Smashing Pumpkins Frontman: 'The Mythology of the '90s is Better Than the Reality of the '90s'

"Rock music moves too slow to the modern world," says Billy Corgan.

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Smashing Pumpkins mastermind Billy Corgan isn't too thrilled about living in the past, as he said that the '90s were not so great as people tend to think.

It would seem that the singer/guitarist isn't too enthusiastic about the current state of rock music either, seeing that he told Bi FM that rock music is moving "too slow to the modern world," pointing out that the rap artists and DJs have a clear advantage over the rock sound.

"I don't like talking about the '90s [too] much, 'cause to me, the mythology of the '90s is better than the reality of the '90s," the frontman said. "I'm living in the present."

As far as the modern rock situation goes, Corgan commented: "I think rock bands and rock music move too slow to the modern world, which is why I think DJs and rappers have an advantage because they can move more quickly with the times, with the sound, with the production. Rock music doesn't evolve quick enough. It can be frustrating because even though there's a futuristic aspect to Smashing Pumpkins, playing guitar is still kind of slow in the modern world."

The frontman also discussed the current state of affairs among the Smashing Pumpkins ranks, saying that there are "no future plans" when it comes to the new album.

"So far so good. Band's playing very good, people seem to like the new album, so no complaints," Corgan said. "Right now there's no future plans; I've been writing songs for the new album and that's about it."

The group's latest release, "Oceania," came out in June 2012 as the 8th Smashing Pumpkins studio effort. With 54,000 units shipped in the US within the first week, it peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart.

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84 comments sorted by best / new / date

