William Patrick "Billy" Corgan Jr. is an American musician, producer, lyricist, writer, and poet, best known as the frontman and sole permanent member of The Smashing Pumpkins. Formed by Corgan and guitarist James Iha in Chicago, Illinois, in 1987, the band quickly gained steam with the addition of bassist D'arcy Wretzky and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. The band's direction has largely been driven by Corgan through his confessional lyrics, grandiose production values, and virtuosic musical interplay, notably with Chamberlin. In three years, The Smashing Pumpkins had transformed themselves into a major label success. Strong album sales and large-scale tours propelled the band's increasing fame in the 1990s, while Chamberlin's drug problems escalated until he was fired. The Pumpkins continued as a three-piece until Chamberlin rejoined the band in 1999, then broke up in 2000. Corgan started a new band with Chamberlin right away, called Zwan, and after their demise, he released a solo album and a collection of poetry before setting his sights on reforming the Smashing Pumpkins. He has also assisted Breaking Benjamin in making their album We Are Not Alone.
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Hello. I am Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins.
Victoria's helping me out today in rainy NYC. I'm enjoying a nice cup of tea.
Update: I loved these questions.
Because they were questions for a human being. And as a human being, I don't mind talking about it.
And I hope everyone gets a chance to check out the new album that is out today. We are super-super proud of it, and when people say it's the best album in years, they're not lying.
The song 1979 absolutely transports me back to the happiest time in my life. Was that song based on an actual experience you had? Do you remember how that song came to you?
Sometimes I write a song from a particular sense-memory.
And 1979 came from a memory where I was sitting at a traffic light on a rainy day, and that's all I remember.
Why is the world a vampire?
Just look in the mirror.
I read somewhere that the voice actors who play Spongebob Squarepants (Tom Kenny) and Sandy the Squirrel (Jill Talley) are the couple in the Toinght, Tonight video. How did you guys meet? Have you been in contact with them since the video was produced?
That is true.
And I have seen them on occasion. They're wonderful and obviously talented people. And it's a great thing to tell nieces and nephews that I know Spongebob.
what was it like to meet Homer Simpson in real life?
How in the hell did you get the Twitter handle @Billy? That seems like witchcraft.
Very long story.
But basically, somebody was squatting on my name, and through that, Twitter offered me @Billy.
What do you use to keep your head so smooth?
That's my answer.
Do you play video games? What do you do to switch off? Read? Meditate?
I did. I stopped, because i don't have time. And I'm an obsessive gamer, so once I get going, I can't stop.
What was the best and worst part about being on the Howard Stern Show today?
There's no worst with Howard.
He's the best in the business.
A fantastic and incisive interviewer.
And the best thing is he loves music.
Smashing Pumpkins are deservedly eligible for the Hall of Fame - if you get in, do you foresee James and D'arcy also attending?
I don't assume that that would ever happen.
So speculating on how it would all go down, if it did, seems kind of strange to me.
You have so much Zwan material that was never released officially, do you have any plans to ever release any of that stuff? Studio or live?
Yes. There are about 65 unreleased Zwan songs.
And again, have had some discussions with BMG about maybe putting out some sort of boxset at some point.
Favorite wrestler of all time or currently?
What happened to the Official Forum on smashingpumpkins.com? Why is it closed?
Ultimately, most forums descend into negativity.
And it is very hard as a business owner to basically support a culture which is inherently counter-intuitive to the business that you're running.
And because many fans who are informed and obviously intelligent weren't happy about a lot of the music-making in a particular period, it got to the point where I just didn't feel like supporting what could easily be done for free somewhere else.
Would you consider nostalgia to be a good or bad thing?
Nostalgia is a beautiful thing.
Under the right circumstances.
And what I mean by that is we all should celebrate moments that last. My problem is when those moments last and last and last and last and last...to the point of a kind of sickness.
Hey Billy! What's your favourite kind of tea?
I will admit to drinking Coca Tea in the Andes.
Which I suppose is illegal here in the US. But there is readily available. And helps deal with altitude sickness.
It tasted kind of earthen. You basically get kind of a mild stimulant buzz, cuz it's the Coca leaf you know?
One pedal to keep forever, which do you choose?
The off pedal.
Billy, what's the new album's cover art suppose to be? I like it. I think I see a lion
I'm sorry I can't explain this to you.
The mystery is the mystery.
How excited are you for the new Star Wars movie?
I'm very excited.
I have a feeling that these new series of movies (particularly because of the technology that is available now) will finally realize the vision that George Lucas must've had when he began.
Hey Billy. Was there a pivotal moment when you were growing up where you realised just how much you wanted to be a musician? Like was there a point where you kind of just went "This is what I want my life to become" or do you feel maybe it was just inherent?
There was that moment.
I saw a friend of mine playing a guitar, and knew in that instant that that's what I wanted to do.
I was about 14.
