Billy Corgan Clarifies Remarks Regarding Supposed Rivalry With Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain
It’s always frustrating when our words are taken out of context, which is apparently what happened to Smashing Pumpkins vocalist Billy Corgan during a recent chat about late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Specifically, people think he saw Cobain as a full-on rival, which – he clarified in another new interview – wasn’t exactly the case.
As Loudwire reported on back in May, Corgan told Apple Music 1’s Zane Lowe that he saw Cobain as “the most talented guy of our generation," adding:
Kurt had so much talent. It's like frightening. It was like a John Lennon level of talent, where you're like, how can you have all this talent? Or Prince, right? But Kurt's not here, sadly. So I looked around, I was like, “All right, well, I could beat the rest of them for sure. . . . When Kurt died, I cried because I lost my greatest opponent. I want to beat the best. I don't want to win the championship because it's just me and a bunch of jabronis, to use a wrestling term.
Somewhat understandably, those remarks subsequently led many people to assume that Corgan and Cobain where out-and-out adversaries.
In a conversation with Q101 Chicago’s Brian & Kenzie (published on June 30), however, Corgan set the record straight.
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.
He certainly has a point.
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.
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.
Corgan even recounted the first time he saw the legendary grunge trio in concert:
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.
You can watch the full interview below.