“We made a lot of people a lot of money just by being weird.”
That’s Billy Corgan pretty much summing up the success of the Smashing Pumpkins, the Grammy-winning alternative rock band that sold over 30 million albums worldwide.
Corgan and company will perform on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. That’s one day later than originally scheduled, courtesy of the massive floods in Metro Manila on Tuesday.
In a press conference at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel on Monday, the outspoken rocker and only remaining original member of the band that helped define alternative rock music in the ’90s gamely talked about a lot of things ranging from the band’s current line-up, their latest album, career outlook, his thoughts on the music industry, his musical heroes and yes, his enormous respect for Filipino family values.
“I grew up in the outskirts of Chicago and I have many Filipino friends,” he revealed. “They respect they give to their elders, their grandparents. For them, family means a lot, it’s real and I have great respect for that.”
And family is how Billy, now 45, prefers to treat his bandmates which currently consists of guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Nicole Fiorentino and drummer Mike Byrne.
“We eat together, we travel together,” he continued. “These guys were fans of the band before they even met me. So there is musical respect. More important than that, there is also personal respect, something that was lacking in my earlier bands. For them, what we mean to people is more important than our commercial value.”
And for Corgan, commercial value is not the reason why he reformed the Pumpkins and continues to use the name after officially breaking up and holding a farewell concert back in 2000. Unlike many other bands who already broke up only to reform again, the Pumpkins did not come back only to make money off their back catalogue.
“We can’t be in the oldies business,” he said in justifying why he continues to make new music. “If I was still 25 years old, I’d be worried about impressing everybody in the room. But I talked to fans in places we have played and people want to value that experience of connecting to us on a new level.”
That Corgan said is what introducing new material is about—to stay relevant, to move audiences, both old and new.
“If we connect to a younger generation of fans, great. If we don’t, then we don’t. But without the young fans, there is no future for the Smashing Pumpkins.”
This also explains why the band had planned to play the 13-track “Oceania” in its entirety for the first half of the concert.
“Because you need it,” he quipped in response to a question. “The basic storyline in that album is reclaiming your innocence without losing your wisdom. The live experiences displays the depth of the work we’ve done on the album. If people connect to it, then I’m doing a good job and that’s all I care about.”
Billy said he expects an “emotional, enthusiastic show” here. “I’m going to make you people cry because that’s part of what I do,” he vowed.
Corgan does not find it ironic that the Pumpkins also continue to cover classic tunes in just about every show. In one of their shows for the ongoing tour, the set list included David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
“I like covers. I consider it one of the key moments of each show,” he admitted. “When we play the classic tunes of people like David Bowie, Bob Dylan and John Lennon, for me it’s like playing Picasso or Monet. I feel the best way to honor them is to play their songs in the Smashing Pumpkins tradition.”
Although he only listens to Bach and Beethoven nowadays, Corgan talked about many other diverse musical influences over the course of the press conference, including Iggy Pop, Black Sabbath, Queen, Scorpions, Wire, the Velvet Underground and yes, even the Carpenters.
“I was sitting in the pool in the morning and I noticed you play a lot of the Carpenters here in Manila. Is she (Karen Carpenter) like the queen bee here or something?,” he asked smiling. Not that he really minds, of course. “To me, ‘Superstar’ is one of the greatest songs ever written.”