    rock may move slower, but ironically, it moves people for a lot longer. I read an interview in rolling stone with one of the dudes from Swedish house mafia. One direct quote was 'nobody will be listening to this kind of music in 10 years'. I am not out to offend anyone that's a DJ or into that stuff (I like lot of it) but most electro/house festivals I've been to all the dj's sounds are pre recorded, whether they're fully mixing and stuff or just playing their iTunes, but that's why i'll always rather see a band. live music is better, sorry.
    It reminds me of how everyone reminisced within the "glory" of the 80's too. There will always be people that will love the decades before the current because they grew up within it as a child/teen. It's nothing new.
    He spouted this same babble at the end of the 90's. He talks about music like it has a constant need to be cutting-edge, yet something as simple as an acoustic ballad or a 3-piece band's rock song can be a hit at any time. Some people worry, constantly, about being totally "modern" or whatever...but I don't think rock (aside form its industrial forms) has ever given a damn about being "cutting edge" music. Rock, and even a lot of metal, is an outgrowth of blues and any music that comes from the opposed to music that comes from technology and/or academia. A few of us can create songs that matter for all time in a garage or some rented storage room. Billy Corgan remains a source for pretentious babble that only matters to people wanting to be like him.
    I see what he is saying here but i wish he wouldn't be so negative about it and he's only really talking about mainstream rock, if he followed some of the new experimental bands he'd know that bands can still evolve and change quite quickly.
    Billy Corgan Being something other than negative and pessimistic would be like hair metal without hair...
    "My favorite band isn't mainstream!" In my opinion all of the above mentioned are pretty standard affair and can certainly be considered mainstream. I enjoy the music of these bands, but to say they're not mainstream is just silly. Sure, they wrote from "the heart" but the sounds, the patterns, it all says "we want an audience."
    He's not even in a mainstream rock band. Don't you think k he might have some insight that you don't?
    Are you saying The Smashing Pumpkins aren't a mainstream rockband? Yes, they've fallen out of popularity since the 90s, but The Smashing Pumpkins is a household name. LaughingWater is entirely correct, Billy Corgan is clearly listening to the latest radio crap. Bands like Porcupine Tree, Sigur Ros, Tama Impala, Opeth, Anathema, Gazpacho and that is just an extremely small sample. Also, a lot of these bands have been going strong for 20+ years and they're still coming out with unique music. Can't say the same for a lot of the 90s mainstream rock, like Billy Corgan.
    I think they were big, and I think Billy Corgans music has changed. I wouldn't say they were mainstream. Are Radiohead a mainstream band? No. Being recognised and successful doesn't mean mainstream in any way. He's an evolving musician, every record shows that, they never rested on their laurels and released electronic albums before lots of people. (Adore) and a pop/rock industrial album in Machina. To call the Pumpkins mainstream means you don't really know what they're about and haven't compared them to the bands of the time. You may disagree, but I wouldn't put them in the same category as Nickleback, Creed, etc, who were/are very mainstream.
    Man there's a difference between mainstream and commercial music, the former it's just popular music, the latter is music as fashion.
    I never said that the smashing pumpkins were mainstream, i'm just saying he's talking about mainstream rock rather than rock as a whole. Believe me, he should just look at bands like Battles, Three trapped tigers and Haken. Right now Experimental and Progressive music is in a great state. Its not really his fault though because i can't imagine that he would have the time to look for new bands to listen to.
    Yea I'm saying that he's not in a band that's mainstream and he is probably quite clued up. It's almost like it's his scene. Rock in general moves a lot slower for some reason, even though there are lots of great innovative bands. They hardly ever gain mass popularity.
    I have the highest and lowest rated comments at the moment. Talk about hit and miss.
    He's talking about the evolution of rock on the radio. Every other song on the radio is a carbon copy of a nickelback song, and every nickelback song is the carbon copy of one song from like 2004. It's 2013. Time for a new era of rock.
    Weren't they mentioned in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch? I'd call that pretty mainstream
    Lol after Nirvana disbanded, The Smashing Pumpkins were the biggest band in the world from 95-99.
    I think again, someone is confusing success with mainstream. Mainstreaming is where you purposefully create music to appeal to a certain demographic and create music to suit that. They were a band with many avenues who created music at the right time that connected with a lot of people. I think people see a band who has success and instantly labels them sell outs and mainstream. How do you know they sold out, did they ever say they wouldn't make music for money? Did they purposefully make music for a mainstream market? Sometimes bands just enjoy massive, unfounded success against all the odds. This was one of those occasions. In 95/96 they were huuuuge, but after that they didn't enjoy the same success with Adore and Machina. The biggest selling alternative acts in the world was along with the Pumpkins; Bjork, Pulp, Radiohead, Pavement. They all had the biggest selling albums in alternative music that year. They aren't mainstream acts. Rage Against the machine were massive too, were they mainstream? I don't think so. They were just released at the right time to make a massive impact. They changed their sound from album to album, that's not a mainstream thing to do. They constantly evolved.
