Smashing Pumpkins: "I'llhave the last laugh"
Thu 26th Apr, 2012 in Features
You’ve said in other interviews you said you weren’t 100 percent happy with the way Zeitgeist turned out. Did you feel that way at the time, or is with hindsight?
I felt that way at the time. But that being said, I still thought it was good, or I wouldn’t have put it out. I still thought there was a lot of value there, but because people couldn’t get past it not sounding like Siamese Dream, it got kind of lumped into a category. So I when I say that, people think I mean it in terms of other things, no I meant it in terms of my own goals. It’s not like I went and said ‘let’s make Siamese Dream number two’ and I didn’t make it, ‘yeah it’s a failure’, no I went in to make an album that sounded like Zeitgeist.
I didn’t get out of it everything I would’ve wanted to get, and in hindsight I looked at it, and I’ve always been honest about saying ‘I didn’t get everything I wanted.’ But that said, I’m sorry, Jimmy and I in a room is still better than about 99 percent of the music that I’ve ever heard, outside of bands named The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Nirvana, you know the list. To have it be kind of degraded into something because it wasn’t want people wanted, that’s a different set of expectations that don’t have anything to do with me.
So that’s what I’m trying to say, that’s why I don’t say certain things in public anymore, because people think I’m talking about their version of my reality, and I’m not, I’m talking about my version. We wanted Zeitgeist to be a very sparse, metallic record. And we made one, and where it works, on a song like say United States, it’s incredibly effective. It’s darker and leaner than anything we’d done before. But maybe where it’s too much, on a song like Seven Shades of Black, which I actually liked as a song, it’s too dense, it sort of works in the wrong way. There’s too much going on. It’s not as muscular as maybe it would’ve come out in the Mellon Collie period, where that stuff seemed to work better then. So that’s my kind of evaluation. That’s what I mean when I say I wasn’t happy.
Looking at your career more broadly it’s been tumultuous, would you do anything differently now, apart from Zeitgeist specifically?
I think there’s second guessing in every period. I think that’s really easy to do once you’ve gone through it. I’ve never put out a record I wasn’t proud of. Because even if in hindsight I didn’t think the record was as good as maybe I thought it was at the time, or hoped it would be, I still am proud of myself for taking the chance. And I think that’s what separates me from most of my contemporaries, they don’t really take chances. Maybe they took a chance at the beginning, but then after that they kind of lock in to the same ride. The same rollercoaster. And I’m proud of myself for sticking my neck out again and again, and I still think I’ll have the last laugh.
In the internet age which we now are squarely in – what many people are calling the biggest shift in global culture since the Industrial Revolution – I think the type of artist I am, the type of musician I am, the type of person I am, fits very well with the technological revolution because it will be about diversity, it will be about telling different stories. It will be about a different narrative than ‘I grew up in a poor farm and I got rich and famous, and then I got on heroin and blew my career and then I did VH1’, do you know what I mean? I think that story is done. This is a new story. This is about renewal, revival, and finding new ways to be an artist in a world that’s changing at an incredible speed, faster than any of us can assimilate. I think Smashing Pumpkins music, my music, fits in quite well with that because if you get bored with one part of me [there is another]. Just like if I got bored with early Beatles I found later Beatles, or blues Beatles, or spaced out Beatles. And that’s always what we tried to model ourselves after, it was Beatles, or Led Zeppelin [or] The Cure – bands that we thought had a diversity in their approach. And so I think we fit right in, in that way, and I think we’re gonna have a good laugh there in the end about it all, because we’re actually more forward thinking than people would’ve given us credit for. Even though we have regrets, it is what it is, they’re regrets because you took chances, not regrets because you didn’t take chances.