At 47, Smashing Pumpkins bandleader Billy Corgan has suffered backlash from fickle fans and media during his controversial career, which has included experimental solo work and musical side projects as well as a teahouse in Illinois and a wrestling company.
“It’s just mind-boggling to the American public that there are artists in this world who are still truly independent,” says the singer, whose most recent Smashing Pumpkins CD, the pop-sugary “Monuments to an Elegy,” was recorded with guitarist Jeff Schroeder and drummer Tommy Lee. The lineup premiering it in San Franciscisco this week includes Schroeder, Killers bassist Mark Stoermer and, on drums, Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk.
But after selling over 30 million albums, the Chicagoan has one hard, fast rule: Don’t mess with his pets.
He figured he was doing a good deed when he appeared this year on the cover of Chicago’s PAWS Magazine – a monthly publication of an animal shelter – with his two black-kitten rescues, Sammi and Mr. Thom.
But the story inspired mockery in CNN host Anderson Cooper, who deemed Corgan “off his alternative rocker” on his show “360,” then dismissed The Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream” classic as “derivative of My Bloody Valentine anyway.” Big mistake.
Corgan fired back at Cooper on Twitter: “Sorry to disappoint, but when I’m not raising cain for a great organization like @PAWS Chicago, I’m still making real music. I realize you’re too busy being a globalist shill to know the difference.”
The feud escalated. Corgan printed up T-shirts (he’ll be selling on tour), featuring his bow-tie-sporting cats, emblazoned with the words “f— you, Anderson Cooper.” He says, “In a million years, I never thought I would have taken s— for appearing on the cover of a charity organization’s publication.”
Corgan, who raised $60,000 for PAWS by auctioning off a private concert, sees Cooper’s actions as symptomatic of our self-centered society: “It’s just unbelievable that a celebrity would be attacked for trying to give to others. And the fact that there has not been a mea culpa? (Cooper) should have turned around, put his tail between his legs, and said ‘You know what? I f—– up,’ and done three minutes on PAWS to give it some publicity.”
Corgan continues to do what he wants. He recently performed an eight-hour solo concert at his teahouse, Madame Zuzu’s, based on Hermann Hesse’s book “Siddhartha,” and he got flak for that.
But he always finds comfort, just coming home to Sammi and Mr. Thom. “Because they’re true, they’re honest, and they’ll give it to you straight. They’ll check your ego at the door!,” he says.
IF YOU GO
Where: Warfield, 982 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 11
Tickets: $49.50 to $60
Contact: (415) 345-0900, www.axs.com