Billy Corgan Caught Between Hipsters And American Idols ‘You Can Call It Pop Music But We Have Integrity’

As Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins‘ frontman, tours the world promoting the band’s latest album Oceania, he finds himself trying to find fans in the missing middle ground, the casual rock fan, found somewhere between hipsters, and the clueless wannabes.

In an interview with KROQ’s Kevin & Bean, Corgan expresses his frustration with the lack of mainstream rock fans. Today’s landscape is marked by those have no roots and fake it, or those that consider themselves too cool for school and simply hate everything.

“I think we’ve broken into two cultures, and I say would there’s a lot of music that fits in the middle that’s not accounted for and I would say, essentially, we’re in that middle. On one side you have let’s call it the American Idol mentality which has permeated even alternative rock. You have a lot of robots with full sleeves and the faux hawks that don’t know who Henry Rollins is. They didn’t see Henry back in the day doing the poetry readings. I came from that, whether you want to give me that credit or not.”

“On the other side you have a crew that’s like the cool kids at school who hate everything and they decide, ‘This is our little corner sawed off to all the rest of you.’ That’s always going to be there, but it’s turned into a business now too.

So they need people like me to say, ‘Oh, he’s the sellout. He’s the guy that went… [mainstream]’ I crossed the line about 20 years ago buddy. I’m not going to be the guy in the corner making music with a thumb piano. It’s just not my thing.

I helped create an idiom with other talented people that continues to be a successful formula. We stole it from Black Francis of the Pixies, right? You know, like Kurt said, the down verses and the big choruses, it’s not a big deal, okay? You can call it pop music but we have integrity on some level.

Once you cross into that middle, who’s talking about you there? Well as far as I know, a lot of people I know are in the middle. They like John Fogerty. They like Bruce Springsteen. They like Smashing Pumpkins. It’s not a big deal. And if you look at both sides [they] make their thing a bigger deal than it really is.

If those things are such a dang big deal, where’s the record sales? We’ve lost the middle which is where most people buy their music. They just want good rock and roll. It doesn’t have to be rocket science. If you make it like that, you’re taking away the free independent spirit and you’re trying to make it your own and trying to own it.

And the funny thing is you look at where one extreme, the super independent extreme, will accept a Nicki Minaj for being overtly super pop because she’s cool pop, right? But somehow I’m less integral than Nicki Minaj but I’ve been down in this trench for 25 years and it started with seeing Henry Rollins at the poetry [readings]. Nicki Minaj would go, “Henry Rollins who?” Nothing against Nicki Minaj.

Jay Tilles / CBS Local


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