We're taking a look at the tools behind Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins' signature sound - featuring fuzz, fuzz, and a little more fuzz.
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Billy Corgan absolutely shreds. Since the early ’90s, The Smashing Pumpkins have been at the forefront of the alternative rock scene, with Corgan’s sublime layered fuzz tones and studio smarts being more than responsible for inspiring streams of imitators from all directions.
We take a look at the arsenal of gear Corgan used to reshape the face of alternative rock.
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Fender Billy Corgan Signature Stratocaster
Back in 2008, Corgan and Fender teamed up to create the the Billy Corgan Signature Stratocaster, featuring a maple fretboard and custom DiMarzio pickups tuned to Corgan’s personal specifications. Although he used to play a production model onstage, Corgan’s personal Signature Strat features the modification of a new ’57-styled neck, which he discusses in the above video.
1988 Fender Stratocaster
Referred to as his #2 Stratocaster, this modified black-over-candy-apple-red late ’80s Fender Strat was heavily used by Corgan across Siamese Dream and Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, with Corgan recording the solo to ‘Cherub Rock’ and the iconic intro to ‘Today’ on the instrument. Last year, Corgan auctioned this guitar as part of his Offical Billy Corgan Reverb Store, where it fetched a hefty price of over a million dollars.
1974 Fender Stratocaster
Another one of Corgan’s main Strats from the ’90s, this heavily modified and stickered 1974 Fender Strat features a unique blue-on-black finish, with a maple fretboard and the infamous ’70s era Fender three-bolt neck.
Reverend Billy Corgan Signature
Corgan also teamed up with Reverend to create another custom model, the Reverend Billy Corgan Signature, featuring an ultra-contemporary design to enhance playability. Designed with thinner wings and resonant chambers under the pickguard to reduce weight, the guitar notably features Corgan’s custom Railhammer pickups, combining the snap of P90’s with the chunky tones of a humbucker.
Gibson Les Paul Special
Around the Machina era, Corgan retired his Stratocasters in favour of a variety of Les Pauls, including this Tobacco Sunburst Les Paul Special. Corgan later auctioned most of these guitars on his Reverb page last year.
On more recent Smashing Pumpkins tours, Corgan has been seen playing an assortment of Gibsons, including a variety of SG models as well as this cherry red ES-335 with block inlays.
One of Corgan’s main acoustic guitars, you can see this Gibson Dove throughout various live videos from the band’s ’90s output, including this performance of ‘1979’.
In The Smashing Pumpkins early era, Corgan was a devout user of a Marshall JCM800 head fitted with KT88 tubes, which he paired with a 1960 Marshall 4×12 slant cab for those classic tones. In addition, Corgan used a whole stack of power amps and preamps including a Marshall JMP-1 MIDI Tube Preamp, a Marshall 9200 Power Amp, an ADA MP-1 MIDI Tube Preamp, and a Mesa Boogie Strategy 500 Power amp, all of which contribute to the revered Corgan wall of sound.
Nowadays, Corgan’s rig is just as beefy: in fact, it’s almost ridiculous. In his rig rundown with Premier Guitar in 2014, he showcases a mammoth setup comprised of eight custom made preamp modules, including a ’60s Selmer, “Soul” Marshall 2203, Reeves Custom Jimmy (Jimmy Page Hiwatt clone), Marshall Super Lead 1959RR Limited Edition Randy Rhoads, VamPower amp with a fuzz mod (for Oceania material), Diezel VH4, and a ’69 Marshall Super Tremolo.
If there’s one thing Billy Corgan is most renowned for, it’s his insane collection of pedals, particularly those of the fuzz variety. Check out the video above to dive into just a small selection of his favourites.
Around the Melon Collie era, Corgan’s pedalboard was comprised of an original Op-Amp EHX Big Muff Pi, a MXR Phase 100, a Moog Ring Modulator, a BOSS NS-2 Noise Suppressor, and a Boss FZ-2 Fuzz.
Nowadays, Corgan uses a more sophisticated rig, making use of a selection of Keeley loopers to control featuring a Skreddy Echo, two MXR Phase 90s used for solos, a Fulltone Catalyst used as a preamp, a Chicago Iron Octavian, a Boss PS-2 Phase Shifter, and a Strymon El Capistan, as well as a custom pedal called The Bloody Finger used for solos.
For more Smashing Pumpkins, check out our chat with them on Cyr.