‘My Greatest Opponent’: Billy Corgan Explains Infamous Kurt Cobain ‘Rivalry’

photo taken by flickr user krissikes, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Published on:

Billy Corgan has never been shy about the fiercely competitive feelings he had towards Kurt Cobain in the 90’s.

In a new interview with Q101 Chicago, though, Corgan set out to clarify in detail what drove his fierce competitive nature with the late grunge legend. As transcribed by Blabbermouth:

“I said some things in some recent interviews… We live in this clickbait world. And what I was trying to say was Kurt was this incredible artist. And when he was alive and we were both in our, whatever, our mid-20s, well, both bands were competing for the same spot. So people take that and they suddenly turn it into something that it isn’t.

I think if we look back now, we can see that amongst the ’90s bands, the Pumpkins and Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots, there were a lot of bands competing for the top spot. There’s nothing wrong with that.

People try to turn it into this weird thing, like somehow it was something dark. No — it’s just good competition. Like, you got a [Chicago] Bulls jersey on your wall. I mean, why do we go to the games? ‘Cause we want our team to win. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Billy Corgan Explains His Real Thoughts About Kurt Cobain:

“I’ve been doing these interviews saying Kurt was by far the most talented person of our generation. So I’m waving the white flag and saying he won in the talent pool. But I dare put myself in the conversation. So then people get mad about that, like I don’t have any right. But my band was one of the biggest bands of the era, and still a big band. I’m not some delusional guy up in Highland Park talking about what happened 30 years ago — only. Didn’t we just play the United Center and sell it out?

“It’s this weird thing where people wanna play this weird game with what you have a right to say and not say. I think I have every right, knowing everybody involved, having played with Nirvana, knowing Kurt a little bit personally.

“I’ve been very transparent about what it was and what it wasn’t. And somehow it gets turned into this thing that it’s like a rivalry. There’s no rivalry; it’s just all love and respect.”

“Here’s the one thing I would say, and I’m requoting myself: I wish Kurt was still alive, because I want to compete against the best, and he was the best. So how’s that a rivalry, if I want the guy that I respected to still be here writing great songs? It’s such a strange thing to say. Why would people twist that?

“We lost a lot of great music and a lot of great inspiration that Kurt provided for a lot of people when he died. So why is it a bad thing to say I wish he was still here, ’cause I wanna compete against him? But people would twist that even. There’s no hate there. Only respect. Or awe.

Billy Corgan’s First Impression of Nirvana:

“I saw Nirvana play [at the Metro in Chicago] in 1990 on the ‘Bleach’ tour with the original drummer. They were unbelievable. It wasn’t even sold out; there was about five, six hundred people there. So imagine me in 1990. I’m a nobody. I’m in the crowd. I’m watching this band on their first album, and I’m going, ‘Oh my God. That’s the guy.’ So I started there. I didn’t start after ‘[Smells Like] Teen Spirit’; I was there in the beginning.

“My biggest issue is we live in an environment where people are afraid to just speak their heart. And when you speak your heart, it doesn’t always come out perfect.”

Watch Billy Corgan Explain His Kurt Cobain ‘Rivalry’: