Gibson.com recently caught up with Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan and guitarist Jeff Schroeder to talk about the band’s long and successful career, as well as their favorite Gibson guitars. A couple of excerpts from the chat can be found below.
Corgan said he never imagined the Smashing Pumpkins would become so famous when he started the band back in 1988: “I think that’s because in the beginning, our whole mentality was just to get out of Chicago and get a record deal. You don’t start thinking of those other goals or those other aspirations until you achieve something on which you can build. We saw over and over again around us, bands that were being called the next-big-thing in Chicago and would never get past the state line as far as national interest.”
He added that many bands our now crediting the Smashing Pumpkins as being an influence on them: “There were a lot of years there where the band wasn’t name checked, which seemed strange to me, because I knew we had influenced a lot of bands. But really, in the last five years, all of a sudden, people are really name checking the band, which is cool. It’s nice.”
Corgan explained how society’s view of the band had evolved over the years: “Even though we were popular at different times, we did a lot of things that were highly unpopular, so it’s not like we just had this beautiful arc across the horizon. Our walk through the ‘90s was extremely contentious, and so was my walk through the 2000s, mostly personally. So, it’s surprising for me to now see that the confluence of visual images, the overall musical aesthetic of the band and the actual language of the band is now being commonly referred to in a way that has become part of the greater lexicon of people’s language, and to me, that’s the biggest honor you can have as a musician. It’s to the point where people can play something, and people can say, ‘That sounds like the Smashing Pumpkins.’ That’s one of the biggest honors a musician can get. That’s the unofficial honor.”
Both Corgan and Schroeder use Gibson guitars. “I play a lot of Les Pauls,” Schroeder began, “but I have a few different kinds of Gibson’s that I play now. My main E natural guitar is a Les Paul Iced T Sunburst with a ‘60s neck that I really like a lot. It kind of looks like a Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin era guitar. I’ve also been playing a Goldtop reissue with a ‘50s neck and a white Les Paul Custom. I really like them all. They all sound different. They’re all really good for different applications.”
Corgan is also more inclined to Gibson’s older models: “Onstage for this current tour, I have an early ‘70s Firebird. In the studio, I use a lot of Gibsons. I have a mid-‘70s 335 that was most famously used on ‘Tonight Tonight.’ It’s that chiming guitar sound. It’s one of those guitars that has a switch on it, so you can switch between a single coil and a humbucker.”
He continued: “I have a really incredible ’54 Les Paul Bigsby and a ’72 Les Paul Custom that’s like a Jimmy Page guitar. We also have a ’78 Les Paul that sounds a little bit more like Randy Rhoads to me. It reminds me of what guys were sounding like the in late-‘70s. It has more of a glassy sound to the tone. And I have a ton of Gibson acoustics. I have a lot of Gibsons that I use in the studio, because it’s just part of the stew we make.”