Billy Corgan: I stopped thinking of it as an evolution and I started thinking [of] it more as recovery. We’re just trying to get at the person that’s been there the whole time. In essence, the pure four-year-old who’s yet to be affected by culture, environment, expectation, family insanity—it’s just continually uncovering and recovering the child within. Not let the child run the circus, just have that child be the source of the creative voice. As far as I’m concerned, that voice has always been there. Now if [only] the adults would just learn how to better organize the forces around and/or not try to manipulate or overly exploit that voice.
Sharon London: That’s really beautiful. So you’re looking for the source, who you really were to begin with, as opposed to others who are trying to cure the inner child and then evolve forward from there.
BC: The difficulty, if you’re in the world—and this is for anybody—is the eventual disappointment that comes with having to meet other versions of reality. Imposed systems that ask you to compromise or sacrifice things which you consider holy or sacred. Of course, in the music business I am surrounded by people who don’t view music as a sacred voice. They view music as something that they can use and exploit, often times lazily. They have no sense of the tradition, they have no sense of honor about those who came before and charted the path.
Now, the democratic mind would step forward and say, “Well, everybody is entitled to have their own experience.” And I would agree with that. But if you’re in the tradition, which I think I am, then that becomes the source. Native Americans often talk about how their ancestors become part of the conversation, and that’s the way I look at it. I have a musical ancestry as much as I have a family ancestry. Honoring those ancestors gives you access to a greater source of appreciation and information than you would have if you were just going on your own ego system. If you’re really going to uncover something as an artist, you’re going to come into access with parts of your personality and your psyche that are really uncomfortable to face: your own ambition, your own greed, your own avarice, your own jealousies, and anything that would get in the way of the purity of your own artistic voice. And that’s the real endeavor: to try to create that direct conduit from the pure consciousness of your creative voice to the person who’s a craftsman who can go into the world and consistently deliver new things worth paying attention to. So you have to chart your own path. And your path, once you get to the deeper part of it, it’s in the tradition just like magic is in the tradition of the mystic.
SL: Really good for people to hear that. Thank you.
BC: It’s a little bit like, if you don’t have some sort of belief system by which to center your life, it’s hard sometimes to understand why you would put up with your family. I put up with the music business because I understand that I’m in the tradition, I’m in a tradition that’s of far greater importance than the business I seem to be in. Everywhere I go in the world, people ask me about the business that I seem to be in, but I’m not really in that business.
SL: What would you name the business that you’re in?
BC: It’s a mystical tradition. How does a person create something from nothing? How do you do that? Everybody can close their eyes, picture a dream house or a perfect place [where] they’d like to have a picnic. But actually creating it—how do you create something from nothing? Anyone who’s creative understands that that’s the magic, that’s the alchemy.
SL: That’s a really good way to put it.
BC: Thank you.
SL: You’re welcome! What are you passionate about in the world right now?
BC: I’m passionate about creating new systems that are more holistic to humankind. What do I mean by that? I mean, create new systems of business so that people with ethics both exploit their goods and their gifts while not exploiting the earth, exploiting one another.
There’s nothing more satisfying than going to a market and meeting the person who picked the strawberries, or it’s their farm that the strawberries came from, and giving them a fair value in exchange for what they’re giving you. That’s at the root of the human interaction: fair trade. Everybody likes to run around on their phones, including me, but we don’t always want to hear who’s sweating somewhere in some non-air-conditioned factory to create those things so that they can keep the prices down. I think humankind is going to have to evolve into systems that are more transparent. Then people will be able to make more integral choices about the food they eat.
For example, fur is a contentious issue. Meat is a contentious issue. GMOs are a contentious issue. I think this whole thing going on about whether or not products should be labeled if they have GMOs in them—I, as a consumer, would like to know if I’m eating GMO food. If I choose to buy it then it’s my choice. I don’t like that the government is going to manipulate the information to try to convince me that what I’m eating is not what I’m really eating. If people choose to eat cardboard because it’s ten cents cheaper, then let them. That’s at the root of freedom. But in the reverse, I’d like to know if what I’m eating or consuming or buying is somehow hurting or exploiting someone in another part of the planet.
I think it would be very interesting to see that many people would probably be okay with paying more for services and goods that they felt were more holistically [generated]. Which means the death of the old system which rewarded people for taking advantage of one another.
If most people knew that by shopping at a big box store that they were hurting their local community, I think they’d think twice about it. Now, maybe they wouldn’t. But maybe the people in that area that realized that this was going on would move to an area where people did think that way. And there would be places in America that would be—it would be Selfish City over there and Not-So-Selfish City over here. And maybe like-minded people would start to assemble. And when the selfish people began to see the quality of life of the not-so-selfish people, maybe they’d start to think twice about what they’re doing.
We need to lead by example. It’s one thing to talk about these things. I’m passionate about setting up new systems in the music business, and by extension new systems of business, that reward in a way that’s very transparent.
I’ve stopped apologizing for asking people to pay for my goods and services. In fact, I have a lot of pride about what I’m doing. I try to be fair. I keep a keen eye on what our prices are. I think we’re a pretty good deal for what we are. We offer a unique brand of creativity. We should be rewarded. I feel the same way when I buy goods from a local grower or a local artisan or a local business. Because now I’m in a local business. I want to be a part of the community, I have a responsibility to the community. All those things need either to revert back to an older system of thinking or [we need to] create it in the 21st-century. Probably more likely create it in the 21st-century. Because we’re never going to go back to Jimmy Stewart walking down Main Street. But we can evolve into the 2012 version of that.
SL: What a perfect vision to end the time we have. Though in the quick moment we do have, we could go into the what makes you vulnerable…if you want.
SL: How are your puppies?
BC: They’re good, I think.
SL: They’re in good hands?
BC: Oh yeah, of course. I’ve got to go watch wrestling.
Interview by Sharon London