    Exactly, there's nothing worse than people accusing a band of selling out when in reality they're making music straight from the heart
    Or people saying they're a commercial band just because they have one hit record.
    "Mainstreaming is where you purposefully create music to appeal to a certain demographic and create music to suit that." That's not true at all. Mainstream, according to the dictionary is: adjective 4. belonging to or characteristic of a principal, dominant, or widely accepted group, movement, style, etc.: mainstream Republicans; a mainstream artist; mainstream media . Among other things. Like it or not, The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, etc... all have/had a mainstream audience now or at some point. When you have exposure on MTV, Jools Holland, airplay, worldwide singles you have become mainstream. It's anything that had a majority of people going in the same direction.. hence the word being made up of two words "main" and "stream". Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins were at one point a couple of the hugest bands in the world. That is mainstream. Same with RATM. Also, according to Merriam-Webster: : a prevailing current or direction of activity or influence mainstream adjective I'd say RATM fits there as well as the others what with the whole rap/rock hybrid and nu-metal following the trends and influence set by bands like Faith No More, Suicidal Tendencies, etc. I think people here attribute mainstream to being a negative thing.. which is also incorrect. But "mainstreaming" (which is actually a word that means something completely different having to do with special education in schools) is nothing like what you said.
    I never said anything about the meaning of the word, I said to mainstream yourself is to etc. I don't think they were out to appeal to any demographic, they didn't mainstream themselves. They just made music and people liked it, against the odds, against the trend (somewhat). Which makes them NOT mainstream. They didn't have the same characteristics or style that other bands had. I don't think I've described it incorrectly. For an album like Mellon Collie to be so huge with all the styles and long, instrumental parts is surprising. The word has certain connotations that are negative, regardless of what the dictionary says. It implies an attitude to the music someone makes, the integrity. Popular and mainstream are not the same thing. Sometimes a band can become big even though everything they do is against the way music seems to be going. I think that this is one of those occasions, to a degree.
    when you children get a little older you'll realize how incredibly pointless these discussions about what is/is not 'mainstream' really are.
    Children? Okay troll. Talking about the factors that make a band popular and mainstream isn't juvenile, it's an important part of how music is judged and listened to. It shouldn't matter but it does, there's money involved, motives. Come back when you have a point to make.
    Mainstream is not a verb. You don't "mainstream" yourself. I'm curious about why you're so adament about them not being a mainstream band when they have been. Being mainstream doesn't automatically mean you've sold out or that you aren't making the music you want to make. The fact you equate those things tells us all not to take you serious. The word only has negative connotations because manchildren like you run around insinuating that being mainstream automatically means you have no artistic integrity. Not every mainstream band is automatically packaged, commercial music. When you reach a certain level of popularity, you ARE mainstream but you are not necessarily packaged.
    I think you'll find that it can be a verb and and because it is one you can in fact mainstream yourself. Good job there It doesn't mean you lack integrity, but it does have connotations, not ones that I've embodied in society but ones that are there.
    I remember him being quoted in Guitar World magazine in 1996 saying that 'Rock is dead.' Yeah, that worked out. I'll treat his opinions with the same skeptical eye that has served well.
    omg, he's bald now!
    His baldness is a strange one.1992 long flowing brown locks then 1995 complety bald.Personally i think he went thro some hard times with his mother being ill and his own anxiety and depression which made his hair fall out as to have the head of hair he had to zilch in three years is quite remarkable.
    I think it's a similar story to Michael Stipe - They were both annoyed at premature balding, so they went for pure bald.
    I did the same thing. Mine started to recede just a little, and after seeing how awful comb-overs look for my whole life, you just give in.
    Unfortunately he's right. Lots of other music seems to move forward while rock tries to reignite music from the past. Punk, blues, etc. That's fine and I love blues rock. But it doesn't push music forward, it maintains the status quo. Saying that, there are lots of artists who push forward and try and break new boundaries but they seem to be few and far between when you compare it to other music.
    My Last Words
    Progressive rock.
    Progressive rock hasn't been progressing in ages ...
    I guess I kind of see what you are saying, but you can't honestly say that Yes and Scale the Summit or Dream Theater are in any way similar.
    And just how much "progressive" music do you listen to, sir? I'd bitch slap my self if I wrote what you just did. Oh, and Dream Theater is not progressive rock.
    Is still very much an unknown sub genre. But yeah, it's there, but is still not new.
    Sometimes moving along with the times is not that great, especially when the times involve auto tune. And what is wrong with taking old and making it new again? Look at The Sword and Witchcraft. As Phil Anselmo said about Witchcraft. "Not to many bands can take something old and make it new like Witchcraft" The only problem is that the radio refuses to play AMAZING music. Radio caters to the teen crowd. Dont get me wrong I love rap, just not mainstream. I have two TT1 turntables and a mixer, and I dj. There are better sounding rap groups out there than the ones on the radio. Case in point.
