Billy Corgan

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William Patrick Corgan Jr.
Billy c.jpg
Corgan in 2010
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Patrick Corgan Jr.
Born (1967-03-17) March 17, 1967 (age 53)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano, bass
Years active1985–present
Associated acts

William Patrick Corgan Jr. (born March 17, 1967)[1] is the lead singer, primary songwriter, guitarist, and sole permanent member of The Smashing Pumpkins, in addition to being the owner and promoter of the National Wrestling Alliance. Formed by Corgan and guitarist James Iha in Chicago, Illinois, in 1988, the Smashing Pumpkins quickly gained steam with the addition of bassist D'arcy Wretzky and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. Strong album sales and large-scale tours propelled the band's increasing fame in the 1990s until their break-up in 2000. Corgan started a new band called Zwan, and after their demise, he released a solo album, TheFutureEmbrace, in 2005 and a collection of poetry, Blinking with Fists, before setting his sights on reforming The Smashing Pumpkins.

The new version of The Smashing Pumpkins, consisting of Corgan and a revolving lineup, has released and toured new albums extensively since 2007. In October 2017, he released his first solo album in over a decade, Ogilala.[2] His latest album, Cotillions, was released on November 22, 2019.

In 2001, Corgan entered the world of professional wrestling when he went to ECW and hit Lou E. Dangerously in the head with a guitar after being insulted.[3] In 2011, he founded Chicago-based Resistance Pro Wrestling. He later joined Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (now known as Impact Wrestling) in 2015, becoming its president in August 2016. After leaving TNA in November 2016, Corgan purchased the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), gaining its ownership in October 2017.

Early life and career

1967–1987: Childhood and formative years

William Patrick Corgan, Jr. was born at Columbus Hospital in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood on March 17, 1967 as the oldest son of William Corgan Sr., a blues/rock guitarist, and Martha Louise Maes Corgan Lutz. He was raised Catholic, and is of Irish descent.[4][5] His parents had one more son, Ricky, before divorcing in 1970.[6] His father was remarried to a flight attendant, and Corgan and his brother went to live with them in Glendale Heights, Illinois.[7] Corgan alleges that during this time his stepmother was physically and emotionally abusive to him.[8] Corgan developed a protective bond with his younger paternal half-brother, who had special needs as a child.[9] When Corgan's father and stepmother separated, all three boys would live alone with their stepmother, with both of Corgan's birth parents living separately within an hour's drive.[10]

Corgan, who grew much faster than his fellow students, was a strong athlete in elementary school.[11] In addition to being a member of his Marquardt Middle School baseball team, he collected baseball cards (amassing over 10,000) and listened to every Chicago Cubs game.[11] However, by the time he began attending Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream, Illinois, he had become only an average athlete. He decided to start playing guitar when he went over to a friend's house and saw his friend's Flying V.[11] Corgan gave his savings to his father, who bought him a used Les Paul knock-off.[11] Corgan Sr. steered his son stylistically, encouraging him to listen to Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix, but offered little other support, and the younger Corgan taught himself to play the instrument.[10]

Corgan performed in a string of bands in high school, and graduated as an honor student. Despite grant and scholarship offers from a number of schools, and a tuition fund left by his grandmother,[12] Corgan decided to pursue music full-time.[13] Not finding the Chicago music scene to his liking, he moved from Chicago to St. Petersburg, Florida in 1985 with his first major band, The Marked (so named for the conspicuous birthmarks of both Corgan and drummer Ron Roesing). Not finding success in St. Petersburg, the band dissolved; Corgan moved back to Chicago to live with his father.

Corgan performed with Wayne Static in Static's first band, Deep Blue Dream, in 1987/88.[14]

1988–2000: The Smashing Pumpkins

Upon his return to Chicago, Corgan had already devised his next project – a band that would be called The Smashing Pumpkins.[15] Corgan met guitarist James Iha while working in a record store, and the two began recording demos, which Corgan describes as "gloomy little goth-pop records."[15] He met bassist D'arcy Wretzky after a local show, arguing with her about a band that had just played, The Dan Reed Network. Soon after, the Smashing Pumpkins were formed.[16] The trio began to play together at local clubs with a drum machine for percussion. To secure a show at the Metro in Chicago, the band recruited drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, and played for the first time as a quartet on October 5, 1988.

Corgan in 1992

The addition of Chamberlin drove the band in a heavier direction almost immediately.[15] On the band's debut album, Gish (1991), the band integrated psychedelic rock and heavy metal into their sound. Gish fared better than expected, but the follow-up, Siamese Dream, released on Virgin Records in 1993, became a multi-platinum hit.

