A: I want the new feeling. Picasso did some of his best work in his 90s. Neil Young is making some of his best music now. I don't want to be 25 again. There are people out there who are older who are cool. I want that. Music is your guide. At the heart of Jimmy Page is the 14-year-old playing skiffle and trying to figure out Scotty Moore licks in his bedroom. The year 1995 for me was miserable in some ways. I just dream of having a voice in the conversation. Not being written off by the bloggers as some grandpa who keeps showing up at the buffet table.
Q: How'd you rediscover that feeling?
A: I've found peacefulness in myself where I found I didn't have to be more than or less than. Be yourself moment to moment. Go left, right, and in between. You like keyboards, guitars, loud stuff, quiet stuff. Just go with it. Stop overthinking it. It's very similar to the way I worked in the '90s.
Q: So you're saying you lost that in the last decade? Why?
A: I got away from that to teach myself a few things. I'm a bit weird. I'm the guy who would be bored with two on two basketball, so I'd play against four guys to make it interesting. I've done a lot of that in (2005 solo album) "The Future Embrace," (2003 band project ) Zwan - working within concepts of limitation. Can I box my way out of this corner? I think this is the first time I've made a record where I didn't box myself in. If it sounds like Frank Zappa one minute and Vangelis the next, OK.
Q: How were your earlier records boxed in? Whatever people say about them, the Pumpkins were definitely their own thing through much of the '90s.
A: I said this to the current band the other day. The "Siamese Dream" band didn't exist. I created that band and then we learned how to be that band after the record. I expressed to (producer Butch Vig) an idealized vision. A beautiful, silver version of the Smashing Pumpkins that did not exist. It was a movie. The videos, the success enhanced and filled in the gaps. (The 1995 album "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness") is a much more accurate portrayal, it's the band as we really were - mean, dark. (The 1991 album "gish") is me trying to be somebody, "Siamese Dream" is me trying to create something, "Mellon Collie" is the band unvarnished. "Siamese Dream" was me working within my own and Butch's straitjacket. (Nirvana's Kurt Cobain) went through it, with the idealized version of Nirvana on "Nevermind" and the unvarnished version on "In Utero" with (Steve) Albini. Finally you reach a point where it's over, the game doesn't work, Smashing Pumpkins is dead. I couldn't just flip the switch and be great. So is there nothing in this for me? You walk away or try to make it for you. The difference for me is that at 45 I feel I have to deliver or you don't get another chance. Our axiom for "Oceania" was you have one chance. Don't expect anyone to listen seven times. They'll listen one time if you're lucky.
Q: When things are working, great artists say they reflect their audience. Do you feel you're still in touch with your audience?
A: I feel I'm reflecting the part of the audience we don't hear from. There are a lot of people out there who love music but don't have a place in music culture as it exists. I meet these people all the time. Soccer mom, 34, has good taste in music. They are your average rock fan who isn't part of the Pitchfork culture. They don't follow the train. They're the difference between 40,000 sales and 400,000. We've disenfranchised that part of the culture by playing to the (snobby, snarky) crowd. The Internet has swelled that (expletive) crowd. The crowd that trashes what you do instantly and writes you off. It's like the '90s indie-rock crowd all over again: Don't look this way, don't dress this way, don't play long guitar solos, whatever. But there are people out there in their teens who found Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, they don't care that those bands don't exist anymore. They exist in their computer. They're finding this other value system that isn't contemporary. It's a wider scope. The unspoken audience, the stragglers, and this new audience who isn't snarky or cares much about modern record business, that's our audience.
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