I had been wanting to sit down with Billy Corgan on The Dinner Party To Go Podcast for a while. There has been so much written about him and, as a fellow Chicagoan, his reputation locally - for better or worse - is larger than life. I prepared myself for a potentially abrasive encounter as I have read that he can be a tricky personality. In addition, our day and time for our meeting had been pushed around so much that I just wasn't sure what kind of time we would have together for the interview or what kind of mood he would be in.
Contrary to most things that I have read or seen, the Billy Corgan I encountered on September 17th was warm, personable, and very thoughtful. It was clear he had spent a lot of time thinking about counter-culture and its mass expectation biases on established art and celebrities (i.e. Smashing Pumpkins). We talked about what it means to be part of "the uncomfortable middle": fitting in with neither mainstream culture (which he often refers to as the "main frame") or counter-culture, which he deems, in the end, as one in the same.
Over a fantastic tea for me (Emperor's Private Reserve, 200-300 years old, $20) that was silky and fragrant and iced tea for him, we discussed the loss of impact of Rock 'n' Roll ("It is literally just like wallpaper - and not even real wall paper, but digital wallpaper. The general fatigue behind the scenes is that Rock 'n' Roll has seen its best days...and no one is even mad about it... I see more genuine experiences at this point in my professional wrestling life than I see in my Rock 'n' Roll world.") and being a pescetarian.
While having functioned in the "uncomfortable middle" for the majority of his life, in the interview Corgan seemed at once at peace with it and yet still on the defensive, protecting wounds that maybe have yet to heal in full from the constant criticism that an artist of any medium can endure by the simple fact of putting themselves out there. Artists do this by choice, of course, and sometimes to great success and fame. But, it is a dicey road none-the-less, and Corgan seemed to be both still finding his equilibrium and more dedicated than ever to producing.
Case in point: Corgan has two new albums coming out with the Smashing Pumpkins, he curates the tea collection at his Madame Zuzu's Tea House (where our interview took place and which is also an alternative, tiny music venue), he is working on his memoir, which is expected to be 500,000 words, AND he writes for his wrestling organization, Resistance Pro, which is in production on a TV series with AMC. So, critics be damned, clearly there is no stopping him.
In the interview, we touch on the defining factor for what it takes to get one's work out in the public, the disappointment and potential positive impact of being an artist, the joy of constant learning, the commercialism of Rock 'n' Roll, his potential perceived insanity for not seeking fame, and, of course, wrestling.
Enjoy this one-on-one, warm, receptive, pensive and open interview with Smashing Pumpkins frontman, Billy Corgan, a self-described "big people person."