Billy Corgan live in Cologne, June 11, 2005.
|Birth name||William Patrick Corgan, Jr.|
|Born||March 17, 1967
Elk Grove Village, Illinois, U.S.
|Occupations||Musician, singer-songwriter, record producer, author|
|Associated acts||Smashing Pumpkins
Spirits in the Sky
The Jimmy Chamberlin Complex
|Fender Billy Corgan Signature Stratocaster|
William Patrick "Billy" Corgan, Jr. (born March 17, 1967) is the frontman and sole permanent member of the successful band The Smashing Pumpkins. The band comes from America, where singer, songwriter, guitarist, and studio bassist and keyboardist, "Billy" Corgan grew up and organized the band. Corgan started playing shows around Chicago, Illinois with guitarist James Iha, and a drum machine. The project quickly gained steam with the recruiting of Jimmy Chamberlin, a successful local jazz / polka drummer. In 3 years, The Smashing Pumpkins had completely transformed themselves into a major label success. Strong album sales and arena rock tours pushed the band to a point, where, in 1997 Jimmy Chamberlin was fired for his involvement in touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin's fatal drug overdose. Along with keeping The Smashing Pumpkins alive, Corgan has released a solo album, a collection of poetry, written and produced for bands such as Hole, and also been credited for his work on several movie soundtracks. After touring with several replacement drummers and recording an album with electronic drums and guest drummers, Corgan reformed The Smashing Pumpkins with Chamberlin in 2006. They released an Album followed by a mostly sold-out tour and DVD, but Chamberlin departed the band in March 2009, leaving Corgan as the only original member. The Smashing Pumpkins held open auditions for a new drummer in 2009 and after over 1,000 applicants Mike Byrne is working on the next installment of Smashing Pumpkins songs, which have already begun being released on www.smashingpumpkins.com free of charge. He maintains a strong grass-roots following and is known to have direct communication with his fans.
Corgan was born in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, the oldest son of William Corgan Sr., a blues guitarist, and Martha Louise Maes Corgan Lutz. His parents had one more child, Ricky, before divorcing in 1970. William also fathered a half-brother, but Corgan has never found out who he is. His father was soon remarried to a flight attendant, and Corgan and his brother went to live with them in Glendale Heights, Illinois. During this time, Corgan alleges he was subject to much physical and emotional abuse by his stepmother. Corgan's half-brother, Jesse, was born in 1976. Jesse had cerebral palsy, Tourette syndrome, and other disabilities, and Corgan spent a good deal of his youth taking care of and defending him. The two remain close - Jesse joined The Smashing Pumpkins on stage in Chicago in December 2008. When Corgan's father and stepmother separated, all three children would live alone with the stepmother, with both of Corgan's birth parents living separately within an hour's drive.
Corgan, who grew much faster than his fellow students, was a strong athlete in elementary school. 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. 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. Corgan gave his savings to his father, who bought him a used Les Paul knock-off. Corgan, Sr. steered his son stylistically, encouraging him to listen to Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. Billy Corgan has mentioned that he is a self-taught guitarist. His musical interests in his formative years included hard rock like Guts-era John Cale, heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath, and mainstream rock like Queen, Boston, ELO, and Cheap Trick. In high school, Corgan discovered alternative rock through Bauhaus and The Cure.
Corgan performed in a string of bands in high school. One band was called Lex, with guitarist Mike Subrt, bassist Dan Shaw, and drummer Pete Sallis. They performed in a few back yards, garages, and the high school variety show and played two songs - "Bastille Day" by Rush, and "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne. Corgan graduated as an honor student. Despite grant and scholarship offers from a number of schools, including the University of Michigan, and a tuition fund left by his grandmother, Corgan decided to pursue music full-time. 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 met guitarist James Iha while working in a record store, and the two began recording demos, which Corgan describes as "doomy little goth-pop records." After recording their first two demos that Corgan wrote, Iha decided to write one for himself. After looking over it, Corgan criticized it. Iha took this very seriously and did not talk to Corgan for about another two months, until one day they just decided to make some more demos. He then met bassist D'arcy Wretzky after a local show, arguing with her about a band that had just played. Soon after, the Smashing Pumpkins were formed. The trio began to play together at local clubs with only a drum machine for percussion. The band would soon recruit drummer Jimmy Chamberlin to secure a show at the Metro, in Chicago, where they played for the first time as a quartet on October 5, 1988.
