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Billy Corgan on Smashing Pumpkins Lineup, Guns N’ Roses Reunion + Rock Hall Possibility

Smashing Pumpkins Billy Corgan
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

The faces may have changed, but the constant for Smashing Pumpkins over the years has been frontman Billy Corgan. As the band continues on their “Plainsong” tour this year, there are are ties to both the band’s ’90s lineup as well as the second era Corgan revival. The singer spoke with Rolling Stone on a number of topics, with the subject of band lineups coming up on multiple occasions.

Drummer Jimmy Chamberlin is back playing with the band after multiple stints with Corgan, but when asked about whether or not that meant he was once again a member, Corgan spoke more to the band’s fluidity. “I don’t really get into all that stuff anymore. One of the sources of tension always was, ‘Who’s [in] and who’s out?’ I run sort of an open-door policy now,” says Corgan. “There really are no band members. And if anybody’s in the band, it’s Jeff [Schroeder]. With this, I asked Jimmy to be involved and he was very enthusiastic about it, and so I said, ‘Great, let’s do it.’ I think we’re long past the point of trying to define what the band is. It’s gone through so many iterations and been delved into over and over again. There’s no straight answer and nobody seems satisfied with whatever answer I give, so I just don’t care anymore. It’s an open door.”

The topic came up again in a round about way during a discussion on the Guns N’ Roses reunion, which Corgan says he predicted five years ago would happen. “I just think the band, however you want to quantify it, broke up, or the original lineup didn’t endure past a certain point, and the world has changed a lot since then. The band is so great and the music is so great, and the chemistry is such a part of what people love — including me — as a fan. It would seem a crime to not be able to enjoy and appreciate the accomplishment in this era,” said Corgan.

He added, “I’ve been on the other side of this coin, where I’ve had people demand that I get onstage with, you name it, any number of ex-bandmates because that’s what they want and they couldn’t care less whether or not you share Christmas cards. And I’ve staunchly said — much to my own detriment — that the only way that would happen is if we were in a place of love and appreciation for one another. I’ve taken a lot of s–t for that as if somehow I’m ruining somebody’s generational memory, but to me, it’s true of the value system of the band in that we only did what we truly believed in, even when tons of people told us they didn’t like what we were doing.”

As for whether he would skip the Rock Hall induction like Axl Rose did if the lineup questions provided too much drama, Corgan stated, “I can’t answer those kinds of questions. What if I say I will come and then 17 years later, when I’m in a wheelchair, they finally bring me in. I don’t f–king know.”

On the subject of the Rock Hall, Corgan commented, “Whole genres of music get overlooked and people don’t get put in because somebody’s mad at somebody from 30 years ago. I’m only speaking as a fan, but it’s hard to trust the institution as a meritocracy when you have people in there who weren’t very influential, didn’t sell a lot of records but because somebody somewhere was a fan, they’re in. And then you have other people who were hugely influential and they go, ‘Well, you know…” But he says he recently spoke to Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, who is being inducted this year, and told him it was about time. “He said, ‘I don’t give a s–t. I’m in now.’ I think at the end of the day you hope that it’s fair and you get in on your accomplishment and it’s not a political thing. But I don’t know what to think about any of that anymore,” says Corgan.

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