Billy Corgan claims Butch Vig stole his guitar sound for Nirvana’s Nevermind

Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan, Rock Torhout Festival, Torhout, Belgium, 04/07/1992.
(Image credit: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images)

Billy Corgan has joked in a new video for Laney that he felt Butch Vig “stole” his guitar sound when he went in to work with Nirvana on Nevermind

The Smashing Pumpkins man has recently signed with Laney and in a spirited longform video interview with the amp brand, he dipped into the ongoing debate on who developed the grunge sound. 

“Success has many masters and failure has but one,” acknowledges Corgan. “People say, ‘Who invented the grunge sound?’ Soundgarden were the first band of that era where I thought, ‘OK, something different is happening… But I think, being from Chicago, we were very influenced by what came out of Detroit: the Stooges, Ted Nugent, Bob Seeger. Those are tougher, rougher bands. Seattle was a little more psychedelic.”

Corgan says the Detroit edge – alongside a lifetime of UFO, ‘Zeppelin and ’Sabbath listening – fed into the Pumpkins developing a meaner hard rock sound than their West coast contemporaries. 

“[In Chicago] you better bring it with the rock or you’re going to get booed out of the building,” says Corgan. “So we had a tougher take on it… once Jimmy and I decided we were going to go heavy, we went all in – and that’s when I started gaining my amplifiers.”

Corgan implies that he took that sound into the studio with Vig when they worked on the Smashing Pumpkin’s debut album, Gish

“A story I like to tell is we recorded our album Gish in 1990, going into 1991,” says Corgan, in semi-seriousness. “[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…”

Elsewhere in the interview, Corgan talks in-depth about his love of Tony Iommi and how his Laney LA412s have become his cabinet of choice and led to his collaboration with the company.

He also posits a future in which fans who want the Pumpkins sound can “walk into a Guitar Center and, in one amplifier, find most of what they’re looking for” – which sounds a little like a hint of a forthcoming Corgan signature for Laney.

The Smashing Pumpkins guitarist is the latest big name to come out for Laney. The storied British amp firm seems to be in ascendance once more, having also recently bagged Living Colour’s Vernon Reid as an endorsee.

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Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar,, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched (opens in new tab), which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.