Smashing Pumpkins' Ex-Bassist D'arcy Wretzky Talks 'Insufferable' Billy Corgan, Drugs and 'Horrible Memories'
Although a Smashing Pumpkins reunion has yet to be officially announced — a countdown clock on the band’s website is set to expire on Thursday, so stay tuned on that front — it sure looks like Billy Corgan, James Iha, and Jimmy Chamberlin, three-fourths of the original lineup, are getting back together to tour and record a new album. That just leaves original bassist D’arcy Wretzky, who was fired from the band in 1999 and will seemingly not be a part of this reunion.
That last point has been the source of a whole lot of contention lately. First, Wretzky claimed that Corgan invited her to be a part of the reunion but then rescinded his offer. Then the rest of the band issued a statement claiming that Wretzky repeatedly turned down offers to play with them. Then Wretzky shared screenshots of text messages from Corgan that seemingly contradicted that statement. And now Wretzky has spoken out, giving her first real interview in 20 years with Alternative Nation.
She starts out by addressing Corgan’s recent statement:
[Billy] has been telling people, “Well [The Smashing Pumpkins] haven’t played with [D’arcy] at all in 18 years.” Right dumbass, because then it wouldn’t be a reunion! He says that he’s invited me to come out and play for all of these things, which is a complete lie. He’s never invited me to anything. In fact, my feelings were a little bit hurt because he did the solo album tour, and he didn’t tell me when it started. I was texting him saying, “Where the fuck are you dumbass?” He’s like, “Oh, I’m in New York. The tour started.” Then I’m like, “Where are you?” “Oh, the tour ended, you missed it.” He thinks it’s a privilege for anyone to be in his presence, so therefore he shouldn’t have to tell me, and I shouldn’t have to be invited.
The whole situation is pretty confusing and Wretzky doesn’t do a great job of making it any clearer. But from what she does say, it seems like Corgan hired Jack Bates, Peter Hook’s son and the bassist who played with the band on their most recent tour, without telling her:
I forced him to fire me, I didn’t want James to fire me, I didn’t want the situation of they had hired Melissa already just in case. They hired Jack Bates for this tour. I made Billy spell it out, because he was doing his nonsense double talk crap bullshit. Everyone was telling me: “Well that doesn’t sound like he doesn’t want you on the tour.” Nobody could see it, so I finally made him spell it out for me.
Wretzky goes on to say that having her appear occasionally on tour as a special guest was “apparently the plan all along. He had Jack Bates already, it was just unbelievable, really just disgusting. The fucking nerve, and then for him to come back and say, ‘Well, we haven’t seen you in this long, and you haven’t done this, and you couldn’t even make it to this. Everyone has shown up, and you didn’t?’ How could I, I didn’t even know you were there?”
The interview isn’t all reunion drama, though. Wretzky also talks about what she’s been doing for the past 19 years:
I did a lot, I was either doing a shitload of stuff, or I was sick. I would just work myself to death. I almost died one time, I had a very large equestrian center with a show barn and there were over 90 stalls. It snowballed and did very well, but it’s just extremely difficult to find people to work around here, and I was working 20 hours a day living on coffee, cigarettes, and donuts. I had bronchitis and pneumonia, and I ended up with a kidney infection, I was minutes from death. So that was one thing that I did. Then I lived in Texas, I went there for four days on vacation and stayed for like five years. Austin is awesome.
And she addresses her drug use:
You know how they’re always telling you in school drugs will do this to you; they’ll do that to you, drinking kills your brain cells? At the time I was like good, maybe I can kill off all these horrible memories, because I have night terrors, panic disorder, you name it. I was like; I’m going to see if I can’t kill those brain cells off! I wouldn’t recommend it, it didn’t work. I count myself lucky to be alive.
I don’t have a genetic predisposition for addiction to anything but television, that’s pretty much it. My metabolism just changes so quickly that I can’t do very many different kinds of drugs. I was self-medicating … trying to kill my brain. I even tried to OD, and it didn’t work. I could do copious amounts of things, but the stuff stops working, and if you’re ever doing it for fun, it doesn’t work, and then you couldn’t get real drugs.
I got to the point where I found the right medication for me, and didn’t need them anymore. I’ve never been addicted to anything, I could smoke socially. I was in rehab, and many doctors didn’t believe that I could just smoke socially. Lots of people smoke socially, if I could buy a pack of cigarettes, it could last three months. I’m just extremely lucky. I’ve hung out with a lot of people who are addicts, and they would just do anything. I would spend a bunch of money on this stuff and be like: ‘This is crap. Take it, I don’t want it.’ Also like that meme says, I’m ADHD and I’m obsessive compulsive, so everything has to be perfect, but only for a little while.
But mostly what comes across in the interview is the deep, deep friction between her and Corgan:
Billy loved to humiliate people and shame people in front of other people. It was incredibly abusive, and I was the only one who would fight back. I think he and Jimmy got in a couple fights, and he and James maybe five, but with he and I it was screaming matches all the time. I just got to the point where I couldn’t fight anymore, and I needed to leave.
When they starting talking again in 2016, she thought that maybe he would be different:
Everyone said he changed since he had a kid, and he can be very charming, and fun. He’s fun to talk to; I enjoy mental sparring with him. I just was so out of that world for the longest time, I wasn’t aware of a lot of the crazy stuff, like he supports Trump. What? The shapeshifting thing, I honestly think he may have a brain tumor. He’s always been insufferable.
But no, she says. “He’s just the same.”