Q: You spent a lot of time in the last decade working to get a band up to speed. But people feel it's you who call all the shots. How much a part of this album is the band?
A: The album tells the best version of the story. People have a general misunderstanding of what I do, like I'm standing in the back directing things. The behind the scenes pace of the way we work is different. It's hard to translate. But they're playing on the album. This is not one of those things where in 10 years I'm going to say I actually played all the instruments (laughs).
Q: What's the main difference between this album and (2007 Pumpkins comeback album) "Zeitgeist"?
A: "Zeitgeist," in retrospect, is the death album - the last album of the Smashing Pumpkins era. It just took seven years to come out. I went in with a very naive idea. Everyone wants me to make "Siamese Dream" again, which equated in my mind to a bunch of loud guitars, with that as a transition into a new era. It was like "Indiana Jones" Part 3. You play to an expectation. The smart move when we got back together would've been to do a greatest hits album, a greatest hits money tour, then do a new album. I didn't do that - much to the consternation of Jimmy (Chamberlin) and my management, because I left millions of dollars on the table. But my plan didn't work either. When I made "Siamese Dream," I was taking LSD, crashing on people's couches, broken-hearted over a girl who later became my wife. You can't be that again. It's disrespectful to your own past to think you can relive your own past. I kept saying to Jimmy, where is the psychedelia? Because I always felt that was the heart of our sound. So I got rid of things, until it became this very primal music, one angry guitar and one angry drummer. I tried to build on that. But my relationship with Jimmy was broken. I didn't want to admit it. He would've been happy to keep it going and I had the blinders on and was marching forward. I just stepped in the wrong mudhole. But I learned some things. I came across an apathetic audience, and it ignited something in me. It brought back that old "(expletive) you."
Q: Things got hostile during that 2008 tour. You were pretty abusive toward the audience, and some people still haven't forgotten that or forgiven you. It reminded me of some weird, uncomfortable Andy Kaufman skit.
A: It's (pro) wrestling (laughs). I'm in character. Even Jimmy Chamberlin believed it. All he saw was money going down the drain. I'm a weirdo like Wayne (Coyne) from the Flaming Lips. He'll be the guy in the bubble floating above the audience and I'll be the guy in the black dress on stage. There's a saying in wrestling where you start to live your gimmick. On the road, I'm in character, at home I'm with my cats playing Xbox. Is it smart? No. Is it compelling? At times. But I needed to do it.
Q: It was your way of blowing it up?
A: It's an unconscious expression. I still remember standing on that stage in Chicago (in 2008). The band and the audience are getting more uncomfortable, and there's little Billy in the center with his microphone. I want to be in the moment. If that had been a super warm crowd I wouldn't have reacted like that. The show we did at the Riviera last year, that was one of the warmest crowds I've ever played for in 25 years. It's irksome for me as an artist for my life to be reduced to a song, or a moment, a performance. That's not me. I've left a lot of money on the table by being a weirdo, but I'm still here.
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