Smashing Pumpkins’ D’arcy Reveals Why Billy Corgan ‘Can’t Sing For Shit’


Alternative Nation published our interview with original Smashing Pumpkins bassist D’arcy Wretzky a couple of weeks ago, but the interview was edited down so we could have a concise piece. Our conversation with D’arcy actually lasted for nearly four hours, we have published three pieces with bonus content over the last few days. This is the fourth and final piece featuring bonus content from the interview. D’arcy discussed joining the band in the late 80’s.

“This is what happened in the beginning of the band. He asked me to come, I showed up with my bass, he gives me this tape of songs, at least 50 songs. He gives me a few days to learn to play every single one of them perfectly. (Laughs) Then he wouldn’t let me play anyways, it was so funny because at the very beginning he was still playing with the drummer from [his early band] The Marked, and those guys used to get in such huge fights. His name might have been Mark, he used to whip drum sticks at Billy all the time, and they used to get in the biggest fights. It was funny.

First tour we went on when we were leaving, my sister was there, she’s like, ‘You guys are so lucky, it’s going to be so much fun.’ Billy turns to her and says, ‘We don’t have fun.’”

D’arcy also remembered how Corgan told her and James Iha that they were better looking than most people in the world.

“Billy used to complain a lot to me and James, because he thought he was so ugly, and he thought we had such great lives. He’d be like, ‘You two are better looking than 90% of the rest of the people on the planet! You have this, and you have that! My life is miserable! Blah blah blah!’ Over and over, and over again! He thinks he’s ugly, so he surrounds himself with beautiful people.

He can’t sing for shit, and he knows it, so he makes sure that everybody else in the band is going to play perfectly to make up for it. It doesn’t matter if his singing is terrible, but if you play a fucking wrong note or anything, there is hell to pay. That’s some big time insecurity.”

She also discussed Corgan’s relationship with fans.

“He’s always talking about the fans, doing it for the fans. That’s how he talks publicly, but when he talks within the band and to other people, he hates the fans. He fucking hates the fans, he really does.”

“He really loves to humiliate people at shows and stuff with the audience. He told me that he actually believed that the audience wanted to be like, the way he always used to scream and bitch at the audience and stuff, he told me he really thought people wanted that. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ He’s like, ‘No, really, I did?’ Why would anybody want to be humiliated in front of thousands or hundreds of people in public, and have their idol diss them? Why would anyone want that?”

“There are people who thrive on that, but most people don’t. I think they’re called masochists.”

  • dakotablue

    Billy Corgan: one of the only singers who never gets better with time and practice!

    • Alternative Nation

      I think he’s got a nice voice. It’s obviously not on the level of a Staley or Cornell, not even close, but Billy knows his voice and makes it work. I think guys like Billy and Trent Reznor’s voices actually elevates them as songwriters, they have to write great songs that fit their voices. They can’t just sing from a phonebook and have it sound good like Layne and Chris could.

      • Cody Devere

        Nothing like dropped consonants and reverb to really bring out the thing everybody complains about. Why has BC never done instrumental albums?

  • Cody Devere

    All checks out! D’Arcy, voice of reason since 1988.

  • Gary Reilly

    D’arcy’s not incorrect in what she says, but it’s not always about having a great technical singing ability, or a crazy range. The Chris Cornells of this world are few and far. Corgan has never had a great singing ability, but his voice is nonetheless unique and you could pick it out easily from a thousand different singers – that uniqueness is part of why Smashing Pumpkins always appealed to me. Plus, his voice seemed to suit their material well.

    • Alternative Nation

      Agreed. Adore’s a perfect example, and I think actually has his best singing.

      • Gary Reilly

        It’s a good example yeah. I’d chuck in Beautiful and Soma as well, Soma being a somewhat haunting melody that suits his ability to switch his voice from soft and tepid to a raspy growling one when the guitars kick in.

  • Bruno Sílvio Martins

    So Billy Corgan is the worst person on face of the earth, he’s a horrible singer and musician, has no ideas for writing songs so he steals from her, everything wrong with the band is Billy’s fault, James and Jimmy are so low that go along with this, she’s the most technical bass player ever, she’s the best person on earth and everyone should be in awe and aching to jam with her.
    Sounds legit. No, bad blood doesn’t play a part in all this at all. The truth is 100% on her side.
    I never liked Billy, but please… a little less…

  • Chris

    D’arcy is just bitter at this point.
    Bring it Pumpkins!

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  • DanSwon

    Corgan is not a strong singer, but he does have a unique and instantly-recognisable voice, which counts for a lot. But he tends to do the same vocal things over and over, which becomes quite fatiguing to listen to after a while. His strength is definitely in songwriting, rather than singing. I’m not surprised D’Arcy sounds bitter after having to deal with that kind of personality for so long. I played in a band with a singer like that – had contempt for our fans because they didn’t give him the kind of attention he wanted. Actually tried banning some of them from our shows, lol. Narcissism to the point of insanity.

    • Gary Reilly

      He’s a great songwriter, and a pretty amazing guitarist as well. I must have listened to the Pumpkins on CD for a couple of years before I finally managed to actually see them playing on a TV Screen (pre-Internet days!!) and realised that it was Corgan doing a lot of the solo work, not Iha like I expected. But I suspect that Corgan’s controlling manner is what led to him becoming the singer in the band, despite the fact he hasn’t got a great voice and there are probably other guys out there who do and who could have pulled off a frontman role.

      • DanSwon

        Yeah, I’ve always liked his approach to guitar – it’s probably more influential on my own playing than I realise. I think they were more modern sounding than the Seattle bands at the time, and I think with the high quality production on their albums, the music has actually aged really well. I just wish Corgan wasn’t such a bastard, because I find it hard to stop thinking that when I listen to the Pumpkins these days.

  • ZenMaster Han

    But can he sing out his ass?????

  • Raj

    He’s a better songwriter than singer but actually does a great job with his vocal styling how his voice can go soft then brash again that switch is what made the Pumpkins songs.

  • Bob Khan

    All I got to say here is even after the original split, Billy, Jimmy and James have all gone on to have decently successful careers.

    What exactly has D’arcy done? Copious amounts of drugs? Bad plastic surgery? Got arrested?

    I really wish she would just drop this bullshit and take their offer to play part of the setlist. Jeff has been with the band for the past decade (that really makes him part of the core now), it wouldn’t be fair to exclude him just to suit her ego. Regardless of the drama, many of us would still love to see all 4 of them together on stage again, at least for part of the show.

  • Whatever

    She’s just a bitter washed up bag. He doesn’t hate fans. Go find something to do, bag….

  • Mike

    If he couldn’t sing then the band wouldn’t have sold like 10s of millions of albums. Back then they didn’t autotune vocals or anything either. I’m starting to sympathize more with Billy on this, I wouldn’t want a bassist who hated my voice either TBH.