The band's 1995 follow-up effort, the double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, was more successful, spawning a string of hit singles. According to Jon Pareles from The New York Times, Corgan wanted to "lose himself and find himself..." in this album.[17] The album was nominated for seven Grammy awards that year, and would eventually be certified ten times platinum in the United States. The song "1979" was Corgan's biggest hit to date, reaching No. 1 on Billboard's modern rock and mainstream rock charts. Their appearance on Saturday Night Live on November 11, 1995, to promote this material (their second appearance on the show overall) was also the television debut appearance of Corgan's shaved head, which he has maintained consistently since.[18]

On July 12, 1996, touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin died in a Manhattan hotel room of a heroin overdose after he and Chamberlin used the drug together.[19] The Smashing Pumpkins made the decision to fire Chamberlin and continue as a trio.[20] This shakeup, coupled with Corgan going through a divorce and the death of his mother, influenced the somber mood of the band's next album, 1998's Adore.

Corgan in 1997

Chamberlin was reunited with the band in 1999. In 2000, they released Machina/The Machines of God, a concept album on which the band deliberately played to their public image. During the recording for Machina, Wretzky quit the band and was replaced for the upcoming tour by former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur. In 2000 the band announced they would break up at the end of the year, and soon after released Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music free over the Internet. The Smashing Pumpkins played their last show on December 2, 2000, at the Cabaret Metro.

2001–2005: Zwan and solo career

Following a brief stint touring with New Order in the summer,[21] Corgan reunited with Chamberlin to form the band Zwan with Corgan's old friend Matt Sweeney in late 2001.[22][23] According to Neil Strauss of New York Times, during his few live performances with the band, Corgan says "is still a work in progress."[24] The lineup was completed with guitarist David Pajo and bassist Paz Lenchantin. The quintet performed throughout 2002, and their debut album, Mary Star of the Sea, was released in early 2003 to generally positive reviews.[25] In the midst of their supporting tour for the album, mounting conflict between Corgan and Chamberlin, and the other band members led to the cancellation of the rest of the tour as the band entered an apparent hiatus, formally announcing a breakup in September 2003.[26][27][28][29]

On September 17, 2003, Billy presented his poetry at the Art Institute of Chicago's Rubloff Auditorium.[30] In late 2004, Corgan published Blinking with Fists, a book of poetry. The book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list.[31] Around this time, he began posting autobiographical writings online under the title The Confessions of Billy Corgan.

Also in 2004, he began a solo music career, landing on an electronic/shoegaze/alternative rock sound for his first solo album, TheFutureEmbrace, co-produced and arranged by Bon Harris of Nitzer Ebb. Corgan toured behind his solo album with a touring band that included Linda Strawberry, Brian Liesegang and Matt Walker in 2005. This tour was not as extensive as previous Smashing Pumpkins or Zwan tours.[32] Prior to recording TheFutureEmbrace, Corgan had recorded some 72 songs inspired by Chicago history for the largely acoustic ChicagoSongs project, which have yet to be released.[33]

2005–present: The Smashing Pumpkins revival

In 2005, Corgan took out a full-page ad in Chicago's two major newspapers (The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times) revealing his desire to re-form the Smashing Pumpkins.[33] Several days later, Jimmy Chamberlin accepted Corgan's offer for a reunion.[34]

On April 20, 2006, the band's official website confirmed that the group was indeed reuniting.[35] The re-formed Smashing Pumpkins went into studio for much of 2006 and early 2007, and performed its first show in seven years on May 22, 2007, with new members Ginger Pooley (bass) and Jeff Schroeder (guitar) replacing Wretzky and Iha. The new album, titled Zeitgeist, was released in the United States on July 10, 2007, and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts. Corgan and the rest of the Pumpkins toured extensively throughout 2007 and 2008, also releasing the EP American Gothic and the singles "G.L.O.W." and "Superchrist". Chamberlin left the band in March 2009, and Corgan elected to continue under the name.[36]

In summer 2009 Corgan formed the band Spirits in the Sky to play a tribute concert to the late Sky Saxon of the Seeds. He toured with the band, composed of ex-Catherine member and "Superchrist" producer Kerry Brown, the Electric Prunes bassist Mark Tulin, Strawberry Alarm Clock keyboardist Mark Weitz, frequent Corgan collaborator Linda Strawberry, flautist Kevin Dippold, "Superchrist" violinist Ysanne Spevack, saxist Justin Norman, new Pumpkins drummer Mike Byrne, and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, playing covers and new Pumpkins material at several clubs in California.[37][38] At the end of the tour, Corgan, Byrne, Tulin, and Brown headed back to Chicago to begin work on the new Smashing Pumpkins album, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.[39] The lineup at the time which included new bassist Nicole Fiorentino, toured through much of 2010, then spent 2011 recording the "album-within-an-album" Oceania and mounting tours of the United States and Europe. However, Byrne and Fiorentino would later leave the band in 2014.

