No more Mister Mellon Collie guy
Billy Corgan and his Smashing Pumpkins return to Australia to star at Splendour in the Grass, writes
BILLY Corgan doesn’t expect ‘‘my girl Jess’’ to join him and his band onstage when they headline the final night of the three-day Splendour in the Grass festival in Byron Bay in July.
‘‘I don’t think so. Our worlds are so far apart, as far as our fan bases,’’ he says. ‘‘And besides’’, he adds, ‘‘it would look weird’’.
‘‘I don’t think people realise I’m so much bigger than her. I look like some monster who wandered in off the street next to her.’’
Jess, of course, is one half of pintsized Brisbane pop/rock duo The Veronicas, aka twin sisters Jessica and Lisa Origliasso. Corgan, 44, has been dating Jessica for the past two years, acting as a sounding board for the sisters as they record their new album.
Speaking on the phone from Chicago, Corgan says he and his Pumpkin bandmates – Jeff Schroeder, Mike Byrne and Nicole Fiorentino – will head into the studio this week to begin rehearsals for a tour to show off their new album, Oceania, due out in June.
Corgan says perhaps the biggest difference between previous releases and Oceania is his inspiration.
‘‘I’m writing a book right now exploring a lot of these themes and one thing that is obvious to me is that I felt unseen by my father,’’ he says.
‘‘Everything I did was like ‘here I am, notice me’. A lot of what I did then translated into the world where, if someone wasn’t telling me it wasn’t the greatest band, it wasn’t enough.
‘‘Good wasn’t enough. My apologies to everyone involved,’’ he laughs.
‘‘I felt driven. The good thing about that was I pushed myself to places I probably never would have otherwise – but it killed me inside.
‘‘Once I realised the cost of that – and that you can’t stay up all night and turn into a casualty type – making music comes from a spiritual place. I’m finding a real love for music. I fell back in love with music, but not in the teenager ‘can’t live without you way’.’’
Corgan says the band’s Aussie shows mark the ‘‘debut of our Oceania tour’’.
‘‘I haven’t played guitar for a while. It’s exciting, because it will be the first time we’re going into the whole thing (the new album),’’ he says.
The Pumpkins lineup has changed since the band last visited the Coast to play the now-defunct V-festival. ‘‘It feels good,’’ Corgan says. ‘‘When you make a good record, there’s a certain confidence that comes into the band. I’m lucky in that the band can play anything. There’s nothing Jimmy (Chamberlin) played that Mike can’t but that doesn’t mean everything we play we play well.
‘‘There is some material where we have to go ‘well, it’s real hard to play it but we can’t’. There’s some stuff we play far better than other lineups.
‘‘This band is really good for space and that bigger, festival type stuff. Density doesn’t always work for festivals. We used to come out and play with all this crazy density.’’
Corgan admits he’s proud, pleased and sometimes surprised with how well the band’s back catalogue – including the classic albums Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness – have stood the test of time.
‘‘There’s some stuff that I’m really surprised by how it’s held up and how it makes more sense lyrically than when I wrote it. Then there’s other stuff I thought was cutting edge at the time . . . ,’’ he laughs.
While many of his contemporaries have struggled with addiction and excess, Corgan is still standing.
‘‘There are two parts to that one,’’ he says, asked how he’s survived the pitfalls many of his friends fell victim to.
‘‘I grew up with a father who had a lot of problems with addiction. I had a very different perspective than most people coming in. There’s nothing romantic to me about that lifestyle. I never romanticised it. The other part is, somewhere along the way, I realised I had to think about my musical future, so I started thinking about those things.
‘‘I thought I still want to be here in 20 years. The things I’ve done and took shit for before have helped long term. I trusted myself to be around . . . I wanted to be here. I’m glad I’m still around.’’
Smashing Pumpkins play Splendour in the Grass, at Belongil Fields, Byron Bay, from July 27-29. Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 9am via Moshtix.
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