vonChristian Ihle 25.07.2016

Monarchie & Alltag

Neue Bands und wichtige Filme: „As long as the music’s loud enough, we won’t hear the world falling apart“.

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Als das Lollapalooza noch sowas wie ein Alternative-Festival war, hatte MTV den Smashing Pumpkins – Sänger Billy Corgan überredet, seinen Musikerkollegen Nick Cave zu interviewen. Dass Nick Cave mit den Fragen von Billy eher unterfordert war & zero Bereitschaft zeigte, den netten Onkel zu geben, ist noch verhalten formuliert. “Owned”, wie die jungen Leut’ sagen:


Immerhin nimmt Billy Corgan sogar hin, von Cave subtil heruntergeputzt zu werden. Zu Beginn war der Smashing-Pumpkins-Frontmann also noch nicht die Drama-Queen, als die man ihn heute kennt. Mit den Haaren ging dann scheinbar auch die Gelassenheit verloren.

A propos Gelassenheit und Drama Queen! Eine gute Gelegenheit, auch mal wieder an das wunderbar verrückte Corgan-Interview im Guardian von Ende 2014 zu erinnern, in dem Billy das Schicksal eines 3-Sterne-Reviews einfach nicht akzeptieren will:

Do you think you’ve suffered from false narratives throughout your career?

I think that’s obvious. I’m laughing because I thought for sure I would get really strong reviews for our new album [Monuments to an Elegy], based on all the feedback I was getting. But I’m getting the same reviews I got back in the day, these kind of middling, muddling reviews that just won’t fucking say: “This is a fucking brilliant album from a brilliant artist.” It’s always got to have a qualifier to it. So my point is this: I made, according to most people, two classic albums in my life. But go back and read those reviews – I got the same type of reviews then as I’m getting now! People assume we got great reviews back then – we got shit reviews. So it’s weird because this is like: “Here I go again.” I strike on to something fresh, fans are going fucking nuts, everyone’s excited, and we’ve got to have some fucking guy going: “Oh I don’t know how to feel about this.”

You feel like the reviews are pre-written?

Yes. I think these are false narratives. The old guard sets up gatekeepers who decide who is in and who is out. The joke for me is that I’ve been on the fucking outside for 25 years and yet here I am. My whole point is – at what point do I get invited inside?

Do you even want to be invited inside?

I do.

I don’t understand why you’re bothered by what critics think if fans are liking the record.

It’s bad for business. If you’re Martin Scorsese and you’ve got a new picture coming out, you want good reviews, because then more people see your film. So if you make a good album then you deserve a fair review of your work, especially after being in the culture for 25 fucking years. But I realise now I’m not going to get my due from that culture. The three leading gatekeepers – Q, NME, The Guardian or whoever – they all wrote three-star fucking reviews. It’s not a three-star fucking record. Nobody believes it’s a three-star record. Nobody! OK, these people obviously did, so maybe I shouldn’t be so absolute. But I’ve been in this business for 25 years and there is nobody in it who believes this is a three-star record. Nobody!

Who are we talking about here?

I’ve talked to, like, 500 people in the last fucking four months about the record!

But aren’t they likely to say that to your face?

Oh fuck off! Seriously now … that’s a stupid thing to say. Seriously. You’re basically saying that I’m willing to be coddled. Do I seem like someone who wants to be coddled? Am I coddling you? I’m telling you that bad press is bad for business and now I’m setting myself up for more bad press by being a real jerk … but I’m doing this to show you that I’m a real person. At the bottom of it, I don’t give a fuck; if I gave a fuck I wouldn’t make this kind of music and I’d be sitting here saying all the right things, like a pop star.

(…) surely bad reviews in the traditional press should affect you less?

And a lot of people tell me that. So I’m not bothered by it on that level. What I’m bothered by is … how many years do I have to put in at the company? I don’t want a gold watch, I just want what’s fucking fair. I started with a group of artists in 1990, and along the years I’ve had to hear about how many different bands, how many different singers, this is the next big thing, this is the next Nirvana … here we are, 25 years later, and how many fucking people are left? 2%? 1%? 0.5%? There should come a point where it’s like, “Welcome to the rock’n’roll club”.

