Billy Corgan has long been known for being an egomaniacal asshole. (and to be fair, how many good rock stars aren’t?) so news about him involving new bouts of assholism should come as no surprise. However, there are entertaining rock star assholes (Kanye West comes to mind) and then there are evil rock star assholes–people who are not only on a huge ego trip, but wield whatever cultural and economic power they have in a bullying, hateful, malicious manner, without any conception of accountability or concern for the damage they do, at least if it’s to the little people.
Please read the above clause as dripping with sarcasm. Devi Ever is a notable, respected musical figure in her own right. She runs Devi Ever Effects, a celebrated guitar pedal business that builds custom pedals for customers like, oh, IDK, Trent Reznor, Jeff Tweedy, Nels Cline, Flood, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, and, at least until recently, Mr. Billy Corgan. What caused the fallout between Ever and Corgan? It seems that Corgan asked Ever to build him “the perfect fuzz pedal” which Ever attempted to do, at her own expense. She says Corgan gave her no feedback and generally acted like an entitled jerkface, surprise surprise.I can’t speak to the specific content of Corgan and Ever’s exchanges regarding their fuzz pedal project, and it hardly matters. What happened next is a matter of public record, and it is pathetic on Corgan’s part.Ever, a long-time Smashing Pumpkins fan, felt disillusioned after her dealings with Corgan and, like many a disillusioned fangirl before her, took to a fairly obscure message board to vent. There’s nothing particularly vicious or nasty, let alone slanderous in her minor rant. Ever’s main gripes were with Corgan’s public relationship with some Church of Latter Day Saints-boosting superfan (The Mormon church is a huge opponent of queer rights) and his “George Lucasing” of early Pumpkins material. She mentions her negative experience working with him only in passing, along with a number of other reasons she’s just kind of over Corgan (his dating of reality stars, conspiracy theorizing, and new found passion for women’s wrestling are others.)
Fans flounce, it happens, and most Rock Stars don’t take the time to fight with their former fans about leaving the flock. But of course, Corgan is not most Rock Stars! Ever’s tiny post may have only been seen by a few dozen people, but apparent Corgan was one of them. Always classy, Corgan took to Twitter,where he proceeded to attack Ever in front of his 100,000+ followers for being “ugly”, a “pig”, and making pedals that “suck”. He then went on to allege that Ever had stolen the idea for a pedal from another pedal maker. More disturbing than that (seemingly baseless) allegation was Corgan’s repeated use of transphobic language in these tweets. Ever, a trans woman and queer rights advocate, is referred to exclusively as “he/she”, despite her clear and public identification as a woman and use of female pronouns. Corgan has since deleted his transmisogynist (and potentially libelous) tweet-barrage, but this move seems more due to cowardice than a sudden bout of good sense. He reportedly moved on to outright threatening Ever with physical violence via Facebook:
you ugly piece of shit…if i ever run into you, anywhere, at anytime, for as long as i live, i will knock your fucking lights out. don’t ever come near me, and if i hear even one more peep out of you in public about me, or the band, or the members of the band, i am gonna sue you for so much you’ll never be able to afford so much as to even make a fucking guitar cable.
Corgan went on to ramble incomprehensively about how “addicts and self-destructive people like you who HATE THEMSELVES must turn their hate out” and “you are fucking lame, dumb, and so so ugly.”I’m a little appalled that any adult could behave in the manner. Besides the repulsive, violent sexism, transphobia, and transmisogyny, there’s the whole massive WTF aspect. What the fuck is a 44 year old millionaire doing Facebooking a disgruntled fan with improperly capitalized threats of any kind? What exactly does Corgan plan to sue Ever for? Saying that she thinks it’s a bad idea to remix “Starla”?
