Kurt Cobain Wouldn't Succeed Today, Says Billy Corgan

Corgan in 2005; PC: Wikimedia

In an interview with the Daily Beast, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan issued a dire warning to all those future Kurt Cobain’s out there, saying that today’s media climate will lead to one thing: you won’t make it.

Corgan assimilated that the underground scene that nurtured acts like Nirvana are no longer bastions of originality and music independence but rather part of the establishment and as a result it’s too easy to fall into creative stagnation in a community that once offered the opposite.

“If you’re 20 years old and you aspire to be like me or Kurt Cobain or Courtney Love or Trent Reznor, you’re not going to make it that way,” said Corgan. “You won’t succeed.

“Let’s say you’re the next Kurt Cobain. You will be appropriated on your first album by the Pitchfork community. Your record company will rally round that idea because that’s your marketing platform.

“But the minute you’re in that world you’re frozen.

“Those Pitchfork people are very much about social codes, about whether you’re wearing the right t-shirt. That orthodoxy is no different than the rigidity of the football team at school. You can’t break the social order if you’re preaching to the choir – and the choir already has cool haircuts!”

“You’ve got to want to subvert the social order of the high school. That’s why Nirvana was so fucking dangerous. They had the jocks listening to them. Kurt Cobain used to talk about how weird it was to be performing, and see the people who used to beat him up cheering along.”

Corgan namechecks Guns n’Roses and the Beatles as other acts who re-wrote the peer group rule book – but believes it will be more difficult to pull off today. “Now you have a big enough indie culture to support itself,” he says, “But it’s like when you walk into the cool coffee-house and you don’t belong. It becomes a scene unto itself.

“This is the culture that told me I was done five years ago.”

It’s one of the many reasons he believes Smashing Pumpkins are still relevant. He asks: “Where’s the rebellion right now? There’s almost no music about what’s going on politically, which is crazy because this is the craziest political time I’ve ever lived in. I’m talking big picture. Where are the bands of dissent? Where has the pushback gone?

“When I’m treated like a weirdo for the pushback I give, I go, ‘I’ve been doing this for 25 fucking years!’

“Cira 1993 the name Smashing Pumpkins made people go, ‘Aw, I fucking hate that band,’ or, ‘I fucking love that band.’ The name still has a charge in it.

“I believe in the rightness of it. By taking the negative charge of ‘You can’t do that,’ there’s a transformational aspect that’s possible if you’re willing to accept the truth in it.

“So when people say, ‘You shouldn’t be touring under the name,’ I say, ‘That’s a really good point.’ I get it.”




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