In April Corgan announced a new solo record of "experimental" recordings he made in 2007, via the Smashing Pumpkins' website.[40] The album, which he titled AEGEA, was released exclusively on vinyl, with 250 copies being made. Most of those copies were sold online, and a few copies were sold at Madame Zuzu's teahouse in Chicago.[41] The album was released on May 15.[42]

On July 25, 2014, Corgan announced that the tapes from his "Siddhartha" show from March 2014 were being transferred for sale, much in the vein of AEGEA. The set was expected to contain between 5 and 6 discs.[43]

During the summer 2014, Corgan recorded The Smashing Pumpkins's tenth studio album, Monuments to an Elegy, with Tommy Lee and Jeff Schroeder. The album was released in early December 2014.[44]

In September 2015, Corgan started a blog of vintage photographs that he himself curated, and which he called "People and Their Cars." The website also included an email listing for the blog, titled "The Red Border Club." This list was to be used for information on upcoming People and Their Cars and "Hexestential" books and merchandise, along with access to additional images.[45][46]

On September 8, 2016, Corgan announced, in a Facebook live video, that he had recorded a new solo album with producer Rick Rubin, and it would consist of 12 or 13 tracks. He described work on the album as being near completion, though a release date was not given.[47]

On August 22, 2017, he announced the solo album, giving its title as Ogilala.[48]

On February 16, 2018, Corgan announced a reunion tour for The Smashing Pumpkins. The lineup consists of himself, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin, and Jeff Schroeder.

On November 22, 2019, Corgan released his third solo album Cotillions, which he called "a labor of love." He also said, "This is absolutely an album from my heart."[49]

Personal life

Corgan has struggled with anxiety and depression for much of his life, and has endured bouts of panic attacks, self-harm, obsessive-compulsive disorder and suicidal ideation.[50] Corgan attributes these problems to the abuse he endured as a child in the hands of his stepmother as well as personal troubles and other issues.[50] Corgan has since become an advocate for abuse support networks.[50]

His mother Martha died in December 1996. The song "For Martha", from Adore, was written in her memory. In the early 2000s Corgan named his label Martha's Music after her as well. A picture of Martha as a little girl sitting on a fake moon at Riverview Park is featured on the flipside of the Siamese Dream booklet.[51]

Corgan is an avid sports fan. A fan of the Chicago Cubs, he is an occasional commentator on that team for WXRT DJ Lin Brehmer, and sporadically, in interviews.[52] He has appeared at Cubs games many times, occasionally throwing the ceremonial first pitch or singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". He was a devoted fan of the Bulls and Blackhawks in the 1990s, and became personal friends with Dennis Rodman[10] and Chris Chelios.[53]

He is a fan of professional wrestling and self-described "wrestlemaniac",[54] and appeared at an Extreme Championship Wrestling event wielding an acoustic guitar as a weapon.[55] In May 2017, it was announced Corgan through his production company, Lightning One, had agreed to purchase the National Wrestling Alliance as part of a deal that was eventually finalized on October 1.

Corgan accepts parts of Catholicism.[56] In 2009, he launched Everything From Here to There, an interfaith website that is devoted to "Mind-Body-Soul" integration. He mentions praying each morning and night to be able to see through Jesus Christ's eyes and feel with his heart.[57][58][59] A recent analysis of the symbolism of Corgan's lyrics considered the blend of beliefs he has cited in various interviews, which include various ideas about religion, multiple dimensions and psychic phenomena.[60]

In 2012, he opened a tea house in his native Highland Park called Madame Zuzu's Tea House.[61][62]

Corgan's partner Chloe Mendel gave birth to their son named Augustus Juppiter Corgan on November 16, 2015.[63] On October 2, 2018, their second child, a daughter, Philomena Clementine Corgan was born.[64]

Collaborations

Mark Tulin—a middle-aged Caucasian male with long brown hair wearing a white shirt and black vest—plays bass guitar and smiles while Billy Corgan—a middle-aged Caucasian male wearing a dark green hat and red-and-black striped shirt with a brown jacket—plays electric guitar to his left.
Corgan (right) performing with Mark Tulin of The Electric Prunes at a benefit concert for Sky Saxon