Maybe not having the critical praise has been good for your longevity …

And my friends argue that point you’re making. I just had a Pollyanna-ish idea that this album would be a resting point. That it would be: “OK, he did a good album, he’s in a good place, let’s celebrate the moment.” But no, it’s the same fucking shit all over again and I can’t fucking believe it. I wanna tell you something here, because I sound like I’m moaning: I haven’t even read the reviews. I don’t even know what they said! But I’ve heard it all before – do this, do that, reform your band, play Siamese Dream, etc … it’s all a bunch of bullshit.
There are lots of new bands who are influenced by the 90s sound …

I would disagree with that. I don’t hear that. The mythology [of that era] right now is irrelevant to combat the pop menace in America right now.

Who is the menace?

I’m not naming names, come on. But it’s immense. People can get rosy and sentimental about something, but if it can’t compete it doesn’t mean anything. Meanwhile, EDM is kicking everybody’s fucking ass. Look at the numbers the DJs are making! They’re kicking rock bands’ ass. And we’re sitting here talking about an era from 20 years ago because it’s misty in people’s minds. Meanwhile there’s 60,000 people in a field watching a guy with lights behind him.

So why not embrace that culture yourself?

Be more specific.

Why not make an EDM record?

You’re being too simplistic and you’re insulting my poor heart. (Laughs.) OK, I’m being funny with you. But look at the charts. I went on the other day to see the 200 top-played singles in America, and there were only two [alternative rock bands] in the top 200!

Does that upset you?

No. That’s analytics. If you were starting a bagel shop and you realised nobody was buying bagels would you still open a bagel shop?

Does it matter to you that Smashing Pumpkins are seen as a “classic” band?

Don’t give a fuck.


No, I don’t give a fuck. Look, let me give you a very simplistic scenario which is not meant to insult your intelligence, but just to make sure this crazy, wide-ranging conversation has context: If young Billy had gotten the credit he deserved, when he deserved it, then things might have been different. Bands might have lasted longer, more tickets might have been sold. Having been through all that and having had to spend a lot of the 2000s having people try to take away from me whatever accomplishments they did give me … then here I am all these years later making a Smashing Pumpkins record that sounds a lot like Smashing Pumpkins and, childish as it may be, I thought there might be a moment of repose this time. But here comes the guy with the fucking steak knife that just can’t give the credit. So it reminds me of that 25-year-old that wasn’t getting the credit either. I’m never going to get the credit. That game is over. So I’m going back to being an aggressive, street-level artist.

If this record had five-star reviews across the board, you would be feeling calmer right now?

No, you’ve misunderstood.

But you said earlier that you …

I’m not on trial here, OK? I’m not on trial.

I’m not saying you are!

But you’re referring back to something I said. And I’m telling you what I actually meant, which is that if I’d gotten the reward for the work I did during this generation that you love so much – the 90s – then maybe I wouldn’t be looking for it now. Maybe people could finally recognise that, over 25 years, I’ve been a fairly significant artist and I could move on, and the audience could move on.

OK, let me change the subject a minute – are you still interested in astrology?

Oh fuck. I feel like I’m having the classic English interview right here. I will read it and it will be: “He’s a nutter and he’s obsessed with his reviews!” Are you into astrology?

I’m not, no.

Well then that’s why I shouldn’t answer the question.

I read an old interview with you that was interesting because you talked about your Saturn return, and how that late-20s period can be traumatic period for a lot of people, including yourself . And I realised that your next Saturn return is not too far away …

Well I’ve got a way to go yet, I will be 56, so you’re ageing me more than I would want to age!

But is your next Saturn return something you view with a sense of dread?

Oh my God. I hope you and I are never locked in an elevator together. Because you would either kill me or I would kill you.

I don’t even know what’s wrong with that question!

I think it’s just … if you sit and talk to someone who understands astrology and mystical arts, the conversation is not “Is this real or not?”. The beauty of God is that you’re always in the right place. So if you believe in the stars, and a lot of people do, then you believe that there is sort of a divine wisdom that helps guide you. It’s as cyclical as the day and the night, and we accept that without question, so why not accept that bodies that are made of 75% water would be influenced by the gravity of the stars?

I only have time for one last question. You recently had a heated exchange with Anderson Cooper and ended up selling “Fuck You Anderson Cooper” T-shirts …

Oh fuck, here we go. What paper is this for again?

The Guardian.

Oh my favourite! Thanks for the review! Which I haven’t read.


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