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Lead singer Billy Corgan has projects outside the band, including Resistance Pro Wrestling and Madame ZuZu’s, a 1930s-style Chinese teahouse.
Paul Elledge
Rocker Billy Corgan is making much more than just music these days, as an unlikely pairing of new projects shows off some of his less-known talents.

Billy Corgan has never been one to rest on his laurels. He disbanded his band The Smashing Pumpkins while it was at the top of its game in 2000, then started and quickly abandoned both the band Zwan and a solo career before reuniting the Pumpkins in 2007. Fresh on the heels of the group’s latest release, Oceania , the Chicago native is at it again, feeding his insatiable need to plant new seeds with two diverse (and somewhat surprising) passion projects. The first is Resistance Pro Wrestling, a Midwest-based, WWE-like league that Corgan launched last year with brothers Gabriel and Jacques Baron. It may seem an odd fit until you realize that Corgan is, in fact, a lifelong wrestling fan, having attended numerous WrestleMania events in addition to counting legendary industry commentators Jim Ross and Jeremy Borash among his friends. 

To celebrate his latest musical release, AW asked Billy Corgan to name five songs from his vast catalog that he'd put in a time capsule.

The Smashing Pumpkins
Siamese Dream (1993)
"It's one of those songs that transcend the ?moment. It's timeless now."

The Smashing Pumpkins
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
"It's the purest distillation of my style."

The Smashing Pumpkins
MACHINA/The Machines of God (2000)
"It's the rare love song that's very powerful, epic."

Mary Star of the Sea (2003)
"I just think it's an overlooked, beautiful song."

The Smashing Pumpkins
Oceania (2012)
"It's about my mother, who passed away 15 years ago."

On the other end of the spectrum, Corgan is also celebrating the launch of Madame ZuZu’s, a 1930s-style Chinese teahouse in the posh Chicago suburb of Highland Park that is slated to open this month. The cultural establishment — which will showcase live music, film and other creative works — is designed to add a bit of artistic nuance to the Windy City’s North Shore. American Way spoke to the great Pumpkin about his new endeavors.

American Way: Tell us about Resistance Pro Wrestling.
Billy Corgan:
We try to combine an old-school storyline mentality with modern approaches to media and reaching fans. So far, it’s done very well. I have a lot of credibility in the wrestling world, which has been built up over time with relationships behind the scenes. I’m not seen as someone just bucking in from the outside who wants to play with wrestling toys.

AW: How does Resistance differ from the WWE?
With rock ’n’ roll, you have bands that are straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll, and you have bands that do prog-rock music or metal. We’re probably more the heavy-metal version of wrestling,  as opposed to the straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll of WWE. WWE’s not gonna be challenged anytime soon. But there are pockets in the business that we can operate in quite comfortably and be successful without having to compete with them.

AW: So, are you the Vince McMahon of this operation?
I’m basically the guy who puts together the creative vision of the promotion, and then the brothers [co-owners Gabriel and Jacques Baron] sort of deal with the business.

AW: Have you spent any time in the ring?
BC: I’ve had to get in the ring a little bit just to advance a few storylines. I think my total time in the ring so far has been about five minutes.

AW: Your other project, Madame ZuZu’s, is something quite different.
I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while — a [place] where you could play a bit of music, show some film, have younger kids be able to show artwork, things like that. We’re trying to create a destination point in the community and also [provide] people coming from the city with a cool place to go.

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Oceania was recorded at Billy Corgan’s private studio in Chicago.
Courtesy Martha’s Music/EMI Label Services/Caroline Distribution

AW: Any chance you’ll perform there?
It seems like a no-brainer, but honestly I don’t see it as intrinsic to what I want to do. It’s not for my personal edification. I want to contribute to the community, and I want it to thrive as a business. I’d imagine that 90-plus percent of our customers won’t even know or care who I am.

AW: Before you start a new business, how much market research do you do?
I do it all on feel. It’s very similar to the way I run my musical life. If I feel something, I try to bring it into reality and then I just deal with what comes once it comes into fruition. If you look at The Smashing Pumpkins as an artistic concept, it makes no sense. It was only successful because I believed in it and was willing to work at finding something in it. We created a market where there wasn’t one. It’s like anything — if you create something with integrity and it has strength behind it, people will find you.