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Billy Corgan recalls his “religious experience” interviewing Eddie Van Halen for Guitar World

Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has recalled the time he interviewed Eddie Van Halen for Guitar World magazine back in the ’90s.

In a new interview with BBC Radio 6 Music, Corgan reflected, “I was lucky because, around 1997/’98 [it was actually the April 1996 issue of GW], there was a guitar magazine in America, and I went to them, and I said, ‘I'd really like to interview Eddie Van Halen.’

“They said, ‘Why do you wanna interview Eddie Van Halen?’ I said, ‘Because I'd really like to introduce him to a generation of alternative guitar players.’ To me, he really is an alternative guitar player; I know he gets kind of lumped in the other way.

“And so they allowed me to basically have a four-hour interview with Eddie at his studio. I got to sit two feet away from Eddie and watch him play, and I'm telling you, it was like a religious experience. I mean, the man was so gifted, so kind.”

Corgan also cast doubt on the source of EVH’s ‘brown sound’ with a surprising anecdote from their conversation.

“Towards the end of the interview, I said to him, ‘There's all those stories about the amp you used on Van Halen I and tada tada da,” Corgan recalled.

“I said, ‘Do you still have the amp?’ He goes, ‘Oh, yeah.’ He takes me around the corner, kind of near the dustbin, and he’s like, ‘There it is.’ I go, ‘What about all the stories that you did all this special modification?’ He goes, ‘Oh, it's not true at all.’”

Guitar World classic magazine covers

(Image credit: Future)

Van Halen, however, was known to be contrary about his gear for a time. In his first-ever Guitar Player interview back in 1978, he claimed that he increased the voltage on his Marshall Super Lead head up to 130 or 140 volts to achieve his tone – but in 2016 admitted that was a lie (opens in new tab), and he in fact lowered it to 60 to 90 volts.

Corgan is extremely busy with the Smashing Pumpkins at the moment, releasing new double album, Cyr, this month, while working on a 33-song “rock opera” sequel to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

Corgan and EVH are just one of many classic Guitar World guitar legend cover pairings from over the years – we shared some of our favorites just last week, as part of our ongoing celebrations surrounding the magazine’s 40th anniversary.

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Mike is Editor-in-Chief of, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar (opens in new tab), Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as the best part of 20 years performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe (opens in new tab).