William Patrick Corgan Reflects on Working With David Bowie, Covers Neil Young, and Sings the Smashing Pumpkins Hit ‘1979’ Live

Rock star also explains why his involvement in pro wrestling makes him a better musician

October 16, 2017

Just because he’s making music as a solo artist these days doesn’t mean William Patrick Corgan has forgotten the years he spent leading his ultra-popular rock band the Smashing Pumpkins. On Monday’s Stern Show, he told Howard he recently had “a late-in-life realization” about just how much his former bandmates mean to him.

“I actually really appreciate the band a lot more now,” Corgan said.

James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin, and D’arcy Wretzky were all involved in the original incarnation of the Pumpkins with Corgan fronting the band and writing the majority of its music. “It’s so intense that they gave me their faith,” Corgan continued. “Those three people – James, Jimmy, and D’arcy – they said, ‘We will follow you down this crazy path. Whatever your weird brain is thinking, we will follow.’ And it’s so humbling to me now.”

With only an acoustic guitar in his hands, Corgan sang “1979,” one of the Smashing Pumpkins’ biggest hits, live in the Stern Show studio. Check out audio of the performance from Monday’s show (below).

Corgan’s second solo album “Ogilala” is out now and he performed “Aeronaut,” one of his new songs, live for Howard and Robin.

“It’s about my son,” Corgan told them before playing.

When Corgan originally wrote “Aeronaut” he described it as being a much faster, sillier song. But when producer Rick Rubin heard it, he suggested Corgan slow it down and turn it into something much more meaningful.

“Suddenly this song about my son sort of, like, hit me like a ton of bricks,” Corgan said.

Check out a bit of “Aeronaut” (below).

“Zowie,” another track off the new album, is a tribute of sorts to the late, great David Bowie, whom Corgan was lucky enough to work with before he died. The two crossed paths throughout the years since they shared the same record label. David then asked Corgan to perform alongside him at the rock legend’s 50th birthday party, singing the classic Bowie-penned Mott the Hoople tune “All the Young Dudes.” Howard wondered why David selected that song for Corgan and the reason was quite simple – the song lyrics mention a guy named Billy.

“You try not to be a fan boy,” Corgan said about hanging with Bowie. “I would talk with him about books and anything but music because I just didn’t want to be that guy.”

Bowie died in 2016 before the release of Corgan’s new album, but William told Howard he felt David’s presence as he wrote “Zowie.”

“When I was writing the song, the opening chord sequence reminded me of, like, the kind of chords David [would use] … he’d do a lot of weird inversions,” Corgan said. “He was just in the air and so he kind of rode shotgun with me when I was writing this song.”

Corgan’s paranormal experiences don’t end there, however. He didn’t want to disclose too many details but he told Howard and Robin about an incident that occurred while he was with someone who was human at one moment but something very different the next.

“Let’s just say I was with somebody once and I saw a transformation that I can’t explain,” Corgan said.

He swore he was not under the influence of anything at the time, either. “It’s a really messed up story,” Corgan told Howard. “It’s up there with one of the most intense things I’ve ever been through.”

Corgan shared another supernatural story that happened to him while he was working on his upcoming book. He was writing alone in one room of his home while his girlfriend was cooking something in their kitchen. “I hit some weird key and the thing blanked and I lost eight day’s worth of work,” Corgan said.

At the very same time, Corgan’s girlfriend supposedly saw a woman walk across their kitchen that looked like William’s mother when she was 25. As Corgan ran to tell her about losing his book pages, she was running toward him to reveal the premonition she’d seen.

“It was like this weird ripple in time thing,” Corgan explained.

Whatever it was in Corgan’s house that day, they were unable to retrieve the work he’d lost.

Far less otherworldly but still memorable was the time Corgan hung out with Neil Young, Marilyn Manson, and Lou Reed. The four of them, along with a few others, had gathered at Neil’s house for a charity benefit party, but the group decided to move the festivities into Neil’s tepee. Once inside and looking around, Corgan said he knew this was a truly a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

“I think, ‘I need to really remember this moment because this cannot be recreated,’” Corgan recalled.

Howard asked if they were all smoking weed in the tepee. “Somebody was smoking weed but it wasn’t me,” Corgan said with a laugh.

Corgan then performed Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” a song he had just covered for the first time on Sunday. Hear his rendition from Monday morning in the audio (below).

Music will forever be a part of Corgan’s life, but he also told Howard about another of his passions — professional wrestling. In 2017, Corgan purchased the National Wrestling Alliance, taking full control this October.

“I’m now the owner of the oldest wrestling brand in the world,” Corgan explained. “I want to rebuild it from the bottom up.”

Rebuilding the NWA won’t be easy and Corgan knows it. But aside from being a business venture for him, his new wrestling organization also has a positive impact on other aspects of William’s life, including his music.

“I know it sounds strange but doing something outside of music that I love … it actually makes me have a better attitude about music,” he told Howard. “When I come to music now, I really enjoy it.”

William Patrick Corgan’s new album “Ogilala” is available now.