Integral Life has, as one of its primary concerns, the resurrection of the avant garde—the idea, the movement, and the practice. In this far-reaching, sharp, and insightful dialogue, Billy Corgan and Ken discuss the nature and meaning of the avant garde, using Billy’s own career as a touchstone for the discussion.
William Patrick Corgan was born on March 17th, 1967, in Elk Grove, IL. His childhood ordeals—including his parents' divorce and his taking the role of guardian for a disabled stepbrother—formed some of the inspiration for his later music, which would make him one of the representative voices of a generation. One of his first musical influences, however, was his father—William Corgan Sr.—who was a professional blues-rock guitarist, and in fact performs on the Smashing Pumpkins song, "The Last Song" (from the CD-single, Thirty-Three).
Billy formed Smashing Pumpkins in 1988, along with James Iha (guitar), D'arcy Wretzky (bass), and Jimmy Chamberlin (drums). Smashing Pumpkins‘ first gig was an opening for the legendary alt-rock band, Jane‘s Addiction. Smashing Pumpkins went on to become one of the most beloved bands of the 90s. Their first album, Gish (1991), was an underground tour de force, mixing alternative rock, metal, and psychedelic expansion, with a lyrical sensitivity at the edge of the genre.
Their next album, Siamese Dream (1993), was an MTV breakthrough, and a masterpiece of extremes. From the explosion of guitars and drums which is the opening song, "Cherub Rock," to the screaming tenderness of "Disarm," Billy and the Pumpkins had crafted a stellar expression of the psychic landscape of the times.
Smashing Pumpkins went on to record Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995), Adore (1998), and MACHINA/The Machines of God (2000), as well as numerous singles, EPs, and other collections—all to wide critical and popular acclaim. On December 2nd, 2000, Smashing Pumpkins played their last show, at the Metro in Chicago, where they had also begun.
Corgan‘s next major project, Zwan, was an “all-star” band comprised of Pumpkin's drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin, guitarist Matt Sweeney (formerly of Chavez and Skunk), guitarist David Pajo (formerly of Slint and Tortoise), and bassist Paz Lenchantin (of A Perfect Circle fame). Zwan released their first single, "Honestly," in November 2002. Their only album, Mary Star of the Sea, followed in January 2003, coinciding with a sold-out, five-night stand at the same Metro in Chicago where Smashing Pumpkins got their start. This particular project, however, was to be short-lived. In September of 2003, Billy Corgan announced the breakup of Zwan.