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“I don’t care if they’re a classic or not”: Why Billy Corgan won’t play Smashing Pumpkins hits at concerts just to satisfy fans

“I don’t put that on the audience like, ‘Well, I’ve got to play this one for you.’ I think that’s kind of cheese.”

Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins

Image: Lorne Thomson / Getty Images

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Don’t count on Billy Corgan to perform your favourite Smashing Pumpkins hits at the band’s upcoming concerts, for the frontman has made it clear he’ll only be playing songs he wants to – regardless of fans’ demands.

Corgan speaks in a new interview with Kerrang!, where he dismisses the notion that Smashing Pumpkins must perform certain songs to satisfy their fanbase.

“I don’t play any songs I don’t want to play. I don’t care if they’re a classic or not,” the guitarist says. “If I don’t want to play it, I just don’t play it. I don’t put that on the audience like, ‘Well, I’ve got to play this one for you.’ I think that’s kind of cheese.”

Corgan adds that while the demands for old tracks often come from a place of love and that “it’s not a bad thing that they want to hear songs that they love,” bands “can’t live in the past”.

“It’s the death of any artist,” he argues.

Explaining his aversion to nostalgia, Corgan says that “it’s hard to explain unless you’ve lived it. Because there’s the classic thing where there’s a devil on one shoulder and angel on the other, and the devil goes, ‘Hey, man, if you just write in these extra five songs that people want to hear, you’re going to have a really easy night, and no-one’s going to be mad at you.’ But that’s not why you’re up there.”

“And you have to remember that there’s this other part of the audience that wants to see you today. I’m not talking about you play a whole show of new songs – they want to see where you’re at today.”

“They don’t want some ageing relic, they want somebody who’s really emotionally engaged in their music,” he adds.

The musician also stresses the importance of striking a balance between old and new material — something he took years to figure out, saying: “The key is finding out the old and the new songs that you feel very emotionally engaged in, so that when you play, the audience is like, ‘Wow, this band still cares. This band still plays with some fire.’”

Last week, Smashing Pumpkins kicked off their joint UK tour with Weezer in Birmingham. The show also marked the band’s first gig with their new guitarist Kiki Wong.

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