Hi Billy, I've been a fan of the Smashing Pumpkins for a long time and I appreciate you doing a AMA. I have two questions
• Have you improved at twister over the years? (Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lqH2Ag6fxU)
• What was your fondest memory of playing with Nirvana?
Was never good at it. And I'd assume I've lost a step in it.
I remember playing with them, thinking (by the way, the show wasn't sold out) that someday people were going to talk about the show.
Rotten Apples is one of my favorite songs of yours, rarely played live and recorded only once as a demo. I think it’s one of your best lyrics. Do you regret not putting the song on Mellon Collie? Also, you said that of all your songs, this was the one that you would’ve submitted to Johnny Cash to cover before he passed away, so clearly you’re quite fond of it. I was just curious about the writing and recording of the song and why you didn’t consider it album-worthy. Thank you! Last night at Webster Hall was AMAZING.
The process of song selection is a mercurial one. And it's easy to look back and say "This one should've gone on and this one shouldn't."
In the case of Rotten Apples, I'm not sure it would've made MCIS a better album. And the version that you like so much is a home demo that I did in about an hour, which happened to be the same hour that I wrote the song.
What is a dream collaboration of yours that hasn't happened yet?
stares out window
I would be thrilled to work with Ritchie Blackmore.
Did you ever find Vince?
A fan since the Gish days.
Vince... was... James' high school buddy who at times served as the band's tour manager and/or guitar tech.
So the "Where's Vince" was when we'd send him out for something, say, for example, a soda pop, and then he would be gone for hours, hence us singing "Where's Vince?"
Hey, Billy, what is shortest and the longest amount of time it has taken you to write one song?
5 minutes. And 5 months.
Where is your favorite place in the world to be?
My friend Mazda has a really bad-ass Mellon Collie tattoo. How often do fans show you their SP inspired ink? What was it like the first time you saw one?
Almost every day.
And it still freaks me out!
What's your favorite recent music?
I've been praising Phantogram's single "So in Love" - to me, this is the song of the year.
How did you develop those long Silverfuck jams? What was the thought process behind it?
What song that you wrote is the hardest for you to play, technically speaking?
Um, back in the day, with SP, we felt we never had a song that was good enough to finish the show. So we started this idea of a song called "Silverfuck," but the song would always change, so in essence, we would never know where the song was going, nor would the audience, so over time we developed different themes and feelings to create what is in essence a living song.
The song "Fuck you" comes to mind.
Any plan to release the Chicago Kid album and the Spun Soundtrack? Maybe it could be done through ZuZu?
Yes, and yes.
Although I have had discussions with the current label BMG about re-issuing the remainder of my catalogue.
What's your favorite ride in Disney?
I'm partial to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, because it's very much like being in the record business.
Billy! I've heard you say before that your time in Zwan was kinda rough, and that you weren't really interested in revisiting those songs until some time had passed.
That was some time ago... have your feelings changed about Zwan? Any chance of hearing those songs live in the future?
Also: Saw you at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa last time you guys were there. You rocked the house!
Actually, played some Zwan songs at my Ravinia concert this last August.
Hi Billy! Long time fan. My questions: why did you choose Tommy Lee to play drums for the new album? will you ever release the footage of the last show the Smashing Pumpkins played at the Metro in 2000?
"Choose" is the wrong word. Tommy was destined to play on this record, and I think the results show that.
As far as the infamous last concert from 2000, there are plans (as always) to release it but context is everything.
Hey Billy. As a young musician, I face a lot of self-doubt at times, even though I believe in what I'm doing, the task ahead (trying to be successful whilst maintaining integrity and doing what I want) can seem daunting. You've spoken about this to a certain extent, any advice for a young guy who tends to get in his own way creatively? Thanks. Huuuuge fan!
Ultimately, success in any field is only going to come if you're original.
Imitation serves no one long term.
So where you have doubt, understand that that's the thing you must overcome to make your OWN music. Your own meaning possessive, as in music only you can make.
How does it feel to know that your music has touched so many people on a personal level? Do you see music as a way to connect yourself to the world as well as a creative outlet?
I don't view my musical life in those terms. I'm very humbled that my music touches people. And I do not in any way wish to diminish the individual accomplishment of one person reaching another. But that said, I believe my real purpose as an artist is to break the machine. And as the machine grows, so grows the purpose.
You stated last year that you were working with Gibson on a signature guitar. Is it still in the works and what body style is it?
After initial conversations, they never called me back.
What are your favorite restaurants in the Highland area (besides ZuZu's)?
I love Isaac and Moishe's, which is kosher Mexican.
Billy, what's your go to acoustic? Still Taylors? Martin?
I'm currently working with Yamaha. And I hope that we might be able to build kind of a signature BC acoustic.
How did Set the Ray to Jerry get its name? Thanks for writing it
It was from an inside joke, where I used to refer to myself as Jerry.
How old were you when you wrote your first song?