    There's better sounding EVERYTHING out there than on the radio.
    I agree fully with you. What I am trying to state is that, just because radio is not playing it, does not mean anything about how it is received. What Corgan, in my opinion, is trying to say is that there is a slow evolution in rock, basing it on the fact that rock is not getting airplay. Take Nirvana for example. They "Created" a movement in music, and it even got a name "Grunge" But in truth, musicaly, it is no different than what the Ramones or Fugazi did. Nirvana just took something old, and made it kinda new again, plus it got airplay.
    Grunge had been a term to describe music before Nirvana. Stuff like Beasts of Bourbon.. and even Mark Arm called his own band grunge in the early 80s.
    True, but it wasnt coined until Nirvana. Same could be said for Steppenwolf being called heavy metal. But heavy metal never got coined until Black Sabbath.
    Alligator Dunde
    He's right though. Quit the holier than thou action already, today's rock scene is dull and static. That's why I've swapped it for electronic music.
    Too bad he doesnt wanna talk about the 90's. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is on my all time greatest albums list. IMO its a real work of art from start to finish
    Coming from THE guy who should be banking on all his 90's glory.
    Why? He's a forward thinking musician. His FUTUREEMBRACE album is a prime example of what he's talking about. He's a very forward thinking musician, in the same vein as Thom Yorke.
    If it's coming from the guy who should be banking on all his 90's glory, then shouldn't his opinion be pretty just if he thinks the 90's wasn't that great. He's 100% correct, rap and electro moves with the time with ease, but rock does fall behind.
    you completely missed what he's trying to say. I think what you're talking about is exactly what he's saying he wants to avoid.
    Heavy Metal and rock n roll don't fit into the New World Order agenda. Folks that listen to the dumbed down music on the radio (crappy hard rock and hip hop/R&B) are much easier to control. They are easily lured in by the mass media and do not think for themselves much.
    Man, people are so ****ing quick to judge. 'Today's' music is extremely broad and accessible. Let us just focus on the inspiration that we have available to us in this day and age. At the click of a button we can listen to 'yesterday's' music and still feel that certain something TODAY. And that's to me what counts, that the influence is spread in the here and now, and not forgotten. Instead we have a bunch of dumb asses who absorb themselves in a certain genre or scene of music (or any artistic outlet) and seem to believe that this is the only music that has ever ****ing existed!?!? Let us ask ourselves - what means more? That we've successfully managed to conform to some clueless categorization, or that we as musicians are rocking and loving this gift of expression we possess?
    I don't think the 90's were all the great, for me personally the music then falls behind the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s.
    He's right though. REAL Jazz musicians never repeat their style and create something new every release. However, that's incredibly hard to do, artistically-wise and soul-wise. Pat Metheny is probably the closest thing to that in "Jazz" today. He's genre-less. Buckethead is the closest thing to that in Rock today... and saying that sucks. Cobain should have stuck with real Rehab... and Chapman should've had his balls cut off for killing Lennon.
    Alligator Dunde
    Lennon wasn't quite the guy that changed his style album after album... when it comes to songwriting, Rock and Roll, Plastic Ono Band and Imagine aren't really that different. Yoko is closer to what you've said than him.
    Sleaze Disease
    As a diehard rock/metal fan, I have to say that nothing has appealed to me in music right now anywhere near what Kanye West has. Rock music needs to really get it's shit together if it hopes to ever compete with such an incredible talent like Kanye's.
    Rap, Hip-Hop and other such forms of music are outselling Rock because people already know Rock, most kids these days have parents who are die-hard Rockers, so it makes all kinds of sense that they go for something different. Just like Rock took Jazz's place as the staple music for rebellious teens, Hip-Hop has been for atleast the last 15 years taking Rock's place on the rebellious teen playlist. Nothing to do with the 'pace of the world', kids basically like anything that grown-ups don't, and since they're the majority market for music, they dictate the ebb and flow of the market. Music doesn't have to be commercially successful to be amazing and well respected, just awesome. Classic Jazz records are timeless and I'll always enjoy listening to them, same goes for Rock music.
    Music doesn't go anywhere. It's been sitting in the same place it has been since its inception. The only thing that's changed is the size of people's egos. Well, to be fair, I guess that and the technology with which we use to articulate 'it'. Either way, get over yourself Mr. Rockstar.
    "DJs and rappers have an advantage because they can move more quickly with the times" I'm sorry, what the f**k is that supposed to mean? That they're more popular in mainstream? That they're making more money? Is that what this was about? Well, if this guy got involved in the music business because of popularity and money, I think he picked the wrong genre. Rock is (or, at least, should be) for those interested in making good music first, and reaping the benefits second. If he doesn't understand it after so many years in music, I doubt he ever will.
    Nice interview. He seems happy with the music he is making. I really like their Glastonbury set!