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Billy Corgan's a Pumpkin 'No Matter Who's Around Me'; The Darkness Serve Up 'Hot Cakes'

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It's been well documented that Billy Corgan is the only original member of Smashing Pumpkins, and has been for awhile. Because he's the only one left, and because he's continuing to put new music out under the band name, the lead singer realizes there are some who will never consider any music he puts out now as Smashing Pumpkins as a legit band album. "I deeply don't care," he said in a recent interview. "I'm in Smashing Pumpkins no matter who's around me."

Corgan along with guitarist Jeff Schroeder, drummer Mike Byrne, and bassist/vocalist Nicole Fiorentino just released a new Pumpkins record called Oceania, a 13-track album that's part of their grander 44-song work-in-progress Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. The album has been well-received, and debuted at #4 on the charts so the notion of Corgan being the original member seems irrelevant anyway.

Likening Pumpkins to the wrestling word -- which is quite fitting since he's the mastermind behind Resistance Pro Wrestling -- Corgan said fans will still watch Ric Flair now even if he's not in the Four Horseman. It doesn't change who he was or is. In any event, Corgan said he's extremely proud of the latest album, and spoke with me on its merits, the state of Smashing Pumpkins, and music in general.

Q. Before we get into the new album and everything, Adam Yauch's death hit me pretty hard being a big Beastie Boys fan. I know you knew him -- can you share some words on MCA?
A. I certainly don't want to play myself off as a friend, but I did intersect with him, and we had good conversations. We talked about spiritual matters: Tibet and just more pragmatic spirituality. He was a humble, soulful person and I was surprised by that. We all get caught up in that. In rock and roll, you rarely meet truly soulful people. He was very truly one of them.

Q. You released this album without a lead single and music video. Was it therapeutic in a way to just focus on the album as a whole without any pressure?
A. I don't really care, and I don't mean that in a negative. I just want people to listen. Believe me, we thought it through.We reached a point of frustration in house. We didn't see the audience listening but I just didn't buy it was quality issue. So the idea was to not put it in the hands of people who were not involved in the future of Smashing Pumpkins and not ask a guy with a blog who just cares about web hits.

I don't understand how we've created a culture around the energy to [promote] music. I'm very pragmatic now. I don't see anyone getting it done. They crown different champions every day, but I don't see anybody selling records like a champion. It's a perception game.

Q. It must get old that bloggers/writers always need to point out in all stories surrounding the band now that you're the only original member left, right?
A. I really don't care. It is what it is. It could be called something else but I'm with people who still believe in the band, and appreciate the band's legacy. It sounds to me like a continuation. It maybe easier to think in terms of a Quentin Tarantino movie. There are different actors, but there's the Smashing Pumpkins stamp. If Smashing Pumpkins sounds like me, I don't see why it's a big deal. It's funny when I did a solo album they told me it didn't sound like a Smashing Pumpkins album.

Q. Oceania, to me anyway, sounds like an old school Pumpkins album -- a real throwback to a lot of the stuff you used to do. What's your take on the new album, and what's the pulse of the band right now?
A. We had a very different approach. We assessed our strengths and weaknesses. We're very honest about it . We don't try to pretend we're something we're not. We're in a really good spot right now. There's no drug abuse ... no drama -- we barely drink. We're very strong, and I feel comfortable.

I made a new Smashing Pumpkins album without [the original members]. It says what I used to do, and what I can still do. The public will judge for themselves. Things happen and you move on. I don't have a problem with it if you don't want to listen. I get it. If you need Smashing Pumpkins a certain way, I get it. But, you're going to miss the party.

Q. Last question ... so much was made about Axl Rose skipping the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony. Do you envision a time where all the original members of Pumpkins can get together and jam out on stage at such an event? You know the wrestling terms of "never say never...."
A. I'd have to think long and hard. There's a lot of displeasure there. I'm not looking back. I'm very much looking forward. Axl was put in a very difficult circumstance with the Hall of Fame thing. What's he supposed to do? You're not getting back together with the old band -- you're just creating a feel good moment that only hurts you in some way. I think you have to just live in the present.

There's a wonderful book called A Course in Miracles. You can expect miracles to happen. I don't think they have anything to offer me musically. I'd be much more interested in [mending] the personal relationships with them. Without that, the other situation doesn't have juice for me.

The Darkness

If you're going to make a comeback, it might as well be on the biggest night of the year. On Feb. 5 moments before the New York Giants won the Superbowl, glam rockers The Darkness virtually popped up out of nowhere performing their hit "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" in a commercial for the Samsung Galaxy Note. That night, the rockers -- who had been away since 2005's One Way Ticket To Hell... And Back -- instantly became household names again.

On Aug. 21, the Brits will continue the trend by releasing Hot Cakes on Wind-up Records. The album features new single "Everybody Have a Good Time" as well as a cover of Radiohead's "Street Spirit." The group, which consists of Justin Hawkins on vocals and guitars, Dan Hawkins on guitar and back-up vocals, Frankie Poullain on bass and Ed Graham on drums, are also set to open up for Lady Gaga for her "Born This Way Ball" tour. In other words, believe in a thing called comebacks.

I recently caught up with Hawkins and Graham and asked them all about it. Eat. Pray. Love.