Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 57° Clear
News >  Features

Coming clean

Jim Farber New York Daily News

Billy Corgan is in the mood to spew.

With the release of his first solo album, “The Future – Embrace,” the former leader of the Smashing Pumpkins and Zwan has decided to come clean about his childhood and history with his two famous bands.

Not only is he doing so in interviews but in a rambling and seldom pleasant online autobiography that appears at www.billycorgan.com.

“I’m sick of covering up for my tormentors,” the singer says. “I used to protect them out of a warped sense of loyalty. But there comes a point when you have to tell your story.”

This one isn’t pretty. In his unfolding blog, Corgan writes about the torment and confusion of his mentally ill mother, who died of cancer at age 50; his father, who neglected him while he was growing up; and the triumphs and tussles of the Pumpkins, one of the key bands of the ‘90s.

Corgan paints his experience with the Pumpkins as a saga of paranoia, pressure and self-hatred. He no longer speaks to two of his former bandmates, nor to the guys in Zwan.

“They were supposed to be these cool indie rock people where it’s all about the music,” he says of Zwan. “But it was all about hanging out with (scummy) chicks in bars. It was shocking to me.”

Since Corgan always controlled much of the music in his group projects, doing a solo album wasn’t much of a stretch.

The music on the new album, however, differs dramatically from his past work. Instead of raging guitars, gurgling synths dominate “The Future – Embrace.”

Corgan hopes his dense new style “helps build a new wave of rock.” But he knows it will be a hard sell. Brand-name bands generate more excitement in rock than solo efforts.

He’s also aware that his most commercial period lies behind him. “I’m not asking people to love me,” he says.

One can’t help but wonder whether Corgan’s decision to clean house emotionally is a PR ploy to give his CD a boost.

“People have said, ‘Why not tell it all to your therapist and not in public?’ ” he says. “Well, I lived in public, I was judged in public. So now I put it out in public.”

Corgan believes he and his rock peers of the ‘90s were too harshly judged by the public and the press.

“Trent (Reznor), Courtney (Love), Billy (Corgan) – we were all put up on the chopping block and made to pay for having the guts to come along and talk about being human beings with real problems,” he says.

“Courtney – what did she do to anybody? She’s crazy and she runs her mouth, but she liberated the whole world of music for women.”

Corgan offers no such defense of his fellow ex-Pumpkins. In his blog, he describes bassist D’arcy Wretzky and guitarist James Iha as unreliable, difficult and stand-offish (though he maintains a personal and professional relationship with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin).

He says he still doesn’t know why Iha stopped talking to him.

“For all I know, I didn’t give him a Twinkie – it could be something stupid,” he says. “My dad didn’t talk to me for a year because he misunderstood something I said and thought I’d accused him of sexually abusing me.”

Corgan says he knows why he and Wretzky don’t speak, but he won’t elaborate.

For all the ill will, Corgan feels the Pumpkins’ musical reputation is stronger than ever. “Kids are rediscovering the band,” he says. “There’s energy trapped in those songs.

“It’s been a bumpy ride. But the fact is, if we (hadn’t) made good music, no one would care.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.