Billy Corgan is a tetrahedron who embraces rock. He also pisses on it.
This is not my intellectual musing. This is the intellectual musing of Billy Corgan, in a fine and wide-ranging interview with the Antiquiet.
Corgan is the most smashing of the Smashing Pumpkins. He has principles. He believes that bands like Deep Purple and Rainbow have more value than Radiohead (upon whose head he would happily piss). Radiohead is, for him, pompous.
An even greater object of his urination, however, is the technological pincer movement symbolized by Apple and Facebook.
In response to his interviewer's suggestion that the way technology now dominates music creates a deep shortsightedness among listeners, a deep obsession with what is merely new, Corgan fulminated.
I'm sorry, every system up until the last 10, 12 years... it kicked its own door in. They didn't need it lubricated first. The Clash kicked the f****** door in. Nirvana kicked their own door in. The Cure kicked their own door in. Whatever, pick your f****** movement. Kick in your own f****** door. You don't need a guy with a beard to put you over. Do it yourself.
I am assuming the guy with the beard he was referring to wasn't God, but a friend of God's: Steve Jobs.
Facebook, too, Corgan deems destructive.
Look, we're all insecure in our own ways, most of us. You've got a Facebook with a few hundred friends. If you do something truly radical, are you ready to withstand the 40 negative comments? Most people aren't. So they're getting peer pressured at levels they don't even realize. It's what you don't say. It's like the government spying on us. Right? Now it becomes about what we don't say. The same thing with culture. I'm just willing to say it, and deal with the 40 negative comments.
Once upon a time, Corgan believes, rock was a truly revolutionary force. He offered a quote from Woody Guthrie: "This guitar is a f****** weapon. This guitar kills fascists."
Now technology makes us anodyne.
"When music is so goddamned f****** iTunes friendly cuddly, it makes me want to f****** puke. It's not for everybody to be like that, but where is that voicing in the greater collective voices? Why don't we have that anymore?"
His suggestion is that the Apple-Facebook cabal is making artists cower. Of Facebook, he said: "We're all being identified by a conceptual identity. Not a true identity, a conceptual identity."
Perhaps one can see what he means. Perhaps, though, one has always had a conceptual, rather than a true, image of rock stars.
But the truth is that technology has made music more disposable and therefore less important. The buffet is now so vast, so all-you-can eat, that it's hard to appreciate any of the dishes.
Isn't it worth wondering why it is that the only bands that seem to sell out large venues these days all have a combined age that drifts beyond 250?