News

Billy Corgan calls for a war against pop music on Aussie breakfast TV

Breakfast TV isn’t usually the forum for grunge icons to declare war on pop and dance music. But that’s exactly what happened when The Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan visited Channel 7’s The Morning Show yesterday.

Wedged – we can only assume – between an infomercial for a robot vacuum cleaner and a segment on 2015’s hottest wedding trends, Corgan opened up to hosts Larry Emdur and Kylie Gillies on rock music in 2015, Kanye West’s infamous gate-crash of Beck’s Grammys acceptance speech, the “scourge” of pop and dance, and the state of music today. Surprise surprise, he doesn’t like what he sees.

On pop and dance as a musical “scourge”…

“What’s difficult about it from an insider point of view is that it sends out a message to kids that that’s the only way to be successful in the music business, is to sort of package yourself … And quite frankly if you look at the history of the music business the biggest stars are individuals. There’s only one Bob Marley, there’s only one Ossy Osbourne or Madonna. You can try, but you can’t recreate them. So the industry has become about following rather than leading. I think it’s reflected in the sales.”

On pop music as a form of pornography…

“I know it’s a bit early, but to me it’s headed towards a form of pornography. You have young women sexualising themselves earlier and earlier in really inappropriate ways to gain attention because it’s really all about getting YouTube hits.”

On whether Nicki Minaj is to blame…

“You can’t blame an artist for chasing a trend. You can only look at the industry and say that their lack of self-responsibility has ultimately impacted a once great business and made it small. If you look at the numbers in pop music they’re particularly small compared to video games, compared to movies. Our business is shrinking because it’s becoming more lowest common denominator. You can’t blame people but I don’t really think that’s what the great legacy and history of music is about.”

On rock stars waging war again pop…

“Rock’n’roll will be fine. I just think it needs to be more aggressive in taking on pop music. Particularly in America there’s a very cosy relationship between rock stars and pop stars – and I don’t think that’s a good relationship. Everybody belongs on their own side of the street for a good reason. By definition a rock star is supposed to be an independent individual who pursues a vision to an end – an Axl Rose, an Elton John. And a pop star is supposed to do whatever they can do to pray at some horrible idol of fame which is ubiquitous and fleeting. And that contradiction to me is why everyone should stay on their own side of the street.”

On Kanye gate-crashing Beck’s Grammy’s speech…

“Kanye’s from Chicago so I gotta be careful, I gotta represent. I think it’s inappropriate for any artist to take somebody else’s moment and make it their own … In that particular moment you’re basically saying that everything that Beck’s done to be in that position is negated because in your own mind it’s not relevant to you, or your own thing. I didn’t think that’s the moment to do it. Maybe afterwards you can say that, you can put it in your own blog. But to jump on stage and steal that moment, to re-appropriate it in your own way I think is inappropriate. I will add – and I mean this in all seriousness – the problem with the social media era is the Grammys will be rewarded for bad behaviour and so by extension will Kanye … It really should be a celebration of accomplishment and it becomes another version of high school.”

REVIEW: THE SMASHING PUMPKINS IN MELBOURNE

On whether it was a “PR stunt”…

“I don’t know Kanye, but I think he’s speaking from his heart. He believes what he’s saying. I just think that’s an inappropriate venue to do it because in essence that’s Beck’s moment.

On what he’d do if Kanye did that to him…

“I’ve been on that podium too [Smashing Pumpkins have won two Grammy Awards] and if someone got up on my stage I’d knock them out. I don’t care who it is I would’ve knocked them out … That’s my stage. I earned the right to be on the stage at that moment. That was Beck’s moment.”

On whether he’d beat Kanye in a fight…

“Between Kanye and I would be a stand-off but Kim would take me down.”

On how Kurt Cobain would feel about all of this…

“I think Kurt had an incredible level of integrity and I often say that he would know what to do with the pop miasma we’re dealing with right now. Because rock needs to be free and independent; it doesn’t need to imitate pop to survive. That’s very telling and negatively impactful to the music business as a whole. The music business worked fine when you had pop stars and you had rock stars and everyone was doing their own thing.”

On how this interview will be covered in the press…

“I can see the headline now, ‘If Kanye got on stage I would knock him out.’ And of course Kanye is going to see that headline and be like, ‘Bring it.’ [Laughs] I love Kanye, he’s a great artist, but 90 percent of people will just read that headline and I will start getting hate-tweets from Kanye fans saying ‘How dare you’, ‘I’ll knock you out’, blah blah blah. It’s a dumb world.”

Watch the whole clip here:

Click here if you’re having trouble watching on mobile

The Smashing Pumpkins will perform at Soundwave in Sydney and Brisbane this weekend.