ST. LOUIS — Smashing Pumpkins fans have been clamoring for the rock band to jump on the bandwagon and perform one of its classic albums in its entirety.
But Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan is having none of that.
“I don’t want to be a musical slut; I don’t want to be a musical whore,” he says. “That’s just dignity. The rest of the world has no dignity. I don’t want to be like that.”
If fans could decide, the band would play its epic 1995 album “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” containing the hits “1979,” “Tonight, Tonight” and “Zero.” A new album, “Oceania,” came out in June.
Corgan says the idea of bands playing whole albums was cool when it first started happening — but then everybody was doing it.
“It became the business model, and I saw that as being bad for business as people start expecting you do it,” he says. “And I said I won’t do it. ... I took a lot of (crap) for that.”
Corgan, the only remaining member of Smashing Pumpkins from its formation in Chicago in the late ‘80s, says he gets that it would be lucrative for his band to do a “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” tour. But he believes doing so would negatively affect a new album and the band’s future.
“We would love to go out and reap the benefits of my work, but not at the expense of new work,” he says. “If I came to St. Louis and did ‘Mellon Collie’ and we do 10,000 people then come back later and do ‘Oceania’ and only do 5,000 people, are you telling me it doesn’t feel like a letdown? You’re not building anything. I’m here to be a great artist — not a toy you wind up and put down.”
The group opens its new tour with the “Oceania” album in full, which Corgan says begins a new era — one in which people are interested in new Smashing Pumpkins music.
“When we came back in 2007 with our previous album (‘Zeitgeist’), I could never anticipate the level of sentimentality we saw,” Corgan says. “Suddenly we were put in this weird position where people expected us to get in line and be like everybody else.”
Corgan feels “Zeitgeist” wasn’t what fans were looking for.
“If you make it like the past you get a pat on the head, but you don’t have a future,” he says. “With ‘Oceania’ we did both. … And we’re not just putting out a new album. We’re standing behind it, living and dying behind it.”
Once “Oceania” is out of the way in concert, the band plays a mix of classic cuts and deep cuts. That’s where Corgan says the real debate begins: “What old songs are we going to play, and will we play enough old songs?”
Corgan likes to say the classics and deep cuts Smashing Pumpkins is doing in concert is a celebration of the artistic width of the band, but one that doesn’t necessarily touch on all of the albums.
“Personally, if I was being super-selfish, I would want to honor every album out of respect for what the albums did for me,” Corgan says. “We would play songs from our first album, but 90 percent of the audience wouldn’t know the songs.”
He says it ends up being a balance of audience expectations and what the band likes to play.
“At some point, it’s a compromise,” he says. “But when I end the night, I feel a sense of pride.”
// Notes from the Road
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