In addition to performing, Corgan has produced albums for Ric Ocasek, The Frogs, and Catherine. He shared songwriting credit on several songs on Hole's 1998 album Celebrity Skin; the title track became Corgan's second No. 1 modern rock hit. He also acted as a consultant for Marilyn Manson during the recording of the album Mechanical Animals. He has produced three soundtracks for the movies Ransom (1996), Stigmata (1999) and Spun (2002) in which he appeared as a doctor.[65]

Corgan appeared at the 1996 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies. He inducted one of his biggest musical influences, Pink Floyd. He played acoustic guitar during the ceremony with Pink Floyd, when they performed their song "Wish You Were Here".

In particular, Corgan guided and collaborated with three bands in the 2000s—Breaking Benjamin (during sessions for 2004's We Are Not Alone), Taproot (for Blue-Sky Research, 2005), and Sky Saxon.[66]

In 2010, Corgan claimed co-writing credit (with ex-girlfriend Courtney Love) on at least two of the songs on Hole's final album Nobody's Daughter and tried to assert a right of approval before the album could be released. Corgan had helped develop the album during its early stages. The album was released without the writing controversy ever being litigated or publicly resolved.[67][68]

Corgan appeared as a guest vocalist on the song "Loki Cat" on Jimmy Chamberlin's first solo album, Life Begins Again, and Chamberlin played drums for the song "DIA" on Corgan's solo debut, where Robert Smith from The Cure teamed up with Corgan to do a cover of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody". In 2007, Corgan provided vocals on the Scorpions' song "The Cross", on their album Humanity: Hour I.[69] In 2010 Corgan featured on Ray Davies' album See My Friends on the album's closer, a mash-up of the Kinks songs "All Day and All of the Night" and "Destroyer". He also contributed his guitar work on "Did You Miss Me" by The Veronicas. Corgan has also collaborated with Tony Iommi, Blindside, David Bowie (singing "All the Young Dudes" with Bowie at Bowie's 50th birthday party), New Order and Marianne Faithfull. He also co-write the song "You'll Never Find Me" with Korn on their 2019 album, The Nothing, and served as the "musical consigliere" of Third Eye Blind's album, Screamer.

Musical style and influences

When asked in a 1994 Rolling Stone interview about his influences, Corgan replied:

Eight years old, I put on the Black Sabbath record, and my life is forever changed. It sounded so heavy. It rattled the bones. I wanted that feeling. With Bauhaus and The Cure, it was the ability to create a mood and an atmosphere. The air gets heavier. With Jimi Hendrix it was the ability to translate this other level of guitar. Cheap Trick – it was a vocal influence. Although Tom Petersson once told me that Rick Nielsen called us 'tuneless and nonmelodic.'[70]

Corgan wrote six articles for Guitar World in 1995, and his solos for "Cherub Rock" and "Geek U.S.A." were included on their list of the top guitar solos of all time. AllMusic said "Starla" "proves that Corgan was one of the finest (and most underrated) rock guitarists of the '90s",[71] while Rolling Stone called him and his Smashing Pumpkins bandmates "ruthless virtuosos". His solo for "Soma" was No. 24 on Rolling Stone's list of the top guitar solos.[72] He is a fan of Eddie Van Halen and interviewed him in 1996 for Guitar World. Other guitarists Corgan rates highly include Uli Jon Roth,[73] Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, Leslie West, Dimebag Darrell and Robin Trower.[74]

His bass playing, which has featured on nearly every Smashing Pumpkins album, was influenced by post-punk figures like Peter Hook and Simon Gallup.[75]

Corgan has praised Radiohead, saying "if they're not the best band in the world, then they're one of the best". He is also a fan of Pantera and appeared briefly in their home video 3 Watch It Go.[76] Other favorites include Depeche Mode,[77] Siouxsie and the Banshees,[78] Rush, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Cure, Judas Priest, Metallica, Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Queen, Electric Light Orchestra, Dinosaur Jr., Breaking Benjamin (for whom he co-wrote several songs of their album We Are Not Alone), My Bloody Valentine,[79] and Spiritualized.[80] Corgan stated in 1997 that upon hearing the U2 song "New Year's Day", at 16, "[U2] quickly became the most important band in the world to me."[81] Corgan particularly went out of his way to praise Rush in his interview for Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, a documentary on the band, where he criticized mainstream reviewers for consciously marginalizing the band and their influence, and highlighted the fact that many of his musical peers were influenced by Rush.

He has listed his artistic influences as William S. Burroughs, Pablo Picasso, Jimi Hendrix, Jack Kerouac, and Philip K. Dick.[80][82]

Equipment

Corgan played (during the Gish-Siamese Dream era) a customized '57 Reissue Fender Stratocaster equipped with three Fender Lace Sensor pickups (the Lace Sensor Blue in the neck position, the Lace Sensor Silver in the middle position, and the Lace Sensor Red at the bridge position). It also has a five-position pickup selector switch which he installed himself. This battered Strat became his number one guitar by default.

During the Gish era he also played a '74 Strat that was sold to him by Jimmy Chamberlin for $275. Chamberlin didn't actually own it, however, rather he had borrowed it from a friend. The friend later said they were OK with it so long as Corgan was using it.[83] Shortly after Gish was completed, the guitar was stolen at a show in Detroit. Corgan offered $10,000 and then later $20,000 for its safe return. It wasn't until 27 years later that Corgan was finally reunited with this guitar.[84] The owner did not request any money, and had explained she bought it at a yard sale for $200 over a decade earlier. "I always felt the guitar would come back", Corgan told Rolling Stone, "and I know that sounds strange, but today didn’t surprise me. I always felt the guitar would come back when it was time."[83]

Corgan also used a wide variety of guitars on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. On "Where Boys Fear to Tread", Corgan used a Les Paul Junior Reissue, and on "Tonight Tonight" he used a '72 Gibson ES-335. He is also known to use a '74 Strat which has since been painted baby blue. That guitar was used on the recordings for "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" and also "Muzzle", because the heavier wood gave it the basic Strat sound with a bit more bottom.

On May 24, 2007, at den Atelier, Luxembourg City

During the recording and tour of the album Zeitgeist, Corgan used a Schecter C-1 EX baritone, finished in black with Tony Iommi signature pickups.

Corgan also endorsed Reverend Guitars in his Zwan era, and continues to this day, most notably playing a Reverend Slingshot.

In 2008 Corgan released to the market his own Fender Stratocaster.[85] This new guitar was made to Corgan's exact specs to create his famous mid-'90s buzzsaw tone; the instrument features three DiMarzio pickups (two custom for this instrument), a string-through hardtail bridge and a satin nitrocellulose lacquer finish.[86] When playing live, he uses both his signature Strats as well as two other Fender Strats, one in red with a white pick guard and one in silver-grey with a black pick guard; a Gibson Tony Iommi signature SG; and his Schecter C-1 (only used on the Zeitgeist song "United States").

A video called "Stompland" on the official Smashing Pumpkins YouTube channel is informative on Corgan's choice of effects pedals. In the video he reveals an extensive collection of pedals used throughout his career with the Smashing Pumpkins. Corgan's tone is often characterized by his use of fuzz pedals, particularly vintage versions of the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff [87]

In 2016 Reverend Guitars released the BC-1 Billy Corgan signature guitar featuring Railhammer Billy Corgan signature pickups.[88]

The Reverend Billy Corgan Signature Terz was launched at the 2018 NAMM show—an electric version of a 19th-century instrument that is played as if the guitar is capoed at the third fret, and tuned G-g standard. Corgan often uses the capo at the third fret and asked for a higher-register guitar.[89]

Corgan is noted for having used Marshall and Diezel amps. He has also used modular preamps based on many different amps in conjunction with Mesa Boogie poweramps. The preamps were built custom built by Salvation Mods.[90]

In August 2017, Corgan sold a large collection of instruments and gear used throughout his career via music gear website Reverb.[91][92]

Solo discography

Albums

Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales
SWE
[93]
SWI
[94]
UK
[95]
GER
[96]
NZ
[97]
AUS
[98]
FRA
[99]
US
[100]
JPN
[101]
NLD
[102]
TheFutureEmbrace

Released: June 21, 2005
Label: Reprise
Formats: CD, digital download

45 82 89 67 25 24 73 31 49 77

US: 69,000+[103]

AEGEA

Released: May 5, 2014
Label: Martha's Music
Formats: LP

Ogilala

Released: October 13, 2017
Label: Reprise Records
Formats: CD, digital download, LP

86 183
Cotillions

Released: November 22, 2019
Label: Reprise Records
Formats: CD, digital download, LP

"–" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Singles

Title Year Peak chart positions Album
UK
[95]
"Walking Shade" 2005 74 TheFutureEmbrace
"Aeronaut" 2017 Ogilala
"The Spaniards" 2017 Ogilala
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Soundtrack work

Albums featured

Savior")

References

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External links

References