and say it sucks, but will it change anything, change them, make them more politically active? Will it make them go to a wrestling show or a Smashing Pumpkins show? What if only 3,000 people saw it, but all of them were really inspired to make their own video? That’s old thing about the Velvet Underground.

Right, only a thousand people ever saw them, but each of them went off and started a band.

Yeah, they didn’t sell any records back in the day, but they’re one of the most influential bands in the history of rock and roll because everyone who listened to them were inspired. My band’s had a big influence, you know, but it depends on who you read. This culture writer guy says I suck and I’m an idiot, but you talk to a musician who started a band because he saw me in concert — which is more valuable? Well, it depends on who you talk to. All I can go on is my own value system. All the other value systems I grew up counting on, record sales, Rolling Stone reviews, those have essentially disintegrated into meaninglessness. Who can count on the credibility of what anybody’s saying anymore because everybody’s in business for themselves… to use a wrestling term.

Nice, back to the beginning.

And there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s like going into a market in Istanbul. There’s a thousand people screaming, “hey hey hey, hey, come in here! Buy this cup.” Well, okay. We’re all on the street corner screaming. The idiots get rewarded just for screaming louder. But there are artists out there making credible work, trying to do something different and new. With “Owata” we tried to do something different and not repeat something that’s been done a thousand times. Whether it’s successful or not we can’t gauge in this paradigm. It’s going to take ten years to look back and say, “yeah that’s a total piece of shit, what the fuck were we doing?” Or “actually that was pretty cool.” There are obvious home runs, but there’s lots of other things we do as artists that aren’t recognized. The general public only cares about the obvious thing, but that’s not what I live for as an artist…[long pause]. Rock and roll, that’s what we say.

[Laughs] What film soundtrack or score has made an impact on you?

I think the great scores are those that enhance the movie and then you want to listen to them as works of art in themselves. So you think of people like Bernard Herman. Or Morricone. Your like, “what the fuck is this music!” And you want to listen to it because it’s so perfect. My complaint about music in the movie business these days is they’ve kind of gotten rid of that guy. With all respect to Danny Elfman, who’s maybe the most recognizable auteur, there’s a lot of guys — it’s just paint by numbers music. You don’t see as much unique musical contribution to film these days, it’s disappointing. I’ve tried to get some projects started because I’d love to [do it myself].

What director would you want to work with?

At one point I almost worked with Darren Aronofsky. It didn’t work out, but it was nothing bad, just didn’t happen. I’d love to work with him because I think he really gets it, music wise. Scorsese. I don’t think he knows I exist, but he has such an incredibly intuitive understanding of how to put music in film.

I think about that scene in “Mean Streets” with Harvey Keitel all the time, where the camera is fixed to him as he rolls into the bar and the Rolling Stones are playing, it’s magic.

Yeah, that’s what I’m saying, I mean as a musician, I die for that moment. It just doesn’t get any better than that. I would also love to just sit and listen to him break down a scene from his perspective. And Tarantino too.

What film would you live inside of, if you could?

I’ve been living in the film “Andrei Rublev” by [Andrei ] Tarkovsky for about 15 years [laughs]. It’s a beautiful film about art, about being an artist. It’s set in, you know, 1600’s Russia, or sometime equally bleak. Have you watched much Tarkovsky?

Oh yeah, just not that film in particular. I found I needed to set aside some serious mental space in order to cope with his films.

[Laughs] Yeah, that’s exactly what I love about him.

Will you listen to the whole album? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook!



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.