You could be forgiven for thinking Billy Corgan has been on a mission to alienate his peers and fans in recent years. With no obvious provocation, he has taken aim at a wide range of notable musicians, including The Foo Fighters and Kanye West, along with repeated, somewhat bizarre, attacks on rock’s nicest guy, Eddie Vedder. This July and August, Corgan and the latest Smashing Pumpkins lineup will join Marilyn Manson — not unknown to controversy himself — on a full North American “End Times” tour. Last night in Chicago, Corgan and Manson held a joint press conference hosted by the A.V. Club to discuss, among other things: their tour, why they didn’t speak for so long, and how Corgan taught Manson to play guitar. Here are some of the occasionally bizarre and awkward highlights:
1. The introductions:
Corgan set the night off channeling his recent, aforementioned mode of antagonism. After host Sean O’Neal introduced the pair as “two of the weirdest artists of the last 25 years,” Corgan responded by saying, “I disagree with the assertion of ‘weird.'” O’Neal joked, “We’re already off to a good start.” However, the previously psyched audience was put into an awkward silence by the comment — so much so that Corgan had to ask, “Can you hear us out there?”
2. Their bromance was a slow burner:
“Sometimes you suppress things,” Manson said, addressing Corgan. “I suppressed Rose McGowan,” Corgan responded, referring to Manson’s two-year engagement to the actress. The specific item Corgan “suppressed” was a strongly worded letter to Manson telling him to get away from McGowan, and “that she’ll ruin your career.” Manson tacitly acknowledged that Corgan was right, and that “it wasn’t the reason [we] didn’t talk to each other for so long, but it was one of the factors.”
3. Corgan taught Manson how to hold a guitar:
“He’s awful, but he doesn’t need to be great at guitar,” said Corgan, when it was revealed that he taught Manson how to play. Manson joked that it’s more of a prop, and that Corgan told him, merely, “Hold this.” Corgan elaborated: “He was frustrated because he had to rely on other people to write music, I said ‘let me show you a real simple way to do it.'” And Billy Corgan saved the day again!
4. If you’re planning on attending one of their shows, you can look forward to a “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” cover:
The two frontmen confirmed that they will performing duets on their tour — and had, in fact, just been discussing their duet choices backstage. Manson wanted to keep their ideas a secret, but yielded after Corgan argued that they could gauge a reaction. The crowd reacted by clapping in approval, and Manson growled the chorus of the Cyndi Lauper song into the mic. “It’s a winner!” said Manson.
5. Manson Probably Won’t Appear on Real Time With Bill Maher:
Asked by an audience member about his memorable 1997 appearance on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect and why he doesn’t go on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher, Manson said he doesn’t “watch [Real Time] so much,” opining that, “It’s not balanced.” Reminiscing about Maher’s ’90s show, Manson recalled, “He did have a magic when he would invite completely diametrically opposed characters on the show that made it politically incorrect, but obviously he got kicked off TV for that.” He added that he did like Maher’s documentary, Religulous.
6. Their songs aren’t just books that happen to be in the “fucking library,” OK?
The conversation went down some interesting routes, when the topic of playing “the hits” came up. Manson was much more pragmatic about it, whereas Corgan was openly hostile. “There is an element of not giving people what they asked for, but giving people what they want,” said Manson, to the slight agitation of Corgan, who said, “I reject the generational malaise that believes that people like you and I can no longer make great music.” Manson conceded that that was true, but pointed out that his all-time favorite Bowie record was the first one he heard, Scary Monsters. “If you believe that [that we can’t make great music anymore] then you are just a curator in the library,” said Corgan, “and we just happen to be one of the books in the fucking library.”
7. They believe rock shows have become sanitized:
Corgan said he had to reconcile the difference between his origins at mosh-heavy concerts and what it’s like performing nowadays, when he’s “looking at a bunch of people looking at me through their cell phone.” He lamented that people like him have to break through “this fog” of “mass hypnosis” that phones can represent. Manson joked that someone should make a “mosh app.”
8. Manson listens to Imagine Dragons:
In something of a backhanded compliment, Manson said he puts on Imagine Dragons “when someone says something that pisses [him] off.” He confessed, “I kind of like the songs, but hate myself for liking it, so I put it on as a kind of punishment to everyone in the room.” Apart from that, he’s digging Cage, who happen to be opening for the upcoming tour.
9. Manson also lost one of the Mellon Collie CDs:
Anxiety was different back in the mid-’90s: “wifi” sounded like a question rather than something you could barely live without, and at the back of your mind, the worry that you’d somehow scratch your favorite CD or — worse still — lose it altogether lingered. So, back then, news that Smashing Pumpkins’ release of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness would be a double CD was enough to make fans break into a cold sweat. They were not alone: Manson confessed that he never really listened to the second CD because he lost it on his tour bus, and he only just got around to listening to it again.
10. Billy Corgan doesn’t like hipsters, but concedes that maybe it’s not their fault:
“I’m anti-hipster,” Corgan said, before going on to say something stereotypically hipster-ish: “I didn’t like hipsters since the ’80s.” So there. He had a slight revelation when one of his favorite bands, Ex-Cops, were embraced by hipsterdom. “It’s cool to see that maybe some of my attitudes about hipsters aren’t always accurate,” he said, adding: “Sometimes what people are looking for is hard to find in a culture that’s basically done through technology.”