Words of wisdom from Billy Corgan at Splendour

Despite all the musical diversions on the other stages at Splendour in the Grass yesterday afternoon the forum tent was overflowing as Will Anderson interviewed independent MP Rob Oakeshott about education reform and his love of the Hilltop Hoods. But that’s not exactly why the punters had gathered.

After patiently tolerating the political Q&A session with just a few heckles, the punters were rewarded with an enlightening 40 minutes as this year’s session of Will Does Parky welcomed one of the musical world’s most reliable quote machines Billy Corgan to the stage to answer questions about everything from the Simpsons and wrestling to the pornography of pop music.

On what interests him

I’m very interested in what people are thinking and feeling. There was an assumption in the 90s that culture was changing and that cool kids were taking over but that didn’t necessarily work out the way wed envisioned it. No one saw that the explosion of technology was going to change the way we communicate… I’m a progressive artist and I’m interested in how they receive their information.

On the airing his opinions

It’s a mixed blessing; people don’t listen to rock and roll to hear about your problems. It’s an escapist business which is how so-so talented bands can get over for a few years with the right clothes because people will believe in the image they’ve created. But over 25 years pert of who I am is part of the bigger story so I’m OK with it.

On Twitter

If I light myself on fire you’ll click on my link more.

On the music business

In 1990 we signed a contract for 7 albums which would be the equivalent of about 14 years. We had almost no rights. We had to pay to make our albums. It was the equivalent of loaning money to buying a house and paying back the loan but then you still never own the house.

On his signature scent

A bat cave mixed with rose and patchouli.

On The Simpsons

It was very exciting and honestly the number one most popular thing I’ve ever done which is a bit weird because I’ve done a lot of cool stuff and been in bed with some interesting people.

On being in a band

Being in a band is so much fucking bullshit. Everyone’s always telling you what to do including grandma. Everyone has to have an opinion. Then there are those pure moments on stage where you have that connection and it makes it all worthwhile. That may sound a little cheesy, but honestly that where it works.

On his stage persona

I’m an assassin. I’m a soul assassin. I’m serious; I’m cold-blooded snake up there… we’re not here to have fun, we’re here to blow your fucking head off.

On artistry

There are two music businesses: there are artists and there are cookie makers. Artists are here to change the world, change your clothes, change your head, change your mind, change your sexuality… something’s gotta change. Being in a band that means something is about love. It’s not about pleasure… the artists I like the Bob Marley’s, the John Lennon’s, they’re not there to please you. They’re there to change something about the way you see the world. The rest of it is just a bunch of porn.

On how he has changed

I used to have a sort of arrogance and now I have a different appreciation for the audience. When I was younger I was so blinded by the opportunity [back then] and I didn’t really appreciate it back then. I used to think “yeah you should be here” now I think about the mud and the energy and the time it takes to be together [in the audience] and I have a different appreciation for that. I’m more humble in that now, but I’m musically arrogant.

On the festival experience

A festival can be, and should be, a celebration of a communal moment because somebody in this room is going to die in the next year. That may be a little grim but the point is that we don’t know when we’re going to be back here.

On the future of the band

I see Smashing Pumpkins in this form as about a four or five year thing. I’m 45 so that makes sense to me. I think the band has to morph and become more visual and more multi-media.

On pop music

Nothing wrong with pop. It’s the right kind of porn. Most of the bands celebrated by the snobby blog and Pitchfork world are pop bands in cool clothes. That doesn’t mean it’s bad but it’s pop music. I grew up on Siouxie and the Banshees, The Cure, Bauhaus, New Order. These were bands that had pop hits because they were great… not because they were in the studio thinking about American Idol. Alternative music needs to move away from that but at the same time it can’t fall into this snobby thing it’s falling into because that’s keeping the bands from mainstream success. We haven’t seen mainstream success of alternative bands in the last ten years. I mean everybody here knows who’s headlining but if you bogan cousin doesn’t then [the bands] aren’t really getting anything done because that’s what messes with the world.

On the reaction to new songs

To me a song’s a song; I don’t care what period it’s from. If I produced it like a Siamese Dream type song you’d say it’s a Siamese Dream type song. People get caught up in production. Look, I only know so many chords: it’s sad song, sad song, sad song, self obsessed lyric, sad song. I go back to the well and there’s more pain. We do have a few happy songs but it’s hard to put them in the set. It’s not really about songs, it’s about the whole show grabbing you.

On the legacy of The Frogs

The Frogs were strange, but so musically gifted… The Frogs are what indie music is about. They don’t fit in, they’re not played on the radio but they influenced and inspired people like me and Kurt Cobain. It’s about being yourself.

[The Frogs’ Dennis Flemion briefly played with the Smashing Pumpkins in the late 90s. He passed away earlier this month.]

On new bands

Rock and roll is so boring. I see these young bands and they’re jumping around like it’s the greatest show ever and I know it’s not the greatest show ever. They’re pretending. In a way it’s really disrespectful to all the people who’ve come before because all they’re doing is stealing all the moves. They’re not really feeling it. They’re just acting and it’s disrespectful to the audience because it’s no better than American Idol.