Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan continues to raise awareness, funds for Highland Park

Corgan helped raise $250,000 for the Highland Park Community Foundation’s recovery fund during a live-streamed benefit concert last year. He’s trying to raise funds again this weekend.

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Billy Corgan performs with the Smashing Pumpkins at A Metro 40th Anniversary Celebration at the Lake View venue in 2022.

Billy Corgan performs with the Smashing Pumpkins at A Metro 40th Anniversary Celebration at the Lake View venue in 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Billy Corgan presumed he would have been at the Independence Day parade last year in suburban Chicago had his partner and young children not been on a flight home from Spain.

The tea house Corgan owns in Highland Park was closed for the parade, so the Smashing Pumpkins singer and wrestling promoter was home when he started receiving texts there was an active shooter in the town he’s lived in for about 20 years.

“It’s just this crazy land of like, should I go down there? Should I do something?” Corgan said. “I’ve heard all the stories now so I know a lot more about what happened. But in the moment, you don’t know what happened. All you know is there’s someone with a gun who just shot a bunch of people in Highland Park and is on the loose. You’ve entered this weird, crazy, shadowy world of, what has happened?”

The 56-year-old Corgan — who is about to head to Australia for a tour that marries the Smashing Pumpkins and the National Wrestling Alliance — did find a way to aid his community.

A visitor prays at a memorial to the seven people killed and others injured in the Highland Park mass shooting, at the Highland Park War Memorial in 2022. Smashing Pumpkins singer/guitarist Billy Corgan, who also owns the National Wrestling Alliance, is raising funds for victims of the shooting. The NWA will run a pay-per-view event on April 7, and proceeds from that show and other wrestling events that weekend will go toward the Highland Park Community Foundation. 

A visitor prays at a memorial to the seven people killed and others injured in the Highland Park mass shooting, at the Highland Park War Memorial in Highland Park, Ill., on July 7, 2022. Smashing Pumpkins singer and guitarist Billy Corgan, who also owns the National Wrestling Alliance, is raising funds for victims of the Highland Park shooting. The NWA will run a pay-per-view event on April 7, and proceeds from that show and other wrestling events that weekend will go toward the Highland Park Community Foundation.

AP

Corgan helped raise $250,000 for the Highland Park Community Foundation’s recovery fund during a live-streamed benefit concert last year. Corgan is trying to raise funds again this weekend. The NWA held an autograph signing Thursday night and the company will run the NWA 312 pay-per-view on FITE on Friday night at Studio One, which is along the parade route. NWA will return Saturday to Studio One for multiple TV tapings.

“Yeah, life goes back to normal, we all have to get on with our business,” Corgan said. “But at the same time, I feel it’s my responsibility to keep reminding people that there’s a long tail here on helping people, supporting people. The financial part is obviously an important part of it. But it’s also the spirit of the community to lead and say we have to keep working at this together.”

The Smashing Pumpkins will drop the third album later this month in their “Atum” trilogy, a three-act rock opera so expansive that Corgan’s friends told him he should ease up his workload.

“Why don’t you just sit back and enjoy your life, you’ve got little kids, focus on the wrestling, believe it or not,” Corgan said. “I ignored all that.”

In a recent phone interview with The Associated Press from Nashville, Tennessee, where he was recording music for a future Smashing Pumpkins album, Corgan discusses his fundraising efforts, and plans for his wrestling promotion and band. Answers have been shortened for clarity and brevity.

Q. What does it mean to you to be able to help the community and to have residents come out and help support you in the fundraising efforts?

A. One thing I couldn’t have expected when we did the fundraiser last year is a lot of people from the community pulled me aside and said thank you for leading, thank you for letting the world know that Highland Park is still a place that people should want to live in and we’re proud of our town. I was like OK, part of my job here is to remind people that we’re still in this. It’s very American that it happens and we all move on.

Q. The band has been through some ups and downs. Do you feel like the Pumpkins are in a better place personally and professionally these days?

A. It feels that way. I can’t speak for them necessarily, but my sense is that there’s a deep appreciation from the three OG members that what we created when we were young is special and we have a deeper respect and understanding of how it’s both positively affected our lives but also helps support our families. I think that kind of familial sense and the fact our relationships date back now over 35 years, things just seemed to have calmed down.

Q. How does the band help fund and bring attention to the NWA?

A. When I first started doing it, a lot of the music fans really looked very negatively on it. People were writing things like, why can’t you just focus on music? If you’d focus on music, I’d like it. With the rise of let’s call it the new version of the NWA and the re-rise of the Pumpkins, both have credibility simultaneously, I don’t hear that stuff anymore. It’s like people are sort of respecting the fact that I’ve kind of put my foot into it and really committed to both companies, both brands in a way that’s yielded results. I think people start to understand in some convoluted way that by me doing things outside the band, it’s allowed me to approach the band with a lot more excitement and joy as opposed to thinking the band is my whole life. At some point, that became really problematic for me. You go to the supermarket and it’s like, hey, you’re the rat in the cage guy. And I’m like no, I own a tea house, I own a wrestling company, I have little kids and I have friends. I’m not just a guy that lives in the basement writing songs.

Q. How do you feel about the state of the NWA after nearly seven years of ownership?

A. I feel really good. I feel like in the last year, I think people have finally started to see what my vision is for the NWA. Much like the Smashing Pumpkins, not everyone agrees. There’s lot of pieces that are finally starting to come together. I feel really good about the pay-per-view, about our ability to put on a world-class event at any time. I wish I had more money to blow because I would put on more of this stuff.

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