”Wanna go for a ride?” asks Billy Corgan. The ex-Smashing Pumpkins singer-songwriter-guitarist-tortured genius is not slyly referencing the line from ”Zero,” one of the myriad hits that helped transform him into an alt-rock demigod in the ’90s. Rather, he’s nodding toward his sweet ‘68 Mustang Fastback that’s parked on a sleepy street in a Chicago suburb, not too far from where he resides in an 18-room mansion. In a few hours, he’ll begin rehearsing for a world tour in support of his first solo album, TheFutureEmbrace. But right now, he’s graciously providing a quick survey of the neighborhood, which includes a stop at the enormous house where a certain Mohawked ’80s TV star and his chains once lived. (”You can’t beat Mr. T,” he says.) It’s a perfectly pleasant journey, though not nearly as interesting as the ride that Corgan, 38, takes you on when the interview tape starts rolling: a gear-shifting trip through the making of Corgan’s solo debut, the ruins of his two bands (the Pumpkins and Zwan), and his surprisingly intimate foray into blogging. ”Sorry,” he warns, ”there are no seat belts.”
EW What did you want to accomplish with TheFutureEmbrace?
BC The primary [goal] was not rock, because that sounds like Pumpkins. If I’m going to do Pumpkins, I’m going to do Pumpkins. I know how to do this thing that’s very acceptable — loud, guitar-driven alternative rock. I helped create the modern blueprint of it. But there comes a point [when you] say, ‘I’m not going to do that. I’m going to go over here by myself and figure out something.’ And it’s in those moments where you don’t know if anybody is going to give a s—.
EW How did you get Robert Smith of the Cure — whom you grew up worshipping — to appear on a cover of the Bee Gees’ ”To Love Somebody”?
BC We’ve talked about doing something together. I called him up and said, ”Okay, I think I’ve got the right song for you.” ”Is it one of yours?” ”No, it’s a Bee Gees song.” And there was this long, wonderful pause on the line, and, in that English accent: ”The Bee Gees?” He’d seen a documentary on them recently, and he said, ”Okay, I’m open to it.”
EW Where do you fit into the music landscape of 2005?
BC I don’t. I’m between the cracks. I am neither a has-been nor incredibly current. Most people are like, ”What have you been doing for the past seven years?”
EW For someone who’s been defiantly elusive and cryptic, you’re now posting some revealing stuff about your life on your MySpace blog (myspace.com/billycorgan) — an abusive childhood, a drug-addicted father, a mother in a mental hospital, band problems…
BC Oh, that’s just the beginning. I’m just warming up. I haven’t gotten to the good stuff yet. It gets way crazier.
EW Why are you telling your story now?
BC It takes energy to hold secrets. I’ve been carrying some for 30 years. Being an abused child, you become complicit in your abuse by being silent. And that can be very painful. And consequently I engaged in the same sort of things in the bands [the Pumpkins and Zwan] where I was abused, where people took advantage of things. And I sat very silently. Then I was taking abuse from the outside and in some weird loyal double-duty, I was trying to protect the band from the mean, bad world and using myself as the lightning rod to draw attention not only from them but from myself. There comes a point where it’s time to dismantle all that architecture. I don’t need it anymore.