Billy Corgan Calls Out Nirvana For Stealing His Guitar Sound

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For all of his work with the Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan definitely deserves his place in rock history. While he may have been coming up with the Pumpkins during the time of grunge, he was never afraid to put some heavy stuff into the mix as well, with songs like “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” being balanced out by heavy as hell riffs on songs like “Jellybelly.”

Then again, maybe the reason Billy played something heavier was because he thinks that Nirvana took his entire schtick.

This week, Billy gave an interview to Laney Amplification where he criticized Nirvana for stealing his guitar tone from Siamese Dream, saying (transcribed from Ultimate Guitar):

“We recorded our album Gish in 1990, going into 1991. Butch Vig left that album to go and make Nevermind with Nirvana. The first time I heard ‘Nevermind,’ I looked at Butch Vig – we were sitting next to a lake on a July 4th day circa 1991 — and I said, ‘Motherfucker, you stole my guitar sound!’ So that’s all I’ll say about that.

It’s not like you can’t hear a little bit in the cracks either though, taking the more melodic side of what Kurt’s doing on a song like “Come As You Are” and pairing it right next to what the Pumpkins were doing just a few years before on songs like “Siva.” 

It seems that Corgan took so much offense to the alleged theft because he himself is obsessed with tones. Corgan elaborated about taking years to find just the right guitar tone that would suit him, citing Tony Iommi as an influence and saying: “I’ve chased that sound my whole life.

A lot of guitar players — and I’m sure we’ve all met them — they kind of see guitar sound as sort of like ‘pick your flavor of a hot sauce’ or something. For me, tone is everything. When you think of Tony’s tone, it’s synonymous with the vision I get in my head of Tony’s width and size and power.”

Music is all about innovation though, and Billy continued to toy with his sound across Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness, including some riffs that could have honestly been hammered out by Dimebag Darrell.

Seeing how the album after that was practically a Depeche Mode-inspired electronic record though, Billy probably realized that the guitar tone he was chasing didn’t belong to him anymore. 

You can watch the full Laney interview with Billy Corgan below: