That Rock groups are a democracy is a myth. That 3-5 people in a group have the same talent, vision and level of commitment is laughable. In most bands it's one person, possible two, who write the songs, work out the arrangements and are responsible for determining the group's style, attitude and sound. In the Smashing Pumpkins, one of the premier Grunge bands, that person was Billy Corgan. Through the '90s, the Pumpkins were second only to Nirvana in influence and reach. Often it was too close to call. Ironically, after Nirvana crashed and burned the Pumpkins produced their best work. Any thought that the Pumpkins would join Pearl Jam as Grunge survivors ended in '00 when the group pulled the plug, listing internal and management disputes as the reasons.
From there, Corgan partnered with some old friends to form Zwan, a Pumpkins lite effort. But like a lot of guys who front bands the allure of going it alone proved strong. Using backing musicians, including former Pumpkins' drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, Corgan released his solo debut, "TheFutureEmbrace" in '05. Ironically, on the day of the album's release Corgan took out an ad in two Chicago (his home town) newspapers saying he wanted the Pumpkins to get back together.
Corgan, a well-known wrestling aficionado, appeared in a '13 TV ad for Chicago furniture supplier Walter E. Smithe. In the spot, Corgan calls on three Resistance Pro wrestlers to take on the Smithe brothers in a no-holds-barred match after he gets shoved out of his seat by the brothers during a game of musical chairs. A wrestler is about to bust a chair on the head of one of the brothers when Corgan stops him with the admonishment, "That's a Walter Smithe chair." The spot generated over 100,000 YouTube views in its first week - which was Corgan's biggest hit in years.
He had another non-musical endeavor later in the year. Inspired by PETA, Corgan wrote an open letter to California Pizza Kitchen's CEO demanding that the restaurant chain stop de-horning baby calves. "I strongly urge you to take immediate action to stop this unspeakable barbarism by requiring your suppliers to phase out dehorning."
Though Corgan's next venture was music related (thankfully), it turned pretentiousness into an endurance contest.
On the last day of February, '14 Corgan played a free eight-hour concert based an interpretation of Hermann Hesse's 1922 novel Siddhartha. The show, at Madame ZuZu's Tea Shop and Art Studio in Highland Park, IL, was termed "modular synthesis, on the fly." During the lengthy show/event the audience was rotated through the Tea House forty at a time.
For a guy who built his reputation on bitter, angst driven Rock, Corgan's "TheFutureEmbrace" is an odd effort. It comes across as low key, almost sedate. Opening track "All Things Change" has a "1979" feel but lacks that song's free fall into oblivion. Other songs, "The Cameraeye" and "I'm Ready" are generally good if not terribly memorable. There's even a cover of the Bee-Gees' "To Love Somebody." It isn't awful but it's still a Bee-Gees song despite Corgan's efforts to rough it up. In the Pumpkins he got away with covering Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." He should have quit while he was ahead.
Also see Smashing Pumpkins.