The Great Pumpkin tells all in brutal detail


June 19, 2005


No matter what heights Billy Corgan attains in his solo career, he will inevitably be asked about the Smashing Pumpkins, one of the defining bands of the alternative-rock era, and one of the most successful groups Chicago ever produced, with sales of more than 22 million albums.

Corgan was notoriously dictatorial during his days as the Great Pumpkin, but he claimed that he has grown in his ability to collaborate. "I think what I learned is that I have to respect the person," he said. "If I don't respect them, it's war. If I respect them, it's a partnership.

"The problem that we had for years was that I really didn't respect their voices, so I would compartmentalize the parts of their voices I did respect. If we were talking about angular guitar, it was like, 'OK, I'll listen to you James [Iha].' But if we were talking about the sonic wall, it was, 'You don't know what the f--- you're talking about.'"

Asked whether the Pumpkins might ever reunite, Corgan recalled a recent e-mail exchange with Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue.

"He was like, 'Everybody has got a price,'" Corgan said. "I said, 'Not these guys!' It really wasn't about money for them, because if it was about money, I could have bought them. There was nothing I could do, say or pay them. If it ain't in you, it ain't in you."

In addition to forging ahead with his new music, Corgan is trying to escape his past by embracing it. Published last year, his first book was a best-selling collection of poetry titled Blinking With Fists. Now he is writing what he describes as an autobiographical "tell-all," posting it in installments on his Web site,

"For this stuff I'm about to write, that's a $500,000 to $1 million book deal," Corgan said. "I'm basically turning my back on a lot of money, and maybe that's a part of why it's positive. I'm just posting it online, out of my mouth and hands and into the world.

"For me, the overwhelming part is that I'm talking about stuff I've never talked about. As much as I've blabbed on through the years, there were certain things that were off-limits. Now I'm going to where there are no limits: I'm talking about my family, my mistakes, why I made them, what I was thinking. My hope is that when it's all laid out, like a long movie, you'll see how wonderful and noble the cause was, how we got lost, and how even somebody who could be a complete ass---- like James still rose to the occasion.

"It's a complex tale," Corgan continued. "There are good guys and bad guys, but they change. Maybe one year, I was the bad guy, then for two years, I was the good guy. Yet that's a family; that's life. If you see the picture of my family life in detail, and the Pumpkins' life, the mirroring is insane. And then Zwan, I don't even know if I'm going to get into that, but that's another mirror. If I put that story out, you'd see the same story three times. It's almost sickening, because you know what's coming, and even I'm like, [groan].

"But this is something I need to do. I can't say that I understand every reason why, but it's just one of those things. There's a spiritual thing called witnessing, where you stand up in a room full of people and you tell your story. There are going to be negative aspects, there are going to be times where you're going to get lost, but the overall effect is to release this stored energy. And it's time."