Once upon a time, musicians and music fans worshiped the Gods of Rock and congregated at the Concert Church of Rock 'n' Roll. Those days, are long gone, says Smashing Pumpkins creative force Billy Corgan. "Rock 'n' roll is no longer dangerous, no longer free," he says. "Music was religion. Now it's time to turn back to God."
In some ways, Corgan is doing both: He's launched a new spirituality website, Everything from Here to There, and a record label that will release new material from seminal '70s punk band the Germs, among others.
"Pop has thrived over artist explorations, which basically kills great art," he says. "Our [label] model is artists we know, who have a past, and to release art that is quality. There is no expiration date on talent. "
The Smashing Pumpkins officially broke up in 2000. At their last Los Angeles concert, Corgan proclaimed from the stage, "Rock is dead." Looking back on that moment, he says: "It was stupid to say it, but I wasn't wrong. The culture I grew up in that made bands into gods was over."
He worked on solo projects, released a book of poetry and reformed the Smashing Pumpkins in 2005. The band is now back in the studio, recording their first album since 2007, a 44-song epic titled Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, their first effort without a major label.
Corgan explains he will release a song at a time as a free download until all 44 tracks are out. He will also release a set of limited edition collector's EPs comprised of four songs each and a final full-blown, numbered box set of all 44 tracks. To date, three songs have been made available, "A Song for a Son," "Widow Wake My Mind" and "A Stitch in Time" at SmashingPumpkins.com.
Many successful bands like the Smashing Pumpkins are getting out of their major label deals and opting for new ways of distributing music. Corgan says the upside is flexibility and autonomy, but he confesses: "You can drive yourself mad with choices. I'm a man without a country...but I'm not attached to a system that I don't belong to and that I'm not valued at."
To date, there is no substantial new model to release an album outside the system and score big at radio. However, thanks to the Internet, Corgan points out, bands can really hit their niche and take changes again. "It's time to create a new system, but I don't know what that is yet."
Corgan says he's now in his third decade of public life, and the world has transformed itself into a tabloid culture. "For spirituality, as an artist, we can't look to rock 'n' roll anymore."
So he has turned to his music and his blog. His latest entry at Everything from Here to There states: "Being kind to yourself is one of the most revolutionary, anti-establishment things that you can do—that is, if you are included to not live life as if programmed to be somebody else's robot."