The new band fused diverse threads such as psychedelic rock and heavy metal into a distinctive sound on their inaugural album, Gish (1991). Gish fared better than expected, but the follow-up, Siamese Dream, became a huge hit. The band became known for internal drama during this period, with Corgan frequently characterized in the music press as a "control freak" and a perfectionist because he was said to have often rerecorded Iha and Wretzky's guitar and bass parts on Gish and Siamese Dream. Despite this, the album was well-received by critics, and the songs "Today" and "Disarm" became smash hits.
The band's 1995 follow up effort, the double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, was even more successful, spawning a string of hit singles. The album was nominated for seven Grammy awards that year and would eventually be certified nine times platinum in the United States. The song "1979" was Corgan's biggest hit to date, reaching #1 on Billboard's modern rock and mainstream rock charts. Their appearance on Saturday Night Live on November 11, 1995 to promote this material also was the television debut appearance of Corgan's shaved head, which he has maintained consistently ever since. Until that time, Corgan, in typical rockstar fashion, had varied his hairstyles often.
During the album's tour, the band was plagued by Chamberlin's heroin addiction. On July 12, 1996, Chamberlin and touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin overdosed in a hotel room. Chamberlin survived, but Melvoin did not. The Pumpkins made the decision to fire Chamberlin and would continue as a trio. Their next effort, 1998's Adore, was undertaken with drum machines and studio drummers, and consisted of more subdued material than the band's previous efforts. Adore earned high praise from some critics and many fans, but other critics and most of the more casual listeners thought the band had strayed too far from its strengths, resulting in a significant decrease in album sales (it sold 1.3 million discs in the U.S.)
Chamberlin was reunited with the band in 1999, and 2000 saw Machina/The Machines of God, a concept album on which the band deliberately played to their public image; critics were again divided, and sales were lower than ever. At the end of 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 released Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music for free over the internet.
The Smashing Pumpkins split up later in 2000 and played their last show on December 2 of that year at the Metro.
Corgan began writing revealing autobiographical posts on his website and his MySpace page, commenting, "I no longer want to protect the people I tormented." On February 17, 2004, Corgan posted a message in which he blamed guitarist James Iha for the breakup of The Smashing Pumpkins four years prior. He also referred to bassist D'arcy Wretzky as "a mean spirited drug addict." On June 3, 2004 he posted an apology of sorts to Iha, writing that "I love him very, very much...the depth of my hurt is only matched by the depth of my gratitude". In another post, Corgan insulted his former Zwan bandmates, claiming they had been self-conscious about their "indie cred" to the point of hurting those around them. Poking fun at their indie stance, he called them "poseurs" and declared them to be "filthy", opportunistic, and selfish. In late 2004, Corgan published Blinking with Fists, a book of poetry. Despite mixed reviews, the book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list. It was one of the first books ever written by a rock-star artist that ever got in the list.
In 2004, he began a solo music career, initially performing acoustic folk songs related to Chicago history. He abandoned this style in favor of an electronic/shoegaze/alternative rock sound for his first solo album, The Future Embrace. Released on June 21, 2005 through Reprise Records, it garnered mixed reviews from the press and only sold 69,000 copies. 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.
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 reform the Smashing Pumpkins. Several days later, Jimmy Chamberlin accepted Billy Corgan's offer for a reunion.
On April 20, 2006 the band's official website confirmed that the group was indeed reuniting. The band 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 Reyes (bass) and Jeff Schroeder (guitar) replacing Wretzky and Iha. The new album, titled Zeitgeist, was released in the U.S. on July 10, 2007, and debuted at #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". The band is currently working on new material; however, it will move forward without Chamberlin, who left the band again in March 2009.
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 then toured with the band, composed of ex-Catherine member and "Superchrist" producer Kerry Brown, Electric Prunes bassist Mark Tulin, Strawberry Alarm Clock keyboardist Mark Weitz, frequent Corgan collaborator Linda Strawberry, flautist Kevin Dippold, "Superchrist" violinist Ysanne Spevack, new Pumpkins drummer Mike Byrne, and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, playing covers and new Pumpkins material at several clubs in California. At the end of the tour, Corgan, Byrne, and Brown headed back to Chicago to begin work on the new Smashing Pumpkins album, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.
