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Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018
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Still-intense Corgan leading Smashing Pumpkins into Tampa

Much has changed for Billy Corgan over the years. The latest version of Smashing Pumpkins features only one original member. Corgan, who formed the band in in 1988, has interests outside music, such as a tea house he has opened in his native Chicago. The soft-spoken singer-songwriter speaks of fostering musical development for youngsters as he approaches the half-century mark.
But the intensity, which helped him re-define grunge during the mid-90s, still burns brightly. When recalling a show in which his Smashing Pumpkins was the supporting act for Hole at a tiny Philadelphia club 20 years ago, Corgan quickly made a correction.
“You mean when Hole opened for us,” Corgan sayz while calling from Pittsburgh. “I think you spent too much time with (Hole's) Courtney (Love) after we all performed and that clouded your memory.”
Perhaps. But Corgan remains sensitive and serious as he and his new collection of Pumpkins tour behind “Oceania.”
The fresh songs are big, melodic, urgent, atmospheric and guitar-driven, which recall the act's salad days two decades ago. That's when “Gish” and “Siamese Dream” dropped and propelled the Pumpkins to the top of the alt-rock food chain.
“I can see the comparisons between 'Oceania' and the earlier work but can you believe what this young journalist said to me,” an incredulous Corgan says. “I think you've been influenced by yourself.' I said, 'what are you talking about? Are you saying I've ripped myself off?' I don't think that's possible. But maybe there are some elements from those days on this album.”
Expect a healthy dose of “Oceania,” when the Pumpkins perform Friday at the Funshine Festival. During the Pumpkins 2008 tour, which marked the 20th anniversary of the band, which included all original members, Corgan and co. delivered a number of new tunes and deep cuts, which didn't please some fans.
“They thought it was going to be a greatest hits, 'Cumbaya' kind of show,” Corgan says. “I don't do those things.”
Never expect the refreshingly blunt Corgan to go out on a nostalgia tour, like some of his '90s alt-rock peers. Corgan sneered at the mention of Pavement, which has been a longtime thorn in his side.
“Bands like that get to go out and just play their old songs on their reunion tour and the media doesn't skewer them,” Corgan says. “I don't get it. You won't catch me doing that.”
Speaking of Pavement. It's been 20 years since Stephen Malkmus poked fun at Corgan with “Range Life.”
“Out On Tour With The Smashing Pumpkins/Natures Kids They Don't Got No Function/I Don't Understand What They Mean/I Could Really Give a Bleep.”
Corgan still bristles when the song is mentioned. “At first I thought it was funny but they wouldn't let it go,” Corgan says. “He (Malkmus ) is a very good songwriter. That line came out and that whole thing just got out of hand.”
Quite a few things in rock got out of hand during that period. The feuds and fighting faded when grunge drifted away.
“All that is over now,” Corgan says. “But I'm still here making music. I'm committed and will be for many years.”
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