More disturbing, of course, than Corgan’s unwillingness to control his temper tantrums, is his choice to attack Ever’s gender identity and presentation, as if that has anything to do with any remotely legitimate issue he could have with her words, or is ever an appropriate response to criticism. As Ever points out in a lengthy YouTube response to the mess, it is particularly disappointing to read this kind of garbage from someone who spent their ‘90s glory days as the champion of the outcasts. She speaks movingly of listening to Siamese Dream as a closeted teen, and how far away that pain-filled and compassionate classic feels from Corgan’s work today as a washed-up rock star bully.
Seriously, what happened to Corgan? I’m still a fan of The Pumpkins up through Melon Collie, but I could give a fuck about anything musical he’s done recently. I guess he bottled up years of childhood trauma, distilled them into a few very good albums, got a taste of power, and lost touch with his divine inspiration. He’s withered into a tough and distasteful caricature of a rocker-artisté, and any possible connection to today’s underdogs beyond the old records was severed long ago. Any pretense of misfit chic Corgan may cling to is just schtick.
Interestingly, Corgan is a lot friendlier with trans people who don’t actually exist. Remember JT Leroy? Billy Corgan sure does! Corgan was one of the very first celebrity friends cis-lady author Laura Albert made in the guise of “JT Leroy”, the abused trans kid hustler-turned-hipster novelist Albert invented to help sell her own overripe prose. Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore writes of “Leroy’s” celebrated debut Sarah:
The book portrayed a desperately over-the-top West Virginia world with gleeful dialogue and bitter humor; amid impossible plot twists and insulting cultural appropriation, there was a core of sadness and longing that bit me. When I moved to San Francisco, I found myself anxiously awaiting JT’s second coming, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, published in 2001 but allegedly written before Sarah, and exploring JT’s abusive childhood in more depth. As an incest survivor myself, with my own history of gender defiance and hustling, I was looking for catharsis. When I finally read The Heart Is Deceitful, it felt strangely disembodied and voyeuristic, even grotesque: It was as if the acts of abuse it depicted were laid out in clinical detail for the shock and awe of the uninitiated.
Bernstein goes on:
…the important issue for me was not whether JT truly existed, but the fact that whoever he was, he seemed awfully eager to confirm stereotypes of incest survivors as utterly destroyed by the world. In fact, JT rose to prominence by conning the wealthy into believing he was the noble savage tamed and cultivated by their compassion. This would have been quite a hilarious prank if JT didn’t wield tremendous cultural power by claiming to represent the damaged queer in all of us. His very existence on the pages of Vanity Fair or the New York Times seemed like proof that anyone, no matter how deviant or oppressed or fucked-over, could ultimately rise to such a level of triumph, when the truth is that JT’s success occurred only with serious help from the literati and the glitterati.
Indeed, “Leroy’s” list of celebrity endorsers may have been the most impressive of any aspirational young author in all of the land. His fans included Madonna and Bono, for christ’s sake. Albert also struck up friendships with many famous people over the phone (Winona Ryder! Courtney Love! A veritable alt-Circus of the 90’s Stars!) in her Leroy persona. Most of them expressed shock and anger when it was revealed that there was no Leroy, that they’d opened their hearts to a charlatan, that they’d spent countless hours on the phone listening to Albert spin tales of extreme self-mutilation under completely false pretenses, for Albert’s own weird ego gratification purposes. Creepy, right? Not for Corgan! As Albert told Paris Review:
There were some people I actually felt I had to tell who had no problem with it. One of them was Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins. When I met him three years ago, it was a big deal, because his music meant so much to me. He read my work, and said that knowing me was meaningful to him, too. He had a phone relationship with JT, but when I met him in person, I told him that JT was me—Laura. He understood this on an intuitive level and was very supportive.
Of course he was. Why should he care that Laura pretended to a homeless trans sex worker and abuse survivor to give her own work an edge, in a world where people who actually fit this profile rarely get a public platform to speak for themselves, let alone co-signed by Bono? Perhaps Corgan’s own professed love for the marginalized, oppressed, abused, and bullied masses is little more than his own branding plan. What the hell else are we to make of a spoiled Zero who publicly bashes a former fan as “he/she” and “ugly”?