It's hard to imagine rock visionary Billy Corgan as proud of anything
as he is of his beloved Smashing Pumpkins.
But then again, that's because the world has yet to hear Celebrity Skin, the
forthcoming and oft-delayed Hole record for which the Pumpkins leader co-wrote and
arranged a handful of songs.
"I thought the album was a smash and I still think that," the 31-year-old Corgan said in an
interview with SonicNet Music News in late April. "It's gonna be a fantastic
The Pumpkins' guitarist, singer and songwriter, who said his contributions to the
upcoming Hole record helped bring out the music's strength, characterized the sound of
Celebrity Skin (Sept. 8) as a departure for the band. "It's dark L.A.," he said
during an interview at his band's rehearsal space in Chicago. "That's what [Hole leader
Courtney Love] said she wanted and that's what I helped give her. It probably rocks as
much as [the Smashing Pumpkins' recently released] Adore does. It rocks, but it's
definitely not heavy."
Despite his glowing admiration for the disc, however, Corgan's precise role in the album
recently raised the ire of the irascible Love. After learning that Corgan offhandedly referred
to himself as the "Svengali" behind the disc in the British magazine Select, Love
fired off a statement this week to USA Today strictly delineating Corgan's role as
the co-writer of five songs on the album.
"I feel it's silly and somewhat sexist to credit Billy Corgan with things
Billy Corgan did not do based on the assumption that accomplished male
musicians are somehow superior to accomplished female musicians," wrote
Love, Hole's founder, singer and guitarist.
Far from seeming peacockish, however, Corgan appeared genuinely proud to have lent a
hand on an album that he said he believes is a bona fide hit. "Originally, I was helping
shape the album, shape the songs they had," Corgan said, his face close to beaming when
the subject of Hole was raised. "Then I ended up writing some songs and I felt really,
really strongly about the material that they'd come up with and I'd come up with."
As it turns out, Love actually had not read the full Select story when
she issued her missive, said Jim Merlis, a spokesman for Geffen Records,
for which Hole record. "Now that she's seen it, she realizes that's just
the way Billy is," Merlis said, referring to Corgan's penchant for impassioned, if
sometimes exaggerated, speech, often delivered with his tongue firmly planted in his
"She's not mad at him anymore," Merlis said.
While Merlis said he's yet to see a complete track and credit listing for
the album, Love has said that Corgan co-wrote five of Celebrity
Skin's final dozen cuts with her and Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson.
More material may surface as B-sides, however, as Corgan said he had a hand
in penning seven of 15 songs that the group hashed out altogether. He worked on 13 of
those as an arranger.
Corgan himself appears honored to have played his role, even if it wasn't quite Svengalian.
"I'm very proud of the work that I did with Courtney and Eric on the Hole record, because
I feel I really helped bring out the strength of their music and I think it'll really show," he
The recent songwriting flare-up came after years of unproven rumors that
Love's husband, the late Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain, had taken a substantial
role in crafting the songs for Hole's 1994 breakthrough album, Live
Through This, which included the hit single
(RealAudio excerpt). Love consistently has denied such allegations. The tracks for that
smash album and Hole's less popular debut, Pretty on the Inside (1991), are
credited to the group.
In her statement to USA Today, Love said publishing rights to the new, co-written
songs are split, but "Obviously, 100 percent of the lyrics are mine, as always."
"I thought Hole's first record was brilliant in its brutality," said Corgan, whose Pumpkins
currently are touring in support of their latest album, Adore. "And I thought that
Live Through This has some amazing songs, but some of the grungy kind-of stuff
was past its due date. But it was almost reactionary, like, 'We have to do grunge.'
"This album has nothing reactionary on it ... It's a musical album that defines itself,"
Corgan said. "The times don't define the album -- the album defines the times."