In a quick Q&A in the Columbus Dispatch, Billy is asked about how he goes about composing a song today, 25 years into the Smashing Pumpkins.
“For me, writing an album is about trying to capture a bigger picture. I rarely write from an insular point of view. Usually, it has some relationship to what’s going on in the culture.
The most personal record I’ve ever made I haven’t released. It’s been sitting in the can since 2004-05. It’s just acoustic, almost all finger-picking, country-style guitar — very folk-driven.
It was sort of a weird time. I was not in a very good label situation. Why am I going to put that out in the machine? It seemed kind of pointless.”
Asked what it’s like working with new bandmates:
“You really have to build your personal relationships. That’s a difficult balance. It’s not as organic as it was, say, in the beginning. You’re not trudging around in a van figuring it out together.
You can only really jell by playing a lot — stressing what’s important about the musical components and being trustworthy with one another.
People couldn’t get over the fact it wasn’t the original lineup. We said, “Yes, we know; come or don’t come.” In their willingness to not shy away, we have been able to build our own credibility — another life under this name.”
Billy feels conflicted that his best known songs are those from the 90’s.
“I think the fact that fans are still interested in that period of music says a lot. It’s great to sit around with your friends and reminisce about a relationship you once had with a girl, but it’s much cooler to reminisce about the relationships you still have.
(Drummer) Mike Byrne joined the band at age 19. I didn’t ask him to play like (past Pumpkins drummer) Jimmy Chamberlin. He has to figure out how to play like himself.
The old songs don’t feel like old warhorses. It’s about playing with contemporary passion.”
When asked: For many, the Pumpkins’ catalog defined their adolescence. How do you process the weight?
“There’s a point where that encouragement really motivates you. You’re trying to tap into that fidelity of emotion. Certainly, songs like Today and Tonight, Tonight have reached some sort of weird other realm. When you play those songs, it’s like you didn’t write them because they take on a life of their own.”
The question then turns to Resistance Pro and how he got involved in that and if he really is “all warm and cuddly now” as he told Columbus Alive last year.
“I’ve probably matured into how I relate with the world. The business has changed a lot. I don’t think anybody really knows what they’re doing.
Success is measured many ways. I have two dogs and two cats. That’s probably one of the greatest joys in my life. I have great friends, people I really count on.
Honestly, it’s not very sage to say, but it’s the little things that matter.”