Billy Corgan has struggled with depression for much of his life, including bouts of self-injury, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and suicidal thoughts. Corgan attributes this to the abuse he endured as a child, as well as his personal anxieties and issues. While he believes he is far more stable now, he still occasionally battles depression and has become an advocate for support networks.
His mother Martha died in December 1996. The song "For Martha", from Adore, was written in her memory. In the early 2000s, Corgan would name 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.
Corgan is an avid sports fan. A childhood fan of the Cubs, he later commented on that team for WXRT DJ Lin Brehmer. 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 Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks in the 1990s, and became personal friends with Dennis Rodman and Chris Chelios. He is a lifelong fan of professional wrestling and self-described "wrestlemaniac," and appeared in an ECW pro wrestling wielding an acoustic guitar as a weapon. In 2008, the Pumpkins song "Doomsday Clock" was used by Ring of Honor for promotional videos. As far as other entertainment, Corgan once commented that all he watches on TV are "sports and Three Stooges." In March 2008, he was spotted in the crowd at the final day of the cricket test match between New Zealand and England in Wellington.
He incorporates elements of Catholicism and Buddhism into his spiritual philosophy, even though he has not publicly aligned himself with any one faith. On September 9, 2009, Billy 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 Christ's eyes and feel with his heart. On his drive to create art and music, he said, "God is just out my back door, yet I choose not to visit. I would rather sit alone and scheme on how to be remembered, on what more that I can do here to cement the evidence that I once walked these roads with you. It is a futile exercise. I know it is, and yet I persist."
While Corgan typically avoids discussing US politics, he said after the 2008 presidential election, "I'm very proud of my country right now for doing the right thing." In 2009, he posted a transcript of a webcast by political activist Lyndon LaRouche to the official Smashing Pumpkins forum. On March 10, 2009, Billy Corgan testified in front of congress on behalf of the musicFIRST Coalition. Corgan spoke in favor of H.R. 848, the Performance Rights Act, which gives musicians and artists their share of compensation when their music is played on music radio stations.
Corgan dated Courtney Love prior to her courtship and marriage to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. In 1993, he married his longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend, museum book restorer and artist Chris Fabian. They were married at a small ceremony at his house in Wrigleyville. Rumors circulated that Corgan and Love rekindled their romance during the Pumpkins' 1994 Lollapalooza tour, after Cobain's death. Corgan and Fabian separated sometime in 1995, and divorced in 1997. Corgan refused to discuss the subject in interviews, saying "There is not and will not be any public record on my marriage - that's one thing I have to draw lines around." He nevertheless described the circumstances of his marriage in his online Confessions, in 2005.
In late 1995, he started dating photographer Yelena Yemchuk, who had contributed to several Smashing Pumpkins videos and album art. The 2000 Smashing Pumpkins hit "Stand Inside Your Love" was written about her. He continued to date Yemchuk until around 2004. According to Corgan, his breakup with her contributed to the themes of his 2005 solo release, The Future Embrace. In 2008, Corgan said, "I've had a bad marriage and seven bad girlfriends in a row", a perspective he attributes to his dedication to music.
In early 2006, Corgan moved in with Courtney Love and her daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. According to Love, he had his own wing in her new Hollywood Hills mansion. Two years later, Love criticized Corgan publicly over the latter's alleged refusal to attend Frances' sweet 16 birthday party. In 2009, he was spotted on several occasions with LA weatherforecaster, Jackie Johnson, fueling rumors that the two were dating.
Since September 2009, Corgan was reportedly involved romantically with country pop singer and actress Jessica Simpson.  , although the couple had reportedly split up.  According to the photographer Kristen Burns, Corgan and Simpson were working together on the song during the recording sessions to Pumpkins' concept album project Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.  In January 2010, the couple has been pictured by Burns in the studio with the producer Kerry Brown who linked to the pictures on his Twitter account. Simpson herself posted a series of messages regarding the common session, saying: "I am blessed. Going over a song with Billy and the boxer."  and "He braids my prayers."
