By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Did the Spirits in the Sky shows influence your current take on the Pumpkins?
Yeah. In the early days of the Pumpkins, the shows were really fun. And when the band got really huge and there was all that pressure, it got kind of dark, you know? The band was dark, the vibe was dark.
It was also a time of great transition in the world. We also existed during the end of "the grunge era," just like after the '60s, there's an era that comes in of disillusionment. You have this incredible buildup, which, in my eyes, you can say started even in the late '70s, but for my estimation it sort of started in the '80s, with alternative culture sort of building momentum in different cities, bands, and there's punk over here and ska over there, and all these influences just kind of building, building, building pressure ... so you had this moment — Nirvana was the keystone moment of "Wow, all this could really work at this level," and there was this big wave of hope and new power and new rules, new no-rules.
And suddenly we were running the labels, the labels weren't running us, and we were getting away with things that in 50 years nobody had gotten away with in rock & roll. All of a sudden everything was different.
And then in come the posers, and everything kind of collapses back in on itself, and greed and drugs and da da da, and then you're standing there in the smoking ruin of what, just a couple of years before, had been really optimistic.
So it'd been a long, long time since I had just stood on a stage and said, "I'm playing music, and I'm having fun, I'm with my friends, I like them, they like me, we eat together, we joke together." Everybody was pitching in to help — we only had one person to help us, so we had no roadies. We're moving around gear. It's back to the basic of "I wanna play."
So that had an influence on me saying, "OK, if I'm gonna do Pumpkins again, this is how I'm gonna do it." I'm not gonna go back into that dark place again. I'm gonna be with the light. I want people to see me happy. I wanna be happy and I want people to see me happy. I don't wanna play this kind of cartoon character anymore.
Speaking of spirituality, now the concept "Smashing Pumpkins" is no longer the original quartet but you, people you want to play with, plus your unconditional fan base, which is willing to follow you in your personal and artistic journeys. Judging from comments on the Internet, your followers seem to get into a lot of silly fights about what "true" Pumpkins music is. Do you ever feel like the reluctant messiah in Monty Python's Life of Brian?
I do feel like that [laughs, rolls his eyes]. I had to go through my own spiritual journey about fans and/or, let's call it, "the projection of the world."
You have the disinterested, who are only gonna raise their heads off the pillow if you're blowing yourself to pieces. You have the culturally interested, who are always gonna ride the wave, and so by that very nature you become redundant at some point just because you aren't that anymore, you aren't "the new thing to fuck."
Then you have people who invest really heavily on what you did, so much so that they cannot move on. You become like Gilligan — you can't get off the fucking island, no matter what you do. Then you have a world who kind of sets up in opposition to you: You represent that thing they don't like, so you become like, "I like this, and I don't like that." So suddenly you find yourself in the middle of this energy and you have to kind of process it and realize it's all kind of the same. Compliments and criticism are all ultimately based on some form of projection.
The only thing that you can do as an artist is be in the moment. Because somebody is always either trying to take you into the future, or the past, and the only time they care about you in the present is if you're really, really good.
When a fan comes up to me and is heavily invested in 1993, I'm honored by that because it means, "OK, I've communicated," but at some point they start to try to convince me that I have no future. So, can't I just go back to the crowd and sort of ride around in Siamese Dream land, you know? That irks me — the people who don't like what I've done to this point, who assume I'm never gonna do anything they'd like again.
So at some point you just have to say, "None of this has anything to do with me." I think the person who has best understood that on an energetic and ideological level is Bob Dylan.
Do you imagine yourself aging like Dylan, doing "1979" well into your 60s and playing weird arrangements of it?