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 #1 modern rock hit. He also acted as a consultant for Marilyn Manson during 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. Billy 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". He has collaborated with Tony Iommi, Blindside, New Order and Marianne Faithfull. Corgan would also guide and collaborate 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. 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 Billy Corgan to do a cover of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody". Corgan has worked on Courtney Love's Nobody's Daughter, Garbage vocalist Shirley Manson's debut solo album, and Scorpions' Humanity - Hour 1.
Corgan has often mentioned or developed projects that remain commercially unreleased. During the press junkets for 1995's Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, he claimed that the band were planning on an MTV Unplugged appearance and album. In 1998, he spoke of his hope to release a solo acoustic album, a sequel to Vieuphoria, and a comprehensive boxset of live Smashing Pumpkins recordings. Around the time of the Pumpkins' disbandment, Corgan explained plans to reissue every Pumpkins album complete with bonus tracks, which has not yet happened. Also at this time, Corgan hoped to record an instrumental progressive rock album with Jimmy Chamberlin and Mike Garson.
The final Smashing Pumpkins concert before the 2000 breakup was recorded professionally, and a DVD of this performance had been mentioned frequently after the breakup but never materialized (though one song from the concert, "An Ode to No One," was later released on the DVD Greatest Hits Video Collection). Meanwhile, the Glass and the Machines of God animated series (written by Jim Evans), a tie-in to the Machina albums, was never completed, though several apparent cuts of episodes were leaked in 2003.
During their brief time together, Zwan recorded "tons of music" outside of their Mary Star of the Sea album, possibly including an entire second album as the "Djali Zwan", but neither the album nor the footage were released, and Zwan's breakup was announced in spring 2003. Corgan later said that there Zwan recorded "tons of music unreleased that will just sit in a box until I can stomach it."
In the "About the Author" section of his 2004 poetry book Blinking with Fists, Corgan acknowledged that he was writing a novel. It is not known whether the novel was finished, and no other information about the work has since been made available.
In his June 21, 2006 newspaper ad announcing his intention to revive Smashing Pumpkins, he announced that he was writing an autobiography, titled The Confessions of Billy Corgan. Some excerpts from the work were posted online, but no publishing plans have been announced and Corgan has not publicly spoken of the project in years. In the same newspaper ad, Corgan spoke of a DVD/EP titled ChicagoSongs, a release under his own name featuring songs related to his native Chicago; the project was apparently shelved when he and Jimmy Chamberlin began work on Zeitgeist.
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 fucking 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.'
Although Corgan is not widely recognized for his guitar playing, it has been praised numerous times. Allmusic said "Starla" "proves that Corgan was one of the finest (and most underrated) rock guitarists of the '90s", while Rolling Stone called him and his Smashing Pumpkins bandmates "ruthless virtuosos". Within guitar circles, he has assumed a position of respect. He wrote six articles for Guitar World in 1995, and his solos for "Cherub Rock" and "Geek USA" were included on their list of the top guitar solos of all time. His solo for "Soma" was #24 on Rolling Stone's list of the top guitar solos. He is a fan of Eddie Van Halen and interviewed him in the late nineties for Guitar World.
Corgan has praised Radiohead, saying "if they're not the best band in the world, then they're one of the best", and is also a fan of Pantera. Pantera producer Terry Date would later be brought in to produce the Smashing Pumpkins' Zeitgeist. Other favorites include Rush, Metallica, Queen, Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine, and Spiritualized.
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. He used to have a '74 Strat that was stolen shortly after Gish was completed.
Corgan also used a wide variety of guitars on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. On "Where Boys Fear to Tread", Billy 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 that has since then 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.
During the recording and tour of the album Zeitgeist, Billy used a Schecter C-1 EX baritone, finished in black with Tony Iommi signature pickups.
In 2008 Billy released to the market his own Fender Stratocaster. 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. 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, however the Schecter is only used on the Zeitgeist song "United States".
Corgan appears as a playable character in Guitar Hero: World Tour.
William Patrick Corgan, Jr. (born March 17, 1967), most commonly known as Billy Corgan, is an American vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter best known for his work in the alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins.